EPISODE 28: School Reform - The Long View


We're a bit off our regular weekly schedule, but we're thrilled to present a full hour with the remarkable Deborah Meier. She has been on the front lines of school and education reform for decades. And she is a delight: exceedingly knowledgable, deeply experienced, passionate, and reflective about all that she has done. She's also frustrated because the change has not been everything we need; in fact, we've fallen quite short. This is one of those interviews that I'm hoping people will pass along so everyone can learn as much as I did--HB

More about this week's guest:

8240672685?profile=RESIZE_710xDeborah Meier has been working in public education as a teacher, principal, writer, advocate since the early 1960s, and ranks among the most acclaimed leaders of the school reform movement in the U.S. She started her work as an early childhood teacher in Chicago after graduating from the U of Chicago. Her family moved to NYC in the late 1960s where she worked as a kindergarten teacher in Central Harlem. For the next 20 years, Meier helped revitalize public schools in New York City’s East Harlem District 4. In 1974, she founded Central Park East Elementary School (CPE I), a highly successful public school of choice that served predominantly local African American and Hispanic families. During the next dozen years, Meier opened two other Central Park East elementary schools in District 4 as well as an acclaimed secondary school (CPESS), while also supporting and directing the development of similar schools throughout NYC. She helped found the Coalition of Essential Schools, in the 1980s, under the leadership of Ted Sizer.  In 1987 she received a MacArthur “genius” Award for her work in public education. During the 1990s she also served as an Urban Fellow at the Annenberg Institute. In 1995 she moved to Boston to start Mission Hill, a K-8 school in Roxbury. These schools were part of a network Meier created that helped initiate new small schools, both elementary and secondary, both in NYC and Boston. At Coalition schools, Meier helped foster democratic communities, giving teachers greater autonomy in the running of a school, giving parents a voice in what happens to their children in schools, and promoting intergenerational connections. She has always been a proponent of active, project-based learning, and graduation through a series of exhibitions of high-quality work. She is the author of many books and articles, including The Power of Their Ideas, Lessons to America from a Small School in Harlem, and In Schools We Trust. She is an outspoken critic of state-mandated curriculum and high stakes standardized testing and has written extensively on their unreliability and class/race biases. She is on the board of  FairTest, Save Our Schools, Center for Collaborative Education, and the Association for Union Democracy. She is also on the editorial board of The Nation, The Harvard Education Letter, and Dissent magazines.


4995562699?profile=RESIZE_400xHoward Blumenthal created and produced the PBS television series, Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? He is currently a Senior Scholar at The University of Pennsylvania, studying learning and the lives of 21st-century children and teenagers. He travels the world, visiting K-12 schools, lecturing at universities, and interviewing young people for Kids on Earth, a global platform containing nearly 1,000 interview segments from Kentucky, Brazil, Sweden, India, and many other countries. Previously, he was a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist for The New York Times Syndicate, and United Features. He is the author of 24 books and several hundred articles about technology, learning, business, and human progress. As an executive, Howard was the CEO of a public television operation and several television production companies, and a state government official. Previously, he was a Senior Vice President for divisions of two large media companies, Hearst and Bertelsmann, and a consultant or project lead for Energizer, General Electric, American Express, CompuServe, Warner Communications, Merriam-Webster, Atari, and other companies.


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Before the virus, more than a billion children and teenagers relied upon school for learning. After the virus (or, after the current wave of our current virus), basic assumptions about school and education are no longer reliable. School buildings may become unsafe for large numbers of students. The tax base may no longer support our current approach to school. Without the interaction provided by a formal school structure, students may follow their own curiosity. Many students now possess the technology to learn on their own. And many do not.

Reinventing.school is a new weekly web television series that considers what happens next week, next month, next school year, and the next five years. Hosted by University of Pennsylvania Senior Scholar Howard Blumenthal, Reinventing.school features interviews with teachers, principals, school district leadership, state and Federal government officials, ed-tech innovators, students, leading education professors, authors, realists and futurists from the United States and all over the world.

Each episode features 2-4 distinguished guests in conversation about high priority topics including, for example, the teaching of public health, long-term home schooling, technology access and its alternatives, the role of parents, friendship and social interaction, learning outside the curriculum, the future of testing and evaluation, interruption as part of the academic calendar, job security for teachers and support staff, setting (and rethinking) curriculum priorities, special needs, student perspectives on the job of school, the importance of play, the psychology of group dynamics and social interaction, preparing for future rounds of a virus (or cyberattack or impact of climate change, etc.), college readiness, higher education transformed, the higher education promise in an economically challenged world, and more. Clearly, there is much to discuss; nearly all of it ranks high on the list of priorities for raising the world’s children.