Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Creating Innovators

From an interview with Tony Wagner, author of Creating Innovators:  Raising Young People Who Will Change the World.
Wagner: I talked to a very wide range of young innovators in their 20s -- some innovators in the so-called STEM field (science, technology, engineering and math), some who were artists and musicians and some who were social entrepreneurs. It was a demographically [diverse] and representative sample of young innovators out there. Then, as you point out, I talked to all of their parents, and then I asked each one of them -- could they name a teacher or a mentor who had made the greatest difference in their lives in their development of their capacities to innovate? About a third of them could not name any teachers. They all could name at least some adult in their lives -- two-thirds could name a teacher, the other third named mentors.
I interviewed each one of those teachers and mentors, trying to see if I could find the patterns of parenting and teaching that contribute the most to the development of a young innovator.
What I discovered is that in every single case, the teachers who had the most critical difference in the lives of these young innovators was an outlier in his or her education setting. Elementary school through graduate school, every single one of them was an outlier. What made them outliers were the ways in which they taught, and the ways in which they taught were very consistent with what I saw to be some of the practices in the leading educational institutions that produce innovators. I'm talking about Stanford's d.school, the MIT Media Lab and above all, the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, which I also profile in the book.
I came to see that the culture of schooling in America is radically at odds with a learning culture that produces young innovators in five essential respects.
Number one: The culture of schooling is all about individual achievement, ranking kids, whereas, the culture of innovation demands collaboration. Every one of these teachers and classes I observed really build teamwork into all of their assignments.
Number two: A culture of schooling is all about specialization. While that certainly has a role in innovation, what's very clear in the world of innovation is a problem-based, multidisciplinary approach to learning.
Number three: The culture of schooling is risk averse and penalizes failure. The culture of innovation is all about taking risks and learning from mistakes, trial and error.
Number four: The culture of schooling is a very passive experience, where people essentially sit all day consuming information and then regurgitating it. The culture of learning for young innovators is all about creating -- not consuming -- real products for real audiences.
And lastly, number five: The culture of schooling really relies on extrinsic incentives to motivate learning -- carrots and sticks, As and Fs. But I discovered that these young innovators were far more intrinsically motivated, and when I looked at the pattern of what parents and teachers had both done to encourage intrinsic motivation, I found a kind of remarkable emphasis in the classrooms and among the parents of play, passion and purpose.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

in whatever she chooses to do

A message from former Post Oak parent Bev Peters.  So where do "initiative and work ethic" come from?


I just wanted to tell you a little story.  Avery is taking the PSAT this fall.  She isn't terribly concerned with it, although knows tests like that really aren't something she feels comfortable with (which we are both fine with) but also knows this is the world she currently lives in.  She asked if she could get a tutor so she would feel more confident.  

After several sessions he (he's getting his PhD at Rice in some kind of engineering, but was a high school science teacher) talked to me after and said he had been told to expect kids (he's with Rice Tutors) whose parents coddle them and aren't motivated.  

He commented that Avery has more internal motivation than he has seen in quite some time, stating that she will do fine on the tests, but more than that, has the initiative and work ethic to be successful in whatever she chooses to do.  I think I'd like to share the credit for this with POS!

Hope all is well.


Friday, October 19, 2012

the best Halloween costume

“Our prevailing system of management has destroyed our people. People are born with intrinsic motivation, self-respect, dignity, curiosity to learn, joy in learning. The forces of destruction begin with toddlers – a prize for the best Halloween costume, grades in school, gold stars – and up through university. On the job, people, teams, and divisions are ranked, reward for the top, punishment for the bottom. Management by Objectives, quotas, incentive pay, business plans, put together separately, division by division, cause further loss, unknown and unknowable.”

“We will never transform the prevailing system of management without transforming the prevailing system of education. They are the same system."

– W. Edwards Deming, pioneer of the quality management revolution, in correspondence to Peter Senge. 

(Thanks to Post Oak parent Lana Rigsby for sending this to me.)

Friday, October 12, 2012

Real and lasting success

A variety of current references to schooling, learning, testing, and success.  From Dark Matter to the Rug Rat Race.  From Chinese physics students to "non-cognitive skills."  Is there a sea change at work?

opting out of the 'rug rat race'
American children, especially those who grow up in relative comfort, are, more than ever, shielded from failure as they grow up. They certainly work hard; they often experience a great deal of pressure and stress; but in reality, their path through the education system is easier and smoother than it was for any previous generation. Many of them are able to graduate from college without facing any significant challenges. But if this new research is right, their schools, their families, and their culture may all be doing them a disservice by not giving them more opportunities to struggle. Overcoming adversity is what produces character. And character, even more than IQ, is what leads to real and lasting success.

This American Life with Ira Glass
Ira talks with Paul Tough, author of the new book How Children Succeed, about the traditional ways we measure ability and intelligence in American schools. They talk about the focus on cognitive abilities, conventional "book smarts." They discuss the current emphasis on these kinds of skills in American education, and the emphasis standardized testing, and then turn our attention to a growing body of research that suggests we may be on the verge of a new approach to some of the biggest challenges facing American schools today. Paul Tough discusses how “non-cognitive skills” — qualities like tenacity, resilience, impulse control — are being viewed as increasingly vital in education, and Ira speaks with economist James Heckman, who’s been at the center of this research and this shift.

schooling beyond measure
The reason that standardized-test results tend to be so uninformative and misleading is closely related to the reason that these tests are so popular in the first place....

The common denominator? Our culture's worshipful regard for numbers. Roger Jones, a physicist, called it "the heart of our modern idolatry ... the belief that the quantitative description of things is paramount and even complete in itself."

why some kids succeed
The book takes on what Tough calls the “cognitive hypothesis,” the idea that success hinges on mental processing speed and traditional brainpower. Instead, citing lots of interesting research, Tough shows that “non-cognitive skills” – perseverance, optimism, self-control, and so on – are actually what matter most.

rote learning vs creative thinking
'The results suggest that years of rigorous training of physics knowledge in middle and high schools have made significant impact on Chinese students’ ability in solving physics problems, while such training doesn’t seem to have direct effects on their general ability in scientific reasoning, which was measured to be at the same level as that of the students in USA,

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The doorway

From: Thomas, Dawn A.

Dear John,
Last week I visited BR in the library for an orientation.  As I was leaving, a small boy – who had just come through the hallway doors and was heading in my direction – looked up at me, stopped still, then hurried back to the doorway.  I at first assumed that he had forgotten something and was headed back to his classroom.  As it turns out, he was hurrying back to make sure he could open the door for me as wide as it was possible for him to implement.  He spoke no words, but the beaming smile on his face said it all.  To me, it was a heart-warming illustration that even the youngest Montessori child is nurtured in an environment of grace and courtesy.

Best regards,

From: John Long
What a great story! It reminds me of the request that I got several years ago from Rhonda Durham, Executive Director of ISAS (Independent Schools Association of the SW), asking all member schools to report on how we teach character development. My response was that we do not have a packaged curriculum for such instruction, but rather, it is a part of the warp and weft of daily life at Post Oak: developed thru the way children learn in the classroom, the way they interact with the adults and with each other. Your story wonderfully illustrates not only the development of grace and courtesy, but also personal empowerment. Even that very young child felt that he could offer assistance to you, an adult in his world. Wow!

From: Thomas, Dawn A.

Yes, as I thanked him, I could sense his joy at not only being able to “do” for himself but also for me. It hurt my heart to observe at the few “traditional” schools to which Bryan and I had been referred – the overall environments clearly were not set up to truly foster empowerment of the child.

Monday, October 1, 2012

age grouping in schools

Post Oak parent Rakesh Agrawal sent me this article:  technology, such as Khan Academy forces us to re-think using student age as a prime organizer of schools.
Yes, and while Khan Academy helps to "flip" instruction, there is so much more.  Here's my response to Rakesh:

Thanks for sending this along.  Interesting that the author thinks that high school is where this really begins to matter.  Of course, he's still stuck on content, a la Khan Academy, where there is a mostly linear curriculum and a set body of facts to master in order to move from level one to level two.  When do we begin to deal with a multi-dimensional universe of learning...with darkmatter occupying 85% of everything?









Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Something Special Here

Check out this video created by four elementary-aged children.  Then read the project description from Post Oak mom Katie Orr -- Post Oak kids stand out.  They are creative: incredibly so.  But there is more: "To drive home the point, she grabbed my arm and said, 'Really, please listen. You need to understand that there is something special here and that you need to be very, very proud of your child and these children.'"   Read on:

Michelle asked that I answer your question regarding the video that our boys produced. Several Post Oak School boys (Joseph Orr, Andrew and Jonathan Lu and James Redding) participated in Aurora Picture Show's Filmmaking Boot Camp this summer.   (James collaborated on a different, equally amazing film.)  The week-long day camp is part of the education outreach ("Popcorn Kids Series") of the Aurora Picture Show, a Houston based non-profit that supports emerging filmmakers and artists in our area. Please see their website if you are interested:

The children were guided in their first-ever filmmaking endeavor by the organization's Media Arts Instructor, Camilo Gonzales, as well as  a high school art and media teacher from a nearby school district that was working with the organization through a grant (I can't remember her name.)  In addition, a couple of local filmmakers stopped by to offer some consultation during the process.    


It was a fantastic hands-on experience for the children, one that fit beautifully with their Montessori experience and the Montessori approach to learning.   In fact, when I was able to finally visit with the instructors at the end of the week (parents were not allowed to interrupt or corrupt the artistic process!) , the instructors were effusive in their compliments of the POS boys' work.  They were thrilled with the artistic outcome, but they seemed most impressed, almost shocked, at the group's strong vision for the film, and how well the group worked together to realize that vision.  They noted that they were worried that our boys' group contained a much younger girl that the boys had never met, and that this young girl might feel left out of the process;  however, again, they were amazed at how quickly the boys integrated her into the process and allowed her talents to shine among this group of friends.  To underscore their pleasure, the teacher pulled me aside again and reiterated that this was an amazing group of children and that this process and their product far exceeded their expectations.   To drive home the point, she grabbed my arm and said, "Really, please listen.  You need to understand that there is something special here and that you need to be very, very proud of your child and these children."   


I am answering your question in the long form, because this experience is not atypical of what I see every summer when Bob and I, and other POS families, send our children out into the world of special interest camps and activities in the summer.   I don't write you a note every summer as I easily could, but given your question, I can't ignore the fact that Post Oak helped guide these children in the process of making this film as much as the talented filmmakers and educators at Aurora.  I do believe our children are different and that there is something, actually everything, going on in the school year at POS that makes these children stand out when they go out into the world.  So, yes, the Orrs, the Lus and the Reddings are proud parents when we see our children's work and hear the compliments, but we think POS should be proud as well.


Thanks for allowing me to ramble a bit, 








Monday, September 10, 2012

Dark Matter

So I just posted the NY Times blog about cheating...in schools and out.  Quoting the author's daughter,  “TRUTH is a second-class citizen in the glittering world of WINNING.”

Almost at the same time, NPR interviewed Paul Tough (really!) for a story entitled, "Children Succeed with Character, not test scores."

Tough observes, "Right now we've got an education system that really doesn't pay attention to [noncognitive] skills at all. ... I think schools just aren't set up right now to try to develop things like grit, and perseverance and curiosity."

And since phenomena often occur in 3's, I heard a teaser about an upcoming radio feature that opens with the comment, "Our whole education system is built around the idea that if you are good at taking tests, that you'll be successful in life.  But how do you explain all those people who were good at taking tests, but are not so successful in life?  What is the 'dark matter' that leads to success?"

The dark matter that leads to success?  Personal characteristics like grit, perseverence, curiosity...and integrity.

How we teach students to cheat

From Motherlode:  adventures in parenting.

 “TRUTH is a second-class citizen in the glittering world of WINNING.”

Friday, September 7, 2012

Why is all this so important?

Thanks to Post Oak parent Vikas Mittal for the following story from the summer:
Very late in college--graduate school--I realized that to be successful I needed to be organized. Making lists, having an organizer and a calendar all became part of my functioning as a graduate student and now as a professor. My daughter, Sukul (now 12 years old), has always bugged me for a nice planner. Why would a kid want that? Well I see now. She is on summer vacation--every morning she gets ready, writes in her planner what she has to do, and how she is going to accomplish it. Sometimes, we nag her--"Have you done your Cello?" or "When will you ...". Her answer: "I have it on my planner, and it will be done -----." 

Sukul likes cooking, and Indian culture like many  eastern cultures is centered on food. Rather than just cook, she explores--she is a food entrepreneur. When she cooks breakfast for the family, it has unusual garnishes. She likes to make coffee for me, but will ask me to try different garnishes--chocolate, vanilla, and yes even herbs. Many of them have turned out to have great taste, tastes that I would never explore on my own. That she can take risks, and not worry if the outcome is not always positive shows she will not hesitate to be creative.

Why is all this so important? I am a professor of business, and have a biased view informed by my own experiences. In my own career, I've observed now over hundreds of business students--undergrads, MBAs, and phDs--graduate, and can monitor their success prospectively. Typically, the ones who are successful are NOT the ones who are unusually smart or have the highest grades. Yes, they are academically successful. But they have a high level of organizational skills, social skills, and entrepreneurship--no fearing new things and failure.  Coupled with academic success these qualities make for lasting and enduring success. I've seen met smart CEOs, VPs, company presidents --- all successful by virtue of skills that cannot be captured in "grades" or "test scores."

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

"a public storm erupted"

"Movies, violence, and a parent's responsibility."  In the absence of shared values, we cannot rely on movie ratings systems to insulate our children from gratuitous and sadistic violence in movies and on tv.  (As my good friend and colleague Larry Schaefer has said, "We live in a toxic culture.")  So we parents need to excercise both judgement and will in determining what is acceptable "entertainment" for our children.

Monday, September 3, 2012

"Our current version of success is a failure"

"How to raise a child" -- a review of Madeline Levine's book Teach Your Children Well.

And in case you're interested in the allusion from the title, check out this performance.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Do schools believe that?

The fastest way to succeed is to double your failure rate."
--Thomas J. Watson, former CEO of IBM

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Good job?

An anthroplogist studying Waldorf schools looks for the secret to developing self-esteem.  Thank you for presenting one perspective and for making me think about this (Can you make me think?  Probably not.  How about provoke?  Or precipitate?  Or cause? Or encourage?  Language matters.  It conveys meaning and meta-meaning, the message and the message behind the message.)

I agree that "good job" is a poor form of praise.  Yes, praise, in general, inadvertently, unintentionally, and unavoidably traps the recipient in external motivation.  This is praise, the addictive drug.

"Thank you," according to EJ Sobo, expresses appreciation while avoiding the praise trap.  "Thank you."  Translation:  "I noticed you.  I noticed what you did.  I appreciate the help you gave.  I'm grateful to you." 

My favorite "thank you" story comes from Thich Nhat Hanh.  If someone says to you, "You have a beautiful smile," you'll be tempted to say, "thank you." 

That person is really saying "Your smile has made this moment better for me.  Thank you."  So your response should really be, "You're welcome."

The encounter reads like this:
"You have a beautiful smile."
"You're welcome."

Thursday, August 2, 2012

How to take NO for an answer

Here's a blog that's new to me:  The Genius in Children by Rick Ackerly.  Rick spoke at the recent retreat of the Montessori Administrators Association.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

"Nothing is as important as this moment"

50 ways to build emotionally healthy kids -- a blog entry from former Post Oak School counselor, Mary Jo Rapini.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Batman and Beyond

The following letter was sent to the parents of Austin Montessori School and is used with their permission.
Dear Parents,

We are all stunned and grief-stricken at the violence that erupted at a midnight screening of the latest Batman movie. The news coverage has been pervasive and will continue as the investigation and, ultimately, the trial continues.

We would like to recommend the following excellent advice from Dr. Laura Markham about how to talk to children who may be exposed to media coverage or conversations with peers or other adults.

Those of us dedicated to the healthy social and psychological development of children are also saddened to know that even had there been no gunman, no bullets and no booby-trapped apartment that night, there still would have been trauma in the theater. It would have been quiet, hard to see, and unnoticed by the media, but it would have been no less real to the children in that theater -- infants, 3 year-olds, 6 year-olds, 10 year-olds -- whose parents chose to ignore the PG-13 rating and warnings like this one from IMDb.com: "Parents should note that this is in no way a typical superhero movie. It is a violent and gritty story that is powerful and moving. But also very violent and disturbing. Definitely not recommended to children younger than 13."

As Maria Montessori wrote in 1947 in an open letter to the world's governments,

"Childhood constructs with what it finds. If the material is poor, the construction is also poor. […] In order to build himself, he has to take by chance, whatever he finds in the environment. The child is the forgotten citizen, and yet, if statesmen and educationalists once came to realize the terrific force that is in childhood for good or for evil, I feel they would give it priority above everything else."

Although our society is in some ways obsessed with childhood, our children are still too often "forgotten citizens." If we want to create a world in which tragedies such as the one in Aurora rarely, if ever, happen, we can continue to work on behalf of children everywhere, through Montessori education, through political action, through sharing with our family, friends and neighbors what we know about the needs of children, and through supporting the enlightened efforts of many others, such as the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (www.commercialfreechildhood.org).

In our children, there is great hope for our world.

The Administrative Team

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Entreprenurial Montessori Violinist

Must be the violin case that gives her away:  Diana Cohen is a Mafioso; a certified member of the Montessori Mafia -- so named by Peter Sims in his Wall Street Journal article of a year ago.  As Sims reported, "The Montessori Mafia showed up in an extensive, six-year study about the way creative business executives think."

Cohen is not a business executive exactly.  She is first and foremost a violinist--the concertmaster of the Richmond Symphony in Virginia.  So she is professionally creative.  She is also " the mastermind behind ChamberFest Cleveland, a festival of chamber music that will present its inaugural season Wednesday, June 27, through Sunday, July 1, at several venues."

Cohen models creative entrepreneurial behavior:  she had an idea and ran with it; she had the vision, the energy, the organizational skills and the willingness to do what she had never done before.  She was willing to risk failure.  And she is making a cultural impact on the city where she grew up:  Cleveland, Ohio; where she attended Ruffing Montessori School.  (full disclosure:  one of my former students -- a great kid!)


Wednesday, June 13, 2012


"Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing." --Harriet Braiker, American psychologist and writer. (Thanks to ASCD SmartBrief for its "Quote of the Day".)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

“They never get asked to create anything,”

American kids should be building rockets and robots, not taking standardized tests. Learn by testing or learn by making? (Thanks to Post Oak parent Lisa Eddleman for sending this article to me.)

Monday, June 4, 2012

All the City's a Classroom

This high school class promises experiential and expeditionary learning in NYC. It certainly gets students out of the restrictive cells and bells structure of conventional schooling. And the students say they like talking more than listening to lectures, and completing projects more than writing papers, but is touring the same as real engagement? Is learning by looking the same as learning by doing?


An article sent to me by my son, Jacob: "Shop class as soulcraft." Work of the head vs work of the hands? A false dichotomy. Here's a question from the concluding paragraph: "What is it that we really want for a young person when we give them vocational advice? The only creditable answer, it seems to me, is one that avoids utopianism while keeping an eye on the human good: work that engages the human capacities as fully as possible." The human capacities unite the work of the hand and the work of the head. And since the title includes the term "soulcraft," clearly the author, Matthew Crawford, is thinking of the work of the heart as well.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

What if quizzes measured kids’ ability to question, not answer?

Reinventing education. We've been talking about it for a long time. Thanks to Post Oak parent Stephan Kinsella for sending this along to me.

Friday, May 4, 2012

10 Things your commencement speaker won't tell you

By Charles Wheelan, The Wall Street Journal “I became sick of commencement speeches at about your age. My first job out of college was writing speeches for the governor of Maine. Every spring, I would offer extraordinary tidbits of wisdom to 22-year-olds—which was quite a feat given that I was 23 at the time. In the decades since, I've spent most of my career teaching economics and public policy. In particular, I've studied happiness and well-being, about which we now know a great deal. And I've found that the saccharine and over-optimistic words of the typical commencement address hold few of the lessons young people really need to hear about what lies ahead. Here, then, is what I wish someone had told the Class of 1988…” Read the full story here.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

another big project

a note from Post Oak parent Audra French (her daughter Aurora is 6 years old and ready for elementary next year):
"I see Aurora developing in very "Montessori" ways. (She wrote a chapter book after/during dinner last week. She continued to reread and revise her sentences throughout the writing process, as well as brainstorm on topics and which illustrations to include. The next day, Aurora created another big project for herself, but it's escaping me right now. And she is very upset that our homeowner's association won't allow her to have an actual retail store in our home to sell her creations.) She's a lot of fun, and I think Montessori is enriching our family life.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

despite their schooling--not because of it

How to develop innovators. That's the tag line of Tony Wagner's recent article in the Wall Street Journal.

"Learning in most conventional education settings is a passive experience: The students listen. But at the most innovative schools, classes are "hands-on," and students are creators, not mere consumers."

"In most high-school and college classes, failure is penalized. But without trial and error, there is no innovation."

"In conventional schools, students learn so that they can get good grades. My most important research finding is that young innovators are intrinsically motivated. The culture of learning in programs that excel at educating for innovation emphasize what I call the three P's—play, passion and purpose. The play is discovery-based learning that leads young people to find and pursue a passion, which evolves, over time, into a deeper sense of purpose."

Friday, April 13, 2012

How do you spell "entrepreneur" in Canadian?

--illustration from Marine Magnetics, where Doug Hrvoic,former Montessori kid, is the president and technology director.

"The Creativity Gap: Maria Montessori: guru for a new generation of business innovators"--From the Toronto Globe and Mail

"Being a Montessori child is a gift for life."

Thursday, April 12, 2012

the purpose of education

Noam Chomsky is at it again: thinking!

"There have been many measures taken to try to turn the educational system towards more control, more indoctrination, more vocational training, imposing a debt, which traps students and young people into a life of conformity… That’s the exact opposite of [what] traditionally comes out of The Enlightenment. And there’s a constant struggle between those. In the colleges, in the schools, do you train for passing tests, or do you train for creative inquiry?”

(Thanks to Post Oak School parent Lana Rigsby for sending this along to me.)

Monday, March 5, 2012

Seth Godin's manifesto about changing schools.

"The economy has changed, probably forever.

School hasn't.

School was invented to create a constant stream of compliant factory workers to the growing businesses of the 1900s. It continues to do an excellent job at achieving this goal, but it's not a goal we need to achieve any longer.

In this 30,000 word manifesto, I imagine a different set of goals and start (I hope) a discussion about how we can reach them. One thing is certain: if we keep doing what we've been doing, we're going to keep getting what we've been getting.

Our kids are too important to sacrifice to the status quo."

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A note to Mario (Is Montessori education better?)(Prove it!)

There is some research comparing Montessori education to conventional education. The Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) may be the best laboratory for such comparisons for several reasons: (1) its Montessori program has been in continuous operation for almost 40 years; (2) it is of high quality – in the AMI tradition; (3) MPS has kept good longitudinal records of students; and (4) students are randomly selected for the program by lottery. This creates a perfect “control” group: students who applied for the Montessori program but were not selected vs those who were selected.

In one study of MPS students, (another article, same study) this is the summary result:
“A significant finding in this study is the association between a Montessori education and superior performance on the Math and Science scales of the ACT and WKCE. In essence, attending a Montessori program from the approximate ages of three to eleven predicts significantly higher mathematics and science standardized test scores in high school.”

In another study of MPS students reported in Science magazine (a rare venue for school research), this was the summary finding for 11-year olds:
“At the end of elementary school,Montessori children wrote more creative essays with more complex sentence structures, selected more positive responses to social dilemmas, and reported feeling more of a sense of community at their school.”

And although the Montessori program did not have the “test culture” of conventional schools, the 11-year old Montessori students’ test scores were equal to or better than those of students in the conventional schools. Equal to or better than. Not the resounding “Montessori students blew them out of the water,” which would have unequivocally demonstrated superiority. This finding is consistent with Post Oak students’ performance on the annual CTP-4 achievement test. On the national norms, our average student scores at the 90th percentile. However, the private school norms are more of an apples to apples comparison, and on that measure, the average Post Oak student performs as well as or better than the average student in private independent schools across the country – despite the fact that we are playing on their home court: multiple choice standardized tests.

Steve Hughes, President of the American Academy of Pediatric Neuropsychology, is an advocate for Montessori education. He spoke at the recent AMI conference in Ft. Worth and told the audience that we need to collect data to demonstrate how Montessori education impacts personal development – in addition to academic test scores. We tell parents this, and he observes it. But we have not collected the data to tell the story more persuasively.

Here’s his hypothesis: Montessori schools can demonstrate that their students develop more advanced social skills, creativity, self-control, intrinsic motivation, executive functioning and moral reasoning than do their counterparts in conventional schools – without sacrificing academic performance.

Background: Unlike conventional schools, Montessori schools care about more than test results. Yes, Montessori schools do care about cognitive development and academic learning; but their first aim is to create positive learning communities in order to develop creative, self-motivated young people who are kind and compassionate, who demonstrate high levels of self-control and self-management, and who work well with others. Just like academic achievement, growth in these areas can be measured. The instruments are out there and are used all the time by neuropsychologists, developmental psychologists, cognitive psychologists, educational psychologists, and educational researchers.

Dr. Hughes is launching a national research project to collect this data over the next five years.

Here are some examples of norm-referenced assessments of social skills, creativity (or this alternative), internal vs external motivation (locus of control), executive functioning, and moral judgment. These are examples of the skills that Dr. Hughes suggests we test over the next 5 years in order to confirm what we know: that Montessori students do better in these areas than students in conventional schools. That is why parents often say, “Montessori kids are different.” This will tell us HOW they are different…and measure it in ways that can be described.

If you want to view Dr. Hughes’ presentation at the AMI conference, you can find it here (“Montessori outcomes in preparation for adulthood”).


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland?

Diane Ravitch reports about educational reform in Finland in her New York Review of Books article, "Schools we can envy."

"Pasi Sahlberg (author of the Finnish Lessons book) recognizes that Finland stands outside what he refers to as the “Global Education Reform Movement,” to which he appends the apt acronym “GERM.” GERM, he notes, is a virus that has infected not only the United States, but the United Kingdom, Australia, and many other nations. President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind law and President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top program are examples of the global education reform movement. Both promote standardized testing as the most reliable measure of success for students, teachers, and schools; privatization in the form of schools being transferred to private management; standardization of curriculum; and test-based accountability such as merit pay for high scores, closing schools with low scores, and firing educators for low scores."

"In contrast, the central aim of Finnish education is the development of each child as a thinking, active, creative person, not the attainment of higher test scores, and the primary strategy of Finnish education is cooperation, not competition."

(Thanks to Post Oak School parent Joey Hayles for forwarding this article to me.)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Chinese parenting? French parenting? American parenting?

Building self control the American way--with a shout out to Montessori education.
(thanks to Post Oak parent Amy Lindsey for sending this along to me.)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Forget the Chinese tiger mom: Why French parents are superior

Pamela Druckerman, an American living in France, writes in the Wall Street Journal:

"Soon it became clear to me that quietly and en masse, French parents were achieving outcomes that created a whole different atmosphere for family life. When American families visited our home, the parents usually spent much of the visit refereeing their kids' spats, helping their toddlers do laps around the kitchen island, or getting down on the floor to build Lego villages. When French friends visited, by contrast, the grownups had coffee and the children played happily by themselves."

Read the full story here.

Monday, February 13, 2012

“Is it just the transfer of information? If that’s the case, then Harvard has a problem"

...that's from Eric Mazur, a professor of physics and applied physics at Harvard, who has decided that he learned more from his brilliant lectures than his students did and has now moved in the direction of peer instruction and interactive learning.

Check out the full story in Harvard Magazine.

Thanks to Post Oak parent Joey Hayles for bringing this to my attention!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Teaching kids how to disagree

What we really need to do for children is teach them that disagreements are a part of life. The important thing to do when a child disagrees with a friend is the same thing an adult should do when they disagree with someone...

From Peter DeWitt's blog "Finding Common Ground."

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

How to develop leadership

From an article in the current Harvard Education Letter:

More Than IQ

Researchers found just this sort of inner motivation to be a common ingredient among the children they tracked who held leadership posts as early as high school. While there was “a little overlap” between those with the strongest inner motivation and those with top IQ scores, the data showed that stronger motivation trumped higher IQ in winning top roles in clubs. “The motivationally gifted were significantly more likely to be the leaders,” according to Adele Gottfried.

The importance of inner motivation to leadership is not surprising to Carol S. Dweck, psychology professor at Stanford and author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. She says the study offers a strong argument for schools “to do things fundamentally differently.”

“We have fallen into a culture that tests and labels—and we need to be creating people who are visionaries, who are risk takers, who know how to adopt a challenge and pursue it over time,” says Dweck.

Dweck says her work shows that those who are encouraged to have a “growth mindset” and find satisfaction in achieving their own intrinsic goals are more likely to persevere and succeed at tough tasks than those who are simply labeled “smart.” And yet both Dweck and Adele Gottfried point out that schools place such heavy emphasis on extrinsic rewards like test scores and classroom prizes that they risk stifling development of students’ inner drive.

When classroom teachers provide a rich variety of experiences and give students choices as they tackle required material, they help students take charge of their own learning, Adele Gottfried adds.

Monday, February 6, 2012

learn to fail?

"Want to get into college? Learn to fail," -- writes Angel Perez,Dean of Admission at Pitzer College, Claremont, CA.

He quotes one applicant who said in an interview:
"You see, my parents have never let me fail," he said. "When I want to take a chance at something, they remind me it's not a safe route to take. Taking a more rigorous course or trying an activity I may not succeed in, they tell me, will ruin my chances at college admission. Even the sacrifice of staying up late to do something unrelated to school, they see as a risk to my academic work and college success."

This essay was published just days after my article in The Weekly Post, "Thirty under 30 and the Quest for perfection," which references the work of Brene Brown on perfectionism.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Develop Leaders the Montessori Way

Ambiga Dhiraj, Head of Talent Management for Chicago-based Mu Sigma, a decision science and analytics services firm, wrote this week for the Harvard Business Review blog network: "Develop Leaders the Montesssori Way."
This reminds me of Jeremy Allaire's statement, that he learned the basics of his corporate leadership style in Montessori school as a child.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

What's wrong with the teenage mind?

Alison Gopnik's catchy title for a Wall Street Journal article about the balance/imbalance between the motivation system in the brain and the control system -- before, during and after puberty.

Here's a sample:
At the same time, contemporary children have very little experience with the kinds of tasks that they'll have to perform as grown-ups. Children have increasingly little chance to practice even basic skills like cooking and caregiving. Contemporary adolescents and pre-adolescents often don't do much of anything except go to school. Even the paper route and the baby-sitting job have largely disappeared.

The experience of trying to achieve a real goal in real time in the real world is increasingly delayed, and the growth of the control system depends on just those experiences. The pediatrician and developmental psychologist Ronald Dahl at the University of California, Berkeley, has a good metaphor for the result: Today's adolescents develop an accelerator a long time before they can steer and brake.

This doesn't mean that adolescents are stupider than they used to be. In many ways, they are much smarter. An ever longer protected period of immaturity and dependence—a childhood that extends through college—means that young humans can learn more than ever before. There is strong evidence that IQ has increased dramatically as more children spend more time in school, and there is even some evidence that higher IQ is correlated with delayed frontal lobe development.

All that school means that children know more about more different subjects than they ever did in the days of apprenticeships. Becoming a really expert cook doesn't tell you about the nature of heat or the chemical composition of salt—the sorts of things you learn in school.

But there are different ways of being smart. Knowing physics and chemistry is no help with a soufflé. Wide-ranging, flexible and broad learning, the kind we encourage in high-school and college, may actually be in tension with the ability to develop finely-honed, controlled, focused expertise in a particular skill, the kind of learning that once routinely took place in human societies. For most of our history, children have started their internships when they were seven, not 27.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Natural talent?

The Talent Code.

The missing voice

Laura Flores Shaw used to be a school psychologist. She became a Montessori school leader because she wanted to dedicate her life to helping children develop the personal strength and resilience that would make therapy unneeded.

Read her article in the Huffington Post.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Parent Stories

An invitation to parents from Mark Berger:

I've launched a new website to capture all those stories parents love to tell about Montessori and their child/family. Parents are always talking about their experience with Montessori- how it helped them be a better parent, how their child emerged so capable and confident, etc. Well, here's a place to gather those stories- from parents around the world.

Share your own and pass this on to others. http://www.montessoriwords.com/(hint: open in Firefox)



Monday, January 9, 2012

Montessori and Macintosh

Another Alan Kay comment about Montessori education. This one before congress: "The Macintosh user-interface used Montessori's ideas..."

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

"the inside sort of things"

Writer Rick Ackerly tells Maggie's story.
"Maggie awoke one morning at the age of eighteen with the profound fear that after 13 years of school, 'I knew very little about myself and what I wanted in my life.'”

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

"The best way to predict the future is to invent it."

That statement is from Alan Kay. So is this one:

"For me, the key is education. And in my mind the patron saint of how to teach kids is Maria Montessori. A hundred years ago, Montessori understood that children always are trying to learn about their environment, and so the best way to help them was to give them carefully organized, rich environments, where the toys and the play have 20th-century side effects. In my opinion, this is one of the great ideas in the history of education. Even today, most of the best cognitive science about education harks back to Montessori's original insights."

To read the whole article about Alan Kay's work at Xerox PARC and the Dynabook, go here.