redefinED blog stars: Timid public school leaders, Catholic plea for vouchers and more

Editor’s note: In our third installment of “blog stars,” we’re shifting course slightly. We’ll continue to highlight posts from ed blogs. But if we stumble on a thoughtful newspaper column now and then, we’ll throw that in the mix, too.

Rick Hess Straight Up: The Culture of ‘Can’t’ in American Schools

When it comes to reforming our nation’s public schools, we hear a lot about what educational leaders can’t do. Contracts, laws, and regulations assuredly handcuff school and system leaders. But the ardent drumbeat for “reform” has obscured the fact that school and system leaders can actually do much that they often complain they can’t, if they have the persistence, knowledge, ingenuity, and motivation. In truth, it’s tough to know how much blame should be apportioned to contracts and laws and how much to timid school boards and leaders who prize consensus and stakeholder buy-in …

The problem is that in selecting, training, socializing, and rewarding leaders, we do not equip or encourage them to lead. Traditional educational leadership counsels tell leaders that they should rely wholly on coaching and consensus — while placidly accepting contractual, bureaucratic, or policy barriers. Meanwhile, would-be reformers divert attention from lethargic leadership by rushing to blame “the union.” Full post here.

Hartford Courant: A Eulogy For New London’s St. Mary’s School

That the school hung on until 2012 may be a minor miracle. The nuns are gone, but like other Catholic schools it managed to attract talented lay teachers willing to work for less than they would make at a public school. I chatted with the church’s pastor, the Rev. Robert Washabaugh, who said a foundation called The Compass Fund has been a godsend to the school, helping many youngsters from low-income families — the traditional constituency of Catholic schools — make the $2,600 tuition. Alas, the recession caused the fund to cut back on its support.

What is particularly sad is that the school had come up with a good pedagogical plan. The school’s 115 students today are 60 percent Latino, 30 percent African American and 10 percent Caucasian. Last year the school developed a dual language initiative, a plan that would make it the first Catholic school in the state to teach classes in English and Spanish. It was an excellent idea for 21st century America; sadly, the fiscal realities stopped it barely out of the gate.

In New London, where the public schools have struggled, St. Mary’s was a great option for many families. At the risk of offending my friends at the ACLU, a situation such as this cries out for school vouchers. Religion and ethics aren’t the worst problems these kids face. Full column here.

The Charter Blog: A Teacher’s Dream-Come-True

My name is Joy Souza, and I’m a Kindergarten Teacher and the Kindergarten Chair at Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy (BVP) in Cumberland, Rhode Island. I left my traditional public school teaching position three years ago to become a founding teacher of BVP. With very little knowledge of what public charter schools were about, and no exposure to a high expectations model, I accepted a teaching position based solely on the fact that my mission as an educator, and the mission of Blackstone Valley Prep were the same: To put 100 percent of our scholars on a path to college. 

Over the past three years, I have watched BVP grow into an organization that now consists of three campuses, serving scholars in grades K-2 and 5-6, with the intent of becoming a K-12 organization within the next six years. Our schools educate children from four Rhode Island communities that provide rich economic and cultural diversity. This urban-suburban mix of scholars consists of 43 percent of who speak a language other than English at home and 65 percent who qualify for free or reduced lunch. The same high expectations, however, apply to all. And 100 percent are now college bound. Full post here.

Getting Smart: 5 Characteristics Connecting Montessori Ed & the Digital Learning Movement

At first glance, the intersections between Montessori education and high-quality digital learning are not immediately apparent. To those of us with some knowledge about Montessori methods – based on formal training, general awareness or, as in my case, the observations of a parent whose children attend a Montessori school – its natural materials and deep traditions seem to stand in opposition to the vision of a futuristic, technology-rich digital or blended learning environment.

While a surface look at Montessori learning and digital learning reveals obvious differences, a deep-dive into their undergirding principles reveal a set of very similar core values. Interestingly, these shared values manifest in similar ways in terms of teacher and student roles as they play out in seemingly-contradictory environments. Both high-quality digital learning and Montessori education prioritize the personalization of learning and create systems that allow for customization of content and instruction. Full post here.

Avatar photo

BY reimaginED staff