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Education Lab Blog

Education Lab is a project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

Topic: education reform

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October 28, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Former Seattle board member offers controversial school fixes

Relatively rare are the moments when education reformers and die-hard public school staff find any common ground.

But Donald Nielsen, a former Seattle school board member who counts Jeb Bush among his acquaintances, shares an important observation about the problem in our public schools with teachers union firebrand Jesse Hagopian.

Donald P. Nielsen. Courtesy photo.

Donald P. Nielsen. Courtesy photo.

In a word (or three): the cookie-cutter approach.

Both men have new books out, and in many ways they could not be further apart. Nielsen, a wealthy corporate honcho who writes of casual phone chats with former U.S. Education Secretary Lamar Alexander, says the fundamental structure of public education is the problem.

Hagopian targets standardized testing.

Yet each offers a passionate call to stop treating students as widgets on a factory assembly line.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: Donald P. Nielsen, education reform

March 25, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Talk less, listen more: Five lessons for teachers from global educator

Kimberly Mitchell

Kimberly Mitchell

Everyone has a moment when past experiences tumble together and point the way forward. For Kimberly Mitchell, that happened in 2005, as she stood in front of a crowd of suburban schoolteachers who folded their arms across their chests in disgust, as Mitchell tried to explain her concept of “inquiry-based” classroom instruction.

“You’re giving us nothing,” one said.

Mitchell, a former teacher and assistant principal at Chief Sealth High School, had traveled to California to preach her belief in the transformative power of an approach to education that features less teacher-talking and a lot more listening. But she was an outsider, a mouthpiece, more noise in the clatter of education reform.

“People like you come here all the time and talk to us about ‘inquiry,’ and we never know what you’re talking about,” the same teacher griped. So Mitchell had to act out what she meant — in a classroom, with kids, as the teachers watched. It terrified her. And it changed everything.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: education reform, Kimberly Mitchell, teaching