Kathleen Cushman

Kathleen Cushman is an educator and journalist who for 26 years has specialized in the lives and learning of youth. Her most recent research, on the power of social and emotional learning in high schools, appears in the September 2015 book Belonging and Becoming, co-authored by Cushman and Barbara Cervone and published by Harvard Education Press.

As co-founder of the nonprofit What Kids Can Do (WKCD), Cushman has collaborated with adolescent learners nationwide on eleven other books, including the best-selling Fires in the Bathroom series, which concludes with Fires in the Mind: What Kids Can Tell Us About Motivation and Mastery. Her multimedia book The Motivation Equation: Designing Lessons that Set Kids’ Minds on Fire can be read free online. In two volumes, her book First in the Family brings advice about college access and success, straight from first-generation students to their counterparts in high school and college.

Samples of Cushman’s video interviews of youth talking about their learning appear on HowYouthLearn.org, along with research summaries and resources for educators of adolescents, in and out of school. In her video introduction to Fires in the Mind, students describe their motivation, practice, and mastery in a series of short videos called “Case Studies in Practice.” In the whiteboard animation How Youth Learn, created for WKCD by Cushman and cartoonist Suzy Becker, an adolescent brain sets out eight key conditions that support all learning. Two free introductory modules of Cushman’s online professional learning pathway for teachers, Engaging and Motivating Your Middle and High School Students, are available at the social learning platform EduPlanet21.com.

From 1988 to 2001 Cushman wrote and edited the journal Horace, which was published in five volumes as The Collected Horace: Theory and Practice in Essential Schools (CES, 1999). She also was writer and editor of Challenge Journal (1996-2000), following schools involved in the Annenberg Challenge nationwide. She has been guest editor of the Harvard Education Letter (1992) and of the Michigan State University publication Changing Minds(1994). With Adria Steinberg and Robert Riordan, she is co-author of Schooling and the Real World.

Cushman served on the National Executive Board of the Coalition of Essential Schools from 2005 to 2008. With Theodore R. Sizer and several other citizens, parents and teachers, in 1995 Cushman co-founded the Francis W. Parker Charter Essential School in Devens, Massachusetts. The school has won national acclaim as a model of student-centered developmental education in grades 7-12.

Kathleen Cushman lives in New York City, and travels frequently to consult and work with educators in the U.S. and abroad.