Harvard Ed. Magazine, Fall 2014

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Choppy Waters for the

Common Core





May 15, 2014 Construction workers have become a familiar sight around campus, but trees being hoisted on beams? This past spring, the school held a topping off ceremony to mark the completion of the major steel framing for the new fifth floor that is being added to historic Longfellow Hall. The ceremony is a rite traced back to the ancient Scandinavian practice of placing a tree on top of a new building to honor nature’s contribution to the construction. Members of the Ed School community signed the beam before it was hoisted. Once the renovations are complete at the end of 2014, the school will gain 2,800 square feet of new classrooms, offices, and meeting spaces. watch the topping off ceremony on youtube:



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Choppy Waters for the

Common Core

EDITOR IN CHIEF Lory Hough lory_hough@harvard.edu PRODUCTION MANAGER/EDITOR Marin Jorgensen marin_jorgensen@harvard.edu SENIOR DESIGNER Paula Telch Cooney paula_telch@harvard.edu DESIGNER Angelina Berardi angelina_berardi@harvard.edu


ASSISTANT DEAN OF COMMUNICATIONS Michael Rodman michael_rodman@harvard.edu CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Rachael Apfel Elaine McArdle Brendan Pelsue Mark Russell ILLUSTRATORS Justine Beckett Daniel Vasconcellos PHOTOGRAPHERS Jill Anderson Iman Rastegari Matt Weber COPYEDITOR Abigail Mieko Vargus POSTMASTER: Send address changes to: Harvard Graduate School of Education Office of Communications 13 Appian Way, Cambridge, MA 02138 Š 2014 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Harvard Ed. Magazine is published three times a year.

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What Happened to the Common Core?

Just a few years ago, the Common Core state standards were quickly adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia. Now, some states are opting out, and the initiative has come under intense fire from parents, educators, and politicians. What happened?


Welcome Undergrads

Professor Kay Merseth’s gen ed class is one of the most popular at Harvard College. Education clubs are popping up across the Yard. A look at the growing interest in education, and teaching, among Harvard College students.


A Radical Idea in the Rainforest

Emiliana Vegas, Ed.M.’96, Ed.D.’01, is banking on a new way to offer highquality education to students living in the most remote parts of the Amazon: onscreen lecturers, multimedia tools, and webcam broadcasts.

The big ideas are still kicking around! Last fall, we asked people to tell us one tangible education idea they had that was worth spreading, and we turned them into a series of short essays in the magazine (“Big Idea,” fall 2013). Geoffrey Canada, Ed.M.’75, president of the Harlem Children’s Zone, wrote about getting rid of summer vacation. This past summer, Dean Jim Ryan, continued the conversation on twitter: @deanjimryan Should summer vacation be shorter? Longer? @jamierhouse However long summer

@shadow0801974 For U.S. Congress,

might be, students need to be engaged in some kind of personal learning project.

yes. For the kids, no. They need a break from the bad education here in the U.S.

@DrForestIssac There needs to be

@MindprintLearn Given current

flexibility within the states. Some kids need shorter, some do not. Individualize it & not 1 fits all.

system, shorter. But summer fun coupled with meaningful supplemental learning could be #inspiration.

A lot of amazing stuff. I love this! Not sure why I get so excited. Probably because its something that is so vital to what makes the world go round. Great place for getting ideas out there. Kinda goes along with the one, “Don’t let the boss do all the thinking” when it says, “Educational leaders must draw on the intelligence of everyone on their staff and student body, effectively doubling their brain force for free.” Getting the public involved with world issues that interest them is a great way to set progress for a better future. — @ . travisleecram

gmail com

We have a new web page!

Actually, the school’s entire site was reimagined, redesigned, and relaunched in mid-August. Check it out, including the Ed. page.

gse.harvard.edu gse.harvard.edu/ed 4



1,200: Ed.








We cannot have true equality in education until we achieve equity of opportunity and expectations for all kids. Poor and urban children lack all three. Blanket, uninformed political policies and charters create deeper inequity. — , rod rock via facebook

@hgse There is virtually no integration of the schools. They are still separate and still unequal. (a quote from Morgan State President David Wilson, Ed.M.’84, Ed.D.’87) @citizenblogger1 I saw a difference in schools in south vs. west side Chicago.

Then I read Jonathan Kozol’s book, Savage Inequalities, to commiserate. @jeanius88 I believe schools are integrated in population, but teaching practices

are still segregated to teach whites and blacks differently. @broussardrhonda We can’t legislate trust/understanding. Parents will

continue to move + re-establish segregated schools that reflect their beliefs.

Being able to handle transitions and changes in our world is an important skill. How could we start helping kids with transition skills rather than just protecting them from them? How do we help them form bonds, maintain connections to old friends, figure out the new routines quickly? — a new response from a reader named mag to a story we ran in the magazine in 2012, “do middle schools make sense?"

twitter.com/hgse Send letters (200 words or less): letters@gse.harvard.edu Post a comment on the Ed. website: gse.harvard.edu/ed

Tell us your thoughts and ideas on facebook or twitter: facebook.com/harvardeducation twitter.com/hgse

facebook.com/harvardeducation youtube.com/harvardeducation instagram.com/harvardeducation harvardeducation.tumbler.com issuu.com/harvardeducation

appian way 10,000 STUDENTS




48% 30% 22%




FOR THEIR KIDS: 54% 27% 19%























What Is Success?

doing well academically 62% AS TOP VALUE of students perceived teachers as prioritizing

students saw promoting 15% ofcaring in students as their








A large majority of youth appear to prioritize aspects of success — achievement and happiness — above caring for others. This is one highlight of a report released in June by the Ed School’s Making Caring Common Project (makingcaringcommon.org). The report is based chiefly on a survey of nearly 10,000 diverse middle and high school students that the project conducted in 2013. The report also points to a troubling gap between what adults say and what students perceive about the importance of caring, kindness, and respect: Adults claim to prioritize caring, but that’s not the message that teens are hearing. According to the report, a majority of teens view their parents as more concerned about their children’s achievements than about their being caring people. A majority also report valuing, and perceive their parents and peers as valuing, aspects of their effort such as “working hard” over moral characteristics such as fairness. Similarly, while teachers report that developing students’ capacity for care is more important than their achievements, youth are much more likely to view their teachers as valuing their achievement over their caring. The report also notes important race, class, and culture differences in the findings. “Our founding fathers envisioned a society that balanced success and happiness with the common good,” says Rick Weissbourd, Ed.D.’87, codirector of the project and a senior lecturer at the Ed School. “We now seem to have lost that balance. And the irony is that the intense focus on happiness doesn’t appear to be making children happier.” Weissbourd said the good news is that the survey clearly shows that caring is still valued by the students they surveyed. “Our challenge is to help parents and educators show that they prioritize caring and goodness and give our youth an opportunity to build their moral muscles,” Weissbourd says. “We’ve drawn on our knowledge of moral development and social emotional learning to develop clear strategies designed to do just that.” Some of the strategies the report suggests include conducting a survey of the school climate, cultivating student leadership to address troubling aspects of the school’s climate, building student’s capacity for empathy and selfregulation and their commitment to the common good, and ensuring that all students have a positive relationship with an adult mentor. — Mark Russell is the project’s media and programming director. @MCCHarvardEd HARVARD GRADUATE SCHOOL OF EDUCATION


After the Boston Marathon bombing, Daniel Busso and his colleagues at the Sheridan Lab at Boston Children’s Hospital were in a unique position: For the previous year, in the lab, they had been studying teenagers, some who had experienced trauma, to see the role that stress played in their lives. After the bombing, they were able to look at the same young people — and their brains — to study the impact of a real-life stressful event. We found that patterns of stress reactivity in the lab at Boston Children’s predicted the likelihood of experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms after the Boston Marathon. The study was useful because it is one of the first to identify physiological risk factors for PTSD symptoms following terrorist attacks. Adolescents who were exposed to high levels of violence prior to the bombings had increased PTSD symptoms following the attack, indicating that a history of exposure to childhood adversity places adolescents at heightened risk for PTSD symptoms following future stressors. The same kids from the project will also be the ones that I’m following up with for my dissertation. One of the questions that I’m exploring is whether we can identify neural markers of risk before the emergence of clinical symptoms — depression and anxiety, for example. In other words, is there something about an adolescent’s brain that tells us how likely he or she is to experience mental health issues down the line? I’m quietly optimistic that we’ll find something. Our current theories about the deleterious impact of childhood adversity suggest that these experiences can predispose individuals to mental health problems. So it stands to reason that this vulnerability may be manifested in the brain.


A secondary interest is to develop a better understanding of the factors that predict resilience in the face of adversity. We know rather little about why some kids manage to thrive in spite of early life stressors. — Lory Hough





“The science makes it more difficult to walk away.” Professor JACK SHONKOFF stressing that we can no longer ignore childhood neglect knowing the havoc it wreaks on the developing brain. (WBUR)

“I think a lot of mistakes are made by schools thinking that technology is the solution when they haven’t clearly defined the problem.” Professor DAVID ROSE when asked what advice he would give to educators interested in using more multimedia or digital tools to cater to individual students’ needs. He said to start by asking what your goals are. (Education Week)

“As we excavate the layers of our former life, we must clear a space, by getting rid of the baggage that has weighed us down.”

Professor SARA LAWRENCE-LIGHTFOOT, Ed.D.’72, writing in a first-person piece about downsizing our lives and about thinking of the process in a more positive, creative way. (The Wall Street Journal)


“There’s nothing really beyond that.”

Assistant Professor ROBERT GONZALES on how the Deferred Action for Children Arrivals program, launched two years ago, has helped many young immigrants. Unfortunately, many policies — like the inability to get financial aid — continue to hold them back as they become young adults. (Arizona Star)

“This case is saying you have to have equally good teachers to have equally good opportunity.” Dean JAMES RYAN comparing the ruling in Vergara v. California, which stated that the state’s strong teacher tenure laws were unconstitutional, to school finance reform, which said you had to have equal resources in order to have equal educational opportunity. (TIME magazine)

“We need to take a hard look at the messages we’re sending to children.” Lecturer RICK WEISSBOURD, Ed.D.’87, commenting on his new study that found that middle and high school students care more about personal achievement and being happy than caring for others (see page 6). (The Atlantic) HARVARD GRADUATE SCHOOL OF EDUCATION


TIDBITS Most popular names in this year’s entering Ed.M. class: Michael (7) and Sarah/Sara (12/3), including four Sarah Elizabeths.

The new Ed School website includes nearly 4,000 pages and 55,000 links

Ed School Facebook fans: Top three international cities are Cairo (Egypt), Dhaka (Bangladesh), and Bangkok (Thailand).

Strangest food request that Commons Cafe has ever received: PB & J on a burger.

Share and Share Not Alike

The good news for parents and teachers is that kids, even very young kids, understand what’s fair. The bad news — or at least the not-surprising news — is that despite this early understanding, young children don’t always follow along when it comes to sharing. Luckily, this starts to change as kids get older, around seven or eight. This is what Peter Blake, Ed.M.’04, Ed.D.’10, and Craig Smith, Ed.M.’03, Ed.D.’09, found after spending months asking hundreds of children to share and allocate coveted stickers by playing games at the Museum of Science in Boston. Blake, now an assistant professor at Boston University and director of its Social Development Learning Lab, and Smith, a postdoctoral fellow in psychology at the University of Michigan, talked about their findings, which were recently published in PLOS ONE.

How many children took part?

For example?

museum over the years.

in inhibitory control, akin to impulse control, might explain age-related shifts. We also tested whether younger children were less likely to apply fairness standards to themselves. Neither of these factors explained age changes. However, we did find that older children were thinking more explicitly about fairness norms when faced with a costly sharing situation, whereas younger children seemed more preoccupied with their desires. A tentative conclusion we came to is that, although young children are indeed aware of fairness norms and see them as applying to the self, the weight these norms carry for children may increase as they get older.

PB: I estimate that I’ve tested about 2,000 children at the How did the sticker experiment work?

CS: Some children were given four stickers and had a

chance to actually share; these same children were also asked what they thought other children put in the same sharing task should do with the stickers. Other children were given four stickers and simply asked how much they themselves should share — a measure of the norms children applied to themselves. These same children were also asked to predict what another child had shared with them — a measure of potential pessimism about other children’s sharing. A final group was simply asked to predict how many of their four stickers they would share with another child if they were given a chance.

You found that age mattered, right?

CS: We knew from other research that children tend

to get better at costly sharing — sharing that involves getting less for the self — as they get older. But not much was known about the factors that account for this agerelated change. We were interested in testing a few ideas about what might fuel this developmental shift toward fairer sharing. 10



CS: We explored whether developmental improvements

Are parents surprised at their children’s choices with stickers?

PB: I see some funny interactions with parents when we

have children allocate stickers or candy behind a privacy box and tell them that no one will know what they decide. Afterwards, parents will sometimes ask their child if they can see what they kept for themselves and children will say no! I’ve also seen three-year-olds happily declare that they kept everything for themselves. — Lory Hough want to learn more? read the full study:


Biggest audience (in person and online) for an Askwith Forum last academic year was nearly 4,000 for Temple Grandin on March 26, 2014.

Gutman Library has more than 1,300 periodical subscriptions. Its longest continuous subscription is to the Journal of Education going back to 1875.

New graduate Moana Uluave, Ed.M.’14, likely holds the honor of having the most family at Commencement: 65, including relatives from American Samoa.

Amount of coffee prepared over the summer for PPE participants during breaks: 2,757 gallons


Student + Alum

Vanessa Rodriguez, Ed.M.’13, a current doctoral student, loves collaborating on projects. After 12 years as a classroom teacher, she says, “I don’t like doing anything without a partner. I loved team teaching.” So it made sense that after she was approached by a publisher to write a book about the work she was doing on the “teaching brain” for her dissertation, she would turn to Michelle “Billie” Fitzpatrick, Ed.M.’12, a former Mind, Brain, and Education Program classmate with tons of editing and writing experience, including dozens of books. “She knew my work and really got it,” Rodriguez says of Fitzpatrick. “She also has two daughters, both very different learners. This book is for parents, too. Everyone is a teacher.” The book, The Teaching Brain, is due out this fall. Rodriguez says lots of research already exists about the nature and science of learning — the learning brain — but there is very little on why and how humans teach. The Teaching Brain looks at the cognitive, biological, and psychological processes that are happening when someone is teaching, and not just in the classroom. As Rodriguez points out, children as young as the age of three begin to teach. What’s unique about the research is that instead of looking at teaching as simply a tool — a teacher teaches and there is an outcome for the learner — Rodriguez and Fitzpatrick show that teaching is an interaction.

“When learning happens, or doesn’t, you can’t measure just one of the people,” Rodriguez says. You can’t just say someone is a bad teacher or a good student. “There’s a reciprocity. Each person is responding based on what the other person is saying or how they are reacting.” Reciprocity was key when the duo set out to write the book in only six months. Fitzpatrick, who in addition to being a writer is currently a teaching fellow for Ed School lecturers Todd Rose, Ed.M.’01, Ed.D.’07, and Nancy Sommers, says they started by spending a lot of time working on an outline at the proposal stage. They also balanced each other. “Vanessa had a great concept of the teaching brain and wanted to share it,” Fitzpatrick says. “I knew a lot about the model, but also how to turn it into a book. We were a good match.” When Rodriguez was stuck, she says Fitzpatrick would “get me to a place where I could keep writing. She’s a pretty intense editor and thought partner. She is pretty wonderful. A calming force.” — Lory Hough HARVARD GRADUATE SCHOOL OF EDUCATION



Stories Matter

When doctoral student Maung Nyeu, Ed.M.’13, was in the first grade, living in the remote Chittagong Hill Tracts region of Bangladesh, he dropped out of school. He says he couldn’t understand anything the teachers were saying — they taught in Bengla, the official language of the country since 1971. His family spoke Marma, one of eight different indigenous languages used by Hill Tract tribes. As a result, Nyeu was constantly being punished — hands out, palms up, a teacher with a wooden stick. He begged his parents to let him stay home. Eventually they agreed, but with one condition: He still had to study. “My mother realized I was struggling with the language, so while she cooked, I would stand next to her and she taught me Bengla,” Nyeu says. Four years later, he was fluent and went back to school. Unfortunately, even today, Nyeu’s struggles are all too common for other Hill Tract students, who continue to drop out because of the language gap. By second grade, 35 percent will drop out; that number jumps to 65 percent by the fifth grade. Only about 1.5 percent of children in the Hill Tracts go beyond the 10th grade. “Bengla works for the majority of the Bangladesh people, but it’s a huge struggle for children in the Chittagong Hill Tracts,” Nyeu says. And it’s not only the language that creates a barrier to learning. “When children pick up their textbooks, there’s no local context. The pictures and stories are from communities far away.

We originally profiled Nyeu in our winter 2012 issue, when he was a master’s student. read more about nyeu at





A spread from The Leaf From Heaven, one of the first of Nyeu’s published books, illustrated by Madhuvanti Anantharajan, Ed.M.’12.

What they see and read is not what they know from their lives. Children end up with rote learning. They lose confidence and quit.” Nyeu decided to do something about it: He would collect local stories and have them printed, in books, in the local languages. “When our grandparents were younger, there wasn’t one official language. Teachers taught in our language, so earlier generations could speak the native languages, but also read and write them,” he says. “The same books — I cannot read them. The current generation — they cannot read them. These books are on the brink of extinction.” He started the Oral History Project by asking the students at the primary school he started a few years ago on the grounds of a Buddhist temple to interview their grandparents and village elders when they went home on breaks. “We said, ask them to tell you about the games they played when they were little or what their village was like,” Nyeu says. Many ended up telling traditional tales that had been passed


down hundreds of years. Back at school, the children shared the stories in front of their classmates, in three of the local languages: Mro, Marma, and Chakma. The sharing was videotaped and the tapes mailed to Nyeu in Cambridge to transcribe. With the help of a few Ed School writer and artist friends, as well as a graduate student at Cambridge University who created brand new digital fonts for the local languages, Nyeu started turning the stories into children’s books. Of the 70 stories collected, four books have been published in English as well as the local languages. Nyeu plans on publishing about six more before the year is over. “When the children see their stories in a book, they are so excited,” Nyeu says. “When a child sees himself or herself as a cocreator of knowledge, it affects their perception of school. The books also show them that what they bring from their villages, from their families, is valuable to their education.” — Lory Hough

HOW YOU CAN HELP ❑❑ Share this story and spread the word about the Oral History Project. ❑❑ Buy books and use them with your students or donate them to a local library. ❑❑ Artists: Donate your illustration skills to a future book. ❑❑ Help Nyeu apply for grants. Contact him at mtn553@mail.harvard.edu. ❑❑ Make a donation through the website: ourgoldenhour.org.


When one of Fawn Qiu’s favorite mobile games was discontinued earlier this year, she did the only logical thing for a 2012 graduate of the Technology, Innovation, and Education Program: She recreated it, in a cardboard container. The motorized, real-life paper game, called Flappy Box, comes with two controls that let the user move the red bird up and down to avoid green pipes. If the bird hits the paper pipes, the lid of the box closes. This past spring, Qiu promoted the game through a DIY Kickstarter kit with an added bonus: For every $5,000 she raised, she would put together a free programming and engineering workshop for underserved, female high school students in New York City, where she is based. Qui, Ed.M.’12, spoke to Ed. about the project.


To make electronics projects more relevant and exciting, especially to girls and minorities.






Longest anyone has been able to play Flappy Box without the lid closing.


I started Project MakeAnything when I was at HGSE. I noticed many minorities and girls were less interested in traditional robotics classes. I wanted to design a new approach for people of all technology background to engage with STEM topics. My hope is to empower students in STEM topics through creative kits and workshops. Several HGSE students and I taught classes using our kits in a middle school.



Amount raised through Kickstarter

WANT TO LEARN MORE? Go to projectmakeanything.org. or @makeanythingorg. HARVARD GRADUATE SCHOOL OF EDUCATION


Give Math a Shot

Over the course of the past few years, mobile game apps have become extremely popular among smartphone users. They are often free to download, fun to play, and addictive. But what if they could be educational as well? That is the idea behind NBA Math Hoops, inspired by a board game developed in 1997 and recently launched as an app by the nonprofit Learn Fresh, where Nick Monzi, Ed.M.’13, is the director of programs. Created in 2013, NBA Math Hoops allows users to build a team of NBA and WNBA players, says Monzi, and then use these players to compete in a math-driven basketball game. Students start with very basic addition problems and advance through 10 levels. If students answer questions correctly, their players can take shots. “The app is best described as a more straightforward and simplified version of the board game, with the main intention being to divert students from Angry Birds and Candy Crush during their out-of-school time,” Monzi says. — Rachael Apfel















Look Back: 1959

They called it Street Corner Research. In the late 1950s, about four dozen local, adolescent boys who had been getting into trouble were paid 50 cents to $2 an hour by Harvard to talk into a tape recorder about themselves, their homes, their friends, the police, and the courts. For nine months, a couple of times each week, the boys would also meet with project coordinators to share their recordings. The project was originally headed by Charles Slack, a 26-year-old assistant professor of clinical psychology and a friend of psychologist and writer Timothy Leary. When Slack left for the University of Alabama, Ralph Schwitzgebel, Ed.M.’60, Ed.D.’62, a new graduate of the Ed School’s doctoral program, took over the project. The mission was to try to discover reasons for juvenile delinquency by going directly to the source. The project was never intended to be a social service agency, Slack told The Harvard Crimson in 1959. It didn’t treat the boys or try to convert — it only gathered data. However, he said, “Research and treatment complement each other,” especially because the project coordinators allowed the boys to talk openly. “By talking about themselves, the boys began to think about themselves, about what they had done, and about what the future might be like for them.” The project seems to have had a positive impact on many of the boys. By the time Schwitzgebel took over, the delinquency rate of the group, compared with a control group, was cut in half. The average number of arrests for members of the group during a three-year period, for example, was about 2.4 compared to 4.7 for the control group. Schwitzgebel told the Crimson in 1962 that he wasn’t surprised by the results. “By asking the boys to help find the cause and treatment of their own and others’ delinquency, society is giving them attention for their abilities rather than their failures. The boys are our experts. We go to them for help — not the other way around.” In 1964, Schwitzgebel (who later shortened his last name to Gable) published a book about the work, Streetcorner Research: An Experimental Approach to the Juvenile Delinquent. That same year, he and colleagues at Harvard experimented with creating prototype electronic monitoring devices. — Lory Hough

When high school students need advice about college, they often turn to their guidance counselor, parents, or older siblings. But what if their list of potential resources expanded to include everyone in their Facebook network? That is what CollegeConnect, cocreated by Christine Greenhow, Ed.D.’06, is offering to every student with a Facebook account who is thinking about college. The app helps them learn about college and get advice from people they already know but might not think to ask, as well as friends of friends. The idea behind the app is to make the challenge of locating college-related resources in one’s network easier and more personal. The app highlights the individuals within a student’s Facebook network with some sort of college knowledge — they either attended a college, worked at a college, or have some college-related information indicated in their Facebook profile. Students can then send a message that is preset to contain questions derived from research and academic literature, such as “what is college like” or “who can help me pick my major,” with the option of adding their own questions. “Students, especially those from low-income families, may have no one in their immediate friends or family network who has gone to or graduated from college, or they may not have access to information about the colleges that are the right match for their career goals, talents, and interests,” says Greenhow, an associate professor at Michigan State University. “Low-income students frequently experience an under-matching problem in college admission and enrollment. For instance, they may be steered to community colleges in their local area when a four-year college out of state is a better fit.” — Rachael Apfel


After the Ed School’s first MOOC wrapped up in June, we asked how this “big experiment” in online learning worked out. About 5,000 students from around the world finished the 15-week course, Immunity to Change, taught by Professor Bob Kegan and Lecturer Lisa Lahey, Ed.M.’80, Ed.D.’86. That’s a huge bump from the 100 who usually take on-campus courses with Kegan and Lahey. So how did this affect the learning? Kegan and Lahey say they are really surprised that such a deep, personal community formed, despite the size and the online format. As Kegan said in a video message to students during the last week, “One of the things that is so astonishing is that there were forms of interaction on this technology that involved thousands of people that felt as intimate as the one-to-one conversations they we’re both accustomed to having in coaching relationships.” Thanks to a Guggenheim Fellowship, Associate Professor Meira Levinson (and her family) left in August for Oxford, England, where she’ll spend the next year working on a book about educational justice.

register for the next offering of this course:




Advanced Seminar in Human Development Research; Child Rearing, Language, and Culture.

“A longitudinal investigation of the role of quantity and quality of child-directed speech in vocabulary development,” Child Development (2012) “Differences in early gesture explain SES disparities in child vocabulary size at school entry,” Science (2009)

Darwin’s and Peet’s. “I’m (still) a coffee addict.”


It would be easy to say that Meredith Rowe’s new research project is to the point because that’s exactly what it is: a gesture training program to see if children’s vocabulary and pointing can be boosted by encouraging parents to point more. Rowe, Ed.M.’99, Ed.D.’03, joined the Ed School this summer as an associate professor after teaching for five years at the University of Maryland, where she also ran the Language Development and Parenting Lab. She says they know that interactions between parents and children shape children’s development. Now she wants to go one step further. “The goal is to see if encouraging parents to use more pointing gestures with their infants, and explaining why this is important, results in an increase in their use of gesture, their children’s use of gesture, and their children’s vocabulary development,” she says. “It turns out that there is a tight link between parent pointing and child pointing, and between children’s use of pointing and their vocabulary growth.” But how can something nonverbal — a parent pointing to the dog or at dinner — actually help young kids learn more words? “Pointing to or about objects in the environment gives children a chance to practice communicating nonverbally before they are able to do so with words,” Rowe says. “Pointing can also serve as a means for children to acquire information, in that children’s points often elicit a verbal response, or label, from a parent.” So what advice does Rowe have for parents who want to help build their children’s vocabulary by pointing more? “As a parent myself, I understand its natural to be concerned about your children’s language development,” she says. “The key is to realize that you can make a big difference. Pointing often and at a variety of objects can have dramatic short-term and long-term impacts on language development.” — Lory Hough




Making Knowledge Usable

You’re a teacher who wants to find better ways to communicate with parents. Or you’re a superintendent researching things to consider when hiring school leaders. Maybe you’re a journalist looking for research on learning and the brain or on closing the achievement gap. But you’re busy. You don’t have time to wade through academic journals or dense dissertations to find tangible, easy-to-digest information and strategies. That’s where the Ed School’s new Usable Knowledge project comes in. The project will include practice guides, how-to-manuals, and regular email news blasts. There will also be a website, updated regularly, with pieces that break down the research being done here at the Ed School. The pieces will include short articles, video discussions, checklists, and Q&As. The hope, says Dean Jim Ryan, is that this project will become a go-to resource for practitioners, policymakers, and journalists. “Too often, important research findings are left to linger in academic journals. These discoveries may inspire other academics and may ultimately lead to additional discoveries that advance our knowledge and impact the field,” Ryan says, “but history has shown us that this progress has been far too slow, and that we need to explicitly extend our reach to those working in practice or policy. With the Usable Knowledge project, our goal is to make research findings accessible to the field by

A video roundtable discussion focused on the Common Core state standards and their related assessments, in conjunction with Ed. magazine, featuring Professors Paul Reville, Heather Hill, and Dan Koretz.

A Q&A with Lecturers Kathryn Boudett and Elizabeth City, Ed.M.’04, Ed.D.’07 — the editors of Data Wise — on their new book, Meeting Wise, including concrete steps for educators to enhance how meetings are planned and facilitated.

translating that knowledge into usable tools, and by making every effort to get these resources into the hands of those who are poised to act, whether they are teachers, principals, superintendents, advocates, or policy leaders.” learn more about the project and how to sign up:


Senior Lecturer Karen Mapp, Ed.M.’93, Ed.D.’99, shares the U.S. Department of Education’s national frameworks for family engagement, released by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in April, that she played an instrumental role in developing.

Access to 10 recently released briefs focused on high-quality early education policies and practices written by Professor Nonie Lesaux and Associate Professor Stephanie Jones.



Support for School Counselors

On Monday, July 28, the Ed School, in partnership with the White House’s College Opportunity Agenda, brought 150 leaders in education to Appian Way to discuss ways to increase access to college for all Americans. A big focus of the event was on sharing new ideas that could improve school counseling and college advising. “Our current system of support for college access is fragmented and therefore ultimately ineffective,” said senior lecturer and former guidance counselor Mandy Savitz-Romer, who helped organize the event along with Eric Waldo, Ed.M.’03, executive director of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher initiative. “To deliver on the promise of the White House Opportunity Agenda, we must identify and scale innovative ways for school counselors to lead college readiness efforts.” She also praised the work already being done in this area by President Barack Obama and the First Lady, who, via satellite, told the group, “School counseling should not be an extra or a luxury just for school systems that can afford it. School counseling is a necessity to ensure that all our young people get the education they need to succeed in today’s economy.” see a video and listen to interviews from the event:







15 IN C LU D E






Barrier Breakers at the Ed School

What does it mean to be a first? That was the question tossed out to four women sitting in a classroom in Larsen Hall on a muggy July afternoon. They were on a lunch break from the annual Harvard Seminar for New Presidents program, a six-day boot camp at the Ed School for 50 new college presidents — including a record-breaking 23 women — who often don’t have the luxury of time to learn on the job. For these women, that question — what does it mean to be a first? — went beyond just what it means to be a first-time college president: These women are also the first females to head up their institutions. They said they were feeling excited, a little nervous, and also hopeful — hopeful that they won’t be the last women. “The notion of being the first is so interesting,” said Elizabeth Davis, the incoming president of Furman University in South Carolina. “It implies there will be more. Eventually, whenever they are on the 35th woman president, there won’t be a modifier. It’s just, the president.” Laurie Leshin, the new president of Worcester Polytechnic Institute, said she was surprised at the reaction to her sex after the appointment was made. “It’s a technological university, and Susan Hockfield at MIT had come and gone and Shirley Ann Jackson at Rensselaer had been there for 15 years,” she said, “so I thought it wasn’t that big a deal, but now that I see that people really think it’s a fabulous thing, I’m very excited to embrace that possibility.” read a longer story and hear an interview:



Senior Lecturer Steven Seidel Ed.M.’89, Ed.D.’95

Currently reading: The Cave Painters by Gregory Curtis — a study of both the cave

artists of France and Spain and the people who have, over the last hundred years or so, discovered and studied those artists and their paintings.

I’m fascinated by these early painters who, some 40,000 years ago, created these lasting works of art. The discovery of their art provides a terrific opportunity to reflect on the impulse to make art — to draw, paint, make music, tell stories, and so on — and the role of art in human communities. Like graffiti, the cave paintings must have been tremendously challenging physical work, and, like most graffiti artists, the cave painters must have been young people. I love the idea that these remarkable and lasting works of art were done by unschooled young artists who were basically inventing the art of painting — just as the caves were the first art galleries!

Favorite book from childhood:

Comics! I wasn’t into superheroes so much as the psycho/social comic-dramas in Charles Schultz’s Peanuts.

Book that has been on your shelf the longest:

Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. It has been read, reread, and is waiting to be read again. In my long effort to understand the possibility of democracy in America, I keep returning to Whitman.

Reading rituals:

Well, I still like actual books. I like their feel, their smell, and their weight. I tend to treat them with care. After all, they are works of art. I don’t

write in them, though I often put bits of paper in to mark passages I want to return to.

Favorite spot to curl up with a good book:

I love reading in the early morning, before anyone else is up, at the kitchen table with a cup of tea.

Next up:

Claude Steele’s Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do. [Lecturer] Pamela Mason, M.A.T.’70, Ed.D.’75, suggested it as a great book for all of us at HGSE to read. It’s next! — Marin Jorgensen


The thing that drew you to it:

claude steele will speak at an askwith forum on november




Beyond Banneker: Black Mathematicians and the Paths to Excellence Erica Walker An in-depth look at the lives, experiences, and professional careers of black mathematicians in the United States, Beyond Banneker takes the emphasis off the usual discussion of underachievement and moves it instead to excellence. Walker, Ed.M.’97, Ed.D.’01, explores mathematics teaching and learning in various contexts to suggest ways in which to capitalize on the potential of underserved communities.




Designing Teacher Evaluation Systems: New Guidance from the Measures of Effective Teaching Project Thomas Kane, Kerri Kerr, and Robert Pianta Providing original research from an extensive study from the Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) Project, Designing Teacher Evaluation Systems shows where past assessment methods have been effective and where they have not. The authors collected results from MET researchers around the country into a volume that will help school districts implement new evaluation systems that will enhance teacher performance and student achievement.

Meeting Wise Kathryn Parker Boudett and Elizabeth City In Meeting Wise, Lecturers Boudett and City, Ed.M.’04, Ed.D.’07, show how meeting planning can become a key strategy in school improvement and argue for a shift in how meetings are approached. Providing a checklist to help schools redefine their meeting styles, the authors argue that meetings can be important venues for organizational learning in schools and an important step to bettering student achievement. visit the usable knowledge website for an author q&a:


The Power of Teacher Rounds: A Guide for Facilitators, Principals, & Department Chairs

When Boys Become Boys

Katherine Boles and Vivian Troen

When Boys Become Boys focuses on the transition in boys’ development from exhibiting natural qualities such as emotional perception and responsiveness to the more “masculine” qualities of stoicism, competitiveness, and aggressiveness. Based on a two-year study that followed boys from preK through first grade, Chu, Ed.M.’96, Ed.D.’00, finds that boys’ tendency toward the latter comes not from nature, but from an adaptation to cultures, one that ultimately may causes them to renounce parts of their humanity.

The practice of instructional teacher rounds — a process inspired by hospital rounds — is a design for professional learning that promotes teacher collaboration by making teacher practice public. In The Power of Teacher Rounds, Troen and Senior Lecturer Boles provide a practical step-by-step plan for facilitating successful rounds, focusing on individual teachers’ classrooms and discussing how they can play a role in the implementation of the Common Core.

Judy Chu

read a full list of books featured in this issue:


if you’re part of the ed school community and

you’ve recently published a book, mail us a copy or let us know:







After Being Adopted Quickly and Easily by 40 States

What Happened to the

Common Core? by elaine mcardle illustrations by daniel vasconcellos

The Common Core. Just last year, according to a Gallup poll, most Americans had never heard of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, or “Common Core,” new guidelines for what kids in grades K–12 should be able to accomplish in reading, writing, and math. Designed to raise student proficiencies so the United States can better compete in a global market, the standards were drafted in 2009 by a group of academics and assessment specialists at the request of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. With widespread bipartisan support from such ideological opponents as U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, as well as the business community, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in 2010 the standards sailed remarkably fast through adoption in 40 states and the District of Columbia. Five more states embraced them over the next two years. The public paid little attention — until the 2014–15 deadline for standardized testing of the new standards loomed. And suddenly, America woke up.




oday, the Common Core is not only on the public radar, but the focus of a growing nationwide resistance from an unusual coalition of right-wingers, liberals, teachers, and parents, for a variety of very different reasons. The Tea Party, dubbing the standards as “Obamacore,” paints them as an intolerable intrusion of the federal government into local control of schools. Parents sick of the testing culture are drawing a line with the new Core assessments, and some states are balking at the increased time and costs of these tests. Teachers’ unions are split: Some local groups, including the Chicago Teachers Union and the New York State United Teachers, oppose the new standards entirely, while the two national unions — the National Educators Association (NEA) and the Teachers Federation of America (TFA) — support the Core but want delays in implementation. Some parents find the new standards impossibly frustrating, especially the math component, famously skewered by comedian Louis C.K., whose mother was a math teacher, for making his daughters hate school. Critics complain that this massive change to American education — one of the most significant shifts ever — was rushed through without any real democratic process or empirical data supporting the value. Some worry that corporate interests are the real force behind the Core, since they’ll reap huge profits from selling new tests and preparation materials, and many are deeply suspicious of the hundreds of millions of dollars the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation poured into supporting the effort. As all these concerns converged, the tide began to turn. In March, Indiana, one of the first states to adopt the Common Core, became the first to back out. In June, South Carolina and Oklahoma followed, and other states are considering at least slowing implementation. In Louisiana, Governor Bobby Jindal, formerly a strong Core proponent, has done a complete flip and is now battling his state’s education superintendent in efforts to scuttle the new standards. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker recently asked the state legislature to drop the standards. Proponents — once elated at how fast the standards were adopted — suddenly find themselves scrambling to stem a mutiny. They are asking skeptics to simply give the standards a chance, insisting that their emphasis on reasoning and critical thinking will better prepare students for college and the workforce. Importantly, they worry that suddenly dropping or stalling the Common Core after four years of preparation, without offering a reasonable substitute, will seriously derail teachers and kids. But with so much controversy and division, the question today is: Will the Core survive?

High Expectations

As former Secretary of Education for Massachusetts, Professor Paul Reville was instrumental in the Commonwealth’s adoption of the Common Core, and he remains a stalwart supporter. “On the whole, I think the Common Core is a good thing for the country,” says Reville, former executive director of the Pew Forum on Standards-Based Reform. “The idea that we should have uniform high 24



expectations for students all across the country is an important idea that states recognized and pioneered within their own boundaries long ago.” The central concept, he says, is that the nation’s 40 million K–12 students should be offered the same high-standard education no matter where they go to school; a child in Mississippi, say, should finish each grade with the same general proficiencies as one in Maine — and ready to compete in an increasingly competitive global marketplace. This notion was extremely attractive to most of the nation’s governors, who worried that curricula developed independently in the nation’s 14,000 school districts varied so dramatically that some children were significantly disadvantaged simply by geographical accident. “What [the Core] is saying is that if children’s education is important to our future, then irrespective of where they’re born, we ought to have high expectations for all of them, the kind of expectations that prepare them for 21st century employment and citizenship,” says Reville. Amity Conkright, Ed.M.’11, has worked more closely with the new standards than most: She is an ELA Common Core curriculum writer for the Lake Elsinore Unified School District in California. She, too, is an unabashed proponent. “Common Core requires a greater rigor than we’ve seen in the past, with more text complexity, and the reading levels have increased,” she says. “It also highlights skills you are going to need in real life — technical skills, writing skills. I think they’ve upped the game.” Educators, business leaders, and politicians had applauded — at least in theory — the Core’s focus on reasoning, analysis, and problemsolving. In contrast to rote memorization, this approach is designed to prepare students for the critical thinking skills that modern employers seek. But once implementation began, teachers and parents were surprised by some changes the Core required, including less emphasis on literature: half of grade-school reading assignments must be nonfiction, and by 12th grade, that rises to 70 percent. Still, it’s the math component that has drawn the most criticism. In order to help students develop problemsolving skills useful in many areas of life, the Core’s focus on “conceptual” math requires students to understand the reasoning behind the correct answers to math problems. It’s a major shift, and many parents are finding it near impossible to help their children do their homework. And it’s a major modification for teachers, too. “We are asking teachers to significantly change their practices,” says Professor Jal Mehta. “If you are a math teacher and you’ve been teaching a specific set of algorithms to teach geometry, now Common Core wants you to teach it in a much more conceptual way. That’s a really big shift.” Even so, “My impression is that very few educators oppose the Common Core per se,” says Professor (emeritus) Robert Schwartz, C.A.S.’68, a former president of Achieve, Inc., an independent, nonprofit created by governors and corporate leaders to help states improve schools. “While people might legitimately take issue with one or another aspect of the standards, it is hard to argue that these standards don’t represent a significant improvement over most current state standards, and even harder to argue that we won’t be better off in having one set of standards…rather than 50 sets.”

Pockets of Resistance

What proponents didn’t fully predict — perhaps because the standards sailed through with such widespread support — was the rise of so many different pockets of resistance uniting into a nationwide movement to kill the Core. The discussion has become far messier because debate over the Core has become enmeshed — even conflated — with growing opposition to high-stakes testing. It’s been 13 years since a culture of consequential student testing was launched in the George W. Bush administration as part of the No Child Left Behind initiative. The Common Core requires new assessments to measure student performance, with two primary options, each backed by a consortium of states: PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment. Once the new tests connected to the Core kicked in, the opposition attracted many new adherents and the battle got a lot fiercer. Already, some states that committed to these tests have backed out, in some cases because the cost of these tests is significantly higher than before; some are creating their own assessments. From New York to Florida, organized “opt-out” groups are springing up to fight the testing culture with rallies and other protests, and an estimated 35,000 kids in New York refused to take the Common Core assessments this year.

Professor Daniel Koretz points out that there was a movement in New York City by parents to opt out of standardized testing even before the Common Core. But, he adds, “The Common Core gives it more impetus because it’s a harder test, which makes people more upset.” Proficiency scores plummeted in New York state two years running, for example, after students started taking Core-aligned tests. The Core presents a chance that various groups, including people with legitimate concerns about high-stakes testing, don’t want to miss, some believe. Transition to the Core is an opportunity to “push for a pause on current high-stakes testing policies and a delay in implementing new ones,” which is how the Core/testing issues have become conflated, says Associate Professor Martin West, who recently served as a senior adviser to U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). But for Core proponents, the timing couldn’t be worse: Just as states began implementing the new standards, 40 states receiving No Child waivers are also launching new systems to evaluate teachers, which will incorporate some measures of student achievement, including, where available, scores from standardized tests. “That’s providing the opportunity for opponents of that change in high-stakes testing to use the Common Core and its implementation as a justification for delay,” West says, which is why “there are more and more examples of state and local [teachers’ unions] coming out in strong opposition to the Common Core.” HARVARD GRADUATE SCHOOL OF EDUCATION


The Right Wing and “Obamacore” And then there’s the political issue. “What is capturing most media attention is the opposition coming from the Tea Party and others on the right,” says Schwartz. Now that Obamacare has become more successful than critics predicted, “Obamacore” is their next target, he says, “fueled by right-wing talk show hosts feeding listeners a steady stream of misinformation.” It’s putting enormous pressure on governors and legislatures in Red states to retreat from their support of the Core, including Jindal, and “there will probably be others before this is over,” he adds. The super-right wing criticism isn’t terribly valid, in Reville’s opinion, because “it comes from a political place: ‘Since the Obama administration promoted it, we will be opposed automatically.’” For that reason, he says, “Those objections ought to be taken with a large grain of salt.” But teasing out the various interests — and what they really represent — isn’t easy. That’s why the Common Core debate “makes the most sense to people who’ve studied the Cold War because it’s really a proxy fight,” says Rick Hess, Ed.M.’90, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. “On the right, the Common Core is really a proxy fight over Obamacare and concerns about slippery slopes and federal involvement in state and local self-determination,” says Hess. On the left, it serves as a proxy fight over standardized testing being tied to teacher evaluations. Teachers’ unions “have consistently supported Common Core as a set of instructional standards,” he notes, but dislike the testing component, which is “super-sized” under the Core. Anna Klafter, Ed.M.’13, chief academic officer of TechBoston Academy in Boston, finds the new standards themselves “fine and good; they are things all kids should know, and the standards are broad and wide enough that a good teacher can get creative [and] they don’t restrain a good teacher.” But the new assessments are still missing the point. “They are moving from rote memorization in the move from the MCAS to the PARCC, the Common Core assessment,” she says, referring to the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System state test. “It’s attempting to touch on some more critical thinking and prepare students for more real-life knowledge versus algebraic equations or whatnot.” But at the same time, she worries, the new tests are “still far from a true measure of what our kids can do … because they are a high-stress, high-stakes, pen-and-paper situation.” Joshua Starr, Ed.M.’98, Ed.D.’01, the superintendent of schools in Montgomery County, Md., agrees. “I do think the PARCC questions, from what I’ve seen of the samples, are solid. It might be a good test,” he says. “But it’s the policies associated with the testing that I’m against.” Evaluating teachers based on the student test results is bad for everyone: “It’s like if the measure of your health and wellness were what you weighed every day — and so, if you were held accountable only for what you weighed, you’d be tempted to take diet pills,” he says. “We’ve been on diet pills in American education for the last 14 years, and it’s not healthy and sustainable. It’s not good for teachers and kids, and I’m encouraging people to get off diet pills.” Schwartz says opposition within the education community mainly centers on implementation of the new standards, and the pressure on 26



teachers. “Will teachers be given the time and support to change their practice in ways that align with the more intellectually ambitious modes of instruction envisioned by Common Core?” he asks. In a profession that already feels under siege, the decision in most states — encouraged by the U.S. Department of Education — to press ahead with using student test scores as a significant component of a teacher’s evaluation “just fuels the perception that we care more about weeding out weak teachers than giving the vast majority of teachers the time and support they need to make a successful transition to Common Core,” says Schwartz. That message may be getting through to Core proponents: he notes that the Gates Foundation is now supporting a moratorium on stakes for teachers connected to the Core assessments. But, he adds, “It may be a case of too little, too late.” For parents tired of the testing culture, the growing attention to the Core has prompted great pushback to the testing culture. They’re asking why so much school time is spent on tests that aren’t much used to assist individual children but rather to compare schools and districts in an to attempt to close the achievement gap, says Hess. “Again, it’s a proxy fight,” he notes. “A lot of this angst is less about the Common Core in particular, but [Common Core] is short hand for testing, and I think certainly there’s an appetite for less testing.”

Common Concerns One misperception about the Core is that it mandates a national curriculum. In fact, the Core sets goals and standards but leaves curricula and materials in the control of local states and school districts. Proponents also take issue with the perception that the Core was federally mandated, since states chose to adopt them, albeit incentivized with federal money. But these arguments don’t convince conservative politicians like Jindal, a probable 2016 presidential candidate, or even some at the Ed School. “The proponents of Common Core are trying to bill this as a stateled, state-initiated effort, and, at best, it might have been state-initiated initially, although I find that is only part of the story,” says current doctoral student Chris Buttimer, Ed.M.’09. “This is clearly coming down from the Arne Duncan administration as well. I think [Common Core] is essentially a federal initiative at this point, having been created by a small group of people, including very few if any teachers, working in conjunction with the Duncan administration, and it has been at the very least aggressively encouraged for states to adopt, particularly through the Race to the Top funding.” Professor (emeritus) Eleanor Duckworth is also concerned that few teachers helped in the development of the standards, “so I don’t have a lot of faith in the standards they would come up with,” she says. Moreover, she adds, “I don’t support the idea of top-down standards being delivered for the entire country.” Buttimer is among a not-insubstantial group, many very prominent on the Web, who are deeply suspicious of corporations and other bigmoney interests behind the switch to the Core. They are convinced that Gates and the Koch brothers have financial motives lurking behind their

stated interests in helping U.S. students become more globally competitive. And in their eyes, the testing and textbook companies are clearly self-interested. “Standards in the United States have not been and will not be decoupled from testing, nor from the profit motive that’s at least partly driving the creation of standards-based reform and test-based accountability,” says Buttimer. While Hess doesn’t disagree that testing corporations will benefit, he finds the argument that the profit-motive is the primary force behind the adoption of the Core “silly,” noting, “The corporations are making money off the old tests and will make it off the new tests.” And for those who see the Core as a major step forward in American education, all of this criticism is extremely frustrating. “The whole controversy about the Common Core and the assessments risks becoming an enormous distraction from the much more difficult work, the central education reform work of devising effective strategies for educating children to higher levels,” says Reville. “There are lots of education pundits out there who embrace the diversion of an endless standards debate because they are clueless about how to actually improve student learning.”

How Strong Is the Opposition? Still, Reville and others concede, opposition is real and growing. “What’s hard to judge is how strong those forces are in comparison to economic leaders, governors, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and superintendents, many of whom have been supportive of the Common Core,” Mehta says. “How it plays out will depend a lot on the politics of particular states and whether there will be a pendulum swing. I think it’s too soon to know for sure.” West, for one, believes the strength of the resistance may be overblown. “I don’t think we should overstate the extent to which the backlash has undermined the Common Core momentum,” he says. While several states have formally withdrawn, the vast majority have not. “I certainly think [the standards] can still be saved,” he says. “In fact, you might say they don’t need saving.” What many want to avoid now is the scuttling of a new approach that may work very well — especially when the shift to the Core is so far along. “Do I think it’s perfect? No. Do I want to lose Common Core? No. I don’t want to lose the tremendous effort our teachers in Vermont have put into it,” says Vermont’s Secretary of Education, Rebecca Holcombe, Ed.M.’90, Ed.M.’04, who is also a current doctoral student. “My fear is, to lose the Common Core, we’ll lose five years. We don’t want to lose the work and destabilize our system by going back and trying something else, given the current absence of anything more substantive.” And there are steps that would go a long way toward restoring confidence in the new system, some believe. “I think the solution would start with an understanding of the scale of the undertaking, and trying to explain that to the public,” says Mehta, “that we’re trying to educate children in a way we haven’t done before in America, a way that will ultimately make them more prepared for college and a career but that it will take a long time, and it will be slow.”

The valid concerns of parents about too much testing also should be taken seriously. If families feel their own kids are spending too much time taking tests that aren’t helping them, “that will create real and growing headwinds,” says Hess. On the other hand, if parents see concrete examples of teachers using Common Core assessments to assist the development of their own children — “If you see them saying, ‘Here are things we can do for your kid,’ — then you’ll start to see a lot more parental comfort,” he says. Valid criticism should be respected and used to spur continued improvements to the Core, Reville agrees. “I think the opposition is gathering strength, and so proponents of Common Core and the new assessments will have to listen to that and respond,” he says. “I don’t think you’re going to see whole-scale abandonment of the Common Core or the assessments. I do think you will see some reconsideration about both the quantity and quality of testing. These concerns will likely be reflected in the work surrounding the new assessments.” But if the Core is to succeed, there’s another challenge, says Mehta. “It will only work if there is really significant time, money, and political will put into supporting teachers’ ability to help students meet the standards,” he says. “In the absence of that, we’ll have No Child Left Behind redux. Common Core standards are significantly more demanding, so if we raise standards and don’t increase support and capacity building, the schools won’t meet the standards, which over time will lead to either lowering of standards or increased resistance on the part of teachers and schools.” Buttimer shares this view. “As a former teacher, I don’t necessarily have an issue with the contents of the standards themselves, at least for middle and high school,” he says. However, “We’re setting high standards without helping teachers and students get to those standards” through professional development and other capacity-building support. By tying teacher performance to results without supporting them to make the change, “We’ve skipped right to the evaluate-andpunish stage.” Indeed, Schwartz notes that California, which has made a “massive investment in professional development but also suspended state testing,” is a state that “seems most on track for successful implementation of the Core.” It is a sad irony, he believes, that opposition to testing is rising “just at the point when we are finally going to have a set of tests coming from the two testing consortia that promise to be substantially better than the state tests currently in use. Will we be smart enough to slow down implementation, make the necessary investments in teacher learning, and move toward a system with fewer but better tests?” That’s why, Mehta says, it’s critical to “try to create substantive support for teachers to learn how to teach the standards, to help teams of teachers work together and share what works. And then celebrate small moments of progress, and go back to the public and say, ‘We’re making progress,’ and use that to build support for the policy. We have to get away from our impatience mentality.” — Elaine McArdle is a freelance writer who writes frequently for Ed. Her last piece looked at what happens to learning during conflict. Ed. watch three faculty members discuss the common core:







by lory hough

illustrations by justine beckett




t’s the last day of the spring semester and Senior Lecturer Katherine Merseth, M.A.T.’69, Ed.D ’82, is pacing barefoot across the front of the lecture hall, her black heels kicked off long ago. She turns to the big Uncle Sam “I want you” poster being shown on the pull-down screen behind her. The students laugh — this version has been doctored to include Merseth’s face. “My message to you is this: I want you to consider working in education,” she says, “for either a short or a long time.” As far as messages go, this is pretty much what you’d expect from a professor to her students at a graduate school of education. But these aren’t Merseth’s usual students — they are all undergraduates, and they are taking the one and only education course offered exclusively at Harvard College. They are also part of a growing trend that education veterans like Merseth have witnessed for the past few years at Harvard: more and more undergraduates hungry for ways to be involved in education, either as a future career or as part of their public service ethos. “They look out at the world and see that being aware of others, not just the self, is important,” Merseth says. “They realize society needs them. And as Harvard students, they also know they can make a difference. These students are savvy enough to see there’s a place for them and a need that is desperate.”


erseth began teaching her class, United States in the World 35: Dilemmas of Equity and Excellence in American K–12 Education (USW35), in the fall of 2011, after Harvard President Drew Faust reached out to various deans across the university, including the Ed School’s then-dean Kathleen McCartney, asking them to contribute one course to the undergraduate general education program. The idea behind gen ed, as it’s commonly known, is to expose students to courses outside of their concentration — their major — and to help them link what they do in college to the lives they will lead after Harvard. The first semester that Merseth taught USW35, many more students showed interest in the course than expected: 90 students for just 47 seats, forcing her to hold a lottery. That next fall, she upped the enrollment to 75 to help meet demand but the number of students in the lottery also jumped — to 150. This past academic year, Merseth and her team decided to cut back enrollment to about 60 but offer the course both semesters. During the fall 2013 semester, nearly 200 students entered the lottery. By the spring semester, the number shot up to 300. During that same time, two new student societies focused on education were founded at the college. “The demand for the course is just growing and growing,” Merseth says. “People ask me why I don’t just teach 300 students 30



over in Sanders Theatre. My teaching is so dependent on personal relationships — I couldn’t teach 300 well all at once.” Lecturer Matt Miller, Ed.M.’01, Ed.D.’06, associate dean for academic affairs, helped Merseth organize the class. “In order to make the class work as discussion-based, she has to limit the size,” he says. Still, knowing so many undergraduates are now interested in the education issues that she has been passionate about since she began teaching in public schools after her Cornell graduation in 1968, “she’s sad about every person she has to turn away.” To fill the gap, Merseth started offering more to undergraduates outside of USW35: At the student-run Phillips Brooks House, she gives hands-on workshops on topics like classroom management for undergraduates interning in schools. She helped create a mailing that highlights lectures, book talks, and courses offered (and open to undergraduates) at the Ed School. This past January, she hosted a drop-in “consultation hour” on Appian Way, where undergraduates could ask questions of Ed School faculty members and current graduate students about career options and potential education thesis topics. Merseth also visits the undergraduate houses a few times each semester to host EdChats — informal talks about hot topics like standards and using race in higher education admissions. “I’ve become a bit of an ombudsman,” she says. So what explains the explosion of interest in education among the Harvard undergraduates? Associate Professor Jon Star, Ed.M.’93, says Teach For America (TFA) deserves some of the credit. The national teacher corps trains and places college graduates into public schools for two years. Since it started in 1990, slots in the program have become highly competitive and selective. At Harvard College, since 2005, the number of applicants have gone as high as 366 students, or 18 percent of the class in 2011, according to Robin Mount, Ed.M.’79, Ed.D.’94, director of the Office of Career, Research, and International Opportunities at Harvard College. “Teach For America captured something,” Star says. “It elevated the status of teaching for high-level students.” EJ Blair is one of those students. He took Merseth’s class during his junior year. As a senior, he applied to TFA while concentrating in math. He is now starting his second year teaching calculus at KIPP Atlanta Collegiate High School. Blair says Merseth’s reputation among the undergraduates for her engaging, discussion-based teaching may have something to do with the growth in students signing up for the lottery. Plus, he says, education issues have become more mainstream. “Interest in education at the undergraduate level has increased in part because of national attention given to recent reforms in federal programs,” he says, “which has more Harvard students considering both teaching and education policy as potential postgraduate fields.”

“All I ever wanted to do was work in this field, but almost didn’t. As an undergraduate, I took two classes, psychology and pharmacology. I wanted to see how drugs played a part in communities. Heroin was big at the time. In both classes, I got an A. Folks from the chemistry department wooed me. They said, Why are you going to be a teacher? You’re really smart.’ They told me I could be a doctor. They started a six-week campaign to convince me not to waste my IQ points on education. I relented and started taking science classes, but then realized I didn’t like sick people. My life was almost changed because of people who thought this field, education, did not require folk who were really, really smart. I would never trade my career. I have never, ever been upset about going to work. I love what I do. I love my kids, and they love me back.” — Geoffrey Canada, Ed.M.’75, president of the Harlem Children’s Zone, speaking in USW35 during the spring semester as a special guest .

Manny Mendoza is starting with teaching. After he took Merseth’s class this past spring, he moved to Oklahoma to teach secondary science with TFA. He says that pursuing a career in education, starting with TFA, is important to him because he wants to give students of all racial and socioeconomic backgrounds the same educational opportunity he had at Harvard — a sentiment echoed by many students from Merseth’s class. “It’s a privilege to be given even the choice of what career to pursue,” he says. “I want to effect change on a large scale, one that will allow all students to pursue an education and career that is meaningful and productive to them.” Merseth says this kind of public service sentiment is important to this age group and a big reason why education — either as a career or as public service — has become such a rising priority. “If you look up stats on millennials, 65 percent or so say they want to contribute to society,” she says, using the term given to young people born roughly from 1982 to 2000. “That wasn’t true of Gen X, the generation before them — they wanted to make money.” Merseth says she sees it at Harvard’s Institute of Politics, where students typically interested in politics are now asking questions about how to help schools in places like Washington, D.C. She sees it at the Phillips Brooks House, where students volunteer in nearly two-dozen local school programs. “There’s more social awareness,” Merseth says. Authors William Strauss and Neil Howe predicted this in their seminal book, Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation. “Millennials are unlike any other youth generation in living memory. They are more numerous, more affluent, better educated, and more ethnically diverse,” they wrote in 2000. “More important, they are beginning to manifest a wide array of positive social habits that older Americans no longer associate with youth, including a new focus on teamwork, achievement, modesty, and good conduct.” Millennials are civic-minded optimists who are “more upbeat about the world in which they’re growing up” and they “believe in their own collective power.” When it comes to teaching, this growing interest among young people couldn’t have come at a better time. According to a report put out by the Ed School’s Project on the Next Generation of Teachers, half of the teaching force in the United States retired between 2000 and 2010. In addition, high teacher turnover, increased student enrollment in some districts, and pressure at the state and federal level for higher standards have pushed not only for more teachers, but more talented candidates — candidates like Kia Turner. When Turner showed up at Harvard as a freshman in 2012, she knew she would volunteer but wasn’t sure where. At the time, she didn’t have any particular interest in the education world, but an open house at Phillips Brooks House excited her about the Mission Hill Afterschool Program. The program sends Harvard HARVARD GRADUATE SCHOOL OF EDUCATION


undergrads to tutor young people in one of Boston’s most diverse neighborhoods. “I fell in love with it,” she says. Before long, she was volunteering between 25 and 30 hours a week. “The kids give you more meaning than ‘I’m just doing things for myself.’ Seeing students grow and change is the best part.” Last spring, Turner knew she had to take Merseth’s class. She got in, and it further cemented her focus on education. “Before the class, going into education was just a thought,” she says. “Taking this class has really pushed me. Education is [the combination of] all the things that interest me.” This past summer, she taught in New York with the Breakthrough Collaborative, an academic enrichment program for underserved middle school students. For Turner, one of the most eye-opening parts of Merseth’s class was when the students went on three-hour visits to K–12 schools in the greater Boston area. Growing up, she attended public schools in rural California — schools that were very different from Buckingham Browne & Nichols, the private school she toured in Cambridge. “That visit was the biggest moment of impact in this class for me,” she says. “I never knew the discrepancy — schools that have, those that don’t. It really opened my eyes. We are not giving our kids the same opportunities. It was a moment of frustration for me, too.” 32



It’s exactly this kind of eye-opening experience that Merseth says is at the heart of her course, and why she wants to help more Harvard College students find their paths — or at least consider a path — into the education world. “All of the Harvard students have an understanding of education; they’ve been in it their whole lives,” Merseth says. “But then someone shows them a bigger, complicated picture. It’s what liberal education should be: the opening up of the mind. These kids are hungry for that. They get a lot of knowledge poured into their heads, but not many faculty pull it apart.” As Merseth moves into her fourth year teaching USW35, she is hoping to offer another path for Harvard students interested specifically in becoming teachers: Harvard Teacher Fellows — a new, selective program similar to the Rhodes Scholarship. If funded, the program will train Harvard College seniors to become middle and high school teachers in targeted areas: math, science, history, and English. Dean Jim Ryan is fully onboard with the program. “I’m thrilled to see so much interest in teaching among Harvard undergraduates, and Kay deserves an enormous amount of credit for both encouraging and inspiring that interest,” he says. “I’m very hopeful that we will be able to raise the funds needed to create the Harvard Teacher Fellows program, which would enable more Harvard undergraduates to get into a teaching career, while also underscoring the university’s commitment to teaching as not only a viable but noble career for its graduates.” And once the

program takes hold at Harvard, the aspiration is that other higher tudes greatly impacted my decision to pursue a teaching career,” education institutions will offer similar fellowships for their most she says. “Hearing those attitudes makes me want to get into a talented students, not unlike the Master of Arts in Teaching classroom, teach well, produce strong results for my students, and Programs, which started at the Ed School in 1936 and is now ofcombat this attitude that teaching is somehow unprofessional or fered nationwide. something people with no ‘real’ skills do.” Currently, Harvard College has a small teacher-training It’s this kind of can-do, positive attitude that makes Merseth program, run in conjunction with the Ed School, called the feel thrilled about this new generation of future educators. Undergraduate Teacher Education Program, or UTEP. Started in “I am so hopeful for our education system,” she says. “We need 1985, UTEP combines coursework at the college and the Ed School, these people in the game.” Ed. a pre-practicum, and field placement. Historically, the program has been small, typically about six students a year. Last year, UTEP enrolled its biggest group ever: 25 students. However, Star, who is working with Merseth on the Harvard Teacher Fellows program logistics, says UTEP has some constraints. “It’s designed to be flexible, but it’s still hard for many students,” he says. For example, students must complete all of the program requirements during two back-to-back semesters while also completing WHEN I ENTERED AS I END THIS COURSE, all of the requirements for their concentration. THIS COURSE, I WAS I AM CONSIDERING A Merseth and Star hope to address this issue CONSIDERING A CAREER IN EDUCATION with the new program. Admitted students won’t CAREER IN EDUCATION start until their second semester of senior year. Running through the following summer, it will include eight months of intensive classwork with STRONGLY AGREE STRONGLY AGREE master teachers and supervised student teaching, AFTER COURSE BEFORE COURSE followed by a year of training in the field, and another summer of coursework and mentored teaching in a summer academy. After fellows are placed in teaching positions, they will receive free, professional development opportunities and onFALL 41% 65% call coaching for several years. 2011 If the program gets funded, it will begin admitting students in a couple of years — too late, unfortunately, for students like Gracie Hurley, who FALL graduated this past spring and is determined not 58% 22% only to teach because she loves it, but also be2012 cause she wants to change the mindset that going into teaching is a waste of an Ivy League degree, that it’s not the noble career Ryan refers to. This FALL fall, she started a master’s program in education 28% 56% at Tufts University that includes an apprentice 2013 program at a local private school. Her long-term goal is to teach middle school and high school, then work as a principal, and maybe even become SPRING a superintendent. 20% 54% 2014 “I saw a lot of attitudes and criticisms about the unprofessional culture of teaching affect my mom and aunts — all teachers — and those atti-





How one alum is helping to improve education access for students living in difficult-to-reach areas of the Amazon by brendan pelsue

When Emiliana Vegas, E.M.’96, Ed.D.’01, looked out her plane window on a hot morning in March 2013, the village of Tuiuie was almost invisible. Signs of human habitation had been sparse since they had taken off from Manaus, the capital of the Brazilian state of Amazonas. Almost as soon as the city’s skyscrapers disappeared over the horizon, its opera houses, universities, and urban slums seemed a world away. There were few roads, and only the occasional tin-roofed farmhouse dotted the banks of the Rio Purus, an offshoot of the Amazon that winds its way through almost 2,000 miles of rainforest. Boats plied the waters, but most other human activity was hidden under a thick layer of rainforest vegetation. As the plane descended, Tuiuie came into clearer focus: a few dirt roads, a huddle of houses, and the big blue dome of a hangar-shaped high school gym. As remote as all this was, it struck Vegas that according to her map of the local territory, she had not gone all that far. The Brazilian state of Amazonas is 4.5 times the size of Germany, and contains at least 6,100 communities that, like Tuiuie, are located along the Amazon or one of its 1,100 tributaries and are accessible only by plane or boat. She was at the edge of an immense wilderness, a hinterland, the most remote place she had visited in her six years as chief of the education division at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). She was there with the head of the bank’s Brazil field office, Marcelo Perez, a Harvard Kennedy School grad, at the invitation of Amazonas’ Secretary of Education, Roseilli Soares da Silva. He was seeking their help. HARVARD GRADUATE SCHOOL OF EDUCATION






Upon landing, Secretary da Silva ushered Vegas and Perez into the high school building they had seen from the air. There, they encountered an unusual scene, but one that da Silva told them was occurring all across the Amazon. Forty students seated at spare wooden desks were watching a computer monitor at the front of the room. Onscreen, a well-dressed woman sat in front of a blue backdrop giving a geography lesson, while at the back of the classroom a school employee operated the computer equipment. The students were attentive, but it seemed a bit like a substitute showing a video on the teacher’s day off — that is until the onscreen lecturer called on a student by name and asked for the answer to a multiple choice question. The student got up from her seat to answer by webcam. At that moment, the onscreen lecturer was communicating directly with the students in Tuiuie, and with hundreds of others across the state. She was a 21st-century emissary to places that could be in the 19th century, broadcasting live from a teaching facility in Manaus called the Amazonas Media Center for Education. Secretary da Silva called this method of teaching “teacher-present high school with technological mediation,” and he wanted to know: Would the IDB be willing to make an investment that would help the program transform from an experimental pilot into a radically new, statewide model for education? The disparity in education access between urban and wilderness areas has long been a challenge for Amazonas, Brazil’s largest but most sparsely populated state. The problem has grown increasingly marked in recent years, as the country’s booming technology, manufacturing, and energy sectors have made education an increasingly important requirement for joining the middle class. The state’s rural settlements are often leftovers of past economic booms — rubber in the 19th century and a gold rush in the mid-20th — and their remote locations reflect the demands of those now dilapidated industries. Today, residents of these remote towns often scrape by on subsistence farming and fishing, and children in the area can find themselves several hours — or days — boat ride from the nearest town with a schoolhouse. Even once students reach those schoolhouses, basic materials like chalk and pencils can be in short supply. There is often only one teacher for all grades, frequently someone without the training necessary to implement the specialized math, science, and social studies curricula required by the federal government. So while Brazilian students are legally required to attend school until the age of 16, for many in Amazonas, this is simply not a workable reality. Only 36 percent of 19-year-olds have completed their secondary education in Amazonas, compared with estimates of around 55 percent nationally, and the problem isn’t likely to be solved by investment in traditional infrastructure. University-trained

teachers often don’t want to work in isolated rural outposts, and student populations are too spread out to make increased staffing cost-effective. Hevanna Lima, an English teacher at the Media Center, puts the problem simply. In the past in Amazonas, “it would be very hard for [students] to graduate because there aren’t enough teachers to teach them school subjects,” she says. “There was almost no school before the Media Center.” The first attempts to use technology to overcome these barriers date back more than a decade. In 2002, Amazonas State University in Manaus launched a long-distance teacher-training program called Proformar, where lessons were broadcast live through TV or Internet, and students relayed questions to the teacher through phone, email, or fax. “It was caveman technology compared to what we have now,” Perez says, but it helped plant the idea that Internet technology could be the missing piece in the infrastructural puzzle of expanding education access in rural Amazonas. While Proformar and its cumbersome technology eventually faded away, in 2007 the government of Amazonas founded the Amazonas Media Center in Manaus, with the goal of developing and disseminating middle and high school lessons through digital satellite technology. From the beginning, the program strove for interactivity and accountability. It was essential, the program’s designers thought, that students be able to interact with teachers through the digital platform, otherwise the program was little different from educational television programming or 19th-century correspondence courses. Furthermore, “tutors” — supervising teachers without the specific expertise of the instructors at the Media Center in Manaus — would be placed in every classroom to ensure students paid attention and to help with difficult parts of the curriculum. The lessons for the first Media Center broadcasts were developed through a multi-step process that is still used today. First, teachers consult with national curriculum experts to figure out what subjects to cover. Then, lesson plans are sent to technology experts who create visuals and videos that help take advantage of the online format. Finally, the lessons are broadcast simultaneously to hundreds of classrooms across the state, where students follow a block schedule, studying a few subjects intensively for two-to-four-week stints. Lima, who participated in some of the first broadcasts in 2007, says that at first it felt surreal to look down at her video feed while she was teaching and see high school students gathered in bare wooden rooms, sometimes surrounded by hammocks where their own children were sleeping. The video would often blink in and out, and there were occasional language barriers — students in the most remote areas of the state can be more fluent in an indigenous language than they are in Portuguese. But, she says, her students’ thirst for knowledge was palpable. She remembers

teaching a class attended by a father, son, and grandfather all seeking the high school education they could not otherwise have received. (The Media Center still offers classes to adults, but courses are now separated by age.) If in-class tutors were sick, students would operate the technology themselves, so they wouldn’t miss a lesson. And the work paid off; in 2010, Lima teleconferenced in on the first graduation ceremonies for Media Center students, held simultaneously in hundreds of classrooms across the state. She says it was one of the most rewarding moments of her career. When Vegas arrived in Tuiuie in 2013, the Media Center’s programs had already reached more than 30,000 students in 1,500 Amazonian communities. But despite these initial successes, important questions and challenges remained: Could the government of Amazonas meet the infrastructural and staffing challenges to make the program truly statewide? How would the technology fare under long-term exposure to the humid, floodprone Amazonian environment? And most importantly, would it really work? Could technology actually bridge the gap between rural students and their urban peers? As chief of the education division at IDB, Vegas has the potential to mobilize tremendous resources. The IDB is the largest source of development funding in Latin America, loaning money — 14 billion dollars in 2013 — at competitive rates to projects in priority areas, including the environment, poverty reduction, and infrastructure. However, unlike a regular bank, they also provide other key resources to developing countries: grants, technical assistance, and research. Many are focused on education. Earlier this year, for example, her team approved funding for a gender equity project in Argentina that supports girls as they transition from school to work. In Ecuador, IDB is overseeing a research project on identifying good teachers and tracking their students over time. Vegas knew, after her visit to Tuiuie in March 2013, that if she were to recommend the Media Center project to her board of directors for funding, the effect could be transformational. For her, the importance of a project like this and the work she funds is HARVARD GRADUATE SCHOOL OF EDUCATION


personal. Growing up in Caracas, Venezuela, she had parents who believed strongly in education and sent her to high school at a boarding school in Connecticut. When she returned to Venezuela for college, she noticed a marked difference in her skills compared with those of her classmates. “I had such an advantage over my classmates even though we were all in a selective program,” she says. With the importance of education fresh in her mind, Vegas went on to pursue a master’s in public policy at Duke and then a doctorate at the Ed School, where her dissertation was an economic and research-based evaluation of “how we could design policies to attract, retain, and motivate better teachers,” she says. After a stint at SABER, the World Bank’s Systems Approach for Better Education Results program, she was recruited for her current position at the IDB in 2007. The education division was new then, and it was an opportunity to lead a team of 40 people in building a program from the ground-up. Plus, “my heart has always been in Latin America,” she says. “It’s where I’m from.” Professor Fernando Reimers, Ed.M.’84, Ed.D.’88, director of the Global Education Innovation Initiative, says that Vegas’s leadership at the IDB is critical in supporting social and economic development in the countries of Latin America. “Too many children, still, are denied the right to a quality education for reasons not of their choosing,” he says. “Functioning democracies require citizens who have all been educated to work with others in improving their communities and with her focus on advancing the educational opportunities of the most disadvantaged, Emiliana is playing a critical role in advancing the work in progress which is democracy, justice, and the rule of law in Latin America.” And that requires a different approach, he says — one that Vegas is taking. “The challenges of offering a decent education to children and youth such as those in Amazonia require the kind of out-of-the-box thinking, creativity, and innovation that the partnership between the local and federal government in Brazil, with support from the IDB, is producing,” Reimers says. “Technology offers unprecedented opportunities for meaningful education improvement, and Emiliana is stewarding the kind of innovation that is essential to give each person the right to an education that empowers them to become architects of their own lives.” On the flight back to Manaus, and then over the coming weeks and months from their respective offices in Washington, D.C., and Brasilia, Vegas and Perez discussed what it would mean for the IDB to support the initiative in Am-

azonas. As they mulled things over, it became clear that the pros significantly outweighed the cons. While distance education might not be ideal compared with in-person teaching, it seemed the only viable option in such a remote region. And while the results of the Media Center’s six-year-old program had yet to be quantified, this was exactly where the IDB education division’s staff could be of use. Vegas says she was impressed by the government’s existing commitment to the program and saw great latent potential. “The Media Center has extraordinary resources that had not been fully taken advantage of,” she explains. Media Center lessons are both broadcast live and taped for posterity, so there is an unused backlog of “seven years of recorded classes in all the high and middle school subjects. Part of our project will finance making use of these materials to ensure that they are available to every Amazonian student and teacher.” In September 2013, six months after the visit to Tuiuie, Vegas made the announcement: IDB would make a $151 million dollar loan to the State Government of Amazonas for a program called PADEAM, a Portuguese acronym that roughly translates to “program to accelerate educational progress in the state of Amazonas.” The money would provide funds to build 12 new schools, renovate 20 existing ones, and provide 500 additional schools with the satellite technology to receive broadcasts from the Media Center in Manaus.

The project would expand through the state, river basin by river basin, eventually covering the Amazon and some of its largest tributaries, including the Rios Negro, Purus, Jurua, and Madeira, an area measuring hundreds of thousands of square miles. Largescale distance education would be put to the test. PADEAM has now been in operation for a year, and Vegas and Perez find themselves at a moment of delicate transition — while the program’s implementation is still in full swing, it’s time for them to start making the first quantitative analyses of the success of the endeavor. In 2015, Brazil’s school assessment exams, the National Education Evaluation System (SAEB in Portuguese), will provide the first data on how schools in Amazonas have fared since receiving the IDB loan, and while this will be a useful tool for evaluating the performance of rural students compared to their urban counterparts, Perez says the exam may not be an

entirely accurate measurement of the success of PADEAM and the Media Center. First off, there is the question of whether distance education is ever as effective as traditional classrooms. According to Vegas, “the evidence is still contradictory, but there are some suggestions that nothing can replace human interaction.” If this is true, then how will evaluators differentiate between problems that are inherent in the program’s design and problems that have to do with its implementation? These difficulties are compounded when the demographic and lifestyle differences between rural and urban Amazonas are taken into account. Students in rural areas have to travel farther to reach school than their urban counterparts — a commute of several hours by boat is considered normal — and many of their parents may not have the education level necessary to help with high school homework. Furthermore, there is the inevitable issue of flaws and failures in Media Center technology. Seth Kugel, a Global Post reporter who visited schools in rural Amazonas in 2010, reported that audio and video quality were variable. Perez says that electricity in most rural communities comes from generators, so oil and gas shortages can keep schools offline for months, as can floods, which inundated the region in the spring of 2014. And while he says that the infrastructure team in Manaus is excellent, it can take them up to a month of boat travel to reach the most remote parts of the state. And finally, beyond all the quantifiable variables, there is a larger question: If the program is successful, how will access to education transform life in rural Amazonas? In a region where subsistence farming has been both the status quo and the limit of the economic horizon for generations, everyone has a different


Amazonian children on their way to school.

prediction. Some say education is the key to joining the modern prosperity of Brazil’s cities; others that it will create greater prosperity within the rural Amazon — though what that would mean for the region’s fragile ecosystem and unique cultures remains to be seen. For Vegas, PADEAM will be a success if it allows students whose lives might seem to be prescribed by their circumstances a greater choice in their future. “They can have opportunities to either stay where they’re from and continue living in the same lifestyle, or they can attend university or a technical institute and earn a better living. Maybe not a better lifestyle, one never knows,” she says, but “there is something [essential] about the joy of learning, and the joy of being able to better understand the world in which we live is something education provides.” Vegas and Perez believe that if PADEAM is a success, the program could go global. UNESCO’s 2013–14 Education for All Global Monitoring report estimates that 57 million children worldwide are currently out of school and that 1.6 million new teachers are needed to educate them. Given that level of demand, the Media Center’s model — expert teachers in an urban center broadcast to a remote catchment area — might be applied to the Andean and Amazonian regions of Bolivia and Peru, and beyond that to hardto-reach places across the world. That dream may still be a ways off, but Vegas hopes the IDB’s collaboration with the government of Amazonas will one day “demonstrate that no matter where a child or young adult lives, they can access the latest knowledge and can use it for improving their lives in whatever way that might be.” — Brendan Pelsue is currently a graduate student at the Yale School of Drama. His last piece for Ed., in fall 2013, looked at a school started by an alum in Sikkim, India. Ed. HARVARD GRADUATE SCHOOL OF EDUCATION


news & notes 1957

Joe Cronin, M.A.T., has had a long career in education as a teacher, principal, professor, state secretary of education (Massachusetts), state superintendent of education (Illinois), college president, president of student aid, consultant to the World Bank, and federal reformer for Race to the Top. He is also an author, oil painter, father of seven, and grandfather to 19.

1961 Sondra Wieland Howe, M.A.T., published Women Music Educators in the United States: A History. “Although women have been extremely active in education and in music throughout the history of the United States, their voices are often missing in historical records.” — Introduction, Women Music Educators in the United States: A History


Sally McBride, M.A.T., taught music to grades 1–12 at a small school in Oregon for many years. After retirement, she planned symphony concerts for grades 4–6 with the local symphony orchestra.


Donald Caplin, M.A.T., recently published Sports Therapy for the Mediocre.


Timothy Averill, M.A.T., is an English teacher and debate coach. He is also a consultant in AP English literature for the College Board. Glenda Rauscher, M.A.T., writes that she took “a detour into business for 20 years,” but then returned “joyfully” to high school teaching, working for the last 20 years at a Blue Ribbon School — a federal program




that recognizes schools where students perform at very high levels or where significant improvements are being made in students’ academic achievement. Irving Pressley McPhail, M.A.T., the president and CEO of the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, received the Vision Award from New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering for his pioneering leadership in helping underrepresented minority men and women achieve their dreams of becoming engineers.


Helen Mitchell, Ed.M., enjoyed a brief career with the federal government and served 33 months in the U.S. Army. She has been retired since 1999.



Susan Koeckhoven Gauthier, Ed.M., worked in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, first as a reading specialist (1990–2007), then as a Spanish teacher (2007–14). Kathleen O’Toole, Ed.M., coordinated and built two learning centers in Massachusetts with the capacity of 120 students each. She plans to build another center and writes, “I love to be included in the education of young minds.”


Jennifer Meehl, Ed.M., was one of the founding faculty members of Landmark College in Putney, Vermont, focused on serving adults with dyslexia and ADHD. Since her retirement in 2011, she says, she is actively painting again. Katherine Hall Page, Ed.D., published Small Plates in May. This is her first-ever collection of short stories. Since 1991, she has also written 21 books in the Faith Fairchild series.

Marian Kaplun Shapiro, M.A.T.’61, Ed.D., is a psychologist in private practice specializing in the treatment of trauma and the use of clinical hypnosis. For the last 15 years, she has been writing poetry, including three books and 300 published poems. Laurence Stybel, Ed.D., published the article, “It’s Not Lonely at the Top,” in the MIT Sloan Management Review. It is part of his research focus on developing a system for diagnosing work relationships. He also writes the monthly leadership column “Platform for Success” in Psychology Today.


Maureen Bunyan, Ed.M., a news anchor at ABC7/WJLA-TV in Washington, D.C., was knighted and inducted into the Order of Orange-Nassau, a Dutch civic order. Bunyan, who was born in Aruba, which is part of the Dutch Kingdom, received this honor in recognition for her exemplary contributions to society, including her longstanding commitment to building and strengthening ties between Aruba and the United States.


Ellen Castro, Ed.M., was featured in Latino Style magazine with her book, Spirited Leadership: 52 Ways to Build Trust. The book has been selected as a 2014 International Latino Book Award finalist.

with Ambassador William Rudolph Bekink


Susan Merrifield, Ed.D., is professor (emeritus) of English education at Lesley University. She has taught courses focused on literacy and literature, and served as education division director for two years. Currently, she is doing research on struggling readers and writing a short story collection set in the 1970s.


Masahiko Minami, Ed.M.’88, Ed.D., is a professor at San Francisco State University and an invited professor at the National Institute for Japanese Language & Linguistics (NINJAL), Tokyo, Japan. In March 2014, he cohosted the eighth International Conference on Practical Linguistics of Japanese at NINJAL, at which Professor Catherine Snow was the keynote speaker.


Daphne Layton, Ed.M.’89, Ed.D., was named senior associate dean for development and alumni relations at the Ed School, effective September 2, 2014. She was senior associate dean for academic affairs at the school.


Johnny Ramirez-Johnson, Ed.M.’88, Ed.D., has taught religion — the topic of his thesis at the Ed School — for more than 30 years.


Shawn Ahearn, Ed.M., has been the director of guidance at Boston College High School for the past 10 years. Claudia Bach, Ed.M.’91, Ed.M.’92, Ed.D., is on the governance board of New Orleans Early Childhood STEM Academy. She has worked previously as a superintendent of schools in districts in Oregon and Massachusetts and as the director of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Jeff Francois, Ed.M., has worked as a teacher and mentor to students at various international schools in the United States and Europe. John Warren, Ed.M.’91, Ed.D., is head of school at St. Mark’s School in Southborough, Massachusetts. His wife, Laura Appell-Warren, Ed.M.’84, Ed.D.’07, is a teacher and director of global citizenship at the school.

with Professor Catherine Snow

Steven Seidel, Ed.M.’89, Ed.D., has been promoted to senior lecturer on education at the Ed School. He has been a member of the faculty since 1998 and was appointed the director of the Arts in Education Program in 2005. (Read “On My Bookshelf,” p. 19.)


Nancy O’Malley, M.A.T.’70, C.A.S., spent 40 years teaching in Boston, the last 18 at Boston Latin School. She spent a few years in administration but writes, “The classroom was the true joy.” While teaching, she created a summer writing program for Boston Public School kids. For the past 26 years, she has been a part-time professor in education at University of Massachusetts–Boston. Regina Thomas, Ed.M., operates College Admissions Counselors, an educational consulting business for middle and high school students in California.


Dennis Holtschneider, Ed.D., will be taking leave from his position as president of DePaul University to join the Ed School as president in residence, starting on August 1.


Bill Burton, Ed.M., has written articles for Science and Children magazine, put out by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA). He was recently named a winner of a national teaching award, presented at the NSTA conference in Boston on April 4, 2014. Paula Szulc Dominguez, Ed.M.’94, Ed.D., has been selected as a 2014–15 FulbrightNehru Scholar. Her Fulbright-sponsored research will take her to Maharashtra, India, where she will focus on the decisions and actions of state policymakers as they oversee the early implementation of a new kind of community college. Supporting her work will be the knowledge and experience she has gained as a field researcher on three continents and as the deputy director of policy for the Rhode Island Senate. Michael Mann, Ed.M., was given the Ryan Award from the Accelerate Institute in Chicago. The award is given to educators for exceptional leadership in closing the achievement gap in urban K–12 schools. Mann is the principal of North Star Academy College Preparatory High School in Newark, New Jersey. Kim Pasculli-Festa, Ed.M., had her essay, “Age of Consent,” published in Nothing But the Truth so Help Me God: 73 Women on Life’s Transitions, an anthology of essays and art.


Erica Walker, Ed.M.’97, Ed.D., has published Beyond Banneker: Black Mathematicians and the Paths to Excellence, a new book exploring the



… my third superintendency. For the immediate past five years, I’ve been superintendent of the Austin Independent School District, which serves 86,000 students and is the largest district in central Texas. Previously, I served for three years as superintendent of the St. Paul schools in Minnesota. Similar to Atlanta, Austin had a number of tough challenges facing the system when I became superintendent. Those experiences have given me the knowledge and skills to understand what is necessary to drive systemwide school improvement in large urban systems.

formative, educational, and professional experiences of black mathematicians in the United States, past and present.

, Ed.M.’99, Ed.D., was named superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools. Previously, she headed Austin (Texas) Independent School District, which she joined in 2009, as its first African-American and first female superintendent.

Meredith Rowe, Ed.M.’99, Ed.D., joined the Ed School faculty this summer as an associate professor of education. Previously, she was an assistant professor of human development in the College of Education at the University of Maryland and a postdoctoral fellow/scholar in the departments of sociology and psychology at the University of Chicago. (See story, page 16.) Janet Schulze, Ed.M.’00, Ed.D., has been named superintendent of schools for Pittsburg Unified School District in California. Prior to this, she was a longtime school district administrator in San Francisco.

Matthew Aborn, Ed.M., and his wife, Monica Judge, welcomed daughter Ione Sabine Aborn on May 10, 2014. Also, he was recently appointed as the lower school principal for the Solomon Schechter School of Westchester, a K–5 Jewish day school in White Plains, New York.




Lisa Park, Ed.M., traveled with her high school students from The King’s Academy in Sunnyvale, California, on a service trip to the Czech Republic to help renovate damaged buildings once occupied by the Soviet Union. Devon (Tutak) Steven, Ed.M., and her husband, John DeSue Steven, welcomed their first child, John Tutak Steven, on May 19, 2014, in Washington, D.C. Khalid White, Ed.M., is a professor of ethnic studies and the Umoja Program coordinator at San Jose City College in California. He received his Ed.D. from the University of California–Davis in 2014.

Max Klau, Ed.M.’00, Ed.D., presented a TEDx talk at TEDxHGSE. The talk, “Social Justice Leadership in Living Systems,” presented lessons learned from his doctoral research regarding how large-scale social change happens and implications of those insights for social justice leadership. In a related essay on the Huffington Post, he explains how these ideas relate to City Year’s efforts to address America’s high school dropout crisis (huffingtonpost.com/max-klau/ a-living-systems-approach_b_5173255.html). Klau is the vice president of leadership development at City Year. Follow @maxklau.

Matthew Miller, Ed.M.’01, Ed.D., joined the Ed School as a multiyear lecturer. He will also serve as associate dean for learning and teaching, where he will focus on the curriculum and innovations in teaching. He was previously associate dean for academic affairs at the Ed School. Natalie Perry, Ed.M., recently earned her doctorate in higher education from the University of Virginia.

Laura Appell-Warren, Ed.M.’84, Ed.D., has published her second book, “Personhood:” An Examination of the History and Use of an Anthropological Concept. She has been teaching at St. Mark’s School in Southborough, Massachusetts, since graduation and is now the director of global citizenship at the school as well as the director of the Global Citizenship Institute, a summer program for high school teachers and students. Her husband, John Warren, Ed.M.’91, Ed.D.’94, is head of school at St. Mark’s. Nathan Gauer, Ed.M., published his first book, Songs to Make the Desert Bear Fruit, in April 2014. In it, he tells the story of attending, in the summer of 1999, the first Lakota Sundance to be held in the Black Hills in more than a century.

Where you don’t have to limit yourself to just 140 characters. classnotes@gse.harvard.edu

Joanne Seelig, Ed.M., was recently hired by Imagination Stage in Bethesda, Maryland, as director of education. She has led educational programs for Berkeley Repertory Theater in California, the National Building Museum, and Smithsonian Associates.


Joanna Batt, Ed.M., went into family/education journalism after graduation. Currently, she writes, she has found her “true love” in teaching 11th-grade U.S. history at Nardin Academy in Buffalo, New York.


Sarah Monson Blake, Ed.M., CEO and cofounder of Blake Learning Systems, recently led a team to develop revamped training products for the U.S. Army’s sexual harassment and sexual assault prevention program. The online courses, instructorled seminars, and videos will be seen by an estimated audience of 2 million Army personnel, civilian employees, and military family members.

Samantha Goldstein, Ed.M., was promoted to senior academic program advisor and special projects coordinator at Carnegie Mellon University, where she has been since July 2012. She now administratively advises more than 320 electrical and computer engineering students. Prior to her current role, she was a manager of content services at Eduventures, Inc., a higher education research and consulting firm.


Miriam Miller, Ed.M., began work as assistant director of middle and upper school admissions at the Hewitt School in New York City in June 2014. Previously, she was an admissions counselor at Barnard College. She got married in 2013.


Ed.D., was named superintendent of New Rochelle, New York public schools. He was previously the superintendent of the South Orange-Maplewood School District in New Jersey.

WHERE DID YOU START YOUR CAREER? I began as a bilingual fifth-grade teacher. In the classroom with my kids, I fell in love with education, with the magic that happens in the classroom. Those terrific occasions when teacher, student, and content come together in that “aha” moment, when the child grasps something new or gains a deeper insight. How the teacher in the classroom harnesses and guides the sometimes-unpredictable energy and curiosity of a class creates the context where that magic can happen daily, and students grow and thrive.

In Memory Robert Schmidt, M.A.T.’46 Richard Joseph Dundas III, Ed.M.’50 Keith Dewitt Snyder, GSE’51 Francis Brogan, M.A.T.’52 Muriel Parlin, Ed.M.’53 Wilbur Harold Wright, Ed.M.’47, Ed.D.’53 Ruth Schuh Kelley, M.A.T.’55 Thomas Shea, C.A.S.’55 Frederic Winslow Locke, Ed.M.’56 Mary Morrell, Ed.M.’56 William Spickers Warren Jr., GSE’56 Kathleen Trager Cone, M.A.T.’57 William Destefano, Ed.M.’57 Judith Fuchel-Mahler, Ed.D.’57 Marilyn Brachman Hoffman, GSE’57 Paul Pendell Mok, M.A.T.’56, Ed.D.’59 Janet Cottrell Hancock, M.A.T.’60 Joseph Hugh Strain, Ed.D.’60 Spencer Summerlin Swinton, M.A.T.’60 Donald Spearritt, Ed.D.’61 George Weygand, Ed.D.’61 Richard Burse, M.A.T.’62 James Yeannakopoulos, C.A.S.’62 Roberta Weiss Friedman, M.A.T.’63 Nancy Nash Johnson, Ed.M.’63 Joanne Melman, Ed.M.’60, Ed.D.’64 Helen Wolfe Dunn, M.A.T.’65 Derwin Stevens, Ed.M.’66 James Lawson, Ed.M.’67 Christopher Steedman, Ed.M.’67 Aida Romanoff Levi, M.A.T.’61, C.A.S.’71 Walter Lee Pierson, Ed.D.’73 Marcia Glanz, Ed.M.’74 Algene Marcus, Ed.M.’74 Richard Rockefeller, Ed.M.’74 Steven Brion-Meisels, Ed.M.’76 Edward Stiess, C.A.S.’80 Gregory Smith, Ed.M.’81 John Robertson, Ed.M.’82 Robert Randall, Ed.M.’88 Dorothy Danaher White, Ed.M.’82, Ed.D.’94



Join Us in Cambridge!

Here are a few upcoming professional education opportunities for fall 2014 and spring 2015. October 15–17, 2014

The Future of Independent Schools: Leading in a Changing Context Faculty chair: James Honan

November 12–14, 2014

Making Caring Common: Promoting Caring and Respect in Students, and Preventing Bullying and Behavior Problems Faculty chairs: Stephanie Jones and Richard Weissbourd

December 3–6, 2014

Inner Strengths of Successful Leaders

December 12, 2014

The Leading Edge of Early Childhood Education: Linking Science to Policy for a New Generation of Pre–K

Faculty chair: Metta McGarvey

Faculty chairs: Stephanie Jones and Nonie Lesaux

March 2–5, 2015

Crisis Leadership in Higher Education

March 5–7, 2015

Women in Education Leadership Faculty chair: Deborah Jewell-Sherman



Jennifer Kahn, Ed.M., is the project coordinator for the Making Caring Common Project at the Ed School. Her work has focused on bringing together education and psychology, particularly on the translation from research to practice.

Sarah Sprague, Ed.M., is the chair of the science department at the Indian Mountain School in Lakeville, California, where, she writes, “I impact my students and my coteachers with new thoughts about science education every chance I get.”

Anne Buckle, Ed.M., has spent the last year working as the director of research and planning for Tennessee’s Drive to 55, a statewide initiative to increase the percentage of Tennesseans with postsecondary degrees from 32 to 55 percent by the year 2025. This campaign includes Governor Bill Haslam’s Tennessee Promise — a scholarship and mentoring program that will make community and technical college free of tuition and fees for all students beginning in fall 2015.



Anne Sargent, Ed.M., manages the sustainability program at Harvard Law School. She is also, she writes, “mother to a beautiful baby boy.” Ashley Wedekind, Ed.M., is currently teaching third- and fifth-grade special education in a language-based program.


Darienne Driver, Ed.M.’06, Ed.D. has been named the acting superintendent of the Milwaukee Public Schools.

Faculty chairs: James Honan and Herman “Dutch” Leonard

For a complete list and to apply, visit www.gse.harvard.edu/ppe.


Julianne Viola, Ed.M., writes that she is “immersing [herself] in the world of civic studies and ed tech.” She will be starting her Ph.D. at Oxford this fall.


Ed.M.’03, Ed.M.’09, Ed.D., began as superintendent of Hartford, Connecticut, public schools in July. Previously, she was a deputy superintendent for Maryland’s Montgomery County school system. She lives with her husband, Eric, and their seven-yearold daughter, Sophie.

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE FACING YOUR NEW SCHOOL DISTRICT? The variability of performance across schools. The data point that best illustrates this challenge is third-grade reading proficiency. Our highest performing school has 92 percent of its third graders reading at or above proficiency, while our lowest performing school has only 11 percent of its students reading at that level. So figuring out how we accelerate student performance at our lowest performing schools will be a focus of our work.

We don’t want to cook the books; we just want to include them in the magazine. Let us know if you have written or edited a book lately. Better yet, have your publisher mail us a copy!




1 of them — es of the Ed School — 66 at du gra t es at gre d an t rts, since the lates It’s been a few months a new academic year sta As . as lom dip eir th ive in Radcliffe Yard to rece James marched across the stage ent, which included Dean ev big e th m fro os ot ph ce with a collection of ersy around we thought we’d reminis high school, and controv in en giv , ch ee sp ion at his very first gradu Ryan reminiscing about n, Ed.M.’00. Senator Michael Johnsto o ad lor Co r ke ea sp ion Convocat






Join the Harvard Graduate School of Education community for a day of critical conversations and bold ideas in education in Cambridge and online.


Keynote address:

Geoffrey Canada, Ed.M.’75 Geoffrey Canada is renowned for his pioneering work helping children and families in Harlem, and as a thought leader and passionate advocate for education reform. Since 1990, Canada has been the president of Harlem Children’s Zone, which The New York Times called “one of the most ambitious social-policy experiments of our time.”


8 Bold Ideas for Education in 8 Minutes Eight Ed School faculty members have eight minutes each to present their bold ideas for impact. Featuring Howard Gardner, Todd Rose, Karen Mapp, and others.

CRITICAL CONVERSATIONS teachers student all children success equity & access

ed tech

early childhood education school finance

achievement gap

Community Celebration Remarks by President Drew Faust and an address by Dean James Ryan on his vision for the school.



U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in conversation with Professor Monica Higgins.

BLOCK PARTY We’ll close down Appian Way for a celebration of HGSE and education.

To RSVP, contact Karen Tobin-Guild at 617-496-2301 or karen_tobin@gse.harvard.edu, or visit our website:



Nonprofit Organization U.S. Postage PAID Holliston, MA Permit No. 20

Harvard Graduate School of Education Office of Communications 13 Appian Way Cambridge, MA 02138

When filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan visited the Ed School this past spring, he got Ed. magazine and we got schooled — or at least, we got to hear him talk about his new book, I Got Schooled: The Unlikely Story of How a Moonlighting Movie Maker Learned the Five Keys to Closing America’s Education Gap. Shyamalan became interested in education reform after visiting high schools in Philadelphia during a movie location scout. Moved by the dire situation in some of the schools, Shyamalan told the Harvard EdCast, “It felt sinful … and so we started to ask questions.” ed. using the #wheresED classnotes@gse.harvard.edu.


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