Note: This column was scheduled to appear on Nov. 25, but was not published until Nov. 30 due to an editing error. Dear Diane, I went up to Boston last weekend for the memorial service/celebration of Ted Sizer's life at Harvard's Memorial Church. Rituals can be wonderful things when we are facing the death of someone as important to us as Ted has been. Our shared respect for Ted is perhaps one of the reasons we embarked upon this blog. Ted has been a "bridge" between two often fiercely opposing camps that we have both been part of. He ...


Editor's note: This week, Bridging Differences will run on an altered holiday schedule and publish a piece by Deborah Meier on Wednesday. Because of the Thanksgiving holiday, Ms. Meier's entry will be the only update to Bridging Differences this week. Bridging Differences will resume its regular Tuesday-Thursday schedule next week....


Dear Diane, Someone calling himself "natturner" had a sharp reply to Jay Mathews' column on closing big high schools. Even though I was part of such an effort many years ago, and still brag about the results, I think natturner made a good rhetorical point in his comment on Mathews' blog: "Mr. Mathews, I just can't figure out why you confine your sagacity to just America's public education system. Your philosophy seems relevant in so many bigger ways. For instance, about a year ago the banking system collapsed, proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that it had failed. And ...


Dear Deborah, The legislators who passed the Elementary and Secondary Act in 1965 repeatedly assured their colleagues and the American public that the federal government would never interfere with state and local control of schools. The purpose of the law was clear: To provide additional funding to the nation's neediest students. Of course, that vow did not preclude federal intervention to abolish racial segregation, because segregation was one of the sources of inequity and there was a Supreme Court decision requiring an end to state-sponsored segregation. Now, we see that the original promise has not only been forgotten, but broken. ...


Dear Diane, The bad news does seem to overwhelm the good news of late. For starters, when talking about education, we need a new vocabulary. The term "achievement" has become synonymous not with the intellectual tasks of schooling, the "using one's mind well" as Ted Sizer put it, but with whatever is measured by multiple- choice tests. The more answers right the better—of course—but otherwise there's little of intellectual quality being measured. If it's "using one's mind well" that should be at stake, then one might imagine we need tests that rest on demonstrations of how students...


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