I'm just pointing out that one of the great developments in American education, one that thankfully changed the lives of tweens permanently, was, at least in my experience, a window into the amazing work that public schools and their teachers were doing to change kids' lives.

Independent schools tend to charge tuitions that make people shake their heads. In New York City, Boston, and L.A., the head-shake number is now at $40,000 and more--for day schools, mind you.

I find it encouraging that there are tools to actually assess what we value--critical thinking, problem-solving, writing, engagement and curiosity--and to give us support in valuing what we assess.

Our job as educators is to offer what those boarding school founders of the late nineteenth-century tried to: an education steeped in moral purpose as well as authentically connected to the requirements--social, cultural, and practical--of the "real world." We cannot, we know, simply surrender to the temptations of association with a new plutocracy.

Design thinking dovetails neatly with STEM goals and unites the various precepts of "21st-century learning" with relevance and the fostering of creativity; it's also a perfect fit with the "maker" movement.

Independent school teachers didn't ask for the process to be like this, and as much as some might relish the prospect of a carefully selected student body, they didn't mean for the selection to take on the trappings of the crazed college application process.

The problem, and it's an even worse problem for public schools, "ranked" as they often are based on state testing, not programs, is that we are so enthralled by rankings. If Boston Magazine doesn't publish its list, whatever the methodology, the carpool caucus already has its own, based on who-knows-what?

It blows my aging mind that we're still talking about making one year of kindergarten, much less two or more years of early childhood learning, into a national expectation.

The initial charter impulse was a good one, and it shouldn't be lost--but it shouldn't succeed at the expense of the generality of public schools it was meant to inspire.

The real paradigm shift is for independent schools to start viewing themselves--and encouraging themselves to be regarded--as community resources that public schools might draw upon in specific ways, as they do with public libraries, cultural institutions, or museums. The trick will be to develop the partnership idea to the point that the resource role is baked into independent schools' understanding of their own missions and of their public purpose.


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