a co-ed, independent, inclusion school for grades k-12


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The IDEAL Classroom

Sep 22, 2016

This Sunday evening, I am looking forward to the week ahead, our first full week of school this year, and to getting back into the swing and routine of school-year weekends, as well as weekdays.

I woke up early(ish) to make sure I would be ready for the alarm tomorrow, made breakfast for my son, Teddy, and then we both retired to our rooms to do our "homework" --neither one of us enjoys looming deadlines left for Sunday evenings--before going out for a walk and a late afternoon brunch, a NYC tradition we have all too quickly embraced.

(When my parents visited last weekend and asked where we wanted to go to "lunch" on Sunday, Teddy and I cast befuddled looks at one another other as if to say, "What is this meal you funny, kind Baltimoreans call 'lunch'?")

And then came my favorite part of every Sunday, catching up on reading, personal and professional, before the week begins. There is nothing quite like the feeling of reading the New York Times in its hard copy. My son and I still have our weekend papers delivered in paper form, just as my parents did (they were avid NYT readers, as well) when I was growing up.

After I make my way through the paper, I usually start to explore some of my online subscriptions. This evening, I caught up on The Atlantic's recent "Educational Eden" series. In this series, a panel of educational experts explore a variety of topics. The particular passage that caught my eye was written by John King, US Secretary of Education, in response to the question of how to assess a school's efficacy in a meaningful way:

The ideal school wouldn't need to be fancy but it would be clean and painted, the floors polished, the windows sparkling. The adults would treat it like a temple to learning, communicating to students, teachers, parents, and community members that what goes on there is important and worthy of their best efforts. The school's leader would teach part-time and spend a lot of time in classrooms observing, to give his colleagues clear, actionable feedback on how to improve their practice. Teachers would write the school's curriculum, with the goal of preparing all students for success after high school, in college or careers. They would assign their students work worth doing—from reading meaningful literature to stressing problem solving in mathematics to using original documents in social studies and teaching science through experiments. The curriculum would include music, art, dance, and physical education. The students at the ideal school would be racially diverse, speak different languages, and practice different religions. Students from well-off families would study side by side with those from modest circumstances. The teachers would also be diverse, so students would see persons of color in positions of authority. A health clinic, a social worker, and a mental-health counselor would serve students and their families. The ideal school would be a place where students want to show up every day, parents are involved and confident their students are being well served, and the adults in the building enthusiastically embrace their responsibility to do whatever it might take to help students succeed.

On so many levels, I felt certain Secretary King was talking about us.

He saw right in through our newly polished windows and into our classrooms with freshly painted and accented walls; he saw our diverse students and teachers having meaningful conversations and tackling significant problems; he admired teachers planning and differentiating units to engage and stretch all learners; he saw students motivate and cheer one another on to achieve excellence in and out of the classroom; he watched as our teachers led advisory meetings, mentored clubs, and coached fall sports; he read our mission and learned how we are called on to foster creative problem-solving and leadership skills in our students; he considered and observed all for a while, and then he said, "Yes, this is the IDEAL school."

Next time, however, we will remind Secretary King to capitalize the letters in IDEAL.

Read the full text of the article here: http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/09/the-failing-grade-for-tests/498407/

Written by Janet Wolfe