Reimagining the U.S. High School: An Open Letter to Laurene Powell Jobs

Originally posted on Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice:

Dear Mrs. Laurene Powell Jobs:

I commend you for initiating a national challenge to transform the comprehensive high school into a Super School and putting $50 million on the stump for experts, parents, practitioners, and academics to compete for in creating better high schools than exist now. Reinventing the high school should generate an enormous range of suggestions for your expert panel to consider after the national round of open meetings end in November. What you are launching is worthwhile especially if it were to spark a national conversation about the goals of tax-supported public schools in a democracy where the economy has shifted from industrial-based to an information-driven one. Whether that conversation (and debate, I hope) will occur depends greatly, I believe, on you and your associates knowing about how high schools have, indeed, changed over the past century and, of equal importance, the checkered history of efforts to…

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Research? We don’t need no stinking research!

Dave aka Mr. Math Teacher:

Republishing given the recent revelations regarding the questionable validity of psychology research, and the similar challenges facing its distant cousin, education research, which this prior post addresses.

Originally posted on Reflections of a Second-career Math Teacher:

Posting my comments to Larry Cuban in response to his post titled “Evidence: The Case of the Common Core Standards.”  Larry shines a spotlight on the lack of research behind the widespread adoption of Common Core.  I agree with his assessment, and offer additional perspective, in my comments below.


As someone now aboard the Common Core train, I believe the CCSS effort embodies the “bandwagon effect” at a national scale. In many ways, it parallels NCLB as a cause that at the sound bite level sounds right and just, but at the classroom, school, and district level results in distortions of staggering proportion. Sadly, such fallacies hypnotize education policymakers into institutionalizing illogic, which takes decades to reverse.

For what its worth, I find the use of “research-based” in education as more of a code word intended to signal the efficacy of a new policy, process, program, and etcetera…

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Burned Out Teachers (Part 2)

Dave aka Mr. Math Teacher:

“Teaching is energizing but also exhausting work. Each day teachers spend the rich intellectual, physical, and emotional capital that they have accumulated over the years on their students. Because of that loss in capital, teachers need to re-invest in themselves by doing what expert gardeners do with favorite potted plants.”

So true, sadly. I suspect the nature of the teaching profession will continue to demand more from many teachers than they are capable of supplying in a sustainable manner. At the outset of this, my fifth, year, I relinquished my desire to affect change on a grander scale to return to my classroom with renewed vigor. Here’s hoping the re-potting takes.

Originally posted on Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice:

There are three ways to reduce the kind of burnout that so many K-12 teachers, particularly in low-income minority schools such as Spanish teacher Alli Baugher at Ballou High School in Washington, D.C. experienced. Change the work conditions or change yourself (or both).

Change working conditions. The age-graded school was a mid-19th century innovation imported from Prussia and planted in the U.S. Within a half-century, the innovation slowly and irrevocably replaced the one-room schoolhouse throughout the nation. Erecting a “grammar school” housing eight grades with separate classrooms where teachers teach six year-olds in one room and ten year-olds in another reorganized the very nature of schooling in the U.S. The principal and teacher would determine whether each student had learned that portion of the curriculum allotted to that grade in one year’s time most often through tests. If the student passed the various tests he or she advanced to…

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