Teaching & Learning

The Conveners of The Forum are committed to promoting and protecting the democratic mission of our public schools – providing a free, equitable education that prepares all students to become wise and engaged members of their towns, states, country, and world.  To this end public schools should provide high-quality teaching and learning that fosters the habits of mind and heart that make democracy possible.

With this in mind, The Forum believes that: 

  1. School experiences should be designed to nurture in all children the habits of judgment that democratic life requires.  These habits are referred to as higher order thinking skills and include, but are not limited to, the abilities to read and think critically, to speak and write persuasively, to engage in inquiry and problem solving in the social world as well as in mathematics and the sciences, to be open to multiple points of view, to weigh and assess evidence, and to use advanced technologies as tools for understanding the world around them.
  2. Instruction and curriculum should be developmentally appropriate, and should actively engage students in exploring their world.  Curricula should be relevant and of high interest to young people, and delve deeply into the conflicting claims inherent in democracy itself.  Instruction should engage students in actively working on ideas and concepts as they learn skills and content.
  3. Assessment of learning should be consistent with what we want our students to learn.  This means we cannot rely simply upon tests of rote memory or recognition, but must also use assessments that are performance-based – representing authentic tasks and products that assess what students can actually do.  These performances should be public so as to inform the community of student achievement and should be judged against high standards of competence.
  4. Our schools should reflect the diversity of our nation, both in the make up of the student body and teaching force, and in the content with which our children are engaged.  The school experience should be grounded in the world around our children, both local and global, in order to expand their horizons and understandings of the world in which they live.
  5. Schools should use the community as a learning resource, engaging students in work that makes a difference in their community as well as inviting the community to make a difference in the lives of their children.
  6. Those closest to children -- their families and teachers -- should be primarily entrusted with reassessing the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of school practices.  The balance and tension between professional and family judgment, and between national, state and local authority, must always be transparent and open to considered review.
  7. Our schools should be organized to be personalized enough so all children and adults are well known to each other and each is part of the various actions that contribute to the general welfare of the classroom, school, and the larger community.