Educators educating Educators

Jan 19

May 16: EM2: Charter School

EM2: Charter School

Early in the 20th century, the revolutionary technology we used to connect with each other was the switchboard. Today, in the 21st century, we carry smartphones in our pockets. Our calls (and texts messages and emails and selfies) fly through the air. It would be perfectly natural to expect that as the world changed, education evolved with it.

The appalling truth is, it has not.


20% of new college students report taking remedial courses before moving on to college-level work. National Center for Education Statistics, 2013

45% of jobs will be automated within the next 20 years. Oxford Martin School, 2013

Among the 27 industrialized countries, the US ranks #22 in upper secondary graduation rates. Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, 2014

The US is the only country in the industrialized world where if you are in high school, it is more likely that your parents will have graduated form high school than you will.” Judy Willis, MD

America has moved from an economy that produces goods in the 20th century to one that produces services in the 21st century.

In order to reverse this downward trend and begin to prepare students for their futures, not ours, our schools need to create curious, nimble, resilient people who are truly prepared for our complex and uncertain world. They need the skills and traits to thrive in the coming era.

In a world where work itself is constantly changing, what matters most is infusing each and every person with curiosity, hope, and resilience so they can be active creators of the future-to move the world from smartphones to, well, something we can’t imagine yet.

The challenge is to rethink the American high school. To transform this one-hundred-year-old institution and to provide young people with the opportunities they deserve. For today, and - as important - for tomorrow.

To do this, we need a better definition of what kind of graduates our schools must produce – people who have deep mastery of the literacies. And the skills and traits they need to thrive in the coming era.

We are starting to see a new definition of what our schools must produce. Today’s schools need to foster deep learning to prepare students to lead fulfilling, productive lives in an unpredictable future.

We must develop these skills and traits-and others like them-so America can lead in a world that is uncertain, constantly changing, and yet so full of opportunity. It’s about our students being fully ready. Our schools must create thinkers for an uncertain world.

Our schools are tasked with the responsibility to create sense makers who can deal with conflicting knowledge, to create generative thinkers who create many ideas in ambiguous and new situations, and to create creative thinkers, those who will reframe, imagine, and see problems from different perspectives.

To address the issues above, three colleagues and I have developed a proposal for a charter school, named EM2, based on the interaction of philosophies that I have investigated for the last 15 years, and are covered on my web site Stuff4Educators. The pedagogy of EM2 is based on the current neuroscience research in entrepreneurship, mindsets, exercise, and meditation, and combining these into a coherent curriculum designed to enhance the educational experience for all children.

EM2 will be located in a lower socio-economic, academically challenged area, with a school population of 15 to 20% of students with learning differences.

Discussed below are the (1) four core principles that form the foundation of EM2: (2) EM2 curriculum; (3) how a student’s progress is measured; (4) measuring teacher’s effectiveness; (5) EMô Senior Project; and (6) references corresponding to the experts on which the core principles are based.

1. The Foundation of EMô: The Four Core Principles

EM2 will be centered on four core principles, namely (Entrepreneurship, Mindset, Exercise, and Mindfulness/Meditation) that I strongly feel should be the educational underpinnings of all schools. Below is a list of the core principles and the researchers and experts who developed the ideas behind the principles.

Core principle 1: Entrepreneurship

The first core principle is Entrepreneurship: Preparing Students to be Entrepreneurs for the 21st Century Workforce through the implementation of a bold and compelling curriculum. The curriculum will be based on the research, philosophy, and writings of three outstanding leaders in the field of educational innovation.

Tony Wagner, Innovation Education Fellow at the Technology & Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard University, and previously the founder and co-director of the Change Leadership Group at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and author of The Global Achievement Gap. In this book, Wagner examines why even our best schools do not teach the new survival skills our children need and what we can do about it.

Amanda Ripley, author of the book The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way, examines how other countries create smarter kids than the US, and what we can learn from the rest of the world to help us fix our schools.

Yong Zhao, author of World Class Learners, persuasively demonstrates that the race for higher test scores is harmful to our society, and forcefully challenges our schools to universally focus on entrepreneurship and innovation.

Core principle 2: Mindset Theories

The Mindset theory is centered on the writings of two authors each with a distinctive view of the term mindset, namely Robert Brooks and Carol Dweck. Brooks, on the faculty of Harvard Medical School, has devoted his career to emphasizing the importance of empathy and resilience in all human interactions on all levels. Carol Dweck, the Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, has focused on why people succeed and how to foster success. She is particularly known for her work on how self-theories (Fixed verses Growth Mindsets) affect learning.

Core principle 3: Exercise

Exercise, the third core philosophy of EM2, is based on the work of John Ratey, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Ratey has written extensively and has lectured worldwide on the utmost importance of exercise in the educational environment. Ratey is the author or co-author of six books including Spark and his most recent book Wild, both in which he explores how exercise is critical to a student’s academic development and achievement.

Core principle 4: Meditation and Mindfulness

The fourth core principle of EM2 is Mindfulness/Meditation, which has been proven recently to improve student behavior, academic achievement, and attention. It reduces stress, resulting in better emotional regulation and an improved capacity for compassion and empathy. Mindfulness is widely considered an effective tool to treat children and adolescents with aggression, ADHD, or anxiety.

Furthermore, Mindful Schools, a California-based nonprofit founded in 2010 that has trained thousands of teachers through its online programs, has found that a majority of the teachers it has trained experienced lowered stress and higher job satisfaction.

2. The Curriculum: Preparing Students to be Entrepreneurs in the 21st Century Workforce

There are many ways to create innovative, personal experiences that make learning meaningful for young people-experiences that give them ownership over their learning, that spur their original thinking, that teach them to collaborate.

EM2’s curriculum motto will mirror the William Butler Yeats quote, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but lighting of a fire.”

The mission of EM2’s curriculum is to create a truly student-centered school, built to serve young people in the best way possible. The curriculum will engage students in hands-on, cross-disciplinary projects that relevant to their interests. Rather than focusing on outdated pedagogies and standardized tests, EM2 curriculum will focus on students’ self-discovery through student-centered learning. It will employ open end inquiry-based and project-based learning that emphasizes hands on instructional techniques while minimizing direct instruction and lecturing.

In the classroom, EM2 teachers believe they serve as guides on the side rather than sages on a stage, and it is extremely important to empower students to use their voices in their education.

The curriculum will also emphasize and be heavily influenced by educational neuroscience research, highlighting the work of Judy Willis M.D., M.Ed. Willis is a board-certified neurologist and previous middle school teacher who has combined her training in neuroscience and neuroimaging with her teacher education training and years of classroom experience. She has become an authority in the field of learning-centered brain research and classroom strategies derived from this research.

In addition, the curriculum will be infused with strategies advocated by John Hattie who investigated what actually works in schools to improve learning. In his groundbreaking book Visible Learning, Hattie synthesizes the results of more than 15 years of research involving millions of students, representing the biggest collection of evidence-based research into effective teaching pedagogy.

3. Measuring Student Progress

At EM2, five metrics will be used to measure students’ progress: GPA, state performance test results (Keystone), school attendance, behavior/suspensions, and improved attitude towards school. The latter metric will use a section of the Measures of Effective Teaching student questionnaire developed for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation by Ron Ferguson, a senior lecturer in education and public policy at Harvard Graduate School of Education and the Harvard Kennedy School.

4. Measuring Teacher’s Effectiveness

After decades of educational research, it has been confirmed what many intuitively know-teachers matter. Researchers have established that one of the critical factors in childrens’ academic progress depends heavily on the talent and skills of the teacher leading their classroom.

And how does one identify an effective teacher? By simply asking students.

Researchers have found that students seem to know effective teaching when they experience it, and student feedback from perception surveys is an extremely reliable indicator of how well a teacher is instructing students. Studies confirm that students’ perceptions of a teacher’s strengths and weakness and the results are consistent across different groups of students that a teacher teachers. For instance, based on student responses to questionnaires, students’ perception of a teacher’s ability to control a classroom and to challenge students with rigorous work is of utmost importance.

In order to gather student feedback, EM2 will use student questionnaires created by Ron Ferguson, a senior lecturer in education and public policy at Harvard Graduate School of Education and the Harvard Kennedy School. The questionnaire was designed for the Measures of Effective Teaching project sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Questions will be gathered under seven headings, or constructs, called the Seven C’s; Care, Control, Clarity, Challenge, Captivate, Confer, and Consolidate.

Sample questionnaire questions are: ‘students in this class treat the teacher with respect,’ ‘my classmates behave the way my teacher wants them to,’ ‘our class stays busy and doesn’t waste time,’ ‘in this class, we learn to correct our mistakes,’ ‘we use time well in this class, we don’t waste time,’ ‘we learn a lot in this class every day,’ and ‘the teacher expects my best effort.’

5. Senior Year Senior Project: A Powerful Learning Experiences for Students

Students at EM2 will have numerous opportunities to develop their learning experience given that the EM2 curriculum will be student-centered, project-based, utilizing a hands-on techniques and open-end inquiry learning method with minimal amount of lecture or direct instruction.

The cumulating EM2 student experience will be a Senior Project and it will be a major focus of senior year. The EM2 Senior Project will provide students with the freedom to go beyond the traditional educational program. Students choose, plan, develop, and direct their projects, allowing them to take complete charge of their own educational experience and making them fully accountable for the success of their project. The project relates to life outside the classroom in a very genuine way and is a direct, practical application of the students’ abilities.

The purpose of the EM2 Senior Project is to provide students with a practical learning situation and an invaluable opportunity to utilize the knowledge and skills they have acquired over the course of their educational development. The Project will be an opportunity that brings students face-to-face with the complexities and realities of the “real world.” More importantly, it is a chance for the students to explore their interest areas, while focusing on the development of skills in accountability, communication, creativity, critical thinking, goal setting, independent learning, and responsibility.

6. EM2 References: References corresponding to the experts the core principles are based upon.

The following You Tube videos feature some of the experts mentioned prior discussing the deign principles of EM2.

Robert Brooks on the role of adults helping struggling children

Carol Dweck: The power of believing that you can improve

Run, Jump, Learn! How Exercise can Transform our Schools: John J. Ratey, MD at TEDxManhattanBeach

Play, passion, purpose: Tony Wagner at TEDxNYED

Yong Zhao - World Class Learners




“If we can control the attention of the child, we solve the problems of education.” Maria Montessori

This month Ed Tip will examine how to improve students' learning by activating their attention.