Blog Posts

If High Expectations Can Get the Blind to See, What Could They Do in Our Schools?

Arnie Boldt must know the value of high expectations. Injured in an auger accident at the age of three, he lost his right leg. This loss did not stop him from becoming one of the greatest athletes in Canada’s history, in a seemingly improbable event no less: high jump. Over his career, he won seven gold medals and one silver in the high jump, setting more records than this space has room for...

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Schools Are No Place for Secrets

Anyone who has stepped into a school, particularly as an adult, can see it plainly: schools are places where lives are changed. Students learn things they otherwise would not. Their minds are opened to a range of new ideas and thinking. And they leave being able to do things - read and write, chief among that list - they could not do before. But the problem: not every classroom functions as well as it could. Some students enjoy better instruction than others. The difference between student outcomes can be staggering.

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Who's Afraid of Data in Schools?

It’s hard to have a school-wide faculty meeting, or open an education magazine, without encountering the word “data.” Once highly idiosyncratic, teaching has rightly become more and more a skill to be learned with outcomes to be measured. I could not be happier about this move from teaching-as-witchcraft (or worse, merely bad theatre) to teaching-as-skill.[Read More ...]

Overworked Teachers: Three Humble Proposals

In lots of fields, but maybe especially in teaching, we equate long working hours with “doing a good job.” But there are lots of reasons to question this idea.

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Why You Might Not Want an "Innovative" School for Your Kids

Imagine a visit to the emergency room that went something like this. Worried you might be having a heart attack, you complain of chest pains. Instead of using the usual protocols, the attending physician says, “Yes, thousands of other doctors have had good results using what’s tried and true, but it’s not my style. I’ve developed my own way.” A savvy patient would be worried; while this doctor’s approach might be better than the existing protocol, it is far more likely to be inferior. Adopting a new approach in the absence of evidence is dangerous. Yet, this is exactly what we force teachers to do in our schools - adopt idiosyncratic and untested ideas.

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Why Changing the Carpets Won't Improve Schools

We all want (even) better schools. But anyone close to the challenge of improving schools knows that often part of the problem is not too little inspiration but too much. Attempts to improve bring a flood of well-intentioned ideas. But which has the strongest impact?

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The Power of "No"

Schools can be breeding grounds for well-intentioned distractions. Everyday it seems, a new task is added to the list of what schools are supposed to do collectively, and what individual teachers are asked to do in their classrooms. Each new problem of adolescence, or new technological product, brings a call to build new programming. We act as though adding is more important than perfecting; a school that boasts more ought to be better, we think. Are we right?

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