Our biographies as our leadership

In my last post I shared stories of some of the students I interviewed at the MET schools in Providence, RI. What I am finding most interesting about my MET experience is what happens when I tell people about it. It drives home to me the fact that our leadership and our notions of success […]

This Is Our Chance! Film Festival is live

COVID has upended so many elements of the education system we never thought were negotiable. This is our chance to re-think the very purpose of education. But we can’t reimagine school without addressing the history, beliefs and policies that have brought us here. I’m excited to join friends and colleagues to host This Is Our […]

RethinkingEDU – Episode 22

Thanks so much to Mike Dunn, Julie Cook and Matt Downing from RethinkingEDU for a thought-provoking series on school networks and the future of education. What a great line-up of guests over 22 episodes. I was so excited to be able to learn from them and wrap up the series with you! http://www.rethinkingedu.co/

Genius, power and magic

It has been a whirlwind month! Shout out to Miguel Gonzalez, Great Work Inc. and The Iterative Space, where a small group of educators got to spend an exhilarating 6 weeks learning, iterating and imagining ways to transform education with liberatory design and the needs of communities and young human beings in mind. Here’s a […]

Young people become what they do

We often hear people lament the fact that young people are not civically engaged. Is that really true? And what can we do about it? https://thriveglobal.com/stories/how-we-let-our-young-people-become-strong-leaders/

Purpose as foundational

Why is it that we feel fine about this idea of a “mid-life crisis” where adults wake up to realize that they have spent half their lives doing things that don’t feel meaningful and tied to an authentic sense of self?  It’s totally backwards. We need to transform our schools so that they engage students in […]

Learner-centered education and equity

We talk so much about educational equity. But our efforts to achieve this through reform have been far too narrow and short-sighted. A human-centered, learner-centered approach to education is the only way we can truly ensure children get what they need to be whole and well.   https://www.edsurge.com/news/2019-07-27-whole-child-and-equity-are-just-band-aids-without-a-learner-centered-approach

Moving beyond school choice to what matters

For too long, school choice policies have focused on the governance model of schools and inadequate rating systems that rely on shallow measures of “quality.” We need to focus on the orientation schools take to their work so that parents can actually choose between schools that are more conventional in their approach and those that […]

The 2018 LEGO Ideas Conference

It was such a pleasure to attend the LEGO Ideas Conference in Billund, Denmark! How inspiring it was to meet educators, advocates, policymakers and researchers from around the world who are united in their commitment to ensuring that kids have opportunities to learn in the way that the science of human development and learning tells […]

Learning together at SxSW

It was such fun having a chance to speak with Emily Liebtag a few months back for the Getting Smart podcast from SxSW 2017.  I’m glad that we are having the chance to re-think what equity in education entails. At the end of the day test scores are a limited, inadequate measure of only a small […]

Ask WHY? – Letter grades and GPAs

Why do grades drive our kids’ education? Enjoy the last in a series of Ask WHY? videos created in partnership with ATTN: and 180 Studio. We think they mean something, but what if they really don’t? I’m talking about grades and our system’s seeming obsession with grades, GPAs and other ways to rank and sort kids. […]

Ask WHY? – Separating Kids by Age

This video really took off, which says something about how many people agree with the idea that separating kids out by age really makes very little sense. Thanks to ATTN: and 180 Studio for continuing to create engaging and powerful conversation starters!

Ask WHY? – Why Classrooms?

Check out the Second in the series of Ask WHY? videos being created in partnership with ATTN: and 180 Studio. Let’s ask ourselves why we buy into the idea that learning only happens (or at least counts for kids) when it happens in a classroom.

My second TEDx talk: Re-thinking the 3Rs

It was a lot of fun to go back to Drew where so much of my interest in education and human development started and give my second TEDx talk, “Re-thinking the 3Rs.” Following on from “The Future of Smart” I was really trying to dig a bit more into what schools that take this kind […]

Ask WHY? – Why Memorization?

In partnership with ATTN: and 180 Studio, Education Reimagined has been working on a series of videos designed to challenge some of the sacred cows in education. Check out the first in the series: Why Memorization? where we take on the difference between Memorizing and deeper learning. Why Does Memorization Reign Supreme in Traditional Learning?

My journey to learner-centered education

I’ve had the opportunity this fall to visit some amazing schools and connect with folks who have been thinking about and working in the field of learner-centered education for decades. It is always interesting to hear about how people come around to the idea of being more human-centered in our approach to education and young […]

NPR Interview: Why Learning Is So Much Bigger Than School

For someone who listens incessantly to public radio today was a total treat! I’ve never been interviewed live on radio so to get to do that for the first time representing Education Reimagined and Convergence at the National Public Radio offices in DC was awesome! Thanks to Frank Stasio, host of The State of Things at […]

The Future of Smart: TEDx video is live

It was such an honor and pleasure to be part of the TEDx Crestmoor Park Women’s event in November. Thanks to Dafna Michaelson-Jenet and Michael Jenet for their leadership and amazing support through the process! The video is now live so please enjoy and pass along!

Flossing and Why “Evidence-Based” is Such a Tricky Thing

This article makes such an important point and the flossing example is a perfect example to use because it is less politically and ideologically triggering than topics like education.  Flossing and the Art of Scientific Investigation One of the key ideas is captured in the following: “… the kind of long-term randomized controlled trial needed to […]

The Oppressive Schools Letter – Take 2

I’ve had some hard conversations about my original post on the Oppressive Schools letter. A colleague posted a comment that captures a lot of the details of these conversations and it’s worth reading. I thought about editing my first post but I actually think the distinction in how I would communicate about these ideas in […]


A quick update on the “Speak Back” effort: A month went by fast, and I will be the first to admit that it has been both a painful and hopeful learning process. A painful process because I am feeling a little less trust in this community. A little less trust that people presume best intentions […]

The Oppressive Schools letter

I said it would be a week before I posted on the Oppressive Schools letter and it’s been longer than that. The honest truth is that I struggled about whether or not to sign my name to it; the back-and-forth in my mind and heart has led to lost sleep and moments of anxiety. It’s […]

Speaking Back

Embed from Getty Images Last Wednesday evening was one of those nights when I was struck by what it means to really be an ally for those who don’t feel they have power or voice. I live in Denver, CO, a wonderful city on many levels. As is the case with many wonderful cities, its […]

The Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations

I took the summer off. Not from thinking, but from writing. Because honestly, who can manage to be disciplined when the kids are out of school? But welcome back to the Third Rail. Even though I haven’t been writing, I’ve been doing a lot of traveling and interviewing and have a whole host of fun […]

Our kids reveal our values

Since becoming a mother I have come to realize that one of the most powerful statement of my values comes in the choices I make about and for my children. I give far more thought to the food I buy for my sons than I did when I was making choices about my own food […]

Sue Klebold and Talking About Student Mental Health

http://www.npr.org/2016/02/16/466618817/sue-klebold-mother-of-columbine-shooter-carries-him-everywhere-i-go-always This was such a poignant interview, but as I listened to Sue Klebold talk about her son’s mental state toward the end of his life I was reminded of an on-going concern I have as the issue of mental health becomes a talking point for politicians, schools, parents and communities. Here’s what the Mental […]

Success Academy: Under Fire… again

Success Academy was obviously not happy with this publicity: http://www.nytimes.com/…/success-academy-teacher-rips-up-st…? or this publicity http://www.nytimes.com/…/success-academy-founder-defends-sc… or this: http://www.nytimes.com/…/at-success-academy-charter-schools…. There has been a lot recently. But it is always framed as one teacher or one leader or one school simply not reflecting the network’s values. It’s not clear to me why this excuse is accepted. It is […]

Communities of Character – a response

View image | gettyimages.com I was troubled by David Brooks’ column this weekend about communities of character and the schools that he uses as examples of institutions that intentionally focus on building students’ characters. I also had a conversation on Tuesday with someone who used the term “character-driven” to refer to schools like KIPP, Success […]

Education “Reformers” or Reform Fundamentalists?

Someone asked me exactly who I meant when I used this term, and it’s a fair question.  I intentionally put the phrase in quotes for the purposes of my open letter because it has been used over time by dozens of different groups committed to changing the US education system from whatever happened to be […]

An open letter: Opt-out Movement

I have been watching the opt-out movement across the US with fascination.  What I find most remarkable is the reaction of many in the education reform community to the growing chorus of voices pushing back on current reforms.  Many of us have been worried about the direction of reform for years, but it was easy […]

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 […]

Teacher experience matters

Shocking? Research finds that teachers’ experience level matters When a Colorado task force, the LEAD Compact, was convened in 2013 one of the questions that arose was the issue of teacher quality. A range of experts came in to speak to the group about the research that underlay one of the unspoken assumptions of the […]

Kids, movement and health

View image | gettyimages.com I was at a Montessori school in New Haven last week and got to spend some time watching primary kids ages 3 years to 5 years in their classroom. Montessori primary classrooms have an area called practical life that is filled with activities like sweeping, washing, cutting, pouring. For the uninitiated […]

Professional insight and parenting

Last fall I had friends over whose son was in the same class as my son at our local Montessori school. They were a bit annoyed at the school and the teacher because they felt that their son was floundering and nothing was being done; they were considering changing schools. Montessori schools are organized into […]

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 […]

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 […]

Can we be virtually real?

Our family is spending the Christmas and New Year holidays in east Asia this year.  One of my older brothers and his family live in Singapore and we not seen them in over two years.  Given how often they come to the US, it seemed a good time to make the trip over.  As it […]

Do as We Say, Not as We Do

There is a fascinating trend in policy these days that is related to the “decision-based evidence making” that I wrote about a few months ago.  It appears that Texas, the state where standardized testing beatification began in the late 1980s (thanks to Ross Perot), reversed course.  For better or worse, however, the “Texas miracle” led […]

High school that works for all students

I just got back from a series of school visits for my book research. It is always re-invigorating to get back into schools, and these visits were particularly interesting because they were to schools that have instructional approaches which are fairly new to me. I was particularly struck by my visit to the MET Schools […]

The real insanity of reform

I was excited when I opened the Denver Post op-ed page last week. There was an op-ed written by William Moloney, former Colorado Commissioner of Education, that was titled “Standards and assessments: Education reform’s bridge to nowhere.” Sigmund Freud’s classic definition of insanity — doing the same thing over and over yet always expecting different […]

Business and education

I was at the annual meeting of a local Chamber of Commerce last week and couldn’t help but be struck by the simplistic way in which business leaders talk about education reform. I am frustrated by the double standard adopted by the business community when it comes to shaping and, in many cases, driving education […]

Reformers as parents: the early years

I have to admit being wryly amused these days after conversations with colleagues who have been on the “reform” side of education policy conversations over the last four years. The reason? Many of them are now parents whose children are getting ready to enter preschool or kindergarten. People whose day jobs often entail wholesale advocacy […]

What college prep charters can do

College prep charter school models like KIPP began as middle schools.  The idea was to catch kids before they went to high school and to ensure that they were brought up to levels of proficiency in basic math and literacy.  In other words, these schools focused on academic remediation.  The fastest way to achieve this […]

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 […]

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 […]

On teaching as a profession

When I started kindergarten in the early 1980s, the “face” of the average teacher was Caucasian, female and in her mid-50s. When I walk into my old schools today, the faces that fill the classrooms remain consistently female (with some exceptions) and Caucasian, but they undeniably skew towards young individuals. While there is nothing to […]

The potential of education

I wrote this piece as an op-ed but got feedback that it is too vague and doesn’t have a clear policy change articulated.  But I still like it, and it felt like the right tone with which to kick off this site.  Welcome to The Third Rail Blog! It is that time of year when those […]

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