Creating Space

Posted by on Jul 13, 2018 in General | No Comments

Like most people I know, I’m deep into the World Cup right now. There’s so much I love about soccer, but my favorite thing is that games often turn on where the ball isn’t. You can actually watch green space shift and move around the pitch as a match unfolds.…

Diversity, equity, and nextgen learning

Posted by on Apr 19, 2018 in General | No Comments

Philadelphia, where our school is located, has the dubious distinction of being on two top-ten lists you don’t want to be on: it is one of the most racially segregated cities in the nation and one of its most economically divided. And it has plenty of company: New York, Detroit, Cleveland and Milwaukee are all on both lists, and Chicago and Boston aren’t far behind.

Speak, John, Speak: Feeling the Power of Exhibitions at the Workshop School

Posted by on Jan 22, 2018 in General | No Comments

By Michael Clapper, Workshop School co-founder

Like many progressive schools, the students at the Workshop School, a non-selective high school in the School District of Philadelphia, present their work at the conclusion of each quarter.  By the time their sophomore year ends, they’ve presented eight times. Sophomore year finishes with the Gateway project, where they declare which of the upper houses they’d like to try: internship, college, construction, or shop.…

Rethinking the achievement gap (Part 3)

Posted by on Apr 1, 2016 in General | No Comments

We focus intently on the achievement gap because we see closing it as the best way to combat poverty and inequality. As I argued here and here, this gets us into trouble when we define achievement too narrowly. But it actually oversimplifies poverty and inequality even more than it oversimplifies learning.…

Rethinking the achievement gap (Part 2)

Posted by on Mar 21, 2016 in General | No Comments

I didn’t really know it at the time, but this graph would change the way I thought about the achievement gap.

CWRA result

Before opening the Workshop School, for two years we ran a small pilot project called the Sustainability Workshop. It was basically an alternative senior year program. We enrolled about 30 seniors a year from three neighborhood high schools, and ran them through an intensive one-year, project-based experience.…

Rethinking the achievement gap (Part 1)

Posted by on Mar 19, 2016 in General | No Comments

There are a lot of ways to think about equity, and a lot of ways to think about achievement. In ed reform world, the most common is what we call the achievement gap: the quantifiable difference in test performance between poor and middle class kids. This concept has done a lot of good in highlighting inequities in our school systems, and creating a sense of urgency for change.

Heard in the “teachers’ lounge”

Posted by on Jan 13, 2016 in General | No Comments

Well, not really. We have one little office with a six-person conference table. There are four of us who share it as workspace (including the Principal), but it’s also the place where staff come during prep, and therefore doubles as the “teachers’ lounge.” (And besides, “teachers’ lounge” has certain connotations. Like, for example, the suggestion that teachers are “lounging.” So no, not really a teachers’ lounge at all.)

But anyway, one of the great things about all of us having to cram into this little space is that our conversations kind of smash into one another.…

Teaching imagination and creativity

Posted by on Jan 11, 2016 in General | No Comments

We all know that creativity is central to problem solving. We know that the ability to think critically and solve problems is critical to students’ long-term success. The question is: how do we teach people to be creative?

Last Friday, Michael Clapper posed this question to students in his eleventh grade advisory.…

A school design thought experiment

Posted by on Jan 11, 2016 in General | No Comments

Imagine your school with no curriculum and no roster, no standards and no assessments, just a space where students and adults show up every day. Imagine that the adults are available to the students but make no attempt to organize and govern their behavior, save the minimum requirement to keep them safe.…

The work we do

Posted by on Nov 25, 2015 in General | No Comments

At our staff meeting this afternoon, we took some time to share appreciations – of the community we’ve created and of each other as individuals. There were many riffs on a common theme: we all appreciate being a part of a community where we can be creative, experiment, and take chances.…