workshops and presentations


The research on ninth-grade success makes one thing abundantly clear — ninth grade is a key indicator of future success in high school and college. In this presentation, you’ll hear actual students describe their challenges as they enter high school, telling what they need in order to make that critical transition work better for them.

Related book: Fires in the Middle School Bathroom: Advice for Teachers from Middle Schoolers, by Kathleen Cushman and Laura Rogers, with the students of What Kids Can Do (New Press, 2008)

The Ninth-Grade transition

Whatever our roles, we tend to think of a successful high school as something adults pull off — by investing our time, energy, thought, and hard work. But I like to think of school as an enterprise with partners who also invest — and our most important investment partners are students. This workshop uses actual students’ voices to explore how that partnership fosters learning on both sides, and a more positive school climate and culture.

bringing students to the table

First-Generation students talk about college access and success

Low aspirations is usually not what keeps students from going to college — as the students in this presentation make clear. Their voices and stories reveal the human face of the research on key factors that influence whether they will arrive and thrive at college. And they bring out the practical and effective steps that schools and colleges can take to inform, support, supplement and encourage low-income students on their path to a college degree.

Related books:

First in the Family: Your High School Years

First in the Family: Your College Years

Advice About College from

First-Generation Students

by Kathleen Cushman

and the students of What Kids Can Do

(Next Generation Press, 2005, 2006)

Click here to inquire about this presentation (separate versions for high school and college educators)

As teachers of writing, our challenge is to help students find their own voices, and their strengths as people with something important to say. This presentation calls on many examples in which students have experienced the writing and publishing process as they document their own lives and learning, with coaching from What Kids Can Do. I share our techniques and invite the audience to connect this work to other classroom projects, past or future.


Fourteen students from the Bronx, NY—the poorest Congressional district in the U.S.—worked with teachers and Kathleen Cushman to probe and describe the culture of minority youth in urban schools. The result — borrowing the format of the SAT — questions the perspectives and assumptions of both students and educators who “take the test.” Get out your Number 2 pencils!  And prepare to think hard about complex questions of diversity and equity in a democracy.

Related books:

SAT Bronx

Do You Know What Bronx Kids Know?

by students from Bronx Leadership Academy 2, Shannon O’Grady, Kristin Ferrales, and Kathleen Cushman

(Next Generation Press, spring 2008)

SAT Bronx: DO YOU KNOW WHAT your URBAN students KNOW?

the motivation equation

How can we re-engage students in challenging work and motivate them to put in the effort necessary to develop real mastery? This presentation invites teachers to join in a collaborative inquiry with students and learning scientists, using our everyday experiences to probe what prompts powerful learning—and what blocks it.

Related books: FIRES IN THE MIND:

What Kids Can Tell Us About Motivation and Mastery, by Kathleen Cushman

and the students of What Kids Can Do

(Jossey-Bass, 2010)


Related books:

Sent to the Principal: Students Talk About Making High School Better,

by Kathleen Cushman and the students of What Kids Can Do

(Next Generation Press, 2005)

Fires in the Bathroom: Advice for Teachers from High School Students

by Kathleen Cushman and the students of What Kids Can Do

(New Press, 2003)

Related books:

Pass It On

Interviews by Youth with Mentors that Matter

by the students of What Kids Can Do • edited by Kathleen Cushman

(Next Generation Press, 2008)

Forty-Cent Tip

Stories of New York City Immigrant Workers

by the students of three NYC public International High Schools

edited by What Kids Can Do (Next Generation Press, 2004)

bringing student voices to bear on best practices in education

Join my online social learning pathway on Building Student Motivation. Check out the user-friendly platform and two free introductory modules HERE (after a quick sign-up at EduPlanet21).