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Stories by Leah Shafer

By Leah Shafer 05/24/2018 4:00 PM EDT
Music rang out across Radcliffe Yard today as Dean James Ryan addressed the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s graduating class with what has become his signature homage to educators. “I believe you are the luckiest graduates of the entire university because you are going to work in education, and there is no higher calling, no more rewarding or meaningful field in which to work,” he said. “I have seen your passion, your commitment to social justice, and your enormous talents on display all year, and while I am sad to bid you farewell, I take solace in knowing that you are leaving here to...
By Leah Shafer 06/20/2017 5:03 PM EDT
a photograph of an elementary school circle time
As the benefits of social-emotional learning (SEL) have become clear, schools have seen a blossoming of programs that aim to equip students with fundamental executive function, emotional, and interpersonal skills. But with so many areas of focus under the SEL umbrella, how can system leaders choose which program will be effective in their specific settings? For the first time, a new guide takes a deep dive into 25 evidence-based social-emotional learning (SEL) programs, outlining and comparing their curricula and programmatic features. System leaders can use the report to select from among...
By Leah Shafer 06/13/2017 3:25 PM EDT
Summer Learning Happens at Home
By Leah Shafer 06/01/2017 10:28 AM EDT
One and All
With its emphasis on perspective-taking, public speaking, and exploring difficult themes, theater is a valuable medium for teaching kids about social justice. After working with students for more than a decade on pieces related to bullying and human rights, performing arts teacher Ruthie Pincus founded the New York–based nonprofit Stage the Change in 2012 to empower students and schools to take a stand against discrimination. We spoke with Pincus about how theater programs can transform school communities. Theater can “break students out of their bubbles.” When students write a monologue from...
By Leah Shafer 05/25/2017 3:20 PM EDT
  The spring rain couldn’t dampen the thousands of smiles on Radcliffe Yard today as Dean James Ryan remarked on a core characteristic of the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s graduating class: heart. This was a year “full of genuine surprises,” he said. “In the face of the deep divisions the election highlighted, you responded with concern but also with care, compassion, empathy, and, most importantly, with love.” He continued, “I think each class at HGSE has a defining quality, and I have come to think of your class as exceptionally big-hearted, in large part because of what I...
By Leah Shafer 05/17/2017 4:11 PM EDT
When Reading Gets Harder
For years, we’ve thought that the answer to boosting adolescent reading comprehension lay in building students’ vocabulary. Teens often struggle with the jargon and advanced terminology they encounter as they move into middle and high school, so educators have designed curricula and interventions that explicitly teach these complex words. But these strategies aren’t always fully effective, according to literacy researcher Paola Uccelli. As she writes, many of these interventions have yielded “significant growth in vocabulary knowledge yet only modest gains in reading comprehension.” Too many...
By Leah Shafer 05/04/2017 10:43 AM EDT
Insights for Innovation
By Leah Shafer 04/19/2017 1:38 PM EDT
Smarter Tech to Smooth the Path to College
After college acceptance letters arrive, the complexity and sheer number of tasks required to actually enroll — complete FAFSA, submit a final transcript, pay a housing deposit, obtain immunizations, among many other things — thwart the plans of many high school grads to matriculate. Between 10 and 40 percent of intended students fall into this “summer melt” pattern, and aspiring first-generation students, who are more likely to lack the prior knowledge and support to complete these steps, are particularly susceptible. Guidance counselors and admissions officers can provide valuable...
By Leah Shafer 04/18/2017 1:37 PM EDT
photo illustration of a municipal building or state capital
Following the 2012 enactment of a landmark bullying prevention law, Washington, D.C., has taken a more comprehensive approach to youth bullying than many other cities — an approach that sees prevention as not solely the responsibility of teachers or parents, but as a citywide mandate with shared responsibilities. In fact, every city agency in D.C. that provides services to children is required to implement a bullying prevention policy. We spoke to Suzanne Greenfield, the director of the Citywide Youth Bullying Prevention Program, about what’s made D.C.’s program effective. The city has a...