The IDEA Blog

Only three days left to raise money for IDEA in the Skillshare Auction!

The Final Countdown!

There are only three more days until the IDEA Skillshare Auction closes on Wednesday at 8 pm Eastern! We're just over 30 percent to our goal of $3,500, and counting.

You'll find more than 80 items available in the auction, each one donated by a talented member of our network. These lessons, books, and handmade items make great gifts for upcoming birthdays or Father's Day, or just for treating yourself. And the best part is that every dollar you spend benefits IDEA.
Browse auction items >>

Learn Spanish or Japanese, birdwatching or quilting. Move your business forward by boosting your revenue, or learn how to self-publish a book. Beautify your space with a wreath or a thriving garden. Get a customized day-long learning tour in NYC, or bring Scott Nine to lead a strategic workshop with your organization or school.
And if you don't see something in the auction that's a fit for you, consider donating toward our fundraising goal: $10, $25, or $50 pushes us closer. One hundred percent of funds from the auction benefits IDEA's work: ensuring that the voices of young people, educators, and communities are positioned front and center to reclaim the "public" in public education.
Bid, buy now, or donate >>
Thank you for your support!
~ Dana, Melia, Shawn, and the rest of the IDEA team

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Posted on May 19, 2014 - 07:05 AM by Shawn Strader

IDEA’s Second Learning Report

We're excited to share this just-completed report. It's the fruit of our efforts to tell stories, raise visibility, and learn from educational change work happening across IDEA and connected to several other networks. 
Many of the stories in the report come directly from on-the-ground organizers within IDEA and in connected organizations. Put together in this narrative structure, we hope it offers ideas and provokes questions and thinking about ways to support educational change efforts in our communities.
If you find it helpful, please share it widely with your networks. You can click the graphic to see the PDF, and it also lives here on the IDEA site.
And send us feedback of any kind. You can write me at

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Posted on May 08, 2014 - 11:35 AM by Dana Bennis

Reflection on Goddard, IDEA, and Trackers Weekend

This is a guest post from long-time friend, organizer, and family member of IDEA, Darcy Bedortha. To read more of Darcy's splendid writing, be sure to see her highly acclaimed piece showcased on Living in Dialogue titled, 15 Months in Virtual Charter Hell: A Teacher's Tale.
Community. A powerful thing. I am dwelling in the magic of a weekend on the road where I celebrated deep connection and change-making efforts with several communities, enjoying the way they overlap in my personal world. It has been an eventful year. Or three.... As I sat among my friends from Goddard College, IDEA and Trackers Earth in joint conversation about meaningful change in education, I was gratefully aware that through some very tough times, it was these same communities that enabled me to take necessary steps, to feel safe enough to grow. They held the light so I could find the courage I had lost so many years earlier. While looking around the circle of my friends, it struck me that when we talk about relationship being key to good education it is this sense of safety found in community that we are referring to. I have lived this experience. If I could accurately articulate what a difference community has made for me and my life, I imagine it would pale in comparison to the effect supportive and welcoming learning communities have on a child. 
We humans are herd animals. We are biologically wired to want acceptance from our group. At times in our shared history such inclusion meant survival. Without judgment about mobile society and the virtual world we live in now, it is fair to say that we (at least the “we” in the west) are often isolated. Anxiety and depression are more prevalent, and are presenting at early ages – by some accounts, as early as 2nd or 3rd grade. As an educator and public school advocate, my heart believes that at least part of the answer lies in community public schools, in that one place where our fabric is interwoven and we are known and accepted...

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Posted on May 08, 2014 - 11:29 AM by Shawn Strader

#WeAuthorize Weds, Skillshare Auction, & Cool New Opps to Learn!

#WeAuthorize Wednesdays

In partnership with Integrity in Education, we're launching #WeAuthorize Wednesdays today, May 7th!

We invite everyone, each week, at any time of day or night, to begin to link together and lift up a larger and just vision for education and policy.

Get all the details on the IDEA Blog and help us kickstart the #WeAuthorize conversation on Twitter.


Learning Call celebrating Freedom Summer

Join in to learn about the Freedom Summer Youth Congress from two IDEA organizers on the planning committee for this awesome youth focused event.

June 25-29, America will commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Freedom Summer in Mississippi. Learn more about Freedom Summer 2014.

Get Ready to Bid!

Ever wanted to learn how to play a guitar? Looking for a new piece of art for your wall? Have an educational dilemma you're needing help with?

IDEA's first-ever Skillshare Auction starts next week and might have just the thing you need. It's a fun way to share the skills, talents, and knowledge of the IDEA community while also raising money for the work we do.

Check out the growing list of auction items and get ready to start bidding. The auction runs fromMay 14th to the 21st and you can bid on items or choose the "buy now" option. Keep checking back as new items are added and bookmark this link to start bidding on May 14th!

IDEA Learning Report April 2013 - January 2014

As a Reggio Emilia teacher makes visible the learning and conversations she sees unfolding in an early childhood classroom, this Learning Report is an invitation into the documentation, stories, and learning coming from the experiences of the IDEA Community over the past several months. Download IDEA's Learning Report.






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Posted on May 07, 2014 - 08:31 AM by Shawn Strader

#WeAuthorize Wednesdays

In partnership with Integrity in Education, we’re launching #WeAuthorize Wednesdays today, May 7th!

It’s time to define a new course of action for American education policy in the 21st Century – one that helps to make visible the tremendous positive educational innovation developing at America's grassroots, and that is informed by the wisdom, creativity and foresight of young people, educators and the communities they serve.

This weekly twitter holiday is one way to get started.

Let’s begin to accomplish what our elected officials cannot do alone – re-authorize a federal education policy that is six years overdue, and re-imagine American public education in ways that make it more equitable, engaging, and relevant for all communities.

We invite everyone, each week, at any time of day or night, to begin to link together and lift up a larger and just vision for education and policy.


Bonus challenge: Shoot a video of yourself or hold a mock congressional hearing with the testimony you think needs to be heard. Then tweet it. Shout to Tupac for showing us how it’s done.

If you have additional questions or comments please email or even comment at the bottom of this blog.

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Posted on May 07, 2014 - 05:59 AM by Shawn Strader

LBS Session B goes to Puerto Rico!

From September 18-22, participants of IDEA's first-ever Learning Breakthrough Series will come together once again for Learning Session B in the beautiful, profound Isla del Encanto - Puerto Rico!

The second of our gatherings, Learning Session B, brings teams back together to share and explore the reality of what's happened in their home contexts post Learning Session A, to look for the intersections and learning from what is causing desired changes, to dig further into what is distinct and common across each team’s work in education across these four drivers of change, and to ground their work in the culture, history, and reality of the Puerto Rican nation.

IDEA’s organizing teams  will be joined once again by the emerging New England Youth Organizing Network and the NY Education Justice Team (Urban Youth Collaborative / Center for Educational Justice). If you want to tune-in and follow along, there are great video-overviews of each team's activity during the Series' first Action Period, and we'll be blogging more as the Series move forward!

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Posted on May 01, 2014 - 07:33 AM by Shawn Strader

Our School: Searching for Community in the Era of Choice

One of IDEA's favorite gentlemen, Sam Chaltain, has a freshly published brand new book titled Our School: Searching for Community in the Era of Choice. It's already got some great reviews, and for all the right reasons!

Our School is the first book I've read to share the honest human story of our current educational landscape. Sam weaves the lives of children and teachers together, along with the larger questions we all face about the future of learning in the U.S. As a result, Our School provides the emotional inflection points that are often missing from our growing national debates.

- IDEA Executive Director, Scott Nine


Almost every major American city is experimenting with school choice--a deeply controversial idea that is dramatically reshaping public education. Will the wider array of school options help parents and educators identify better strategies for helping all children learn? Or will the high stakes of the marketplace end up privatizing this most public of institutions? Education activist Sam Chaltain believes that before we can answer these questions, we must put a human face on the modern landscape of teaching and learning. Our School documents a year in the life of two schools in the nation's capital--one a new charter school just opening its doors, the other a neighborhood school that first opened in 1924. Chaltain weaves together the observations and emotions of the people whose lives intersect there, and the triumphs and the challenges they experience. The result is an unsettling, complex portrayal of American public education. Our School is important reading for educational policymakers, administrators, parents, the media, and anyone who aspires to be a teacher.

Book Features:
* Specific recommendations for creating a healthy, high-functioning school.
* A detailed account of what school choice actually looks and feels like to the people who experience it.
* A vivid description of the modern classroom and what it's...

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Posted on Apr 07, 2014 - 03:18 PM by Shawn Strader

Education Uprising & J4J’s Listening Project

YES! Magazine Spring 2014 Issue: Education Uprising

We would love everyone to be reading and talking about the newest issue of YES! Magazine.


The crew @yesmagazine took the time to research and put together an education issue that helps illuminate both the challenges and the possibilities being created by grassroots and national actors, to reimagine and reclaim the "public" in public education.

It offers a frame of what’s happening in education that puts an expose of corporatization alongside David Sobel's writing on learning outdoors, and links the testing boycott popularized by Seattle's Garfield High School with the growth of social emotional learning and a great story on restorative justice practices in Oakland.

We think it speaks to an emerging movement that may not yet be fully coherent or connected but is as visible in this issue of YES! as at any moment prior.

4 steps to spread the word
1. Follow this link to sign up for a free issue of the current magazine
2. Get a subscription for a friend or colleague
3. Follow @yesmagazine on Twitter
4. Spread the issue on Facebook

Tools like this issue give credibility and provide great entry points to start or deepen conversations in your community, school, or district around education. We hope you can celebrate and make use of individual articles as well as the larger frame it offers across the pieces.

Call to Action: Support J4J and hold a Listening Project

Journey for Justice (J4J) is a national grassroots group that is actively holding “Listening Projects” and can use additional support. The goal is 200 listening projects across the U.S. and Puerto Rico by Friday, April 4th.


IDEA held a call with J4J’s National Director Jitu Brown this week and we’ve put together this documentation from the call, which contains all the links and information you need to support or hold a Listening Project in your community.

Documentation on J4J’s...

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Posted on Mar 14, 2014 - 09:17 AM by Shawn Strader

What were guinea pigs doing at the State House? (a newsletter from Providence Student Union)

Providence Student Union never ceases to amaze me... In my opinion they are some of the most intoxicating change-makers to follow, and so I love any opportunity to share what they are up. This news letter came to me last week in a subscribed update. Not only did they take their message to the State House, but the local news covered the event, and from the way it looks the participants had a fun time demonstrating too. Check it out, and subscribe to PSU's emails on their homepage - you won't regret it. grin

Last week, the Rhode Island General Assembly got quite a surprise when an enormous pack of guinea pigs and lab rats took over the State House for an afternoon.
That's me at the podium, standing in front of some of my guinea pig friends. Behind us are state legislators - a few of them even wore ears and whiskers!
Wait, what? Guinea pigs and lab rats? I know that sounds crazy, but that's what happened! Well, almost... My name is José Serrano. I'm a member of the Providence Student Union, and I came up with the idea for last week's event, "Operation: Guinea Pig," where students from across Rhode Island rallied at the State House dressed like lab animals - complete with whiskers, animal ears, paws and more - to show how the state is experimenting on us with high-stakes testing. As I said in my speech at the protest, "The reason we are dressed like guinea pigs and lab rats is simple - that is how we are being treated. The Department of Education hypothesized that high-stakes testing alone, without the extra resources our schools need, would solve our education problems. But this unproven gamble is playing with our futures, and we are here to say this needs to stop."
Lindsey, the "scientist" from the Department of Education, with her NECAP syringe.

Watch coverage of "Operation: Guinea Pig" here!


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Posted on Feb 11, 2014 - 09:58 AM by Shawn Strader

Profound Conversation on Impact of ESEA

On January 22nd, IDEA held our first "Network Learning Call." The goal of these calls are to bring our extended community together to discuss and learn about topics key to democratic education and school and community change efforts.

Our initial NLC focused on arguably the most important federal legislation on education, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), and in particular the impact ESEA has had on historically marginalized communities since it's initial passing in 1965. You may know ESEA by the title it was given during the most recent re-authorization of the law: No Child Left Behind, passed in 2001.

Moderated by IDEA National Fellow and EdWeek blogger Nancy Flanagan and IDEA Director of Change Work Crystal Mattison, the call featured 3 wonderful panelists:

  • Maya Rockeymoore, President and CEO of Global Policy Solutions

  • Ana Helvia Quintero, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Puerto Rico

  • Le Roy Shingoitewa, member and former Chairman of the Hopi Indian Tribe and former teacher and school administrator 

The call was held through the Blackboard Collaborate platform (thanks to Steve Hargadon for helping us secure this platform). Check out the full recording of the panel and discussion, or you can read the notes from the call.

A dynamic conversation took place concurrently on Twitter, led by IDEA Storyteller David Loitz, and you can see the Storify recap here

A couple quotes to spark your interest:

Maya Rockeymoore: We have policy that serves as a bait and switch - while it claimed to be for academic achievement for low income and children of color, a number of policies undermine that goal. . . If you want highly qualified teachers to teach students who are historically disadvantaged, the last thing they’d want is to have their promotions and pay structured on test scores. . . 

Policy can be used for good too. If you want, for instance, better quality counselors, and this is something...

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Posted on Jan 31, 2014 - 11:53 AM by Dana Bennis

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