What School Could Be

Insights and Inspiration from Teachers Across America

by: Ted Dintersmith

An inspiring account of teachers in ordinary circumstances doing extraordinary things, showing us what leads to powerful learning in classrooms, and how to empower our teachers to make it happen.

Now available in paperback! Get your copy today!

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About the Book

During the 2016 school year, innovation expert Ted Dintersmith took an unprecedented trip across America. He visited all fifty states, seeking to raise awareness about the urgent need to reimagine education to prepare students for the career and citizenship demands of an increasingly-innovative world.

As he traveled, though, Dintersmith met innovative teachers all across the country — teachers doing extraordinary things in ordinary settings, creating innovative classrooms where children learn deeply and joyously.  Each day, these students are engaged and inspired by their teachers, who in turn help children develop purpose, agency, essential skill sets and mind-sets, and deep knowledge. The insights of these teachers offer a vision of what school could be, and a model for how to help schools achieve it.

What They’re Saying

  • From the country’s best schools to its worst, Ted Dintersmith has been there and reports what he’s seen with a critical eye and a compassionate heart. His findings will surprise you, infuriate you, and, most of all, inspire you. Filled with amazing stories and extraordinary conversations, What School Could Be is hands down the best book on education that I’ve read in a very long time. Read it and act!

    Tony Wagner
    Tony Wagner Expert in Residence at the Harvard Innovation Lab and author of The Global Achievement Gap and Creating Innovators
  • All children love to learn: they don't all get on with school. The problem isn't the children: it's how we do school. As Ted Dintersmith shows in this landmark book, it's not only possible to reimagine education, it's vital that we do. Too often schools are snagged in a corrosive web of tangled regulations, political agendas, outmoded institutional habits and a repressive culture of standardized testing. But there's hope. In among the undergrowth, there's an emergent counter culture of inspirational schools that are rising to the real challenges of educating young people for life in the 21st century. What School Could Be is a both vivid account of this grassroots revolution and a hard-headed analysis of its desperate significance. Above all it is a passionate manifesto for forms of education that do justice to the deep talents and diverse futures of all our children. It's essential reading for anyone who cares about young people and their education: and that should be everyone.

    Sir Ken Robinson
    Sir Ken Robinson Author/Speaker, with new book 'You, Your Child, and School'
  • What School can Be is a thought-provoking and inspiring look at our education system, from the perspective of an innovation expert who spent thousands of hours listening to and learning from great teachers all across our country. This book combines an incisive critique with insightful examples of exhilarating education. It will inform you, challenge you, and — hopefully – move you to action. A must read for anyone who cares about our children and the future of our nation.

    Linda Darling-Hammond
    Linda Darling-Hammond CEO, The Learning Policy Institute
  • Very few books can leave you feeling both mad as hell and hopeful. This is one of them. Dintersmith has focused all his considerable passion, energy, and intellect on understanding the many ways that our educational system is broken, and how it can be fixed. We’re failing our kids and our country, and we can do a lot better. Read this book to learn how.

    Andrew McAfee
    Andrew McAfee cofounder of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy and coauthor of Machine | Platform | Crowd and The Second Machine Age
  • What School Could Be is an inspiring and deeply moving tour of the best in American education. Even better, our guide is the tireless and thoughtful Ted Dintersmith. As the journey progresses, it becomes a compelling meditation on learning, human potential, and the power of the human spirit. If you care about our future, read and share this book.

    John Merrow
    John Merrow former PBS NewsHour education correspondent and author of Addicted to Reform: A 12-Step Program to Rescue Public Education
  • What School Could Be shares thought-provoking stories about critical, positive changes happening in schools across the country. As Ted Dintersmith shows, and as I have seen in New Hampshire, empowering teachers in existing public schools allows them to arm students with the tools they need to succeed. These examples can help all policymakers focus on what actually works as we move this important discussion forward.

    U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan
    U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan
  • Put down whatever you are reading. Do you hear me? Put. It. Down. And pick up this inspirational tour guide of “Best Places to Go” in education innovation across our country. Ted Dintersmith puts Finland’s edu-tourism to shame. His journey shows us where corporate reformers got lost and points to our constant educational True North: trust, relevance, discovery, joy, and above all, a purpose that has nothing to do with a test score and everything to do with developing the infinite potential of the creative, critical mind and compassionate, ethical character.

    Lily Eskelsen Garcia
    Lily Eskelsen Garcia President, National Education Association
  • Ted Dintersmith’s year-long journey gives us tremendous insight and hope about what works to create and sustain powerful schools. In highlighting educators who are ‘doing better things’ to uplift children’s life prospects, he reveals very practical ways of strengthening public education.

    Randi Weingarten
    Randi Weingarten President of the American Federation of Teachers
  • Dintersmith knows how to turn a road trip into an education—his own and ours. He also knows how to tell a story, to hook you with each tale of children enthusiastically engaged in meaningful, motivated learning. Rather than a conventional critique of education, this is a celebration of extraordinarily innovative and dedicated teachers. It leaves the reader fundamentally rethinking how we ‘do school,’ and a vision of how we should be doing it.

    Deborah Stipek
    Deborah Stipek Professor and former Dean of the Stanford Graduate School of Education
  • If you want to understand what education looks like now and what it can and should look like in the future, start with this book. It’s lively, accessible, smart, clear-eyed, and free from the partisanship that clouds so much of the discussion in education.

    James E. Ryan
    James E. Ryan Dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education
  • Ted Dintersmith took a serious education road trip and came away with a message of hope, which this book presents through the stories of scores of fearless educators around the United States who dare to do things better every day. This is a must-read for anyone who wants to know what school could be.

    Pasi Sahlberg
    Pasi Sahlberg author of Finnish Lessons 2.0 and FinnishED Leadership
  • This is a must-read for anyone looking to understand how our education system is impacting students in all fifty states, and the path forward to a better future.

    Adam Braun
    Adam Braun New York Times bestselling author and CEO of MissionU
  • What School Could Be is a powerful book that will inspire parents and teachers by showing how genuine, determined, and sensitive change can actually be achieved.

    Nancy Faust Sizer
    Nancy Faust Sizer coauthor of The Students Are Watching
  • What School Could Be presents relevant, practical ideas backed by a huge number of examples of the innovative practices and programs taking place in schools across the United States. Ted Dintersmith also provides an essential critique of standardized tests and makes a huge contribution by showing why the idea of ‘college for all’ is false.

    Anthony Cody
    Anthony Cody author of The Educator and the Oligarch: A Teacher Challenges the Gates Foundation
  • This is a critically important book that every educator should read and use. It offers a bold and credible account of why change is desperately needed in our schools—and how it’s actually happening.

    Brad Gustafson
    Brad Gustafson elementary school principal and author of Renegade Leadership: Creating Innovative Schools for Digital-Age Students
  • What School Could Be is uplifting. It bolsters the case of teachers everywhere, validating their diligent, dedicated, and determined efforts to help their students grow, learn, and achieve.

    Jeffrey Huguenin
    Jeffrey Huguenin elementary school principal
  • Everyone tells us the education system is broken, and everyone has a pet theory about how to fix it. Ted Dintersmith did something different: He listened. He spent a year visiting 200 schools in all 50 states -- observing, asking questions, and in the process, changing his mind about many things. And what he brought back from his journey is precious: Hope. And direction. In dozens of schools across the country -- schools neither private nor rich -- smart leaders have already solvedour nagging problems. What we need, nationally, is simply to be more like ourselves at our own best moments.

    Dan Heath
    Dan Heath co-author of Made to Stick, Switch, and The Power of Moments
  • What School Could Be is a powerful reminder that the future of 21st learning is already there. We just need to become better at getting the good ideas out of the classroom into the education system - rather than keeping education systems busy pushing old ideas into classrooms. What makes the book special is that it conveys its message through so many innovative and yet concrete and replicable examples that will challenge anyone in whatever context to step back and reimagine education.

    Andreas Schleicher
    Andreas Schleicher Director for the Directorate of Education and Skills at OECD
  • Dintersmith has put together the why, the what, and the how in one place.  The stories of innovation he profiles are powerful reminders that these are not fanciful utopian ideas, but already exist in remarkable classrooms across our country.  It’s an important book for us all to read.

    Deborah Meier
    Deborah Meier