What School Could Be offers an inspiring vision of what our teachers and students can accomplish if trusted with the challenge of developing the skills and ways of thinking needed to thrive in a world of dizzying technological change.
Innovation expert Ted Dintersmith took an unprecedented trip across America, visiting all fifty states in a single school year. He originally set out to raise awareness about the urgent need to reimagine education to prepare students for a world marked by innovation — but America’s teachers one-upped him. All across the country, he met teachers in ordinary settings doing extraordinary things, creating innovative classrooms where children learn deeply and joyously as they gain purpose, agency, essential skillsets and mindsets, and real knowledge. Together, these new ways of teaching and learning offer a vision of what school could be—and a model for transforming schools throughout the United States and beyond. Better yet, teachers and parents don’t have to wait for the revolution to come from above. They can readily implement small changes that can make a big difference.
America’s clock is ticking. Our archaic model of education trains our kids for a world that no longer exists, and accelerating advances in technology are eliminating millions of jobs. But the trailblazing of many American educators gives us reasons for hope.
Capturing bold ideas from teachers and classrooms across America, What School Could Be provides a realistic and profoundly optimistic roadmap for creating cultures of innovation and real learning in all our schools.
"Dintersmith here shows the creative highs and mind-numbing lows of schooling today, contending that 19th-century education pedagogies cannot accommodate 21st century needs. . . . [What School Could Be is] for creative thinkers who are willing to change education with a vision that pushes back against centuries of entrenched value systems."—Library Journal
"Without a doubt, following Dintersmith’s prescription – which is not so much a prescription, but a process which allows our schools and communities to choose something different for their schools – would do a tremendous amount of good. Students would be introduced to a world in which school can be engaging rather than alienating, intellectually and creatively stimulating, rather than stultifying."—John Warner, Inside Higher Education
"In his new book, What School Could Be, Dintersmith offers a unique vision about the education system, and the potential accomplishments teachers and students can make together when parents and administrators trust them."—Robyn Shulman, Forbes
"This extraordinarily important book results from the author’s field trip visiting schools from all 50 states in a single school year."—Paradigm Explorer
"What School Could Be is an inspiring and deeply moving tour of the best in American education. Even better, our guide is the tireless and thoughtful Ted Dintersmith. As the journey progresses, it becomes a compelling meditation on learning, human potential, and the power of the human spirit. If you care about our future, read and share this book."—John Merrow, former PBS NewsHour education correspondent and author of Addicted to Reform: A 12-Step Program to Rescue Public Education
"From the country's best schools to its worst, Ted Dintersmith has been there and reports what he's seen with a critical eye and a compassionate heart. His findings will surprise you, infuriate you, and, most of all, inspire you. Filled with amazing stories and extraordinary conversations, What School Could Be is hands down the best book on education that I've read in a very long time. Read it and act!"—Tony Wagner, Expert in Residence at the Harvard Innovation Lab and author of The Global Achievement Gap and Creating Innovators
"This is a must-read for anyone looking to understand how our education system is impacting students in all fifty states, and the path forward to a better future."—Adam Braun, New York Times bestselling author and CEO of MissionU
"Ted Dintersmith took a serious education road trip and came away with a message of hope, which this book presents through the stories of scores of fearless educators around the United States who dare to do things better every day. This is a must-read for anyone who wants to know what school could be."—Pasi Sahlberg, author of Finnish Lessons 2.0 and FinnishED Leadership
"What School Could Be is a powerful book that will inspire parents and teachers by showing how genuine, determined, and sensitive change can actually be achieved."—Nancy Faust Sizer, coauthor of The Students Are Watching
"What School Could Be presents relevant, practical ideas backed by a huge number of examples of the innovative practices and programs taking place in schools across the United States. Ted Dintersmith also provides an essential critique of standardized tests and makes a huge contribution by showing why the idea of ‘college for all' is false."—Anthony Cody, author of The Educator and the Oligarch: A Teacher Challenges the Gates Foundation
"This is a critically important book that every educator should read and use. It offers a bold and credible account of why change is desperately needed in our schools—and how it's actually happening."—Brad Gustafson, elementary school principal and author of Renegade Leadership: Creating Innovative Schools for Digital-Age Students
"What School Could Be is uplifting. It bolsters the case of teachers everywhere, validating their diligent, dedicated, and determined efforts to help their students grow, learn, and achieve."—Jeffrey Huguenin, elementary school principal
"If you want to understand what education looks like now and what it can and should look like in the future, start with this book. It’s lively, accessible, smart, clear-eyed, and free from the partisanship that clouds so much of the discussion in education."—James E. Ryan, Dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education
"Put down whatever you are reading—and pick up this inspirational tour of the ‘Best Places to Go’ in education innovation. Ted Dintersmith’s journey shows us where corporate reformers got lost and points to our constant educational true north: trust, relevance, discovery, joy, and, above all, a purpose that has nothing to do with a test score and everything to do with developing the infinite potential of the creative, critical mind and the compassionate, ethical character. Every person needs to read this wonderful and important book."—Lily Eskelsen Garcia, President of the National Education Association
"Dintersmith knows how to turn a road trip into an education—his own and ours. He also knows how to tell a story, to hook you with each tale of children enthusiastically engaged in meaningful, motivated learning. Rather than a conventional critique of education, this is a celebration of extraordinarily innovative and dedicated teachers. It leaves the reader fundamentally rethinking how we ‘do school,’ and a vision of how we should be doing it."—Deborah Stipek, Professor and former Dean of the Stanford Graduate School of Education
"Very few books can leave you feeling both mad as hell and hopeful. This is one of them. Dintersmith has focused all his considerable passion, energy, and intellect on understanding the many ways that our educational system is broken, and how it can be fixed. We’re failing our kids and our country, and we can do a lot better. Read this book to learn how."—Andrew McAfee, cofounder of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy and coauthor of Machine | Platform | Crowd and The Second Machine Age
"Ted Dintersmith’s year-long journey gives us tremendous insight and hope about what works to create and sustain powerful schools. In highlighting educators who are ‘doing better things’ to uplift children’s life prospects, he reveals very practical ways of strengthening public education."—Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers
"What School Could Be shares thought-provoking stories about critical, positive changes happening in schools across the country. As Ted Dintersmith shows, and as I have seen in New Hampshire, empowering teachers in existing public schools allows them to arm students with the tools they need to succeed. These examples can help all policymakers focus on what actually works as we move this important discussion forward."—U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan
"What School Could Be is a thought-provoking and inspiring look at our education system, from an innovation expert who has spent thousands of hours listening to and learning from great teachers all across the country. This book combines an incisive critique with insightful examples of exhilarating education. It will inform you, challenge you, and—hopefully—move you to action. A must-read for anyone who cares about our children and the future of our nation."—Linda Darling-Hammond, President and CEO of the Learning Policy Institute
"All children love to learn, but they don’t all get on with school. The problem isn’t the children: it’s how we do school. As Ted Dintersmith shows in this landmark book, it’s not only possible to reimagine education, it’s vital that we do. Too often schools are snagged in a corrosive web of tangled regulations, political agendas, outmoded institutional habits, and a repressive culture of standardized testing. But there’s hope. In among the undergrowth, there’s an emergent counterculture of inspirational schools that are rising to the real challenges of educating young people for life in the twenty-first century. What School Could Be is both a vivid account of this grassroots revolution and a hardheaded analysis of its desperate significance. Above all it is a passionate manifesto for forms of education that do justice to the deep talents and diverse futures of all our children. It’s essential reading for anyone who cares about young people and their education: and that should be everyone."—Ken Robinson, New York Times bestselling author of Creative Schools: Revolutionizing Education from the Ground Up