The Hardest Questions Arent on the Test: Lessons from an Innovative Urban School


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We can accept only students who live in the city of Boston. Our school is small , and our diversity mirrors that of our district, Boston Public Schools our students are 48 percent African American, 30 percent Latino, 17 percent white, 3 percent Asian, and less than 3 percent Native American and other. In terms of socioeconomics, BAA has approximately 60 percent of its students on free or reduced lunch; the district is at 71 percent: we have definitely attracted more middle-class students to our school.

In terms of special education, 13 percent of our students have identified special needs, compared to a district rate of 20 percent. We also have a small number of students identified as English language learners under 6 percent , whereas the district has a larger number 18 percent since many schools have what is now called Sheltered English Language programs, formerly known as bilingual education.

Presently, we do not have a bilingual program, though we have a deaf education program. We are very lucky to have a diverse faculty as well. Of our forty-five teachers, 50 percent are teachers of color. The percentage of teachers of color in Massachusetts is just under 10 percent.

Over half of our teachers are first generation to attend college themselves; 50 percent speak a language other than English; and 95 percent have advanced degrees, some more than one.

The Hardest Questions Aren't on the Test: Lessons from an Innovative Urban School

We have an active gay, lesbian, bisexual, and questioning community among our students, which is supported by gay and straight staff members. We are proud that 95 percent of our students go on to college, in striking contrast with the average within Boston Public Schools, which is under 50 percent. Our school is housed in an adequate, but by no means luxurious, building in the Fenway area of Boston, which we share with another pilot school, Fenway High School.

I try hard not to present myself and the staff of BAA as having all the answers, but rather as willing to ask those tough questions. But no matter how self-consciously and even humbly we prepare ourselves, I thought, the visitors who have been forced to come are unlikely to learn much from us.

To my surprise, though, a group of visitors we had come by the school last month had been impressed listening to our students, very much like their own, describe their struggles and triumphs in the classroom. She had passed all but one of her classes that semester. The visitors had nodded sadly at her story.

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Each one of them knew students in similar or worse situations. Their teacher explained that for many of her students, who previously had not been doing very well in school, completing a project in their home language allowed them to see how their academic work connected to their lives and to their communities. Some were even asked for their autograph like they were published authors. Ways to think about the problems.

Linda Nathan - The Hardest Questions Aren’t on the Test | Book Passage

Schools need to create safe spaces to foster creativity. Sam : not surprised that the scientist on the panel is a musician as well. The core proposition of creating a democratic learning environment is hitching your star to the most commonly held goal. Look back and look forward. We are an aspirational nation, not to say we have lived up to it. Who holds self-evident truths?

Who are Americans? Your standing in the civic order is not by kinship or ethnicity but trying to live up to the original aspiration goal. You look back to reorient what the goal is and forward to get to the goal. What we have to do in the classroom: making sure students have the skills to pursue their passions, what Linda mentioned.

We have to clearly articulate the common goal, the mission statement, the aspirational goal of the school. Allow the educational community to develop a voice; you succeed if as a community you think through understanding, motivation, and skill sets and each person—students and teachers—examines this daily. And that is the key thing progressive educators get wrong. We want to empower our students but abdicate our authoritative responsibility as a moderator. If we abdicate our responsibility, we are long on freedom and short on responsibility. Freedom with responsibility in the classroom is the right focus for looking back and looking forward.

In talking about learning, at what point when students get good do they begin to create? The coach has the sense of where extraordinary and new is happening. Coaching and motivation: how do you instill it? If you ask anybody how they first wanted to do something, they will tell you their motivation began with value.

Where does the value come from?

You do not have to admire the activity, but rather want to be with the person doing the activity, followed by the expectation that you can do it. All this comes back to the people in our lives. Technology is not the most important thing but the person who can show you how to use the technology in a warm friendly mentoring way. We are all here for the relationships, connecting Twitter and Facebook meetings with f2f. Begin to think of where relationships and opportunities for step-by-step empowerment are. Find the person for the next step for motivation and innovation.

Karl : 23 years teaching, 1st year back after a 14 year hiatus. Teaching algebra requires a defined set of skills with standards-based grading. Opportunities for mastery but not tons of opportunities for innovation. It is a work in progress, but goes back to opening the classroom and pointing the students in the right direction. Linda : believes math and science are the most creative subjects.

In math students do an angle dance, harder than you think and not soft. Ask students to connect and express the theory through the arts. Kids need to know on whose shoulders they stand. Make connections to who has come before them, be able to cite them, and then ensure students deliver something new. Black and brown students will live up to your expectations, whether the environmental signals or good or bad.

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They will respond to it. If by teenagers the system has lowered their expectations of themselves, they will be combative because of the assumptions that come with a minority inside the majority. From the perspective of African Americans and Latinos, they have had to respond to an environment that has not been friendly; demystify the processs and give them the tools for self-esteem. There is no special way to teach Black kids; algebra is fundamental and Arabic, not Black.

The Hardest Questions Aren't on the Test: Lessons from an Innovative Urban School

Let these students inside the framework. Empower them. Ratchet up the expectations for students, and begin engagement in elementary school that is open, positive, and challenging. Chad : Eliminate the gap and construct the environment for teachers to come along with their students. Teachers should work alongside of real engineers and change the high school level.

Prepare them so they can PBL. Ask for forgiveness, not permission. Change must come from within. Charters will challenge public schools, but fighting from within is critical. When you get the math teachers on your team, change will happen because they have summer opportunities to work with professionals where the money is to create change. Karl : disagrees as a math teacher.

Teachers need more freedom. They often approach that by going under the radar and we get good at that. Kathleen : change comes from within and control is the policy-making paradigm. Disrespectful from policy makers but sometimes from adults in school. Involve the students in a discussion of what supports are lacking.

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We need to connect our students with accomplished adults for supports within our networks. Get political. By high school, we cannot be blind to schools who are not SLA and as citizens we should not put up with this. Sam : what matters most is starting with the individual and not see ourselves as passive victims. Become actively involved in changing our profession. We tend to our own sense of integrity and ourselves, but Palmer says good teaching is subject centered as the Great Thing.

The art of teaching is to put the Great Thing in front of students and have them consider that. We get better by reflecting and connecting. Chad : Build the spaces you wish your kids to live, work, and play and make it a beautiful place.


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Kathleen : Ask a student what does it take to get really good at something. DW Focus. Positioning Students for the Future - April 18, Financing the Future and College Affordability - April 11, Day of Discovery: Central Massachusetts - October 16, Day of Discovery: Michigan - October 14, Silence is Golden - April 4, Six Word Stories - November 13, Three Truths and One Lie - November 6, Learning in Exploring Angles - September 5, Learning in Degrees: Glorious Glaciers!

Learning is: Exposing Misconceptions in Math - February 12, Learning in Exploring Engineering in Grade 3 - January 24,

The Hardest Questions Arent on the Test: Lessons from an Innovative Urban School The Hardest Questions Arent on the Test: Lessons from an Innovative Urban School
The Hardest Questions Arent on the Test: Lessons from an Innovative Urban School The Hardest Questions Arent on the Test: Lessons from an Innovative Urban School
The Hardest Questions Arent on the Test: Lessons from an Innovative Urban School The Hardest Questions Arent on the Test: Lessons from an Innovative Urban School
The Hardest Questions Arent on the Test: Lessons from an Innovative Urban School The Hardest Questions Arent on the Test: Lessons from an Innovative Urban School
The Hardest Questions Arent on the Test: Lessons from an Innovative Urban School The Hardest Questions Arent on the Test: Lessons from an Innovative Urban School
The Hardest Questions Arent on the Test: Lessons from an Innovative Urban School The Hardest Questions Arent on the Test: Lessons from an Innovative Urban School
The Hardest Questions Arent on the Test: Lessons from an Innovative Urban School The Hardest Questions Arent on the Test: Lessons from an Innovative Urban School

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