“All schools should be built this way.”
On the 63rd anniversary of Brown v. Board of Ed, worth reviewing last year’s GAO study findings
“[Segregated] schools, investigators found, offered disproportionately fewer math, science and college-prep courses and had higher rates of students who were held back in ninth grade, suspended or expelled.
What’s more, GAO investigators found, public charter schools, a key strategy in improving education for such students, may take minority and poor students from larger more diverse public schools and enroll them into less diverse schools.
Overall, investigators found, Hispanic students tended to be “triple segregated” by race, economics and language.”
A panel on desegregation offers insight
Jill Bloomberg: “So there were lots of questions about safety, which are really very coded questions about race and racism. We assured them that their kids would be fine.”
David Goldstein: “We would create these little Shangri-Las of these beautiful little high-performing schools that were diverse and all that. Meanwhile, all the rest of the schools got squat. And that wasn’t our plan, so we went districtwide.”
And a comparison of integration to broccoli.
As in Staten Island, so in the US
When it comes to Staten Island’s North Shore, as in many other areas of our society, “We make judgements about a whole community without ever walking in the door.”
High school admissions changes in the works for NYC may promote diversity
This is good to hear. But we’re going to need to look at zoning and the elementary school level if we’re really going to fight segregation.
Great data visualizations and background on segregation in Indiana
Vacations (or the lack thereof) highlight class divisions
“school vacations can highlight disparities and fracture the sense that students are equal in the ways that matter most”
This piece also points to an often under discussed aspect of school integration: it takes a lot of work to ensure kids (and staff) are interacting with one another’s differing experiences and perspectives in a constructive manner.
I know as an advocate of integration myself, I don’t usually even bring this up because the very first step: just getting kids physically (or even virtually) into the same classrooms and schools is hard enough in and of itself. But it’s an essential piece. Just getting kids together is only half the battle. Curriculum, conversational protocols, academic interventions, and social-emotional support then needs to be firmly in place.
Student voices on segregated schools
“My reality is gym lockers with brown rust.
My reality is the suffocating phenomenon of poverty present on a daily basis.”
“Education was my only hope for redefining my life. But it seemed like the bar was always set out of reach for people like me, and most of our time was spent elevating ourselves to reach the bar instead of figuring out how to surpass it.”
Jeb checks the NY Times
“Florida’s McKay Scholarship Program simply gives parents options if their children are stuck in the wrong learning or social environment for their unique needs. It is not a condemnation of public schools or a seal of approval for private schools. In fact, the McKay program includes public school choice as well.”
Recent research on wrap-around services brings to light our goals for public services
MDRC has recent research that brings into question the impact of the “community school” model — if we assume that raising test scores is the goal of providing such additional services.
But as a community school advocate notes:
“The services themselves are, of course worthwhile — don’t we all agree that having kids who have access to mental and physical health care, regular nutritious meals, and quality, safe afterschool and summer programs is inherently a good thing?”
Let them eat cake?
Strange things are afoot at Deborah Meier’s school
What exactly is the problem going on here? Too progressive? Not progressive enough? More to explore here, for sure.
The need for a progressive agenda for the working class
“Democrats need a comeback strategy, and the American working class needs an ally. The solution to both problems can be the same: a muscular agenda to lift up people without four-year college degrees.”
How Democrats Can Get Their Mojo Back, NY Times
Was the high-profile LA school board president race determined by the negativity bias?
So there’s this cognitive bias called the “negativity bias.”
Aside from the vast funds that were plowed into this race, I wonder whether that played a role? Here’s a description from the74 that suggests it did:
“Zimmer campaigned on a platform that the district is improving, pointing to rising graduation rates. Melvoin campaigned on the premise that the district was failing and the board needed to act with more urgency to improve student achievement and address its financial situation.”
North Carolina Representative Virginia Foxx takes a stand for CTE
“In order for these people to thrive, we must do everything we can to change the way people think about CTE, shifting the narrative from a Plan B option to a Plan A option”
And the House takes a bipartisan stand for CTE
A nice moment of positive legislation in the midst of the chaotic destruction the GOP has been nurturing in DC.
Sure would be nice to see this piece of legislation on school infrastructure get bipartisan support . . .
“The legislation has six other Democratic lead co-sponsors in the House, but no Republican lead co-sponsors.”
Oh, and “The IES survey also found it was an average of 44 years since the construction of the main instructional building at schools.”
Professional development should be based on the curriculum
“We argue the need to take the important but often overlooked step of organizing teachers’ professional learning around the curriculum materials they are using with their students.”
Makes sense to me. I go into schools to support ELA teachers, and the only way my work is able to have any traction is by supporting implementation of a curriculum.
But there’s more to it than this. Which curriculum? Why? A school needs to coalesce around its vision for what skills and knowledge it wants students to graduate equipped with — and then align their curriculum to that vision.
Instead, I see schools teaching something just because they think they are supposed to. (“Why are you teaching these texts?” “Because I’m told to.”) And getting weird directives from their bosses, such as that EL (EngageNY) or CodeX are a “reading” curriculum, then adding Teacher’s College units as the “writing” curriculum. These kinds of misunderstandings become embedded into the scheduling: a teacher is teaching EL lessons for 3 days a week, and TC lessons for 2 days a week.
If you are an ELA teacher, then you know how incredibly difficult it is just to implement one ELA curriculum with fidelity, let alone two completely different and unaligned ones.
In other words, the problem isn’t just that curriculum is detached from PD — it’s that curriculum is detached from school and district leadership and the structures and schedules they enforce.
And there’s mounting evidence that a coherent curriculum is an effective method for improving outcomes. Like some of us have been saying all along . . .
“There are no silver bullets in education. But a growing body of both empirical and real-world evidence makes a compelling case that curriculum is a key component of student success.”
A Compelling Case for Curriculum, US News
BASIS schools exemplify what a coherent and rigorous curriculum can do
BASIS is also doing some really interesting practices worth emulating:
Student notebooks as sources of communication and data between teachers and parents. . .
“Many schools create an online grade portal that allows parents to see how their children are performing. BASIS doesn’t. Any information about grades comes to parents because their kids have shown them the contents of their planner, which contains test scores, homework assignments, and notes to see the teacher after school for help.”
Building empathy and understanding of diverse perspectives through it’s Global Classroom Project:
“…which connects kindergartners in different BASIS schools virtually to help them learn about one another. In one project, the children exchanged pictures of their local grocery stores so they could compare them. They also sent the Shenzhen school a video of second-graders sharing a Lunar New Year greeting in Mandarin.”
More sunlight = higher test scores
One of the central tenets of this blog are that some of the most basic contextual factors are overlooked in schooling, and here’s one that’s so basic but clearly powerful: starting school later results in better test performance.
More sunlight, more fresh air, more greenery. The best method for improving test scores? Very well may be.
Sunshine Improves Test Scores, The Atlantic
As in ecosystems, so in schools?
Look to the soil for our future.
A geomorphologist and author’s book, “Growing a Revolution: Bringing Our Soil Back to Life,” outlines the drastic difference that healthy soil management practices can make, and the common practices that good soil management entails.
Not surprising at all that conventional methods (monoculture, frequent tilling) ain’t good for soil.
If you are interested in this kind of stuff, there’s a book written long before this one with the word “revolution” also in the title, in which the author lays out the philosophy and practice of no-till farming: “The One Straw Revolution” by Masanobu Fukuoka.
“Students need to be in classrooms that inspire them—spaces that are light, airy, and filled with examples of work that they aspire to do. Each school will have a variety of spacious classroom settings. Some will be more traditional in the way that we envision classrooms now, but others might be set up outside or within an atrium or amphitheater. There might be desks, cushions, or benches arranged in rows or circles—however the teachers want them, as not every classroom will follow a template. Each classroom will be set up based on what is necessary to meet learning objectives. But schools will prioritize configuring classes to inspire learning first and foremost, and, where appropriate, reflect the diversity of environments that students are exposed to outside a school setting. Students will have beautiful spaces that make them feel good to be at school—with art, living plants, music where appropriate, comfortable seating, and fast internet access.” [Bold added]
—Rita Pin Ahrens, the director of education policy for the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, in an article on The Atlantic, “Reimagining the Modern Classroom“
A “high level of student engagement may be at least partially due to the school’s new Lithgow Building, which opened last August. The historic building was renovated with a trauma-informed design that houses the school’s lower and middle grades. “In many elementary schools, people use bright primary colors,” says Codman’s executive director Meg Campbell. “But for kids who’ve been traumatized or on the autism spectrum, red can be a trigger.”
. . . Campbell says she has seen a dramatic improvement in students’ behavior following the Lithgow renovation, even with the addition of 44 more students this school year.“Last year we had 16 students with 50 different incidents that warranted a suspension,” Campbell says. “This year to date, we’ve had three students with six incidents warranting suspension to date. If you put kids in a different environment, the behavior changes, and the teachers are happier.” [Bold added]
—Susan Johnston Taylor, “Want To Keep More Kids In School? Design A Smarter Classroom” on Good
A consistent argument I’ve made here is that the physical environment of a school alone can have a significant impact.
So here’s a really interesting study that demonstrated that healthier air quality (in the form of low CO2 levels) can double cognitive scores.
“The results are striking,” lead researcher Joseph Allen, director of the Healthy Buildings program at Harvard, told Ars. Researchers knew that air quality would likely affect cognitive function and work performance, but earlier studies included few people and reported subjective data. We didn’t expect to see that high quality air could double cognitive scores, Allen said.
Can you imagine if any school ever posted results where they doubled cognitive scores—or doubled any score, for that matter? To say that the “results are striking” would be an understatement.
In this study, the researchers looked specifically at office workers. But most workers in offices at least work in buildings where there is no mold growing on the ceiling, where there is no water that will run down the chalkboard whenever it rains, and where there is no thick black-green “dust” that will coat your desks on a daily basis.
Whereas we find it somehow OK to send off thousands of our nations children each day to schools where this is the everyday norm.
So if ventilating the air can DOUBLE the cognitive scores of office workers — imagine, just imagine, what it could do for the long-term well-being and academic performance of students. . .
Access to fresh air, greenery, and natural light should be a right, not a luxury, for all of our children.