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Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Farina-de Blasio Renewal Schools' Scandal

Another scandal reaches city newspapers. So tiring. When will Carmen Farina "retire"?

See my other articles on Renewal Schools' scandal.

and a recent article in the NY TIMES
Why One School Lives as Another Dies in the Same Building
Teaching math in NYC public schools? Don't get me started. My guru throughout the fuzzy math years was Elizabeth Carson, founder of NYC HOLD National. I attended District 2 meetings, math conferences, etc., etc. Then, two of my daughters got into Stuyvesant High School, where the math department had a separate curriculum and math placement exam for kids from District 2 or who had TERC/Everyday Math in middle school.

When my youngest daughter was at PS 6 with Principal Carmen Farina, she and her classmates brought home the most ridiculous c--- for math I've ever seen. TERC math tells kids they cannot multiply numbers the classic way, they have to break down the numbers into small parts and add them. 16 X 19 + the number 16 added up 19 times. And then you were supposed to draw little hats over each transaction. I'm not a fan, as you can probably tell.

We parents got so angry - and the teachers were, too, but they told us privately that their "hands were tied" by Carmen - that we decided to tutor our kids ourselves or get a professional to do it. We cooked up a scheme that looked like this:
We would work on problems the traditional way, with multiplication and long division, then put the answer on the worksheet and draw the hats over the numbers added together. Then we erased the numbers several times to make it look like the work took a long time. It's called "fuzzy math", after all.

My daughter wrote something about this which the Riverdale Press published. I posted her statement in full on my website:
WHY TERC? Asks a 9 year old, Who Questions the Value of 'Fuzzy Math' For Her Future Academic Goals

After the publication in the Riverdale Press, she was removed from the math team at PS 6 by Carmen because "she did not know math". I immediately asked her if she wanted to take the test for the Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth, she said yes, got in for both math and english, and got into NEST+M for grades 6-12, and the National Honor Society.  I have nothing to thank Carmen Farina for, as far as teaching math.

Carmen did pay to have me trained in Great Books, which I loved and worked with other parents in an after school program. So thanks for that, Carmen!

Betsy Combier

City’s ‘Renewal Program’ costs big bucks but shows few results

Bill de Blasio speaks to the graduates of the Boys and Girls High School in Brooklyn
Mayor de Blasio vowed to “shake the foundations of New York City education” by showering 94 poorly performing public schools with taxpayer money to pay for an extra hour of daily instruction, special training for the teachers and extra social services for the kids.
Officially dubbed the “School Renewal Program,” de Blasio said he preferred a less-formal title when he announced the $150 million turnaround plan in November 2014


My name is simpler — it’s ‘No Bad Schools,’ ” he told a packed auditorium at East Harlem’s Coalition School for Social Change, one of those targeted for recovery.
Calling his vision a break from the past — when struggling schools were simply “written off” and shut down — de Blasio also said his hand-picked schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña, had already started evaluating administrators “to make sure our school leadership begins improving immediately.”
But that’s not quite how it turned out.
With a three-year deadline looming, progress has been spotty at best and the Department of Education has already given up on 17 schools. It plans to continue the program in September with 78 schools, including one that was created by merging two it shut.
Some supporters have started questioning the program, which critics blast as a costly sinkhole that’s entered a death spiral.
“Failed schools don’t reinvent themselves,” said Eric Nadelstern, a former deputy schools chancellor for instruction under Mayor Mike Bloomberg and currently a professor at Columbia University’s Teachers College. “Education will only get well if we reward success and penalize failure. The Renewal program does exactly the opposite.”
The annual cost of the program has risen to $186.5 million this school year, with total spending through the 2018-2019 year estimated at $754.2 million, according to the latest figures from the Independent Budget Office.
The Department of Education will not say where all the money goes. The Post has learned that $8.5 million is paid to 72 Office of Renewal Schools “directors” and “instructional coaches.” Since last school year, another $3.7 million went to “leadership coaches,” including many retired principals, each making $660 to $1,400 a day.
Meanwhile, DOE statistics show that:
  • Total enrollment at the 86 Renewal schools currently open has plummeted nearly 25 percent — from 49,391 to 37,146 — since the 2013-2014 school year, before the program began.
  • Average per-student spending at each Renewal school is $14,632 this school year, up nearly 35 percent from $10,847 in 2013-2014 — and more than twice the cost of educating students at the elite Stuyvesant and Brooklyn Tech high schools.
  • Only three Renewal schools met all their improvement goals last school year, while 61 showed declines in at least one category and 13 fell in three or more — even after the Renewal schools were given three years to hit targets for which other schools only got one.
In recent weeks, the Department of Education has mounted a public-relations blitz to boost the Renewal schools, releasing preliminary data showing their average four-year graduation rate rose to 58.5 percent last year — then revising that number up to 59.3 percent and saying the increase from 2015 was more than twice the citywide average.
At a Feb. 10 news conference trumpeting the 4.8-point jump, de Blasio claimed it “proves that real impact is being made through the Renewal School initiative.”
But his administration had to admit that the dropout rate at Renewal schools rose to 18.6 percent last year, even as the citywide rate declined to a record low of 8.5 percent.
City Hall also ignored the fact that declining enrollment means the Renewal high schools actually graduated 18 percent fewer students — or 750 kids — than they did in 2014, before the program began.
Even worse, DOE statistics show the rate of “college readiness” among Renewal grads — defined as meeting CUNY standards for avoiding remedial classes — was just 12.3 percent last year, one-third the citywide average of 37 percent.
And while the citywide college-readiness rate has risen steadily over the past three years, the Renewal schools saw a slight overall dip last year, when 10 showed declines from 2015 and one — Leadership Institute, which is slated for closure — sank to a dismal 2 percent.
In addition, nine Renewal high schools have seen their college-readiness rates fall since 2014, before the turnaround program began. “What this year’s data really shows is that the de Blasio administration is simply lowering standards to boost graduation rates,” said Jeremiah Kittredge of Families for Excellent Schools, a pro-charter group.
“While that may help the mayor’s approval rating, it does nothing for the thousands of students trapped in his failing Renewal Schools program who are graduating woefully unprepared for college.”
Chancellor Fariña also penned a Feb. 1 op-ed in the Daily News claiming that “Renewal Schools are seeing real progress” and pointing in part to higher scores on state tests and lower numbers of suspensions.
She failed to note that the 2016 state Common Core exams had fewer questions and no time limits, with state Education Commissioner Maryellen Elia cautioning, “It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison with previous years.”
Last July, the Department of Education proposed a controversial new policy to further slash suspensions of students in kindergarten to second grade at all schools.The rules have not yet taken effect, officials said, but instead of being suspended unruly kids would face “positive” and “age-appropriate” discipline methods.
A teacher at one Renewal high school, Richmond Hill, said teachers also faced pressure from administrators to limit suspensions of older kids to improve statistics.
“The kids run the schools,” the teacher said. “They know they can get away with pretty much whatever they want at this point. We’re in a position where we either allow chaos in the classroom or have administrators get pissed. It’s an unwritten rule now: Just let it go.”
A former state education official who helped oversee low-performing schools called the Renewal program a “colossal waste of money.”
“At many of these schools, the bar was set so low, and some of them couldn’t get over the low bar. How pathetic,” the ex-official said.
Two union leaders who initially supported the Renewal plan have since soured on it.
Ernest Logan of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators was the first to break ranks. In January 2016, Logan wrote in his union’s newsletter that the DOE’s bureaucracy had turned the program into a “recipe for disaster” — then publicly denounced it at a November panel discussion, saying: “If I told you that we spent $14,000-plus a kid and you know what you only got is a 1 percent improvement, you’d run me out the country.”
United Federation of Teachers boss Michael Mulgrew said in January he was “clearly frustrated” by the lack of progress.
“Parents and teachers are leaving in droves. These schools are not being managed properly,” Mulgrew told NY1 News.
A retired educator familiar with the Renewal program blamed meddling by officials from the DOE’s seven Borough Field Support Centers, which Fariña established in 2015.
At the time, she claimed the 700-plus Support Center staffers would “ensure schools get the tailored supports they need,” including “teaching and learning, finance and human resources, operations, student services, special education and English language learners.”
But the source said, “These places are staffed by people who are not anywhere near experts in the field.
“In half the cases they were probably very good two-, three-, four-year teachers. But they’re not the people to be walking into a building telling [assistant principals] or principals what to do.”
The Class Size Matters advocacy group has also compiled data showing that about 40 percent of elementary and middle schools in the Renewal program — and nearly all of the high schools — have some classes with 30 or more students in them.
The group’s executive director, Leonie Haimson, called the situation “unconscionable” and noted how the DOE had repeatedly pledged to “focus class size reduction planning efforts on the School Renewal Program.”
“Because of the DOE’s refusal to reduce class size, the Renewal program is doomed to fail.”
DOE spokeswoman Toya Holness defended the program.“This is hard work, and there’s more to do, but students are making gains: graduation and attendance rates are up and chronic absenteeism, suspensions and serious incidents are down.”
Additional reporting by Selim Algar and Carl Campanile


Hidekel Reyes Lopez, a student at Borough of Manhattan Community College.


Going to a de Blasio ‘Renewal school’ didn’t prep me for college


For this aspiring doctor, attending one of Mayor de Blasio’s Renewal schools was the wrong prescription.
Hidekel Reyes Lopez, 18, decided to attend the HS for Health Careers and Sciences because it was convenient to her home in Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood — and then a knee injury inspired her to pursue a career in orthopedics.
But despite its name, the school offered no specialized courses on health or medical professions, she said, and little in the way of science beyond the “very basic” classes required to graduate.
Even worse, the lackluster instruction left her unprepared when she got her high-school diploma last June and applied to CUNY’s Borough of Manhattan Community College — where she promptly failed the math-assessment test for incoming freshmen.
“I think they actually shouldn’t have graduated me,” she said of the city Department of Education.
“The next step after high school should be college, and if I wasn’t ready for college, I shouldn’t have been let go.”
The vivacious, athletic teen wound up spending two months last summer in “CUNY Start,” an intensive, 25-hour-a-week, remedial program where she learned the “four years of math that I didn’t get in high school.”
Grateful for the challenge, Lopez wound up getting a perfect score of 100 on her final math exam, she said.
Despite de Blasio’s vow that his School Renewal Program would “transform” the 94 low-performing schools targeted, Lopez noticed little impact at her high school after Hizzoner unveiled the plan in late 2014.
“For the most part it was the same. It didn’t really feel like a big change,” she said.
The most obvious differences, Lopez said, were an increase in the number of after-school clubs and a new health clinic.
And while she credited English teacher Lisa Brown with sparking a love of reading by introducing her to classic literature such as “The Catcher in the Rye,” Lopez said most of her classes were “very dull, very plain.”
Lopez also said her other instructors “just teach so students can pass the Regents” exams required for graduation, using old tests to guide the curriculum.
“They’re not really teaching so the students can learn, explore and go deep,” Lopez said. “I wanted to go deeper.”
While Lopez joined 70 percent of her classmates at Health Careers who graduated in four years, DOE statistics show a mere 10 percent scored high enough on standardized exams to enroll at CUNY without first taking remedial courses.
“Students are going into college unprepared,” Lopez said. ‘They don’t have a level of thinking that allows them to succeed.”

Random Labels: "Bad" Teacher, "Unsatisfactory Pedagogy"

I am re-posting the article below  from my website Parentadvocates.org because Mr. Johnson gives an accurate picture of how random labels such as "bad teacher" and "unsatisfactory pedagogy" are.

See also:

Why Observation Reports Should Not Be Used To Terminate a Tenured Employee by Betsy Combier


At 3020-a arbitration, a good defense argued with supporting arbitration/court decisions made in prior cases will win, most of the time. Pick your lawyer/advocate carefully. Or, do it yourself pro se with a knowledgeable assistant.

Betsy Combier
betsy.combier@gmail.com
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, Parentadvocates.org
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, NYC Public Voice
Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials

William Johnson

NYC Teacher William Johnson on School Ecosystems, and Being a "Bad" Teacher

NYC Special Education Teacher William Johnson: Confessions of a ‘Bad’ Teacher
Parentadvocates.org
LINK

William Johnson wrote: "What makes a great teacher? To a lot of people, the answer seems simple enough: a great teacher is one whose students achieve. For the most part these days, student success is measured with test scores. Logically then, a great teacher is one whose students perform well on tests......I’m a bad teacher. That’s not my opinion; it’s how I’m labeled by the city’s Education Department. Last June, my principal at the time rated my teaching “unsatisfactory,” checking off a few boxes on an evaluation sheet that placed my career in limbo. That same year, my school received an “A” rating. I was a bad teacher at a good school. It was pretty humiliating." 
           

   
   
March 3, 2012
Confessions of a ‘Bad’ Teacher
By WILLIAM JOHNSON, NY TIMES
LINK

I AM a special education teacher. My students have learning disabilities ranging from autism and attention-deficit disorder to cerebral palsy and emotional disturbances. I love these kids, but they can be a handful. Almost without exception, they struggle on standardized tests, frustrate their teachers and find it hard to connect with their peers. What’s more, these are high school students, so their disabilities are compounded by raging hormones and social pressure.

As you might imagine, my job can be extremely difficult. Beyond the challenges posed by my students, budget cuts and changes to special-education policy have increased my workload drastically even over just the past 18 months. While my class sizes have grown, support staff members have been laid off. Students with increasingly severe disabilities are being pushed into more mainstream classrooms like mine, where they receive less individual attention and struggle to adapt to a curriculum driven by state-designed high-stakes tests.

On top of all that, I’m a bad teacher. That’s not my opinion; it’s how I’m labeled by the city’s Education Department. Last June, my principal at the time rated my teaching “unsatisfactory,” checking off a few boxes on an evaluation sheet that placed my career in limbo. That same year, my school received an “A” rating. I was a bad teacher at a good school. It was pretty humiliating.

Like most teachers, I’m good some days, bad others. The same goes for my students. Last May, my assistant principal at the time observed me teaching in our school’s “self-contained” classroom. A self-contained room is a separate classroom for students with extremely severe learning disabilities. In that room, I taught a writing class for students ages 14 to 17, whose reading levels ranged from third through seventh grades.

When the assistant principal walked in, one of these students, a freshman girl classified with an emotional disturbance, began cursing. When the assistant principal ignored her, she started cursing at me. Then she began lobbing pencils across the room. Was this because I was a bad teacher? I don’t know.

I know that after she began throwing things, I sent her to the dean’s office. I know that a few days later, I received notice that my lesson had been rated unsatisfactory because, among other things, I had sent this student to the dean instead of following our school’s “guided discipline” procedure.

I was confused. Earlier last year, this same assistant principal observed me and instructed me to prioritize improving my “assertive voice” in the classroom. But about a month later, my principal observed me and told me to focus entirely on lesson planning, since she had no concerns about my classroom management. A few weeks earlier, she had written on my behalf for a citywide award for “classroom excellence.” Was I really a bad teacher?

In my three years with the city schools, I’ve seen a teacher with 10 years of experience become convinced, after just a few observations, that he was a terrible teacher. A few months later, he quit teaching altogether. I collaborated with another teacher who sought psychiatric care for insomnia after a particularly intense round of observations. I myself transferred to a new school after being rated “unsatisfactory.”

Behind all of this is the reality that teachers care a great deal about our work. At the school where I work today, my “bad” teaching has mostly been very successful. Even so, I leave work most days replaying lessons in my mind, wishing I’d done something differently. This isn’t because my lessons are bad, but because I want to get better at my job.

In fact, I don’t just want to get better; like most teachers I know, I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I have to be. Dozens and dozens of teenagers scrutinize my language, clothing and posture all day long, all week long. If I’m off my game, the students tell me. They comment on my taste in neckties, my facial hair, the quality of my lessons. All of us teachers are evaluated all day long, already. It’s one of the most exhausting aspects of our job.

Teaching was a high-pressure job long before No Child Left Behind and the current debates about teacher evaluation. These debates seem to rest on the assumption that, left to our own devices, we teachers would be happy to coast through the school year, let our skills atrophy and collect our pensions.

The truth is, teachers don’t need elected officials to motivate us. If our students are not learning, they let us know. They put their heads down or they pass notes. They raise their hands and ask for clarification. Sometimes, they just stare at us like zombies. Few things are more excruciating for a teacher than leading a class that’s not learning. Good administrators use the evaluation processes to support teachers and help them avoid those painful classroom moments — not to weed out the teachers who don’t produce good test scores or adhere to their pedagogical beliefs.

Worst of all, the more intense the pressure gets, the worse we teach. When I had administrators breathing down my neck, the students became a secondary concern. I simply did whatever my assistant principal asked me to do, even when I thought his ideas were crazy. In all honesty, my teaching probably became close to incoherent. One week, my assistant principal wanted me to focus on arranging the students’ desks to fit with class activities, so I moved the desks around every day, just to show that I was a good soldier. I was scared of losing my job, and my students suffered for it.

That said, given all the support in the world, even the best teacher can’t force his students to learn. Students aren’t simply passive vessels, waiting to absorb information from their teachers and regurgitate it through high-stakes assessments. They make choices about what they will and won’t learn. I know I did. When I was a teenager, I often stayed up way too late, talking with friends, listening to music or playing video games. Did this affect my performance on tests? Undoubtedly. Were my teachers responsible for these choices? No.

My best teachers, the ones I still think about today, exposed me to new and exciting ideas. They created classroom environments that welcomed discussion and intellectual risk-taking. Sometimes, these teachers’ lessons didn’t sink in until years after I’d left their classrooms. I’m thinking about Ms. Leonard, the English teacher who repeatedly instructed me to “write what you know,” a lesson I’ve only recently begun to understand. She wasn’t just teaching me about writing, by the way, but about being attentive to the details of my daily existence.

It wasn’t Ms. Leonard’s fault that 15-year-old me couldn’t process this lesson completely. She was planting seeds that wouldn’t bear fruit in the short term. That’s an important part of what we teachers do, and it’s the sort of thing that doesn’t show up on high-stakes tests.

How, then, should we measure students and teachers? In ninth grade, my students learn about the scientific method. They learn that in order to collect good data, scientists control for specific variables and test their impact on otherwise identical environments. If you give some students green fields, glossy textbooks and lots of attention, you can’t measure them against another group of students who lack all of these things. It’s bad science.

Until we provide equal educational resources to all students and teachers, no matter where they come from, we can’t say — with any scientific accuracy — how well or poorly they’re performing. Perhaps if we start the conversation there, things will start making a bit more sense.

William Johnson is a teacher at a public high school in Brooklyn who writes on education for the Web site Gotham Schools.

FEBRUARY 6, 2012
A New Model: Schools As Ecosystems
by Mark Anderson and William Johnson, at 10:30 am
LINK

What makes a great teacher? To a lot of people, the answer seems simple enough: a great teacher is one whose students achieve. For the most part these days, student success is measured with test scores. Logically then, a great teacher is one whose students perform well on tests.

Let’s take it a step further: what makes a great school? Again, the same basic logic applies: great schools are ones that produce the highest proportion of students who perform well on tests. The role of the school, in other words, is to produce students successful according to test proficiency.

Perhaps this framework appears overly simplistic, but it’s the framework that currently directs our efforts to improve public schools. Schools are knowledge-manufacturing facilities, with students being their products. This framework has led school reformers to advocate for accountability systems, human capital mechanisms, and other private sector management tools in public school reform.

Not surprisingly, New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg is an aggressive proponent of this business framework. The mayor’s private sector management approach recently led him to propose a “turnaround” program at 33 city schools that would require replacing half of those school’s teachers. Not happy with the product? Fire experienced workers and bring in cheaper, lower skilled replacements.

This framework is not just a New York thing. All across the country, school districts are being pushed, by influential figures like U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Calif. Secretary of Education Bonnie Reiss, to evaluate teachers based on a “value-added” analysis. What does this mean? It’s a kind of metaphor: students are raw natural resources; unprocessed, they contribute little to the economy and thus possess little value. If teachers process them effectively, however, their value increases.

Let’s leave aside our gut reactions to talking about children this way. The real problem with this framework is that it’s been a dead end. For the most part, debates about how to produce better students have led to discord within the field of education, while demonstrating little significant impact.

Applying an industrial-growth model to student learning has rightfully caused consternation on the part of both parents and teachers. Parents don’t send their children to school simply to be processed like chaff from wheat. Yes, parents want their kids to get good jobs and to be academically successful, but they also want their kids to become mature, responsible, well-rounded individuals. Parents look for more from a school than its achievement on tests: is the school safe? Will their child receive individualized support and attention? Are there extracurricular resources and programs available? Are children happy at school? What sort of curriculum is offered?

As special education teachers, we know how critical these environmental factors are. Our students, for reasons as varied as their individual learning needs, rarely thrive in a high pressure, test-driven environment. The vast majority of students with exceptional learning needs perform significantly below the norm on standardized tests, significantly enough that these tests (or the scores required to pass them) must constantly be modified so that our students can be accounted as successful. Students receiving special education services are often more attuned to environmental factors than their general education counterparts. It is this sensitivity to their environment that often makes it so difficult for such students to focus on their studies.

Schools as ecosystems

But positive, supportive environments are not important only for students with exceptional learning needs. All students thrive in environments that support their development in diverse ways: from offering a coherent, sequential curriculum to providing students with a comfortable, stimulating physical space. Such schools, like their curricula, take responsibility not simply for academic development, but personal development as well. School environments where the curriculum is designed around standardized tests, and where factors like the physical and social environment take a back seat to those tests, are not conducive to learning.

We propose a fundamental shift in the framework and language we use to discuss educational reform. Instead of a framework that views students as products, we propose a framework in which the products of education are viewed as the contexts and content of schools themselves. The schools we produce should be positive and nurturing learning environments where students are engaged in a rich, coherent curriculum. Rather than view our students as widgets, we’d do better to view them as vibrant, dynamic organisms, and view the school, by extension, as an ecosystem. While such a model would make it harder to quantify school quality based on a simple numerical scale, it would enable us to have more productive conversations about systemic education reform, and to take action in targeted ways that will have a sustainable impact.

There are principles for maintaining a healthy ecosystem that can provide guidance in strengthening our school environments. We are certain that this shift in focus will — perhaps paradoxically — result in more productive student outcomes. Land maintained according to sound ecological principles results in abundant microbial soil life, interdependency of diverse species, and a sustainable yield. A school maintained according to ecological principles will result in lower teacher turnover, greater community engagement, and positive long-term student outcomes.

Our belief is that many schools commonly considered “great” already operate as healthy, sustainable ecosystems. Such schools offer their students adequate sunlight, fresh air, exercise, and nutrition. Their students feel intellectually, emotionally, and physically safe because their school communities celebrate diversity and offer equity of opportunity. These schools offer an array of supplemental options–such as music, foreign languages, clubs, and sports–to meet the diverse needs of their dynamic student bodies. They offer protection from short-sighted policies and destructive external forces through the strong relationships and trust engendered and developed within the school community. They possess built-in mechanisms to maintain equity and equilibrium, preventing one type of personality or learning need from dominating at the expense of others.

Cultivation, not demolition

How does this framework relate to ongoing conflict around school closures? Under the Department of Education’s current “turnaround” plan, as many as 33 city schools could be closed, re-staffed (with as many as half their current teachers replaced), and reopened. At schools all over New York, teachers, students, and families have voiced concerns about the city’s slash-and-burn approach to school “turnaround.”

If schools are factories, tearing down “ineffective” ones and replacing them with newer, shinier ones might sound like good business. If, however, we view schools as ecosystems, then struggling schools are depleted ecosystems desperately in need of resuscitation and support. Such resuscitation requires a holistic, long-term approach.

Using an ecological design approach, reformers could not treat schools as vacant lots primed for subdivision. Instead, school revitalization would need to be a community-driven, long-term process. In an ecological framework, school reformers would need to acknowledge the complexity of school communities, rather than simply pretending that schools could be leveled, bulldozed, and magically reinvented as high performing lots of isolated land.

Implicit in such a framework, and diametrically opposed to the “student as product” framework, is the understanding that there is no ideal school (nor student). Just as healthy ecosystems might come in a myriad of forms, healthy school environments may come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, dependent on specific local community needs and circumstances. That said, healthy school environments, like ecosystems, are guided and cultivated by a set of core principles, which the authors would like to explore in future posts.

Perhaps the best part of this paradigm shift (for the authors) is that in such a framework, the role of the teacher would shift from test-prep overseer to environmental steward. Instead of being trained and treated as a widget, teachers would be content experts and community leaders of their classroom and school ecosystem, responsible for all the students who inhabit it. Such stewards would necessarily need to be long-term inhabitants of these ecosystems themselves, growing more and more effective as their knowledge of the environment deepens and their relationships within the school community strengthens.

A new metric

Do we sound like dreamers? Would such a model be impossible to quantify? We do not believe so, and we’re not the first to propose such a paradigm shift. In fact, we believe that by refocusing our attention on the content and contexts of our schools, we can establish a new measuring stick. What’s more, since this framework would not be based on improving student test scores but on improving school environments, the responsibility would be shared by all who work within and support that community, rather than solely upon the backs of individual students and teachers within the confines of an isolated classroom.

In the posts that follow, the authors will lay out a series of ecological principles that we believe can be used as a guide for effective school design and reform. We will also examine model schools and investigate how they’ve constructed such exceptional school environments. We look forward to your feedback.