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Stepping back from the classroom to rethink education theory

Mark Anderson and William Johnson are trying to change the conversation about school reform.

Independently, the two special education teachers have been contributing to the GothamSchools Community section for some time, Anderson writing about teaching elementary in the Bronx and Johnson about teaching high school in Brooklyn. Now they’re working together to rethink the very philosophy has driven many recent efforts to improve schools.

In a joint Community section dispatch, they argue for a new way of thinking to replace the idea that schools should be judged by their students’ test scores. They write:

We propose a fundamental shift in the framework and language we use to discuss educational reform. Instead of a framework that views students as products, we propose a framework in which the products of education are viewed as the contexts and content of schools themselves. The schools we produce should be positive and nurturing learning environments where students are engaged in a rich, coherent curriculum. Rather than view our students as widgets, we’d do better to view them as vibrant, dynamic organisms, and view the school, by extension, as an ecosystem. While such a model would make it harder to quantify school quality based on a simple numerical scale, it would enable us to have more productive conversations about systemic education reform, and to take action in targeted ways that will have a sustainable impact.

Read Anderson and Johnson’s full argument — and how it relates to the city’s controversial plan to “turn around” 33 struggling schools — in the Community section.

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