JOURNALING CHAOS 1: “First Bricks”


The “I Ching” teaches that “Before there can be great brilliance… there must be chaos.”

This series of blog posts documents our research, strategic thinking, observations and debates as we take on one of the last vestiges of the industrial revolution: the practice in schools of organizing kids into grade levels according to their chronological age.  

We have been talking about school reform for as long as I can remember.  And restructuring.  Revamping. Creating distinguished schools.  Schools of excellence.  Blue ribbon schools. 90-90-90 schools. Break-the-mold schools. Effective schools. Charter schools. 


But schools– even schools like El Milagro–  are still pretty much the same as when I went to them. And so are the results. We still have an achievement gap that separates our children’s future along the lines of race and class and home language.  We still struggle with the edicts of Sacramento and Washington, DC. We get bombarded with research studies from university professors who are among our  nation’s least effective teachers.  We push our kids and our teachers to the limits of their patience and ability and health.  We squeeze blood from a turnip.  We eek out the last 3 API points and scramble and strain to “meet our AYP goals.”  We adjust to all the latest changes in the state’s nuanced metrics and how we keep score.

And we make progress.  For a price.

This is not what educating our children should be about.  This is not teaching and learning.  It is not preparing children for the competitive rigors of the 21st century, globally interconnected, green and fragile world they are inheriting. And you know it!

And so do I.

the revolutionSo today I am throwing the first brick in the revolution.  Right through the freaking window.  Today it will be one brick.  Tomorrow another.  And then another.  And I’ll invite you to pick up a brick or two as we get the momentum leaning our way.  We are going to change El Milagro. And this blog is going to chronicle the change– the revolution– brick by brick by brick.  

I am aiming at one very traditional, very systemic, very sacrosanct structure that is creating the greatest roadblock to our forward progress.  In the parlance of the extended  war metaphor:  we are taking out a strategic bridge that has kept us constantly circling back to our beginnings.  It was the wrong bridge from the beginning but now it has been there for 150 years and it’s hard to imagine life in our schools without it.  But we’ll all get used to it.  We need a new bridge that will take us in a very new direction.  It will provide a different view of the horizon and the pathway to a very different destination.  

The bridge we are taking out?  The one that leads to the same outcomes every year?  The one that lures us into taking three  steps forward and two steps back as an annual ritual?

It is the extraordinarily resilient model of grouping children by their chronological age. 

That’s the target.  It may not seem like much right now, but if we take out that bridge a revolution in public education will spread and from the ensuing chaos… there will be the potential for great brilliance. 

Follow this blog series and you will see why.


Filed under California charter schools, charter schools, El Milagro, standardized testing, teaching, Un-graded schools

3 responses to “JOURNALING CHAOS 1: “First Bricks”

  1. Mindy

    I’m glad I found your blog so I can follow this from the beginning. Your willingness to jump into chaos is inspiring.

    I would love to be a part of change like this, but I haven’t found anyone around me doing this. Hopefully, your success (along with the few other districts trying this) will spur more change around the country.

    Thanks for documenting it.

  2. Pingback: DANCING FOR FUNHOUSE MIRRORS « “El Milagro Weblog”

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