Gardner, Advocate for Educational Pluralism by Wayne Jennings

Reggio EmiliaHoward Gardner, professor of education at Harvard and well known for his books including Multiple Intelligences and Five Minds for the Future, writes of the importance of a variety of educational programs to fit different students. In a recent article, he writes that after studying various approaches such as Reggio Emilia (a program he particularly likes), Montessori, Waldorf, traditional and other types of schools he is more convinced than ever of the importance of “educational pluralism.”

Obvious as it is, schools have insufficiently acted upon the fact that all children do not learn the same. Hence, the need for a variety of educational programs to meet the diverse needs of students. He states, ” The lessons I have learned over the decades are: (1) to be ever open to new and powerful ways of educating and (2) to shun those who block the roads of individualized pedagogy as well as those who seek to impose a uniform way of presenting material.”

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Project Based Learning un-Conference by admin

In July Project Foundry hosted the 2nd annual Project Based Learning un-Conference.  The keynote speaker was Peter Pappas.  He shared many great examples of how Project Based Learning is transforming schools and helping students explore their worlds, rather than subjecting them to the repetitive lower order thinking tasks characterized by most traditional schools.  I would encourage people to visit his blog at While you are there be sure to read the post   “Back to school: Will It Be Test Prep or Project Based Learning.

Multiple Assessments: Hope Survey by Wayne Jennings

Hope Popup DisplayWhat effect is the current standards movement and teaching to the test having on our students? What do you know about how students at your school view the school environment? Now your school can find out by seeing the school from the eyes of your students based on their responses on the Hope Survey. This diagnostic tools assesses the school environment and culture based on the developmental needs of adolescents including: autonomy, belongingness, goal orientation and academic press. These four variables also lead to data around student engagement and overall hope (psychological well being). Schools can then use this longitudinal data to test out appropriate interventions on a whole school level and/or individual student basis. The instrument has been in use for nearly a decade and has national norms for comparison.

One of the developers Dr. Mark Van Ryzin has not only proved that taking a more “whole child” approach with students is good for them psychologically but also showed a correlation to raised achievement in students. In short, giving students hope can literally last a life time. For more information on the Hope Survey, check out the new website at: or contact Aaron Grimm: or 507 248-3738 x7.

Prologue to Revolution: Exciting Approach by Wayne Jennings

ChangePrologue to Revolution,” a seven page report by Francis Duffy, lists four “industrial-age” paradigms hampering school change, describes why they persist in the face of evidence to the contrary, and asks about the reader’s beliefs as a road to action. This readable piece provides a compelling argument for school transformation and suggests avenues for its achievement. You will find this article provocative reading.

Anyone can request a free subscription to the Duffy Reports by the F. M. Duffy Group or obtain other useful materials at the website. Francis Duffy, a long-time advocate for systems change, offers workshops, publications and other services. Email to receive copies of reports.

New Book Blames Students by Wayne Jennings

Bad StudentsBad Students Not Bad Schools by Robert Weissberg, U of Illinois professor emeritus of political science, is a throwback to highly traditional education when principals exercised the power to throw kids out. This easy read, colorfully written with a degree of exaggeration, ultimately lapses in frustration at how to fix schools. Several chapters describe the failures of many efforts at reforming schools with big money, big ideas and big organizations. These are some of the best and most useful parts of the book evidencing considerable research.

Weissberg skewers movements like diversity and equity as distracting for educators and destructive to goals of academic achievement. Weissberg’s single focused interest in academics would eliminate students without demonstrated school success. He has no time for the whole child and other “soft” movements or even the choice movement though he seems ambivalent on that.

We are beginning to see a spate of articles along the lines of Bad Students impatient with the pace of academic achievement and irritated in general with immigration, rights, mandates and law suits. The new Core Standards, constant calls for rigor, increased testing and graduation exams remind me of the 1950s when Why Johnny Can’t Read and other books launched attacks on public education that put educators on the defensive for a decade until Kohl, Dennison, Holt, Silberman and others questioned seats bolted to the floor education. Bad Students Not Bad Schools needs to be read and confronted to better understand the many uncomfortable people frustrated with current schooling.

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Alternative Education Course by Wayne Jennings

Alt EdHere is an opportunity for anyone interested in 3 semester hours of graduate credit on the topic of alternative education from an expert. For about a decade Roy Weaver served as editor of Changing Schools (national journal of alternative education for 20 years) and organized alternative education conferences during the late 1970s and 1980s. The course is offered entirely online and will run from June 21 to July 23. The course will cover the broad range of alternatives, including free schools, open schools, schools-within-schools, schools-without-walls, magnet schools, charter schools, home schools, and virtual schools. For more information: Dr. Roy Weaver, Professor of Curriculum at Ball State University cell: 765.744.0913. Course Information:


Lake Superior as Your Classroom by admin

 For the next 5 months Lake Superior will become a living classroom for two lifetime educators and the school groups that follow them, either physically or via the world wide web. Mike Link and Kate Crowley are currently walking the entire shoreline of Lake Superior in an effort to bring attention to the environmental and cultural changes occuring on the greatest of all our lakes.  You can follow their progress via their website that includes daily blog updates and youtube videos.  This is fantastic way for students to be a part of real time education and another way of using emerging technology in the classroom.    Follow the progress at

Ethics and Excellence in High School by admin


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A report recently released outlines eight strengths of character that can helpboth students and schools achieve ethical and productive futures.

Blueprint School by Wayne Jennings

Lives of PassionI’ve waited for years for this marvelous book, Lives of Passion, School of Hope: How One Public School Ignites a Lifelong Love of Learning. It tells a story of a K-12 progressive school (Jefferson County Open School, Colorado) that combined the best features from research and practice such as: strong advisory system, personal learning plan, learner centered environment, world as classroom, service learning, travel study and competency based graduation. I began such a school in 1971 but it did not have sustained progressive leadership after my first seven years as principal. Nor has it documented its successes, both immediate and long term in the graduates’ lives. This book does all that with statistics and a rich assortment of anecdotes. If ever we needed a blueprint about schooling, one could hardly do better than this book. Every student is expected to become an effective communicator, a complex thinker, a responsible citizen, an ethical person, and a quality worker. How’s that for a set of outcomes? This is one of the most important books I have read and I highly recommend it. The author, Rick Posner worked in the school and has produced a most readable and essential book for educators and the public.

High School Graduation in Four Years – Why Not Two Years or Even Six? by admin

High Schoolers have many more options today then they did even a decade ago.  There are Alternative, Charter, Private and On-Line options, and now there are options in many states to graduate early or if necessaryto stay one, two or even three additional years.  Recently both the New York Times and U.S. Today had articles reflecting these new options.

Green the New Alternative in Education by Peter Wieczorek by admin

Schools have been involved in environmental education and the “Green Movement” for nearly 40 years now, but now with advances in technology and connections with the internet schools and students are able to connect, create and learn in ways that were not possible in the past.  Several sites of interest are available that either directly or indirectly deal with “Green” and environmental topics in education:

Graduation For All by admin

Here are a couple of very interesting and extensive articles on graduation rates and the need to promote graduation for all students.  The first article talks mostly about the graduation gap between the upper 2/3 of high school students and the lower 1/3, made up mostly of urban, low-income African American and Latino students.  The other article is from the Governor’s Guide to Dropout Prevention and Recovery.


Cell Phones in the Classroom? by admin

Kids with cell phonesIn a recent article in Principal Leadership, October 2009, the principal of a large high school discussed the use of cell phones at school.  She was using cell phones to text with her students as another way to increase communication.  She stated that texting helped student report things like fights and other personal issues that students didn’t necessarily want to talk about in person.  Recently there have been other publications including Curtis J. Bonk’s The World is Open, and an article from the New York Times “Industry Makes Pitch That Smartphones Belong In Classroom.”  B0th Bonk’s book and the article suggest that cellphones are no longer simply instruments for talking or even texting, they are similar in speed and power to many classroom computers.  Plus many schools have extremely limited computer to student ratios.  The book and the article argue that it is time for administrators and teachers to join the 21st century and welcome cellphones, especially the new generation smartphones, into the classroom and let students use them for the learning tools that they have the potential to be.  

I would like to know what others have to say about the use of personal technologies such as smartphones in the classroom.

New Center for Research on Digital Media and Learning by Wayne Jennings

Electronic learningThere’s little doubt that the Internet will transform schooling (read choices) and how students learn, play, socialize, and participate in civic life. A newly-created Digital Media and Learning Research Hub at the University of California-Irvine will explore the impact of digital media on learning and its potential for transforming education.  The Center is funded by a $2.97 million grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

The foundation has invested substantially ($50 million since 2006) researching digital learning and gaming with positive results and continues with a variety of media projects including astonishing findings of the positive impact on youth in the three year research report, Living and Learning with New Media.

Constitutional Law Change Proposed by Wayne Jennings

Middle class amendmentDavid Bly, former President of the Minnesota Association of Alternative Programs and a co-founder of IALA has written a powerful booklet, The Middle Class Amendment, which you can read online. Bly, a Representative from Northfield, is a member of the Minnesota Legislature. While IALA does not make political endorsements, we think the topic of interest to alternative educators and students because Bly like many of us believe education change is nearly impossible. Thus, Bly proposes a constitutional amendment.