In Schools We Trust

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In the book In Schools We Trust: Creating Communities of Learning in an Era of Testing and Standardization, Deborah Meier shares her experiences in designing and operating Mission Hill School in Boston, serving as principal, and her experiences teaching and leading in various New York City schools. She became the founder and director of the alternative Central Park East School, which embraced the ideals of John Dewey and she served as founding principal for Central Park East II and River East, both in East Harlem. Meier also helped to establish a network of small schools in New York City. She started out teaching kindergarten in a temporary position in Chicago with the intentions of following a different path in life after this position, but found her passion in teaching, specifically with the minority population. Her love for and connection with inner city school minority students comes from her experience as a young Jewish girl feeling like a minority growing up in a predominantly Anglo-Saxon population.
Her philosophy in public school education is a belief that small, personalized schools with close, strong school-family ties, like the schools of the “privileged white” students would benefit the disadvantaged inner city students as well (Meier, 2002, p.56). This was a highly controversial philosophy because most educators on both sides of the racial lines did not agree with her philosophy at the time. It was on this foundational principle that she began her successful experiments in teaching more than thirty years ago. Deborah Meier is now referred to as the founder of the modern small schools movement.
With regards to trust and the culture of schools, Meier believes that schools should be smaller, self-go...

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...arents in any given public school district would be in full agreement on all aspects of the philosophy of education, the choice of curriculum, and the vision and mission of the school. This is evidenced by parents who currently choose to send their children to private schools. Meier’s experiment with a self-governed school model worked for her, not without some difficulties and snags along the way, but a level of accountability is missing and on a large scale this model has great potential for misuse and failure.
“It is in the public schools that we learn the art of living together as citizens, and it is in public schools that we are obliged to defend the idea of a public, not only a private, interest.” (Page 176.)

Meier, D. (2002). In Schools We Trust: Creating Communities of Learning in an Era of Testing and Standardization. Boston: Beacon Press.
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