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The IDEA Blog

Charting a new path forward in education by sharing positive stories of change, providing perspective on key issues, and giving you the news and analysis you need to take action.

Mississippi Institute

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Posted on May 17, 2017 - 12:29 PM by Dana Bennis

Rooting Ourselves in Mississippi

For more than 6 years, IDEA has worked nationally and locally to raise up the voices of communities, young people, parents, and educators and support change in education that's grounded in justice, equity, and democracy. We've aimed to support existing local work through connections, trainings and events, and story-telling, while also staying tuned to and contributing to the national dialogue on education and school change. 

While that work continues, today we are excited to announce a new program focused specifically on school transformation in Mississippi, a state that means a great deal to us as an organization - the state we are based and where our Executive Director and many...

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Posted on Jun 21, 2016 - 01:30 PM by Dana Bennis

IDEA Learning Tour in Portland, Oregon

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Posted on Sep 02, 2015 - 05:29 AM by Dana Bennis

IDEA Camp

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Posted on Jun 02, 2015 - 09:13 AM by Dana Bennis

Learning about Democratic Education from Colombia

Last month the New York Times published an op-ed from David Kirp that opened many people's eyes to one of the most comprehensive examples of democratic education anywhere in the world: the Escuela Nueva model in Colombia. Across Colombia, 20,000 schools have been influenced by the model, which features project-based learning, parent and community engagement, learning by doing and according to student interests, and democratic decision-making. As Kirp describes:

Rather than being run as a mini-dictatorship, with the principal as its unquestioned leader, the school operates as a self-governing community, where teachers, parents and students have a real say in how it is run.

I wrote a...

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Posted on Mar 27, 2015 - 06:27 AM by Dana Bennis

Tracking the Testing Reform & Resistance Movement

FairTest, the long-time leading voice on the damage of high-stakes testing and the power of authentic assessment, has just released an excellent resource packed with stories and learning about how communities have resisted and reformed testing policies and practices across the nation.

What makes this report stand out is that it's compiled from interviews with leading activists around the country and that authors Monty Neill and Lisa Guisbond pulled out the stories of strategies that have been successful as well as identifying some of the key obstacles and learning. All of this provides hugely valuable information for educators, young people, community leaders, and policy folks who...

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Posted on Nov 03, 2014 - 03:35 PM by Dana Bennis

LBS Session B: Love and Learning, Boricua Style

IDEA's Learning Breakthrough Series came together in Puerto Rico in September for Learning Session B. We were fifty educators, organizers, and community leaders across seven teams from Mississippi, Oregon, Vermont, New York City, Minnesota, New England, and Puerto Rico, plus National Fellows who function as LBS Advisors, IDEA Staff, and facilitators. This was the second of four gatherings of the LBS, following on the heels of the first of the three Action Periods.

The LBS, as decribed in prior posts about Session A and the first Action Period, is a deep-dive research and action process designed to generate knowledge and learning around a focus question, which for this LBS is:

What...

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Posted on Oct 21, 2014 - 11:05 AM by Dana Bennis

Connecting Communities through Video & Online Collaboration

A few weeks back I shared an overview of IDEA's Learning Breakthrough Series that began last fall and continues through summer 2015 with 8 teams working together on the shared challenge of educational transformation for youth (Check out that article for an overview of how the LBS works).
 
As a collaborative change project with teams in widely different locations and communities around the United States and Puerto Rico, we've had to think creatively about how to bridge the geographical challenges and provide opportunities for authentic sharing and feedback-giving during the Action Period months between in-person Learning Sessions. The Action Period is a critical time when teams...

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Posted on Jul 10, 2014 - 06:54 AM by Dana Bennis

Collaboration Across Geography & Context: IDEA’s Pilot LBS

 

IDEA's pilot Learning Breakthrough Series launched November 2013 in Jackson, Mississippi with eight teams of educators and change makers from across the United States and Puerto Rico. The goal? To come together over the course of 18 months in a deep-dive research process to generate knowledge on a specific question:

What connections and approaches to practice, policy, public narrative and strategy support the meaningful and sustained engagement of all young people and communities in education, while honoring the wisdom and differences of varying local contexts?

The structure of the LBS features three in-person Learning Sessions to identify innovations and solutions,...

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Posted on Jun 17, 2014 - 01:18 PM by Dana Bennis

IDEA’s Second Learning Report

We're excited to share this just-completed report. It's the fruit of our efforts to tell stories, raise visibility, and learn from educational change work happening across IDEA and connected to several other networks. 
 
 
Many of the stories in the report come directly from on-the-ground organizers within IDEA and in connected organizations. Put together in this narrative structure, we hope it offers ideas and provokes questions and thinking about ways to support educational change efforts in our communities.
 
If you find it helpful, please share it widely with your networks. You can click the graphic to see the PDF, and it also lives here on the IDEA site.
 
And send...

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Posted on May 08, 2014 - 11:35 AM by Dana Bennis

Profound Conversation on Impact of ESEA

On January 22nd, IDEA held our first "Network Learning Call." The goal of these calls are to bring our extended community together to discuss and learn about topics key to democratic education and school and community change efforts.

Our initial NLC focused on arguably the most important federal legislation on education, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), and in particular the impact ESEA has had on historically marginalized communities since it's initial passing in 1965. You may know ESEA by the title it was given during the most recent re-authorization of the law: No Child Left Behind, passed in 2001.

Moderated by IDEA National Fellow and EdWeek blogger Nancy...

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Posted on Jan 31, 2014 - 11:53 AM by Dana Bennis

2014 Here We Come: No Spectators and Network Learning Call

Changing Education Means No Spectators

Six weeks ago we launched our annual fundraising campaign with a goal of raising $120,000 and having as much fun and making as many connections along the way as possible. It’s called No Spectators - because we think that’s very much what IDEA’s work is about -- encouraging our shared sense of responsibility and the need to act to make visible and connect work that is by, for, and with young people, educators, and communities.

And, we didn’t hit our goal. Not even close. We accept that. We’ve taken a hard look at our optimism, our messages, and our goal.

And now we’re back in January with a narrowed goal and 15 days of renewed effort. We need...

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Posted on Jan 16, 2014 - 09:56 AM by Dana Bennis

15 Months in Virtual Charter Hell - Darcy’s Story

Her story has gone viral.

On January 6th Anthony Cody published Darcy Bedortha's personal account of working for a K12 Inc virtual charter school on his popular EdWeek Living in Dialogue blog, where it's been tweeted over 200 times. Then the next day Diane Ravitch shared about it on her widely-read blog, where it's spurred 75 comments and reactions. And then Ken Bernstein, otherwise known as Teacherken, posted today about her story on DailyKos, where it's been recommended nearly 200 times with over 80 comments. 

I'm so glad that Darcy's story is getting this kind of attention. Those of us within IDEA, where Darcy has been an organizer for over two years, know how beautiful her heart...

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Posted on Jan 08, 2014 - 02:59 PM by Dana Bennis

Sharing News from the EdLib Network (and a shout out to Tara Mack)

Many of you may have seen the news from the EdLib Network last week. For those not familiar, the Education for Liberation Network (EdLib) provides resources, energy, and online and offline support for educators, youth and other activists working for justice and liberatory education. 

Among their many powerful projects are Planning to Change the World - the social justice plan book for teachers created in partnership with NYCoRE; their online EdLib Lab of curricula, articles, and other resources; and especially the Free Minds, Free People national conference held every other year that brings together activists to help build movement towards education as a tool for liberation.

Much...

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Posted on Dec 11, 2013 - 08:33 AM by Dana Bennis

AERA Interview with Scott Nine

Recently, IDEA's Executive Director Scott Nine had the honor of being interviewed for the Lead the Change Series, which features prominent leaders of the educational change field from all over the world.  The series is put together by the Educational Change Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), the nation's major educational research organization founded in 1916. 

In the interview, Scott shares his insights and current thoughts on democratic education, public education, and the role of educational research, along with a vision of where we can go together. 

Here's a snippet:

For at least the last 30 years educational and non-profit...

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Posted on Dec 03, 2013 - 05:48 PM by Dana Bennis

On the School-to-Prison Pipeline

In case you missed it, the school-to-prison pipeline's been getting some much needed attention this week.  

Last week on Moyers & Company, Bill Moyers sat down with Henry Giroux, educator and author of many works on critical pedagogy. Among the topics they covered was schools and the reality of severe disciplinary policies that redirect low-income youth and youth of color from the education pathway and into the prison pipeline. 

Here's the video and a link to the full show.

And today, Zerlina Maxwell of Ebony wrote a piece titled, "The School-to-Prison Pipeline is Targeting Your Child," in which she discusses the shift towards zero tolerance policies in the last 20-30 years,...

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Posted on Nov 27, 2013 - 12:19 PM by Dana Bennis

Report and Wrap of A Year at Mission Hill

On January 31st, 2013, the first chapter of the "A Year at Mission Hill" film was launched across the networks of 50 partner organizations, on YouTube, on Prezi, and in the conference rooms and homes of people around the country. It was the kick-off of the #YearatMH campaign. Now coming to the end of 2013, we want to take a moment to reflect back on the film and the campaign. 
 
Hot off the presses is this Report on A Year at Mission Hill, which tells the story of the reach and impact of the #YearatMH campaign. The report provides helpful learnings for future national campaigns by offering a glimpse of how the series was used by partner organizations, suggesting ways to improve a...

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Posted on Nov 19, 2013 - 01:56 PM by Dana Bennis

On Children’s Book Authors and ADHD

What's common between recent news of a request from children's book authors to President Obama, and new findings about the rise of ADHD diagnosis? They're both a response to the increasing use of high stakes tests in the United States.  

Over 120 children's book authors and illustrator's sent a letter this week to President Obama urging him to reverse the use of high-stakes tests, describing how they have reduced children's enjoyment of reading and pushed out creativity and exploration from the learning process. Coordinated by FairTest, signers of the letter include Maya Angelou, Judy Blume, and Jane Yolen. From the letter:

We the undersigned children’s book authors and...

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Posted on Oct 23, 2013 - 05:52 PM by Dana Bennis

Something New

This is a guest post by Jenerra Williams, IDEA National Fellow. Jenerra teaches at Mission Hill School and lives in Boston, MA.

The cool Minnesota air surrounds us and makes the camp fire that much more desirable. As the flames flicker, I scan the circle. There are genuine smiles and laughter coming from all sides. There are knock, knock jokes coming from Scott’s phone as he shares with all of us what could have easily been a coveted intimate moment with his daughter. As I listen and laugh I am reminded of my students and how I miss them. Shawn strums the guitar and softly plays his originals. Soon we are asking him to share them fully and he complies. He sings two original works...

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Posted on Oct 18, 2013 - 08:00 AM by Dana Bennis

To Graduate High School, Get Accepted to College?

We recently shared on social media that a district in Oregon is proposing to add a new graduation requirement: be accepted to a college or trade school before you get a high school diploma.

It's a provocative proposal that brings in many tensions related to higher education and access: from arguments that everyone deserves a shot at college to the reality that there are not enough spots for every youth to attend college or trade schools, and from the importance of credentials for youth whose families have been historically marginalized in our society, to the notion that the real issue is the rising costs of college and lack of affordability for young people and families.  

All of...

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Posted on Oct 16, 2013 - 04:13 PM by Dana Bennis

Global Sharing not Global Competition - A Story

Let me guess - you've heard (once, twice, or countless times) that the United States is falling behind other countries and that we better catch up in the global competition for education and innovation. While there are many good ideas out there and we'd be far better cooperating than competing, the U.S. has more than a few powerful schools, programs, and ideas to share as well -- and not just in terms of test scores, but in terms of supporting young people to find meaning in their lives and to help create a better world. 

Those are two of the five goals of the Jefferson County Open School, a public K-12 school outside Denver, CO, where the practices of self-directed learning, a strong...

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Posted on Oct 02, 2013 - 12:11 PM by Dana Bennis

Week of Action on School Pushout

Rallies, events, community conversations, and demonstrations are being held around the country this week directed at ending zero tolerance discipline practices, such as suspension and expulsion, that push young people out of schools and often into a track towards prison. The Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC) is at the forefront of this 4th Annual Week of Action, coordinating events from September 28 to October 5 across 24 states and 42 cities.

These zero tolerance policies have created the reality of a school to prison pipeline that disproportionately targets youth of color and exacerbates the already existing inequities in the education system. The events this week especially focus...

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Posted on Sep 30, 2013 - 07:19 AM by Dana Bennis

On PBS This Week: Schools That Change Communities

We're thrilled to learn that Bob Gliner's new film, Schools That Change Communities, will be broadcast around the country this week and next on PBS stations carrying PBS World. We need more and more visions of actual schools and communities practicing powerful learning, and this film is one of the best to come out in recent years.

The focus of the film is on place-based and community-based learning, where young people are actively engaged in the issues of their community.

From the film's website:

When we think about schools, it usually evokes images of places separated from the larger community, place where students go to learn. . . Yet, a few public schools across the country...

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Posted on Sep 24, 2013 - 11:49 AM by Dana Bennis

The Question of MOOCs

Online courses are all the rage. Both in K-12 education led by companies offering online classes for middle and high school students such as K12 and Keystone, and in higher education where Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have been popping up over several years at colleges such as Stanford, University of MIchigan, and the University of Texas system. It's spawned an entirely new industry of new companies and programs offering courses or degrees such as Coursera and University Now.

As a fan of technology I've been interested in this growth, seeing the potential for more people to access these courses who wouldn't otherwise have that opportunity due to monetary, geographic, physical...

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Posted on Sep 09, 2013 - 08:56 AM by Dana Bennis

IDEC 2013 in Full Swing

The 2013 International Democratic Education Conference in Boulder, Colorado is in full swing. Starting August 4th, it is now day 3 at IDEC, and there is no shortage of pictures and tweets about the inspiring conversation and activities. Here are a few highlights:
 
 Albert Sykes getting the crowd going during the opening ceremony.
 
Youth from Taiwan announcing their open space session.
 
Yaacov Hecht talking during a "Play Dialogue" workshop.
 
Art from a workshop, asking the question: "What word, image, symbol and/or quote do you think describe youth?"
 
 
The view from the conference site: University of Colorado - Boulder.
 
And here are a few...

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Posted on Aug 06, 2013 - 01:02 PM by Dana Bennis

IDEC 2013 Begins This Weekend

The 21st Annual International Democratic Education Conference gets underway this Sunday August 4th in Boulder, Colorado. This marks the second time IDEC has been in the United States - the first being ten years ago in Troy, NY in 2003 - and it also marks another key gathering point in the 2013 Summer of Movement that began with the Allied Media Conference in June and continued at the Free Minds, Free People conference last month.

From August 4-8th, five hundred educators, youth workers, young people, change makers, researchers, parents, and community leaders from around the world will gather in Boulder for a conference that will be unlike any other. From morning coffee talks that...

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Posted on Aug 02, 2013 - 11:43 AM by Dana Bennis

An Alternative to Teach for America

Teach for America (TFA) has seen some strong pushback recently, from the decisions in Minnesota and California that scale back TFA's growth to the assembly earlier this month at the Free Minds, Free People conference in Chicago where over 100 TFA alums, teachers, and other critics came together on the topic "Organizing Resistance to Teach for America and it's Role in Privatization." Coverage has been wide, from the Washington Post's Answer Sheet to The Guardian (yes, the UK newspaper). 

But the U.S. isn't the only place in the world thinking through ways to engage new folks in teaching.

A program in India offers a refreshing approach. Muktangan, the name of the organization and its...

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Posted on Jul 29, 2013 - 09:34 AM by Dana Bennis

Free Minds Free People 2013 Gets Underway

Hundreds of educators, activitists, youth, and researchers are gathering in Chicago today for the kick-off of the Free Minds, Free People 2013 conference.  Held every two years, Free Minds, Free Peope is a powerful national forum for movement-building and connecting among those working for education justice and liberation.  And it's event #2 in the 2013 Summer of Movement

IDEA is honored to be a sponsor of the conference and to have staff and organizers from around the country be present and participating.  Among the events, talks, and workshops we're exciting to hear about is an open summit about Teach For America that just got some press from The American Prospect. 

You can...

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Posted on Jul 11, 2013 - 12:09 PM by Dana Bennis

An Uncommon Conversation on the Common Core

One of the flash points in the education debate in the United States today revolves around the Common Core State Standards and the parallel assessments now being designed and tested by two consortia of states.  The Common Core was put together by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers in 2009-2010.  While it is not a nationally required set of standards, they have been used as a bargaining chip by the Federal Government, whose Race to the Top competition and state waivers from NCLB give states points if they adopt the Common Core.
 
The Common Core is just now becoming a popular school and community conversation piece, as the implementation...

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Posted on Jul 11, 2013 - 07:26 AM by Dana Bennis

Wrap of Mission Hill Chapter 10 - The Freedom to Teach

"Isn’t it time to develop the trust and meaningful supports that give all teachers the freedom to teach?"
 
With this 10th and final chapter, we witness the end of the school year and the powerful conclusion to A Year at Mission Hill. The series has been seen over 35,000 times just on YouTube, with views from community screenings and the Prezi bringing the total views to well over 215,000. 
 
 
The 10th chapter begins with alumni speaking to the impact that Mission Hill School had on them. Here's a couple snippets:
I learned how to be a critical thinker.  I learned how to play off my strengths instead of worrying about my weaknesses.
 
I was going through a lot,...

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Posted on Jun 20, 2013 - 01:01 PM by Dana Bennis

Mission Hill Chapter 10: Schooling for Democracy

This is a guest post by Matthew Knoester, a National Board Certified Teacher and former teacher at the Mission Hill School, and currently Assistant Professor of Education at the University of Evansville. Matthew recently wrote a book about the Mission Hill School, entitled Democratic Education in Practice: Inside the Mission Hill School (Teachers College Press, 2012 - now available as an e-book) and edited a book called International Struggles for Critical Democratic Education (Peter Lang, 2012).
 

 
I watched the tenth and final episode of A Year at Mission Hill several times and each time my eyes welled up. Was it because the images and music brought back wonderful memories of...

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Posted on Jun 20, 2013 - 08:03 AM by Dana Bennis

Young Principal Elevates Student Voices in Rural Texas

Note: This is cross-posted from the Community Learning Exchange (CLE) Blog - many thanks to the great folks at CLE and to Melia Dicker for this piece.
 

Mark Cantu is the kind of school principal who never talks down to students. Instead, he asks them to speak up, and he creates every opportunity for them to do so.

Mark is only 29 years old, so it wasn’t long ago that he was in his students’ shoes. He grew up in a Latino family in a small Texas town, and he was fortunate enough to have opportunities that helped him become the leader he is today. When he was in high school, he developed his leadership skills through the Llano Grande Center for Research and Development and was...

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Posted on Jun 13, 2013 - 12:24 PM by Dana Bennis

What Teachers Can Learn from Caine’s Arcade: Part 3

This is a guest post by Leigh Pourciau, a writer and Teacher Consultant for the National Writing Project and a middle-school creative writing and language arts educator. On the side, she's a member of LearnZillion's educator Dream Team and leads Common Core professional development in Mississippi. She graduated from Mississippi University for Women in 2008 and lives in Jackson, Mississippi with her rescue mutt, Eudora Sheltie.You can contact Leigh at leigh.pourciau [at] gmail.com
 
Part 3: Take advice from your students
 
If you’re just tuning in, check out Part 1 - where Caine taught us to give students space, and Part 2 - where Caine taught us how to think like an...

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Posted on Jun 10, 2013 - 12:13 PM by Dana Bennis

Mission Hill Chapter 10: Faith and Courage

This is a guest post by Laura Thomas, Director of the Antioch Center for School Renewal, the service division of Antioch University New England’s Education Department. Laura is currently involved in research around the experiences of students and educators in rural environments, particularly in the areas of social justice, problem based learning, and technology integration. The author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, (Corwin Press, 2012), she blogs at The Critical Skills Classroom and can be found on Twitter @CriticalSkills1
 

 
When we talk about schools in the 21st Century, we talk about a lot of things.  Data, testing, competency, standards, and accountability are part and...

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Posted on Jun 07, 2013 - 06:46 AM by Dana Bennis

A Year at Mission Hill: The Final Chapter

Today is the release of the 10th and final chapter of A Year at Mission Hill, about a year in the life of a remarkable public school.  Since January, a segment of the film has been released every two weeks and shared by over 50 organizations, networks, and communities.

The more than 200,000 views of the film between YouTube, community screenings, and the Prezi, are a testament to the power of a very simple story: teachers, parents, and students working together as a democratic learning community. 

This last chapter wraps up the school year and is longest in the film - 10 minutes - and the most emotionally stirring.  We honor the teachers, parents, and students of Mission Hill School...

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Posted on Jun 06, 2013 - 08:59 AM by Dana Bennis

Wrap of Mission Hill Chapter 9 - Seeing the Learning

"The 8th grade portfolio exhibition process - it's almost like a thesis review, where they have to defend their work."
 
We're nearing the end of the ten chapter film, "A Year at Mission Hill." More than 200,000 people have viewed at least one of the pieces of the series through YouTube, community screenings, and the amazing Prezi.
 
This second to last segment focuses on one of the lighning-rod issues in education: assessment. For Mission Hill School, assessment is interpreted as "authentic" assessment -- tasks that connect to students' lives and interests as well as the needs of the community. Check out this great chapter if you haven't seen it yet:
 
 
Here's a wrap of...

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Posted on Jun 05, 2013 - 08:04 AM by Dana Bennis

What Teachers Can Learn from Caine’s Arcade: Part 2

This is a guest post by Leigh Pourciau, a writer and Teacher Consultant for the National Writing Project and a middle-school creative writing and language arts educator. On the side, she's a member of LearnZillion's educator Dream Team and leads Common Core professional development in Mississippi. She graduated from Mississippi University for Women in 2008 and lives in Jackson, Mississippi with her rescue mutt, Eudora Sheltie.You can contact Leigh at leigh.pourciau [at] gmail.com
 
Part 2: Think like an entrepreneur

If you’re just tuning in, check out Part 1 in this series where Caine taught us to give students space.

At LearnZillion’s TeachFest, Nirvan revealed to us...

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Posted on May 31, 2013 - 05:39 AM by Dana Bennis

Mission Hill’s Five Habits of Mind - Rules to Live By

This is a guest post by Matthew Knoester, a National Board Certified Teacher and former teacher at the Mission Hill School, and currently Assistant Professor of Education at the University of Evansville. Matthew recently wrote a book about the Mission Hill School, entitled Democratic Education in Practice: Inside the Mission Hill School (Teachers College Press, 2012) and edited a book called International Struggles for Critical Democratic Education (Peter Lang, 2012).

Early in the A Year at Mission Hill series (can you believe the ninth chapter was released already?), filmmakers Amy and Tom Valens and narrator Sam Chaltain drew our attention to five “Habits of Mind” that are the...

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Posted on May 30, 2013 - 07:33 AM by Dana Bennis

What Teachers Can Learn from Caine’s Arcade: Part 1

This is a guest post by Leigh Pourciau, a writer and Teacher Consultant for the National Writing Project and a middle-school creative writing and language arts educator. On the side, she's a member of LearnZillion's educator Dream Team and leads Common Core professional development in Mississippi. She graduated from Mississippi University for Women in 2008 and lives in Jackson, Mississippi with her rescue mutt, Eudora Sheltie.You can contact Leigh at leigh.pourciau [at] gmail.com
 
Part 1: Give them space
 
I recently participated in a well-earned standing ovation given by 200 teachers. The recipient of this applause was not a CEO, a principal, or a six-figure-earning educational...

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Posted on May 24, 2013 - 07:09 AM by Dana Bennis

Mission Hill Ch. 9: Making the Journey to Authentic Assessment

This is a guest post by Laura Thomas, Director of the Antioch Center for School Renewal, the service division of Antioch University New England’s Education Department. Laura is currently involved in research around the experiences of students and educators in rural environments, particularly in the areas of social justice, problem based learning, and technology integration. The author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, (Corwin Press, 2012), she blogs at The Critical Skills Classroom and can be found on Twitter @CriticalSkills1
 

In Chapter 9 of A Year at Mission Hill, we get a window into what assessment looks like when teachers and leaders recognize that the best way to measure...

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Posted on May 23, 2013 - 06:47 AM by Dana Bennis

Wrap of Mission Hill Chapter 8 - The World of Work

"There is so much they learn about those real life experiences, that make true connections they don't forget."
 
How does one connect academics to the broader social context? Can schools and education help bring the world of work to students and introduce students to the world of work? The answer according to Chapter 8 of A Year at Mission Hill is "Yes!" Check out the segment to see how one school does this skillfully with students from age 6 through 14:
 

 
With the release of Chapter 9 coming tomorrow, we are getting close to the end of this amazing series.  Views of chapters 1-8 are now over approaching 27,000. Here's a wrap of Chapter 8:
 
On quality work in schools -...

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Posted on May 22, 2013 - 11:50 AM by Dana Bennis

Mission Hill Chapter 8: “Locked In” to Learning

This is a guest post by Laura Thomas, Director of the Antioch Center for School Renewal, the service division of Antioch University New England’s Education Department. Laura is currently involved in research around the experiences of students and educators in rural environments, particularly in the areas of social justice, problem based learning, and technology integration. The author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, (Corwin Press, 2012), she blogs at The Critical Skills Classroom and can be found on Twitter @CriticalSkills1
 

 
My writing in connection with A Year at Mission Hill has grown from my belief that the specific strengths of Mission Hill can be found in schools all...

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Posted on May 20, 2013 - 07:30 AM by Dana Bennis

Seeing, Learning, and Healing in Oregon

This is a post by Darcy Bedortha, IDEA Senior Fellow for the Oregon Place-Based Organizing Team and a school leader in Prineville.
 
I’ve spent the week reflecting on my experience of the Oregon IDEA Tour held in Eugene from May 1-3. I’ve also spent the week proctoring state testing. The contrast is immeasurable, yet the connections are real. The storify collection of #itourOR twitter conversations created by David Loitz offers a snapshot of what we were seeing and thinking during the tour. I encourage you to check that out.
 
Roscoe Carson, founder of Ganas
 
We began at Kelly Middle School where the students and leaders of Ganas talked about the powerful bicultural...

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Posted on May 17, 2013 - 08:11 AM by Dana Bennis

Wrap of Mission Hill Chapter 7 - Behind the Scenes

Here in Chapter Seven of A Year at Mission Hill, we get a glimpse of how Mission Hill School sustains and nurtures a teaching community.  If you haven't watched the 6 minute clip yet, do so now:
 

 
Two key quotes that stick out to me:
 
Mission Hill's Speech Therapist:
In a lot of other school settings, the speech therapist does one thing, the occupational therapist does another thing, the resource room teacher does another thing, and the teacher's doing a 4th thing, and the left hand never really knows what the right hand is doing.  Here at Mission Hill everything is integrated.
Mission Hill's 2nd/3rd Grade Teacher:
As a teacher, especially as a young teacher,...

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Posted on May 09, 2013 - 09:37 AM by Dana Bennis

New School in BC Aims to Impact the Education System

This is a guest post by Rachel Mason.  Rachel lives in Victoria, British Columbia.  She is interested in progressive education, youth voice and social justice.  She has worked as a teacher, youth worker, facilitator, fundraiser, project manager, and curriculum developer in a variety of settings.  She currently works with Aboriginal communities and organizations, and is a parent of three young children.  You can contact her at rachelemason@yahoo.com
 
 
A new high school will do away with classrooms, subjects and grade-levels to offer an example of what personalized, interdisciplinary learning could look like for today’s learners.

What if you could take all the elements that...

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Posted on May 09, 2013 - 07:21 AM by Dana Bennis

Mission Hill School: An Alternative to “No Excuses”

This is a guest post by Matthew Knoester, a National Board Certified Teacher and former teacher at the Mission Hill School, and currently Assistant Professor of Education at the University of Evansville. Matthew recently wrote a book about the Mission Hill School, entitled Democratic Education in Practice: Inside the Mission Hill School (Teachers College Press, 2012) and edited a book called International Struggles for Critical Democratic Education (Peter Lang, 2012).


Mission Hill School founder Deborah Meier has authored a column, or “blog debate,” on the website of Education Week since 2007. She began by debating Diane Ravitch, where they discussed a wide range of educational issues...

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Posted on May 06, 2013 - 07:20 AM by Dana Bennis

Mission Hill Chapter 7: Shelter from the Storm

This is a guest post by Laura Thomas, Director of the Antioch Center for School Renewal, the service division of Antioch University New England’s Education Department. Laura is currently involved in research around the experiences of students and educators in rural environments, particularly in the areas of social justice, problem based learning, and technology integration. The author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, (Corwin Press, 2012), she blogs at The Critical Skills Classroom and can be found on Twitter @CriticalSkills1

About two minutes into Chapter 7 of A Year at Mission Hill, we see a young student leaving his classroom, obviously frustrated and angry.  An adult follows...

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Posted on May 01, 2013 - 08:54 AM by Dana Bennis

I Will Not Let An Exam Result Decide My Fate

New spoken word video out by Suli Breaks. The faces of the young people listening and watching Suli as he speaks to their own truth is deeply powerful. Young people need to hear that they are not alone in their want for meaningful education. Neither are teachers struggling to be real mentors for youth, or parents trying to give their kids the support they need.

Watch the video and leave a comment on our Facebook page.

 

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Posted on Apr 30, 2013 - 09:04 AM by Dana Bennis

A Wrap of Mission Hill Chapter 6 - Like a Family

Chapter 6 of A Year at Mission Hill needs no introduction beyond its title, "Like a Family."
 

Two quotes from this segment speak to me on what is meant by the idea of "family" in a school:
"A community of adults and children involved and empowered in their own education." 
  -- the narrator speaking to the community feeling at Mission Hill 
"I've become a better person - as a human being - for being here, not just a better teacher."
  -- quote from Mission Hill teacher James McGovern
 
With the release of Chapter Six, there have been over 21,500 views of the Year at Mission Hill film. Each segment povokes powerful dialogue and reflections on the theme,...

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Posted on Apr 24, 2013 - 12:41 PM by Dana Bennis

Democratic Education in a Time of Terror

This is a guest post by Matthew Knoester, a National Board Certified Teacher and former teacher at the Mission Hill School, and currently Assistant Professor of Education at the University of Evansville. Matthew recently wrote a book about the Mission Hill School, entitled Democratic Education in Practice: Inside the Mission Hill School (Teachers College Press, 2012) and edited a book called International Struggles for Critical Democratic Education (Peter Lang, 2012).


The events that took place in Boston on Monday leave so many of us grasping for words. Who could have done this? What does this mean? What should we do? Adults and children alike wonder about many of the same questions....

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Posted on Apr 18, 2013 - 11:32 AM by Dana Bennis

Mission Hill Chapter 6: Spring Harvest

This is a guest post by Laura Thomas, Director of the Antioch Center for School Renewal, the service division of Antioch University New England’s Education Department. Laura is currently involved in research around the experiences of students and educators in rural environments, particularly in the areas of social justice, problem based learning, and technology integration. The author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, (Corwin Press, 2012), she blogs at The Critical Skills Classroom and can be found on Twitter @CriticalSkills1



In Chapter 6 of A Year at Mission Hill, we get to witness the abundant spring harvest that comes after months of hard work, creating and maintaining a...

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Posted on Apr 12, 2013 - 05:55 AM by Dana Bennis

A Taste of China in Boston

This is a guest post by Matthew Knoester, a National Board Certified Teacher and former teacher at the Mission Hill School, and currently Assistant Professor of Education at the University of Evansville. Matthew recently wrote a book about the Mission Hill School, entitled Democratic Education in Practice: Inside the Mission Hill School (Teachers College Press, 2012) and edited a book, with a chapter about Mission Hill School, entitled International Struggles for Critical Democratic Education (Peter Lang, 2012).

The most recent chapter of the film series A Year at Mission Hill captures a small school’s use of a school-wide thematic unit to create an immersion experience for children....

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Posted on Apr 02, 2013 - 10:49 AM by Dana Bennis

“Take the Test” Action in Providence Sparks Dialogue

Last weekend, the Providence Student Union (PSU) held a "Take the Test" action, where several dozen community leaders, policy-makers, scientists, and professors took an abbreviated form of the Math NECAP exam, the passing of which is required to earn a high school diploma in Rhode Island. From the PSU press release announcing the event (thanks to Diane Ravitch for posted it in full):

“We expect this event to prove that people are more than test scores,” said Leexammarie Nieves, a sophomore at Central High School and a member of PSU. “We also want these community leaders to get a sense of what students are going through with this new policy.”

One of the test-takers was RI...

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Posted on Mar 22, 2013 - 06:12 AM by Dana Bennis

Mission Hill and the Emotional Well-Being of Children

This is a guest post by Matthew Knoester, a National Board Certified Teacher and former teacher at the Mission Hill School, and currently Assistant Professor of Education at the University of Evansville. Matthew recently wrote a book about the Mission Hill School, entitled Democratic Education in Practice: Inside the Mission Hill School (Teachers College Press, 2012) and edited a book entitled International Struggles for Critical Democratic Education (Peter Lang, 2012).

As a former teacher at the Mission Hill School, it has been wonderfully moving to see the depictions of Mission Hill in the beautifully wrought videos created by Tom and Amy Valens and produced by Sam Chaltain. While I...

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Posted on Mar 19, 2013 - 10:54 AM by Dana Bennis

Carrying Our Candles Through the Wind

There is deep value in sharing our stories, our successes, and our struggles in the work for education that creates a more just and sustainable society.  In that light, here is a guest post from Darcy Bedortha, IDEA Senior Fellow of the Oregon Place-Based Team.
 
I’ve been in a reflective mood lately. I find myself at a crossroads, a wagon wheel actually, with spokes of opportunity beckoning me to follow them in a multitude of directions. Two years ago I found a home for my heart’s work with IDEA, the Institute for Democratic Education in America. In the stretch of time since, I have seen and felt much hope; hope for what education could look like, hope for equity and justice, hope...

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Posted on Mar 15, 2013 - 09:13 AM by Dana Bennis

Getting Ready to Grow: A Year At Mission Hill, Chapter 4

This is a guest post by Laura Thomas, Director of the Antioch Center for School Renewal, the service division of Antioch University New England’s Education Department. Laura is currently involved in research around the experiences of students and educators in rural environments, particularly in the areas of social justice, problem based learning, and technology integration. The author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, (Corwin Press, 2012), she blogs at The Critical Skills Classroom and can be found on Twitter @CriticalSkills1



It’s seed starting time here in Northern New England.  We still have months until the last frost of the winter, so all across Vermont, New Hampshire and...

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Posted on Mar 14, 2013 - 10:48 AM by Dana Bennis

SEIU 21LA in New Orleans Leading the Way

A powerful new report out by the SEIU Local 21LA of New Orleans surveyed school service workers and students, revealing the poor conditions they face every day, and proposes valuable changes that would make schools better and more inspiring places both for learning and working.

The research and report itself is a model of democratic community-led change: led by SEIU 21LA Chief of Staff and IDEA Senior Fellow Jayeesha Dutta, a diverse group of students and service workers from age 9 to 74 were brought together to design and carry out this Participatory Action Research project. Showing the potential of schools and communities to act as researchers and organizers, the report, "State of the...

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Posted on Mar 13, 2013 - 08:57 AM by Dana Bennis

A Year at Mission Hill Wrap: Chapters 2 and 3

Needing a way to catch up on the Year at Mission Hill film?  Here you go!

The launch of the first chapter of the 10-part film on January 31 sparked conversation across and beyond the 45+ organizations and networks partnering on the release of the film. A Prezi that highlights the major ideas behind the series has been seen nearly 100,000 times (and is being updated with each new chapter release).  And with the launch of Chapters 2 and 3, views of the film now top 10,000.
 
Chapter Two profiles the beginning of the school year:
 
 
Chapter Two poses the question, "What are the design principles of a healthy learning environment?" Here are some responses from blogs including...

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Posted on Mar 08, 2013 - 08:43 AM by Dana Bennis

The IDEA Community Speaks: On Technology and the Future of Public Education

I believe in tensions - in our need to navigate them as we make decisions and pursue our lives and our work. One of those tensions deals with technology and it's role in education.  To start off, here's where I'm coming from:

As someone critical of the standardization and depersonalization rampant in many schools today, I'm drawn to arguments that school is obsolete in the 21st century, that young people can learn a great deal on their own, and that technology can be a tool for self-directed learning.

Yet as someone committed to community-led change, the value of human relationships in learning, and educational equity, I'm highly skeptical that replacing the conventional form of...

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Posted on Mar 06, 2013 - 04:26 PM by Dana Bennis

What Makes a Mind Come Alive?

This is a guest post by Laura Thomas, Director of the Antioch Center for School Renewal, the service division of Antioch University New England’s Education Department. Laura is currently involved in research around the experiences of students and educators in rural environments, particularly in the areas of social justice, problem based learning, and technology integration. The author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, (Corwin Press, 2012), she blogs at The Critical Skills Classroom and can be found on Twitter @CriticalSkills1

The teachers at Mission Hill begin the school year together, focused not only on the work to be done in the coming year, but also the ways in which they can use...

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Posted on Feb 28, 2013 - 02:51 PM by Dana Bennis

Mission Hill Chapter Two: Singing the Same Song

This is a guest post by Laura Thomas, Director of the Antioch Center for School Renewal.  Laura is currently involved in research around the experiences of students and educators in rural environments, particularly in the areas of social justice. Additionally, she is continuing her work in the study of school change (particularly resistance to change) as well as student advocacy and engagement in the change process.
 

“This little light of mine/ I’m gonna let it shine…”

As Chapter 2 of A Year at Mission Hill School ended with kids singing these words, I was struck by the similarities between this moment and one I’ve observed often at Symonds School in Keene, New Hampshire.  The...

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Posted on Feb 14, 2013 - 05:40 PM by Dana Bennis

A Year at Mission Hill: Sparking Conversation

The film series A Year at Mission Hill is lighting up the internet and sparking conversations about good teaching and learning around the country. 

The first chapter in the series has been viewed nearly 4,000 times, and this beautiful Prezi about the series which was designed by the folks at Prezi has over 7,500 views:

Many of the 40-plus partner organizations that are simultaneously releasing and promoting the film have put the series front and center on their websites and in blog posts. Check out their blogs and announcements: Edutopia, the National Urban Alliance, the Center for Courage & Renewal, and the School Reform Initiative, among others.

The Boston Globe announced the...

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Posted on Feb 07, 2013 - 08:59 AM by Dana Bennis

Educate 20/20 Road Tour

There's gotta be something about January 31st.  As we described last week, 1/31 was the launch date for the first of the ten-part film series "A Year at Mission Hill," which chronicles the story of a remarkable public school in Boston. 

1/31/13 was also the launch date for a remarkable road trip called Educate 20/20, during which 8 ambitious travelers set out to visit and share stories of innovation in education from New York to Texas to California to Colorado and more.  Their mission: document the future of education and "shift the focus from what's wrong in education to what's possible."

More from the email announcing their road tour:

Moving into the future we’ll need...

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Posted on Feb 04, 2013 - 08:49 AM by Dana Bennis

A Year at Mission Hill

 

At IDEA, we're proud to be one of the partners behind "A Year at Mission Hill." The project began when filmmakers Tom and Amy Valens spent a year filming at the school community of Mission Hill School, with plans for a full documentary release in fall 2013. The web series came together when Tom and Amy reached out to educator and news commentator Sam Chaltain. Sam brought together Ashoka, IDEA, and the NoVo Foundation around the idea of making a series of short episodes to highlight a year in the life of Mission Hill. 

Through this partnership, the concept grew into a larger opportunity to share the story across an eclectic coalition of education organizations, schools, and...

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Posted on Jan 31, 2013 - 05:18 AM by Dana Bennis

Youth and Allies to Testify in DC to Stop School Closings

On January 29, youth, educators, and community members from grassroots organizations around the United States will testify in Washington, D.C. at the U.S. Department of Education to speak out against the closing of public schools and raise awareness about the damaging impacts of closings on the lives of young people -- most especially youth from low-income and working class communities, communities of color, students with disabilities, and English language learners.

Under the name Journey for Justice 2, the representatives traveling to DC to testify at the US DOE come from youth-led, parent, and community-based organizations in 18 different cities, including organizations such as the...

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Posted on Jan 23, 2013 - 10:15 AM by Dana Bennis

Learning Spaces

Have you imagined what learning spaces designed for today and the future could look like?  Designers and architects Randall Fielding and Prakash Nair and their organization Fielding Nair International are on the leading edge of school design and planning. Check out an album of their images.  Here's their intro:

Why do most schools still look exactly as they did in 1950? Why do the design of schools and prisons have so much in common? It's time to replace the "cells and bells" schools of the past with a modern, student-centered version. One that will better prepare students with the skills and competencies needed for success in the 21st century. Old school buildings can be...

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Posted on Jan 16, 2013 - 09:28 AM by Dana Bennis

Vermont Partnership for Change Touring NYC Schools

They arrived in New York City yesterday afternoon: 30 Vermonters, including students, teachers, parents, school administrators, and community leaders.  They are the tour group from the Partnership for Change school transformation project in Burlington and Winooski, and their 2 and a half day trip will see them visiting some of the leading schools practicing proficiency-based student-centered learning and serving a diverse student population. 

The Partnership for Change (P4C), launched in 2012 and funded by the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, "is committed to build more robust teaching and learning environments, create deeper family-school partnerships, generate community-based learning...

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Posted on Jan 07, 2013 - 08:48 AM by Dana Bennis

Weekly Wrap

 
The last few weeks on the IDEA Blog have been full...
 
At first meeting of the Justice Education Network, educators from around the country worked together to realize a vision of racially just schools, while Nadya Vila showed us that political unity is possible in Puerto Rico if you use creativity, engage meaningfully with young people, and find outdoor wall space to create murals. 
 
Sam Chaltain gets the award for best education questions of 2012 with his list.  A few highlights: What does the term "learning" mean to you?  Who/what has been your most influential teacher? and How does the lack of education of others affect us?

Scott Nine and I took a moment to write...

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Posted on Dec 21, 2012 - 10:32 AM by Dana Bennis

Fight for the Soul of the Common Core Standards

This is a guest blog post by Susan Sandler, who works at the Sandler Foundation and leads funding related to education policy as well as other areas.  Previously, Susan spent 17 years working for racial justice in education as an organizational leader, policy advocate, researcher, professional development provider, school therapist, teacher, and activist.  Susan is a member of the boards of directors for the Center for American Progress and El Puente.

Do the common core standards discourage teachers from making connections between academics and students’ lives?  When I first read the guiding materials for the standards, that’s what I thought it was saying.  I understood it to say that...

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Posted on Dec 18, 2012 - 06:15 AM by Dana Bennis

Congressional Hearing on the School to Prison Pipeline

Yesterday and for the first time ever, the U.S. Congress held a hearing focused on the school to prison pipeline.  The Senate hearing was announced and led by Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, and at long-last it brings the reality of what is happening in our schools to the attention of fellow members of Congress.

Here's Senator Durbin capturing this reality at the hearing (full video here):

For many young people our schools are increasingly a gateway to the criminal justice system.  What is especially concerning about this phenomena is that it deprives kids of their...

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Posted on Dec 13, 2012 - 06:53 AM by Dana Bennis

Make Your Own Analogy: Teaching is Like…

Yesterday, IDEA Organizer and Social Media Communications Director of VIVA Teachers, Jesse Bacon, created this teaching analogy:
 
 
Now, we want YOUR ideas for other teaching analogies.  Share your idea in the conversation happening on IDEA's Facebook page (bonus points for creating a visual like Jesse!)

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Posted on Dec 11, 2012 - 08:06 AM by Dana Bennis

The IDEA Community Speaks: On Building Empathy

Last week's "Two Cents Tuesday" question on IDEA's Facebook page got some great responses we want to share here. 
 
The question: What can we do to build empathy (and fight apathy) among young people?
 
The responses...
 
Michal Morris Kamil:
Involve in the ownership and creativity of process in any life changing experience, and NOT just the outcome...
 
Annie Cook:
Educate them about differences so they know *what* they are being empathetic about. All too often we are preaching tolerance while expecting kids to just magically understand why.
 
Darcy Bedortha:
the million-dollar question...
 
Kim Farris-Berg:
If they cannot make decisions...

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Posted on Dec 05, 2012 - 01:58 PM by Dana Bennis

A Longer School Day?  Why, How, and Who?

An initiative announced yesterday will add 300 hours of instructional time per year to schools and districts in 5 states starting in the 2013-2014 school year.  The partnership between the Ford Foundation and the National Center on Time & Learning will impact 20,000 students the first year, and follows up the statements of policy-makers including Secretary of Education Arne Duncan who have called for longer school days.

In any conversation and policy proposal about extended learning time (ELT), it's essential to have the facts. Many initiatives like this one start from the assumption that students in the U.S. are in school far less than students in other countries.  Here's Secretary...

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Posted on Dec 03, 2012 - 09:35 AM by Dana Bennis

A Dear Professor

I am writing a tribute to a wonderful educator and human being - Ken Bergstrom, who has just entered hospice in Vermont.  Ken was a professor in my Masters of Education program at Vermont College of Union Institute and University.  In my opinion, and I believe that of many fellow classmates and professors as well, he was the heart and soul of the Vermont College community.  

Every time I entered the classroom for his How Children Learn course and saw Ken there, I could feel any tension I had in my body leave me.  His warmth, deep respect for everyone, and light-hearted way of being made all of us comfortable.  And more than that, his way of being (or some might say his educational...

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Posted on Nov 29, 2012 - 05:58 PM by Dana Bennis

New Network Works for Racial and Social Justice in Education

Last month in San Francisco, the newly formed Justice in Education Network (JEN) met for the first time. (Thanks to Jayeesha Dutta for the heads up on this).  JEN is an outgrowth of the powerful work of Justice Matters, an organization whose mission is "is to bring about racially just schools by developing and promoting education policy rooted in community vision."  The work of Justice Matters is "to build and support a national racial justice movement working towards transformative education for students of color – and to develop and advocate for a racial justice policy agenda in local schools and on a national level." 

In early 2011, the folks at Justice Matters began visioning a...

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Posted on Nov 27, 2012 - 07:48 AM by Dana Bennis

Weekly Wrap

Sitting lazily at home a day after a wonderful meal with family is the perfect time to wrap up from the last couple of weeks. So, here we go...

A post-election trio of posts began with Sam Chaltain who urged us to look beyond the election of Barack Obama to imagine a mission and vision of education that align with our values. I compiled the education-related analyses and reflections that were capturing my attention. And finally, Scott Nine proded us to get messy and start talking with our friends, neighbors, colleagues, and family about the issues that matter to us - especially education. So now you're set: vision, read, and get messy.

As a follow-up, David Loitz gathered some of...

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Posted on Nov 23, 2012 - 02:32 PM by Dana Bennis

Student-Led Reform

If you're not familiar with the work of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform (AISR), check them out.  For nearly twenty years they've been on the forefront of educational change rooted in communities - especially urban communities, and their work unites grassroots organizing efforts with policy, research, and educational pedagogy grounded in engagement and youth voice. 

A piece published last week on their site deserves to be read far and wide by policy-makers, educators, and community change-makers across the nation.  In it, Keith Catone and Alexa LeBeoeuf share powerful examples of youth and adults working together on educational change:

Students experience the strengths...

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Posted on Nov 19, 2012 - 09:41 AM by Dana Bennis

Education, Tests, and Chess on The Daily Show

Thanks to Valerie Strauss for the heads up on this. 

Last night on the Daily Show, Jon Stewart spoke with the director and a student from a new film about a highly successful chess program at an intermediate school in Brooklyn.  The film is Brooklyn Castle, and the conversation focused on budget cuts that threatened the chess program that has more victories than any other intermediate school in the nation.  Stewart is a long-time supporter of teachers and meaningful learning and critic of many so-called reforms, and this brief spot isn't to be missed.  Some key quotes, and the full video - complete with the humor you'd expect from the Daily Show - below.

Jon Stewart:

We talk so...

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Posted on Nov 09, 2012 - 10:33 AM by Dana Bennis

Election 2012 Education Round-Up

The election is over, and even though education was barely a blip on the national radar - and because of that - we need to take stock of where we're at and re-energize our work for educational change rooted in the lives of young people, families, and communities.  Educational issues were actually on the ballot yesterday in many states. What happened, and how can we cut through the jargon and partisan politics to find some clarity in the education landscape after the election?

Here are post-election reflections and analyses that cut to the heart of what this issue is all about: values, voice, community, and taking action together.

Letter to Obama from Bill Ayers:  Encouraging President...

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Posted on Nov 07, 2012 - 01:10 PM by Dana Bennis

Learning Spaces

 

The central space at Minnesota New Country School. An open setting with pods for each advisory group, workstations for every student, some natural light, and group meeting tables.

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Posted on Nov 05, 2012 - 08:36 AM by Dana Bennis

Weekly Wrap

This past week (or two) on the IDEA Blog, we announced our new blog format, while Thomas Friedman introduced the odd notion that teacher evaluations based on high-stakes tests raises the level of the teaching profession.

Students and educators from Alabama spoke to us about how we need to listen to youth and how youth convert culture, and we had another opportunity to listen to youth as they responded to a new video that explores what learning will look like in the future.

Sam Chaltain expressed the need for educators to balance art and science (and not say "um"), and we celebrated an amazing educator and senator - Paul Wellstone - 10 years after the accident that cut short his life.

We...

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Posted on Nov 02, 2012 - 12:59 PM by Dana Bennis

Education and Election Day

Election Day is just 5 days away. Sadly, education is one of the key issues that has been largely off the radar, at least in the presidential election.

President Obama and Governor Romney have each made (mostly off-hand) comments that I would have loved more attention on: Obama's telling remarks about the dangers of high-stakes testing and how tests could be used as a diagnostic tool in collaboation with other assessment tools; and Romney's critique of national standards and curriculum related to the Common Core Standards.

Imagine Candy Crowley or Jim Lehrer asking the candidates to explain those remarks and engage in dialogue about it.

Yet education IS a major issue - especially in...

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Posted on Nov 01, 2012 - 10:21 AM by Dana Bennis

Powerful talk by Dena Simmons

This is a moving and must-watch TEDx talk by Dena Simmons, a Bronx teacher and activist who grew up in the Bronx and is a doctoral student at Teachers College.  She spoke at the TEDxYouth event held in Brooklyn last month. Here are a few key quotes, but make sure you watch the full talk - it will be 12 minutes well spent. 

I realized that nowhere in any of my teacher education courses did I see a chapter called, "What to do if a student comes at you with scissors."  … What I did know however, was that I wanted my students to feel loved, safe, and a part of our community.

The majority of my colleagues came right out of college to teach at a wildly underfunded school. Many of them...

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Posted on Oct 31, 2012 - 02:26 PM by Dana Bennis

Learning Spaces

Youth and adults at THE POINT are working with other community organizations in the South Bronx to save The Bronx River. This park was once a condemned and abandoned lot, now reclaimed by the community and developed as a park and connection to the river.

------

Learning Spaces is a new series on the IDEA Blog, featuring snapshots of powerful learning spaces - formal, informal, expected, and the unexpected. Send us your pictures to post, and let us know what you think: blog [at] democraticeducation.org

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Posted on Oct 26, 2012 - 07:32 AM by Dana Bennis

Remembering Paul Wellstone - 10 years later

We deeply miss your voice in the public dialogue, Senator Wellstone.  And we will do our best to live out your vision.  

From a speech leading up to the vote on No Child Left Behind in 2001:

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Posted on Oct 25, 2012 - 06:55 PM by Dana Bennis

Youth Converts Culture

"Oh they're young, what do they know? 
Well, a lot, if you listen. 
We only have one shot. 
Here we go, don't miss it. 
We know how it feels to be overlooked. 
So we're taking a flight to the world's ear, piloted by the youth. 
Are you listening, now?"

"If our youth are going to invent the future, we have to start re-inventing the way they learn." 

IDEA Organizers Jonathan Carlisle, Javarius Johnson, and Beth Sanders were involved this past summer with Youth Converts Culture.  You can see them in this and other videos on the Youth Converts Culture site

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Posted on Oct 24, 2012 - 08:07 AM by Dana Bennis

Teaching as a Profession

In a column in yesterday's NY Times, Tom Friedman praises the U.S. Department of Education's Race to the Top program as having raised the level of the teaching profession. In Friedman's words, Race to the Top gave funding to states that met the expectations of the DOE, including developing:

...systems for teacher and principal evaluation and support, as well as systems to reward great teachers, learn from their best practices and move out those at the bottom — essentially systems that help elevate teaching into an attractive profession.

While I find it hard to imagine any profession in which the devising of a high-stakes assessment focused on one narrow criteria will attract...

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Posted on Oct 22, 2012 - 09:08 AM by Dana Bennis

A Breath of Fresh Air

If you're someone like me who tunes out and gets frustrated by one-sided education arguments that close the door to any dialogue, then check out this refreshing piece by Pedro Noguera, who's taken over for Diane Ravitch in the Bridging Differences blog with Deborah Meier.  Here's a few key snippets...

On why "progressive" reform efforts have lost influence:

I would say that the vision was too limited. It didn't include a strategy for addressing the effects of poverty. It didn't include a strategy for engaging and organizing parents. It didn't include a strategy for getting teachers to take responsibility for student learning.


On strategy and accountability:

If we really...

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Posted on Oct 04, 2012 - 07:20 AM by Dana Bennis

What if Teachers are the Answer?

Author and researcher Kim Farris-Berg asks that question in an EdWeek commentary, describing many of the recent so-called "reform" policies (merit pay, standardization of curricula, school turnarounds) as the exact opposite: seeing teachers as the problem who can't be trusted. She writes:

This approach, on its face, doesn't believe in teachers. Instead, it doubts teachers have the professional capacity to improve our schools themselves. It presumes that union rules have emerged from teachers' self-interest and not from the way our policies are designed. It assumes teachers are the problem. But what if teachers are the answer?


On the other end of the spectrum are schools where...

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Posted on Oct 01, 2012 - 10:10 AM by Dana Bennis

It’s time for people to get together

Paul Tough's new book, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Power of Character is getting a lot of press.  I've been watching it with mixed thoughts - glad that a book focusing on the social and emotional learning of young people is being read and well received, yet curious why certain books get "noticed" more than others.  Likely the attention towards Tough comes from the praise he received from his last book about Geoffrey Canada and the Harlem Children's Zone - an important place, yet Tough praised it without any deeper critical look at the additional funding it receives or how they removed their initial student body.  I'll be picking up a copy of Tough's new book soon and...

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Posted on Sep 28, 2012 - 05:39 AM by Dana Bennis

10 Elements of Good Education

In honor of today's National Day of Blogging for Real Education Reform, I'm reminded that the ideas for how education can be improved are already out there. Here at IDEA, we know that we are not pioneers of what is good in education. What IS deeply needed is to find new ways to frame, present, organize, advocate, and directly support schools and other programs working with youth so as to bring these ideas into reality.

So, on this national blogging day, I want to highlight a list of 10 features of good education from a 2002 report by Linda Darling-Hammond and the School Redesign Network at Stanford University. The report is called 10 Features of Good Small Schools: Redesigning High...

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Posted on Nov 22, 2010 - 01:00 PM by Dana Bennis

“Glee” on Schools

I'm a big fan of "Glee," I admit it. Not that it's a perfect show, but I love the variety of music, the quirky characters, and the humor. Watching last night's episode, something else stood out to me: the compelling way in which "Glee" portrays school life and particularly the message this episode sent about the role of teachers and a school in students' lives.

The plot of yesterday's episode revolved around three students: Kurt, the only openly gay student at the school; Puck, a popular and rebellious student; and a football player and bully who specifically targets Kurt.

I won't spoil it for those who haven't seen it yet. But what I was struck by was how well the episode showed...

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Posted on Nov 10, 2010 - 07:53 AM by Dana Bennis

Are we really Waiting for Superman?

In two days, one of the most well publicized education documentaries in recent memory premiers in several cities around the country - Waiting for Superman. You may have already heard about it on The Oprah Show, in Time magazine, or from any number of other sources. Most of the coverage in these media outlets has been overwhelmingly positive, and there are many big name supporters of the film, including Bill Gates and the controversial Chancellor of D.C. Schools, Michelle Rhee, in addition to the big-name director of the film, Davis Guggenheim of An Inconvenient Truth.

In short, the documentary profiles 5 children and their families who are hoping to get into charter schools as a way in...

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Posted on Sep 22, 2010 - 05:37 AM by Dana Bennis

New assessments - are they better?

Secretary Duncan and the U.S. Department of Education announced the awarding of $330 million yesterday to two consortia of states under the Race to the Top Assessment program for their proposals to create a new generation of assessments. This is on top of the $4 billion announced in the past months to the state-wide Race to the Top competition. The Department of Education framed the contest as one that would create assessments that help "prepare students for college and the workplace, that more validly measure student knowledge and skills, that better reflect good instructional practices, and that support a culture of continuous improvement in education." The plan is for the assessments...

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Posted on Sep 03, 2010 - 05:44 AM by Dana Bennis

Lights. Camera. Help. Film Festival

Two weeks ago I received an exciting call from Juan Carlos Pineiro Escoriaza, a talented film-maker who directed, shot, and edited IDEA's launch-time video, "Make Your Voice Heard." He had just got word that our video was selected by the Lights. Camera. Help. Film Festival as one of 33 films to be shown during the festival out of 235 that were submitted! Here's a bit about the festival from their website:

"Lights. Camera. Help. The Nonprofit Film Festival is the world's first film festival dedicated entirely to nonprofit and cause-driven films. This 3-day event gives films-for-a-cause the attention they deserve by putting them up on the big screen in a theater setting."

The festival...

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Posted on Aug 03, 2010 - 06:01 AM by Dana Bennis

The Education Policy Debate

I enjoy reading columns by David Brooks in The New York Times. He's a moderate conservative who promotes a more compassionate, intellectual, and pragmatic form of conservatism than what is often found in politics and the media. Nonetheless, I often disagree with him, and his recent op-ed on education deserves a critical response.

He begins by praising Obama's direction on education, saying that Obama is using "federal power to incite reform, without dictating it from the top." Yet Obama and his Education Secretary Arne Duncan's Race to the Top program is rewarding $4.5 billion to a limited number of states who receive the most points based on a scoring rubric (PDF) the administration...

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Posted on Jun 07, 2010 - 07:26 AM by Dana Bennis

Celebrating Alice Miller: Pioneering Psychologist

Alice Miller, a leading psychologist whose work and books revealed the dangerous effects on children of corporal punishment and more subtle forms of physical and emotional coercion, passed away this past month in France at the age of 87. Her books are essential reading for parents and anyone who works with young people, including the The Drama of the Gifted Child, and For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence.

Miller showed how the “poisonous pedagogy” of repression and fear will lead to severe psychological problems, even if parents and other adults think they are acting in the child's best interest. Here is a powerful quote from Miller's For Your Own...

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Posted on Apr 26, 2010 - 08:59 AM by Dana Bennis

Obama Praises Democratic School

In a speech yesterday at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, President Obama pointed to the Met Center schools as a powerful model for engaging young people and providing them with personalized support and hands on career experience. The Met schools and their parent organization, Big Picture Learning, network over 70 schools throughout the United States and around the world. The schools provide largely lower income youth and youth of color with the respect and opportunity to be meaningfully involved in their own learning and to pursue their interests and dreams.

Since 1995 the Met schools have grown to be one of the most vibrant and powerful examples of democratic education and 21st century...

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Posted on Mar 02, 2010 - 08:27 AM by Dana Bennis

The ABC’s of School Success

On Feb. 1, President Obama vowed to toss out the nation’s current school accountability system and replace it with a more balanced scorecard of school performance that looks at student growth and school progress.

I love the idea. Mr. Obama and education secretary Arne Duncan have repeatedly criticized the No Child Left Behind Act for keeping the “goals loose but the steps tight.” On their watch, both men aspire to introduce a new law that keeps the “goals tight but the steps loose.”

With that more flexible standard in mind, I have a scorecard to propose: the ABC’s of School Success. It provides both structure and freedom by identifying five universal measurement categories—Achievement, Balance, Climate, Democratic Practices and Equity—and letting individual schools chose which data points to track under each category.

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Posted on Feb 12, 2010 - 05:27 AM by Dana Bennis

Obama’s Education Disconnect

The Obama administration is ramping up its focus on education following last week's State of the Union. Unfortunately, it does not seem to go very far in taking a broader look at learning and giving teachers and young people more of a voice in the education process. Positive proposals include expanding the system of rating schools to include more than just test scores and using a student growth-based metric rather than a static grade comparison across schools. However, there is still no talk about more authentic forms of assessment or supporting student growth beyond academics, and the Race to the Top initiative, which guides additional education spending, remains focused on linking...

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Posted on Feb 02, 2010 - 10:22 AM by Dana Bennis

Posts by Dana Bennis

Dana Bennis

Dana Bennis, co-founder and Research and Policy Director of IDEA, has been deeply involved in democratic education since 2001. Dana has taught in democratic, progressive, and conventional school settings and earned a Masters Degree in Education from Vermont College of Union Institute and University. He has published essays in various education journals, and collaborates with others locally, nationally, and internationally to advance democratic education. Dana lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with his partner and fellow educator, Julie Hill.