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A year and some months ago, Dr. Richard Elmore, a professor at Harvard University, visited a school in rural Zacatecas, Mexico as part of a trip he took to get to know the work of the Program to Improve Academic Achievement, a new Mexican government education reform effort. There a 13 year old girl named Maria Cruz tutored him in a geometry problem. He began the work confidently but, at one point, struggled to explain where the number pi comes from. As Elmore writes, “with the wit and wile of an experienced teacher,” Maria Cruz helped him work through his ideas to arrive at a conclusion.
Professor Elmore has worked for years arguing that in order to improve student learning on a large scale, systems must change the fundamental relationships between students, teachers, and content. In Mexico, Elmore was watching those theories come to life: here he was, a distinguished professor of education, author of several seminal books about school reform, learning from someone far younger than he.
After returning to the United States, this professor did not forget the experiences he had in Mexico. As head of a new doctoral program in educational leadership, he sent 11 of his students this January to observe the work of the Integral Strategy to Improve Academic Achievement (EIMLE, for its initials in Spanish) a team within the Mexican Ministry of Education that includes the program that is helping Maria Cruz and thousands of other students and their teachers reform the public school system.
The doctoral students, all of them women armed with impressive resumes in the field of education, traveled to Durango, Querétaro, Veracruz, or Zacatecas to experience EIMLE’s approach to education reform.
The audio documentary below follows one of these students, Morgan Camu, to Querétaro as she discovers a new alternative to promoting school reform on a grand scale. Sara Vogel, a fellow working with EIMLE this year, tells the story.
Special thanks to José Luis Álvarez Ponce and his school, the telesecundaria Benito Juarez in Huamilpan, Querétaro, Morgan Camu, Laura Kanter, Virginia Mazón, Guadalupe Garcia, Santiago Rincón Gallardo, Gabriel Cámara, Aliza Simons. Ending credits music by San Juan Alegría, a band local to the state of Querétaro. Photo by Eduardo Evaristo Gutiérrez.
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