The Big Uneasy

by Robert Pondiscio
February 10th, 2008

Daily HeraldWhat’s Paul Vallas up to these days? The former CEO of the Chicago school system is now superintendent of the Recovery School District of New Orleans, and retaining his habit of sticking his thumb in the eyes of the educational establishment.

“Vallas hasn’t lost his penchant for speaking truth to power,” notes the Chicago Daily Herald, “or at least public school power, as he demonstrated during a recent speech in DeKalb sponsored by Northern Illinois University’s College of Education.” In his speech, Vallas talked up charter schools, KIPP, alternative teacher certification and Teach for America.

Teach for America recruits “come in with content mastery, energy and work ethic,” Vallas said. “I’m not saying old teachers don’t have that, but we want new teachers coming in with an optimism about their ability to help educate inner-city kids.”

A Remarkable School

by Robert Pondiscio
February 10th, 2008

Grand Junction SentinelThe Ridgeview Classical School in Fort Collins has been rated among the top three schools in Colorado since it was founded in 2001. Its success stands as a sharp rebuke to the dominant anti-intellectual pedagogy of most American schools. The secret of its success? The Core Knowledge curriculum in Kindergarten through 8th grade, and a traditional, Classical-Liberal curriculum in high school. An article in the Grand Junction Sentinel highlights the school and its remarkable achievements.

“They have phenomenal success,” Denise Mund, senior consultant with Schools of Choice at the Colorado Department of Education. “Their school for years was the No. 1 school in the state. This year, they were third, but repeatedly, they have had phenomenal success. I attended their graduation ceremony last May. I was very impressed.”

Read the article, but also spend some time with the school’s journal, The Conversation. To read these reflections on teaching and learning, is to see what a school can be—or more accurately should be. An essay in the journal by Tara Mertens, a student with learning disabilities who graduated from the school in May contrasts the emptiness of her “high achievement” at her previous school with the rigorous curriculum and legitimately high expectations she found at Ridgeview.

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