Deborah Meier


Biography of Deborah Meier

Deborah Meier (born April 6, 1931) is an American educator often considered the founder of the modern small schools movement. After spending several years as a kindergarten teacher in Chicago, Philadelphia and then New York City, in 1974, Meier became the founder and director of the alternative Central Park East school, which embraced progressive ideals in the tradition of John Dewey in an effort to provide better education for children in East Harlem, within the New York City public school system.

Meier then served as founding principal for two other small public elementary schools, Central Park East II and River East, both in East Harlem. In 1984, with the assistance and support of Ted Sizer's Coalition of Essential Schools, Meier founded the Central Park East Secondary School. The success of these schools has been documented in David Bensman's Central Park East and its Graduates: Learning by Heart (2000), and in Frederick Wiseman's documentary film, "High School II" (1994), among many other publications. In 1987 Meier received a MacArthur Fellowship for her efforts.

After founding and directing the Central Park East Schools in New York City's East Harlem, Meier went on to help establish a network of small high schools in New York City based on progressive principles as part of an Annenberg grant. In 1996 Meier moved to Boston where she became the founding principal of a small K-8 pilot school, Mission Hill, within the Boston Public School system. She is currently on the faculty of New York University's Steinhardt School of Education, as senior scholar and adjunct professor as well as Board member and director of New Ventures at Mission Hill, director and advisor to Forum for Democracy and Education, and on the Board of The Coalition of Essential Schools.

Meier documented her story and experience at Central Park East Secondary School in The Power of their Ideas: Lessons for America from a Small School in Harlem (1995) ISBN 0-8070-3111-9. Her other books include, Will Standards Save Public Education? (2000); In Schools We Trust: Creating Communities of Learning in an Era of Testing and Standardization (2002); with Ted and Nancy Sizer, Keeping School: Letters to Families from Principals of Two Small Schools (2004); and co-edited with George Wood, Many Children Left Behind (2004), all published by Beacon Press. She serves on the editorial boards of The Nation, Educational Policy and Dissent magazines, to which she has contributed many articles, including her essay in the 50th anniversary issue of Dissent, "On Unions and Education", in which she emphasizes the importance of union collaboration to her success in leading public schools in New York and Boston. Meier regularly speaks and writes on the connections between small schools, democratic education, education for democracy, progressive education, and public schooling.

Deborah Meier is currently senior scholar at the Steinhardt School of Education at New York University. She has participated in a "blog debate" with Steinhardt School colleague Diane Ravitch on the website of Education Week since February 26, 2007.

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