Response to the April 2012 edition article "Working on a new blueprint for schools she grew up in"
I was delighted to read about the vision and commitment Penny Nixon brings to her office. It is so much easier to create a one-size-fits-all planning and scheduling timeline for teachers to follow than it is to recognize the differences that students bring with them, and to give teachers the gift and the challenge of working creatively to develop students' thinking and reasoning skills.
It's been a long time since we had this kind of vision at the top levels of District leadership. Improving Philadelphia schools requires an understanding that developing students' intellects and creativity is more important than preparing for PSSAs.
Nixon will have a tough job promoting this vision in our resource-poor district. It's already become clear, in the time since this interview, that the administration and the SRC have begun another round of closures, layoffs, and outsourcing. Further concessions to the right-wing push for a "corporate reform movement" (as educational historian Diane Ravitch puts it) only encourage voucher proponents and hamstring any effort to move from a test-prep culture to a culture committed to students' intellectual development.
I feel whipsawed by the juxtaposition of Nixon's vision and the dashing of hope for its realization as the District embarks on yet another round of reorganization and privatization.
The writer develops curriculum and resources for The Geometer's Sketchpad, and is an adjunct instructor at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education.