Toward a Vision of Community-Driven Culture

Amidst the glut of coverage of the glitzy opening of the new Whitney Museum in early May, there was less coverage of some very powerful remarks made by Michelle Obama at the dedication: “You see, there are so many kids in this country who look at places like museums and concert halls and other cultural centers and they think to themselves, well, that’s not a place for me, for someone who looks like me, for someone who comes from my neighborhood.

Inside Out

The Atlantic has had particularly outstanding ed coverage of late, and last month ran excellent article entitled “Where Kids Learn More Outside their Classrooms Than In Them”.  The article contextualizes that amidst various reform initiatives to reinvent our country’s high schools, initiatives that connect students more directly to their individual interests—and tap into their innate motivations—are gaining popularity (hallelujah!)

Cultivating, Rather than Killing, Creativity

Forbes ran an interesting blog on March 19 by two professors at UVA, Raul O. Chao and Cristina Lopez-Gottardi, entitled “How America's Education Model Kills Creativity and Entrepreneurship” with the predictable lamentations about the shortcomings of schools and the predictable invocations of Ken Robinson and Steve Jobs.  What’s striking is their reference to some real data substantiating a decline in all aspects of creativity at the K-12 level over the last few decades. 

Being Clear Eyed About What Works, What Doesn't, and What Could

Ed Week recently ran an article summarizing a sobering research paper written by Brookings Fellow Mark Dynarski about a federally funded national evaluation of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC) program he led for Mathematica Policy Research. Dynarski asserts that CCLC has spent more than $12 billion on after-school programs since 1998 yet failed in its mission to improve student achievement and should be eliminated.  I hate “headlines” like this as they tend to be misleading and lead to misperceptions that should be debunked and reframed. Which I'll try to do a bit here. 

Career Pathways in California

Historically, school funding in California has been rather horrific since Proposition 13 limited local property taxes creating dependency on inadequate and precarious state funding, leading CA to have among the lower per pupil funding rates in the country. Last year Governor Brown revamped the school funding formula in ways that have tremendous potential to really change the equation and promote greater equity and better outcomes over time, and now he's given us even more to be excited about through a significant budgetary boost around career education—specifically including $876 million for career technical education and other job training initiatives at K-12 schools and community colleges in his 2015-16 state budget proposal.

Field Tripping

If you ask most adults to share what they remember most about their K-12 school years, there’s as good a chance as not that you’ll hear about an off site or out of school learning experience.  Yet not surprisingly, field trips can be among the first things to go amidst financial and achievement pressures.  Hopefully Jay Greene’s recent research on the impact of going to see live theatre, following upon an earlier study on the impact of field trips to art museums, showing the tangible benefits of such trips will serve as a useful corrective and engender deeper commitment and investment to such offsite, experiential learning opportunities.

Mapping Our Future

There have been an efflorescence of interesting articles and reports I’ve been reading over the past months and I’m excited to have an opportunity to do some President's Day posting.  

With Community Schools on my mind, and thinking about geographic hubs for learning, I was pleased to read the New America Foundation’s report Putting Learning on the Map: Visualizing Opportunity in 21st Century Communities

Towards a Vision of Cross-City Learning

There's a good story in the current Education Week about Pittsburgh Network Eyed as Model for Supporting Digital Learning praising Pittsburgh as a beacon for citywide learning: "From hands-on circuitry projects for kindergartners to 'maker spaces' inside local museums, this former steel town has quietly emerged as a national model for supporting fresh approaches to technology-infused education, especially for young children."  The article attributes the energy and innovation as flowing from a close-knit network of philanthropists, educators, technologists, and advocates who prize collaboration over competition.