Sunday, January 21, 2018

Reframing The Fear of Educational Innovation

I have been at several workshops in the last few weeks with educators and administrators and the biggest theme that keeps emerging (around why more schools aren't disrupting the status quo) is the fear of change or failure. 

I believe all educators are also designers - and that we need to design for courage while having a bias for action. 

Albert Bandura used the process of guided mastery to help people gain courage and overcome mental roadblocks. Breaking down the big steps needed to design and execute changes in education systems becomes manageable when we break them down into smaller pieces. Sometimes we just need to start. The failure to get started or stop when things "fall off the rails" stalls innovation in education. If we think about educational change and innovation as a series of small steps it helps administrators and teachers overcome the fear of failure that blocks their momentum to start. Small successes with pilot programs, "school within a school" models and other efforts at innovation help schools go onto the next level of the necessary education change most schools/districts currently face. 

If we accept making mistake as part of learning, the fear of failure will not hold us back and help us continue to do the work in the face of setbacks. If you hold a position of power within a school/district, role model risk taking and give teachers permission to fail from time to time. Acknowledge mistakes and move on. When teachers lose confidence in their creativity, the impact can be profound within a school system - leading to fixed mindsets and fear. Sir Ken Robinson says that in most schools "mistakes are the worst thing you can make." The goal of schools should be to fulfill the promise of helping students (and educators) find their strengths, passions and enable them to make their way in the world. 

Most schools remain stuck in place with the status quo while the most innovative are sprinting forward. It takes creative confidence (Kelley and Kelley, 2013) to leave the land of certain outcomes and the comfort of what we know to try a new approach or share a wild sounding idea. Once insecurity takes hold, efforts at changing schools stop and fizzle out. What matters most is our belief in our capacity to create positive change and the courage to take action. Often efforts to improve school systems move into planning but end before action - or start too soon. Using a framework like design thinking, where we are called to build empathy for others, fail fast and be resilient, can support change efforts. To embrace experimentation, don't get stuck in the planning stage; innovation is all about quickly turning ideas into action. 

Ideas to "Get Going"
Adapted from Kelley and Kelley, Creative Confidence, 2013. 

  • Get help: form a think tank made up of diverse stakeholders from both inside and outside of your school, hire the right consultant: organizational psychologist, designer, or business advisor. 
  • Create peer pressure: gather your team frequently, give teacher leaders release time or run an innovation fellows program (similar to a program I have run in past schools with success) or find a mentor. Get other schools/districts onboard.
  • Gather an audience: finding attentive listeners that can be your parents, other innovators at meetups or offer workshops at your school using the edcamp model.
  • Do a bad job: this gets back to the fear of change... while it might be hard, suspend judgement of how well you are doing. Just get something out there. 
  • Lower the stakes: If the problem you are working on feels so important that everything hinges on it, make it less important. Use design methods like Difficulty Impact Matrix, "What's on Your Radar," or creative matrix (LUMA Institute System of Innovating for People) to figure out what makes sense. 

These small changes to combat fear of change and failure can create infectious action. It might start in a few classrooms, lead to a building and eventually a larger school system but embracing an innovation mindset helps fuel innovation. So, embrace the fear and don't sit back and let circumstances determine the fate of a future generation of students. It's our duty as educators to reframe fear into educational innovation. 

Replace "corporate" for school and this model works.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Personalizing Learning in Math

If we want to ensure all students are ready for the STEM careers of the future, we need to ensure they are mastering the math competencies required for these roles. I am not the first educational leader to suggest that we need to re-think how we teach math but we have actually shifted our math classrooms to a different type of approach that uses blended and personalized learning. A lot of our model has been based on the work of Jo Boaler, a Professor at Stanford University, that has urged educators to re-think math classrooms for many years. Boaler says: "In some countries, people believe that learning is a long and slow process that happens over time, in all subjects. Here in the U.S., and some other countries, people are quick to believe that if a math problem is hard to solve, then you are not “a math person.” It is difficult to know where this started, but I would say it is linked to the teaching of mathematics. That tends to be all about right or wrong answers and speed." Boaler continues that to have a math mindset students need to have a growth mindset vs a fixed mindset. With a growth mindset, people really believe they can do anything and they can learn anything. And people with a fixed mindset really think their intelligence is fixed — so they can change things only a little bit. Creating the conditions that cultivate a growth mindset is an every teacher and all school activity, not just something that happens in the math classroom. 

Students getting some direct instruction in
one of HFA's three blended math pods.
As a 9-12 school that represents students from 15 school districts, students join our community with varied math backgrounds. In general, most of our students are below the expected grade level in math (yet close or ahead with ELA). 

As a progressive school we knew that teaching math in the standard way would not be our approach. To address the varied math backgrounds and align with our teaching and learning values along with a students' personalized career and post-secondary interests, we primarily decided to leverage the lab-rotation model of blended learning in our math classrooms. 

HFA students all take a math benchmark assessment three times a year through the software provided by our learning partner Imagine Math (formerly Think Through Math). From there they get a personalized pathway (determined through the software's machine learning algorithms) and from teacher input. Students then rotate in math blocks through three pods based on their individual needs. In essence, every student in our school has a personalized learning plan for math and proceeds at the speed appropriate for them. For example, we have a student who has tested out of the highest level of math standards who is in the 9th grade and is already taking college math classes through our local Community College and on the other side, some 10th grade students still trying to master pre-algebra standards. How would a one-size-fits all approach to math help either of these students?

The Three Pods:
1. The first math pod is the Imagine Math pod, students are working to master math standards and concepts at their own pace. They do get individual goals and class goals for mastering these standards. 
Students working at their own pace in the Imagine Math Pod.
2. Teachers use the data and analytics from the Imagine Math pod to pull-out and personalize direct instruction to a group of students and offer more support on a major math standard like slope or congruence, etc. This happens on a weekly basis. Some direct instruction is done through peer-to-peer learning as well. After all, research shows at least 90% mastery of a concept has been demonstrated when a student can teach another. 
3. The project and problem based pod: in this math pod, engineering and science teachers infuse STEM though creative and real-world application. As Boaler has said: "While math is a subject that allows for precise thinking, but when that precise thinking is combined with creativity, flexibility, and multiplicity of ideas, the mathematics comes alive for people."

In addition to these three pods, it's important to talk about staffing and layout of this type of classroom. When we first started, we had on average, 40 students in the room at once with three full-time math teachers. This proved to be quite noisy so we switched locations in our third year to a room that could be made smaller and closed in the center with an accordion door when needed. We now have two full-time math teachers and three others who rotate in from our science and engineering teaching teams (so the math teachers work with every student in the school and get about 10-12 hours of planning a week). This staffing model has been helpful so that math and science units can be more aligned and our focus on maker/STEAM learning can be intentional. In addition to staffing in creative ways, furniture and space makes a difference. In our flex math rooms, students have rolling chairs which can form rows when needed, large smart boards on wheels and grouping tables. The flexibility of the room compliments the flexibility of our blended model. 

So Does it Work?
While we are still evaluating this approach, we have been able to see a few key indicators of success:
1. Nobody should FAIL math at HFA as long as they put in effort and build their growth mindset, even the learners "most behind" are getting strong scores when they put in effort.
2. Personalized learning isn't just about technology; it's about teacher collaboration and creativity as well as building trusting relationships with students; our math teachers are also advisors at the school and teach a section of our leadership seminar class. 
3. Selecting the right software is important; we piloted three or four before selecting Imagine Math. We love that Imagine Math has a real-life teacher available until the evening to support our students just through one-click and embeds gaming and videos. 
4. Peer-to-peer learning is powerful and valuable and it's another way for teachers to assess mastery of math standards. If you can teach a peer who is behind, you know the standard.
5. The students with the lowest benchmark scores were able to "make-up" multiple grade level standards in less than one school year.
6. The highest assessed benchmark students are able to "comp-out" of HFA math and move into college-level math quicker, when they are ready for it vs having to wait.
7. The problem and project based pod allows all students to become creative and engaged in real-life learning and introduces science concepts to truly make our STEM program integrated. 

What Is Next?
Kudos to our lead math teacher, Mrs. Sanders
who has been a pioneer with this form of rethinking math! 
Now that we have been using and tweaking this model for three years, we will begin to track growth on our CWRA+ assessments and ACT Aspire as well as ACT scores. 

  • We would love to do a formal research study and are discussing this possibility. 
  • We may begin to teach higher-level math classes on campus (vs dual enrollment) as more students are ready for Calculus, etc. 
  • We will continue to align math senior year with our students' post-secondary plans and incorporate financial literacy as a graduation requirement. 
  • We do plan to add another staff member dedicated to the math team and still incorporate our science team into the problem/project pod. 

For more inspiration check out this video:

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Pathways to the Future

"If you believe only one pathway exists to achieve your goal, then all there is to evaluate your progress with is how much faster or slower you hit each milestone compared to the norm." Todd Rose (2016) suggests that we consequently bestow tremendous meaning on the pace of personal growth, learning and developing. Using this concept, it would mean that students who complete something quicker are "better." The assumption that faster means better was developed by Edward Thorndike who believed that the pace at which students learn material was correlated with academic and professional success. A proponent for standardizing classes, Thorndike also supported schools developing tests based on how long it took the average student to complete a task and to rank students accordingly. This theory of assessment is profoundly inequitable and simply favors the students who happen to be fast while penalizing students who are just as smart yet learn at a slower pace or have other barriers currently limiting their ability to focus on academics. 

In a world that is no longer focused on preparing the majority of students to work as factory workers, the end of "average" approaches to education should end. As Rose suggests, "we should evaluate students based on the quality of their outcomes, not the quickness of their pace." This assumption is not based on new research - over thirty years ago Bloom's work showed that when students are allowed to participate in flexible classrooms the vast majority of students perform better. Bloom's work suggests there is no such thing as a "fast" or "slow" learner yet most schools still use this variable to measure student achievement. By resisting shifts towards personalized learning schools are failing to nurture the potential and talent of all its students. 

All Holy Family Academy students select a post-secondary pathway and career cluster they want to pursue at the end of the 10th grade. These pathways have multiple entry and exist points as students select and create customized experiences in junior and seniors years all while at the pace that makes sense for them. 

At a school like ours (designed to end average approaches to completing high school) we focus on personalized learning, multiple post-secondary pathway exploration and project based learning. Coupled with advisory and family support, we believe this model to address the current inequities in school design. 

Summarized HFA was designed with these 5 R's in mind:

1. Real life learning through project based learning, partnerships and internships 
2. Rigorous learning experiences that are personally paced 
3. Relevant learning with focus on being culturally relevant and sustaining 
4. Relationships - the backbone of our school family that is guided through faith, built through family partnerships and advisory supported by well-trained and caring adults

So, how might we help our students pursue multiple pathways to success rather than follow the average pathway? What does your school do to support this type of experience? What might the barriers be and how do we overcome them? 

Dusting this thing off...

Writing is a truly reflective process and in the midst of busy schedules and priority pulls, I have  lost my way with writing on this blog. I've decided that Sunday before family dinner is the best time to write a weekly post. What do you want to learn about? Discuss? I hope this blog can be a catalyst for topics around Deeper Learning Equity and school design. 

Some of the topics on my mind that I plan to blog about are:
1. Our new virtual reality project that was just funded by The Heinz Endowments and will explore immersive storytelling with our partner Social VR.
2. The power of "leaving to learn" in schools - particularly internships.
3. Pre-Apprentice programs and competency based assessment.
4. Student-led exhibitions and other alternative forms of assessment.
5. Mastery based learning. 
6. Equity; all about it in schools. 
7. Partnerships between industry, higher-education and schools to create learning ecosystems.
8. Girls in STEM - my focus will never go away with this topic. 

Designing together with folks interested in the intersection of
equity, remaking learning and innovation.  

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Deeper Learning for Equity - My Manifesto

In the words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, “[We] are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.” This recognition of interconnectedness is critical to understanding why we need to achieve equity. The need for community is universal. A sense of belonging, of continuity, of being connected to others and to ideas and values that make our lives meaningful and significant - these are the needs shared by all of us. Becoming a learning community where members are committed to thinking, growing and inquiring and where "learning is for everyone" is an attitude as well as an activity where innovation flourishes. Equity embraces messy collaboration by leveraging complexity and demanding honesty; calling out racism and oppression. Being a leader focused on equity requires that you understand the past without being trapped in it and embracing the present without being constrained. I believe in building inquiring communities where administration and faculty are committed to the spirit of collective inquiry as they reflect on their practice and search for solutions to problems together; they have a bias for smashing oppressive systems. It is not possible to meaningfully improve education without addressing equity and the systems that oppress students.

To address inequity in education and specifically in Deeper Learning, we must begin by changing our mindsets, our behaviors and our actions. We need to see our work through an equity lens, understand the drivers of human thriving and untapped potential in students. We need to build new systems that promote equity and support the interconnectedness of the human family. As a colleague said at an event we hosted, "We don't need to justify having focused conversations about racism in schools. Besides the stunning cruelty of racism, letting it fester serves no one, not even the predominant group. We're in this together. We avoid such conversations in schools because it could stir things up that we're unprepared to handle. We might lose friends or colleagues for a while—or longer." Or we're so afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing or appearing racist that we cripple constructive opportunities to talk about race and resolve conflicts. By approaching one another with good faith and caring, we can ease these fears.

The goal in education is to cultivate innate talents and equip every student by developing habits of learning that render them into individuals who have the mindsets to succeed in their personal and professional lives. They are future-ready, empowered citizens who can learn and have the confidence to complete tasks no matter the situation or circumstance; who are able to learn continuously in a world of constant change and innovation. We cannot predict the problems that students will face, but we can provide them with effective learning tools that will help them succeed in their future endeavors.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

5 Qualities of Prepared Leaders in a Project-Based World

The number of people doing creative work has increased vastly over the past century, and especially in the last decade. The jobs of tomorrow demand that we help students build the mindsets to prepare them for a project-based world. At Holy Family Academy, an innovative independent Catholic school high school in Pittsburgh (home of the rust-belt, and former steel-mill capital of the world), a revolution is not only occurring in our classrooms but across the region. To keep pace with the demand for workers graduating high school and college with the ability to be resilient, problem solve, become entrepreneurs and become empathetic leaders that improve our communities, school leaders must model the qualities necessary for our creative society and be willing to re-invent almost all of the systems and policies in their schools. While there are examples of schools and education leaders nation-wide leading this charge, often schools that serve the most underserved students are being left out.
Rising inequity has created skill gaps that often leave the most vulnerable students without opportunities to build the skills needed for a project-based world. This skills gap perpetuates the poverty narrative that often runs racial lines across America. There are models of schools that are breaking this narrative within the communities they serve guided by organizations like Schools That CanBig Picture Learning and programs like the Deeper Learning Equity Fellows, but there is more work to be done.
At Holy Family Academy we work to build the mindsets and skills required for the future of work through project-based learning with social justice and equity at the center of all that we design. As an affiliate of Big Picture Schools and member of Schools That Can, our school has a focus on deeper learning through internships, interdisciplinary projects, culturally relevant teaching and learning practices, and we complement this with a robust advisory program meant to build social emotional learning and solve family challenges or other barriers that might be a roadblock to student success.
Holy Family Academy Students at the LUMA Institute
working on their project to fight food insecurity for Pittsburgh
citizens slightly above the poverty line or that have special food allergies. 
As a Deeper Learning Equity Fellow and Head of School at Holy Family Academy, I have spent many moments being mindful and reflecting on the qualities needed by leaders to not only create the space in their schools and/or districts for this work but to have a bias for action, be a role-model and have the courage to lead at the edge of the future. While there are many qualities that make a good school-leader, the following five are essential to transform schools into places where students will be prepared for the project-based world of their future.
Prepared Leaders Are Learners
Leadership is developed daily, not in a few days. Successful school leaders are learners first and foremost; they have the capacity to develop and improve their own skills and practice demonstrating perseverance, a necessary mindset for a project-based world. As a learner, I regularly attend professional development events like the Deeper Learning Summit, SxSWedu and many local events through Pittsburgh’s amazing Remake Learning Network.
Additionally, social media is a place to connect with others to learn new practices, receive support or share ideas, and it’s open 24/7/365. As one of the founders of #DTK12CHAT, a weekly chat on design thinking in education, I have build a global PLN (personal learning network) that is available for support and to challenge my thinking, in an instant. If you prefer face-to-face events I also recommend attending an Edcamp event to mix and mingle with other educators and administrators. Maybe the best way to keep learning is to get out of your office. Be an advisor to a group of students. Make the time for it, it’s important. Walk around and talk to teachers. Co-design your school with them and learn what they need to be successful.
Prepared Leaders Are Connectors
Diversity of people, ideas and action makes innovation happen in schools and the workplace. At Holy Family Academy (HFA) all of the classes are interdisciplinary and co-taught by teams of teachers. With particular focus on the personality and experience of our faculty, teaching teams are purposely diverse. Recognizing the individual strengths of educators and our administration was aided by using the Gallup Strengthsfinder, where every member (yes, students too) of our school learned their Top 5 strengths. With strengths in mind, we make connections within our school community but extend that beyond our brick-and-mortar buildings.
In the fashion of Big Picture Learning, students have multiple mentors like their internship mentor, school-based advisor and their family. Forming this network of partners takes careful strategy, a team to implement it successfully, and shared values. Not only do we have 70+ workplace sites and 120 mentors, we also leverage community partners to assure we are preparing students for a project-based world. Our students disperse across the region every Friday as part of our “Network Campus” program where they engage in unique and real-life learning at sites like: Carnegie Science Center, Duquesne University, Citizen Science Lab and Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild among many other sites and work with teaching artists, industry experts and renowned scientists.
In addition to their internship and Network Campus placement, students regularly participate in field based learning where they have logged over 500 hours of observing, interviewing and engagement with the people and resources in the community. Networking is an art often not taught in schools, so never a day goes by that I don’t role-model what it means to be a connector and networked leader.
While some of the examples I provided above aren’t “free,” school leaders that value innovation and diversity are usually able to find ways to connect their students to these opportunities that will prepare them for a project-based world.
Prepared Leaders Are Navigators
Knowing where to go for resources, how to sell your vision and how to navigate the policies in place that often impede efforts at Deeper Learning is another key quality education leaders must develop. I never took an education class on how to “be a navigator” within nine years of college education or as part of my Doctoral program.  However, mentors in my life and many nights at events and denied grant applications have taught me a few key ways to navigate to get the work done. Often school boards are worried about the bottom line with regard to school budgets so it takes careful planning and strategy to navigate beyond the bottom line. Knowing local and national funders, understanding what they want to invest in within education and pursuing opportunities for pilot programs to build program capacity should be part of your role as an educational leader. Also important is finding major donors and/or a shift in spending to sustain the program that gets funded in your school/district. Be sure to share out your success and learnings from funded projects.
Working in the private school realm right now, we have worked hard to navigate around the challenges of our mission (an independent school accessible to any family regardless of their socio-economic status) and realities of running our innovative programming. Laser-focused on preparing students typically underserved in STEM careers with multiple post-secondary career pathways (that include college and entering directly into a career), we’ve navigated around Federal policy with a Department of Labor work waiver that allows us to have the internship program and acquire substantial grant monies to launch our school in 2014, all while focusing on equity.
The second key part of navigating around the system that you can’t learn in a book is often shared by having a mentor. My mentor, Dr. Carol Wooten (an extremely accomplished education leader), has been invaluable in not only my personal success but indirectly the success of every student and faculty member in my school. She never asked to be my mentor, I pursued her and spent many meetings just listening and learning about how to navigate to be a successful educational leader who breaks and re-invents systems so that we can lessen the gap in skills required for the project-based world.
Prepared Leaders Are Designers
Designing educational programs WITH and not FOR teachers and students is imperative to be a transformative leader in a project-based world. Human-centered design and design thinking have received much attention from blogs and other education-focused news media in recent years, and has its skeptics. As an education leader that has practiced both the LUMA System of Innovation and the methods of the Stanford d.School, I’ve spent several years scaffolding design thinking practices as not only a method for creating innovative thinking among staff but using it as a framework for project-based learning in the classroom.
Every week at HFA, our Principal and Director of Innovation lead what we call “Collaborative Professional Learning.” While students are spread out across the region in amazing learning experiences, our faculty and administration are back on campus acting as designers that build empathy for each other and our students, prototype new projects and re-design policies and programs that are found to be ineffective. To ensure design thinking or human centered design isn’t just a buzzword at your school/district, education leaders must act as designers on a daily basis, receive appropriate training and model creative confidence daily. A big task, but important task is to teach students how collaboration is the heart of a project-based world.
It may seem daunting to get started, but please don’t be discouraged. Start by downloading the free materials from the Stanford d.School or picking up “Creative Confidence” by Tom and David Kelley. Once you and your teaching team embrace a designer’s mindset and use design thinking as part of project-based learning, this approach becomes more manageable, meaningful and real. Strive to connect community partnerships and social-justice to student design projects to provide engaging and culturally relevant opportunities within your school/district.
Prepared Leaders Are Equitable
There is no doubt that many students, particularly the most marginalized students, are not engaged in opportunities to prepare for our project-based world. Leaders and policy-makers that serve these students are compelled to break the systems that bind students to inadequate learning opportunities. Especially important for educational leaders that do not look like their students is to unpack their privilege and uncover societal, institutional and personal bias that they bring into their schools/districts. According to Professor Christopher Emdin, urban youth especially, are often expected to leave their day-to-day life and experiences behind and assimilate into the culture of schools. This process is a form of self-repression that is traumatic and directly impacts what happens in our classrooms.
Prepared leaders are focused on how to replace the system of self-repression evident in many schools and harness the power of experiential learning to prepare students for a project-based world. Leaders must embrace the complexity of place, space and their collective impact on teaching and learning to do equity work. At HFA our students come from 26 neighborhoods across the city. Getting to know each one of these neighborhoods and the people within them is critical to our success. This work takes time; it’s deep, and it forms community. No matter what “content” we engage students in learning, without thinking about barriers to equity and opportunities to break them and advance new opportunities we are just spinning our wheels.
Leaders with a focus on equity create safe and trusting environments and provide resources that are respectful of a students’ culture, not working to change it. One of the best decisions we made at HFA to support equity was to break the traditional “guidance counselor” role into three full-time positions. While it’s more expensive to have a Dean of Students, Family Partnership Coordinator and Director of College and Career Counseling, it allows for personalized supports that impact the whole family of the students at our school.
Most importantly, leaders that focus on equity in Deeper Learning see both students and teachers as unique, and have the courage to not be silent in the face of inequity. This might be more important than ever right now to prepare all students in our society for a project-based world. If we don’t, the socioeconomic and racial gaps of the creative class will grow even wider. Educational leaders must create a culture where ways of seeing and engaging challenge the status quo by naming uncomfortable realities and unequal conditions.
The Three C’s for Leadership Going Forward
Cultivating, creating and carrying out these qualities as an educational leader will help both new and experienced leaders transform the culture in their school/district and train a new generation of leaders to take over the helm in ways that re-imagine what learning looks like as we now know it in the majority of schools across America. As John Maxwell, notable leadership trainer, says, “People don’t at first follow worthy causes. They follow worthy leaders who promote worthwhile causes.” Don’t you think our students are worthy enough to be bold and make the changes necessary to prepare them for a project-based world? So, get a new book that will influence your work, sign-up for twitter, learn about design thinking, go to events and activate yourself to have a bias for action in this work.
This blog is part of “It’s a Project-Based World” series on the Getting Smarter Blog. Originally posted 3.16.17 at Getting Smarter. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Changing the Discourse in Schools

This week Cohort II of the Deeper Learning Equity Fellows meets in Oakland, CA for the first time face-to-face.This week will require not only deeper learning but deep reflection, designing/gaining empathy for others and sharing our stories - most importantly it's about having a bias for action. Given the events of the last few weeks the timing couldn't be better to gather with a group of social justice change-agents form across the nation. I've done several pre-work readings and assessments of my own practice. One of the readings claims, "Teachers are seldom if ever given the opportunity to do active learning and engage in reflective discourse about the effects of their work." Everyone that reads my work or tweets knows I promote and have done research on active leaning to improve teaching and learning in schools. However, it takes much more than active learning and innovative approaches to teaching to support and build systemic change in schools. In urban schools administrators and educators must also be sensitive to using existing cultural ways that promotes symptomatic issues like attendance, dropouts, discipline, low test scores, and low grades. 

Often in cultural organizations like schools, we exchange one cultural way for another that maintains outcomes that sort by race, class, and gender. We simply follow "the change process" and implement something adapted to the old cultural ways. A fundamental belief in process is part of school cultures. If we followed the process and nothing changed, then the explanation must be in the thing being implemented. It did not work. This cultural way is a major factor in allowing schools to have the appearance of responding to change without having to change anything substantive."  Many folks have suggested to me that the way to improve urban-type schools is through more structured "discipline," I would disagree.  One of the readings (Eubanks, Parish, Smith) suggests that urban type schools are viewed as "needing more structure" because they are "from disadvantaged conditions" or "from single parent families" or "working families" or "more dangerous." The problem is viewed as part of something in the students and their lives outside of school. Therefore, controlling or "teaching them discipline" is viewed as a solution. Approaches like this have the effect of maintaining the existing cultural ways in schools. This summer I also became a fan of Professor Chris Emdin's work and took his teaching on reality pedagogy to heart. We have carefully adopted his strategies into our school culture, not tried to "change" or blame students but to support them and the unique culture they bring to our community. 

Oftentimes, we blame everyone and everywhere except where the problem probably largely lies-in a social/economic-cultural system that requires and "needs" to create persons of poverty to preserve a well-protected system of social privilege (Fine, 1990). Adam Smith (1776) said that in order to create persons of wealth to advance civilization, it is necessary to create persons of poverty. Six hundred to one was his ratio. In America today the ratio may be a little higher. Both today and in the future, knowledge and creation of meaning will be essential for whatever life choices people wish to make. To deny a person the fullest intellectual and personal development is to deny a fundamental human right. Certainly, in our social context it denies property, liberty, and probably eventually life. "Everyone will not want the same things or same paths, but to have a choice requires intellectual
development beyond that to what we now provide for a select 20 percent" This statement is profound and why programs like the Deeper Learning Equity Fellows exist. We must somehow find ways to help our educators confront this system of schooling that continues and maintains the hegemony and sorting (hooks, 1992a; Shor and Freire, 1987; Parish et al., 1989). The challenge before us is how to go about changing the work of schools. How do we change so that the work and convenience of the adults, takes second place to learning, for everyone? How do we help those in schools cut through cultural myths without making them feel defensive, guilty, or at fault? 

More this week as I learn with and from my cohort of Deeper Learning Equity Fellows. 


Eugene Eubanks, Ralph Parish and Dianne Smith. “Changing the Discourse in Schools.” In Race, Ethnicity, and Multiculturalism: Policy and Practice, ed. Peter Hall. New York: Routledge, 1997.