As usual, Mike Rose, is spot on. Grit comes in many forms: some attractive and some not. Some imposed by adversity and some supported by affluence and safety. Because, in fact, I have always thought of “grit” as an ally to “street smarts”—sticking to one’s self-initiated task given one’s recognition of reality. I thought that the “grittiest” kids in my class were usually some of the kids with least advantages in terms of wealth and support, who somehow insisted on “smiling” through it, “gritting” their teeth (which I assumed the origin or partial definition of the word) and designing a new path given the circumstances. Not just sitting down and having a tantrum. But the tantrum often is successful—depending on the circumstances. Ditto with “gritting one’s teeth”—”it depends”. What “it depends” on is not easy to figure out, but rests on an array of flexible talents that often go by the name of “street smarts.” If we stop and think about it, I think we would see that “perseverance” is maybe more vital for poor people in underserved communities more than it is for those of us growing up with many resources , good health, lots of second chances, etc. If we did a little better at leveling the field we wold all benefit by grit, but we wouldd also make having it count more if everything else wasn’t already so uneven.

See Mike Rose’s Blog:

    One of the many frustrating things about education policy and practice in our country is the continual search for the magic bullet—and all the hype and trite lingo that bursts up around it. One such bullet is the latest incarnation of character education, particularly the enthrallment with “grit,” a buzz word for perseverance and determination. Readers of this blog are familiar with my concerns and can read my earlier posts by clicking here, or go to a 2014 report on character and opportunity from the Brookings Institution in which I have a brief cautionary essay.

            In a nutshell, I worry about the limited success of past attempts at character education and the danger in our pendulum-swing society that we will shift our attention from improving subject matter instruction. I also question the easy distinctions made between “cognitive” and “non-cognitive” skills. And I fear that we will sacrifice policies aimed at reducing poverty for interventions to change the way poor people see the world.

            In this post, I would like to further explore these concerns—and a few new ones—by focusing on “grit,” for it has so captured the fancy of our policy makers, administrators, and opinion-makers…

(click here to read the rest of his blog)

Yes, Mike, you are right right right. But, furthermore, the poor exercise plenty of grit every single day they stay afloat. They have to use a lot more of it just to survive much less to use it for getting ahead. If we made it easier to survive, imagine what the grit I saw daily would have done for their futures!


Lewis-Botstein invite

For more information and to order your tickets, please go to

Whose rights do they think they are protecting?

I’ve been puzzling about why so many respectable civil rights organizations have got school reform so wrong.  It’s not the whole story but this piece by Wayne Au is worth reading. 

Just whose rights do these civil rights groups think they are protecting?

By Wayne Au

On May 5, 2015, a group of civil rights organizations released a statement in opposition to the growing movement to opt out of the current wave of high-stakes, standardized testing. This testing lies at the very heart of current education reform efforts because it provides the fuel that the current education reform machine relies upon: data. Without the numerical data produced by the tests, there is no way to make simplistic comparisons, there is no justification for the corporate entry into public schools, there is no way to shape education along the logics of a competitive marketplace.

Because it challenges the validity of the tests and the data, the opt-out movement strikes at the heart of the reform movement. I feel this sharply here in my home city of Seattle as powerful men including U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Washington state Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn, and Seattle Schools Superintendent Larry Nyland threaten local test resisters with punishments. Opting out scares those in power because it undermines the education policies being done to — not by — our communities, particularly communities of color. Indeed, many of us have taken great pains to highlight the racially disparate impact of corporate education reforms, especially high-stakes standardized testing, specifically on communities of color.

(link to full article)

From Ferguson to Baltimore

Richard Rothstein is one of my favorites:

From Ferguson to Baltimore: The Fruits of Government-Sponsored Segregation

By Richard Rothstein

Thus began a century of federal, state, and local policies to quarantine Baltimore’s black population in isolated slums—policies that continue to the present day, as federal housing subsidy policies still disproportionately direct low-income black families to segregated neighborhoods and away from middle class suburbs…

View the rest of this post at Working Economics Blog

Progressive Education


Another of Nick’s Blogs

Originally posted on Nicholas Meier:

My blogs here focus on my ideas about curriculum, teaching practices and educational policy, often critiquing what is currently practiced. What this essay will focus on is defining my philosophy of Progressive Education. And as a student and teacher of educational psychology, I feel I can safely say that the practices of Progressive Education match more closely what we know about how the brain works and how people learn in natural settings than what is practiced in the large majority of schools today. As importantly, Progressive Education matches more closely with the ideals and philosophy of a democratic society.

johndeweyquotes31Progressive teaching has deep roots in American education, from the Transcendentalist movement  of the early 1800s to John Dewey and Francis Parker in the late 1800s, early 1900s, and on to modern educators such as Herbert Kohl, Ted Sizer, and Deborah Meier to name just a few. For me, and…

View original 1,166 more words

Self-Initiated Cognitive Activity


A nice blog on play by Nicholas

Originally posted on Nicholas Meier:

The education world is full of acronyms for educational practices. I have one that I would like to promote. SICA: Self Initiated Cognitive Activity.

We know that self-initiation is an important quality for everyone to have to be successful in life. We should design activities in school that promote such behavior. Every day we hear about how entrepreneurship is the wave of the future—or is it the present? Every “self-made” millionaire required self-initiation.

And cognitive means thinking. If education is not meant to help students think better, then I don’t know what it is for!

Cognitive learning theory and even recent brain research has demonstrated how learning is enhanced when the learner is actively engaged in their own learning process, rather than being a passive recipient of knowledge from someone else.

This leads us to the obvious conclusion that school activities that are designed with student initiation and that engaging…

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The Teaching Profession

Dear readers,

I am off to Chicago for the tail end of AERA, for a Save our Schools meeting and for the second annual Network for Public Education gathering and, most importantly, to visit friends from “the old days.” My three children were born in Chicago, I started to teach there, and only left… let me see… fifty years ago! Can that be??

As I was packing I ran across an unusual piece in the April 15th Education Week, by Jack Schneider, at the College of Holy Cross in Massacheusetts.  I am going to read him more often.


He is the first writer on education reform who mentions the issue of “downtime.” He has five concerns about the profession (?) of teaching which even the unions don’t seem to really get: (1) Lack of downtime; (2) workload—for high school teachers up to 150 students, with frequent turnover; 3) Lack of the kind of autonomy that often defines professionalism; 4)  Structural isolation; 5) Not much feedback; none from colleagues.

But what astounded me most was what he put Number One: time to plan, prepare, and reflect. Time to collaborate. When I would hear folks demand MORE homework I would wonder—what kind of teacher time does that require. In elementary schools, with only (?) 30 kids, each assignment takes some planning (and don’t forget “differentiation”–the same assignment, without help, makes no sense for the all), some explaining, and then–oops–if they get returned they should be looked at and reflected on and given feedback. If we try to do each of these in 1 minute, that’s 3 minutes times 30=90 minutes.  Ad that’s just time for the homework! What about the other 5 plus hours of class time?

Enough. Maybe these professional gathering I am attending this week will solve this one.


p.s.  Just think, probably more than 200,000 families opted their kids out of April’s English language common-core tests in the State of New York.  Wow.