Wednesday, August 4, 2010

My Ideal School...

In order to grow a good school, I have to have some idea of what I want it to be and how it ought to feel to be in the school. I'm eternally frustrated by superintendents, administrators, and teachers who are extremely articulate about what they do not want to see. It's another thing entirely to envision everything a school or district could be, name it articulately, and put that vision into action to make it a reality. My vision of an ideal school is a work in progress, and I recognize that there isn't any one model.

In my minds eye, I imagine a place in some city's poorest area. The school building is open from early in the morning until late at night. It's a public school, grades 5-12. The schools' mission is to develop a community of caring dedicated to addressing the academic and social/emotional needs of the students in a college-preparatory environment. We will offer a rigorous and practical school program through authentic problem solving, application of knowledge, and meaningful tech integration. We'd model curriculum and instruction similarly to what occurs here, and here. Assessment would be grounded in real-world problem solving. 

The school would also be a community resource center charged with offering services to the community before and after the school day. Through collaboration and community partnerships, we would prepare our students to chart their own path toward post-secondary success.

A key piece to all this, and one I'll hit on again and again in future posts is the need for the school to be replicable. I've taught at good schools, visited others, and read about so many more, but they are one school in a city or town, and so often they are dependent upon the vision of one leader, or one group of teachers. I believe that for education to change, really change meaningfully, we can't rely on the successes of stand-alone schools across the country. While there doesn't have to be one model that works, we need to be able to point to districts that are dramatically changing teaching, learning and student success rates, not just individual successful schools. That's why I work in an urban district and not at a great charter school somewhere. I want to be a part of turning around a district to show that it can be done.

I could write pages about the specifics of the school I envision. But writing it doesn't make it a reality. It's enacting the vision that is the real work. With the school year rapidly approaching, I'm focused on deciding which tools and strategies to use to ensure visible progress is made this year towards growing our good schools in Lawrence.

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