Educating Potential

Human Development

Kids’ inner voices

I’m having a lovely weekend with a friend who is expecting her first baby this summer. My friend and her husband are in the process of name selection and she was sharing with me the challenge she is having figuring out how to have the name reflect both her and her husband’s family. It is a struggle I think many of us have had, as more women elect to keep their maiden names after getting married. Whose last name does the baby get? Do you hyphenate and let the child make the hard choice about which name to keep when he grows up? Do you have one parent’s last name be the middle name knowing that most people don’t use their middle name, thereby making that name less important? Do you make up a new name? It’s a bit mind-boggling.

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When it comes to the brain it’s the HOW not the WHAT

I’ve just finished reading Iain McGilchrist’s The Master and his Emissary and it is an amazing book – well worth reading. However, most of us are not fortunate enough to have adequate reading time built into our professional duties so I thought I would share a few thoughts the book raised for me. It may provide food for thought and conversation at an upcoming holiday cocktail party … this may be why people tell me I am too serious at cocktail parties.

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The Sense and Sensibility of Boarding School

I’ve been reading a lot about adolescent development behavior recently and the more I read, the more I am coming around to the idea of boarding school for middle and high school students.

A lot of expat kids come home to Singapore for the holidays. And I’m not talking about college students – I’m talking about middle and high school students. In the US the idea of sending your child to private boarding school is generally unheard of outside of a small subset of families. However, in much of the rest of the world boarding schools are a far more common phenomenon. It’s been interesting to chat with some of my nephews’ friends who have been at boarding schools for a large portion of their middle and/or high school career, and even more interesting to hear the perspective of these kids’ parents.

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Separate but equal? (redux)

My 7-year old son just started at the Rocky Mountain School of Expeditionary Learning (RMSEL) in Denver this fall.  It is, as the name indicates, an expeditionary learning (EL) school model that is been recognized as one of the top-performing schools in the state.  One reason so many families enter the competitive lottery is the whole-child approach to education that the school takes.  RMSEL students explore a rigorous academic curriculum through a project-based instructional model.  This is combined with a strong Outward Bound focus on leadership and character development.  Parents and older students speak appreciatively about ways in which the small school environment allows for individualized learning and the development of authentic relationships between all members of the school community.

It was against the backdrop of this school environment that I found myself in a discussion about school choice in Denver with Tasha, the African-American mother of my son’s new classmate, who works at a local detention center.  I mentioned wanting to explore the social justice issues involved in the current push to replicate college prep charter school models within areas of the city with concentrations of poor and minority students.  (My use of college prep in this blog refers to what some also call high-performing charter school models including KIPP, STRIVE and a handful of others here in Denver; and networks such as KIPP, Aspire and YES Prep nationally).  Tasha’s voice got a little higher as she mentioned one local school she had visited which had been highlighted by DPS as a strong college preparatory model for students through the 5th grade.

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Evidence-based decision-making; or decision-based evidence-making?

I was interviewing a school network leader when we began talking about a funder he had met recently. He was asking the funder to invest in the school model’s expansion and had been turned down, not because the school was not getting good results, but because the funder said he did not believe there was enough of a research base to support the model itself.  During that conversation he used the phrase “decision-based evidence-making.” I loved it.

I was trained in social science research.  I am familiar with the range of research that exists in the educational space.  I know that education research is often disregarded because it is seen as less rigorous than what people perceive to be the gold standard of randomized, controlled studies in science.

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