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“This I Believe” Meme

A couple of weeks ago, Cathy Nelson tagged me for this. I was honored and eager to do this; I think this is a great opportunity for both self-reflection and to put my cards on the table for my readers to get to know me a bit more.

I’m going to take a slightly different approach than Cathy. Specifically, I’m going to “borrow” from Peter King, one of my favorite sportswriters. In his weekly Monday Morning Quarterback column on CNN/SI, King always includes a segment called “10 Things I Think I Think.” So, without further ado, here are 10 things I think I think about education:

1.  I think the thinkers/writers who’ve most influenced my thinking are Kieran Egan, Roger Schank and, well, I’d have to say John Dewey. I challenge you to read the following narratives by those three men, synthesize them in your head and tell me what you come up with (and, yes, I know that Egan is critical of Dewey, but that’s fine by me): Egan article; Schank & Jona white paper; Dewey book chapter

2.  I think the best book on education I’ve read to this point continues to be Schoolteacher by Dan Lortie. Over three decades later, Lortie’s work stands out as THE definitive exploration (methodologically and substantively) of the “ethos of teaching.” If you haven’t read this book, please add it to your summer reading list.

3.  I think we too often use the terms “education” and “schooling” interchangeably. They are too very different things. I think of schooling as a subset of the larger idea of education. This is not at all a novel idea, but I do think we need to continually remind ourselves of it.

4.  I think if you read or hear someone saying that there is a “program” or “initiative” or “reform” that significantly improves student achievement for a large group of students (lets say, for arguments sake, greater than 384), especially in a short period of time, they are lying (or, at least, terribly misleading you). There are lots of ideas/programs/curricula/etc. out there designed by really smart, well-intentioned people. But, I promise you, none of them will dramatically and suddenly alter the achievement growth trajectory for any large group of students. None.

5.  I think, having just written that, the bodies of research that are most compelling with respect to improving student outcomes (notice I didn’t write “achievement”) are about small class sizes, quality early childhood education, and year-round learning. In other words, if you told any educator that next year they were going to have a much smaller class, with kids who had high quality early childhood educational experiences, and who have had learning opportunities during the summer months, they’d be thrilled. If we’re going to continue the institution of public schooling, we ought to think about improving early childhood educational opportunities for all kids, moving away from the agrarian-based educational schedule, and reducing class sizes (I might even be so bold as to suggest we break down classroom walls altogether; how open education of me). Notice I’ve written nothing here about technology?…that body of research is neither robust nor consistent enough yet. )-:

6.  I think emphasizing evidence-based practice in education is a good idea. I think embracing a very narrow view of what counts as a warranted knowledge claim (i.e. what counts as evidence) is absurd.

7.  I think whereas there has necessarily been great attention given to issues of between-schools segregation by race in the U.S., there is a huge, insidious problem of within-schools segregation in far too many schools in the U.S. For those of you that work in or know of schools with a reasonable semblance of racial diversity (yes, both of you), take a look at your school population and then the populations of the kids in: special education, gifted and talented programs, advanced placement courses, the APs office for disciplinary referrals, etc. Do those populations have the same racial compositions? I thought not.

8.  I think we need more principals like Chris Lehmann and Tim Lauer. I kept that list short, for lots of reasons.

9.  I think “Leadership Without Followers” by Chris Dede continues to be relevant and the framework for all that I believe about educational leadership.

10.  I think all kids can learn…I’m just not sure they can do it well enough within the confines of 99.99% of the schools in the United States.

There, I said it…or at least wrote it.

      Unlike some, I kinda like this meme concept; I think it’s a decent way to encourage folks to write on a particular topic. So, in that light, I’m tagging the following bloggers:

      Have at it, folks.

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