Deborah Meier (1931- )
Deborah Meier has spent more than three decades working in public education as a teacher, principal, writer, advocate, and ranks among the most acclaimed leaders of the school reform movement in the U.S. Meier was born in New York City in 1931 and was educated at Antioch College and the University of Chicago. She began her teaching career in Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia as an elementary and Head Start teacher, continually fascinated with why schools did not work well and what was needed to fix them.
For 20 years, Meier helped revitalize public schools in New York Citys East Harlem district. In 1974, Superintendent Tony Alvarado asked Meier to test her theories in a new elementary school in Harlems District 4, where test scores were the lowest in the city. She founded Central Park Elementary School (CPE), a highly successful alternative school emphasizing active learning. Within the next dozen years, Meier opened two other Central Park elementary schools and, in collaboration with the National Coalition of Essential Schools, the Central Park East Secondary School. At CPE and the schools that grew out of it, Meier succeeded by fostering democratic community, giving teachers greater autonomy in the running of a school, giving parents a voice in what happens to their children in schools, and promoting a family-oriented system. The Central Park East Secondary School has been lauded as a model of urban education reform. Her progressive philosophy created an environment of nurturing adults with high standards, resulting in a school with a graduation rate of 90 (90 percent of these graduates going on to college) and is now a model school for the Small Schools Collaborative.
She is the author of The Power of Their Ideas, Lessons to America from a Small School in Harlem and an outspoken critic of state-mandated standards and tests. Meier is currently the principal of the Mission Hill School, a K-8 pilot elementary school recently established in Bostons Roxbury community. Despite all of the praise including a MacArthur Fellowship and several honorary degrees form elite schools, Meiers commitment remains simple and sincere: What I wanted was to create thoughtful citizens people who believed they could live interesting lives and be productive and socially useful. So I tried to create a community of children and adults where the adults shared and respected the childrens lives.