Deeper Learning: How Eight Innovative Public Schools Are Transforming Education in the Twenty-First Century
A board member of 10,000 Degrees, Monica donates royalties from the sale of DEEPER LEARNING to the nonprofit college access and success support organization. 10,000 Degrees helps underserved students get into and through college by providing a combination of mentoring, academic and financial aid advising, and scholarships.
Studies suggest that up to half of high school dropouts leave school because their classes are boring or irrelevant to their lives and aspirations. Yet the majority of U.S. schools continue their attempts to engage some 50 million students through conventional methods such as lectures, note-taking, and rote learning, often with dismal results. In Deeper Learning, award-winning education strategist Monica Martinez and education sociologist Dennis McGrath offer a transformative framework for learning that has led to standout results in schools across the country and has the potential to support the development and success of every student.
As so many people before us have pointed out, our schools were designed be more about mass education and efficiency, focused on transmitting information and assigning letter grades to certify learning instead of on developing students as active participants and directors of their own learning. The originating idea of the comprehensive high schools was that we could take students, partition them into classrooms with learning delivered through a regimented whole class lecture by an authority figure (the teacher) guided by a rigid curriculum with students passively falling in line and accepting even the most top-down oppressive atmosphere. Simply describing the initial conception and nature of contemporary schools is enough to show how ill designed they are to prepare students for the demands of the twenty-first century. Our schools are designed to promote passive learning and rule following rather than innovation, curiosity and creativity.
Evidence backing up an education based on Deeper Learning principles continues to build.
A recent study by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) substantiates the effectiveness of DL practices on student performance. The study surveyed 1762 students drawn from 22 schools in New York and California serving low-income students and students of color that were associated with Deeper Learning Networks. These networks serve a diverse and traditionally underserved group of students. The study compared them to similar students in non-Deeper Learning schools and found that students attending DL schools benefited regardless of their background or whether they lived in an urban or suburban district attain higher standardized test scores on both state assessments and an OECD PISA-based test; are more likely to graduate from high school on time than students in comparison schools; are more likely to enroll in four-year colleges and enroll in more selective institutions; have greater opportunities for project-based learning, internships, and longer-term cumulative assessments; and report higher levels of collaboration skills, academic engagement, and motivation to learn compared to their non-DL peers.
We went in search of schools that want students to have a valuable social experience as adolescents but most importantly, create curious and passionate learners who understand core academic content and concepts, become critical thinkers and problem solvers, effective communicators and productive collaborators who take responsibility for their own learning. What we found inspired us and far exceeded our expectations. We saw schools designed for learning that can serve as a bridge to the future of education. We discovered principals and teachers who focus all their efforts on helping students learn how to learn and who design intellectually rich and emotionally engaging learning experiences that are provided to all students. We saw schools where everything that students do matter and the barriers between school and community blur as local groups and organizations become equal partners in providing learning opportunities for students. We found students who take responsibility for their own learning and that of others, and who are self-directed, seeking opportunities for further learning in everything they do both inside and outside of the school.
The schools featured in the book are:
- MC2 STEM High School in Cleveland, Ohio
- Impact Academy of Arts & Technology, a charter high school in Hayward, California
- Science Leadership Academy, a magnet STEM high school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- King Middle School and Casco Bay High School in Portland, Maine
- Rochester High School in Rochester, Indiana
- High Tech High, the flagship in a network of two elementary schools, four middle schools, and five high schools in San Diego, California
- Avalon School, a charter school serving 7th through 12th graders in St. Paul, Minnesota