Inside-out school reform

Posted by on Jan 21, 2011 in General | 2 Comments

One of the most common ways of classifying school reform approaches is to think of them as either top-down (driven by school or district leadership) or bottom-up (driven by teachers). But increasingly I don’t think those are the right categories. The more critical distinction is outside-in versus inside-out. I don’t mean whether the reformers are inside or outside the school.…

David Labaree and School Reform

Posted by on Jan 20, 2011 in General | 3 Comments

David Labaree’s new book Someone Has to Fail is another book that seeks to explain why school reform fails to get any traction (So Much Reform So Little Change, Steady Work, Spinning Wheels, Tinkering towards Utopia). One of the things I like most about this book is the exceptional chapter in the middle where he talks explicitly about the nature of teaching and the ways in which the most important factor in formal schooling — what the teacher does — is rarely affected by school reform.…

Old School

Posted by on Jan 14, 2011 in General | One Comment

My son was recently assigned a project on the state of Washington for school. He decided he wanted to program his Lego robot to draw the state of Washington. The teacher sent a list of suggestions like make a brochure, unhealthy bake something using the state fruit, unhealthy or create a poster about the state.…

Non-linearity and authentic work

Posted by on Jan 13, 2011 in General | No Comments

I’ve been thinking a lot about Matt’s post and Aiden’s response. This weekend there was a long piece about the curmudgeon who publishes The Concord Review. He’s been at it awhile — it’s a place for high school students to publish high quality history papers. I was introduced to it in high school.…

Learning and nonlinearity

Posted by on Jan 5, 2011 in General | One Comment

This morning I had a quick, offhand conversation about literacy instruction with Mark Springer, the distinguished middle school teacher who founded Soundings, one of the more impressive experiments in democratic, student-centered education that I’ve ever seen. He commented that he’d had students who made huge jumps in reading ability in his classroom, despite the fact that the curriculum is thematic and integrated, and there is no set reading class.…

Function of Criticism/What it means to be a student

Posted by on Jan 1, 2011 in General | One Comment

The NYT book review has a series of essays on the nature of criticism. This quote, from Alfred Kazin’s 1960 piece, The Function of Criticism, made me wonder about what we ask of our students: