Elevating Relationships: How Collaboration Shapes Teaching and Learning

“Whatever level of human capital schools acquire through hiring can subsequently be developed through activities such as grade-level or subject-based teams of teachers, faculty committees, professional development, coaching, evaluation, and informal interactions. As teachers join together to solve problems and learn from one another, the school’s instructional capacity becomes greater than the sum of its parts.”1

This quote from Harvard professor Susan Moore Johnson may make perfect sense to you. Our systems and organizations, however, are largely structured around individual values. As such, a primary goal is to optimize and reward performance at the individual level. So, while some of us (perhaps many of us) might agree that a team’s capacity can exceed the sum of individual members’ capacity, we generally have a difficult time translating that knowledge into action—for example, rewarding individual behaviors that enhance team dynamics. Part of the problem is that there’s still a lot to learn about how teamwork and collaboration are effectively nurtured.

–Esther Quintero https://www.aft.org/ae/summer2017/quintero


“Why Do Billionaires Care So Much about Charter Schools?”


This LA Times op-ed by Harold Meyerson explores the confusing politics of the big-money charter supporters on both the left and right and concludes:

“Charter billionaires have settled on a diagnosis, and a cure, that focuses on the deficiencies of the system’s victims, not the system itself.”



Grassroots Innovation: Countering the Implosion of Public Education


“We often mistake symptoms for causes.  This has been especially true in the realm of education policy: underperforming schools underperform because of insufficient accountability, the prevailing argument has gone.  And we’ve only made things worse by tightening the screws .  .  . With the focus on test results pushed by state officials and for-profit school management advocates in the 1990s and reinforced thereafter by No Child Left Behind (NCLB) in 2002 and Race to the Top (RTTT) in 2009, our misguided efforts have intensified.” P. 302 Samuel E. Abrams Education and the Commercial Mindset  2016

“Public education policy these days is trapped in behaviorist thinking about rewards and punishments.” –Jan Resseser, November 1, 2016

Public education is caught in a vise that allows for almost no meaningful innovation. The problems facing public education can’t be solved by mandated “reforms” for increased accountability, doubling down on an inputs/outputs model that has never fit the system of public education, or letting for-profit entities with their top-heavy executive salaries and management fees take over failing and cash-strapped public schools. Where do the best ideas for improving public education come from?

What many policymakers have been unable to recognize is that education is a complex adaptive system (CAS). Complex adaptive systems are extraordinarily resistant to bureaucratic mandates and top-down control. Like ecosystems, they respond to external pressures in unpredictable or even undesirable ways. But unlike purely biological complex adaptive systems such human systems have the element of intelligence that can attend to small changes that make large impacts. Such small changes at the most fundamental levels of the system can unleash processes that result in largescale system improvements.

Exciting New Source of Funding for Civic Education


I wanted to make you aware of some important changes in federal education funding with respect to civics. Today, the federal Department of Education released guidance to help states, school districts, and schools provide all students with access to a well-rounded education including civic education. Under that guidance, the Department outlines the criteria for new grants that are available under the ESSA legislation. The funds will be provided to state education agencies that will in turn distribute the funds to districts/schools.

These new grants – called Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) – give districts and schools flexibility to tailor investments based on the unique needs of their student populations. The guidance provides resources, tools, and examples of innovative strategies to support effective implementation of the grant program. Grants under this new source of funding will make their way to schools at different times depending on the timing of the congressional appropriation and your local state agency processes but planning will start now. We expect these funds to be available next school year.

The new grants provide a great opportunity for iCivics to work with you to enhance your civics instructional program. We invite you to create a plan that will address the needs of your school. Plans could include:
– Student workbooks
– Professional learning opportunities
– Video based resources on civic topics
– Project based learning resources
– New technology tools for student civic engagement

It is important for you to have your voice heard and ensure that civics is prioritized as part of your district’s efforts with SSAE grant proposals. Talk with the grant administrators in your district about opportunities like those mentioned above, or if you have other great ideas.

Contact Kelly Whitney at teacher@icivics.org to explore how we could work together to promote engaged citizenship in your school.


Louise Dubé
iCivics, Inc.

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Announcing the CAPEOhio Website Launch!

We’re formally launching CAPEOhio.org on Saturday, October 22, 2016 at the Public Education Partners summit. The Citizen Advocates for Public Education (CAPE) organizers will be at the summit where we will give presentations in the morning and afternoon.

Frances Strickland will be joined by other CAPE organizers to share the 13 fundamental principles for public education that represent our vision for redefining public education.  We hope that decision makers—students, parents, teachers, boards of education, legislators, administrators—will use these principles in developing policies and practices before it’s too late.