Thursday, June 10, 2010

If Not Test Scores, What? Linda Nathan of the Boston Arts Academy

Uncovering the 'Invisible Barriers' to Student Success

By Anthony Rebora

The Hardest Questions Aren't on the Test: Lessons From An Innovative Urban School
by Linda F. Nathan
Beacon Press, 2009

Linda Nathan is a former teacher and the founding headmaster of the Boston Arts Academy, an arts-focused public high school that has gained widespread attention for its unconventional methods and strong academic record. Some 95 percent of BAA graduates are said to be accepted into college. And that statistic is all the more impressive when you consider the school’s demographic: Nearly 80 percent of BAA's students are minority and 60 percent qualify for free or reduced lunch...

Instead of immediately instituting intensive test-prep sessions or some other "tactic of the month," Nathan and her colleagues embarked on a series of sometimes uncomfortable discussions on the connections between race, classroom practice, and academic achievement. These deliberations then led to potentially risky initiatives to help teachers look more closely at the way they interact with African-American boys in their classes and to open up the conversation to the students themselves. The immediate results, Nathan says, were promising...

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