Big Picture Schools
One of the speakers at the Curriculum Corporation Conference in Sydney this week was Elliot Washor, one of the founders of the Big Picture Company which is in the business of providing public education to a design specification which they believe provides an optimum environment for authentic learners and learning
The Big Picture Company was founded by educators Dennis Littky and Elliot Washor, both formerly of the renowned
and the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University
. In 1995, they began collaborating with
policymakers to design a student-centered high school, and created The Big Picture Company as the launching pad for what has now become a national education reform movement. http://www.bigpicture.org/aboutus/index.htm
Big Picture Schools all operate based on some common criteria or ‘distinguishers’ One of these related to engagement of parents and families. Clearly one result is absolute clarity about product definition… or, could we even suggest that there may be a basis for comparison with other ‘chain’ operations. Elliot wanted us to not see a sense of similarity with a quick anecdote about differences in Starbucks in different places..Still..there is a wealth of information on the site which outlines fairly specifically a whole range of expectations and beliefs about whole range of facets of provision of a learning environment.
The following excerpt will give you an idea of the specificity of expectation observable..If you get a chance, have a look at the material on Principal Development and the ‘capabilities’ required
There will no doubt be some other reflections on other content at the conference. I’ll hope to post some more commentary here in the next few days. If there is anybody else who was there, why not click to link to ‘Comment.’ It seems there is no shortage of ideas about how we can do “it” better. The trick, it seems to me, is building enough critical mass of understanding and desire within our culture and community that we actually collectively begin to celebrate and value our access to free and secular education. I have deliberately left out the third word: ‘compulsory’ as it works against what was no doubt the original intent, the ensuring of participation. In a country which has its heritage steeped in hugely unbalanced power relationships between groups, with the only power available to some often being the power to subvert or non-comply, we need to find a way to reconfigure our view of the concept of being compelled to attend ‘school’ to be ‘schooled.’ And yes, another way of suggesting that we need to work beyond school planning to actually planning schools
Anyway..back to the excerpt from the Big Picture website
Families play an active role in the school community that includes supporting the school politically, participating in celebrations and social gatherings, and supporting new parents and students. They are also viewed as life-long learners who need support in learning how to play a proactive role in the school life of their children through high school and on to college and the work world.
Essential Elements of Parent/Family Engagement – Adult Support Include:
· Families are educated and asked to play an active role in the education and school life of their children · Parental voice in school organization and culture · Families attend and participate in learning plan meetings and exhibitions each quarter · Parents as well as students are Interviewed and sign participation agreements along with their students upon enrolment· Families are educated to play a proactive role in the college process · Families play important and proactive roles to garner and show political and community support for the school http://www.bigpicture.org/aboutus/distinguishers/parentengagement.htm