Cases in Point

As Professor Meira Levinson and doctoral student Jacob Fay, Ed.M.’14, point out in Dilemmas of Educational Ethics, the challenging ethical dilemmas that teachers and school leaders face “are not exotic problems; they are everyday dilemmas.” And they’re not limited to one area of the country or one type of district. “They (we!) are struggling with them in wealthy and in middle- and low-income schools; in rural, suburban, and urban districts; in magnet, regular, district, charter, parochial, and independent schools; along the coasts, in the American heartland, from south to north, and everywhere in between.”

Unfortunately, teachers and educations often have to wrestle with these challenging, sometimes heart-wrenching dilemmas on their own. That’s a big part of the reason why Levinson and Fay wrote the book: to provide a tool — usable case studies — for educators to read and use as they face their own ethical struggles. For additional thinking about the issues, each case study is followed by six responses written by people involved in the education field, including several faculty members at the Ed School. So with so many potential dilemmas faced by teachers and other educators, how did they choose the ones they did for the book? As Levinson recently told the Harvard EdCast, “These are not the six most important cases or the only cases we need, but they seem to traverse a lot of important ground in education ethics, moving from the classroom to the school to the district and even the state level.”


  1. A struggling student and whether to promote her, knowing she might drop out altogether if not promoted.
  2. How to balance the needs of a disruptive third-grader with mental illness and the needs of the rest of the students.
  3. A new academic dean grappling with conflicting grading and grade inflation at a private school — and conflicting interests in the status quo.
  4. Boston Public Schools’ new school assignment plan and potential pandering to middle class families in an effort to keep them in the district.
  5. Whether to report a high school student suspected of stealing a teacher’s phone in a zero-tolerance school with possible criminal action looming.
  6. How, if at all, should charter schools be compared to local district schools.

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The Digital Bridge

We’ve been waiting for evidence that online education can fulfill its promise to reach underserved students and expand opportunity. A
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