It is surprising, given the move that the Common Core and other education reform initiatives have made toward academic argument, but Argument-Centered Education is the only organization of its kind in the United States: the only organization devoted entirely to building the capacity of K – 12 teachers to organize their instruction around argumentation in order to achieve college-ready rigor and high levels of student engagement.
More broadly, of course, there are plenty of other organizations and companies that work to improve K – 12 instructional practice. So what distinguishes us as an education partner?
Clarifying Focus on Argument
Argument-Centered Education has a coherent and focused paradigm for improving teaching and learning. The academic modality is fundamentally about making arguments supported by evidence, in relation to other arguments. College is an argument culture, so college preparation means becoming ‘argument literate.’ When teachers make clear what the ‘education game’ is really about, they de-mystify it for students, unlock potential, and give their students a full chance to succeed.
We don’t want to be all things to all people, and we think that over-complication, diffusion, and trend-hopping are enemies to steady and long-term performance growth in academic outcomes. We focus on what organizes and drives academic achievement and we do so relentlessly.
Teacher-Directed, Not Student-Directed
Everyone wants classrooms in which lessons and activities are designed around what the student is doing, not the teacher. But ironically, to get there schools and districts often need a partner that will work with teachers to build teacher-capacity to establish student-centered classrooms . Unlike some partners who are mainly about delivering instruction directly to students, Argument-Centered Education works directly with teachers, building their capacity to succeed with their students, now and over time. Investing in a partnership with ACE is a way for a principal or district or network administrator to leverage her teaching staff to raise achievement levels, increase students’ college-readiness, and be more effective professionals.
Classroom Argumentation that Is Actually College-Ready
Post-Common Core there are a number of organizations that ‘do argument’ as part of their broader portfolio, but very few do it in a way that is rigorous enough to be college-ready, in activities that are going to move the needle for students. We have been honing a model of student argumentation for decades, and the projects that we have been involved with are well recognized for their rigor and effectiveness in preparing students for competitive, selective higher education. We know how to help educators distinguish between something that looks surface-level like argument, from a process and product that is fully engaging critical thinking faculties, effectively drawing upon and evaluating evidence, and preparing students for the demanding modality of university discourse in writing, reading, and speaking.
Truly Collaborative Service Model
Argument-Centered Education was built and is run by education professionals. We believe teachers are the solution to our country’s education challenges, not the problem. We work to enhance professional capacity, which means we start from the premise that teachers are respected professionals. We analyze teachers’ strengths, identify their pedagogical convictions, and discuss their intellectual passions. In all of our collaborations, we meet the educators we work with more than half way. We have instructional resources and methods that are academically rigorous and productive – each of our collaborations result not in replacing current curriculum (unless that’s requested) but in cooperatively re-designing it so that it’s upgraded, standards-aligned, rigorous, engaging, and (most importantly) masterfully implemented.
Cross-Disciplinary and School-Wide – No Exceptions
Some education partners work with a single department. No matter how strong the partnership is it cannot have a systemic impact on student learning because it only affects one class a day. Argument-Centered Education works with all subject areas, with equal mastery: English language arts, science, mathematics, social science, languages, computer programming, arts/humanities – we have even worked innovatively with physical education teachers. We give schools, networks, and districts a coherent, consistent set of terms, practices, and objectives for raising college-access rigor and impact. At the same time, we have often worked with instructional leadership teams or selected teacher-leader cohorts who have then taken what they have learned and received and taught and trained their colleagues to achieve systemic results.
Unique Qualifications and Proven Impact
There are of course other education partners with highly qualified leadership. But the closeness in alignment between what we do – building teachers’ capacity to incorporate argumentation and debate effectively into regular classroom instruction – and our leadership’s experience and track record, and the proven impact of this work, may be unique, even in a crowded field of education service providers.