What should change?

Looking ahead to next week, we wanted to let you know about our visitors: Becca Tatischeff, Hillary Mills, and Mia Hood and Jesse Rector.
As you review the websites and learn about Expeditionary Learning and KIPP, think about what you can learn about the theories of action of these school designs: What are their goals? What are their key strategies/resources? How are they supposed to work?
And, please remember to post your reform description on Blackboard (if you have not done so already), and complete the book club survey. We will assign you to book groups next week.

What changes? What stays the same?

In class last night, we began with small group discussion about the first few chapters of Tinkering Toward Utopia, by David Tyack & Larry Cuban.  In these discussions you shared your thoughts on the reasons why some reforms “stick,” while others fade away. If you would like to think more about this topic, and learn more about the work of Larry Cuban, you might enjoy the following video. Dr. Cuban also maintains a thought-provoking blog, which focuses on issues related to ed policy and practice (in particular, check out this post).


credit: Paul Mobley

credit: Paul Mobley

After this discussion, Dr. Hatch shared with us some insights from his recent conversation with Eric Schwarz (listen here). Schwarz co-founded Citizen Schools, an after school enrichment program for low-income students, and has just published a book–The Opportunity Equation: How Citizen Teachers are Combating the Achievement Gap in America’s Schools— about his experiences.

Finally, we engaged in an activity that gave us the opportunity to think about what is essential in schools. By thinking about what we consider useful, essential, and unnecessary, we began to really wonder about some of the basics of school design and we raised questions such as, “Do schools need books?” “What makes up a curriculum?” “Should all schools have kitchens?”

For next week, please review “Week 4” in the archives section to see the assignment. Please let me know if you have any trouble accessing the readings on e-reserves. As always, send links to any important event or news article that you think is interesting or relevant via Facebook, Twitter, Email, or as a comment below.


What’s involved in change?

Yesterday, we met in small groups to discuss key ideas and questions that came up in the readings. Each group created a google doc, which they used to jot down quick notes that to share with each other and the class. You can find some of these links under the “About this course” section on the left. Then, everyone shared their Ideal School descriptions with one or two other people. We are looking forward to reading them and learning more about your ideas!
For next week, please come prepared to participate in small group discussions on the readings again. Looking ahead, you can find a link to the Reform Critique assignment (due 10/15) here, and you can find samples of student work from other classes on Blackboard (in the “Content” section). Please look over the assignment and begin to think about a reform you might like to focus on. If you have any questions, please speak with us in class next week.
Finally, here are a few videos that you might find interesting.
Dennis Shirley on The Global Fourth Way:

Clayton Christensen on disruptive innovation:

Peter Senge on webs of interdependence:

What’s involved in change?

To facilitate our discussions of the readings in class on Wednesday, we’ve asked you to come prepared to share with colleagues who have read work by the same author:

  • One or two key ideas or quotes from the readings that you think school designers should remember
  • One or two quotes/ideas you found confusing and that require further clarification
  • What questions or issues you would like to pursue further

As an example, we have included here a few of the quotes that we find particularly useful and then included some of the “big” questions the readings raise and that we may pursue further.  While we will not be able to pursue all the questions that are raised this week, we hope to explore those that are most pressing and of most interest to you.

In subsequent weeks, we will ask each of you to take turns sharing your notes like this in advance of class as a way to support that week’s discussion.  In addition to coming prepared for discussion, please remember to post your ideal school description in the folder on blackboard and bring two hard copies to class.  See you on Wednesday.

Key Quotes/Ideas from the readings


  1. 38 Student-centered learning is the escape hatch from the lateral, physical, and hierarchical cells of standardization
  2. 64 Society has hired schools to perform 4 distinct jobs.
  3. 65 What is disruptive to one company is sustaining to another


  1. 31 from Schon:  real change involves passing through zones of uncertainty, the situation of being at sea, of being lost, of confronting, of confronting more information than you can handle.
  2. 48 Meaning fuels motivation; know-how feeds itself to produce ongoing problem-solving.  Their opposites – confusion, overload, and low sense of efficacy – deplete energy at the very time that is sorely needed.
  3. 58 Assume the lack of capacity is the initial problem and then work on it continuously.

Hargreaves & Shirley

  1. 4  All reforms have theories of change.  They have purposes, and tools, and practices to achieve those purposes…. In the world of educational change, theories of what to change and how to change abound.
  2. 27  Our current challenge is to find ways to develop innovation within our schools while continuously improving them.


  1. 57 Today’s problems come from yesterday’s“solutions.”
  2. 128  Systems thinking does not mean ignoring complexity.  Rather, it means organizing complexity into a coherent story that illuminates the causes of problems and how they can be remedied in enduring ways

Some Questions for Discussion? 

What enables “disruptive” innovations to take spread?  What prevents them from spreading?

Why are new technologies today likely to be disruptive, when computers and other technological “advances” have not yet turned out to be so disruptive?

What does it take to build the capacity needed to improve schools?

Do we have to pursue either incremental improvements that are more likely to be effective or radical changes that have a high risk of rejection and failure?

How can we keep in mind both the forest and the trees – the big picture and the key details – at the same time?

Has school changed?

It was great to meet with you all last night!

In our introductory first class we tried to use various electronic platforms to learn more about you and engage in some initial thoughts on school change. If you didn’t have the chance to complete your profile, please go to our Google doc to add your info.  Also, you can still complete the online survey as well. We really want to know more about your background experiences, your current work, and your thoughts on education!

As Dr. Hatch explained, we will be using this blog as a main page for the class. This blog bridges the public and private; on the left side of the page you will find links to Blackboard (where you will submit most of your work) and e-reserves (where you will find the readings), and on the right side of the page you will find our Twitter feed and Facebook page.  If you are active on social media, we welcome you to keep in touch and share your resources.

For next week:

(1) Review the assignment posted under Week 1 in the archives (see the questions to guide your reading)

(2) Please take a quick look at the articles and then sign up to focus on the work of one author on the Google doc

(3) Submit your “Ideal School Letter” on Blackboard (under student work forum). See assignment for letter details.

Finally, our brief class discussion about how school has changed since we were in kindergarten made me think about this humorous post from a few weeks ago. While the examples certainly won’t speak to everyone, the post made me think about the ways in which we tend to compare the schools experiences of children today to those of our own. How do you think these personal experiences help/hinder our efforts to support the education of the children of today?


Welcome to C&T 4004!

In advance of our first class tomorrow, I wanted to share with you a copy of the syllabus, and I hope you will review it before we meet. I also wanted to draw your attention to a couple of key aspects of the course (also mentioned at the beginning of the syllabus).

First, through this course, I hope to enable people from many different backgrounds to develop the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that can help them to make productive contributions to the design, pursuit, and assessment of school improvement efforts of all kinds.  Although the course is designed primarily for students at Teachers College, I am also exploring ways that the course might continue to serve as a source of support as alumni from the course move on in their careers. For example, this semester we are experimenting with using a public wordpress blog as the main course website so that current students, as well as alumni and others interested in issues of school design and educational change can have access to course discussions, resources, and activities. Correspondingly, I expect to send out an email to course alumni inviting them to check out the site and follow along if they’d like to, and I will also be inviting last year’s students to share some of their school designs with this year’s students.  At the same time, with the help of Deirdre Faughey who will serve as TA, over the past year, I am also trying to make the course more self-directed for students and experimenting with ways to incorporate more online activities.   Thus, I’m approaching this year’s course as a pilot that could lead to the development of something like a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) in the future.

Second, although this is a pilot, supporting the learning and development of the students enrolled in the course remains the primary concern.  In many ways, the changes are inspired by previous experiences with the course that have reinforced my belief that one semester of work can provide an important foundation for learning but that long-term learning and reflection is also required in order to achieve the goals of the course. Second, because of all the changes being made at the same time, the course this year will only be offered pass/fail.  Students who complete the requirements for the course outlined in the syllabus will receive a passing grade.

Third, I hope that the course is engaging and challenging, but I also expect it will be a lot of work for all of us and will require some flexibility and patience as we experiment with new technologies, activities, and assignments.

Fourth, I also hope you will all contribute to the shaping and development of the course and share your reflections, ideas and feedback (in constructive and productive ways) throughout the semester and in the future.

Finally, students should be aware that the class blog and other aspects of the course will be public. We are currently exploring what kinds of permissions might be required for these kinds of activities, but please let us know if you have any questions or concerns about these possibilities, and we will be happy to discuss them with you.

Deirdre and I look forward to meeting you tomorrow!