NEWTON, MA | February 17, 2005
What are the best ways to educate an ever-more diverse adolescent student population? A new book, based on four years of research, provides detailed portraits of three urban middle schools in different parts of the country that developed unique and effective local solutions responsive to students, their cultures, and to school district and state mandates.
Visionary Middle Schools: Signature Practices and the Power of Local Invention, written by researchers Catherine Cobb Morocco, Nancy Brigham, and Cynthia Mata Aguilar of Education Development Center (EDC), draws on lessons learned from in-depth case studies of three urban schools. Each school organizes learning around a different school-wide instructional practice – a “signature practice” – that reflects that school’s particular beliefs about learning and provides diverse students access to challenging curriculum. In Dolphin Middle School, co-teaching within interdisciplinary teaming is the center piece; in Leonardo da Vinci it is technology-supported exhibitions; in Carter-Dean, investigations of social and scientific questions within interdisciplinary curriculum units is the central focus.
“The three case studies are rich in depth and coverage,” wrote Michael Fullan, author of The New Meaning of Educational Change, in the Foreward for the new book. “In all three cases, details particular to each context are revealed whereby the poor and the disabled are fully served, and everyone learns in a vibrant, active community. Visionary Middle Schools has so many powerful messages which are beautifully and forcefully presented,” Fullan wrote.
In Visionary Middle Schools, the authors:
- Examine each school’s process for overcoming obstacles related to poverty, low English-language proficiency, and new immigrant status
- Look at how these schools developed their own unique solutions, each going on to become the strongest performing school in their respective districts
- Present approaches and lessons for urban schools across the country
“After working intensely in these schools to discover their secrets, we have found some ‘key ingredients’ for secondary school reform,” said Morocco, a senior scientist and co-director of EDC’s Center for Family, School, and Community. “We’re saying to principals and teachers and parents: ‘here’s how it works’ and hoping to share these valuable lessons,” Morocco said.