To the Editor:
Education Week featured an article from The Hechinger Report about the would-be innovation school Powderhouse Studios in Somerville, Mass. (“They Had a Bold Idea for a New School and $10M in Funding. So Why Did It Fail?,” Aug. 15, 2019).
The reality is the school didn’t fail. The greatest roadblock to implementing Powderhouse was district funding that would have inadvertently reduced the amount of money allocated to existing schools. Thus, the politicians on the school board and in the superintendent’s office failed by not recognizing the importance of innovation and by not passionately seeking the support of additional resources to ensure Powderhouse’s success (even if it meant trimming the budget of other schools).
Powderhouse is clearly designed to teach students differently; the article mentions student projects the school would have featured and the strong impact they have had on students. In the words of Howard Gardner of Harvard University, “The biggest mistake of past centuries in teaching has been to treat all children as if they were variants of the same individual, and thus to feel justified in teaching them the same subjects in the same ways.” A main focus of Powderhouse is to treat students as individuals, thus changing those failed ways of the past.
A solution to fund the school might be seeking donations from financially successful community members. An example of this is the I Promise School, a public elementary school in LeBron James’ hometown Akron, Ohio, that received funding from the LeBron James Family Foundation. Why not replicate that in Somerville? Business leaders might also rise to the occasion to provide necessary resources. And don’t forget the state legislature—isn’t it time for them to support children by allocating additional funding?
If public schools don’t change, children will fail and charters will prevail.
Eldon “Cap” Lee
A version of this article appeared in the September 18, 2019 edition of Education Week as Public Schools, Change or Perish