How To Design A New School

column | Nonprofits

How To Design A New School

Jan 11, 2013

IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT THE BEEF: You've got to love Cook's Illustrated's approach to recipes: Most of us know the basic ingredients of, say, beef stew. (Beef, carrots, water, carrots maybe some tomato paste.) CI explores the difference between the mouthwatering and the mediocre by experimenting with what you do with the ingredients. The differences are subtle but meaningful: yes, the cut of meat but also browning both the meat and veggies before mixing them, adding ingredients that are rich in glutamates: a dash of tomato paste, a chunk of salt pork, a couple of anchovies. (You have to pay CI for all the details but Betsy testifies that it is, indeed, pretty darn tasty.) And even as CI weighs the tradeoffs between those elements, both singularly and together, it makes it clear to readers: Your taste may vary. Try it out.

That kind of beef stew was what came to mind when we read a new blog by Stacey Childress, deputy director of education at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Childress is a long-time academic and likes to think out loud in words. (Full disclosure: the Gates Foundation supports some of EdSurge's work on our database of reviews and reports.) Her first topic: design principles for schools.

The elements sound like the core ingredients for stew: Student centered, high expectations, mastery based, blended, student ownership, along with financially sustainable and scalable.

Now it's time to explore how to make those elements work together, in the heat of the kitchen. How should they be balanced? What will enhance students' enthusiasm and internal motivations? What will bring out the best in the teachers? Do share your tips.

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