Could design thinking help us design better school policies?

I’m reading Tim Brown’s book Change by Design, part of my prep work for my job as Chief Educator-in-Residence at Quarter Zero, and I keep wondering: What if we used design thinking to tackle everyday problems in schools? For example, tardies. Tardies drive high school teachers and administrators crazy for so many reasons, but here…

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What would teenagers want to learn, if we let them choose?

While I was researching for my book, Beat Boredom, a few years ago, I visited a high school that prides itself on student-directed, project-based learning. I was excited to see it, and after talking with the school’s passionate leader, I was predisposed to be impressed. But when I got there, instead of seeing energized students…

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What can they do besides ‘school’?

One of my favorite lines in Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk: Do Schools Kill Creativity? is when he points out that schools are really really good at preparing students to become professors. And, I would add, teachers. Academia is nothing if not self-perpetuating. We teach students to write papers and lab reports in styles that…

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The one skill all grads need

If you’ve ever remodeled your house, you know that nothing goes as planned. Last year, bathroom remodelers taking out old shower tile accidentally cut through a pipe (that was installed the wrong way) and flooded our kitchen, directly below. This year, kitchen remodelers removed old soffits and discovered they were not just decorative — they…

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Why best practices don’t prevail

Bad news last week. My district’s school board has decided to delay implementation of later start times for high school students – a change that was scheduled for fall 2017. No reason was given, but I imagine it involved pushback by parents and teachers of elementary school kids, who don’t like the idea of their…

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The elusive promise of ‘choice’

School-choice advocates are cheering the nomination of Betsy DeVos to head Trump’s Department of Education, while public school proponents are worried about what her leadership would mean for the future of public education. What is it about charter schools and voucher systems, which DeVos unabashedly supports, that makes them so divisive? Why do many conservatives…

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‘Common sense’ is failing us

Which is a better way to prepare for this week’s Psych test? Dedicate three solid hours to reviewing the textbook, notes, and practice questions, as well as quizzing yourself with flashcards. Spend 30 minutes writing a test for yourself over the content. Take a nap, eat a snack, do your math homework. A few hours…

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Don’t scoff at the need to change

This Faculty Meeting Bingo card (from weareteachers.org) showed up on my Facebook feed last week, one of many ironic commentaries on back-to-school season. It’s funny, of course, and I could easily fill it in during our first all-staff meeting later this month. “The phrase ‘college-ready’” – check “An internet meme is used in the presentation”…

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What’s next when reform fails?

What do you do when you’ve invested a lot of time and money in an educational reform, and it doesn’t work? If you’re the Los Angeles school district, and you spent $1.3 billion on iPads and educational software that doesn’t transform student learning, you sue to recoup some of your money. But what if your…

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Advice students don’t want to hear

“If a student got 100% in your class by delegating all his tasks/homework and papers to a virtual assistant and spent under $20 for the entire semester, is that bad? … Because in the real world, you are the most efficient employee of all time.” Will Tjernlund, a former student, posed this question to me…

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