George Lucas Educational Foundation

Multiple Intelligences Leave No Child Behind

Edutopia revisits Indianapolis's Key Learning Community to see how things have changed since our first look in 2001.
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Woman: There has to be exploration, and it has to be decided by the children, not by the teachers.

Narrator: In 2001, Edutopia visited the Key Learning Community in Indianapolis, Indiana, a school intent on doing things differently.

Woman: We talked about our symbol system, because we're going into the time now when we're going to put those marks, those symbols, on our progress reports.

Narrator: Founding principal Pat Bolanos led a group that created the K-12 school, whose curriculum is based on the theory of multiple intelligences.

Pat: This theory said people are not smart or dumb or someplace in between, but actually there are 8 distinct areas of intelligence, that you could be very strong and capable in one area of intelligence and very weak in one or two of the others. And so from our experience, we said, "Let's say that all of these areas of intelligence are equally important for all children."

Teacher: Does anybody know when the Civil Rights Act was passed?


Teacher: Good, okay.

Narrator: After determining that every child should develop their multiple intelligences, Key Learning founders like Beverly Hoeltke had to come up with a new way to assess them.

Beverly: Then anytime you see the shape of a triangle, those also represent the strengths that he has. Math is one.

Beverly: We needed to have some symbol system that reported out to others what we were looking for in children, and that first was the multiple intelligences. So on the progress report, they are highlighted in bold letters.

Narrator: Key founders also developed elective periods, or pods, a way for students to play to their strengths.

Geoffrey: Pods are one of our ways to approach multiple intelligences in a kind of individual basis, not only for the students, but for the teachers. And each of the teachers chooses something that we're really passionate about and designs a course around it, and they're unique and fun.

Boys [singing]: Chicken. Fried chicken. Barbecue chicken. Chicken ain't nothin' but a bird.

Geoffrey: One of the really interesting things is that some of the kids that struggle during the day are some of our most talented strummers, and it gives them a feeling of success and gratification that they may not get in a traditional setting. We've had some really, really great years. Key's Strummers evolved into a really mature group. We've played for Garrison Keillor on "A Prairie Home Companion" when they came through town. It's just been really great.

David: The skills that I learned here, you know, I don't think I would have learned at any other school. If you can learn your strengths and weaknesses early on, you get a better outlook for the future. If you can sit back and you can say, "Well, I love working on digital audio design," or, "I love working with a camera," "I love picking up that guitar and plucking around," and you learn your strengths early, your success in the future will only be furthered if you stay on track. And this school has done that for me.

Christine: We really work individually with our kids to help them understand their strengths and to help them understand how they can move into a career based on this strength. They develop a digital portfolio, which also highlights their strengths, and the admissions offices have been really impressed with the work that they've seen.

So you kind of just start making our movie.

Christine: A lot of people really appreciate the work that we're doing at Key Learning Community, so we are working very hard to maintain our authentic curriculum and our authentic assessment. We do really work hard to stay true to our mission and true to our vision, but it is a lot more difficult than it used to be.

Beverly: We're trying to just sort of stay alive, as opposed to what I would have hoped for, is that we would be putting lots and lots of research and trying lots of new techniques and new ideas, but we really haven't been allowed to do that, thanks to No Child Left Behind. And the testing has become so absurd that it's like every other week you're testing, you're giving some kind of test. And when you're testing, you can't be teaching.

And I have pictures of all this stuff.

Beverly: We need to be more politically savvy as far as trying to convince the business world and the politicians that we're going in the wrong direction on that test scores aren't everything, so therefore if they want creativity in children, they want originality, but we have to teach them processes of how to learn as opposed to information.

I'm going to take a trip to Venus.

Narrator: For more information on what works in public education, go to

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Video Credits

Produced, Written, and Directed by

  • Ken Ellis

Coordinating Producers

  • Amy Erin Borovoy
  • Lauren Rosenfeld


  • Karen Sutherland

Associate Producers

  • Leigh Iacobucci
  • Sara Armstrong

Production Assistant

  • Doug Keely

Camera Crew

  • Eric Seguim-Arnold
  • Ward Laver
  • Zico Orozco


  • Kris Welch

Additional Footage Courtesy of

  • The Key Learning Community

Comments (5) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Robert Ryshke's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

This is a very interesting video of what Key is trying to accomplish. I learned a great deal and am glad to see them successfully struggling with how to make the model work with NCLB. It is one clear reason why NCLB is not going to work with innovative ideas like MI at Key.

Keep up the good work Key!


Jake Staab's picture

[quote]This is a very interesting video of what Key is trying to accomplish. I learned a great deal and am glad to see them successfully struggling with how to make the model work with NCLB. It is one clear reason why NCLB is not going to work with innovative ideas like MI at Key.

Keep up the good work Key!


While the theory of multiple intelligences is innovative, that does not mean it is an effective way of teaching. In fact, the implementation of such a theory as the basis for the education at Key was premature considering the lack of any evidence that these intelligences exist. Howard Gardener himself states in 2000 there is "little hard evidence for MI theory." He also admitted that "MI theory has few enthusiasts among psychometricians or others of a traditional psychological background" because they require "psychometric or experimental evidence that allows one to prove the existence of the several intelligences."

Imagine trying to teach a child a concept with no real definition or evidence of any kind and telling him or her it's how he or she learns. Such abstract nonsense has no place in schools, and the fact that it does not mesh with NCLB does not concern me in the least.

Mony Gutierrez's picture
Mony Gutierrez
Kindergarden 2 grade english teacher from mexico, df

this is a best tecnique and estrategies for teaching!

Eyal Kaminka, Phd.'s picture
Eyal Kaminka, Phd.
Leading Educator at Joytunes

No matter where you stand on MI, this video shows hard working teachers that give their soul to educating the next generation.
This is the true test, and definitely what I would want for my children. Keep up the great work!

Dandansoy's picture
Grade 5 teacher from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

This strategy is great! I will be using this in my class.

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