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In Schools We Trust: Creating Communities of Learning in an Era of Testing and Standardization Hardcover – August 1, 2002

4.5 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

While policy makers agree that big city public schools are failing to meet children's needs, their solutions usually involve shifting responsibility to distant figures chancellors, mayors and relying on abstract performance evaluation tools, like standardized tests. From her own experience designing and operating various alternative public schools, progressive educator Meier (The Power of Their Ideas) has a different assessment: schools must be smaller, more self-governed and places of choice, so kids and their families feel they are truly part of these communities of learning. Students need to spend more time around adults who are doing adult work, which builds familiarity, trust and respect, as well as exposure to new skills. Families also need to be brought into the mix, so they're comfortable with the school, the teachers and the educational agenda. Teachers need time and space to develop collegial relations with each other, both to improve educational practices and to model responsible critical behavior for students. According to Meier, the currently fashionable educational panacea increased standardized testing is either irrelevant to academic excellence or an actual deterrent, as teachers teach to the test and ignore everything that's not on it. Likewise, teaching children test-taking techniques trains them to distrust their own intuition about what's right or wrong. Reliance on test results (which are largely meaningless, Meier says) denies parents' and teachers' ability to assess learning. This is a passionate, jargon-free plea for a rerouting of educational reform, sure to energize committed parents, progressive educators and maybe even a politician or two.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

There is a thoughtful double entendre in the title of this latest work by the award-winning author of The Power of Their Ideas. First, as a society, we trust our schools to educate children and to transmit to them a set of democratic ideals. Second, if these goals are to be met, we must foster an environment of trust within our schools both among educators and between educators and the children they serve. Calling the school a "crucible of democratic life," Meier (The Power of Their Ideas) draws on her years of experience at "break-the-mold" schools like New York's Central Park East and Boston's Mission Hill School to describe the importance of promoting trust among all participants in the educational venture, to question the value of standardized testing and reform models devoted to high-stakes assessment, and to describe the institutional factors that can undermine reform efforts that focus on the development of small schools within the public school system. Although the narrative tying these strands of argument together is not as easy to follow as it might be, Meier effectively draws on earlier works in all these areas, e.g., Theodore R. Sizer's Horace's Compromise and Eliot Levine's One Kid at a Time, to create a passionate account of what schooling could be. For all collections. Scott Walter, Washington State Univ Lib., Pullman
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press; First Printing edition (August 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807031429
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807031421
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.8 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,789,246 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By M. Knoester on August 26, 2002
Format: Hardcover
As a veteran Boston public school teacher, I found Deborah Meier's new book refreshing and especially timely given the grave threats thoughtful schools and schoolteachers face in this era of testing. The absurd importance we give to testing puts intense pressure on teachers and schools to standardize the curriculum. But Meier, with her decades of innovative school-building experience, accompanied by considerable research, gives us what the media and politicians refuse--a peak into the making of tests and their history in schools. Meier also takes us into small schools that have a much higher standard of achievement. They're personalized schools organized around how we know kids learn, and they allow teachers to have a larger role in schools and kids' academic lives---in making decisions and frequently rethinking their practice, in its details, in community, in public. This is a challenging and fascinating book. Afraid I might miss a nugget of wisdom, I couldn't wait to read the book again!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As an educator (high school guidance counselor), union activist and progressive skeptic, I strongly urge folks far and wide to read Meier's book "In Schools We Trust." Not only is she easy to read but she makes sense out of difficult material.
Meier uses examples from her own experiences and links them to the weighty issues we face in public education. She uses humor as well as lofty research to back up her claims. In an early passage she challenges us to bring adults and children closer together ( a theme she returns to at the end), so that children can learn what it means to be an adult. In doing so she has us ponder our own adult culture. For instance, why don't we let children copy? since that's exactly what we urge adults to do (i.e. through best practices) and what would that mean if we did allow it?
All in all a good read, a refreshing look at schooling.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Deborah Meier is one thoughtful educator. I first encountered this book in graduate school (in a class on Education Leadership) and, to my surprise, ended up coming back to it again and again. At first, I wasn't terribly blown away by Meier's arguments and the nuances in them, but the book did grow on me.

Meier's concern is that the "stakeholders" (my word, not hers) in schools do not trust and form relationships with each other enough. Students don't come to know and trust teachers, teachers and parents don't come to know and trust the other, and teachers often do not come to know and seek feedback from other teachers. Meier's suggestion (and I agree) is that this is largely because we quite often seek large solutions to problems: learning standards that apply uniformly state-wide, power centralized into higher and higher up political channels, and creating more standardized approaches.

Maybe what is needed is actually a bit of flexibility and a return of schools to (what social theorist Kirpatrick Sale argues) a "human scale." For teachers to attend and respond to parents (rather than seeing them as just one more nuisance and thing to worry about), maybe schools need to be of a smaller size that allows families and teachers to be a bit more flexible. For students to trust teachers, maybe teachers need a bit more authority to make decisions so that students can see their teacher as someone other than a rule-follower that has no real discretion or authority. (It is hard and maybe superfluous to trust who you know doesn't have authority to make decisions.)

Utopian? Well, Meier deals with some of those objections.
Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
Progressive educator, Deborah Meier, a legendary school founder and reformer addresses the issue of mistrust in her book "IN SCHOOLS WE TRUST". Policy makers and communities across America feel that public schools are failing to meet our student's academic needs. The educational policy makers promote the notion that standarized tests are an effective tool to measure academic achievement in the nation's youth. Meier challenges this theory making the comparison between schools that rely upon standardized tests versus small, self-governed schools. Meier focuses on her theory that schools flourish when classes are smaller,intimate and when parents take an active role in their child's educational experience. Both parents and teachers can better assess learning in this educational setting as opposed to one that merely trains students to improve their test taking techniques. This plea for educational reform asks that parents and educators re-evaluate the complete learning process in our schools with the use of standardized tests.
Deborah Meier simply addresses the downfalls of standardized testing and its effects on student learning.
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Format: Hardcover
I chose this book as a class assignment. Our directive was to give a presentation on an Educational theorist, and Deborah Meier's name was on the list. Little did I know the choice of Mrs. Meier's book would be such an enlightening and enjoyable introduction to her as well as her thoughts about the most effective strategies for education in today's society. Meier's writes with incredible insight and clarity about the things that are most important to her in education: small classes, building relationships, active parent and community participation in the school life of children, and offering all children options in the type of public school education they receive. She uses examples of her work at Central Park East and Mission Hill schools to illustrate her ideas and successes. These examples were especially helpful to me as a novice in the area of elementary and secondary education. Never one to mince works, and using well placed humor, she offers her opinions on standardized testing and the dangers they present to students and education. Meier's offers an alternative to standardization - standards and also outlines a broader vision for education in the future. All of my children have completed elementary and secondary school. However, as a soon to be grandmother, this book will be one of those that I recommend to my daughter and son-in-law as they begins their new journey into parenthood.
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