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a seven-year trek | learning in Sikkim | summer melt

the appian way

April 24, 2013 It was only fitting that on Educator’s Day at Fenway Park this year, Professor Paul Reville, the outgoing secretary of education for Massachusetts, threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Matt Malone, the state’s new secretary of education. On hand were an estimated 500 local educators who were being recognized for their work. The teachers, principals, and other leaders (many given free tickets) were able to not only watch Reville show off his perfect split-finger fastball, but also


cheer the Red Sox as they (sort of) schooled the Oakland A’s, 6–5.






contents FA L L 2 0 1 3

8 A quick look at our new dean, James Ryan, whom Harvard President Drew Faust likened to a super hero.

Get rid of summer vacation. Make teachers pass a board exam. Encourage slow learning. Eat smart cookies. Smart cookies?


Hey, what’s the big idea?

38 Liz Duraisingh, Ed.M.’07, Ed.D.’12, chronicles Project Zero’s collaboration with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Paul Salopek as he spends the next seven years walking around the world.


Overlooking the Himalayas, one school in Sikkim, India, started by an alum and his family, is trying to strike a balance between East and West, city and village, traditional and new.


Newly arrived Assistant Professor Roberto Gonzales talks ACL tears, undocumented young people, and learning to be illegal.

a l s o of i n t e r e s t


Can something as inexpensive and simple as a text message prevent college-bound high school students from “melting� over the summer and not matriculating in the fall?

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Letters Appian Way Alumni News and Notes Recess Investing

Letter to Hermione?


Turnaround: Off Focus

David Bowie may have written a letter (OK, a love song) to Hermione, but you have a chance to write one to Ed. (OK, a magazine). Let us know what you think about something you read in a recent issue, in 150 words or less.

The recent article on turnaround schools (“Turnaround Time,” summer 2013) could have been useful and very pertinent to the times we live in as educators. I was disappointed, however, with the narrow and hierarchical view of the whole process of school reform in general and turnaround schools in particular. The article focused almost solely on interviews with administrators. School reform affects the entire school and, in fact, the surrounding community. Additional interviews conducted with students, parents, or even teachers would have added a deeper layer to the article. I was particularly saddened by one principal’s take-it-or-leave-it attitude: “If you’re not on board, this may not be for you.” So much for encouragement of independent thought and a range of opinions. In the Chicago area, we are witnessing the painful, sad, and sorry effects

of school “reform” on local neighborhoods, much of it due to this top-down ethos. Would it have been possible for the article to ask hard questions about a system which often summarily fires teachers, removes students, closes schools, and hires “consultants” of dubious origin? I hope that future articles involve more substantive research and a truly analytical viewpoint. — Emily Hayden, Ed.M.’91

Revolution or New Frontier?

First we have to clarify what outcome we want to achieve (“Futures of School Reform,” winter 2013). Do we want students who are good at regurgitating information or do we want young people who are problem solvers, [who are] imaginative, creative, and entrepreneurial? Do we want compliance or do we want lateral thinkers who challenge the status quo and prevailing paradigms? Education is crying out for

transformation. Transformation starts from a clean slate and builds backwards from the desired outcome; it is not built on top of what’s gone before. Transforming education requires that we sit down with all stakeholders, including the students — in fact, primarily the students. It requires that we look at all the evidence pertaining to how young people acquire knowledge, skills, and experience at various stages of development and also provide resources and environments that allow them to reach their full potential as human beings on this planet, not what we think that potential is. Obviously it is essential to build in mechanisms that create equity of access and social conscience, but it’s time we destroyed the old models of education and created new ones that will propel us into what’s possible for the future.
I live for the day when primary/elementary school-age students lead discussions and lectures on imagination, play, fun, creativity, and consciousness to adult students. Bring on the revolution! — Lois Williams I am noticing more and more that the discussion on education reform seems to be evolving in a new direction. I hear folks who realize that fundamental change is what is needed,




letters In Case You Missed It... We know you can’t keep up with everything, so we’re spotlighting a few stories, videos, and interviews that appeared on the school’s homepage that you may have missed.

and that requires thinking outside of the box as well as inside. Fear of change, ignorance, and arrogance, and an unwillingness to face what is a monumental task, is preventing us from moving forward. We are in need of, as a nation, a pioneering spirit in terms of education reform. It is encouraging to hear discussion that is moving from different takes on the status quo to new thoughts on the issue. I sense a new frontier ahead. — jthompsonueda

Experience Coastal Studies

I loved Coastal Studies for Girls (“15 Girls, 16 Weeks, 1 Coast, and a Lot of Muddy Boots,” summer 2013) and would recommend it for any driven sophomore girl, whether she is interested in science, leadership, a different educational experience, or [is] just passionate about life. — Aven


I was part of the first cohort, and it really made a huge difference in my life. It was an absolutely amazing experience that I hope many, many more people will be able to take part in. — Kassandra Hopkins What a wonderful experience for these girls. — Mainer58 As part of semester three, I’ve had the unique experience of meeting [the students in] all semesters since I live near the school. It was an amazing experience for me, and I see that each girl gains something from her experience. — Colleen

In a video by Iman Rastegari, Enrique Marquez, Ed.M.’11, a former AIE student, talks about the work he does with MESDA, Music Education for Social Development Agency, and how important music is in students’ lives. Members of the Ed School community discussed the Supreme Court’s longawaited affirmative action decision in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, in a story by Jill Anderson. In a Harvard EdCast by Matt Weber, Professor Jack Shonkoff analyzed President Obama’s plan for early childhood education. Also in EdCasts, Professor Howard Gardner reflected on his “greatest hits” and famed economist Jeff Sachs talked about a new kind of education. Pasi Sahlberg, director general of the Centre for International Mobility and Cooperation, talked during an Askwith Forum about a hot topic in today’s education circles: Finland’s approach to learning.

v visit

ASSISTANT DEAN OF COMMUNICATIONS Michael Rodman CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Liz Dawes Duraisingh, Ed.M.’07, Ed.D.’12 Brendan Pelsue PHOTOGRAPHERS Lisa Abitbol Jill Anderson Anna Buckner Paul Salopek Martha Stewart Matt Weber

ILLUSTRATORS Daniel Vasconcellos COPYEDITOR Abigail Mieko Vargus © 2013 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Ed. magazine is published three times a year. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to: Harvard Graduate School of Education Office of Communications 13 Appian Way, Cambridge, MA 02138

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appian way lecturehall Assistant Professor Roberto Gonzales


n a strange way, Assistant Professor Roberto Gonzales can thank an ACL tear when he was in high school for the career path he eventually followed. The Colorado native grew up playing football and was convinced he’d one day go pro. His junior year in high school, there was even interest from colleges with top football programs. But then the injuries started. First, a broken foot bone, followed by the torn ACL. “That was it,” Gonzales says. “I had to rethink everything.” Instead of going to a big football school, he studied sociology at Colorado College. Through their domestic urban studies program, he ended up in Chicago working in an afterschool program and then as a school liaison at a community service agency. He discovered he really liked working with kids and their families, largely Mexican at the time. He also noticed that children from undocumented families who had grown up in the United States started experiencing problems as they got older. This summer, Gonzales, who recently joined the Ed School from the University of Chicago, spoke with Ed. about his research on immigrant young people, DACA, and why he may not root for the Patriots.

For the past decade, you’ve been studying the same kind of undocumented families that you once worked with, correct? Yes, through my West Coast Undocumented Young Adults Research Project, I collected in-depth life histories of more than 300 undocumented young people in California and Washington. This is, to date, the biggest and most systematic effort to understand these young people and their untenable circumstances.

What problems do undocumented children experience as they get older? Because of a Supreme Court ruling in Plyler v. Doe in 1982, K–12 education is free and legal for kids, regardless of their immigration status. The undocumented kids I met who were growing up in the United States had accumulated a wide range of American experiences. They pledged allegiance to the flag, watched Barney and the Power Rangers, and went to prom. But once they hit 14, 15, 16

people, who often find themselves with the same narrow options as their parents.

Is this new? In the past 25 years, the number of undocumented immigrants has significantly grown. The pattern in the past was that migrant workers would work for a few months, and then go back. Starting in the late 1980s, as we put more agents on the border, it became a lot more difficult and expensive for them to cross back and forth. More workers started creating homes in the United States, and now we’re seeing a growth of a large group of undocumented children who are coming of age.

What is the focus of your new project that looks at Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)?

Yes, in general, we’re a lot more supportive of children. Our laws treat children and adults differently but don’t account for the continuity — the transition to adulthood and the rights of undocumented children as they grow older.

Last summer, President Obama announced a change in immigration policy that could provide deferred action to an estimated 1.4 million undocumented young people who have lived in the United States since childhood. The policy, the DACA program, while not granting a path to legalization, enables them to remain in the country without fear of deportation and to apply for work permits. I will study the effects of widened access on these young people’s educational, work, civic, and mental well-being trajectories. This summer we fielded a national survey, and over the next three years we will carry out followup qualitative interviews with a smaller number of individuals in a select states.

You call this turbulent transition “learning to be illegal.” What do you mean?

As a big sports fan, you’ll be supporting the Patriots soon, right?

years old, as their friends started getting licenses and part-time jobs, they found themselves legally stuck. They couldn’t get a license or financial aid for college. They hit these dead ends. Some kids dropped out of school. College becomes a huge leap for this group.

We support undocumented kids when they’re younger, but not as they get older?

Undocumented adolescents and young people transition from experiences of belonging and inclusion to being excluded and with few legal options. This process, what I call “the transition to illegality,” is a relearning process and affects young

I greatly respect the Patriots, but I’m a diehard Denver Broncos fan. Boston is a great sports city, and I’m very sure it won’t take too much to get swept up in the excitement. — Lory Hough




Ryan Named New Dean Six months to the day after Harvard President Drew Faust sent an email to the staff of the Ed School announcing that Dean Kathleen McCartney would be leaving to become president of Smith College, she sent another big email announcing McCartney’s successor: James Ryan. At the time of the announcement, Ryan was a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law, where for the past 15 years he focused much of his teaching on law related to education. Many of his publications, including his two books, Educational Policy and the Law and Five Miles Away, a World Apart: One City, Two Schools, and the Story of Educational Opportunity in Modern America, have focused on education issues, including school choice, school segregation, and inequality. Previously, he taught for a semester at Harvard Law School, provided legal assistance during the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal at The Hague, and was a law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist. Since 2011, he has served as pro bono commissioner for the Equity and Excellence Commission for the U.S. Department of Education. At an impromptu reception in Gutman on the day the announcement was made, Faust said a former colleague at the University of Virginia had likened Ryan to a superhero. “No pressure there,” Faust said while Ryan, standing off to 8



the side, laughed and shook his head. Later, during his remarks to the community, he continued the joking, saying that while he had big shoes to fill with Kathleen McCartney’s departure, he was “at least as Irish.” Earlier, during an interview about his appointment with the Harvard Gazette, when asked what he most wanted incoming Ed School students to know about him, Ryan said, “I guess I would want them to know that I am here for one reason, which is that I care deeply about education and I believe that it’s the most important and compelling issue facing society. That’s what draws me to the school, and I assume that’s what draws them to the school, as well.” Asked what hopes he has for the students’ experience during their studies, Ryan added, “I was told by many people that students come to HGSE because they want to change the world, whether they’re here for a yearlong master’s degree or for a doctorate. My hope for them is that they leave feeling prepared and inspired to do To learn more about Ryan, read the press just that.” release at — Lory Hough ­­

Quick Facts Holds an A.B. from Yale University (’88, summa cum laude) and a J.D. from the University of Virginia (’92, first in his class) Married to Karoline (Katie) Homer Ryan, with four school-age children Founder and director of the program in law and public service at UVA Volunteers with Special Olympics; coached youth soccer and baseball Board member of Maya Angelou Public Charter School (Washington, D.C.) and the Legal Aid Justice Society (Charlottesville, Va.)

v read the next issue of ed. for a q & a.

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problem Many high school students who are accepted to college, particularly those who are low-income, plan on going but don’t show up in the fall. The problem? Summer. Without the oversight of former guidance counselors and teachers, paperwork gets lost. Students forget to meet deadlines for housing, health insurance, and registration. They don’t know where to turn for help when they have questions. Even when counselors do try to reach out over the summer, phone calls and emails often go unanswered and unread.


The answer to this “summer melt,” say Lindsay Page, a former research manager for the Strategic Data Project, and Ben Castleman, a doctoral student, could be something simple: text “nudge” messages. Based on experiments they conducted, they found that sending a series of automated texts to high school students and their parents over the summer, with important deadline and task information specific to their intended college or university (as well as direct links), substantially increased enrollment in the


fall. And the estimated cost? About $7 a student.

v to learn more about how your school can do this: or HARVARD GRADUATE SCHOOL OF EDUCATION


The Write Education Adjunct Lecturer Nancy Sommers knows a thing or two about writing. The director of Harvard College’s Expository Writing Program from 1987 to 2008 and the author of four textbooks that have become classics in the field, she is the person to go to if you want to know when to use a nonrestrictive clause or what constitutes an absolute phrase. But more important are her ideas about why students should write. These days, she is putting those ideas into practice in her Writing Workshop, an Ed School course that gives master’s and doctoral students a chance to dive into the art and craft of the personal essay. “In my class, I ask students to write essays that are exploratory and meditative,” Sommers says, “essays that focus on the interplay of the particular and the universal, on the flexibility and experimental nature of the essay genre, and on the development of a narrative voice to tell a compelling story.” This excursion into the personal might seem like a break from days spent discussing school leadership and education policy, but it often brings students back in touch with their academic disciplines in surprising ways. Lybroan James, Ed.M.’13, says he initially enrolled in the seven-week module because he thought it was about “tools and techniques to help educators,” things like how to compose a policy memo, or techniques for drafting an op-ed. Instead, James found himself writing — and revising and rewriting — a piece about the unexpected racism he had encountered after moving from Los Angeles to Boston. Not only did this exercise help him face his personal “dragons” (Sommers’s term for a writer’s most difficult “conflicts, tensions, and dilemmas”), it demystified the process of where good writing comes from. “I thought people just wrote something and it was phenomenal,” he says. “I thought, ‘I can’t do that’ — not that the 10th or 15th draft is where things come together.” Now James plans to incorporate writing into every class of the Math Business and Arts Leadership Academy charter school he is founding in South Central Los Angeles.

Sommers is serving on the board of advisors for the writing curriculum. Andrew Frishman, an Ed.L.D. student, says Sommers’ class reminded him of the importance of “helping students to tell their own stories.” He uses those lessons daily in his work with Big Picture Learning, a Providence, R.I.-based nonprofit that advocates an individualized approach to education, including a “Who Am I” project that challenges students to write a 50-page autobiography. “I think it’s just really invaluable,” Frishman says of personal essay writing. “It can help students to express what are really difficult and challenging and gorgeous emotions, and helps capture who they are at a moment in time so that they can look back and reflect.” Of course, creating an environment where students feel comfortable sharing those “challenging and gorgeous” emotions is no small feat — especially in Sommers’ Writing Workshop, which enrolls 50 students. Annie Peirce, Ed.M.’13, was impressed by how Sommers used student–student and student– teacher feedback sessions to bring the experience of an intimate workshop to a larger group. “It was always fascinating to get somebody else’s take on [my work],” Peirce says, “and then turn around and give that kind of advice to somebody else.” For Sommers, these student–student and student–teacher moments are the core of what is valuable about her class. She believes that students learn about their own writing from engaging deeply with the work of their peers and that they are more likely to create good work themselves when they know their fellow writers are eagerly awaiting their drafts. Through participation in this give and take, students are reminded of what Sommers believes is a fundamental truth for anyone working in education, whether they teach writing or not. “Change,” she says, “is not just about curriculum or policy, but about the enduring relationships created between students and teachers.” In Sommers’ Writing Workshop, that change begins at home. — Brendan Pelsue

This excursion into the personal might seem like a break from days spent discussing school leadership and education policy, but it often brings students back in touch with their academic disciplines in surprising ways.




appian way — James Meredith,,recipient

your turn The best thing Harvard ever did to advance black education was award the Ph.D. to DuBois in 1895. The worst thing Harvard ever did was to establish the so-called black studies [department] in 1968, simply to get rid of the ‘black problem.’”

of the Ed School’s annual Medal of Education Impact, speaking at the Convocation ceremony on May 29. Meredith was the first African American to enroll at the University of Mississippi, amid protests, violence, and the intervention of President John Kennedy.


what do you think of meredith’s comment? let us know by commenting at

Ideas Worth Teaching They each had five minutes. Five minutes on the stage in Askwith Hall to talk about an idea related to education. As they talked, the 16 student speakers and three professors paced, gestured, and, at times, became passionate about their ideas. There were cheers and sometimes laugher. But they weren’t in class. They were at the first-ever EdTalks, an event created by the school’s Student Government Association (SGA) that mirrored the popular TED Talks. For two days, students and faculty members (Associate Professors Jal Mehta and Tina Grotzer, Ed.M.’85, Ed.D.’93, and Lecturer Terry Tivnan, M.A.T.’70, Ed.D.’80) tackled topics ranging from technology to respecting the teaching profession to the “crucial period” in learning. The overarching question they were asked to address, said SGA president Paul Moya, Ed.M.’13, was a simple one: What really matters in the field of education? “Maybe it’s not a simple question at all. It’s convoluted and challenging,” Moya said on the first night, “but we wanted to get to the heart of it because real change in education requires a real commitment to collaboration, it requires a commitment to finding solutions to real reforms, real outcomes, and real thought leaders. Leaders coming together from different backgrounds, different perspectives, different programs, and different schools of thought. We believe those leaders are here at HGSE. More importantly, many of them are here tonight.”

Midhat Aqeel, Ed.M.’13, a student government senator, says the talks came about when members of the SGA wanted to find ways for students from different programs to come together. Moya, she says, suggested creating something like the TED Talks but focused just on education. In the end, Aqeel says she thinks the event did what it set out to — it helped students see the connections between them. “EdTalks could have gone in a completely different direction and highlighted only the distinctions among the 13 programs,” she says. “Students within a program can have completely dissimilar ideas on what truly represents their cohort. However, the structure of the event — the inclusion of professors, for example — was instrumental in conveying the similarities in the approaches cohorts take when considering issues in the education sector.” The hope is that this event will continue each year and become a staple for the school. “Too often, at HGSE, we look outside our own school to learn new lessons and gather different perspectives,” Moya says. “The reality is that there are so many incredible things happening within HGSE, and we hope that future events like EdTalks help to unite our cohorts and bring people together to Visit to check tackle our biggest chalout a series of videos from the event. lenges.” — Lory Hough

Program: Culture, Communities, and Education Tool for Change: Writing Hometown: Newton, Mass.

studybreak Sarah Fine, Current Ed.D. Student






hen Sarah Fine left the classroom in 2009, after four years as a teacher, department chair, and instructional coach at a Cesar Chavez Public Charter School for Public Policy in Washington, D.C., she saw herself becoming an education writer. She had always been drawn to narrative writing, especially after attending Middlebury College’s famed Bread Loaf School of English every summer while she was teaching. Fine also felt there weren’t enough education “insiders” writing about education issues for generalinterest audiences. She started writing, getting her pieces on community schools, accountability, and students left behind published in influential publications like The Washington Post and Education Week. She also applied to the Ed School, where she jumped into an ethnographic project with Associate Professor Jal Mehta that would lead to the ultimate achievement for an education writer: her first book. Tentatively titled In Pursuit of Deeper Learning, Fine says the book-in-progress is an attempt “to map the landscape of approaches to engaging high school students in cognitively ambitious tasks.” She and Mehta visited more than 20 schools to see what deeper learning could look like, including San Diego’s High Tech High, which serves as the book’s anchor case study. Fine says that although she misses the “doing” part of the education equation — teaching — “part of how I process experience is through narrative writing.”

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Educators or writers in your family:

One thing you miss from your teaching days:

My grandmother taught fifth grade in the Boston Public Schools for almost 30 years. She used to occasionally pull out projects, photos, and cards from her former students and show them to me.


Narrative writing role model: Atul Gawande

are planning to work intensively to draft the manuscript of our book, so that will bring a host of new challenges in terms of work-life balance. Luckily, Jal and his wife have small children too, so we’ll be in similar boats!

Trial and error. I loved how as a teacher I had endless opportunities to improvise, tweak, and improve what I was doing in real time — and how my students always let me know in no uncertain terms how successful my efforts had been. Now I sometimes feel that I have far too much time to reflect and far too little pressure to actually try things out.

Advice for someone wanting to be an education writer: The best advice I got was from Michael Dirda, formerly of WaPo’s [The Washington Post] Book World, who told me to just “give it a whirl.” — Lory Hough


Favorite Gawande book or New Yorker article: r “Big Med” r Better r “Letting Go” 4 Checklist Manifesto r Favorite piece of literature: Unfair question! Faulkner’s Absalom, Absolom! When I’m deeply involved in intense academic reading and writing, British detective mysteries hit the spot.


He practices and teaches medicine but also writes narrative articles and books aimed toward laypeople.

What’s harder? 4 Coauthoring a book r r Working on your qualifying paper r Writing your own articles You just had your first baby. How has this changed your working process? I took the summer off to get used to being a parent. In the fall I’m hoping to be working the equivalent of only two days a week. Come January, though, Jal and I




Buy The Book Project SEATBELT The idea for the new project’s acronym — SEATBELT — came from a dad whose son committed suicide after relentless bullying. The dad hoped that with more public awareness, bullying prevention at school would become as automatic as buckling the seatbelt in a car — something he never did growing up, but kids nowadays do without thinking twice, thanks, in part, to massive public service campaigns. In June, RFK Project SEATBELT (Safe Environments Achieved Through Bullying prevention, Engagement, Leadership, and Teaching respect) launched. Developed and managed by the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, the project is collaborating with the Safe School Certification Program and the Ed School’s Making Caring Common Project, led by Lecturer Richard Weissbourd, Ed.D.’87, and Associate Professor Stephanie Jones. The focus is on being active, not reactive, and giving people who work with kids — teachers, parents, educators — accessible, researched-based tools they can use to prevent bullying before it even starts.

v for details about the project: Visit to hear more from Weissbourd.



For Jen Soalt, Ed.M.’03, starting a literacy nonprofit was a labor of love — and a necessity. Reading has always been a passion for her, and as a teacher she wanted to share that love with another generation. But after working in high-poverty schools on both coasts, she became frustrated with the lack of books available to her students at school and during the summer. Other teachers had to be struggling, too. During long commutes to the Sudbury (Mass.) Public Schools, where she worked as an ELA curriculum coordinator, she had time to think about ways to help. She was aware of micropatronage sites like Kiva and Donors Choose, which allow the public to financially support complete strangers by making donations online. She had also read the well-documented research that shows the link between access to books and literacy development. She wondered: What about a site that would allow teachers to request books they needed? Over the next year, during a sabbatical in Singapore with her husband, MIT Professor Charles Harvey, she came up with BookMentors. Teachers working in public schools in the United States post requests online, and donors (called bookmentors) fill the requests or offer to pay for other books they hope will interest a teacher. Soalt’s long-term vision for the site is that it will be more than just a place to fill book requests. “It was intended to be more social, more about a community of readers inside and outside schools helping one another through their mutual love of books,” she says. Soalt spent two years building a board (which includes Kate Henchman, Ed.M.’87, Ed.D.’94), working out a deal with a book vendor to buy books, nailing down the details of how the nonprofit would work, and getting seed funding to create the website. The site launched in February 2013. Just five months later, about 330 bookmentors had donated more than 430 books. Donors don’t actually buy and mail the books. Instead, they pay for a book online, and the book is shipped directly to the school from the book vendor. If a teacher requests 20 copies of a book for a class, a donor can pay for one or all of them, or for any number in between. Anne Coldiron, a professor in the English Department at Florida State University, saw a post about BookMentors on a University of


Virginia alumni group site and decided to look into it. “I loved the idea of being able to put books into the hands of young readers, especially those who may not have a lot of books at home,” she says. “When I saw how easy the website makes it to give particular books to particular students, I was hooked.” Clicking on the request page allows potential donors to see a list of books currently being sought, the number of copies requested, and the economic status of the school. Most requests come from educators working in high-poverty schools. Teachers also explain why they want the book and include basic information about the class. Once a request is filled, teachers and donors are encouraged to send online messages to one another. In May, for example, Coldiron donated a copy of See You at Harry’s to a librarian at a middle school in Herndon, Va. In her thank you message to Coldiron, the librarian said the school was between budget cycles, and it was difficult to buy new books. In March, after a copy of Stink and the World’s Worst Super-Stinky Sneakers was donated, the Title I coordinator at an elementary school in Orange Park, Fla., wrote to the bookmentor: “One student commented, ‘Wow, that is so nice of someone to give us a book and we didn’t even have to pay for it.’” The bookmentor wrote back, “You’re welcome. I hope your students will remember to help build each other up and to share a little of any good fortune that may come their way.” For now, Soalt says the nonprofit is geared toward educators in the United States, but she hopes that as the site grows, BookMentors can begin working with schools, libraries, and NGOs abroad. She would also like to see more targeted connections. “It would be great to help with a particular project, say a school building a new library, for example,” she says. She also wants the site to grow organically. “We want to make this a core group of people donating without pestering them too much and then have them spread the word,” she says. Feedback is welcome. “I think of this as a collaborative project.” ­— Lory Hough

v to learn how you can get involved:

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followup She Made a Run for Your Money wasn’t formerly available. “They are simultaneously gaining skills in both the content area and in technology,” she says. “For example, we use VoiceThread, an online multimedia platform where students can listen to the teacher’s prompts or other students’ questions and respond using text or voice. Their responses are recorded, and other students in other classrooms can respond. The teacher can respond or comment as well. This format allows for more participation, including participation across classrooms. It also makes text more accessible for students with disabilities because the text can be read aloud and supported by images or videos.” Asked how she’ll top this fundraiser now that she’s already tackled the hardest race in the world, Byron laughs. “I’m actually already signed up for a July marathon, hoping to qualify for Boston, but as for matching the extreme conditions of this race, nothing has been planned … yet.” — Lory Hough

v to donate, go to Visit to watch a video of Byron before the big race.


Luckily, Liz Byron, Ed.M.’08, was not one of the 1,027 people running the Morocco-based Marathon des Sables this past April who suffered from heat stroke or kidney failure. She didn’t need 13 bags of IV fluid in one day and didn’t contract a tissue infection. She didn’t have to drop out, as about 40 runners did. Other than swollen ankles and a bout of dehydration, Byron finished the ultramarathon — nearly 150 miles in six grueling days, the equivalent of six regular marathons — in remarkably good health. She even placed 12th for women, 211th overall. Byron, a long-time runner, had trained hard. But she can also thank her sixth-grade students at the Gardner Pilot Academy in Boston for her success. “I think teaching must build up your immunity,” she jokes, adding that teaching is more of an endurance sport than running through the loose sand, rocky mountains, salt plains, and dried river beds of the Sahara. Now, months after the race, her students can thank her. As Ed. readers found out in the last issue of the magazine, Byron was running to raise money so that her 50 students didn’t have to share just four laptops. Thanks to the $40,000 she raised online, plus $30,000 the Boston Public Schools pitched in (a promise fulfilled once her fundraising hit $20,000), her students have 50 new laptops and a laptop cart. Unused money and continued donations will be put toward future needs for other grades at the school although, she stresses, “the deficit of technology in those grades cannot be covered by the remaining funds.” What do her students make of the new technology? “They love it. They are so grateful to all those that donated,” she says. “Many students are more engaged in class when technology is a component of a lesson and they request time to work with the computer, whereas before, a similar assignment or objective was not met with as much enthusiasm. They are also very responsible for the laptops and take great care of them.” From a teaching perspective, the laptops allow her to engage her students with curriculum and content in a multimedia format that


CAREER SERVICES Currently, there are 81 organizations registered with the Ed School for


recruiting from the Los Angeles area. They include LAUSD, Greendot

The Strategic Data Project (SDP), a project under the

Public Schools, KIPP LA, and the Broad Foundation.

Center for Education Policy Research (CEPR), has a lot going on in Los Angeles, including a partnership with


the city that involves two data fellows, Emily Mohr and Nicole Wagner, and one agency fellow, Hansheng Chen.

LAUSD participated in the Public Education Leadership Program

Two related reports, in conjunction with the district’s

in 2012 and 2013. Included was

superintendent, were recently released, one focused on

Superintendent John Deasy, a big

teachers and human capital, the other on graduation rates

supporter of the program.

and college readiness. Noah Bookman, director of project management for the district, spoke at an SDP-sponsored

ontheground Los Angeles In this issue’s On the Ground, we look at Los Angeles, the most populous city in California and second only to New York in the country. Nicknamed the City of Angels, it could easily be called the city of education with three public colleges, nine community colleges, and nearly two dozen private colleges. The K–12 public school system, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), is the second-largest school district in the United States. Here’s a look at some of the ways that the Ed School is making an impact in Los Angeles.

panel at the Council of the Great City Schools annual conference in 2012. Bookman and SDP fellow Wagner will present on a panel at this year’s conference. Lecturer and CEPR director Jon Fullerton and Patty Diaz-Andrade, SDP’s director for education and outreach, conducted a one-day workshop for the LAUSD research and evaluation team. Last year, the district also sent three staffers to the SDP Summer Institute for Leadership in Analytics.

STUDENTS Three Ed.L.D.’13 students from cohort 1 completed residencies in Los Angeles and wrote related research papers: Maren Oberman (“Accountability, Coherence, and Improvement: Leadership Reflection and Growth in the Los Angeles Unified School District”) and Michele Shannon (“Building Leadership Capacity: Los Angeles Unified School District”) with LAUSD, and Katiusca Moreno (“Cultivating and Sustaining Personal Leadership Development: Redefining Teacher Leadership at Teach For America in the Los Angeles Region”) with Teach For America’s Los Angeles office. In cohort 2, Lucia Moritz started her residency this summer with LAUSD’s Linked Learning Initiative, a district-wide strategy designed to transform high schools through integrating rigorous academics with real-world learning opportunities.

HARVARD EDUCATION PRESS Harvard Education Press published Learning From L.A.: Institutional Change in American Public Education by

ALUMS Dozens of Ed School alumni work at colleges and universities in Los Angeles, including Samuel Bersola, Ed.M.’90, assistant vice provost of graduate studies at UCLA; Sally Richmond, Ed.M.’99, associate dean of admissions at Occidental College; and Ani Shabazian, Ed.M.’99, director of the Children’s Center at Loyola Marymount University. A number also work for LAUSD, including José Cole-Gutiérrez, Ed.M.’98, director of the district’s charter school division, and Tanya Sullivan, Ed.M.’03, principal at the Accelerated Charter Elementary School.

Charles Taylor Kerchner, David Menefee-Libey, Laura Steen Mulfinger, and Stephanie Clayton. The book focuses on a four-year study of the last 40 years of education reform in Los Angeles.

PPE In the past year, 21 participants from Los Angeles have attended PPE institutes, representing both the preK–12 and higher education sectors. This past summer, 11 more attended summer sessions. This included leadership programs with the Principals’ Center and the Harvard Institutes for Higher Education, as well as preK–12 programs focusing on teaching and learning.

appian way

It started with a tug that wouldn’t go away. Lynette Tannis, Ed.M.’10, Ed.D.’13, was sitting in church one Sunday afternoon near her home in New Jersey, when a request went out for volunteers for the Women’s Prison Ministry team. She was interested but wondered what she could offer the women. A couple of days later, at a back-to-school event at the high school where she was working as a literacy coordinator, Tannis happened to sit next to a stranger who recognized her from church and mentioned that she was on the Women’s Prison Ministry team. A week later, in the staff lounge, another teacher mentioned a woman they both knew who, as it turns out, was also doing prison ministry work. “Well, this confirmed for me that I was supposed to get involved,” Tannis says. For the next three years, she visited women at two correctional facilities on Saturdays and Sundays, talking to them about their lives and how they faltered. They would sing songs and read the Bible. Sometimes, she helped people she knew: the parents of former students; a young woman who tried out for the high school basketball team she coached. The experience was, she says, very humbling. “After we left and hopped into the church van to return to church, I’d sit quietly, my heart too deep and troubled to speak,” she says. “I was no different than these women. One poor choice can completely alter someone’s path.” The tug came back a few years later when, as a student at the Ed School, she had to write a research paper for a class with Senior Lecturer Kitty Boles, Ed.D.’91. “I thought about those women and how eager they were,” she says. “It got me thinking about young people.” Although she came to the Ed School to study school leadership, she decided to follow the tug further and look into this new topic: how incarcerated students are educated. What she found was disturbing. Only 65 percent of the juvenile justice facilities in the United States offer an educational program for incarcerated young people. Only 47 percent of this population on IEPs receive educational services. “We’re not doing enough,” Tannis says. As she wrote in her dissertation, focused on four juvenile facilities in Florida, “many people believe all children are entitled to a high-quality education, yet this sentiment becomes less pervasive when the children are our nation’s incarcerated youth.” The sentiment was driven home during a visit to a juvenile facility.


Education For All?

“One of the guards stated, ‘Why are you even bothering?’” she says. “We still have this belief that these kids were bad, so why should we take resources from our ‘good children.’” We all make mistakes, she says, and if we want to prevent kids from repeating them, we have to educate them. “They are coming to a community near you. Do you want them better educated when they come out?” she says. “If society expects incarcerated youth to be transformed when they return to their communities, these youth must be exposed to high-quality education in addition to other resources, like counseling and therapy, provided by the juvenile justice facilities.” In some ways, being locked up is an optimal setting for young people to learn. “The distractions have been removed,” Tannis says. As part of her qualitative research, Tannis also interviewed and observed the educators who work with incarcerated youth. “It’s not for the faint of heart,” she says, “but I saw a love and passion for the work. These educators want to be there. One teacher sprayed potpourri before every class. She wanted a nice setting. In some facilities, there was student work posted all over. In another, a sign said, ‘Head up at all times.’” Tannis says she hopes that the research produced from her dissertation helps push the discussion — and the actions taken — concerning young people who are incarcerated. “We as a society need to understand that all of our youth need to be successful,” she says. “It’s important that we don’t just pass them aside. It’s our mindset that needs to change. And it’s up to me and others to ring the alarms.” — Lory Hough HARVARD GRADUATE SCHOOL OF EDUCATION


How do you measure impact? There are times when you can say you did A and as a result, B happened. But impact is hard to measure, in part because it’s hard to define. Ten years after the Public Education Leadership Project (PELP) began as a collaboration between the Ed School and the Harvard Business School to see how business strategies could be used to help public schools improve student performance, what has been the program’s impact? Harvard Business School Professor Allen Grossman, who has been a faculty member of the project since it started, has no problem answering that question. “PELP played an important role in underscoring the idea that the quality of a district’s management and leadership is directly linked to its ability to improve educational outcomes for the majority of its students,” he says. “While the context for school districts is considerably different than in business, those same elements must be in place for success.” In other words, in order to be effective, whether a company or a school, the leadership has to be strong.” Grossman says one great example of this comes out of the Baltimore City Public School district, which participated for five years in the PELP summer program. “Baltimore City Public Schools had dismal results for years and was considered a lost cause by many until [Professor] Andrés Alonso, [Ed.M.’99, Ed.D.’06] took over as superintendent,” he says. “He developed a focused improvement strategy, put a team in place that could deliver on the strategy, and built a coherent organization to drive the strategy. This is not unlike what an excellent business leader would do to improve a company. The result for Baltimore City Schools? Improved student performance.” Professor Susan Moore Johnson, M.A.T.’69, Ed.D.’81, faculty cochair of PELP, says another way the program has made an major impact — less tangible than performance measures, but nonetheless critical — is in the deep, strong connections created within and between the 20 large urban districts that have participated over the years. “Superintendents might know each other, but what we’ve done is built a network, not just with superintendents, but also with leadership teams within the districts,” she says. Districts send teams of eight, not individuals. Teams live and work together for a week in the summer. During the rest of the year, PELP faculty produce related research and are available to the participants for guidance and ideas. The result, Moore Johnson says, is that best practices on how to effectively lead and manage urban school districts are being shared and are spreading in meetings, at conferences, 18




PELP a Decade Later

and online. For example, case studies, which are an important part of the PELP summer program, are available, for free, to the public, and have been used in classes at the Ed School and at the Business School. Students in the Ed.L.D. Program are also starting to find placements for their third-year residencies in PELP districts. Participant Meria Carstarphen, Ed.M.’99, Ed.D.’02, superintendent of schools in Austin, Tex., says that she continues using the case studies — and the connection to PELP faculty — when she returns to her district. “It’s one of those relationships where, four months later, I can pick up the phone and call one of the professors and say, ‘We’re really trying to use this case with our teams. These are the kinds of questions that are coming up. Can you advise me on how to do a better job of facilitating our organization through this discussion?’” Another factor in the program’s longevity is that the work done during the summer isn’t just theoretical — it focuses on real issues being faced by districts. Tom Boasberg, superintendent of schools in Denver, has attended the program five times with his teams. Each year, they come ready to tackle an actual problem. “It’s something we really want to focus on as a team, to go in depth on, have probing and challenging discussions about,” he says, “and then be able to take that back as a team to our district and share our thoughts with other members of the leadership team. It allows us the time and the space to go deeper in a more thoughtful way.” Having that time and space is unique, says Lecturer Karen Mapp, Ed.M.’93, Ed.D.’99, who participated that first year, in 2003, when she was deputy superintendent for family and community engagement for the city of Boston. “You rarely have time to sit down and really think about solving a problem of practice,” she says. “Most of the time, you’re putting out fires as they are presented to you. To have the time to be strategic and to have the tools to be strategic is extraordinary.” — Lory Hough

v to read a case study:


Associate Professor Andrew Ho

The thing that drew you to them: I always thought I’d be able to entertain my daughter with all the books I read when I was a kid, but after revisiting them, I’ve found many of them to be excessively old-fashioned, particularly in their display of gender roles. So I’ve been

looking for children’s stories with strong female characters.

First impressions: First? I must have read each of them hundreds of times. Favorite book from childhood: I’m still partial to Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth. My daughter can’t read it yet but likes to tear the pages. Noneducation genre of choice: I read thousands of words a week on, a sports and pop culture website that features long-form essays in particular. From time to time they

revisit great sports essays from years past, like David Foster Wallace’s classic 2006 piece on Roger Federer, and reflect on them. More generally, is a way for me to keep up with television, movies, sports, and pop culture without actually spending the time to watch.

How you find the time: I’m one of those annoying people who is always reading from his iPhone while walking down the street. I have good peripheral vision and haven’t run into anybody or injured myself yet. Knock on wood. — Marin Jorgensen



Currently reading: I am currently rotating through about 10 different children’s books with my 22-month-old daughter. Her favorites are I Took the Moon for a Walk, a beautifully illustrated goodnight story by Carolyn Curtis and Alison Jay; Mo Willems’ Knuffle Bunny, the 2004 Caldecott Honor winner; and Julia Donaldson’s Zog, a modern take on dragons and princesses by a Scottish author. On my literal bookshelf, Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto has been on my checklist, but I haven’t checked it off yet.



The Allure of Order Jal Mehta In The Allure of Order, Associate Professor Jal Mehta recounts the many attempts — and failures — to reform the U.S. education system over the past century. The problem, he contends, is that reformers are coming at the problem backwards: Rather than focusing on the accountability of a teaching force that has failed, we should be concentrating instead on building a strong, skilled, and expert profession from the beginning.




Anytime, Anywhere: Student-Centered Learning for Schools and Teachers

The Big Disconnect

Nancy Hoffman, Rebecca Wolfe, and Adria Steinberg

In a time where technology is at our fingertips and access to information is quick, how do we maintain a personal connection to our children and guide them through the transition into adulthood? In The Big Disconnect, Catherine Steiner-Adair, Ed.M.’77, Ed.D.’84, explores how the Internet and other media are changing childhood and family dynamics, and suggests ways in which parents can prepare their children for “meaningful life in the digital age.”

For years educators have argued for a transition from the traditional way of teaching to student-centered learning, focusing on the needs of each individual student. Anytime, Anywhere, cowritten by Adjunct Lecturer Nancy Hoffman, highlights research and practices that support the premise that students learn best when they have a true stake in their own learning.

Catherine Steiner-Adair with Teresa Barker

Contesting the Myth of a ‘Post Racial’ Era

Sex Ed for Caring Schools

Dorinda Carter Andrews and Franklin Tuitt

Sharon Lamb

Education scholars come together in Contesting the Myth to explore the implications of race and racism in education in the Obama era. Through examinations of policy, practice, research, equity, and access, Dorinda Carter Andrews, Ed.M.’01, Ed.D.’05, and Franklin Tuitt, C.A.S.’96, Ed.M.’97, Ed.D.’03, dismiss the notion of a post-racial United States and demonstrate how far there is to go to improve access and opportunity for students of color.

Striving to go beyond the health education provided by most schools and to address topics that are of genuine concern to today’s teens, Sex Ed for Caring Schools by Sharon Lamb, Ed.M.’80, Ed.D.’88 — and its online counterpart — outlines the controversies surrounding sex education and presents a curriculum that encourages students to think, talk, and write about the “moral and relational issues underlying sex in society today.”

To read the full list of books featured in this issue, visit

v if you’re part of the ed school community and you’ve recently published a book, mail us a copy or let us know at — Briefs by Marin Jorgensen HARVARD GRADUATE SCHOOL OF EDUCATION


what’s the


When it comes to “improving” schools, students, and teachers, there’s no shortage of opinions out there on what won’t work. We wanted to know, what could work? For several months, we asked people to tell us one tangible education idea they had that was worth spreading. Some writers are connected to the Ed School, others aren’t. Yes, there’s even an idea from a Muppet. As you’ll see, a few ideas are slight twists on thoughts we’ve heard before; others are quirky and curious. All, we hope, will get you thinking.

Illustrations by Angelina Berardi

Embrace Failure “Fail early, fail often” is a mantra of many software engineers. This phrase makes explicit the necessity of being iterative and incremental in design work. It is a view of creativity that acknowledges its messiness, complexity, and process-orientation. And although learning, like software design, is messy, complex, and process-oriented, most formal educational experiences do not encourage being iterative and incremental. Failure is often a dirty word in schools when it should be something we embrace, something we aspire to — an essential part of every learning experience. Let’s create a culture of learning in which we trust students to explore wildly ambitious ideas and activities, and support them to confront and analyze their failures when the need to refine and repeat does (and should) happen. As Samuel Beckett wrote, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” Karen Brennan is an assistant professor at the Ed School who received her doctorate from the MIT Media Lab.

Abandon the Clock The current system of education is time-based. Students attend 12 grades of school for 180 days a year, taking classes for lengths of time established by the Carnegie Foundation in 1906. College is comparable. The focus is on how long students are exposed to teaching, and it assumes all students can learn the same amount in the same period of time. So let’s abandon the clock and switch the focus from teaching to learning. This would be a time-variable system of education rooted in the outcomes or competencies students are expected to achieve. Students would advance according to mastery and the curriculum would be individualized to meet the learning needs of each student. High-stakes testing would give way to just-in-time assessments built into each instructional unit much like a GPS. The teacher would have four roles: diagnostician of student learning needs, prescriptor of the best instructional approaches for each student to meet those needs, instructor, and assessor of student progress. The principal beneficiaries of the change will be our children.

Make Teachers Pass a Board Exam Lawyers have the bar, doctors have boards, and teachers have … Praxis exams? As we move into an era in which we are aiming for all students to leave school “college and career ready,” we need to similarly upgrade the expectations for entering teachers. Teachers need their own version of boards — a rigorous set of requirements that would include exams of content and pedagogical knowledge, observations of teaching, and examinations of students’ work — which would certify teachers as having successfully completed their training and earned their membership into a demanding and highly skilled profession. This is not a new idea, but it is one whose time has come. In the past year, both major teachers’ unions as well as the organization that represents state educational leaders have championed it. If such an exam were sufficiently rigorous, it could be a gamechanger. Demanding new requirements could shape who is drawn to teaching, guide the work of teacher preparation institutions, develop more consistent skill across the teaching force, improve student outcomes, and greatly increase public regard for teachers and teaching. Jal Mehta is an associate professor at the Ed School, coauthor of The Futures of School Reform, and author of The Allure of Order (see page 20).

Arthur Levine is president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship foundation and president emeritus of Teachers College at Columbia University.

Bye Bye Homework I think we shouldn’t have homework. I think that we shouldn’t have homework because it wastes our free time. My mom thinks we should not have homework, too, because she doesn’t believe in it, and she says that because she thinks it wastes our time, too. Besides, kids want free time to watch television and play games like soccer and Chutes and Ladders ‘cause that’s fun, unlike homework. We also work hard at school all day. If I could change one thing, I would definitely stop homework. Charlotte Evans is a second-grader in northern Virginia and granddaughter of Paula Evans, M.A.T.’67. HARVARD GRADUATE SCHOOL OF EDUCATION


Teach Filmmaking in Elementary Schools

Forget the Four-Year College

I think filmmaking should be taught in all elementary schools. When kids know how to use video cameras and editing software, they have another way to present their work and express their ideas. I have been making movies since the camera was bigger than my head. At school, I was not excited about many of the activities offered, such as sports or performing. At one point, I thought my head would explode if I had to sing another silly song for a school show. In first grade, I found a way to use filmmaking in my schoolwork. I did a report for a book called New York, New York, Big Apple from A–Z. Instead of just writing a regular report, I made a video showing me visiting all the places in the book. This made the book come alive for me. In fourth grade, I learned about journalism by making a documentary about school lunch. This project made me a better thinker and presenter. Learning about filmmaking helps students discover that they don’t just have to be mindless consumers of content made by other people. They can also be creators of their own original work. When I grow up, I hope to be a successful filmmaker. The skills I am learning now, even as an elementary school student, are helping me to reach that goal.

The way we currently do things is you go to a university and spend four years, starting when you’re 18 or 19. Then we give you a degree. Why is four years the right number? Why is 18 the right age to start? Instead, let’s think about continuous learning. Starting in high school, you take online courses and spend time working. By the time you go to a university, you’ve completed maybe a year of freshman-level courses. Then you go to the university and spend maybe two years getting the campus experience, interacting with peers. For the final year or two, we let you go: You go into the world and then spend the rest of your life learning. All it takes is one innovative university to pilot a program like this, to dip a toe in the water without getting hurt, to say to students, “We’ll give you five years to take x amount of courses.” The beauty of this approach is that students only have to pay tuition for two years and the university can, in turn, take in twice as many students.

Zachary Maxwell is an 11-year-old, award-winning filmmaker who attends public school in New York City.

Anant Agarwal is president of edX, a worldwide, online learning initiative started by Harvard and MIT, where he is also a professor.

Give Pell Grants to Kids Congress should enact Pell Grants for kids and provide a $500 scholarship to each of the 25 million low- and middle-income children in America. This idea is neither new nor entirely my own. In the late 1960s, Ed School Dean Ted Sizer proposed a Poor Children’s Bill of Rights that would have supplied scholarships of $5,000 per child to the poorest half of American children. President George H.W. Bush put forward a similar idea in 1992, while I was secretary of education. Under a K–12 program modeled on Pell, which helps low-income students attend the colleges of their choice, children could use their grants at any accredited school, public or private, or for private tutoring or online courses. If you made the grant available to families earning $58,000 or less, you’d reach about half of America’s 50 million elementary and secondary school students. Parents armed with $500 grants would go directly into the education marketplace, encouraging the same dynamics of choice and competition that have made American universities the envy of the world. While the grants could be used in private schools, I believe most parents are likely to direct the money to their public school to meet its general needs or to seek the school’s advice on how best to help their child. Affluent parents regularly augment their schools’ budgets with contributions for extra programs. It’s time to give less-affluent parents the same opportunity. Lamar Alexander, a Republican U.S. senator from Tennessee, is a former U.S. secretary of education and university president.




Don’t Teach All Students the Same Way

Eat Cookies and Control Yourself Hello there, it me, Cookie Monster. Now when me asked what me think next big thing in education was, me first thought of course was cookie. Me thought there should be some sort of cookie that have knowledge baked right in. This way me eat and learn at same time. Me thought this pretty groundbreaking idea. But technology no there yet! So me throw it over to the boys that make cookies and we see what happened. In meantime, me asked research department here at Sesame what they think is next big thing in education. And they tell me it executive function. At first me think executive function is learning skills like how to go to meeting, how to wear pin-stripe suit, how not to commit corporate malfeasance. But that not it at all. Executive function is all about controlling self. They say controlling self is very important when you go to school. And me tell them me should be poster boy for executive function. Me know all about controlling self. Me control meself round the clock. Wait a minute. Clock is round. Like cookie. Now me cannot think of anything else but cookie. Me need cookie! Where coo-kie? COO-KIEEEEEE!! Ahm-ahm-ahm! Anyway, where was me? Oh yeah, executive function. It next big thing. Cookie Monster is, well, Cookie Monster. 

A note from Rosemarie Truglio, head of research at Sesame Workshop: School readiness has always been at the heart of Sesame Street’s mission. While Cookie Monster is focusing on building his executive-function skills to help control his impulses to eat cookies, Sesame Workshop is focusing its attention on developing preschoolers’ self-regulation and executive function skills, both core to their school and life success. Children are able to respond in a more purposeful and controlled manner through the ABCs of self-regulation, which are: 1. affective: ability to understand and manage your feelings; 2. behavior: impulse control, frustration tolerance, and delay of gratification; and 3. cognitive (executive function skills): working memory, planning, intentional self-control, flexible thinking skills, and task persistence.

People are really different! Really! Different people have different interests and talents. As teachers we need to shape what we teach to fit the different interests and talents of our students. Then we can help them to learn along the distinctive pathways that fit each of them. Another way of saying this is that we need to individualize instruction. One student loves music and learns about it easily and well. Another engages with acting and enjoys playing roles and acting out stories. Each person is unique, and we should recognize this uniqueness by shaping what we teach to fit each person’s distinctive needs and talents. Kurt Fischer is a professor at the Ed School and director of the Mind, Brain, and Education Program.

Teach Social Skills to Middle Schoolers Middle school students should be explicitly taught social development skills. In many schools, school-wide discipline focuses mainly on reacting to specific student misbehavior by implementing punishment-based strategies. But the implementation of punishment, especially when it is used inconsistently and in the absence of other positive strategies, is ineffective. There is a new wave of small schools that simply teach students to comply with directives. But how does that support the Common Core Standards that focus on students using higher-order thinking skills to be able to think on their own? It is essential for students, in all schools, to be taught tools to help them monitor their own behavior and for this to be reinforced through explicit modeling and reinforcing. Caitlin Franco, Ed.M.’06, is principal and founder of Equality Charter School in the Bronx, N.Y. HARVARD GRADUATE SCHOOL OF EDUCATION


“JumpstART” Learning Given what the research tells us about the arts as a keystone for engaging students, as well as a springboard for academic learning, what if each morning, school could begin with a jumpstART? Every student would take part in a 15-minute, arts-infused learning activity, like reading a poem by Maya Angelou, then entering the text through rhythmic and melodic interpretations, using voices and found objects to create a cacophony of sounds; or finding a specimen in nature, then analyzing and drawing it in visual journals. Grade-level teacher teams would collaborate on a weekly basis to determine the “theme” for each morning’s jumpstART mini-curriculum. This theme would then be a focus for the day and carry in some way into each of their academic classrooms. At the end of the day students and teachers would spend a few minutes together debriefing the activity and connecting it to the theme. The intent of jumpstART is to spark students’ imaginations, ignite both critical and innovative thinking pathways, inspire deeper understanding and demonstrate the clear connections in and across the academic subject areas, build a classroom culture that supports informal performances to engage students, and build a schoolwide conversation on teacher practice. Eileen Mackin, Ed.M.’97, is director and founder of SmART Schools.

Use Kiosks to Teach Street Kids In 1999, Sugata Mitra, a professor at NIIT University in India, conducted his “hole-in-the-wall” experiment aimed at proving that street children could teach themselves how to use a computer without any formal training. When Mitra ran the experiment, computers were costly in India. These days, however, they are everywhere. Just in the city of Bangalore, India, there are more than a dozen kiosks that are available for citizens to make their electricity bill payments — 24/7. These kiosks are over and above the human-operated walk-in service centers across the city and have a down time, not just during non-office hours, but also during the latter half of the month. Let’s repurpose that downtime to teach street children life skills. These kiosks are accessible to the street children and are relatively safe spaces for learning. There have been enough studies on how street children can teach themselves through images. We just have to present them with enough opportunities. Why not let them use these screens when we are not? Mydhili Bayyapunedi, Ed.M.’11, lives in India and is interested in designing informal learning for the illiterate.

Add Ethically-Based, Coming-of-Age Ritual With fewer Americans actively religious, fewer youth are participating in meaningful traditions that can build moral commitment and awareness. Why not instate an ethically-based, coming-of-age ritual in schools? Some schools have developed “youth capstone” experiences, but these experiences commonly lack a substantial ethical component. Students might instead undertake a capstone, guided by a school and/ or community adult, that engages them in building and reflecting on an ethical school community, developing their empathy, respect for differences, commitment to justice and other capacities key to their being effective citizens, workers, and family members. This semester or yearlong project might include, say, writing a biography of someone in the school who is very different in background; creating a video comprising interviews with other students, custodians, school secretaries, and various other school community members about what constitutes a just community; or developing a board or video game that promotes empathy and responsibility. This project could culminate in a community ceremony where students display their projects or perform. Students might undertake this sustained experience at key developmental junctures, e.g., ages 13 and 16. True, establishing this tradition will be tough for already strapped schools. But this low-cost ritual can help build more caring communities; strengthen students’ ties to school adults; engage parents around a vibrant, positive activity; and develop both students’ academic and ethical skills. And the stark reality is this: If we want a just society, we need to far more carefully attend in schools to developing students with the skills and commitments to lead just lives. Richard Weissbourd, Ed.D.’87, a lecturer at the Ed School, is also director of the Human Development and Psychology Program and co-director of the Making Caring Common Project.

Offer Comedy Classes ha! Ha!


How about comedy classes for kids? At last the kids who pass messages and make funny comments and sit in the back of the class would have a chance to shine! Homework? Write two or three minutes of jokes. (This is longer than one would think.) Topic? Family, friends, pets, vacation, weather, sports, current events. Presentation? Great practice in public speaking, in knowing your audience. Throw in some improv and acting. Great skills (thinking on your feet, listening to others) for any future businessperson, educator, or politician. Learn not to tell jokes about your teachers if you want a good grade. Learn the value of humor in any presentation. And have fun! Jane Condon, Ed.M.’74, is a comedian who has appeared on the Tonight Show, Last Comic Standing, and The View.




Think Globally In today’s increasingly interconnected world, we have to change the way we think about education and approach it as a cooperative, global effort instead of a local, competitive one. For too long, education has been defined as a domestic or local issue. When political leaders do talk about education globally, it’s often in a zerosum way — if China is up, then the United States is down. But at a time when economies are linked and gross inequality anywhere is a threat to security and prosperity everywhere, we all have a stake in ensuring that marginalized children across the world receive a highquality education. Consider the far-reaching consequences when India is projected to comprise a quarter of the world’s workforce by 2030 yet is failing to equip 90 percent of today’s students with a secondary school education. The good news is, momentum for change is growing. We can fuel it by building a global community among advocates and organizations fighting to expand educational opportunity in their countries. We should also lobby our leaders to embrace global benchmarks and work collaboratively with their foreign counterparts to move forward faster. There are more tools and resources than ever before to help us learn from top-performing teachers, schools, and school systems around the world. We should use them. We are all better off in a world of rising education levels and decreasing disparities.

Make Coding Mandatory Coding is the new literacy. All individuals must be literate in computer systems to engage in building a better society. Everything we do is tied to using computer systems — from reading the news and purchasing groceries, to communicating with family, to teaching and learning and activating community. How are America’s schools preparing youth for digital citizenship? Unfortunately, it remains mostly focused on the 3Rs (reading, writing, arithmetic) while the ability to read, write, and manipulate code is quickly becoming more relevant. Why? Coding breaks barriers of geography, enabling collaboration, creative storytelling, and innovation, as well as leveraging the diverse expertise of people in multiple places to solve the world’s most pressing problems independent of linguistic or cultural differences. This is why every student in every school should be required to learn to read and write code. Some schools teach coding through supplemental programs or advanced computing classes, but this skill should not be a perk for some students in affluent zip codes; it must be available to everyone, starting young, despite geography or socioeconomic status. The only way to do this is through a national shift in K–12 curriculum. As with reading and mathematics, exposure to coding from an early age will yield deeper fluency — whether we become programmers or not. We all learn how to write as a pathway to prosperity, but we do not all become novelists. These days it is the same with coding. If we do not commit nationally to creating a pipeline of creative coders who can read, write, and think with this language, we compromise the future of our youth and our nation. Idit Harel Caperton, Ed.M.’84, C.A.S.’85, is president and CEO of World Wide Workshop and Globaloria. She has advocated for teaching every child computer programming since the 1980s.

Wendy Kopp is the founder and CEO of Teach For America.

Encourage Slow Learning


Schools should be in the business of teaching complex knowledge, and complex knowledge develops slowly. Slow learning involves radically expanding the typical timeframe devoted to learning about complex things. It might mean spending a few hours looking at a painting rather than a few minutes, or spending an entire afternoon examining the pattern of weeds growing at the edge of the playground. It might mean creating long lists of questions about a topic and then slowly sifting through them to discern multiple paths of inquiry. It might mean taking weeks or even months to explore a historical event from a wide variety of perspectives. It might mean spending an entire year exploring a problem in the community and designing and testing a solution. Young people — indeed most of us — spend huge amounts of time speeding along the super highways of information and communication. Schools shouldn’t be part of the traffic, they should be a respite, a rest stop, a place where learning can unfold slowly and where there is always ample time to poke and probe and tinker with complex things and ideas. The path to complex knowledge doesn’t run straight, and it shouldn’t be traveled quickly. Shari Tishman, Ed.D.’91, is director of Project Zero and a lecturer at the Ed School. HARVARD GRADUATE SCHOOL OF EDUCATION



What’s your idea? Tell us at

To Understand LGBT Students, Walk in Their Shoes All students should feel safe to learn and thrive in schools. By encouraging all students to engage in perspective-taking about the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students, I think there is a real opportunity to increase tolerance and acceptance for sexual minorities. One possible way to do this is to allow students to participate in discussions about LGBT people, including providing them with the opportunity to ask questions and to reflect on how their own behavior impacts their LGBT peers. The simple act of reflecting on the lived experiences of people who are different — in this case based on sexual orientation and gender identity, but potentially based on other minority identities — is an important step toward improving school climate for all students.

Get Rid of Compulsory Schooling


Adrienne Mundy-Shephard, Ed.M.’12, is a current Ed.D. student at the Ed School and a member of the Massachusetts Commission on LGBT Youth.

Support Girls’ Right to Learn

In the April 1924 issue of The American Mercury, journalist and satirist H.L. Mencken ginned up a well-constructed piece on the true purpose of public education: “The aim … is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality.” With lineage in 19th-century Prussia, Horace Mann and various education reformers were successful in molding a compulsory school system — forcing children to kowtow to an irrational authority for years on end and learn via obedience and coercion, antithetical to human development. It is a well-known fact among historians like David McCullough that the literacy rates prior to compulsory schooling were much higher in states like Massachusetts. We must get rid of compulsory schooling in this country. It will force schools to reinvent their practices and become humane and healthy places to send children, instead of being another rite of passage around age five. Meanwhile, let’s reimagine our cities and communities as engines for schooling and problem-solving, where learning shifts from institutions and into the “town square” — coffee shops, makerspaces, museums, libraries, and community centers. There are too many problems to solve, too many people to meet, and too many lives to touch to mandate that young people be holed up in prison-like buildings and conditions for some of the most creative years of their lives. What if we gave young people the tools and resources, opened the floodgates, and let them have the freedom to live and learn?

Take education for girls even more seriously. This fact from the World Bank may surprise you: Educating girls yields a higher rate of return than any other investment in the developing world. Research has shown that educating a girl has substantial positive effects on child mortality and nutrition, overall family health, fertility rates, women’s domestic empowerment, women’s wages, and, most interestingly, overall countrywide economic development. While this fact has been known in development circles for more than two decades, the power of educating girls has recently caught on in popular discussion. With books and films like Half the Sky and Girl Rising capturing people’s attention, and the tragic shooting of 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai for advocating for girls’ education in Pakistan dominating international headlines, it’s heartening to witness a big idea get bigger. Let’s make sure we don’t take education for girls for granted but, instead, continue to push for more investment around the world.

Nikhil Goyal, a recent high school graduate, is the author of One Size Does Not Fit All: A Student’s Assessment of School.

Nell O’Donnell, Ed.M.’10, is a current doctoral student in the Cultures, Communities, and Education concentration.



Good Riddance to the Summer Vacay Let’s make summer vacation two weeks instead of two months. That alone would radically improve the outcomes of our students, particularly those in low-income neighborhoods. While most of us have fond memories of our summer vacations, it has been documented that students lose two or more months of what they learn during the school year. For poor kids, the loss is typically worse than for their middle class peers since they usually don’t have enriching summer activities. So our “lazy days of summer” worsen America’s achievement gap; one study found it accounted for more than half of the gap. In the unstructured days of summer, kids also eat more and are more sedentary so they gain weight faster, contributing to the country’s obesity epidemic. Shortening the summer break would also be a help to working parents. About half of America’s moms are working fulltime, which means they have to scramble for childcare coverage. Like many of today’s education problems, the remedy has been off the table and never given serious consideration. But if schools are going to serve the kids in them, not the adults, shortening our “traditional” summer vacation makes perfect sense. Geoffrey Canada, Ed.M.’75, is the president and CEO of the nonprofit Harlem Children’s Zone.

Don’t Let the Boss Do All the Thinking As educational leaders feel the ever-present burden of doing more with less, many leaders draw on their own knowledge and insights or simply work harder. But does being smarter or working harder actually create better schools? Our research shows that when leaders rely too heavily on their own intelligence, they underutilize the capability of their teams. People learn it’s easier and safer to let the boss do the thinking. These leaders become “diminishers” of intelligence. Contrast this to a different model for leadership that we call “multipliers.” Multipliers focus their attention on amplifying the intelligence of those around them. Instead of being the genius-at-the-top with all the good ideas, they are genius makers. At a time when educational organizations are expected to do more with less, leaders can’t afford to overlook the intelligence and capability that sits right in front of them. Educational leaders must draw on the intelligence of everyone on their staff and student body, effectively doubling their brain force for free.

Let Students Use One Another to Learn

A business-as-usual senior year is a waste of time. States with exit exams generally peg them to a 10th-grade level, which ought to tell you something about official expectations. Thousands of motivated kids refuse to accept that state of affairs and so enroll in college. That’s commendable, but why not raise the bar in high school and shorten the time? If some students need a 12th year, fine. But why bore hundreds of thousands of our youth? Instead, spend the money on free, universal, high-quality preschool. States are cutting preschool spending now, but they don’t have to — if they are willing to think outside the box. They could take a great leap forward; provide free, highquality, universal preschool for all of our four-year-olds; and rescue our 12thgraders from boredom at the same time. What’s not to like about that?

The digital revolution is taking place so quickly and on so many fronts that it’s hard to catch hold of generalizable principles. But consider these three parallel and seemingly independent phenomena: More than 98 percent of all children and young people play video games; the time devoted to social networking, whether on Facebook or newer platforms, has grown explosively; and the favored means of both informationseeking and communications, especially among young people, is no longer via computers or laptops but smartphones. What underlies these and other trends of the digital era is the emphasis on connecting with peers — competing with, socializing with, and sharing information with people in your own age group. Whether it’s relationships, health, entertainment, or tips about anything else, studies show that young people’s number one “go to” source for informal learning is other youth online. So let’s tap into this preference to make formal learning more natural and more attractive. Invite children to choose a few learning partners for each subject in school. Stop making teachers manage classrooms of 25 or more students. Instead, teachers can give short lessons that introduce new material, and then young people can tutor one another in small groups, using whatever technology they are comfortable with. Teachers can spend more time with kids who are struggling while offering challenging prompts to more advanced groups. We always say that teaching something is the best way to learn it. Let’s share this secret with children, and turn their preference for learning from peers into a strength rather than a threat.

John Merrow, Ed.D.’73, is the education correspondent for PBS NewsHour and president of Learning Matters, an independent production company.

Joe Blatt, Ed.M.’77, is director of the Technology, Innovation, and Education Program and a senior lecturer at the Ed School.

Elise Foster, Ed.M.’06, is coauthor of a book for educational leaders called The Multiplier Effect: Tapping the Genius Inside Our Schools.

Get Rid of 12th Grade



Give Them Salad Bars Years ago, when asked what the one thing schools could do to improve childhood nutrition, I said, “Get a salad bar.” It’s a great way to give kids access to a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables every day. There were a lot of naysayers who said it wouldn’t work, that little kids wouldn’t know how to use them and that big kids would spit in them. But kids from kindergarten through high school all over the country have proved the naysayers wrong. Broccoli and cherry tomatoes and carrots and spinach disappear faster and faster as kids grow to love their salad bars. They should be a mandatory part of every school nutrition program. Ann Cooper, the Renegade Lunch Lady chef, is founder of FoodFamily Farming Foundation and won’t stop until healthy, whole, and delicious school food is no longer considered renegade.

Use Teacher “Talk” To Reduce Student Stress

Let Students Solve Problems Students should be provided, as part of their regular educational experiences in middle school and high school, with frequent opportunities to identify a problem they have an interest in, study it, think through options to address it, and design solutions. This activity should extend over a substantial period of time, even an academic year, serving as a fulcrum for integration of the knowledge and skills students are gaining in their academic studies. Students themselves should be leading these activities, with teachers and other adults serving as resources and mentors. Teachers and school leaders could facilitate this opportunity by: a) setting aside specific time for students to engage in this form of design-based education, for instance, by establishing design and innovation labs; b) infusing in the curriculum opportunities for students to establish links to this activity; c) structuring opportunities to inspire students to study and solve a problem, for instance showcasing current and past students’ exemplary projects; d) providing opportunities for students to present their projects to an authentic audience of peers and members of the community; and e) not telling students what projects to work on by staying hands-off. Fernando Reimers, Ed.M.’84, Ed.D.’88, is a professor at the Ed School and director of the International Education Program.




Students experience stress at school. That’s a fact. But teachers can help, just by what they say, what I call “teacher talk.” A study published in Science describes an intervention by which students were prompted by teachers to talk about and reaffirm their most important values in writing before taking a high-stakes test. The impact of this simple intervention was huge, with a precipitous drop in student stress and an associated 40 percent drop in the achievement gap between African American and European American students on the test. Because emotions are biological processes based in social interaction, teachers can help their students manage school-related stress through the language they use in the classroom. When prompted, the mind can be a powerful tool to destress the body. A teacher might say, “Everyone feels a little stress when they have to take an important test, but it’s important to remember that no matter how we do on the test, we are each a valuable part of this community. Let’s take a few minutes before we start the test to reflect on our values and how those values are important to our community.” Actively relieving stress is a skill students can develop with the support of knowledgeable adults. Teacher talk is one very important mechanism by which stress management can be modeled. Gabrielle Rappolt-Schlichtmann, Ed.M.’00, Ed.D.’07, is the director of research at CAST, Inc., and an adjunct lecturer at the Ed School, where she teaches a course on emotion in development and learning.

Expand Augmented Reality We should expand how we currently use augmented reality for learning — beyond the classroom. In augmented reality, participants gaze through the camera of a mobile device, such as a cellphone or a tablet, to see digital material overlaid on top of a real-world setting. For example, someone gazing at a stream could see an image of that watercourse a century ago, or an animation showing air mixing into the water via its churning motion, or an explanation of how to collect turbidity data for the stream using probeware attached to the mobile device. This immersive experience merges data, simulations, visualizations, and virtual experiences into physical contexts. Interweaving explanatory representations with real-world phenomena promotes engagement, learning, and transfer of abstract ideas into everyday actions. In both developed and developing countries, augmented reality could be a powerful means of lifewide learning. Farmers could use augmented reality to understand how best to plant their fields; students could learn economics by watching augmented reality illustrations of the flow of materials, people, and money through a shopping mall; and people could annotate their local communities with rich augmented reality histories of the inhabitants and structures. We now have the opportunity for shared learning and interpretation at the tips of our fingers. Chris Dede is a professor at the Ed School. His latest book, Digital Teaching Platforms, is a collection of essays on disruptive technologies and learning.

Find a Platform For Student Ideas Stapled to a wall in your favorite teacher’s classroom. Smushed into a box labeled “special” in your parent’s attic. Etched into a decaying hard drive of a computer that no longer holds power. Those are the common destinies of far too many of the “best” ideas put forth by students each year. No, not all great student ideas meet such obscure ends. High school student Jack Andraka is celebrated for parlaying an insight gained in biology class into a faster, cheaper early-detection test for pancreatic cancer. A peer-reviewed Royal Society journal published the original findings of 25 elementary school students who spent a semester rigorously determining how a Bombus Terretris (aka, a bumble bee) decides which flowers to forage. True, there are a number of student ideas that find life beyond the walls of a classroom. But, proportionally speaking, the billions of ideas diligently pursued and presented by students each year have the academic half-life of say … a mayfly. Why is that? If it is worth doing, shouldn’t it be worth sharing? Isn’t the promise of being “shared” inherently motivating? Isn’t exposure to peer-provided ideas as beneficial to young people as it is adults? And what does placing such a transient value on a student’s work do to a student’s ambition over time? I propose that the first iterations of the next “big ideas” in education are not on this list, but rather hidden in attics, pinned down by thumbtacks, and trapped by refrigerator magnets around the world. Student ideas are (and always have been) the future of our world. They simply need a visible platform to which they can go, and grow. Logan Smalley, Ed.M.’08, is director of TED-Ed.

Attach a Questionnaire to Standardized Tests While seemingly sarcastic in tone, the questions below bring to light only a few of the extenuating circumstances that are not accounted for in test scores. I do believe K–12 testing is an appropriate measure. However, many factors that negatively affect test scores and ultimately teacher evaluation scores. My student motivation questionnaire, which should be included with standardized tests, includes: 1. On a scale of 1–10, how motivated were you to do well on this test? 2. Did you “Christmas tree” any portion of this test? Fall asleep during a section? If so, which section? 3. Did you utilize a study guide or receive outside tutoring prior to the test? 4. Did you eat breakfast this morning? 5. Did you work, go to a game or event, or go out last night? How many hours of sleep did receive? 6. Are you experiencing relationship issues with a friend/boyfriend/ girlfriend that would have distracted you at any point during the test?

7. Do you believe that your parents care about how well you did on the test? 8. Are you currently on any form of medication, prescribed or non-prescribed (allergy, sinus, pain), that may have impacted your concentration or cognitive abilities during the test? 9. Are there any other contributing factors that may or may not have positively or negatively impacted your performance on the test today? 10. Is your name the same as the name printed on the answer sheet of this test?

Michelle Perrigin is a senior English teacher at Arlington High School in Arlington, Tenn., and a Common Core coach for the state.


T S E W , L T E S R A D E N E T D AN

By Brendan Pelsue Photographs by Anna Buckner 32



Students on their way to plant bamboo.


n a cold day in February, 106 fifth- through 12th-grade students in dark wool blazers are huddled on the steps of the courtyard of the Taktse International School in Sikkim, India. They jostle and elbow each other and seem not to notice the view: a panorama of the high Himalayas, stretching from Tibet in the east to the great icy mass of Kanchenjunga, the world’s third tallest peak, in the west. It is the first day of classes. Christine Stodolski, an American volunteer visiting the school for a year, is reading aloud from the Taktse mission statement. “‘The idea of the Taktse International School was conceived in the winter of 2004 when a group of concerned Sikkimese gathered to discuss the problems confronting our society,’” she says. “‘The erosion of traditional values, the increasing number of alienated youth with little or no marketable skills, the growth of mass consumerism. …’” She pauses. “Can any of you tell me what mass consumerism is?” Students are slow to answer. It’s when everybody buys things? When you want your neighbor’s TV? Yes, Stodolski says. It’s when people place importance on possessions. When it is more common for people to buy than to make them. She continues reading. “‘Rapid development and the failure of the greater society to wisely manage the forces of change have exacerbated these problems over the years. … Therefore we wanted to create a model school and community capable of producing the compassionate and ethical leaders that developing societies so desperately need.’” She pauses again. “Now, who can tell me what it means to be compassionate and ethical?”

This time, the students’ ideas flow more easily. Compassion is when you have an emotional understanding of another person’s situation. Being ethical means doing the right thing. Stodolski breaks the students into groups and asks them to think about times they have seen ethical or compassionate behavior, or engaged in it themselves. Most responses have to do with life at school, being kind to new students or standing up for friends. But then one student comes up with something more personal. When his father was young, the boy says, he expected to live his life as a subsistence farmer, like his family had for generations. But his brothers saw that he was bright and pooled their scant savings to send him to school. Their actions were part of tham-tsig, a traditional Sikkimese ideal of honest relationships based in sacrifice. As a result of this ancient code, the boy’s father prospered in a growing Indian economy that the rest of his family does not fully understand. The students are quiet after hearing this story. Many of them have similar family stories; some say the lifestyle gap between their grandparents and themselves feels more like centuries than years. Taktse’s principal, Peter “Pintso” Lauenstein-Denjongpa, Ed.M.’12, believes that moments like these, when students are made aware of their unique position at a threshold between worlds, is what the school is all about. “We are in a constant state of translation,” he says. “We are translating between East and West, city and village, old and new, indigenous and colonial, colonial and modern, feudal and democratic, North East (India) and Central, hills and plains.” His hope is that by fusing these disparate forces he can help the people of Sikkim retain agency over a land whose scenery and natural resources are fast becoming commodities in the

The Colonial Legacy in Indian Education


hey say teachers teach how they were taught, but at Taktse the opposite can be true. Many faculty members say they work hard to avoid recreating their own school experiences, which often involved public shaming and corporal punishment. Many of the schools these teachers attended trace their origins back to the colonial education system laid out by British politician Thomas Macaulay, whose 1835 Minute on Indian Education advocated replacing Arabic and Sanskrit schools with English ones. He hoped this system that would both enlighten the “comparatively

ignorant” peoples of the subcontinent and create a class of Anglicized clerks to work for Britain’s growing empire. After independence, the Indian government left much of the educational bureaucracy in place, including, some critics say, the cultural prejudices that went with it. The term “Macaulayism” has now grown to refer to any attempt by a colonizing culture to impose itself on its colonies through education. Almost 70 years after the end of British rule, it’s a legacy that Taktse’s teachers are still sifting through.



A Very Short History of Sikkim


Two students perform The Giving Tree during morning assembly. Recess time on traditional dress day.

global marketplace. Ed School students and alums are an increasingly important part of making this dream a reality, Lauenstein-Denjongpa says –– a dream that, like the student’s story of his uncles’ tham-tsig, stretches across cultures and generations. To know Lauenstein-Denjongpa is to know worlds colliding. On his office walls, diplomas from Harvard and the University of Chicago mix with traditional silk wall hangings and an old map of Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow. His conversation bounces from the Buddhist idea of samsara (“worldliness”) to the burdens of colonialism in India to how the Protestant work ethic has shaped the West. Even his full name –– Peter Phuntsok “Pintso” Ongdi Azubah LauensteinDenjongpa –– reflects the many cultures he inhabits, the various and unlikely threads that brought Taktse into being. The son of a Sikkimese father and an American mother, Lauenstein-Denjongpa was born in Sikkim in 1980, a few years after the kingdom was annexed by India. His parents, Sonam and Maria, had met at Brown University years earlier, where his father received a scholarship arranged by an ethnomusicology professor with an interest in the Himalayas. The couple ran a school for poor children in the village of Pelling, but the region’s proximity to Tibet made it politically sensitive, and the family returned to the United States in 1982 after Maria was unexpectedly deported. In the years that followed, Lauenstein-Denjongpa’s parents started a successful catering business in Beverly, Mass., a small city north of Boston. Lauenstein-Denjongpa and his younger brother Aka grew up hearing their father’s stories about Sikkim, a place where rocks could be deities and spiritual masters transformed themselves into rainbows when they died –– events Westerners call “myths” but that Sonam insists were once commonplace. But when the family returned to Sikkim for a visit in the late ’90s, the land of Sonam’s stories seemed to have disappeared. India was pouring in development money to shore up the border with Tibet, and that meant everything from 34



estled in the mountains between India and Tibet, Sikkim’s culture has long been a mixture of traditional animist beliefs, Buddhism — which became the dominant religion in the eighth century — and Hindu influences from neighboring Bengal and Nepal. Long an independent monarchy, in the 19th century Sikkim ceded present-day Darjeeling to the British. In exchange, the rest of the country was made a suzerain state of the empire, meaning it maintained internal autonomy but let Britain handle its external affairs. This agreement stuck after Indian independence in 1947, but things soon became complicated for the small country. Refugees poured into Sikkim after China’s 1959 crackdown in Tibet, and India established an increased military presence along the border near Lhasa. Meanwhile, the ethnic makeup of Sikkim had been transformed by years of heavy immigration from Nepal; the country was now a Hindu majority controlled by a Buddhist monarchy and clergy. Things came to a head in 1975, when Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi organized a referendum that abolished the monarchy and formally incorporated Sikkim into India. Whether these actions were an invasion, annexation, or national security necessity depends on whom you ask.

tourist hotels to hydroelectric dams to Domino’s Pizza franchises. Worse still, the old culture of tham-tsig was in trouble. Suicide rates and drug abuse were skyrocketing along with incomes. A once-grounded people seemed adrift. Sonam says the “old, magical world” he grew up in is breathing its last. “It’s the tail end. And … it’s so important to catch that tale.” The question, for the whole family, was how? Worries about Sikkim germinated for years before there was a moment of ten-drel, the Sikkimese word for “things coming together.” On the last night of a visit to Gangtok in 2004, Lauenstein-Denjongpa gathered his parents and their friends around the fire pit of the Hotel Sonam Palgey to ask a question: What could they do to help their small country? Almost immediately, the group landed on the idea of a school. They talked late into the night about how they could teach traditional ethics and new skills at the same time. Sonam says he had long been impressed by how the West transmitted its values through its educational institutions and didn’t see why the same couldn’t be true in Sikkim. Sonam brought the idea to Dodrup Chen Rinpoche, one of Sikkim’s great spiritual masters, who said the timing was auspicious. Shortly afterward, the country’s former crown prince, Wangchuk Namgyal, donated 250 acres of pristine land for the campus, and an American student of Buddhism, Michael Baldwin, a Harvard College graduate,

Plowing rice fields with the help of an ox during a school field trip to a village outside Gangtok. Students on their way to plant bamboo.

gave funds. By 2005, the main building was constructed and 27 students in K–6 were enrolled. Maria says it was as if the school came together by magic. Lok Babu, one of the school’s founders, says it must have been good karma leftover from past lives. Despite his role in formulating the initial vision for the school, Lauenstein-Denjongpa didn’t imagine himself running Taktse. He was living what he calls the upper-middle class “post-college dream” in a loft in Brooklyn, N.Y., taking acting classes, making films — a life he loved. Maybe if he moved to Sikkim for a short time and took care of the fundraising, the rest of the school would take care of itself. “I thought I could do that in a year and a half with some Excel sheets and some to-do lists, and the school would be set up,” he says. “It seems silly now.” It soon became clear that creating a truly hybrid school — one that combined new and old, East and West — wouldn’t be easy. Misunderstandings abounded. Once, after encouraging teachers to incorporate games into their lessons, Lauenstein-Denjongpa fielded calls from parents concerned that their children were too eager to get on the school bus in the morning. How could students learn if they weren’t afraid of their teachers? Sometimes, these misunderstandings could raise profound questions about the school’s philosophy. One of the school’s founders, who also served as principal during its first two years, felt that in order to be truly local, Taktse should rely only on resources within India. Lauenstein-Denjongpa, Maria, and Sonam thought real innovation could come from bringing local talent and wisdom into dialogue with global resources and curricula. The differences ran so deep that the headmaster eventually left to start another school, leaving Lauenstein-Denjongpa with a choice: move to Sikkim full time and build the school he dreamed could be, or return to the comfort of New York. He stayed, plunging into every detail of life at the school, right down to what kind of dal should be served at lunch.

The greatest challenge was teacher training, because Taktse asks its teachers to use open inquiry methods that are profoundly different than what most of them encountered in their own schooling. “I knew I had to ask questions that would make kids think critically, but I didn’t know how because I had never experienced that before in my life,” says K–8 Headmistress Reshma Thapa. “It was like feeling your way in the dark.” She noticed a similar anxiety in her conversations with parents and began to wonder whether this sprang from a collective sense of inferiority left over from the British. “It is difficult for us to believe that locals can do as well as outsiders,” she says. “But I think we’ve managed to convince parents over the years that we can do an equally good job.” There were also questions of money and reputation. Sonam and Maria felt one flaw of the school they ran in the ’70s was that it explicitly served poor children. This appealed to foreign donors but made it difficult to gain traction locally, where students could be pigeonholed as charity cases. As a result, Taktse has taken a middle path similar to independent schools in the West. The main focus is excellence. Most students pay tuition, but a growing scholarship program keeps the doors open to all levels of society. Often, the challenges of the early days have led to unique programs. When Maria grew frustrated with the Western bent in most available children’s literature, she started writing books set in Sikkim. Her first, Miss Lee and the Mosquito, was published by Scholastic India in 2012. When students in religion class showed they were bored with the traditional emphasis on memorizing dharma texts –– dharma is a Sanskrit term meaning ethics or “moral law” –– the school created a unique program that teaches Buddhist philosophy through discussion and real world examples. “Dharma without dogma,” Lauenstein-Denjongpa calls it. Everyone agrees this progress is the result of slow, hard work. “It’s required everybody to really, really bend, open, HARVARD GRADUATE SCHOOL OF EDUCATION


Taktse and Sikkim of Note and Number Sikkim • Population of Sikkim: 600,000 • Highest point: Mt. Kangchenjunga, 25,189 ft. • Indigenous species of orchid: 550 • Climactic zones: sub-tropical, sub-Alpine, Alpine, cold desert • Largest export: cardamom

Taktse • Year founded: 2005 • Current students: 267 • Graduating seniors: 3 • First languages spoken by students and staff: Bengali, Bhutia, Dzongkha, German, Hindi, English, Lepcha, Nepali, Sherpa, Swedish • Primary language of instruction: English • Religions of students and staff: Animism, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Sikhism • Countries of origin of students: Bhutan, Germany, India, Nepal, Sweden, Tibet, United States

and listen,” Maria says. “And in a way that’s the best of Western education and Eastern qualities. But it’s hard. All these things sound so glorious, but it takes a lot of patience.” As the school grew, Lauenstein-Denjongpa became increasingly aware of his lack of formal training as an educator. He could inspire students, but that was not the same thing as running an institution. He was tired. The daily miscommunications that defined life at Taktse were starting to feel like battles. The school elders –– Taktse’s take on a board of trustees –– suggested he take time away. In traditional thought, Sikkim was the spiritual center of the world, they said. But Taktse wasn’t just a spiritual school, so maybe it would be good to draw water from other wells –– the center of the academic world, maybe. The idea resonated. In the fall of 2011, LauensteinDenjongpa packed his bags for Cambridge to enroll in the Ed School’s Special Studies Program, which would allow him to take classes across the university. Returning to the West was a shock. He felt like a Himalayan villager in the cities where he had once been so at ease. During a morning shower, he realized, “I’m showering in drinking water. [This] feels so decadent and terrible and lucky.” He kept mentally returning to Sikkim during his classes, too. Often, a lecture that had nothing to do with international education would spark a revelation about the school. 36



A student plants rice by hand. Another learns thangka, painting on silk with embroidery, during art class.

In Professor Hirotaka Takeuchi’s Knowledge-Based Strategy class at Harvard Business School, Lauenstein-Denjongpa saw a picture of Japanese auto pioneer Soichiro Honda crouching down to examine a passing motorcycle. Takeuchi said Honda’s pose demonstrated his “tacit knowledge” of the machine –– an expertise felt intuitively or learned through practice rather than by explicit explanation. A light bulb went off: Sikkim was rich in this kind of knowing. “And just because someone can’t explain it, or more importantly because they can’t explain it in English, doesn’t mean it’s not valuable,” Lauenstein-Denjongpa says. “There is knowledge and wisdom that is useful and beneficial but not necessarily articulate.” Part of being a hybridized school meant finding ways to give this wisdom a place at the table. In Lecturer David Rose’s Universal Design for Learning class at the Ed School, Lauenstein-Denjongpa encountered the idea that disability is contextual, meaning students may struggle because their academic environment is not adapted to their personal learning style. It struck Lauenstein-Denjongpa that the same was true when looking at education across cultures. “Working in the remote Himalayas, there are so many seeming disadvantages,” he thought. “It’s hard to get supplies, there are no museums to go to on field trips … [but] maybe it’s only the way I am thinking about these things that makes them advantages or disadvantages.” Maybe the school’s challenges were also its strengths. Since returning to Sikkim, Lauenstein-Denjongpa has found new energy for the conversations that were so exhausting in the months before he left. He now believes that “these conversations are the [school’s] project,” not impediments to some other, more distant goal. This new ethos is permeating the school in multiple ways. Lauenstein-Denjongpa has changed the command structure at Taktse to give teachers more decisionmaking power. Students are meeting more often to discuss the big ideas in the school’s mission statement. The conversation is extending to the wider Sikkim community, too. Current senior Tenzing Namgyal is working on an alphabet book of Sikkimese culture that she hopes could serve young children throughout the state. There are even plans to establish a teachers college that will spread Taktse’s methods across Sikkim. Lauenstein-Denjongpa is involving his Ed School connections every step of the way. Laila Goodman, Ed.M.’85, recently came to Taktse to lead conversations with faculty

on how to approach moral education in a society of diverse traditions. Jim Watras, Ed.M.’86, has come to the school three times to teach literature classes and direct plays. Shua Marquis and Terryl Dozier, both Ed.M.’12, used Taktse to launch the very first workshop of Creative Capacities, an organization they founded that teaches learning and innovation skills in the developing world, with a series of poetry events that put students in touch with their core belief systems and natural surroundings. And when the three-student, all-female senior class — the school’s first ever — visited the United States in the winter of 2013, Dozier arranged for them to continue discussing their nascent interest in poetry with his own mentor, Maya Angelou. Hopefully, these local and global connections will help the school navigate its next phase of challenges. A new building is under construction. Lauenstein-Denjongpa is in the early stages of a fundraising drive to build the endowment and expand scholarships. Most pressingly, Taktse will hold its first graduation in March 2014. The three girls in the senior class have a high school experience that is different from almost any other student’s in Sikkim or India, so how will they fare in the wider world they are about to enter? It will be a defining moment for the school, Lauenstein-Denjongpa says, a time to learn whether the rhetoric matches the reality. No one can speak better to this transition, of course, than the graduating students themselves. They say they are nervous to leave Taktse’s cocoon but committed to pursuing their interests. They believe the school has both opened their world and brought them closer to home. One student, Sagun Limbu, puts this idea in concrete terms. With Taktse, she says, “I have visited the U.S. and experienced the neverending choices of food [and] the bright lights in Times Square, but I have also stood outside the board room in my school, waiting patiently in the silence of respect, just to meet and be blessed by the Rinpoche, one of the most respected monks.” If the school can get its student to hold midtown Manhattan and Himalayan mysticism in their minds at the same time, then perhaps it is doing its job.

Clockwise from left: The view from the kindergarten room. Prayer flags, as seen from a nearby town called Chandmari. A Taktse dharma teacher, Lopen Sonam, planting bamboo. Prayer wheels at Rumtek, a monastery in Sikkim. A student with a painted face at the annual Scholastic book fair.

— Brendan Pelsue is a writer, performer, and educator who has visited the Taktse International School three times. He is currently studying for an MFA in playwriting at the Yale School of Drama. Ed. HARVARD GRADUATE SCHOOL OF EDUCATION


An Epic Walk On January 10, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and National Geographic Fellow Paul Salopek set off on an epic 21,000-mile, seven-year walk around the world. His Out of Eden Walk attempts to retrace the migratory pathways of our early human ancestors, as discernible from the archaeological record and the emerging science of genography. Project Zero, a research organization at the Ed School, is developing an online learning community to accompany this walk — a community in which school children from around the world come together to follow Salopek’s momentous journey and use it as a touchstone to learn about history, each other, and themselves. National Geographic is supporting Salopek in the field and publishing his reporting in real time as online dispatches, with additional support from the Knight Foundation and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Excerpts that appear here are used with permission from National Geographic.

By Liz Dawes Duraisingh, Ed.M.’07, Ed.D.’12





January 24, 2013 Herto Bouri, Ethiopia, 10°17’12’’ N, 40°31’55’’ E “Where are you walking?” the Afar nomads ask. “North. To Djibouti.” (We do not say Tierra del Fuego. It is much too far — it is meaningless.) “Are you crazy? Are you sick?” In reply, Ahmed Alema Hessan - wiry and energetic, the ultimate go-to man, a charming rogue, my guide and protector through the blistering Afar Triangle — doubles over and laughs. He leads our micro-caravan: two skinny camels. I have listened to his guffaw many times already. This project is, to him, a punch line — a cosmic joke. To walk for seven years! Across three continents! Enduring hardship, loneliness, uncertainty, fear, exhaustion, confusion — all for a rucksack’s worth of ideas, palaver, scientific and literary conceits. He enjoys the absurdity of it.


aul Salopek’s starting point was Herto Bouri, in Ethiopia’s heat-drenched Rift Valley, where fossils of three of the world’s suspected oldest human beings have been found. From there he crossed the arduous Afar desert, accompanied by three local guides and camels laden with supplies, including laptop-charging solar panels. Hundreds of miles later, he entered Djibouti, from where he boarded a ferry packed with bleating sheep and goats to cross the Red Sea. In July, when this article was written, he was inching up the Saudi Arabian coastline. Over the next few years he will travel on foot across the Middle East and Central Asia before catching a boat across the Bering Strait from Siberia to Alaska. He will then walk down the entire length of the west coast of the Americas, ending his journey in Tierra del Fuego, Patagonia — the last corner of the continental world to be settled by humans approximately 12,000 years ago. As he walks, Salopek is using our deep past as a sounding board for interpreting contemporary issues and assessing where we have come in our unfolding human story. A key goal of the project is to generate foot-level reporting or “slow journalism,” which Salopek views as a counterpoint to the relentless 24-hour news media to which we have become accustomed. By slowly walking from place to place, he aims to connect the dots between local, often invisible, stories and to get a more thoughtful reading of where we might be headed collectively. As he explained to NPR, “after jetting around the world as a foreign correspondent, after flying into stories, after driving into them, helicoptering in, even, I thought about what it would be like to walk between stories. Not just to see the stories we were missing by flying over them, but to understand the connective tissue of all the major stories of our day.” From Ethiopia, for example, he reported on the desperate flow of migrants seeking to flee Africa, the still ubiquitous presence of Kalashnikov rifles, and the proliferation of cell phones. Salopek is also the consummate storyteller. Besides concerning himself with one of the biggest stories of all — the overarching story of our species — he collects stories about the lives of people he encounters along his way, including, every 100 miles, a video interview with the nearest human being. He also engages readers in the story of his own Out of Eden journey, through his “dispatches,” replete with its trials and tribulations, as well as moments of beauty, poignancy, and poetry. HARVARD GRADUATE SCHOOL OF EDUCATION


Mohammed Aidanis, one of Salopek’s camel handlers, in the Rift Valley, Ethiopia.

February 26, 2013 Near Asaita, Ethiopia, 11°48’38” N, 41°24’38” E There is something comforting about traveling with large animals. Their honest bigness, their extraordinary power, when moving in tandem with your own punier step, can buck up your spirits on the trail. It seems as if animals, too, have thrown in their lot with your journey. An absurd conceit. (Nobody ever asked a beast of burden its opinion about carrying our loads.) But the sense of cross-species solidarity is hard to shake. How did Project Zero throw in its lot with Salopek and his journey? In the spring of 2012, Salopek, was based at Harvard’s Nieman Foundation for Journalism on a three-month fellowship to plan the Out of Eden Walk. While at Harvard, Salopek took full advantage of the surrounding community of experts, consulting with anthropologists, archeologists, geographers, and the like. He also began thinking about the broader legacy of his walk and how he might reach out to younger generations. Salopek sent an email to several Ed School faculty, including Project Zero’s director, Lecturer Shari Tishman, Ed.D.’91, seeking to start a conversation about the educational potential of his walk. 40



Tishman was naturally intrigued. She also thought of my research interests. I am a former history teacher and have been associated with Project Zero over the past 11 years. At that time, I was finishing my doctoral thesis at the Ed School: an investigation into the ways in which 16- to 18-year-olds use the past to talk about their own lives, identities, and values. I was also conducting a follow-up study that sought to apply some of my research findings to actual curriculum development — with a view to making history and social studies education more engaging and personally relevant for teenage youth. This online project, called Personal Reflective Spaces in the History and Social Studies Classroom, involved three schools in Australia, Canada, and the United States; some of the activities I developed have been incorporated into the Out of Eden project. However, the scale and scope of what we are now doing, with me serving as project manager and Tishman and Carrie James as coprincipal investigators, far surpasses anything I could have imagined. Salopek’s efforts to engage a world audience in big questions about our collective humanity and to try to connect the dots between isolated news stories sit well with Project Zero’s educational philosophy. As an organization, we have a long track record of promoting learning experiences that foster deep and meaningful understandings of the world. We are particularly focused right now on what learning looks like in our rapidly changing contemporary context.

and the United States. Students ranged from sixth to 11th grade. (This fall, we are launching a new platform that is open to all schools and students around the world, free of charge.) Through our project, young people following Salopek’s journey exchange stories with other young people around the world. Online, they are also invited to reflect on how they fit into the wider world and our unfolding human story — one important facet of becoming more informed, thoughtful, and engaged “global citizens.” In an age where like-minded people often find each other on the Internet, we believe it is important that young people have the opportunity to learn with and from youth who are growing up in very different circumstances to themselves — both to appreciate others’ perspectives as well as to uncover potential and perhaps surprising similarities among themselves and others. For our pilot study, we used Edmodo, the equivalent of Facebook designed for schools. We posted a sequence of weekly activities for our participants to complete. Some students completed them during class time, others at home as part of their coursework, while others did them on a voluntary basis as an extracurricular activity. The first activities invited students to replicate what Salopek was doing at the local level: Sketching maps of their neighborhoods, going for a walk and taking photos, and interviewing someone. Another activity challenged students to think about global connections and the provenance and design of everyday objects. Students read each other’s work and left comments for one another. They also completed private check-ins to help them process what they were learning.

April 2, 2013 Near the Gagade Plain, Djibouti, 11°32’54’’ N, 42°12’28’’ E Winter in the desert of Djibouti. The sun does not shine equally for all. By nine a.m., the thermometer pegs 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius). I begin to stew in my sweat. The Afar guides, meanwhile, shiver under shirts, sweaters, scarves. Mohamed Youssef, a cameleer, zips himself inside a Tom Tailor brand parka from China. The only uncomplaining one is Madoita, the lead camel. He is both warmed and shaded by a $600 blanket of photovoltaic silicon cells. He is a belching, furry, ambulatory wall plug for my satellite phone. We take turns cleaning the dust from these cells with a cloth. A new chore on an ancient caravan trail: wiping down your solar camel. Just as Salopek often found diversity all around him, even in how differently the guides reacted to the weather, we, too, looked for diversity when we started to test pilot materials in the spring of 2013. Our small group of schools were a somewhat eclectic mix in terms of age, gender, socioeconomic background, and geographic location, with schools in Australia, Canada, India, Kenya, the United Kingdom,

June 11, 2013 Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 24°42’46”N, 46°40’25”E I buy two male camels, five and seven years old, to walk with me out of Saudi Arabia. I find them at a cattle souk close to my starting line in the Arabian Peninsula, the coastal city of Jeddah. Or rather: Fares and Seema have found them for me. Dust. Dung. Wranglers hooting in rickety corrals. I am transported instantly back to Africa. I am back in my element. The sellers are bemused Sudanese. We haggle inside a canvas tent. It requires 14 glasses of tea to seal the deal. (My purchase has saved these two beasts, I suspect, from a fate worse than carrying my spare socks through the Nefud desert: Their fur is clotted with yellow paint applied by the meat graders at the port’s stockyard.) Salopek cuts a heroic figure, and for many young people (and adults), his walk is inspiring. Many students expressed their incredulity that he is devoting seven years of his life to this project; they will be grown adults by the time he reaches the end of his journey. In an age when many children — at least in the West — have limited ability to roam around, many of them marvel at the intrepid nature of his walk. Students enjoy feeling a special connection to “Paul,” and their engagement, in turn, buoys him as he walks. In a special audio message for the students, he commented: I may be the guy who’s burning through most of the walking boots, but I want to thank you for working so hard on these prompts and I’m HARVARD GRADUATE SCHOOL OF EDUCATION


Ahmed Alema Hessan, one of Salopek’s guides, at a middle school in Asaita, Ethiopia.

delighted to have you along on the walk. And I want to thank you too for allowing me to join you, for a little while, along your own trails. Onward. Salopek’s journey serves as an anchor for all our learning activities. Students follow his progress via the walk’s website, and we incorporate his journalism into our activities. He also serves as a sounding board. At the request of students who desired a greater connection, Salopek began creating short, tailor-made audio recordings for the students. For example, he shared tips about effective interviewing. He also recorded his thoughts about what “culture” means to him. Using the metaphor of a river, Salopek described culture as constantly flowing, mixing, restless, and alive. Students posted thoughtful follow-up questions; Salopek then wrote responses to a selection of these questions. More fundamentally, however, we asked students to embrace Salopek’s brand of journalism, to slow down and be more contemplative. Most students reported that they enjoyed walking in their neighborhood and trying to view it with fresh eyes. As Tamerslain from Mumbai wrote, “I’ve been staying there for the past six years, but what I learned in that one walk is probably more than what I learned in the past six years.” January 25, 2013 Yangudi Rassa National Park, Ethiopia, 10°33’12.9’’ N, 40°21’30.5’’ E Ahmed Alema Hessan, the 60-year-old balabat, or leader, of the Bouri Modaito clan of the Afar in 42



Ethiopia, hasn’t driven camels for more than 30 years. The start of this walk is a journey of rediscovery for both of us. He tries to recall the complicated harness roping of his youth. And I struggle to apply, once more, the skills of mule packing learned in childhood Mexico. As often happens in this part of the world, people materialize out of the desert void to help us. They mock our clumsy handiwork and rebalance our loads. Most walk along for awhile, exchanging news at a murmur before padding away, so quietly that by the time I’m aware of their absence, they’re often mere squiggles on the horizon. For many students, having the chance to interact with other youth from around the world has been the most powerful aspect of the project. Diana from Massachusetts noted, “This was definitely a worthwhile experience because I learned so much about something that cannot simply be taught in a classroom.” Salopek’s walk is built on the premise that as human beings, we are fundamentally connected to one another — both by our collective past and by our shared present and future. Our learning community serves as a space where young people can explore the ways in which their own life journeys are similar yet also unique compared to those of other young people growing up in very different contexts. Given their age, they are developmentally primed to consider big questions about who they are and how they fit into the rest of the world. In this sense, we are inviting students to “walk” together to help one another grapple with major questions concerning their identities and lives.

March 15, 2013 Trail camp near Howle, Ethiopia, 11°42’58” N, 41°48’8” E What is it like to walk through the world? It is mornings like these: Opening your eyes to nothing but seamless sky for day after day; a pale, numinous void that for one fleeting instant when you first awake, seems to suck you upward, out of yourself, out of your body. It is the clean hollowness of hunger, a lightness that seems blown through by the wind, the way an empty pipe is blown, to make it whistle. (We trekked 18 miles yesterday on short rations, on a single bowl of noodles and a handful of biscuits each. My wedding ring, once tight, jiggles loosely along my finger.) It is learning to interrogate landscapes with your eyes for camel fodder, for wind direction (dust), for wood, and of course for water — an antique power resides in this. And it is watching the vastness of Africa slip by at a walking pace and coming to realize dimly that, even at three miles per hour, you are still moving too fast. It is the journey shared. I have mentioned that this project builds on a follow-up study related to my dissertation that experimented with “personal reflective spaces.” Like Salopek often does with his dispatches, students reflect on their own positions within the world and our unfolding human story. For example, students were asked to draw diagrams or pictures to explain how our human history is connected to who they are and the lives they are living or expect to live. The exercise became more powerful when they looked at other students’ diagrams and then reflected on how these diagrams were similar or different to their own. A striking initial finding from our surveys and interviews was the personalized nature of what students took away from their learning journeys with Out of Eden. It is ultimately a space where young people can explore their own stories or observations, reflect on what they have learned, and then draw their own conclusions about the world around them and their place within it. As we look ahead, we are designing a customized platform that will enable many more students from around the world to engage with Out of Eden. This fall, we are also organizing online “walking parties” to enable clusters of classes or afterschool groups from around the world to take part in a learning journey together — in a manner similar to our pilot study. Individual young people, including those being homeschooled, will be invited to become honorary members of larger groups. Students will also be able to virtually drop in to do activities directly related to Salopek’s current location and reporting. At Project Zero, we may not be physically walking alongside Salopek, but we are on a learning journey of our own.

— Liz Dawes Duraisingh is an adjunct lecturer and project manager at Project Zero. Ed.

An Afar boy watches a camel being loaded.

Charging batteries in Warenzo. Fatima Ali at a hand-dug well on the Western Rift.

• For more about Project Zero’s project: • To connect to Salopek’s walk: and • All student names are their online pseudonyms.




Amanda Hobson, Ed.M.’10, is a first-grade master reading teacher at Sanders-Clyde Creative Arts School in Charleston, S.C., and a teacher fellow for StudentsFirst. She fought for StudentsFirst to expand into South Carolina by directly appealing to its founder, Michelle Rhee.

noteable Amanda Hobson

Amanda Hobson, Ed.M.’10, has always believed that, in education reform, the needs of the students should come first. Unfortunately, she says, her home state of South Carolina has taken a different approach. “Students are being underserved every day because of policies that are not student-centered,” Hobson says. “Our students can’t afford to keep waiting for change.” Already a teacher at Sanders-Clyde Creative Arts School in Charleston, S.C. — a turnaround school that is a part of the Charleston Promise Neighborhood, an effort modeled after the work of the Harlem Children’s Zone — Hobson felt that she could do more. Ever since Lecturer Karen Mapp, Ed.M.’93, Ed.D.’99, urged her students to be “warriors for social justice,” Hobson has aspired to the role. “To me, being a warrior for social justice means doing whatever it takes to change the odds for kids who are stuck in failing school systems,” she says. Hobson applied to be a teacher fellow with StudentsFirst, Michelle Rhee’s organization that works to enact public education policy that puts students’ interests at the forefront. Its fellows are positioned to be active in the reform movement and to become leaders among the teachers in their communities. Since the organization was not yet in South Carolina, Hobson pushed hard to bring it to the state, going so far as to appeal to Rhee personally during one of the fellows’




PROGRAM: Risk and Prevention (now Prevention Science and Practice)

quarterly meetings. CODE NAME: She succeeded, and in Warrior for Social Justice March, Hobson and other representatives of StudentsFirst met with South Carolina legislators to discuss policy. “My hope is to ignite conversations about reform in Charleston and, more broadly, in South Carolina,” Hobson says. “I hope that through these conversations, teachers will feel empowered to have a voice around policy issues that affect their students’ futures.” In addition to her reform work, Hobson continues as a reading specialist at Sanders-Clyde, where she assists in implementing new curriculum and professional development programs. She is also an adjunct professor at Charleston Southern University, from which she led a trip this summer to Ghana to teach in two village schools and bring school materials. Hobson is happy with the progress that has been made so far in South Carolina but is far from satisfied. “I am excited about the change I have been fortunate to be a part of,” she says. “[It] is just the beginning, and with the amazing educators we have in South Carolina we can become a model for school reform in the country.” — Marin Jorgensen

alumni ne ws and notes 1961


Ernie Kimmel, Ed.M., recently edited and published The Snows of Serbia: A Child Soldier in the Great War, an account — written by his father-in-law, Stevan Idjidovic Stevens — of being a child soldier in the Serbian army in World War I.

Roger Schwarz, Ed.M., is president and CEO of Roger Schwarz & Associates. He has recently published the book Smart Leaders, Smarter Teams.

1966 Eve Odiorne Sullivan, M.A.T., completed the Education Policy Fellowship Program at Northeastern University, part of the Institute for Educational Leadership in Washington, D.C. Retired in July 2012 from MIT, where she was an editorial assistant, she is working as a consultant on family and community engagement with Teachers 21 in Wellesley, Mass., and continuing her volunteer efforts on behalf of Parents Forum (parentsforum. org). She says she most enjoys being a grandmother, “especially since all three little people live nearby!”


1983 Marilyn Barber, Ed.M., was the recipient of two presidential awards at the 2013 State of Maryland International Reading Association Council conference. Barber is serving as president of the council, which provides professional development and promotes literacy throughout Maryland with community outreach. Ana Patricia Montoya, Ed.M., was awarded a 2013 Horace Mann–Abraham Lincoln Fellowship and spent time this summer in the Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield, Ill., studying President Lincoln’s legacy.


William (Bill) Leary, Ed.D., was recently named the firstever professor emeritus in the Donald E. and Helen L. Ross College of Education at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., a designation awarded for outstanding teaching and service to the university.

Michael Sales, Ed.D., was recently elected cochair of the Society for Organizational Learning, North America. He writes that his “efforts here derive directly from his training with great Ed School organization behavior teachers like Chris Argyris, Lee Bolman, and Terry Deal.”



Jeanne McCormack, Ed.M.’74, C.A.S., was named the 2013 Woman of the Year for the 11th Assembly District of California. McCormack has spent much of her career working in underdeveloped countries to help implement rural development and microenterprise programs for women. She is also an activist for preserving farmland in Solano County, Calif., where she lives.

Cynthia Gray, Ed.M.’88, Ed.D., just completed a documentary on educators and authors David and Frances Hawkins. A trailer can be viewed at www./vimeo. com/56861701. Shelly McCormick-Lane, Ed.M., is department chair of Languages Other Than English and teaches Latin at Clear Lake High School in Houston. She was awarded a Fulbright

scholarship two years ago to study at the American Academy in Rome’s Classical Summer School. She writes, “Still in the classroom after all these years!”

1993 Lance Conrad, Ed.M., just completed his first year in the PennGSE Mid-Career Doctorate in Educational Leadership Program. He is currently head of school at Chapel HillChauncy Hall School in Waltham, Mass. Randall Farmer, Ed.M., went to law school after spending some time as a teacher. He is now a school board attorney in Georgia, working with school districts for more than 15 years.

1994 Bina Shah, Ed.M., is a writer whose new novel, A Season For Martyrs, will be published by Delphinium Books in 2014. She is a fellow of the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program and the Hong Kong Baptist University’s International Writers Workshop. She is also on the board of directors for Education For Sindh, a DFID– UK-funded social business partnership that seeks to address the education emergency and bring out-of-school children into mainstream education in Sindh, Pakistan.

1995 Frederick Birkett, Ed.M., recently published The Military Parent’s Complete Guide to Public, Private, and Charter Schools, which provides parents in the military — who often have to move every three years — the tools and information they need to find the right school for their children. Monica Paige, Ed.M., will sit on the core panel of the

Kingswood Oxford Leadership Institute for People of Color this summer as she and her husband, head of school Dennis Bisgaard, begin their second year with the institute.

1997 Chin Huat Gan, Ed.M., is an international education consultant, conducting training for educators from countries including Russia, China, and Chile. He is also the consultant to the Ministry of Education of the United Arab Emirates in the area of school evaluation and improvement. He serves as vice president and provost of Australian Virtu Design Institute and president of the Singapore Association for Cultural and Educational Exchange.

1998 Reginald Richardson, Ed.M., was named principal at New Rochelle (N.Y.) High School. Previously, he was principal of Performing Arts and Technology High School in Brooklyn, N.Y.

2000 Amy Rutenberg, Ed.M., earned her Ph.D. in history from the University of Maryland, College Park, and assumed a position as assistant professor of history and social studies education at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C., in August 2013. Part of her job will be to teach history courses aimed at prospective teachers and to supervise student teachers in the field.

2001 Michael Ryan Maxwell, Ed.M., is Midwest regional director for another Harvard offspring: Expeditionary Learning Schools (



Pamela Brummett Roberts, Ed.M., was recently honored for her 25th year of teaching elementary music in the Lincoln, Mass., public schools.

2002 Steven Guditus, Ed.M., was named principal of Manchester Essex (Mass.) Regional Middle School. He was previously assistant principal at Stony Brook Middle School of Westford, Mass. Lizette Ortega Dolan, Ed.M., served as dean of equity and inclusion at the Athenian School, cochair of Northern California People of Color in Independent Schools, and advisor to the National White Privilege Conference for seven years before being appointed middle school head at Park Day School, a progressive K–8 school in Oakland, Calif. She lives in the Bay Area with her partner, Matthew, and two children.

2003 Sue Stuebner Gaylor, Ed.M.’98, Ed.D., was recently appointed executive vice president at Allegheny College, a liberal arts college in Meadville, Penn. Rachel Schechter, Ed.M., received her Ph.D. in child development from Tufts University and is excited to be leading ed-tech research as a senior research manager at Lexia Learning. Follow @rayschechter on Twitter to connect about children’s educational media.

2005 Jason Colombino, Ed.M., is a teacher at Salem High School in Salem, Mass. He was recently chosen to participate in the Master Teacher Project, a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-




funded program that recruits teachers to create exemplary Common Core-aligned, yearlong courses, units, and lessons.

us see that the intelligence and capability we need to tackle our biggest challenges are already inside our schools.

Heather Peske, Ed.M.’98, Ed.D., was named associate commissioner for educator quality at the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in February 2013.

Caitlin Franco, Ed.M., is principal and founder of Equality Charter School in the Bronx, N.Y. The school’s board recently approved her being named executive director as they prepare to open a high school in September 2014.


Christine Greenhow, Ed.D., won the Learning and Instruction Early Career award at the American Education Research Association conference in San Francisco.

Janet Aardema, Ed.M., launched educational field trips this year on her certified naturally grown, diversified vegetable and flower farm in Chesterfield, Va. Public, private, and homeschool students tour the farm and participate in work projects to learn about sustainable growing practices, and what it takes to feed a community. Stephanie Conklin, Ed.M., is a teacher at Saratoga Springs (N.Y.) High School. She was recently chosen to participate in the Master Teacher Project, a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-funded program that recruits teachers to create exemplary Common Corealigned, yearlong courses, units, and lessons. Jennifer Davis, Ed.M., is director of the Innovation Lab Network at the Council of Chief State School Officers, where she leads a team helping 10 states to pressure-test and scale innovative policies and practices in personalized, performance-based learning. Elise Foster, Ed.M., works as the education practice lead for The Wiseman Group, a leadership research and development firm. In March, she and coauthors Liz Wiseman and Lois Allen published The Multiplier Effect: Tapping the Genius Inside Our Schools. The book offers a model for leadership that helps

Amanda Hathaway, Ed.M., is a teacher at William J. Ostiguy High School in Boston. She was recently chosen to participate in the Master Teacher Project, a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-funded program that recruits teachers to create exemplary Common Corealigned, yearlong courses, units, and lessons. Wenli Jen, Ed.M., was named the 2013 Woman of the Year for the 49th Assembly District of California in recognition of Women’s History Month.

2008 William Marcel Hayes, Ed.M., is principal of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Academy in Cleveland, Ohio, a turnaround school with 500 kids. Lauren Kapalka Richerme, Ed.M., earned a Ph.D. from Arizona State University and accepted an appointment as assistant professor of music education at Indiana University. She will teach undergraduate and graduate classes and continue her research in music education philosophy and policy.

2009 Sheila Hicks, Ed.M., married Emily Rotella at the end of July 2013. Susan Whitaker, Ed.M., was a bridesmaid. Christina Vargas, Ed.M., is policy director at an educational nonprofit, Parent Revolution. In May, she wrote that she is happily engaged after her boyfriend “popped the question on the HGSE grounds last week!”

2010 Ashley Aleman, Ed.M., is pursuing a summer fellowship with Education Pioneers. She will be working with the Hetrick-Martin Institute to expand LGBT youth outreach, programs, and services to Newark, N.J., charter schools. Neil Spears, Ed.M., was recently promoted to executive director of CFY in Los Angeles, a national education nonprofit that helps students, teachers, and families in low-income communities use digital learning to improve educational outcomes. Nicole Williams, Ed.M.’02, Ed.D., was named superintendent of Poughkeepsie City (N.Y.) School District. She was previously senior deputy superintendent for academic services and chief academic officer for St. Louis Public Schools in Missouri.

2011 Anushka FernandoGoonetilleke, Ed.M., recently won a Start-up Chile grant as cofounder of and, “gamechanging” sites that will launch by early fall. Vanessa Monterosa, Ed.M., started her Ph.D. in the urban education policy at the USC

You are so cool. Or at least you will be if you’re carrying around a free Ed School cooler bag. Send in a classnote (high-res photos, too!) with your latest news and you’ll be entered in a drawing for the free bag. Include “classnotes raffle” in the subject line. Deadline is September 30. classnotes @

Rossier School of Education right after graduating from the Ed School. Her research focuses on digital literacy in K–12. She is currently working on a project on digital youth activism and its role in youth civic engagement.

2012 Carl Abramowitz, Ed.M., helped start a school for soccer-

scholars, YSC Academy. In 2012, there were seven students; next year there will be 27. Yael Karakowsky, Ed.M., is project manager and cofounder of The ONE World Network, a new initiative by KIPP founder Mike Feinberg and Aaron Brenner (founder of KIPP’s first elementary school) that is building a network of transformational schools around the world.

Abigail Nelson, Ed.M., got married on April 6, 2013, in Lilburn, Ga., to John Glisson. Andrea Palmer, Ed.M., is a teacher at Prospect Hill Academy in Somerville, Mass. She was recently chosen to participate in the Master Teacher Project, a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-funded program that recruits teachers to create exemplary Common Corealigned, yearlong courses, units, and lessons.

Christopher McEnroe, Ed.M., recently published an essay that focused on the influence of complacency on stagnating public conversation (www. He writes, “My year at HGSE was especially helpful at encouraging me to drill down on my perspective and speak up in order to move the conversation forward.”

inmemor y Mary Elizabeth Carroll, Ed.M.’34

Frances Cotton, Ed.M.’52

Richard Christian, Ed.M.’63

Rhoads Murphey, M.A.T.’43

William Kesselman, M.A.T.’52

Claire Collier, Ed.M.’64

Dorothy Fuller, M.A.T.’44

Stanley Truelson Jr., M.A.T.’55

Jacqueline Gibbons, M.A.T.’64

John Gray, M.A.T.’47

Frederick Dirmaier, Ed.M.’56

Robert Sargent Fay, Ed.M.’57, Ed.D.’68

Kenneth Hilfman, M.A.T.’47

Alice Leitz Liebman, Ed.M.’57

Elizabeth Newton-MacDonald, Ed.D.’70

Betty Edgar, Ed.M.’48

Joan Brown Worthington, M.A.T.’57

Robert Guerrant, Ed.M.’71

Wallace Clements, GSE’49

Thomas Lyons, M.A.T.’58

Robert Bakke, Ed.D.’72

Douglas Russell, M.A.T.’49

William Neal, M.A.T.’58

Conrad Girard, Ed.M.’82

F. Glenn Verrill, M.A.T.’50

Richard Wing, M.A.T.’51, Ed.D.’59

Joan Budyk Costley, GSE’98

Lansing Wagner, M.A.T.’51

Joseph Hendrick, Ed.D.’62

Marcia Wing, Ed.M.’51

Oliver Brown, Ed.M.’57, C.A.S.’63



r eces s



At Commencement each year, students and families see the familiar images. Graduates posing for the camera, speakers at the podium. But what about the shots they rarely see, the hidden moments that often get lost like Oprah with the mayor of Boston or a faculty member preparing for a speech? Parents videotaping or our retiring librarian, John Collins, photographing his last ceremony? Here are a few of those moments from this year’s Commencement ceremony, as well as the events leading up to the big day. We even found one graduate, ahem, resting his eyes.


in v es ti n g Since its founding in 1920, the Harvard Graduate School of Education has been training leaders to transform education in the United States and around the globe. By establishing a charitable gift annuity to benefit HGSE, you can support the next generation of education leaders and scholars at the Ed School while planning for your own retirement. This simple contract between you and Harvard offers a tax-advantaged way to provide for income during your lifetime. In the future, your gift will help HGSE continue to prepare leaders in education and generate knowledge to improve student opportunity, achievement, and success.

CHARITABLE GIFT ANNUITY: HOW IT WORKS 1. You transfer cash, securities, or other property to Harvard. 2. Harvard pays a guaranteed, fixed income each year to you and/or another for life. A portion of these payments may be tax-free. You qualify for an income tax deduction and can save capital gains tax. 3. When the gift annuity ends, the remaining principal passes to HGSE to support your area of interest.

Gift Annuity Rates

Gift annuities are backed by the assets of Harvard University, which maintains an AAA credit rating.

SINGLE LIFE AGE ANNUITY RATE:* 65 5.4% 70 6.0 75 6.7 80 7.7

TWO LIVES AGES ANNUITY RATE:* 65/65 4.8% 70/70 5.3 75/75 5.9 80/80 6.5

*Rates shown are current as of August 2013.



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Where’s Ed.? When Noam Chomsky visited the Ed School and sat for a Harvard EdCast to talk about Paulo Freire, Bad Religion, and the (very few) things he doesn’t know, did the famed MIT professor get tongue-tied when he saw the latest issue of Ed. magazine? Linguistically speaking, we would have to say … no.

To read Ed. online, go to


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Ed. Magazine, Fall 2013  

The alumni magazine of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, fall 2013 edition. Stories include a colorful, creative list of education i...

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