No Clean Hands

I’m responsible for the appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. Are you?

By Alicia
18th century political and moral philosopher Joseph de Maistre said every country gets the leader it deserves.  More recently, professor and public intellectual Tressie McMillan Cottom pointed out there are no innocent parties in the expansion of market-based education. That’s over two centuries of wisdom firmly identifying us, *We the People,* as just as responsible for the appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education as President Donald Trump.

How are you or I responsible for the appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education?

It was President Trump who picked her, which makes sense, as his own for-profit education company defrauded thousands of students. But you and I also helped DeVos get to her position. We’re implicated too, despite our protest of the selection of a woman who has used her financial and social capital to undermine public education. My contribution to Betsy DeVos’ appointment is that I consistently failed to pay attention to what was occurring in public education. Continue reading →

Chaos by Design

I love teaching but the chaos of urban education reform is wearing me out…

By Ryan Heisinger
The halls at my school last week were full of teachers’ usual end-of-year banter. One person remarked on how quickly this year was flying by. I replied that, now in my fourth year, each school year still feels like a roller coaster, but one I’d ridden before, with familiar dips and twists and turns.

For me, this year is mainly speeding by because of how much I’ve enjoyed it. This school year has reinvigorated me, further convinced me that I want to spend my career around kids. But after four years of teaching at three different schools with four different principals, I’d love to find a school at which I could settle in and make a long-term difference. The education landscape in my city, however, has left me worried that no such opportunity exists. 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 →

The Next Big Thing

The Springfield Empowerment Zone is light on results, heavy on hype and rife with red flags…

Barely had Massachusetts voters cast the last *nay* vote on raising the charter cap, aka the Last Big Thing, than the Next Big Thing was sweeping the Bay State. I speak, of course of the zones of empowerment, that suddenly have everyone who is anyone talking. The experiment in school turn around-ing underway in Springfield, headed up by education reformer magnate Chris Gabrieli, is now in its second year and has already put up impressive numbers. No reader, not the measurable results that were the occasion for the takeover. I mean *buzz* as they say in the biz. There’s Boston Globe sage Scot Lehigh singing the Empowerment Zone’s praises. Now here’s Chris Gabrieli singing his own praises. Here’s Governor Baker giving the EZ a shout out and proposing a statewide expansion. Here’s the Globe editorial page echoing the Governor’s call. Now here’s the front page of the Globe reporting on the growing momentum behind the Empowerment Zone crusade. Oh, and here’s Representative Alice Peisch, fresh off her turn as lead flog-stress for the Last Big Thing, filing the *enabling legislation* that will empower the growth of zones across the land. Continue reading →

The Long Game of Betsy DeVos

To understand Betsy DeVos’ vision for education, you have to know where she comes from…

devos1I first laid eyes upon Trump’s pick for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, at Campbell Brown’s forum for GOP presidential contenders. It was the summer of 2015, back when Trump was little more than a punchline, and Jeb Bush, despite drooping in the August heat that day, still seemed like the real contender. Because the event wasn’t an official debate, Bush, Walker, Vindal, Fiorina et al couldn’t appear on stage together—which meant that Brown asked the same questions of each, and got similar pablum-esque non-answers, in an endless *conversational* format. And then suddenly there was Betsy DeVos, a Brown chum, holding forth about an education *moonshot.* It wasn’t what she said that interested me so much as what she represented. Could the education reform coalition’s major selling point, its bipartisan-ness, really stretch to incorporate the extreme right-wing views of DeVos? Mightn’t it be better for her to remain in the favored domain of the DeVos family, the shadows, or at least in Michigan? Continue reading →