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Bank Street Education Center


Describes the evolution of a theoretical model of school quality drawn from my experiences teaching at different schools, pursuing graduate studies, leading district policy and support networks, and partnering with school systems, as I presently do at Bank Street College of Education. The model positions schools as the key lever for improvement and equity in our public system and focuses on the coherence of school culture, structures, and instructional approach grounded in beliefs of human development and learning. Using two contrasting schools as cases to explore and develop this model, I offer one as an example of incoherence and the other, Humanities Preparatory Academy in New York City, as an exemplar of how culture, structures, and instruction are fused by shared beliefs and made manifest by leveraging a set of core values. I then turn to the role of districts and state agencies, which cannot directly generate coherence in schools from the outside in. Recent research underscores the importance of school-level coherence and also indicates that the ecosystem of schools must change to foster such coherence. I end with a brief discussion of our need to shift our systemic policies and approaches away from the reductive forces of high-stakes testing and instead embrace this holistic vision of schooling to shape future school improvement and reform efforts.

Publication Date

Spring 2019


University of Chicago Press in association with The Francis W. Parker School




educational equity, teaching, school quality, public schools, school reform


Curriculum and Instruction | Curriculum and Social Inquiry | Disability and Equity in Education | Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education


Originally published in Schools: Studies in Education, v16; n1 p25-48 Spring 2019

©2019 by The University of Chicago Press. All rights reserved.

Reprinted with permission.

Coherent Schools, Powerful Learning: When Shared Beliefs Fuse School Culture, Structures, and Instruction