In Transforming Teaching, Can Context Survive Scale?

At a recent Harvard Graduate School of Education forum on the future of the teaching profession, an audience member asked the panelists a question that got right to the heart of many contemporary debates about education policy:  if we say that context is so important, then how do we also justify policies at scale?  Can we have scale and still be mindful of context?

This is a question that has been much on my mind.  Specifically, I have been wondering whether our openness or resistance to scaling “best practices...

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We Are Atlanta

Recently and rather unexpectedly, a radio producer in Georgia asked me to record my thoughts on the Atlanta cheating scandal and what, if anything, we could learn from it.  I was humbled to be asked, and as a result of editing the commentary and the conversations I have had since it was ...

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To Close the Belief Gap

There is a new buzzword among many who would reform education in this country:  it’s the Belief Gap (or, for the Twitterati, the #BeliefGap).  Although the term has been in the education reform ether for awhile, it came to renewed prominence in a December 2014 op-ed by Chris Barbic, the superintendent of the nascent Tennessee Achievement School District, and it has since been well promoted by the website...

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The Tacit Assumptions of Testing Season

With the slow receding of the snow come signs of spring – longer days, tiny but promising buds on the trees, the arrival of standardized test instruction booklets and nondisclosure agreements at schools all over the country.  Yes, spring is Testing Season.  But where testing used to mostly just strike anxiety into the hearts of students, the increasing popularity of policies binding teachers’ job performance to student test scores have meant that Testing Season is increasingly anxiety-inducing for teachers, as well.  I think it is worth questioning some of the tacit...

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Why We Should Still Care About Finland

In the often heated debates about how to improve education in this country, it is not uncommon for someone to look for salvation to Finland:  its early intervention supports, its high barriers to entering the teaching profession, its lack of standardized tests, and of course its consistently high performance on international benchmarking assessments.  Such praise is often closely followed by swift and predictable...

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What We Do With Data

Newly installed as the chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander is determined to shepherd through a reauthorization of the long-languishing Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).  Seeking to put some daylight between the new ESEA and its widely reviled rebranding as No Child Left Behind (NLCB), Alexander has convened hearings and solicited testimony on several key aspects of the bill....

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Overdue Book Report: Rhee's World

I was surprised, but not that surprised, last month when my father-in-law gave me Michelle Rhee’s campaign-style autobiography, Radical: Fighting to Put Students First, as a Christmas gift.  My father-in-law and I see more or less eye to eye on most things, but we also enjoy nuanced discussions about politics and current events, especially when they intersect with education.  “It’s good...

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The First Vote

By the fall of 1992, Susan and I had been friends for two years.  I turned 17 at the end of August; she turned 18 a week and a half later.  She was a year older than me, which mostly didn’t bother me, but I don’t think I ever as young as I felt on the first Tuesday of that November.  It was Election Day.  Susan could vote.  I couldn’t.

I had been a political junkie for as long as I could remember.  I was a likable child, but my political fixation must have made me seem odder than I felt.  The 1984 presidential election was my first foray into...

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