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ERIC Number: ED573405
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2016-May
Pages: 125
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
Progressive Practices in Public Schools. Occasional Paper Series 35
Silin, Jonathan, Ed.; Moore, Meredith, Ed.
Bank Street College of Education
Confirmation of the current enthusiasm for re-visioning progressive education arrived in inboxes this fall when the Bank Street College of Education received more submissions for this issue than for any other in the journal's 17-year history. From these the editors have selected a range of essays that reflect pre-kindergarten through high-school settings; focus on individual classrooms, entire schools and school districts; and attend to matters of pedagogy and curriculum building or to working within the constraints of the contemporary moment. Following an introduction title "Now is the Time," by Jonathan Silin & Meredith Moore, nine essays were selected. Three of the essays showcase child-centered public schools and present twenty-first century embodiments of progressive principles laid out more than a century ago. Corinthia Mirasol-Spath and Jill Leibowitz explore the benefits of play for students and teachers alike in a New York City elementary school that provides students with time to explore their interests through long-term projects of their choosing in "Reenvisioning the Classroom: Making Time for Students and Teachers to Play." Rachel Seher, Alan Cheng, and Melissa Birnbaum paint a portrait of another school with experiential learning at its core; at "City-As-School: Internship-based Learning in New York City Public Schools," internships take the place of many classroom-based courses. "The Center for Inquiry: Anatomy of a Successful Progressive School" transports the reader to Indianapolis, Indiana, where authors Christine Leland, Amy Wackerly, and Christine Collier were part of the original cohort of teachers and university faculty who founded a progressive magnet school. Premised on inquiry-based teaching and learning, the Center for Inquiry has grown from one to four schools. The second group of essays addresses the ways that progressive education in public schools has shifted and must continue to shift to meet the needs of America's increasingly diverse student population. In "Beyond Child-Centered Constructivism: A Call for Culturally Sustaining Progressive Pedagogy," Alissa Algava argues that twentieth-century constructivist pedagogies are not sufficient to fulfill progressive education's inherently political, activist and democratic potential. She calls for a culturally sustaining progressive pedagogy that critically engages questions of power with both children and teachers. Beatric S. Fennimore confronts the deficit-based talk prevalent in many schools serving marginalized students in "Say that the River Turns: Social Justice Intentions in Progressive Public School Classrooms." She argues that teaching for social justice begins by replacing deficit-based talk with clearly articulated intentions that subsequently transform into actions. Echoing the theme of the power of language, Darrick Smith summarizes efforts to transform the negative and disrespectful culture at a small California high school with a racially diverse student population, in "A Humanizing Approach to Improving School Disciplinary Culture." Here a humanizing approach to discipline, rooted in an affirmation of students and their families, and entailing an alignment of school and family values with the school's mission, has been successful. Finally, incorporating data from an ethnographic case study of a bilingual (Spanish/English) Head Start program serving the children of Dominican and Mexican immigrants, Ysaaca Axelrod explores the tensions in parents', teachers', and administrators' beliefs about language use and the role of play in ""We All is Teachers": Emergent Bilingual Children at the Center of the Curriculum." Balancing these essays on classroom life, the final two essays focus on administrative practices that support progressive education. In "Holding Space for Progressive Practices," elementary principals Abbe Futterman, Dyanthe Spielberg, and Cecelia Traugh use a descriptive review process to share their methods for maintaining educational spaces that are grounded in progressive values, in the face of conflicting mandates from the district or the state. In a provocative counterpoint, Doug Knecht, Nancy Gannon, and Carolyn Yaffe, former New York Department of Education administrators, describe their work adding a quality review process to the accountability system for city schools in "Across Classrooms: School Quality Reviews as a Progressive Educational Policy." Positing that the quality review is itself a progressive process, they argue that it can help schools to focus more on the lived experiences of their students and less on high stakes moments. Together these essays tell that only through a shared commitment of families, teachers and administrators can progressive practices flourish in public schools. They also tell that success requires a combination of hard work in the classroom and savvy political strategizing in the larger systems, along with a deep understanding of the foundational tenets of progressivism and a willingness to reimagine how best to realize them in the twenty-first century. It is the hope that these essays will inspire as they have inspired the writers to continue advocating for more just, engaging, and child-friendly classrooms for all children. (Individual papers contain references.)
Bank Street College of Education. 610 West 112th Street, New York, NY 10025. Tel: 212-961-3336; Tel: 212-875-4400; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Collected Works - General
Education Level: Elementary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: Bank Street College of Education
Identifiers - Location: New York (New York); Indiana (Indianapolis)