Of Note: Public Purpose

    The Founders: Inside the Revolution to invent (and reinvent) America’s Best Charter Schools by Richard Whitmire
    The 74 Media, Inc, August 28, 2016

    Charter schools are publicly funded schools that choose their students by lottery, and in most states, exist to serve the poor. They resemble independent schools in that they operate independently from bureaucratic constraints imposed by districts and are free to innovate as long as they have high achievement results. In a span of 25 years, charter schools have grown from one school in Minnesota to 6800 schools in 43 states, serving 3 million children. The book focuses on the most successful charter schools (the top 20 percent) that are closing the achievement gap and guiding students from kindergarten through college. The founders of these schools scoured the country to learn best practices from public, private, and parochial schools. Supported by generous funders who saw charter schools as the best hope for improving public education, they were able to replicate their successful models, evolving into Charter Management Organizations (CMOs) that oversee a network of schools. School operators then shared their findings widely through publications and workshops. The successful CMOs collaborate closely to offer professional development, and they even formed a graduate school of education to train teachers. While independent schools have never operated as a movement, with a sector mission, this book shows one way that independent schools might help each other to survive and thrive. It is worth noting, too, that a number of the leading charter school founders of the most successful schools described in this book either attended independent schools themselves or worked in independent schools prior to entering the charter movement.

    Submitted By Pearl Rock Kane, Klingenstein Center, New York, NY


    Simple and Outsize: The Study Plan

    A Stanford researcher’s 15-minute study hack lifts B+ students into the As by Jenny Anderson
    May 9, 2017

    In this incisive article on metacognition, Jenny Anderson describes research done at Stanford by post-doctoral research fellow Patricia Chen, which concludes that there is an outsize impact when students create a study plan in advance of taking exams. In the study, half the students were alerted that they would sit for an exam the next week; the other half were asked to create a study plan, write out the resources they intended to consult, and explain how exactly they intended to use those resources. Additionally, the second set of students were coached by their teachers with prompting questions: Is there something that does not seem to be helping you learn/retain/understand the material? Is there another strategy that might serve you better? The students who engaged in intentional planning not only had higher grades than the control group, but also reported lower levels of stress. Chen urges parents and teachers (1) to support students in thinking about their study methods and (2) to help students in creating study plans in advance of assessments and then following through on them. Near the end of each school year, Chen's is an easy, inexpensive change that any teacher could make right away.

    Submitted By Stephanie Lipkowitz, Albuquerque Academy, Albuquerque, NM


    Working on Homework

    Making Homework Matter to Students by Lee Walk and Marshall Lassak
    Mathematics Teaching in Middle School, May 1, 2017

    In this terrific article, Lee Walk, who teaches 8th grade math and science at Cumberland Middle School in Illinois, walks the reader through his decision to apply in his pre-algebra class current educational research about effective homework practice. Walk provides an excellent summary of several important studies, which demonstrate that while well designed homework results in better learning for students, lengthier assignments or more time on task has virtually no impact on student understanding. Additionally, Walk describes the kinds of homework that dramatically boosts student performance: work with procedures with connections to concepts. Lower level cognitive demands in homework problems, like memorization or procedures without connection to concepts or meaning, had little impact on understanding. Meanwhile, demanding higher level thinking in mathematics is much better suited to work in class where the teacher is present. Walk provides examples of student work, as well. This immensely practical and engaging article is useful to any math or science teacher at any level and would provide a great launching point for collaborative work among math and science faculty who want to improve learning and foster a more positive perception of homework among their students.

    Submitted By Stephanie Lipkowitz, Albuquerque Academy, Albuquerque, NM


    Boldly, Truthfully, Now

    Queering Education: Pedagogy, Curriculum and Policy by Darla Linville, Editor
    Bank Street College of Education Occasional Paper Series, #37, April 1, 2017

    What might it mean to make education more queer? This Bank Street College of Education Occasional Paper Series, issued in April 2017, asks and explores this question from many perspectives. It includes essays that intentionally read more like personal stories than scholarly papers and reports that offer new ways of seeing, boldly and truthfully, in every paragraph. The editor, Darla Linville, identifies the purpose of this collection as illuminating "how educators might work to make schools more welcoming of queer bodies and identifications, to queer the binary categories that define social life, and [to] disrupt the . . . privileging of those who claim normative identities." This collection is relevant for all times, but perhaps especially now, because it helps us to see through new lenses possibilities for classrooms and curriculum. Though the collection acknowledges that its purposes may not mesh with standardized expectations, or with the desire to preserve the old normalcies, it is a practical, inspiring, and ultimately loving call for giving up on waiting for a receptive political climate to emerge. Instead, it shows how to move forward now, through acts of subversion small or large, toward the queering of education for all.

    Submitted By Elizabeth Morley, Kobe Shinwa University, Japan


    How We Don’t Learn

    Managing the 'Learning Styles' Myth by Keith Lambert
    Education World (website), May 1, 2017

    In this incisive article, Language Arts teacher Keith Lambert overviews the past few decades of thinking about learning styles in education, from Kolb and Honey/Mumford, through Gardner and Rose. Essentially, he joins the long-standing controversy in challenging the prevalent belief that students have "only one or two ways they are able to learn." The studies he cites from 2008 (Pasher, McDaninel, Rohrer, Bjork) and 2009 (Kraemer, Rosenberg, Thompson-Schill) show that teaching students in their preferred learning styles does not correlate to better learning outcomes; in fact, "optimal learning occurred when students were presented with material not in the preferred modality." Lambert advocates for teaching students to adapt and teaching them how to learn, citing recent studies affirming "flexibility in the classroom" and helping students "practice multiple ways of internalizing and experiencing new information." His article is a valuable synthesis of where we are now in the conversation about learning styles: understanding the complexity of "stronger and weaker styles (or preferred and practiced styles)," engagement, and metacognition, as we differentiate our classrooms and help students learn in a "variety of learning modalities".

    Submitted By Meghan Tally, Windward School, Los Angeles, CA


    Discontent and Its Civilization

    The Crisis of Western Civ and A Call for Democratic Education  (2 articles) by David Brooks; Stephanie Schroeder
    The New York Times;, April 21, 2017

    For those unnerved (at best) by David Brooks’ recent op-ed in The New York Times about the nation’s (and education’s) "loss of faith in democratic ideals," resources like offer substantive and practical antidotes. Brooks opines that today’s students "are taught that Western civilization is a history of oppression," naming the "rise of illiberals," "the age of strong men," and "the collapse of the center" as the inevitable consequences of undoing "the Western civilization narrative" best told (in his view) by Will and Ariel Durant ("The Story of Civilization," 1935-1975). In the tradition of John Dewey, educator and scholar Stephanie Schroeder advocates for engaging students in democracy (as opposed to teaching them about democracy). With a host of resources in hyperlinks, Schroeder promotes democratic classrooms ("need[ed] now more than ever") with six key qualities: participation, deliberation, nonrepression/nondiscrimination, morality, empathy, and criticism. Educators across the country and around the world will find useful Schroeder’s synthesis of how to "prepare students for the rigorous duties of democratic life"— a collective work in which thousands of educators are engaged and perhaps the set of "values" and "common goals" Brooks would say have vanished altogether.

    Submitted By Meghan Tally, Windward School, Los Angeles, CA


    Paying Attention to Attention

    Executive Function: Implications for Education by Philip David Zelazo, Clancy B. Blair, Michael T. Willoughby
    National Center for Educational Research (NCER), Institute of Education Sciences, February 1, 2017

    For all who commit to doing whatever it takes to assist young learners, here is a comprehensive overview of recent research on Executive Function (EF). It is well-documented that Executive Function has high impact on the depth, utility, and retention of learning, and that there are strategies to assist in furthering the development of EF in children, but this study gathers the relevant and current knowledge in one place and analyzes impact, implications, and future directions of EF work for teachers and administrators. Defining EF skills as the set of neurocognitive, attention-regulation skills involved in conscious, goal-directed problem solving, the authors bring EF into sharp focus based on assessment and longitudinal work that is now available. They proceed to look at programs that have evidenced increases in students’ capacity to pay attention, keep information in mind, think flexibly, and inhibit impulsive responding. In their conclusion, they argues for further EF research across elementary school grades to contribute to the best outcomes for each learner.

    Submitted By Elizabeth Morley, Kobe Shinwa University, Japan


    A Faculty for all Children

    Why Having One Black Teacher Could Help Keep Black Students In School by Anya Kamenetz
    KQED Mindshift, April 10, 2017

    Underscoring the importance of role models and a sense of belonging, Kamenetz summarizes a recent study that shows that having just one African-American teacher in grades 3-5 can reduce low-income African-American males' probability of dropping out of high school by 39%. The study examined school records of over 100,000 students for whom both the race of elementary teachers and full data about high school outcomes was available. Beyond reducing drop-out rates, the study also found that African-American students who had a same-race teacher in grades 3-5 were more likely to self report that they intended to attend college and more likely to take the SAT and ACT. While issues of ongoing segregation of schools and diversity of the student population are receiving much attention, this study highlights that the makeup of the faculty is essential to the success of students. The study is highly informative for administrators who work to hire and retain teachers as it affirms that a diverse faculty is best for children. For more details, the full study is available at

    Submitted By Jessica Sepke, Klingenstein Center, New York, NY


    Democratic Initiative

    The Political Classroom: Evidence and Ethics in Democratic Education by Diana Hess and Paula McAvoy
    Routledge, November 13, 2014

    As John Dewey noted, democracy "has to be enacted anew in every generation, in every year and day, in the living relations of person to person in all social forms and institutions."Schools have long understood the essential role they play in maintaining our democracy both by preparing students to participate and in educating them in the norms and values of democracy. Diane Hess and Paula McAvoy's The Political Classroom is an invaluable guide for teachers seeking to understand their role in promoting democratic values and preparing students to participate in democracy. Although the contemporary political atmosphere in the United States – polarized, rancorous, and increasingly unpredictable – creates many challenges for teachers, it also offers many opportunities and highlights the profound need for effective political education. With a mix of fascinating case studies and insightful analysis, Hess and McAvoy offer readers a combination of practical strategies and philosophical frameworks for when, how, and why to teach about politics and for democracy. In doing so, they provide brilliant insight into the best practices and structures that can support students' initiation into democracy. In the end, much of the advice Hess and McAvoy have to offer comes down to "professional judgment," but yours will be immeasurably enhanced by reading this excellent text.

    Submitted By Jonathan Gold, Moses Brown School, Providence, RI

KlingensteinCenter Teachers College Columbia University

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