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The Right Questions for the Right School

It is school preview season. Among fellow parents with kindergarten-aged children, the information overload has prompted no small amount of anxiety. Online parenting forums are overflowing with questions, second guesses, and uncertainty. This flurry of emotion is understandable. After all, choosing a school is not a trivial decision. In a real sense, choosing a school is also choosing the place and the people who will play a critical role in shaping the adults our children become. I get the anxiety -- I even share it sometimes -- but I have decided that I am going to do my best to...

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Seeing Good: My Mea Culpa to the Mason School

Recently, I attended a community meeting where I was one voice in a diverse chorus of stakeholders tasked with closing schools I knew nothing about.

Of course, this was not the task-as-presented, but it became the task-as-enacted. And ever since walking out the door, I have been asking myself how it happened and whether it is possible to responsibly balance the virtues and risks of a broad-based consensus-building process. I have been asking these questions in part because I do not want to have to explain to the teachers, students, and families at the...

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Reading Racism: Or, How I’m Learning to Wrestle with "Little House on the Prairie"

Somewhat clumsily, I’m learning how to read Little House on the Prairie to my three-year-old.

 

Recently, Mia rediscovered the mini-library of “Little House” books – given as a gift to her and her sister from old family friends – on a bookshelf in her room. She was pretty enamored of them when she first stumbled on the books a year or so ago. Back then, we even managed read all of Little House in the Big Woods and about half of Little House on...

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Challenging the Newspeak of School Quality Measurement

As an impressionable teenager, I read George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984 with a sense of fascination and fear. In particular, I was captivated by the idea that the relative diversity of our language both enabled and constrained our ability to express complex ideas. To take one example: if there was not a word for revolution, the people could not revolt. Whoever controlled the language controlled the people.

The novel is experiencing a resurgence of popularity in these...

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Schools Open, Schools Close: Charter Schools and the Ties That Bind

Ask someone in education about charter schools – even casually – and you are liable to be overwhelmed by a torrent of either enthusiasm or disdain. In an election year rife with proclamations about how divided we are as a nation, debates about charter schools prove that the landscape of educational policy is no exception.

Amid all of the shouting in Massachusetts’ current charter school debate – the one about...

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Professional Development (and Teacher Agency) As We Know It

Professional development (PD) in education has an image problem. Ballyhooed and derided in seemingly equal measures, it is celebrated for its potential to improve teaching and learning even as it is dismissed as a waste of time or money or both. The vociferousness and durability of these seemingly opposing sentiments give PD an air of incoherence and the impression that its boosters and detractors must not be talking about the same thing. What is the PD people love? And what is the PD people love to hate? And does it matter?

These questions, among others, were at the heart of a...

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False Perceptions and the Future of Teachers Unions

My defense of teachers unions comes after a long period of ambivalence and maybe too late.

Two decades ago, teachers unions – or more precisely my misapprehensions about them – were the reason why I did not become a teacher. I took on an education double major in college for selfishly practical reasons. As an English major, I had a hard time picturing a career, and I liked school well enough as a student that I thought I could probably teach. But even as I took courses in education and did my pre-practicum and became increasingly immersed and interested in education issues and...

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The Real Mirage of Teacher Development

Something curious happened in “The Mirage,” the recent TNTP report on teacher development:  the authors appeared to ignore one of their most compelling findings.  It’s too bad, as it was a finding that seemed to corroborate what I have been hearing in my own research.  

I am currently working on my dissertation, an interview-based study of teachers describing their most powerful professional learning experiences, and in considering the full complement of stories I have...

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Our Collective Responsibility for School Integration

In his historical portrait of federal, state, and local efforts to integrate schools, James Ryan, former law professor at the University of Virginia and current dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE), boiled down the essential message of the courts on desegregation to one of stubborn individualism and privilege:  “Save the cities, but spare the suburbs.” After finally listening to the recent...

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