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The Hardest Questions Aren't on the Test: Lessons from an Innovative Urban School

The Master of Arts in Teaching/Education program and Rose Art Museum sponsored a talk by Linda Nathan on October 14, 2010 at the Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University. Click below to watch clips of her talk:

Linda Nathan is founding headmaster of the celebrated Boston Arts Academy, a pilot school, and the only public school in Boston devoted to the visual and performing arts. Nathan was also a founder of Fenway High School, another acclaimed Boston public school, and is a co-founder and board member of the Center for Collaborative Education in Boston, a nonprofit education reform organization dedicated to creating more equitable and democratic schools. She is author of the recently published The Hardest Questions Aren't on the Test: Lessons from an Innovative Urban School (Beacon, 2009).

In this period when city schools are so often disparaged, when a veritable tsunami of standardized testing threatens to drown the human processes of learning and teaching, and when the arts are so often marginalized in our schools, especially those serving predominantly poor children and children of color, Nathan's talk should be timely and invigorating.

Boston Arts Academy comprises an ethnically and socio-economically diverse student body. 95% of its graduates are accepted into college. Nathan attributes this remarkable success rate in large part to asking the right questions and being open to seeking answers collaboratively with faculty, parents, and the students themselves.

In The Hardest Questions, Nathan addresses questions all schools can consider, such as:

  • How and why does a school develop a shared vision of what it stands for?
  • What makes a great teacher, and how can a principal help good teachers improve?
  • Why must schools talk openly about race and achievement, and what happens when they do?

Principals, teachers, and parents will find many new ideas to bring to their own schools. Future teachers, teacher educators, and educators at all levels who care about the arts, about urban youth, or about the prospects for civil society in our time will find much food for thought.

More information on Linda Nathan and the Boston Arts Academy can be found at

Dr. Nathan's talk was followed by a reception and book signing in the Lee Gallery of the Rose Museum.