Dr. Larry Myatt has over three decades of experience in education and was the Honorary Chair of NISCE’s first conference INSPIRE 2013. The founder and President of the Education Resources Consortium, and the co-founder of Boston’s Center for Collaborative Education, Dr. Myatt was also the founder of Fenway High School in Boston, a model small school for the nation, and its head of school for 20 years before accepting an assignment to advise Boston’s High School Renewal Initiative.
In an interview with Dr. Myatt, he reflects on the work he sees being done at Schools for Children and through the new initiative the National Institute for Student-Centered Education and shares observations drawn from the INSPIRE2013 conference. We appreciate his keen insights and invite educators, parents and those concerned with the quality of education in our country to get familiar with our work.
Yes, there is a role of NISCE, many in fact. NISCE can become a connector, a convener, a commenter for student-centered learning. When all the student voice data nationally suggest unprecedented levels of student disinterest in school and classroom learning, increasing bullying and alienation, and when policy approaches driven by uniformity and standardization abound but produce few results, the times are right for organizations who can promote, spotlight and analyze schools and the people in them who are doing the right thing. I think there are many people in many places who are reacting to the current dilemmas with good solutions, using good research, being successful, but they are too disconnected, often unaware of others from whom they could draw support and energy. NISCE could be part of playing that role. And, perhaps this is a dream, but could begin to be a force to focus all of our efforts to change our unproductive policy approaches and encourage more localized, concerted approaches to student-centered learning, to educate people who are in a position to make better decisions about public education.
You were an important part of NISCE’s first conference on student-centered education – INSPIRE 2013. Would you mind sharing any observations or lessons drawn from that experience?
There was great energy, first of all. People appreciated the chance to listen and talk. I was intrigued that there were professionals in attendance from independent schools, religious schools, “alternative schools” and non-profit organizations, all curious to see what each other had to offer. Many came in teams that included leadership, counseling, teaching staff, and other support personnel. That tells me that people are looking for approaches, insights and things that work across a range of student needs and across a range of job descriptions. I also met some parents who were there because they are hard-pressed to find a supportive conversation, some “ammunition” to help them fare better in their negotiations with teachers and schools where they don’t feel their children are understood and/or well-served.
I was also frustrated, but not surprised, that there were few if any representatives from school committees, district leadership or traditional high schools. There is a combination of complacency, myopia and rigidity that leads many school people to feel that what’s problematic are the kids, not the way we do business. And there were no policy makers or legislators in attendance to hear some important messages and new learning from some very smart and committed people.