steve nelson – calhoun school

steve calhoun bw

From Huffington Post:

Steve Nelson has been Head of the Calhoun School in Manhattan since 1998. Calhoun is among the endangered species of authentically progressive schools, swimming joyfully upstream against the toxic tide of conventional practices that plague most schools these days. More information about Calhoun is available at

He speaks and writes regularly about educational issues from birth to dotage, with a particular interest in pointing out that present-day pedagogical practices are to learning as bloodletting is to sound medical practice. Nelson rages (cheerfully!) against testing, accountability, competition, militaristic charter schools, races to the top, children being left behind and acronyms in general.

His latest post there – that totally caught our eye [which we found from IDEA tweets as they are on their nytour – thanks guys]:

college board fails the test

The College Board was founded in 1900, supposedly to expand access to college and simplify the admission process…. While its initial purpose may or may not have been salutary, its current impact is corrosive.

It has built a virtual monopoly on testing, profiting from the creation and execution of the testing program and its copyrighted materials. Its executives are paid very high salaries. According to a CNN report, recently retired President Gaston Caperton was paid more than $1 million per year. The College Board has grown into a nearly $700 million per year corporation that exerts undeserved and harmful influence on secondary and post-secondary education. It has used aggressive business practices to make its goods and services indispensible to education, profiting from nearly every college bound child in America with each transaction.

For many years, research has indicated that a student’s SAT scores are not a particularly good predictor of college success. The scores are an even worse predictor of life success. The test has also been rightly criticized for racial and/or cultural bias, although its self-interested executives deny that criticism.

Even if the test is not biased per se, the process is biased by the burgeoning test-prep industry. It is inarguably true that wealthier students can “buy” test points through expensive test prep courses. If the College Board ever intended to create equity in college admission, its effect has been the opposite. It advantages the already advantaged. The disproportionate weight given to SAT scores in admission further magnifies the many advantages already enjoyed by privileged kids.

The Advanced Placement scheme is equally skewed. Until recently, AP courses were more readily available in wealthier communities, by a wildly disproportionate margin. The frenzy to make education “more rigorous” has indeed democratized the AP program by visiting this test-taking nonsense on more and more students in public schools around the nation. But this (highly profitable) democratization has had the collateral effect of rendering the credential more and more useless. As more students take the courses and tests, it has become less an elite badge of honor, accelerating its well-deserved decline in importance. Thus the Dartmouth decision. It’s not a good idea to give away college credits to a lot of students. It was never a good educational idea, but now it’s bad business too.

Students obsess over SAT prep at the expense of far more interesting and valuable ways they might spend time. They accumulate AP credits like little badges of honor, surrendering curiosity, imagination and critical thinking skills to the building of a glittery transcript.

Students with many AP courses and well-coached SAT scores are often incurious, highly stressed and see college as another system to game, not a life to love.

If fewer colleges considered SAT scores and didn’t give credit for AP courses (or consider them in admissions), the College Board could be gradually starved to death. That would be a lovely thing.

Find/follow him here:

calhoun site


feb 2017..

Yale University to Rename Calhoun College

“John C. Calhoun’s [] legacy as a white supremacist and a national leader who passionately promoted slavery as a ‘positive good’ fundamentally conflicts with Yale’s mission and values”

from calhoun school []

In 1896, The Calhoun School was founded by Laura Jacobi as the Jacobi School in a brownstone at 158–160 West 80th Street. Miss Jacobi came to America from Germany with the help of her uncle, Dr. Abraham Jacobi, professor of pediatrics at New York Medical College and Columbia. Through her uncle and her aunt, Miss Jacobi was exposed to a progressive circle committed to women’s rights, community health and civil reform. Initially, Miss Jacobi began her program as a “brother-and-sister” school, counting among its first students the son and daughter of Franz Boas, one of the founders of American cultural anthropology. It gradually evolved into a girls’ school, attracting the daughters of socially prominent Jewish families, including Peggy Guggenheim, the children of the Morgenthaus and the Strausses. The school’s nonsectarian curriculum emphasized languages and history. Eleanor Steiner Gimbel ’14 remembered Miss Jacobi’s commitment to civil liberties and her “teaching of race understanding as one of the high points of her school days.” In 1916, Laura Jacobi chose Mary Edwards Calhoun to succeed her as headmistress. A member of a Philadelphia Quaker family, Miss Calhoun was a former editor of the Women’s Page at the Herald Tribune as well as a teacher at various schools before coming to The Jacobi School. Ella Cannon, a former employee with the National Women’s Suffrage Publishing Company, was hired to teach economics and, in 1923, was named co-headmistress. The school was renamed after its beloved headmistress, Mary Calhoun, in 1924. In 1939, Miss Calhoun incorporated the school as a non-profit institution

not finding direct calhoun links right off