The traditional classroom works so why change it?

The traditional classroom works, so why change it? This is something anyone involved in leading educational change hears at some stage.

The traditional classroom, where direct instruction is the primary method of teaching, does work. It has worked for decades. It has educated people who have then changed civilization in all areas; the sciences, politics, health, industry…everywhere.

However, to imply that it should not change assumes that we have reached the peak of educational techniques; that no major improvements are possible. Just because the traditional classroom “works” doesn’t mean that it has reached a peak or an optimal level of effectiveness.…Read More

19 new districts join League of Innovative Schools

A cohort of 19 new school districts have been accepted into the League of Innovative Schools, a national coalition of forward-thinking school districts organized by Digital Promise, an independent, bipartisan nonprofit organization authorized by Congress to accelerate innovation in education.

The League of Innovative Schools, launched in late 2011, accepts new members through an open application process once per year. Twenty-two districts were accepted last year. With the new members, the League now has a presence in 33 states, representing 3.3 million students. The full list of members can be found at

In addition to the 19 new members, several former members — Blue Valley USD 229, Bristol Township School District, Fulton County Schools, and Lexington County School District One — were re-admitted under new superintendents.…Read More

These high schools are putting students to work — literally

Two long-awaited high schools are opening this week in Baton Rouge, offering different pathways to college and the working world.

Opening Monday is Cristo Rey Baton Rouge Franciscan High School, the newest member of a Chicago-based network of 32 Catholic schools in 21 states and the network’s first in Louisiana.

Supporters have been working for more than two years to bring Cristo Rey to Baton Rouge. Its inaugural class of 78 ninth-graders will not only learn in the classroom, but starting Monday, they also will go to work. At least one full day each week, they will work at a white-collar job in town. In exchange, 17 Baton Rouge employers have agreed to underwrite part of their tuition.…Read More

What schools can learn from the unschooling movement

Unschooling is reaching way beyond the homeschool crowd. Traditional schools take note

With the onset of the so-called “new economy,” much of our educational systems is being questioned. With more than 40 percent of future work being independent contract work, what is the best way to learn or prepare for a career?

Most of us associate learning and career preparation with school. However, learning exists outside of the formal constraints of institutions. Whether it’s employment (on-the-job training), real world experiences, or travel, we understand that learning can be self-directed.

This realization has lead to an increase in what is often called unschooling, or even hacked education. Although often associated with homeschooling, unschooling is somewhat different. Homeschooling often uses set curriculum and instructional approaches, whereas true unschooling is directed by the learner.…Read More

Can growth mindset theory reshape the classroom?

Growth mindset holds that every learner has the potential to excel. How could it impact education?

Great teachers have long known what research is beginning to prove: an individual’s mindset — as much, or even more so than ability — can have a profound impact on their success in school and beyond.

But until recently, noncognitive skills like perseverance and self-motivation sat at the periphery of an education debate centered on the measurement of skills like reading and math. That is beginning to change.

Books on noncognitive skills pepper best-seller lists. Policymakers have taken note of a growing body of research that proves our abilities and intelligence can be developed. The recent revamp of the federal K-12 education law, for the first time, introduced terms like “well rounded” into the policy lexicon, opening the door to inclusion of non academic factors in accountability plans.…Read More

Is competency-based learning the next big thing in school reform?

A new proposal out of Georgia is betting it is, and supporters hope schools will implement it soon

competency-basedIn a typical Georgia school, kids like Sean Prisk would have to abide by a kind of classroom speed limit, forced to learn at the same pace as others his age. But no one stopped this Henry County seventh-grader when he stomped on the gas.

He accelerated two years ahead of his classmates in math and is now doing freshman-level work. “Math comes naturally to me,” he said.

Sean entered Locust Grove Middle School as it was implementing “competency-based” learning, which tailors schooling to each child’s ability. Students who excel move on. Those who are struggling slow down and try different methods, like exploring math or science concepts through art.…Read More

5 ways Maya Angelou influenced education

Notable author, poet and educator left a beautiful mark on all those interested in becoming lifelong learners

maya-angelouWhen I heard about Maya Angelou’s passing today, I was getting a bad cavity filled—a dispassionate process framing an emotional response I wasn’t quite prepared for.

As an English major, I have taken a path in my life as a journalist, editor, and (hopefully) one-day novelist. My path has been spurred by collections of books and poems—the passions of life made tangible in structures and syntax, and the brave and humble authors who have made these experiences available to me.

One of my favorite books I read in my high school AP English class was I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and not because I can necessarily relate to the experiences outlined in a book known to be one of Angelou’s autobiographies, but because of the foreign and vibrant world it exposed—a cultural and literary expedition brought about through a strong female protagonist who, believe it or not, wasn’t in love with a half-naked vampire.…Read More

National education reform conference starts this week

Reform conference hosted by Jeb Bush features MOOC discussions, big data, and modern principals

national-education-reform Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and the Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE) will host the National Summit on Education Reform on Oct. 17 and 18 in Boston, Mass., which also is available via a live stream, and all strategy sessions will be filmed and available after the event.

During this two-day reform event, attendees will be immersed in briefings, discussions, and debates on the latest research, pilot programs, and policies for raising student achievement across the country.

The National Summit on Education Reform is FEE’s flagship initiative and convenes annually to share reform strategies to improve the quality of education for all students. The “one-stop policy and practice shop” offers lawmakers, policymakers, and advocates the opportunity to learn the nuts and bolts of reform, according to FEE.…Read More

Silicon Valley magnate? There’s a STEM school for that

Ground-breaking STEM middle school teaches inner-city students how to become technology entrepreneurs

STEM-schoolToo often educators have heard stories of brilliant students like Mark Zuckerberg dropping out of school to get a head start in the technology industry, eager to become entrepreneurs in an economy that can’t get enough innovation. But one middle school is trying to change that by creating a school program that incubates future IT professionals.

The Howard Middle School of Mathematics and Science, a non-selective school run by Howard University in Washington, D.C., has launched a Startup Middle School program, which teaches inner-city students how to develop the technology of the future, as well as how to market it and develop financial savvy.

(Next page: What makes Howard Middle School unique?)…Read More

Five education trends for the new school year

education-trendsTrends in education are always appearing, such as iPads and online testing (and remember virtual reality classrooms?), but with recent developments in national standards and a new federal emphasis on equity, the 2013-14 school year will have a set of trends all its own.

From issues surrounding Common Core State Standards implementation to the number of tools available to create customized, affordable ebooks, educators and administrators this year will certainly have their hands full with adapting to these national education trends.

What trends have you noticed for the new school year? How is your school or district adapting to some of the five trends listed below? Leave your insights in the comment section below—we’d love to hear from you!…Read More