November 29, 2005

The Big Picture: Extreme Education Reform

"... It's hard to imagine a school with no tests, no grades and no classes. But those familiar elements of education are missing at two dozen Big Picture schools in six states, each with no more than 120 students. They emphasize work in the real world, portfolios, oral presentations and intense relationships between students and advisers...."

NPR program on one of the schools

Years ago I was able to meet a principle attempting to launch Chicago's first "Big Picture"school. Then, it was just referred to as a "Met School," and there was not the unified front of Big Picture institutions with success statistics to back themselves up. The faith in passion and specificity is the most exciting part of Big Picture schools. Personally I believe that our confidence in learning has become lost in the breadth of the general curriculum. One interesting subject can be worth 20 boring ones in the eyes of students and educators. When you really press a student or educator about what the most important aspects of high school are... You rarely end up with the questions asked on standardized tests. Big Pictures seems to orient students around the actual answers... Responsibility and self/social awareness. Not to mention a welcome retreat back to pre-industrial age "apprentice" kinds of learning.


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