Posts from the ‘Teaching and Learning’ Category

Strategies for Teaching Reading

How can you prepare every student for reading success?Reading strategies are explicit, planned actions that help translate the printed word into sounds and meaning. Reading skills benefit every kind of student, but they are essential for emerging readers, struggling readers, English Language Learners, and students with learning challenges, according to Reading Horizons.

Here are some of the widely used practices:

Guided reading is an instructional approach that involves a teacher working with a small group of students who demonstrate similar reading behaviors and can all read similar levels of texts. The text is easy enough for students to read with your skillful support.


Direct instruction (DI) is a general term for the explicit teaching of a skill-set using lectures or demonstrations of the material to students. … DI teaches by passive learning, in contrast to exploratory models such as inquiry-based learning, discovery learning or active learning.


Mastery-Based Learning: In any situation where you’re given a set of labs, problems, or activities where your progression is dependent on successful completion of various tasks rather than seat time, you’re engaging in mastery-based learning–a teaching method premised on the idea that student progression through a course should be dependent on proficiency as opposed to amount of time spent on academic work.

As every teacher knows, classroom management is a consummate juggling act. To remain attentive to the needs of all students, teachers must engage the more advanced students while helping the struggling ones catch up. At any given point in a lesson, a teacher must decide whether to move through the material aggressively and add more challenges and twists to the problems presented, or build in more of cushion for those who are confused. Any one of these strategies is bound to leave some students feeling bored or confused. Mastery-based learning aims to help teachers in this respect by allowing students to move through coursework at their own pace.

Key features of mastery-based learning (MBL):

1. Curriculum design hinges on assessments
2. Assessments may take any form as long as they determine proficiency
3. Graduation to the next grade/level/topic is contingent upon successful completion of prerequisite assessment.
4. Curriculum is committed to the success of all students; students are not “allowed” to give up.

SOURCE: 5 Myths about Mastery-Based Learning The Knewton Blog


Recommended: The Reading Strategies Book: Your Everything Guide to Developing Skilled Readers, by Jennifer Serravallo  

With hit books that support strategic reading through conferring, small groups, and assessment, Jen Serravallo gets emails almost daily asking, “Isn’t there a book of the strategies themselves?” Now there is.

“Strategies make the often invisible work of reading actionable and visible,” Jen writes. In The Reading Strategies Book, she collects 300 strategies to share with readers in support of thirteen goals-everything from fluency to literary analysis. Each strategy is cross-linked to skills, genres, and Fountas & Pinnell reading levels to give you just-right teaching, just in time. With Jen’s help you’ll:

  • develop goals for every reader
  • give students step-by-step strategies for skilled reading
  • guide readers with prompts aligned to the strategies
  • adjust instruction to meet individual needs with Jen’s Teaching Tips
  • craft demonstrations and explanations with her Lesson Language
  • learn more with Hat Tips to the work of influential teacher-authors.

Whether you use readers workshop, Daily 5/CAFE, guided reading, balanced reading, a core reading program, whole-class novels, or any other approach, The Reading Strategies Book will complement and extend your teaching. Rely on it to plan and implement goal-directed, differentiated instruction for individuals, small groups, and whole classes.

“We offer strategies to readers to put the work in doable terms for those who are still practicing,” writes Jen Serravallo. “The goal is not that they can do the steps of the strategy but that they become more comfortable and competent with a new skill.” With The Reading Strategies Book, you’ll have ways to help your readers make progress every day.





AXS CEO Troy McClain Featured at Special Needs Conference

Troy and Kid sisIdaho Partnerships Conference on Human Services has a great featured speaker this fall: Troy McClain is the CEO of AXS , a full-service marketing, communications and business management firm focused on growing people and businesses to great heights.

Their website says:

Our annual conference is an opportunity to bring professionals, self-advocates and family members together in order to increase education and hands-on training surrounding topics such as mental health, developmental disabilities, autism, supervision/leadership and self-advocacy. Additionally, it’s an opportunity for individuals to network professionally in order to build stronger support groups for family members, clients and participants.

As a seasoned entrepreneur with over 14 years experience in the financial industry, Troy has learned how to create budgets, manage costs and cost-effectively market and communicate products, services and causes. Using innovative techniques and strategies, he has been instrumental in providing successful growth concepts to companies and professionals working toward a higher level of achievement.

Today, Troy is an international speaker on a variety of topics, such as entrepreneurism, finance, advertising, marketing and communications, personal growth, and giving back to one’s community.

Troy  became America’s sweetheart and underdog sensation when he was selected from nearly a quarter million applicants to vie – on national TV – for a job working with Donald Trump. Millions of viewers watched this one apprentice hopeful without a college education excel past the other 16 finalists on his way to the final four. After the unfathomably successful season 1 run of The Apprentice, Donald Trump said, “Guys like Troy are what make America great.”

Troy’s “kid sis” is profoundly deaf and developmentally delayed, so he knows firsthand the challenges families and organizations face when it comes to serving the needs of the Special Needs Community.


AXS has redefined collaborative community. We are the leading successful living membership club of cause, and purpose-driven people who understand that the power of community creates opportunity, energy and purpose. Our promise is to inspire, uplift and serve, while equipping our members with the entrepreneurial mindset and practical tools needed to live successful lives, as each defines success. Through online and in-person education and training, impactful events, business networking opportunities, experiential travel, courses and workshops, publications, mentoring and more, our members manifest their fullest personal, professional and philanthropic selves.


What Mastery-Based Learning Would Look Like in Idaho

As we discuss children’s literature, it is important to examine connections between learning with and through the written word and the policies that determine what goes on in classrooms.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra  is working to help lawmakers “move from the notion or the concept of mastery-based education to the actual concrete view of what it could look like in Idaho.” The initiative would move away from traditional academic schedules.


Sherri Ybarra

According to the Idaho Education News.teachers from Kuna Middle School and officials from the Council of Chief State School Officers briefed lawmakers, highlighting the mastery-based education recommendation issued in 2013 by Gov. Butch Otter’s Task Force for Improving Education.

The idea behind mastery is that students would advance academically once they demonstrate a thorough understanding of educational concepts, said Stephen Bowen, the CCSSO’s strategic initiative director for innovation.

Such a move would replace seat time requirements, and could allow more students to graduate early or work towards college credits while still in high school if they master concepts early. On the other hand, some students who struggle could theoretically need more than four years to graduate high school.

Some districts and states that moved to mastery replaced traditional letter grades with scores of one to four. A “three” indicates mastery. A “two” indicates students are progressing but have not yet achieved mastery.

“They’ve taken out all seat-time requirements,” Bowen said. “It’s not about did you sit in class long enough to get a C-minus and pass the class. It’s about did you master that (subject area).”

The IEN article by Clark Corbin reported that a statewide move to mastery is complex, and could require legal changes to everything from a state’s funding formula to the laws governing diploma requirements, he said. In some mastery-based schools, students of different age groups are found working together within the same classroom.

“We give (students) a problem we don’t have the answer to and they have to use elements of math, science, English and history to find the solution,” Murphy said.Kuna Middle School teachers Kevin Murphy and Shelby Harris said they’ve experienced positive results in the two years since their team of four teachers moved to a mastery- and problem-based learning system they call Synergy.

Murphy described his team’s classrooms as “a beautiful mess,” where students collaborate (sometimes loudly) in groups, don’t observe traditional bell schedules and view teachers as mentors, not traditional educators who deliver lengthy lectures that consume a class period.

The situation took some getting used to, and some trust, but he said students in the Synergy system outperformed their peers on last year’s ISAT by Smarter Balanced (SBAC) tests.

While mastery offers an opportunity for advanced students to progress more quickly, CCSSO experts said it is equally important to personalize learning opportunities for students who fall behind or struggle.

“One of the most important things when a school moves toward a mastery-based system of education is, if students are working at a different pace, there must be systems of support in place,” said Jennifer Poon, CCSSO’s Innovation Lab Network director.

In a 2015 interview, Ybarra emphasized her support for mastery, but described the transition as a “generational change” that will not be completed during a four-year term in office.

Otter proposed spending $1.2 million to continue developing mastery in Idaho. That money would allow 20 school districts to begin piloting a mastery system.

Comments on my Facebook page included:

I devised a mastery system for remedial math in 1976. I can’t imagine a mastery system for government or literature. They are based on concepts, not skills, and student interaction is an important to learning.


This sounds suspiciously like the “level system” that was in place in Maryland in the 70’s. In sixth grade I was in level 8-4 in math, or hslf way through 8th grade math. The Jr. High I went to did not use the same system and I sat in class bored for two years. It is a good system if it is enacted system wide. If it is only in place in a few schools as an experiment it is extremely dangerous. Also it requires a high degree of professionalism for the teachers. Another reason it failed in Maryland is teachers became focused on cultivating the rapidly advancing students to the detriment of those who did not advance due to the lack of instruction.

However, Key features of mastery-based learning (MBL) include:

1. Curriculum design hinges on assessments
2. Assessments may take any form as long as they determine proficiency
3. Graduation to the next grade/level/topic is contingent upon successful completion of prerequisite assessment.
4. Curriculum is committed to the success of all students; students are not “allowed” to give up.

This initiative is intriguing and has promise. It should be looked at and discussed further for the possible benefits to Idaho children.

What is the difference between Fantasy and Science Fiction?


Richly illustrated, practical ideas for sharing literature with children

“Modern fantasy literature has unexplainable magic, and it is this element that captures the minds and hearts of children.” – Charles A. Temple, Miriam A. Martinez, Junko Yokota in Children’s Books in Children’s Books in Children’s Hands: A Brief Introduction to Their Literature.

I love fantasy and science fiction. Children tend to read a lot of these stories because they are easier to understand and spark kid’s interest with their silly or unique qualities. Many  dream of having magical powers or coming across a mythical beast. The supernatural is so very intriguing to the young mind.  They eat up anything that has magic, dragons, spaceships, wizards, mad scientists, or talking beasts.

The backdrop for this discussion with my preservice teachers is Chapter 8 of the text quoted above.

Nebulous … but distinct

Many stories contain both fantasy and science fiction, making it sometimes hard to tell the difference. Science Fiction is a variety of fantasy in which an author inspired by real developments in science, has conceived by a version of reality difference from one we inhabit. … “Fantasy could never be. Science Fiction has the possibility to be.” Some examples of modern fantasy are Alice and Wonderland, The Jungle Book, Peter Pan, Winnie-the-Pooh. Some examples of Science Fiction are Frankenstein, Anti-Gravity Paint, and a personal favorite, A Wrinkle in Time. Two classic fantasy books are personified, talking animals: Charlotte’s Web and Babe. 

Low Fantasy / High Fantasy

Fantasy can be broken into two categories: Low Fantasy and High Fantasy. These two distinctions help to separate and classify the literature as well as set up expectations.  The authors also give a definition for science fiction and described the difference and relationship between fantasy and science fiction.  Often, fantasy situations are created using the mechanisms of science fiction to create a “willful suspension of disbelief.”

Low fantasy and high fantasy can then be broken down into subgenres.  Low fantasy includes books that take place in our actual world but utilize magical elements to propel the story.  This chapter describes the subgenres of low fantasy in the order that most children encounter them first.

High fantasy is closely related to myths and legends. It  often asks so much of the reader that if the author is not careful in how they craft their story, they can lose the audience. Because of this, the amount of time spent on world building, characterization, plot and believability are so important that a very rich experience can be produced.  On the opposite side of that coin is what happens if those cares are not taken.

The scholars incorporated many of the attributes from the “Hero Cycle” into what makes high fantasy work, tests of identity, tasks, quests, escape from death, journey etc.  I really liked how the chapter mentioned the merits of fantasy and science fiction, “Fantasy is not an escape from reality, but a mirror in which reality is reflected and extended in the imagination” (209).  The amount of extra care that needs to be taken regarding the craftsmanship of fantasy and science fiction is essential to creating a “willful suspension of disbelief.”


I thought it was fitting that personification of animals was the first subgenre. It is often true that the first encounter with fantasy for children involves animals being personified with everyday traits that children and adults possess. This was followed by personified toys.  Who hasn’t read a story about a toy that has come to life? These two were followed by outlandish characters and situations such as “Marry Poppins” and “Pippi Longstocking.”  I couldn’t help but think of “Clifford the Big Red Dog.”

These stories were followed by the subgenre of magical powers.  Scores of people love “Harry Potter!”  Embellished fairy tales are familiar.  This is followed by extraordinary worlds.  The examples of “Alice in Wonder Land” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” were given.  I would add “Harold and the Purple Crayon” as well. This brought on supernatural elements.  I was surprised “Goosebumps” wasn’t mentioned. Time slips fittingly finished up the low fantasy subgenre.  Who hasn’t heard of “Magic Tree House” books? I really enjoyed the breakdown of the subgenres of low fantasy.  They are all such different reads, yet each is enriching in their own way.

Good science fiction

Science Fiction is a fascinating and unique genre that takes the elements of real life, such as technology, and creatively builds upon those ideas.  It is amazing that the stories of flight and underwater exploration could be credited with their inventions, “Good science fiction is entertaining, addictive, and inevitably thought provoking” (214).

Science Fiction was broken down into stories that project scientific principles, utopian and dystopian societies, survival of environmental catastrophes, and the combination of science fiction and fantasy. These subgenres all offer different flavor of what science fiction has to offer. The biggest difference between science fiction and fantasy is that science fiction is plausible. There is an explanation given for why something extraordinary can take place.

What to look for

The way to evaluate a good science fiction or fantasy work of literature is pretty close to how to evaluate any work of literature.  First, look at the elements of literature and see how they work with the framework that is laid out by the author.  Then see how the characters interact with the environment and rules that are put into place.  By asking if the elements of the story are “convincing, consistent, and well developed” a sense of the quality of the literature can be determined (210).


Teaching tips

The textbook had a great idea for a lesson for teachers. You have students embellish their own fairytale by finding unanswered questions in the story and asking them “what do you think/wish would happen next?” This gets students thinking and promotes creativity in the classroom.

It is very important to include books like these in the classroom. Teachers need to allow children to go to a world that is not in this one. Fantasy and science fiction really makes the phrase “Escape with a good book” meaningful. Our everyday world is at times quite predictable and mundane.

I enjoy seeing the excitement brewing in students when they cherish these types of stories. I have noticed a different passion for these genres than  for any other type of books. Encourage young learners to use their imagination — to think about what could never be — and to imagine what has the potential to be.

Great Children’s Activities and Books Available for Success Club Retreat in Cancun

Proven Success: Attend an amazing Leadership Retreat in Cancun, Mexico! Learn how to Be, Do and Have all you want in life — and bring the whole family!

Join us for Leadership Retreat ’16 at the Moon Palace in Cancun, Mexico, March 4th – 6th. Read details and register here.

Entrance to this exclusive weekend Retreat is only $397. The event is very KID FRIENDLY! No charge for children under two. For ages two up to 17: cost per child is $63.00 per day.

Cancún, a Mexican city on the Yucatán Peninsula bordering the Caribbean Sea, is known for its beaches, numerous resorts and energetic nightlife. Enjoy the awesome downtown area, El Centro. Or stroll along Zona Hotelera, a long, beachfront strip of high-rise hotels, nightclubs, shops and restaurants.

“The Playroom” is the state-of-the-art kids club found at Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort, in the Sunrise and Nizuc sections. Sure to delight the resort’s tiny guests, “The Playroom” is complete with different game rooms, such as a fashion room and beauty salon, a dollhouse area, arcade and creativity area.
“The Playroom” also boasts an Xbox room, a simulated race area with “ezy rollers” and an arcade zone. The kids club also comes complete with a theatre with plush seating and concessions, two playgrounds (one inside and one outside), a pirate boat, sandbox and a mini soccer field. All children are always under the careful watch of the property’s helpful staff. Anything and everything a kid can ever desire can be found in “The Playroom.”


AXS Leadership Retreat 2016: Kids friendly Resort and Playroom | Moon Palace ® Resort

“The Playroom” in Sunrise is open to children between ages 4-12, and “The Playroom” in Nizuc is open to children ages 4-10. Children under 4 are welcome but must be supervised by an adult at all times.

The following are sample activities that will keep your young ones entertained. Please note activities and amenities vary per section and season and are subject to change:

Movie hour; Drawing Time; Piñata Making Class; Build Sand Castles; Puppet Show; Jenga Tournament; Cooking Classes; Balloon Sculpture Classes; Pijama Party; Xbox Tournaments; Chef’s Hour; Bop It Challenge; Soccer Tournaments; Mask-making Classes; Spanish Lessons; Mexican Lottery; Bingo; Zumba for Kids; Playdoh; Arts & Crafts.


AXS Leadership Retreat 2016: Kids friendly Resort and Playroom | Moon Palace ® Resort

Recommended Reading:  Visiting Cancun with your kids? Children’s Travel Activity Book & Journal: My Trip to Cancun is a fun filled activity book and journal is a great way for kids to plan and record their own travel adventures and make a treasured memory book for their trip to Cancun.

Cool Cancun specific crossword, word search, puzzles and other activities will keep them busy on the journey, they will learn about Cancun and practice their writing, reading and maths in a fun way.

Includes a great planning and diary section; which will increase children’s excitement by getting them involved in the early planning stages of the trip.

This is a great gift for children and an amazing keepsake for parents


Included in Children’s Travel Activity Book & Journal: My Trip to Cancun :

Trip Planning: Cool Places to visit in Cancun; Research your trip; Postcard Reminder & Packing List


AXS Leadership Retreat 2016: Kids friendly Resort and Playroom | Moon Palace ® Resort

Activities to do on the way to Cancun:

Word Search
Cool Facts about Cancun
Link up Puzzle; Code Cracker; Number Chains and Puzzles; A-Mazing Maze; Drawing; Coloring.

Cancun Trip Diary: Write a daily diary during the trip

Plus more activities for the trip home …

Click here for a list of other children’s and Young Adult books about Cancun

Read more about AXS CEO Troy McClain:
– Proven Success With AXS CEO Troy McClain: Revisiting the First Season of Donald Trump’s Apprentice 
– A Look at the Enduring, Positive Reputation of AXS CEO Troy McClain
– Lessons from AXS CEO Troy McClain Forum » Topix

Guest Post: Failure Should Be Mindful Not Mindless, by Chris Wasden

Last week I did an interview for a Podcast with Dr. Travis Good. He kicked off the interview by asking the following question:

In your book, you talk about failure being the spark that ignites the innovation cycle. Since more than half of all digital health companies fail in the first two years, are you suggesting that these founders get right back on the saddle and develop their next idea? 

Here are my thoughts on failure.

There are two different kinds of failure: mindless and mindful. The difference between mindful and mindless failure is the former occurs based upon continuous questioning and testing of hypotheses and learning where you were wrong in your assumptions, the later occurs because you failed to really question and think before you leapt off and started your venture. The cost of developing solutions, such as apps, has collapsed in recent years and is now so cheap that we don’t have to think before we start building something.


Rediscover and Liberate Your Creative Genius

I think the key point about failing is that it forces learning in powerful ways that then leads to new actions that are generally more successful because they overcome the failure that was at the root cause of the problem. If we are more mindful about our failures we focus on identifying the root cause of a problem we need to solve by addressing the underlying failure and pain that caused it. We then create a hypothesis as to how we can innovate to remove the tension that the failure and pain cause, we then test that hypothesis as quickly as we can, fail fast, quickly learn from that failure, adjust our hypothesis, modify our innovation, and then try again.

It is interesting to see how the country of Singapore is applying this approach to the teaching of math. In a recent article that outlined their approach, teachers purposely design in failure in to the teaching of math. That is, they give the kinds a math problem to solve before they teach them how to solve it, requiring the student to try their best with their current knowledge. Then after they fail, the teachers instruct the students as to the best way to solve the problem. This approach causes the students to be more engaged in learning because now they know why they need to apply this new approach to solving a math problem and they learn it faster and remember it longer. This forces mindful failure.

Recommended Reading: Tension: The Energy of Innovation by Chris Wasden and Mitch Wasden 

The problem with the 70,000+ digital health apps and devices out there is that most of their efforts seem to be mindless. That is, they don’t really understand the root cause of the problem, they are not innovating in ways that remove tension, and they are failing without learning much because they never had a clear hypothesis to begin with.

To really become innovators we must first acknowledge that we don’t know much, we are not the experts we think we are, and we need to undertake exploration and discovery to better understand the problem we want to solve – to quote Einstein “The important thing is to never stop questioning.” This means we must apply the three process of innovation to interact with many people in the world that share a variety of experiences and opinions about the problem we are solving and then select those ideas that seem to make the most sense to solve the problem and design an experiment to test our hypothesis.

It is estimated that 80% of all digital health apps that are downloaded are used only once and then deleted, and only 16% are used twice.  Another studyindicated that of the 43,000 digital health apps only half had any legitimate health function. Five apps accounted for 15% of all downloads. Over 90% of the apps tested scored a 40 out of 100 on the IMS Institute of Healthcare Informatics quality scale.

I have personally looked at and evaluated hundreds of digital health apps and companies with my students at the Sorenson Center for Discovery & Innovation and I would argue that the reason most of them fail is that they haven’t applied the Innovation Cycle to innovate by understanding the root cause of the problem (failure and pain). They didn’t identify a key failure and important pain point that needed to be addressed. They failed to innovate in such a way that they could eliminate the tension that arose from the failure and pain. Unless these failed digital health companies have learned something valuable from their failure, then they shouldn’t get back in the game and perpetuate their mindless failure. If you want to play the innovation game, then apply the Innovation Cycle to fail mindfully.

It is estimated that there are over 400 diabetic apps you can download from the app stores, and over 99% of them are awful because they have weak value propositions (or more likely none at all) and don’t follow what I call the Six Principles of Digital Success to mindfully develop their app and business. They lack Integration into the lifestyle and workflow, they are not Interoperableacross multiple technologies, they are not Intelligent in guiding new behaviors, they are not Social to include broader communities, they do not deliverOutcomes of improvement and they are not Engaging enough to bring you back again and again.

I am familiar with one of the best diabetic apps in the market that follows all six of these principles. Unlike nearly all of the diabetic apps out there, WellDoc , has applied mindful failure and has invented not just new technologies but also a new business model to increase its success in the market. Despite its innovative efforts, WellDoc still struggles because of the inertia of the status quo in healthcare that rejects novel solutions. Healthcare is the toughest market in the world to innovate in, which means that you must be even more effective at applying mindful failure than in any other market.

As I wrote in my blog last week, I am now a mentor in an NSF I-corp innovation program. As part of this program we must do 100 face-to-face interviews with prospective stakeholders in seven weeks. The purpose of these interviews is to apply the three process of innovation to push us towards mindful failure. I can guaranty you that the vast majority (like over 90%) of these digital health companies, which create apps that are never used, didn’t do 100 face-to-face interviews, the failed to seek many points of view that would cause rejection and tension to their ideas in order to improve them before they built their product and launched their business.

Innovation requires failure, but let’s have it be mindful not mindless by never stop questioning.


chris arms folded_croppedDr. Chris Wasden is the Executive Director of the Sorenson Center for Discovery and Innovation at the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah. He is also an Associated Executive director at the Center for Medical Innovation at the medical school, and a professor in the Entrepreneurship and Strategy Department. He also continues to work with PwC where he was the Global Healthcare Innovation Leader. As a global thought leader on Digital Health and the role that Social, Mobile, Analytic and Cloud technologies are transforming healthcare and other industries he has written and published over 60 articles and reports on the topic, and he speaks at over 30 events each year on how Digital Health is transforming the practice of medicine, the delivery of care, and the creation of an entirely new wellness paradigm based upon objective measures that lead to greater engagement and changes in human behavior. He is a named inventor on 20 issued patents and has been a leader in 11 different startups where he developed many of his ideas around the innovation cycle and lifecycle and how fast, frequent, frugal, and failure accelerates innovation. Dr. Wasden has a doctorate in human and organizational learning from George Washington University in Washington, DC, an MBA from the UCLA Anderson School, and bachelor degrees in accounting (BS) and Asian studies (BA) from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.

SCHOOLS ON TRIAL: How Freedom and Creativity Can Fix Our Educational Malpractice

Schhols On TrialAre America’s schools little more than cinder-block gulags that spawn vicious cliques and bullying, negate creativity, and true learning and squelch curiosity in their inmates, um, students? Nikhil Goyal, a journalist and activist all of twenty years old whom the Washington Post has dubbed a “future education secretary” and Forbes has named to its 30 Under 30 list, passionately thinks so, and in this book he offers both a scathing indictment of our teach-to-the-test-while-killing-the-spirit educational assembly line and maps out a path for all of our schools to harness children’s natural aptitude for learning by creating an atmosphere conducive to freedom and creativity. He prescribes an inspiring educational future that is thoroughly democratic and experiential, and one that utilizes the entire community as a classroom.

SCHOOLS ON TRIAL: How Freedom and Creativity Can Fix Our Educational Malpractice will arrive this spring (Doubleday; February 16, 2016) — an all-in attack on the American way of education and a hopeful blueprint for change by one of the most passionate – and certainly youngest – writers on the subject.

Until recently, Nikhil Goyal was a typical student at a large public high school – a model pupil plucked from the No Child Left Behind generation and Race to the Top era. Since graduating with the class of 2013, however, Nikhil has pursued a less-traditional path, traveling the country – from Chicago and the Mission District, to Brooklyn and beyond – to visit other kinds of learning communities, whose methods opened his eyes to the astonishing potential of what a sea change in education might look like. In Schools on Trial, he introduces readers to some of these less familiar environments that operate beyond the narrow spectrum of current education reform strategies to reveal the ways that seemingly radical methods of education that emphasize creative play and self-learning are in fact more closely aligned with the way human beings have learned for thousands of years, before compulsory education was ever invented.

Conventional debates on school reform frame the discussion in polarizing terms. Advocates are either for or against issues ranging from charter schools and testing to Common Core standards and teachers unions – pitting one side against the other, while ignoring the vastly more important issue that Schools on Trial tackles head-on: the anti-democratic and inherently cruel nature of contemporary schooling itself.

In Schools on Trial, Nikhil Goyal shines a light on the most extraordinary models of learning around the country today, offering stories of people who have bypassed formal institutions in favor of self-education. Goyal presents an eloquent, detailed, and persuasive case that schools are exhausting the gifts of creativity, curiosity, and zeal that all children bring to the classroom and explains why there should be less difference between living and learning inside the classroom and out. His research helps tackle the core questions facing parents and students today and provides a persuasive path forward toward schools that nurture children’s creativity and love of learning, rather than squelch them.

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