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letters | encouraging new ways to teach

For innovation, go public

Governor Deval Patrick announced $281,000 in grants to 29 potential Innovation Schools during a visit to a Malden school in 2012.

Pat Greenhouse/Globe staff/file 2012

Governor Deval Patrick announced $281,000 in grants to 29 potential Innovation Schools during a visit to a Malden school in 2012.

IN HIS Feb. 7 letter (“If schools were free to innovate, there could be more success stories”), Robert Guen rightly emphasizes the importance of innovative practices in improving education, particularly for struggling students. The “local and state rules” mentioned by Guen, however, are not the primary impediments to innovation.

As Christopher and Sarah Lubienski from the University of Illinois have shown, private and charter schools, while subject to fewer regulations than public schools, face greater pressure to market themselves to families and investors. These groups frequently have more traditional — and at times more empirically questionable — notions of what constitutes effective education, often leading to more conventional programs and instruction.

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For this reason, after controlling for demographics, public schools are competitive with, and often outperform, charter and private schools.

These findings fit with my experience teaching at Boston Community Leadership Academy, a Boston public high school, where my colleagues and I are encouraged to innovate as long as we rigorously examine results to assess what works. This fall, school administration gave a fellow English teacher and me the freedom to experiment with various discussion techniques to maximize student learning. Ironically, I fear that this work, rooted in theory and research and not in popular notions of what is effective, wouldn’t have happened if I had been working at a school with fewer local and state rules but more actual constraints on creative implementation.

Karl Sineath

Jamaica Plain

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