The Leading Edge of 21st Century Education: Cushing Academy

Here are my notes for the talk given my Jim Tracy and Nancy Boyle of Cushing Academy, in Massachusetts:

Leading Edge of 21st Century Education: Jim Tracy & Nancy Boyle


1. Establish partnerships between public & private schools

2. Institutional partnerships – students beta-testing ereaders; Skype with experts

3. Cushing Academy Institute for 21st Century Leadership

Everything the school does is devoted to this. “Leadership” is the theme of the year.

4. Athletic leadership program: athletes partner with business executives

5. 10 Degrees of Ubiquity – Tracy’s book about the digital divide between generations

6. Faculty & Administration Engagement

(a) “Food for Thought” faculty lunches – brainstorming sessions

(b) “Skunkworks” – administration meetings. 2 rules: no small ideas, and no editing of notes.

(c) Faculty book – flew out to different schools to research and write about the most exciting classroom practices in the country right now. It will be published as an open-source ebook.


1. Tools & Devices: conversations got stuck in tool details, so the topic turned to philosophy. Developed a “Skills Wheel”.

2. What is the core curriculum, connect to it changes in shared outcomes and vision.

Important components:

1. Unified message and unified commitment of school & faculty

2. Give teachers time to plan and the resources they need

3. Provide opportunities for teacher interaction/cooperation/collaboration (catered lunches)

4. Project-based learning

5. Work-based learning experiences

6. Two big departments: Humanities & STEM – blended classrooms

7. Assessment & Evaluation is changing

8. Ongoing professional development

9. Academic support: personal learning plans for students

10. Digital graduation portfolios

11. Flexbooks and ebooks used

12. Wide variance in use of technology


Students                                                       Teachers

Co-creators                                                   co-creators

Drive the curriculum                                      provide learning opportunities

Create safe, challenging environments

Step aside, involve others

Some examples of new courses (all student-driven):

Leadership Through the Humanities

Ethics, Leadership, & Society

Visions of Humanness

21st Century Art – Going Green

Leadership in Social Media

Ethics & Responsibility in Science


More connections between disciplines

Design thinking and problem solving


Self-reliance, critical evaluation

Self-regulation (copyright issues): Teachers have a conversation about how not to use a phone, iPad, etc. while in class.

“When was the last time you did something for the first time?”


1 thought on “The Leading Edge of 21st Century Education: Cushing Academy

  1. Pingback: Goodbye, Printed Word | FracTad's Fractopia

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