Private Practice

I talk to Professor Ken Zeichner about how the push to deregulate teacher preparation fits into our privatized, for-profit times…

Image result for relay gse

JenniferBerkshire: You’ve been leading a one-man crusade to expose what you say are false claims being made by the Relay Graduate School of Education and other startup teacher training programs. How’s it going?

Ken Zeichner: Not well. Although the state of Pennsylvania recently denied Relay’s application to offer a graduate degree upon completion of its program in the state on the grounds that it isn’t actually a graduate school, Relay has just signed a contract with the Philadelphia schools to run a teacher residency in Philly with the goal of increasing teacher diversity in the city. The issue of diversifying the teaching force is extremely important, but if you’re going to place your resources somewhere in order to reach this goal, the research suggests that you would invest in grow-your-own programs, high-quality teacher residency programs (which Relay is not), induction and mentoring, and improving working conditions and access to high quality professional learning opportunities in the high-poverty schools in which many teachers of color work. You wouldn’t bring in a program like Relay that can provide no evidence at all that their teachers stay, even though they’ve been in existence since 2007. What good is it if you bring in teachers but aren’t able to retain them? Continue reading →

For Profit U

In episode #14, Have You Heard talks to Tressie McMillan Cottom about her new book, Lower Ed, and the push to make education *risky*…

In this episode of Have You Heard, we talk to Tressie McMillan Cottom about the rise of for-profit colleges, and *risky* higher ed that saddles low-income students with debt and questionable credentials. And we discuss the growing push to make K-12 more risky, including busting up public institutions and shifting the burden of choosing an *education option* as Betsy DeVos likes to call it, onto parents. Cottom’s new book Lower Ed is a must read, and this episode of Have You Heard is a must listen. As she points out, the same free market that we’re now entrusting with the futures of kids and adolescents also gave us cheese whiz. Cottom’s book and our conversation threatened to deplete my store of adjectives (*fantastic*!) and inspired Jack to make one of his famous charts.

Continue reading →

Change a School’s Structure, Change the World: An Exchange

In which Empower School’s Brett Alessi and I go back and forth about whether the Springfield Empowerment Zone is *all that*… 

Image result for unicornEditor’s note: I recently wrote about the much-hyped Springfield Empowerment Zone, arguing that there isn’t enough *there there* to merit its coronation as the next big thing, and that the zone’s eye-popping suspension numbers are a serious red flag. Brett Alessi, head of Empower Schools, the nonprofit that is helping to empower the Empowerment Zone, responded and asked if he might respond to my piece, giving readers a fuller account of what’s happening in Springfield than my *negative Nancy* portrayal. (My description, not his). I eagerly obliged but requested that Alessi focus on the two specific issues I raised: the high student suspension numbers in the Zone’s schools, and whether the push to *scale up* the Zone is warranted given that the Zone has yet to do what its architects claimed that it would do. Alessi’s response is below, and my response to his response is below that… Continue reading →

What is Worth $1 Million?

A middle school serving some of Boston’s most vulnerable students faces a $1 million budget cut. Teacher Adina Schecter reflects on what that says about the city and its priorities…

By Adina Schecter
It is 6:45am and I’ve just pulled into the parking lot of the McCormack Middle School in Dorchester, MA.  I can already hear our sixth, seventh and eighth graders entering the building, their chattering voices somewhere between childhood and adulthood. This morning, like every morning, the staff at the McCormack—teachers, administrators, paraprofessionals, and City Year corps members—are lined up outside to greet each student individually. Once inside, students make their way to the cafeteria for a hot breakfast. Many of them depend on our school for two meals a day. The staff at the McCormack understands that the best way to get our students ready to learn is to make sure they have food in their bellies and personal attention from an adult who cares.  

But the McCormack, a traditional Boston Public School that serves a diverse group of middle school students, faces a budget reduction of more than a million dollars next year.  We have serious concerns about our school’s fate.  Already lacking the resources to meet the complex needs of our students, my colleagues and I now fear for the survival of our school community, and for our students who are losing high-quality teachers and programs. Continue reading →

School Choice Meltdown in Motown

I talked to parents in Detroit who are living through that city’s experiment in unregulated school choice…

Since Betsy DeVos was nominated to serve as the top edu-official in the land, her role in shaping Detroit as an education laboratory in which an out-of-control lab fire now burns, has been subject to plenty of scrutiny. But we haven’t heard enough from parents who are living through the city’s experiment in unregulated school choice. In this episode of Have You Heard, the final installment of my ten-part series with collaborator Aaron French, I headed to Detroit to talk to parents about Motown’s school choice meltdown. They describe what it’s like when schools shut down without notice, leaving them to fend for themselves in the “education marketplace,” while mass school closures have left whole neighborhoods without schools. It’s a hard story to hear, and yet these parents, and the advocacy group they’re part of, 482Forward, will leave you feeling hopeful—something we could all use a little more of these days!

Continue reading →