Deborah Meier has been working in public education as a teacher, principal, writer, advocate since the early 1960s, and ranks among the most acclaimed leaders of the school reform movement in the U.S. She started her work as an early childhood teacher in Chicago after graduating from the U of Chicago. Her family moved to NYC in the late 1960s where she worked as a kindergarten teacher in Central Harlem. For the next 20 years, Meier helped revitalize public schools in New York City’s East Harlem District 4. In 1974, she founded Central Park East Elementary School (CPE I), a highly successful public school of choice that served predominantly local African American and Hispanic families. During the next dozen years, Meier opened two other Central Park East elementary schools in District 4 as well as an acclaimed secondary school (CPESS), while also supporting and directing the development of similar schools throughout NYC. She helped found the Coalition of Essential Schools, in the 1980s, under the leadership of Ted Sizer. In 1987 she received a MacArthur “genius” Award for her work in public education. During the 1990s she also served as an Urban Fellow at the Annenberg Institute. In 1995 she moved to Boston to start Mission Hill, a K-8 school in Roxbury. These schools were part of a network Meier created that helped initiate new small schools, both elementary and secondary, both in NYC and Boston. At Coalition schools, Meier helped foster democratic communities, giving teachers greater autonomy in the running of a school, giving parents a voice in what happens to their children in schools, and promoting intergenerational connections. She has always been a proponent of active, project-based learning, and of graduation through a series of exhibitions of high quality work. She is the author of many books and articles, including The Power of Their Ideas, Lessons to America from a Small School in Harlem, and In Schools we Trust. She is an outspoken critic of state-mandated curriculum and high stakes standardized testing and has written extensively on their unreliability and class/race biases. She is on the board of FairTest, Save Our Schools, Center for Collaborative Education and the Association for Union Democracy. She is also on the editorial board of The Nation, The Harvard Education Letter, and Dissent magazines.
Deborah Meier can be reached at:
P.O. Box 609
HIllsdale, NY 12529