Friday, December 18, 2009

New York's "School of One" gets mentioned in Time Magazine

This is fascinating.,28804,1934027_1934003_1933977,00.html

This past summer, in a sixth-grade math class, New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein piloted a small program in which individualized, technology-based learning takes the place of the old "let's all proceed together" approach. Each day, students in the School of One are given a unique lesson plan — a "daily playlist" — tailored to their learning style and rate of progress that includes a mix of virtual tutoring, in-class instruction and educational video games. It's learning for the Xbox generation.

Read more:,28804,1934027_1934003_1933977,00.html#ixzz0a6wJZ6QE

This reminds us of Dr. Abraham Fischler's proposals in

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Next Step in School Reform: Sharing the information

Here is a new approach (for people interested in school reform) == let's go "on the road" with our message.

Blogging and talking on youtube is one way to reach out into the marketplace of public opinion... another way is to go to churches and other religious organizations...

Here are two brochures and a cover letter that I'm sending out... let's go around Parent Teacher Organizations and get to parents through other organizations...


I’m a taxpayer and I want to see better results from our schools. The central force behind school reform and improvement is PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT. When parents push for improvements, then real reform takes place. When parents get the information that they need and learn about the key features to ask for in an “improved school,” then the improvements take place.

I’ve visited nearly a dozen “Big Picture Schools,” where improvements have been made. I would welcome an opportunity to share what I learned in my travels.

Here are two possible approaches (some paragraphs for an announcement in your newsletter?). I’m happy to present the information at no charge to parents.

Steve McCrea
Teacher trainer and advocate for school reform.
954 646 8246

Enclosed are a CD and two DVDs that describe the innovations that I witnessed.

23 November 2009

One of the people in your congregation suggested that I contact you. Please let me know when and where I might present this valuable information.

I’m not selling anything. I’m an advocate for school reform. I’ve seen remarkable schools inspired by Dennis Littky and funded in part by Bill Gates == and our community can benefit from hearing about these innovations in education.

======== Brochure #1 ___________

Offer: 201 books on one CD.
The miracle of the Internet can deliver 201 books to your family… and all you need to do to get this free CD is come to a meeting and learn about:

à How to get FREE lessons on the Internet to prepare for the PSAT and SAT tests

à How to get FREE lessons on the Internet to learn other languages

à How to meet interesting people from other countries (and earn COMMUNITY SERVICE HOURS) (which are required to graduate from high school).

Are you interested? Come to the meeting at :
If you can’t make the meeting, you can still get the free ebooks by contacting Steve McCrea, the presenter at 954 646 8246 or by sending an email to

Thank you for your attention.
Steve McCrea, ESOL teacher and the English Visitors Network 954.646.9246

======== Brochure #2 ___________

Dear Parent
You might not have heard of some interesting discoveries about the brain and how these discoveries can make learning easier for your children.

You might not have heard of free web sites that can prepare your children for the SAT or PSAT tests. Perhaps you have heard about the efforts to improve schools (by Bill Gates and others), but you don’t know much about these initiatives.

I’m happy to share what I’ve learned from visiting three schools in Los Angeles, two schools in Rhode Island, New Jersey and Massachusetts, and a multiple intelligences school in St. Louis. Come to an interesting 30-minute presentation, with time for your questions. Learn about narratives, exhibitions and the importance of Individual Learning Plans. If you can’t make the meeting, visit and learn about a fun way for your children to complete their “Community Service Requirement” while meeting some interesting people from other countries.


Steve McCrea, ESOL teacher and the English Visitors Network 954.646.9246


Let me know if you know of a better way to get the word out... What is the next step in school reform?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Did you hear about the teacher who teaches history BACKWARDS?

The following was spotted on an Internet search on "Backward History"

It's a great idea.

Michael Baker teaches at University of Nebraska

Baker sounds dejected. “I really enjoyed engaging high school students in critical dialogue,” he says. “I found that very satisfying. A lot of kids are in classrooms where they are lectured to. I’d much rather engage in critical thought and problem-solving, and I’ve always had classrooms where we show respect for each other.”

He expects to continue teaching at Southeast Community College and at the University of Nebraska, where he gives a course on the history of American public education.

May 12, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

SDRAWKCAB YROTSIH GNIHCAET....Via MoJoBlog, The Progressive has a story this week about Michael Baker, a high school teacher in Lincoln, Nebraska, who was let go after showing the HBO documentary "Baghdad ER" to his geography class. Stupid. But that's not what caught my eye. Extremely longtime readers may recall that I once suggested that history could be made more interesting to high school students if it were taught backwards (see here), and it turns out Baker was doing exactly that. His school district didn't think much of that experiment either:

Baker has clashed with administrators before. In 2005, they objected to his innovative approach to teaching history, which was to start at the present and work backwards, an approach he'd been using for four years.

But then, the school district forbade him from teaching that way any longer. The school's consultant said it was "not logical, does not contribute to effective teaching or monitoring of progress, and puts students at a disadvantage" with newly instituted statewide tests, according to a paper on the subject by Professor Nancy Patterson of Bowling Green. Baker appealed but lost, and was eventually "prohibited from teaching U.S. history," Patterson writes.

Hmmph. It still seems like a decent idea to me, though: current events are intrinsically interesting, and learning about them make you genuinely curious about why the world ended up the way it did. If the lessons are structured with curiosity about causes in mind, this will make you interested in the Cold War, which in turn makes you interested in World War II, which in turn makes you interested in the Great Depression, etc. It's a solution to the most obvious problem of teaching history: without any context, why should a 16-year-old care about dusty topics like the Missouri Compromise or the rise of the labor movement?

Oh well. I suppose the amazing thing is that they let him teach this way for four years before they shut him down. He was probably a communist, after all.

—Kevin Drum

Bravo, Kevin Drum and Bravo to the Progressive and Wshington Monthly for covering Mr. Baker's saga.

I agree with K. Drum. The students are lucky that the district took so long to "drum out" this fine teacher.

Michael Baker should be nominated for a "Giraffe" award -- for sticking his neck out.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A movie for educators? "We are the people we've been waiting for"

A teacher's blog () mentioned the following youtube video... (which had the following note):

Trailer for Lord Puttnam's new film about education. Originally uploaded for a blog post at, please note that I'm in no way connected with the film - all I've done is cut it out of a YouTube video that already existed for a blog post.

We Are The People We've Been Waiting For is a full-length feature film on education which was inspired and guided by Oscar-winning producer Lord Puttnam. The film is supported by various sponsors including independent education foundation, Edge. The film follows the experiences of five Swindon-based teenagers. What unfolds during the course of the film is a very inconvenient truth about education. It concludes that, while there are signs of spring, a transformation of the education system is vital if the UK is to continue to compete effectively in an era of globalization the world has changed enormously but our education system has not kept pace. We need to recognise that there are many paths to success for young people and provide the right support and opportunities for them to develop their individual talents.

The key: the title of the youtube video: "We are the people that we've been waiting for."

Sunday, October 4, 2009

About small schools and computer-assisted instruction

Here's a question to ask politicians: The work of many school reformers points to the need for smaller schools, but effectively run schools. Is your guest aware of the growing influence of schools that focus on computer-assisted instruction? This idea is that computers will frees the teacher to spend more time as a motivator and mentor to students, since the principal activity of "delivery of information" is handled by the computer. Blogs like and advocate more investment in computers and training for teachers to move into this important new role. What is the administration's position on using more computers in classrooms? my phone number is 954 646 8246 and I hope the guest will pass on these educational blogs to the attention of other politicians. Also,,, and, -- these websites ought to get more attention if decisionmakers want to implement computers as true aids to learning. The relevant people include Dennis Littky, Dennis Yuzenas (, Thomas Hoerr, Tom vander Ark, Lois Hetland, and Howard Gardner. Thank you

Friday, October 2, 2009

Article about Dennis Yuzenas in Sun-Sentinel

2 October 2009
The Sun-Sentinel included a reference today to Dennis Yuzenas, mentor and master teacher in Bak Middle School of the Arts in West Palm Beach:

Search for a video called "Dennis Yuzenas" on

Contact Dennis at

He's edu-taining.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009 is worth a click

Do a search on Tom Toch and you'll learn about Education Sector

Look at this online discussion planned for soon...

Online Discussion: School Choice a la Carte

October 7, 2009 - October 8, 2009
Featured Presenters:
Erin Dillon
Bill Tucker

Send page by email

Currently, choice in education is generally limited to choosing aschool: Public or private school? Charter or neighborhood school? If grocery stores offered the same limited choices, shoppers would have to choose, for instance, among Whole Foods, Safeway, or Wal-Mart. But in reality, shoppers can (and do) patronize all three, making their decision based on their specific needs and the store's particular strengths. This way, shoppers are much more likely to get exactly what they need.

Learning is obviously much more complex than grocery shopping, but what if choices in education could be extended in a similar way?

Clayton Christensen's book Disrupting Class has gained much attention for its prediction that disruptive innovation will revolutionize how we educate students, much in the way iTunes has changed the music industry with its more customer-focused approach to delivery.

But while virtual education is likely to become a large part of the future of school choice, increased customization in education doesn't have to happen only online. There are endless possibilities to reorganize the delivery of education and to offer both students and teachers more choice and customization within the public schools.

Education Sector is pleased to host an online discussion October 7-8, 2009, to explore how new technologies and opportunities for learning are changing the context of education and to analyze whether educational choice can evolve beyond the current school-centered vision to offer greater customization for all students within a public system.

This discussion will feature: Education Sector's Erin Dillon andBill Tucker; Courtney Bell of Educational Testing Services;Julie Evans of Project Tomorrow; Curt Johnson of Education/Evolving and co-author of Disrupting Class; Brian Dixon, teacher and director of High Tech High's Flex program; and Tom Vander Ark of Vander Ark/Ratcliff Partners and former executive director of education at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Learn more:

Get some facts at

Look at these facts published on


(Digest of Education Statistics 2008, Chapter 2, Table 87)


Elementary: 72,659
Secondary: 24,856
Combined: 5,202
Other: 4,209
(Digest 2008, Chapter 1, Table 5)


Elementary: 68,990
Secondary: 23,436
Combined: 5,984
Other: 383
(Digest 2008, Chapter 2, Table 94)

(The Center for Education Reform, February 2009)


Elementary: 22,870
Secondary: 2,930
Combined: 9,260
(Digest 2008, Chapter 2, Table 58)


Elementary: 6,360
Secondary: 1,080
Combined: 300
(Digest 2008, Chapter 2, Table 58)


TOTAL K-12 ENROLLMENT: 55,394,000

Elementary: 38,932,000
Secondary: 16,462,000
(Digest 2008, Chapter 1, Table 2)


Elementary: 34,221,000
Secondary: 15,078,000
(Digest 2008, Chapter 1, Table 2)

(The Center for Education Reform, February 2009)


Elementary: 3,447,230
Secondary: 859,800
Combined: 1,766,220
(Digest 2008, Chapter 2, Table 58)

TOTAL HOME SCHOOL ENROLLMENT: 1.5 million (estimate) or 2.9% (estimate) of America's school population
(1.5 Million Homeschooled Students in the United States in 2007, NCES, December 2008)


Elementary: 1,701,000
Secondary: 597,680
Combined: 104,120
(Digest 2008, Chapter 2, Table 58)



Elementary: 1,673,234
Secondary: 1,250,771
Unclassified: 256,391
(Digest 2008, Chapter 2, Table 65)

(Schools and Staffing Survey, 2003-04, NCES)


Elementary: 209,510
Secondary: 70,680
Combined: 169,630
(Digest 2008, Chapter 2, Table 58)


Elementary: 97,410
Secondary: 42,680
Combined: 9,860
(Digest 2008, Chapter 2, Table 58)

Now we can ALL be more specific and accurate in our use of statistics...

Tom vander Ark is spot on when he advocates "Tech" in classrooms

The guy who wrote the foreword of THomas Toch's 2003 book (High Schools on a Human Scale : How Small Schools Can Transform American Education)
by Thomas Toch, Tom Vander Ark (Foreword by) has a quote in the NY Times school issue:

Thomas vander Ark recommends School of One where "each student has a daily 'playlist’ tailored to their instructional level, interests and learning style. The school blends online learning, small group sessions and tutoring." He believes that "most high-school students will do most of their learning online" by 2020.

I recommend a search of Tom vander Ark's work and especially his blog (The web site is operated by the Center for Education Reform and is worth a visit, too). ...vander Ark's recommendations parallel Dr. Fischler's blog.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

You can be a mentor.

Visit a school and ask to sit with a class.

Tell students how school is related to your work.

Proceeds from the sale of this booklet support the work of small schools.

Critical thinking: Check out a rumor before passing on something that you heard. “Let’s all boycott one gasoline company and that will force the company to reduce prices.” (Oh, yeah?)

This booklet is a political document. Like Thomas Paine’s Commonsense, this booklet has the potential to spark in the reader a spectrum of emotions and feelings. Take our irritation, annoyance, outrage, and put it to use in a local school or by writing to or visiting a local school board. Let the following words inspire us, move us, impel us to reflect on what our past inaction has done to our schools. What have we left undone, what have we left to the experts (who maintain schools in the same condition as the 1950s)? What action could we take today to move schools toward their higher potential? What schools could we visit to become inspired ( in Philadelphia, High Tech High in San Diego, How can the words of Postman, Hetland, Gardner, Yuzenas, Pink, Reich, Friedman, Fischler (, Littky ( and and others inspire us to change what we can change? Let’s visit and click on “Readings” to find more ways to inspire teachers and school administrators. Here are some samples:

A good education is the next best thing to a pushy mother (Charles Schultz). Learning is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never fear and never dream of regretting (T H White). The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows (Sydney Harris). Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance (Will Durant). I think everyone should go to college and get a degree and then spend six months as a bartender and six months as a cabdriver. Then they would be really educated (Al McGuire). The mind is not a vessel that needs filling but wood that needs igniting (Plutarch).

In short, Littky’s work is not a “revolutionary” method. Littky copies what tutors have been doing for millennia --- know the student, shape the curriculum to match the student’s strengths, find experts to train the student, push the child with rigorous material that makes sense to the student.

Why not call Dennis Littky’s office? 401 752-3442. Ask why a “student-centered environment” must be in a small school to achieve the results that we are all seeking.

“Education is everybody’s business.”

Dennis Littky

This booklet is dedicated to the friendly and confident students and teachers at Met Center who gave me a warm welcome when I visited on 30 November 2005. They spent hours answering my questions about their school.

Comments ?? send your messages to

What can we do to improve schools?

What is Next?

What can each of us do to turn big schools into small schools?

What can each of us do to help small schools become stronger?

Just keep asking those two questions. The answer will come.

We can help small schools succeed.

Become a mentor. Small schools need adults to come into the school and to listen to questions from students. As a mentor, your role is easy: Make sure the students you talk with are given something unconventional. Give them a role model.

What Can We Do? Let’s get going…

1. Visit a middle school. There is one task that a teacher can’t do or pay for: Getting an adult to speak with a small group of students in a class and to answer their questions. Your time will spark something in the brains of the kids. A teacher can’t always make that happen. You can. You are a mentor.

2. Record yourself and post the video on youtube. Send the link Let students hear your answers to: What do you remember from school?

What did you do to learn to read? What did you like to read?

What books or articles or magazines do you recommend others to read? Tell us about an article that you read recently.

What did you learn in school that you really value today?

What did you learn outside school that you use in your life today?

Do you remember a teacher’s name? Tell the camera the name of that teacher and why that teacher sticks out in your memory.

3. Become a phone mentor. One phone call per day. Just five or six calls each week.

4. Ask to become a mentor to a class. The best teacher is a facilitator who allows mentors (adults who are not teachers) to talk with and listen to students..

5. Read some of these books:

A Whole New Mind and Free Agent Nation by Dan Pink

The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell and anything on
Studio Art by Lois Hetland

The Big Picture by Dennis Littky

Visit these sites:

The by Abe Fischler for Dennis Littky’s work by Dennis Yuzenas Project Zero’s site at Harvard university for continuing education, click on “products and services” and join the mailing list. Ask your child’s teachers and principal to subscribe to learn what’s new and effective.

Search on Youtube:

“Yuzenas visual” “Littky Small” “Abe Fischler”

Send coments to

Three reformers (who believe in education and public schools)

The work of many school reformers deserves more attention. Here are three more pioneers:

a) Abe Fischler, one of the guys who created distance learning for universities. He has a blog called He proposes putting 70 students in a large computer room, the students work with computers and three teachers circulate around the room. It’s called Computer Assisted Instruction and it can change the way information is delivered to kids, freeing the teachers to be advisors, counselors, facilitators and keen observers.

b) Lois Hetland. She works with Howard Gardner, the guy who created the Multiple Intelligences theory. Either she or Gardner should be put on TV to reinforce what they’ve been saying for 25 years: Students learn in different ways and ought to be tested in different ways to accurately measure their performances of understanding. You can learn more by looking at her book “Studio Thinking” about the importance of Arts in Education. Her website is

c) Dennis Yuzenas, middle school teacher and edu-tainer. He brings digital books into class on disks and asks his students to re-write the textbook. His website stimulates students to look at the ways that history is distorted and revised through time. His computer-assisted instruction methods can be found on youtube (search “Yuzenas visual”).

What would Ben Franklin say about the opportunity that Littky offers each of us?

On the final day, as the last delegates were signing the document, Franklin pointed toward the sun on the back of the Convention president's chair. Observing that painters had found it difficult to distinguish in their art a rising sun from a setting sun, he went on to say: "I have often ... in the course of the session ... looked at that sun behind the President without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting. But now at length I have the happiness to know it is a rising and not a setting sun."

Answers to the board work (in previous posts): sand box, long underwear, reading between the lines, man overboard! Anyone familiar with middle school students will recognize the joyous love of humor. How can school be reformatted to keep the humor and build relationships?

Bravo: send questions and comments to

Can smaller schools reduce violence and incidents of bullying and other dangers?

News Item: Student fatally stabbed

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (WSVN) -- Juan Carlos Rivera, 17, a 10th grader at Coral Gables High School, died as a result of a confrontation with another student on campus.

School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho addressed concerns of violence on school campuses. "Unfortunately, I think it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to prevent a random act of violence," he said.

So far, class has not been in session for more than a month and it has proved a bad start to the school year. Guns have been found on campuses just last week and yesterday. On Monday, a 14-year-old boy at Madison Middle School in Miami-Dade showed off a gun he had in his backpack, which a teacher confiscated without incident.

Last Friday, Miami-Dade Schools Police arrested three students, two from Westview Middle School and one from North Miami Beach Sr. High, for bringing guns to schools.

The Miami-Dade school system is also no stranger to fatal stabbings at their schools. On Feb. 3, 2004, at Southwood Middle School, Michael Hernandez, 14, stabbed his friend Jamie Gough, also 14, to death in one of the school's bathrooms.

The most recent fatality on a school campus occurred in Broward County. On Nov. 12, 2008, then 15-year-old Teah Wimberly admitted to shooting and killing her friend Amanda Collette, also 15, at Dillard High School in Miramar.

"I understand the frustration," Carvalho said about the recent violence at local schools. "The fact that it happened here today, the fact that it happened once in Broward last year, the fact it happens across the country, it's a lesson for all of us."

Despite these recent scenes of violence at local schools, Carvalho said, there is no safer place for children to be when away from the care of their parents. "It should be noted that schools, in my opinion, is the safest place for kids to be," he said. (News report by

Extremely difficult to prevent? Oh? The stabbing in Coral Gables High School would have been less likely to take place in a smaller school. We taxpapers sit by while our education tax revenues are spent in “big box” schools where bullies are freer to roam.

School reformer Dennis Littky writes, "The best way to create a positive school culture is to start by creating a small school [under 400 students]. Research has shown that small schools are safer and easier to secure. A large public school system might spend more than $50 million annually on school security" (p. 67). Why not start by making the schools smaller? For more information about the importance of “number of kids in the school” (instead of “number of students in a classroom,” contact Big Picture Learning, Dennis Littky, 325 Public Street, Providence, RI 02905, Phone: 401.752.3442

Each of us comes to school reform through a different avenue. Search “Dennis Littky” on and you'll find the April 2005 interview. Perhaps you will come to see, as I have, that school reform starts with us, not with "them."

Send comments to

What does Dan Piink say about schools?

See Daniel Pink’s discussion of changes in education in his book, Free Agent Nation, chapter 15:

Whenever I walk into a public school, I'm nearly toppled by a wave of nostalgia. Most schools I've visited in the 21st century look and feel exactly like the public schools I attended in the 1970s. The classrooms are the same size. The desks stand in those same rows. Bulletin boards preview the next national holiday. The hallways even smell the same. Sure, some classrooms might have a computer or two. But in most respects, the schools American children attend today seem indistinguishable from the ones their parents and grandparents attended.

(Pink asks, “How many other places look and feel exactly as they did 40 years ago?” He goes on to discuss the history of mass education. He ends with the following points.)

In the future, expect teens and their families to force an end to high school as we know it. Look for some of these changes to replace and augment traditional high schools with free-agent-style learning -- and to unschool the American teenager:

* A renaissance of apprenticeships. Traditional high schools tend to separate learning and doing. For centuries, young people learned a craft or profession under the guidance of an experienced master. This method will revive and expand to include skills like computer programming and graphic design. Imagine a 14-year-old taking two or three academic courses each week, and spending the rest of her time apprenticing as a commercial artist.

* Teenage entrepreneurship.
Most teens have the two crucial traits of a successful entrepreneur: a fresh way of looking at the world and a passionate intensity for what they do. In San Diego County, 8 percent of high school students already run their own online business.

* A greater diversity of academic courses.
Only 16 states offer basic economics in high school. Expect a surge of new kinds of "home economics" courses that teach accounting and basic business skills.

Most politicians think the answer to the problems of high schools is to exert more control. But the real answer is less control. In the future, our teens will learn by less schooling and more doing.
(Dan Pink, Free Agent Nation.)

Send comments to Steve McCrea

There is no “one set of knowledge.”

Here’s a quote from Dennis Littky’s book (The Big Picture):

There is no “one set of knowledge.”

In 2000, former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich wrote an article for the New York Times called “One Education Does Not Fit All.” In it, he railed against the use of standardized tests and courses as inconsistent with the new economy. I literally jumped out of my seat with joy when I read this part:

Yes, people need to be able to read, write and speak clearly. And they have to know how to add, subtract, multiply and divide. But given the widening array of possibilities, there ‘s no reason that every child must master the sciences, algebra, geometry, biology or any of the rest of the standard high school curriculum that has barely changed in half a century. (Robert Reich)

There’s no reason to put education in standardized packages when our kids don’t come in those packages. Who wants a standardized kid, anyway? As a society, we embrace individualism and yet we seem to be OK with our schools becoming more and more standardized (Littky, pages 34-35).

WARNING: I have mentioned one of the key aspects of the Big Picture school to several teachers: “The advisor teaches all of the subjects.” I rejected this idea at first, but I have grown to accept it. The reactions of other teachers are:

“How can one person teach math, history, a foreign language, chemistry, biology, physics, and English Literature? Where is the rigor?”

“How can one teacher be good at all of those subjects?”

“I was terrible at (math, history, whatever). I would make a terrible advisor in that system.”

Two suggestions:

a) Is it so terrible for the student to sit with an adult who has a fear of math or science? If the student lacks a knack for algebra, who better to teach flexibility and optimism than an adult who failed algebra in 9th grade?

b) Let this idea sit with you for a while. It might appear impossible to convince a teacher’s union to encourage members to teach a spectrum of subjects instead of “their favorite” or “their special gift.” For some students, an English teacher who hates math might be the perfect adult to guide the student toward understanding quantitative reasoning. A science teacher who can barely write an essay might be the best writing coach for some students. Students needing additional rigor can be assigned to other teachers/advisors for specific needs. In short, The Big Picture method has pushed me to look at alternatives to “how I was taught.”