During the last NapaLearns board meeting I sat next to Paul Curtis, Director for School Quality of the New Tech Network. New Tech is an amazing advocate for progressive educational change and has gone from having one high school in Napa, California, to having more than 130 schools across the U.S. Project-Based Learning (PBL) forms the basis for a lot of their success, but schools wanting to emulate the New Tech approach soon learn that such success is based on a lot more than just PBL. Project-Based Learning can only thrive when other important factors are present. In other words, there needs to be a culture shift for progressive ideas to take root and become a permanent part of the school or district landscape.
Visiting with Paul got me to thinking about the kinds of cultural shifts that a choice theory emphasis would bring about in a school. I probably should have been paying more attention during the meeting, but this is what I came up with instead –
The Cultural Shifts of Choice Theory
1. Shifting from “You Will Be Forced to Adjust to School Requirements” to “How Can We Better Meet Your Needs?”
2. Shifting from Intimidation to Relationships
3. Shifting from Rote to Relevance
4. Shifting from External Evaluation to Internal Evaluation from “Other” Evaluation to Self-Evaluation
5. Shifting from Mediocrity to Mastery
6. Shifting from Compliance to Cooperation
7. Shifting from Punishment to Problem-Solving
I was asked to serve as a panel member for History/English presentations at New Tech High School (Napa) last Thursday. Their presentations, by four member teams, were impressive, but I was even more impressed with the way the rest of the class listened so respectively and attentively, and with the questions they asked afterward. New Tech has made cultural shifts that contribute to their model’s success, shifts that you feel as soon as you walk in the front door. Too often schools focus on details of change, like the nuts and bolts of forming a PBL lesson plan, without creating the environment in which PBL can thrive.
Glasser Quality Schools should not be left out of this conversation, as they are alive and well across the country, too. For a review of the criteria for a Quality School, along with a list of the current declared Glasser Quality Schools, go to
On the left hand side of the page click on The Glasser Approach; then click on Glasser Quality School Education.
As always, if you can add to the “Shifts” list above, let me know and I will add your suggestion.