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Harvard Graduate School of Education and Expeditionary Learning Launch Largest Online Library of Exemplary K-12 Student Work

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    Alexis Margolin

May 15, 2015 -- Today, Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) and Expeditionary Learning (EL), a leading pre-K to 12 education non-profit, unveiled the Center for Student Work, the largest online resource of exemplary student projects. On May 18, education leaders from HGSE and EL will gather on campus in Cambridge to explore the role of student work in shaping the future of education reform, embodied by the new Center for Student Work resource (media may apply for credentials to attend by contacting Temin and Company at

A collaborative project between faculty at HGSE and EL, the Center for Student Work aims to raise the bar on student achievement by helping teachers improve teaching and learning. Teachers can use the free resource – which includes videos, writing samples, and other tools – as a foundation to create their own projects, raise questions, provoke thinking, and inspire excellence in their classrooms.

"I worry that most discussion of standards falls far short of the rigorous analysis and debate that they invite – and require," said Steve Seidel, Bauman and Bryant Chair in Arts in Education and Director of HGSE's Arts in Education Program. "We need a deeper, richer dialogue about state standards, particularly what they look like in actual student work."

Ron Berger, Chief Academic Officer at EL, said, "Students need to know what they are aiming for, and what it looks like when they get there. By giving teachers and their students a vision of what is possible, the Center for Student Work can help raise the bar in American education."

The Center for Student Work features searchable student work, spanning English Language Arts, Mathematics, Science and Technology, Visual Arts, Health and Wellness, Performing Arts, Social Studies, and World Language.  

The Springfield Renaissance School in Springfield, Massachusetts, is an example of a remarkable urban district school that has made exemplary student work the cornerstone of teaching and learning. In addition to creating high quality work, 100% of Springfield students are accepted to college every year and consistently lead the district in state assessments. Learn about a transformational water quality project by Springfield students that is spotlighted in the Center for Student Work here.

In conjunction with launching the Center, HGSE and EL are convening leading educators at the university to discuss the issue of what educational standards actually look like when embodied in exemplary student work. The group will include leaders from HGSE and other schools of education, as well as school leaders, teachers and policymakers. 

The discussion will build on the work of the Illuminating Standards Project, a multi-year study that Seidel and Berger have been conducting in collaboration with HGSE students. The project aims to address what standards look like when met with integrity, depth, and imagination; and how deeper, richer dialogues about state standards can occur, particularly what they mean and look like in actual student work.

"We decided several years ago to study rich examples of complex student projects – often arts-infused, aesthetically rich, interdisciplinary, community-connected, long-term studies of important ideas, concepts, and skill sets – to see if they could help us 'illuminate' specific standards – making those standards "visible." We thought if we could actually show what standards look like, there could be different kinds of conversations about them among teachers, with students, and in schools of education," Seidel said.

Berger added: "Picture the difference between reading a description of proficient play in soccer, and watching an Olympic soccer game. Unfortunately, when young students engage in academic work – creating a scientific report, persuasive essay, geometric proof, or architectural design – they typically have no idea of what excellence actually looks like. They have no inspiration, no provocation, and no vision. We want to help teachers give their students the vision and skills to do excellent work."

About Harvard Graduate School of Education

Founded in 1920, the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) is an exceptional and collaborative community of faculty, students, and alumni dedicated to improving lives and expanding opportunities through the comprehensive study and effective practice of education. Through master's degree, doctoral degree, and professional education programs, HGSE cultivates innovative leaders and entrepreneurs, explores the most important questions in education, and shares exciting ideas and best practices with the world. 

Everything at HGSE is grounded in the belief that education is the most pressing issue of our time, and that research-based education policy and practice have the power to create a more just and prosperous society. HGSE faculty, students, and alumni produce groundbreaking research in fields as diverse as the moral development of children, international education policy, organizational leadership, neuroscience and cognitive development, and the role of the arts in schools. For more information, visit