How a Rural School District Turned Around
New e Book Sale
Yong Zhao, Keynote Speaker for the 2016 AERO Conference.
Zhao TEDx Talk
 Conference info here. Portland AERO Registration is only $275, but will rise soon. Workshop proposals now accepted here
Peter Gray will also keynote
See his TEDx talk here

Temporary AERO Conference Rate for Low Income Will End Abruptly
The AERO conference is filling up with many events and features. It will be in Portland, OR, from August 3-7. You can read about the details here on the AERO website.

You can now register for the 5 day AERO conference for   $275 , but for a limited time there will also be the option to register at the $225 rate if you are low income . This will end abruptly as the conference gets fuller. We still have the $500 patron rate for those who want to sponsor another attendee, half of which is tax deductible. Other rates: Volunteers and students can still register at the $200 rate . The Rate for children under 12 is $100 , which includes child care.

Get more info or register here!
Democratic Education E-Book Sale
We've been doing some serious work in developing the e-book section of our bookstore. There are now 11! Most of them haven't even been announced yet, but they are there and available. 

This week we are celebrating this by offering to you Yaacov Hecht's book, Democratic Education, at $5!!! That's 75% off the print book price and half the e-book price. As you may know, Yaacov started the Democratic School of Hadera, a pioneering public democratic school in Israel. He went on to help start 25 more, and then a college to educate teachers for democratic schools. Now he works with entire cities!

Buy the E-Book here.
How a Rural Public School District Went From Failing to Thriving
Ed: This article was written by George Wood, whom I've known for many years. What he did in this rural school district is truly amazing! His school was strongly influenced by Ted Sizer's Coalition of Essential Schools, which will have a final conference and close this year. 

Ideas and strategies for improving schools often fall victim to the "Yes, but..." phenomenon. It goes like this: after finishing a talk about the importance of student engagement through making time for advisory, the first comment from the floor is dismissive. "Well, that sounds good, but it won't work here because [name a local condition]." My experience with CES has taught me that of all the paths for school change, commitment to the  Common Principles is the one that stands up to the "Yes, buts."

When I became principal at  Federal Hocking High School more than two decades ago, the staff, students, and parents were looking for ways to restructure our school. Federal Hocking High School is a public school serving all the children within the 190 square miles that make up our district boundaries in rural, Southeastern Ohio. We are not a choice, or a magnet, or anything other than a local district school. Our student body is over 86 percent economically disadvantaged with ethnic and racial backgrounds that reflect greater Ohio. Everyday, we open our doors to all children in our area, regardless of ethnicity, handicapping condition, gender, race, or creed. They are all welcome and for the most part without alternate educational options, they all have to attend-and this last fact leads to some interesting conflicts and tensions.

Read the rest here.
1964 Neill, Summerhill Video, Summerhill News
The latest issue of the Summerhill Newsletter has some important articles. One is about how Summerhill has decided to join an independent schools organization to protect itself from inspections from a newly antagonistic education bureaucracy. 

It has two articles about about Summerhill student activism. Another is about an award for democratic schools judged by students. 

Summerhill staff member Michael Newman wrote about the 100th anniversary of A.S. Neill's publication of a Dominie's Log. It is a diary of A.S. Neill as a new teacher in a regular school, before he started Summerhill. (The AERO office has a rare copy)

And below is an amazing video of A.S. Neill, himself, talking about Summerhill  with movies of the school in the 1960's. 

You can read the Summerhill Newsletter here.
Testing for Joy and Grit? Schools Nationwide Push to Measure Students' Emotional Skills

The fifth graders in Jade Cooney's classroom compete against a kitchen timer during lessons to see how long they can sustain good behavior - raising hands, disagreeing respectfully and looking one another in the eye - without losing time to insults or side conversations.

As reward for minutes without misconduct, they win prizes like 20 seconds to kick their feet up on their desks or to play rock-paper-scissors. And starting this year,  their school and schools in eight other California districtswill test students on how well they have learned the kind of skills like self-control and conscientiousness that the games aim to cultivate - ones that might be described as everything you should have learned in kindergarten but are still reading self-help books to master in middle age.

A recent update to federal education law requires states to include at least one nonacademic measure in judging school performance. So other states are watching these districts as a potential model. But the race to test for so-called social-emotional skills has raised alarms even among the biggest proponents of teaching them, who warn that the definitions are unclear and the tests faulty.

Read the rest here.
 Empathy in the Classroom: Why Should I Care?

I vividly remember sitting in my classroom with my teaching coach, ready to begin my second year of teaching. We were strategizing my vision for the classroom and for my students. Over the past year, the school where I worked had grown increasingly obsessed with test scores, but the more I considered my students and their needs, the less test scores motivated me.

"Lauren, what do your students need?" my coach asked me.

I paused. They need . . . empathy, I thought before saying it out loud. Shortly after, I had constructed my entire classroom around the concept.

That year, empathy became a central component of my classroom instruction. Given that I taught history, empathy naturally lent itself to discussions of varying perspectives about and intentions of history's key players. The deeper our discussions went, though, the more convinced I became that empathy needed to be a central piece in every school setting.

Read the rest here.
 Why John King Should Be Rejected as Secretary of Education
 By Nikhil Goyal

When I learned that President Obama had formally nominated John King for the position of secretary of education, I was horrified and furious. As a student at Syosset High School during much of King's reign as New York State's education commissioner, I saw firsthand the disastrous effects of his policies on my peers, teachers, and community.

In May 2013, I wrote an  op-ed for the The Nation detailing why I opted out of the state teacher evaluation tests. These tests were part of the new teacher evaluation system that put an inordinate emphasis on standardized test scores. A few weeks later, I gave a  speech at a rally in Albany, where I directed some of my remarks to Governor Andrew Cuomo, Commissioner King, and then-Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch: "We're coming for you. We're taking back our children. We're taking back our schools. We're taking back public education from your hands and from the hands of corporations, billionaires, Wall Street, and testing companies. Wake the hell up."

When Nikhil was 17 AERO published his book, One Size Does Not Fit All, which has been reedited with a new cover. Recently Doubleday published his new book, Schools on Trial

Read the rest  of Nikhil's article here.
Links and Calendar
Thank you for your ongoing support. With  your help, we will make learner-centered alternatives available to everyone!

In Service,

Jerry Mintz
Executive Director
Alternative Education Resource Organization

Please consider making a donation to AERO to help support our work. Thanks!