Monday 24-10



 9-10:30AM Orientation ITD Staff
11-12:30 “Overview of the US Education System” Rosetta Cohen, Professor of Education, Smith College 
12:45 Welcome Lunch Bertucci’s Restaurant
PM Shopping for electronics; Trip to Summit House for view of Holyoke Mountain Range

Tuesday 25-10




“Differentiated instruction and teaching gifted students” Nancy Cheevers,

Curriculum Director, Northampton Public



“Issues in Education in the US /Massachu-setts” Barbara Madeloni, President, Mass.

Teachers Association 


Wednesday 26-10



9-10:30 “Federal,

State and Local

Education Policies”

Craig Jurgenson,


Hampshire Regional

School District 

10:45 -12  Group discussion 

PM Transfer to host schools and homestays throughout Massachusetts


Monday's experiences:


This morning we had introductions by Julie Hooks. We talked about the program and why it is so important for us to be in the United States. Not only to get information and ideas which we could use back home in the Netherlands, but also what we could bring to the United States.


After that we had a lecture from Rosetta Cohen. Rosetta is a professor of education and told us everything about the American School structure. Her vision was this: A school is as good as the teachers who teach in it and also continue teaching there.......

After a great lunch downtown we went over to a mountain called sugar leaf. We had a great hike and went up the mountain. It was a wonderful view! The colors of the leaves are beautiful and the air was nice and cold.

In the evening we just stayed at the house and played some nice games (game with the pan...)

It was a great first day.


Just click at the link underneath to find a video of day 1 and 2 :


 This was the short story. Saira is a very good writer and she wrote down the whole story:

Craig Jugenson is here today to explain federal, state and local policies. He is the superintendent of Hampshire Regional School District. He starts off by mentioning that public schools in Massachusetts are facing many challenges:

Time: there is never enough time for teachers to deal with all the things they have to deal with.

School safety: the schools here had some horrific events in the past, such as columbine massacre and the Sandy Hook shooting. When Columbine and Newton happened the schools tried to make sure their buildings were safe without looking like fortresses. However, there are lockdowns and drills with the police every now and then. It’s also important to ensure emotional safety for the students and make sure their needs are met.

Substance Abuse: the availability of opiates is an epidemic. If an overdose happens then the school needs to knows how to deal with it. There’s a strong need to monitor drug abuse.

Changing demographics: through migration the schools in this region lost some students. There’s a decline in student population.

Changing technology: this is a tremendous challenge. The students are digital natives, they naturally move into the new technology, but the schools are not well equipped.

Standardized testing: some of the standardized tests are going to be online, but the schools don’t have enough computers to realize this. The schools will need to go to the committees to ask money for the new technology. The computers that are available do not meet modern requirements. Through standardize testing students are being compared to each other and schools are compared to each other. Therefore, the pressure to prepare students for the tests is increasing.

Teach “whole child”: schools are being pressed to teach the whole child. This is an approach that values the human spirit and the development of the whole child—physical, social, emotional and cognitive.

Charter schools: These schools are threatening to public schools, because they leave public schools with a segregated population.

Common core curriculum: there are frameworks that teachers have to follow. Teachers are struggling to complete this curriculum. It is very prescribed and taking away individual choices from our teachers. There are three curriculums, the Hampshire schools are using the second curriculum. The curriculums are time consuming and expensive.

Implementation of Educator evaluation: all teachers are evaluated each year. There are lots of indicators. Teachers get the feedback of students opposed to the principal. Students are used to seeing the principal being around.

Special education: it used to be segregated, but now it’s incorporated with in the regular schools. The system went from one extreme to another. Schools need to be thoughtful of how many special need students are accepted. There’s a rise in autism and students with social emotional issues. Early intervention is better than delaying, therefore children with special needs enroll into schools at an earlier age. A student with a behavioral issue can be very disruptive in the classroom. Students with a special need are evaluated. A special needs team works together with the parents and decides which professional help is required. However, when the special need team draws a plan parents can agree, partially agree or reject. When parents reject usually students are reevaluated. The services need to be as close to the regular education as possible. Special education is a large part of the budget. It’s the morally correct thing to do, but it’s an expensive proposition.

There’s no program for gifted and exceptional students. There are honors classes and advanced placement classes. There are different levels of schools. Some schools are level 1 schools others are level 2 schools. Level 1 schools make the progress in student achievement that the state says they should be making. However, the level 2 schools in this district are level 2 schools because of the significant number of special needs students. Level 3 schools are underperforming and get extra funding.

IAP: Individual Action Plan usually for students with special needs.

Early Education Experiences: Hampshire takes students in from the age of 5 and 3 if they have a disability.

The haves and the have not’s: some children come from very needy families, others come from well to do families. Schools try to make sure that the needs of all students are met. They don’t want to lose well-to-do students and they want to provide for special need students. Schools do get reimbursed for some of the costs.

Local control boards: these boards control the development of the policy and evaluate super intendents. The committees are elected. Teachers cannot be elected in the school committee, it’s a conflict of interest.














Tuesday's experiences:


This morning we had a lecture from Nancy Cheevers, the director of Curriculum and Assessment in Massachusetts.  

She told us everything about the way they organize the curriculum in the United States. Their objective is to create a culture of excellence and equity in schools. They really want to prepare all students for the future. Create people who can participate in society, make them active citizens and teach them how do you learn.

 Kathy Casale, a school Psychologist, told us everything about differentiated instruction and Social Emotional Learning.

We have to be 100% committed to the notion that each brain is unique and valuable.

There are 4 key elements in this:

1. Fair is not always equal
Rules are the same but consequences can be flexible. Being flexible consequent. How to make kids feel safe?


a) self awareness

b) self management

c) responsible decision making


2. Growth mindset (movie: neuroplasticity)
The brain can change.

3. We're all in this together requires:

a) highly competitive teachers.

b) communication

c) be confident enough to make mistakes.

4. Build Relationships

feel known.


In the afternoon we had a last lecture from Barbara Madeloni.

She is the president of the teachers union Massachusetts.

She told us that they want to privatize public schools. There is cooperate interest. So everybody should vote NO to the 2nd proposition ....

This was the summery. Do you want to learn more: read this


Today Nancy Cheevers, curriculum director, and Kathy Casale organized a workshop on differentiated instruction for us. We started off with a real quick introduction. Nancy Cheevers is a teacher educator and supports curriculum teachers. Curriculum teachers write curriculums for local schools. All new teachers are mentored and this is one of the things that she is responsible for. Here in the US there is a framework for each subject. The idea behind this is that all students are ready to participate in society once they walk out of high school, they need to become active citizens in the American society. One of the most important district goals is equity.

How does North Hampton instruct all of the students?

First of all, North Hampton chooses not to talk about gifted students, they like to think of all students as being gifted.

We had to think about what differentiated instruction means to us?

I think of it as personalized learning, but I do not know yet how to execute personalized learning in my classroom. However, I discovered that differentiated instruction is not similar to personalized learning.

We continued with an assignment in which we had to sort statements into growth mindset and fixed mindset.

Most of us are pretty familiar with these phrases. A growth mindset believes that you should stretch yourself and see setbacks as an opportunity to try again in another way. As a teacher, blatantly, you need to have a growth mindset in order to make sure your students can grow to their full potential. A teacher can bring so much positivity in the classroom.

Nancy is not stating that the North Hampton system is perfect? Their work is in progress. They are constantly analyzing the latest researches on this topic. One of the latest discoveries is that dividing students on their abilities is not beneficial for them or society.

Understanding by design is a template which asks teachers to think about certain elements. It is designed by Wiggins and Mc Tighe. You can find a description of the design here: understanding by design

Differentiated Instruction and Social Emotional Learning


The next lecture is given by Kathleen Casale. She is a school psychologist and she has worked with students all ages.

What is social emotional learning?

It is important to teach students skills such as:

  • How to deal with conflicts?
  • How to work together?
  • How to come up with a shared agreement?
  • How to deal with bullying etc?
  • Who you are as a person?
  • How to self-motivate?

All of these are important 21st century skills.

How can we teach this?

Well, you can buy a curriculum, you can figure out how you want to do this or you could do both. North Hampton is doing both.

What’s a core belief in D.I.?

Everyone’s brain works differently. The more you engage in a task the faster and more sustainable the connections become.

What does this have to do with social emotional learning?

Well, there are four key elements to creating supportive learning environment that is truly welcoming for everyone’s brain.

Key 1: Fair is not always equal.

Fair is not equal. Children realize that, but adults often do not. You can show your children this by offering different tasks, varied time allowances, project choices, varied assignment etc.

Some students struggle with impulsive behavior. Everyone has the same rules, but the consequences are different for different students. A good example to make this clear is to tell students: I have a bandage for everyone. They will quickly reply that not everyone needs one.

Some students need to move, so they get bands tied to their desk. Now they can move and concentrate better.

Some students struggle with focus and need music to focus or a paper clip to hold on to. Others need a timer, to clarify how long they have to stay engaged.

Key 2: Different brains are unique and doing different things. Kids intuitively know how you feel about them. It is distributed in everything you say and do.

Key 3: Have a growth mindset. All brains can change. Perfect example is Andy: Andy’s story Montessori is a perfect example of a curriculum built on growth mindset.

Key 4: We’re all in this together. You need a sense of a community. Students need to know that all of them are appreciated by you. Allow mistakes. Try to get children out of their comfort zone. Children model you. Building a relationship, a strong relationship makes students feel successful. Teachers who really know you are important.

The third speaker of today is Barbara Madeloni. She is President of the Massachusetts Teachers Association.


The association has more than 100 members and is the largest one in MA. They are affiliated with the Educational Union. There’s also another union The American Teachers’ Association, however they tend to have more urban teachers. Some members are teaching in schools where resources are limited and class sizes are big and/ or their target group is socio-economical deprived. Other members do not face these challenges.

The teachers’ unions and the nurses’ unions are the largest unions in the US. The US is facing a period with a great economic disparity. Teachers and nurses are protecting the idea that people should be protecting the rights for working people. There is a correlation between student test scores and the amount of teachers unionized.

Charter school teachers are not unionized whereas public school teachers are always part of the union. Labor has to have power, but over the last 40 years this has been corrupted by corporate interest.

After Catharina, 96% of the schools in New Orleans became charter schools. When schools hired people back the workforce became younger and whiter. One cannot count on hurricanes to change the system, that is why school performances  are measured by standardized tests. Unfortunately, the test results of these tests are culturally biased. Schools and teachers in urban areas are failing and that is how they are shocking the system. New Orleans’ education is not doing well. There’s chaos. Some kids are simply not admitted to any school. Charter schools are very selective. The charter schools take the money from the public schools, therefore the public schools are left with special needs students and as a result greater expenses.

School boards and committees are elected and they bring in experts/ management from outside. They are not interested in the well-being of school teachers or students. The proponents of charter schools in Massachusetts are not happy with the limit on these schools in Massachusetts. Public schools are losing teachers because their professional autonomy is declining. The compulsory prefabricated curriculums make the matter worse.

I asked Barbara about the other side of this story. I have seen the movie “Waiting for superman” and in this movie Charter schools are being celebrated whereas teachers’ unions are being criticized for making it difficult to fire teachers who are clearly not functioning well. Barbara referred me to The Incovenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman. You can watch the movie here: the movie

The union has started a grassroots campaign and warns the public for the dangers of this shift towards charter schools. The union believes this change is undermining our values (such as equity) and democracy. Barbara also recommended us to listen to Pauline Lipman, here is a short video with Pauline’s opinion: Pauline Lipman









 Wednesday's experiences:

Today we started with a lecture of Dr Craig Jurgensen, superintended of schools in Massachusetts.

He told us all about the program: teaching the whole child. Be thoughtful of everything you do.

There are actually 3 types of education in the US:

-special needs classes

-General classes

-Honors classes

Everything is accessible to all students. If you or your parents want you to only follow honor classes in every subject, you can. Of course if you won't succeed they can refuse you and make sure you go to general class for certain subjects.


After the lecture we talked to Julia about all the things we've learned these days.

She also told us the terminology of all the years in Highschool (for University it is the same)

1st years are called: Freshmen

2nd years are called: Sophomore

3rd years are called juniors and

4th years are called: Seniors.

After that we talked a little bit about scholarship and we rounded off putting our last questions down on paper.

After a short break we were taken to our host families.

We stay with a very nice lady in a beautiful house. You can read more about this in the blogs to come....

 That was the short story....this is the whole story:

Today’s speaker is Rosetta Cohen, she is an educational philosophy professor at Smith’s College. She will tell us more about politics in American public schools.

Locally owned

First of all, American schools are locally owned, this is to make sure that specifics of the curriculum meet local needs. So, what will be taught in the physics’ class is all locally decided or on state level. The decentralization does create problems.

Quick overview

Historically, the federal government had legal and legislative influences on school curriculum and funding. The most important historical milestones in education are the following:

1954      outlawed segregation

1964      civil rights act mandated equality, otherwise no funding. Not only race equality        but also gender equality etc.

1974      started busing to schools, to integrate schools. Mostly black children were brought to white schools.

1990      disability act was signed. Public schools need to meet needs of all students, also the needs of disabled students.

2001      No child left behind act. Parents get a chance to choose the schools of their choice. From now on it was possible for everyone to start a school. These schools were named charter schools and the concept was supported by both democrats as republicans. Public schools were diluted and got worse. The schools lost their most savvy students from well-to-do families and therefore cultural capital.

2016      There is a push for national standards.

Since the 1990’s there is a more conservative agenda. This has led to more standardized testing and a shift from local to state control. The results of the standardized tests are being published and students and teachers are being rewarded for meeting predetermined rules. Schools which do not meet the goals are being punished. Rosetta believes a school is as good as its teachers, however, the turnover rate for teachers in charter schools is high. Over 80% of the teachers do not last more than 5 years.

Teach for America

This is a program designed by a undergraduate Princeton student. The idea is that bright students commit to teaching two years and then go off doing something else. Committing to teaching helps them to get into medical school. Now more and more alike programs are popping up. These concepts are undermining the job of teachers and their professionalism. They are suggesting that teachers do not need specific training or experience.

School financing

  1. Local property tax: 45% (this is why schools in richer neighborhoods have more money to spend.
  2. State aid: 45%
  3. Federal grants: 10% (earmarked)

Here in Massachusetts there are regional schools, because of the rural areas. Amherst is a regional school system, towns are not big enough to be locally supported.

Student selection

There is a global competition for Ivy League universities. However, public universities are also in demand and are selective. Students apply by handing in:

  • a letter of recommendation
  • GPA grades/ a transcript of their diploma
  • SAT results

Charter schools

There is an expanding charter schools’ movement. However, charter schools say they are public schools because they are publically financed, they are selective. Often there is a lottery to join this type of school. Students with special needs are often rejected and bus transportation is not offered. Consequently, classism is the result. Only families who can afford to bring their children to a charter school chose to do so.