What makes “good” good enough for you and your kids?

By Ginger Cook | Categories: Uncategorized

Why is it that education graduate students characterize certain school models as “good” and yet would not choose to work in them or send their own children to them? What’s going on?

One of my all-time favorite teachers is Larry Cuban, my grad school advisor. A former high school social studies teacher, district superintendent, and professor at Stanford, Larry is the consummate educator-full of questions and creating the conditions for deep reflection.

Larry is a prolific blogger (as well as author and researcher). Over the weekend, he posted a blog called Good Schools Seminar: Gleanings from a Class.

Larry describes a seminar he has taught for at least a decade. Over the course of many weeks, graduate students unpack what they mean by “good” schools, reflecting on their own conceptions, analyzing school reform models, and dialoging with each other. Larry offers an array of school reform models for students to analyze, including The Child Development Project, precursor to Caring School Community.

What I found fascinating is the following:

Most often, students judge each of the model schools they have read about and we have discussed in great detail, “good.” Afterwards, I ask them to write down answers to two additional questions that cause much consternation among them. The questions are: Would you teach at the school you have said was “good?” Would you send your children to the school you have judged “good?”

During the lesson, I tally all of their responses publicly to the above questions on whether the school is “good,” would they work at the school they designate as “good,” and, finally, would they send their children to that “good” school. Conflicts within individual students and across the class become evident. Again and again, students see that while nearly all of them designated, for example, KIPP or Rocketship as “good” schools, most of them would neither work nor send their children there. Most students wanted to work at Comer and Child Development Schools. Most wanted to send their children to Core Knowledge and Child Development Schools.

As someone who has worked with Developmental Studies Center, developers of the Child Development Project model for 10 years, I am not surprised by the response but interested to know more.

Why do you think the Child Development Project was the only one of these models grad school students choose time and time again as a place they would want to work and send their own children? What stands out for you? And what do you think is most essential to be true in a school in which YOU would want to teach or send your own child?