You’re Fired!

The idea that schools can be fixed by firing teachers has become a fixation. In this episode of Have You Heard, Jack Schneider and I discuss the origins of the idea, which he has helpfully distilled here in this amazing graphic. We hear from three Boston teachers whose schools are about to be turned upside down, the lives of their immigrant students made even more chaotic in these unsettled times. As scholar Tina Trujillo explains, the turn-and-churn model of school reform reflects a larger erosion of the idea that public education is public good. Be sure to listen to the very end of the episode (or skip down to the bottom of the transcript below), where we announce our guest for episode #3. Fine, I’ll give you a hint. She was in the running to be Secretary of Education… If you have a question you want us to ask her, flag us on Twitter at @BisforBerkshire or @edu_historian, or leave a comment here. And if you missed episode #1 of this season, Vouchers: a Love Story, you can catch it on Soundcloud, or iTunes.

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Actions Speak Louder than Words

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos says she wants to empower teachers to make them great. Detroit teacher Stephanie Griffin isn’t buying it… 

By Stephanie Griffin
When teachers in Detroit organized sick-outs last year, we weren’t in *receive mode,* as Betsy DeVos would say, waiting to be told what to do. The protests came about because no one would listen: not the school district, not our union, not our political representatives, and not the state that has been running the Detroit Public Schools for nearly two decades, during which conditions for teachers and students have gotten progressively worse. And our protests weren’t *sponsored and carefully planned.* My school, Cass Tech, is one of the best schools in the city, but teachers here believe in solidarity, and we knew that our only hope of drawing attention to the plight of teachers and students in Detroit was to join the protests. So we joined in, along with teachers from 90 other schools, and we ended up getting national attention. Continue reading →

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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 →

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Vouchers: a Love Story

Have You Heard kicks off season 2 with a look at all things voucher-y. Jack Schneider and I talk about the history of school vouchers, the movement’s strange bedfellows, and why the public has remained remarkably skeptical towards vouchers. We mix it up with school choice superfan Travis Pillow over who is really using vouchers in states like Indiana, Maryland and Wisconsin. And I use an, um, unusual descriptor to describe the results of Louisiana’s voucher program. Let me know what you think!

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Why I’m Saying Farewell to EduShyster

It’s time for me to wave goodbye to the man with the outstretched hand…

Since I started this blog back in 2012, I’ve gotten occasional complaints that the name EduShyster is anti-semitic. When one of these arrived last week, I started to compose what has become my standard response: that whole books have been written on this topic, and that historians have traced the etymology of the word back to its very first appearance in 1843, in a New York newspaper crusading against political and legal corruption. And then I stopped. As any English teacher worth her salt can explain, meaning and context go hand in hand. Our current context is that anti-semitism has roared back with a vengeance and has taken up residence in the highest office in the land. Even the slightest possibility that I might be lumped in with that kind of hate is too much. Now is the time to speak up against all kinds of intolerance, and so I’m taking this opportunity to wish EduShyster farewell.

If you’ve followed the evolution of my blog, you know that I started out as an anonymous commentator, taking aim at all things education *rephorm.* Snark was my weapon, along with wine by the boxful—a sort of metaphor for the volume of intoxicants necessitated by the edupreneurial schemes and scams that I spent my days untangling. Along the way, the blog morphed into something more serious. There was so much I didn’t understand, and so I sought out people who knew things and used my blog as a way to make complex ideas more accessible. I also discovered that my curious nature—OK, nosy—translated into a reporting skill I didn’t know I had. I’ve now raised money from readers and traveled to Chicago, New Orleans and Michigan, talking to anyone who will talk to me, and producing actual journalism. Who knew??? Last year I launched a story-driven podcast series called Have You Heard that sought to *disrupt* the debate over the future of public education by passing the mic to parents and students whose voices are too often missing from the conversation.

Now it’s time for another change. As of 2/08/2017, the blog formerly known as EduShyster is the Have You Heard blog. Rolls off the tongue, right? While the man with the hand will still be making occasional appearances, this next iteration of my writing and podcasting will be unmistakably mine. I’ll be doing more long reported pieces, like this one, this one, this one, and this one. At the top of my list is a skeptical look at the latest edu-frenzy to sweep across Massachusetts: the empowerment zone. And believe it or not, after devoting some 10,000 words to our new Secretary of Education, I still have more to add—like what was really behind the shade that Eli Broad threw at Betsy DeVos. Season 2.0 of the Have You Heard podcast will sound different too. I’ve joined forces with Jack Schneider, who you may know on Twitter as @edu_historian. Our biweekly talk show on education in the time of Trump starts this week. (Note: you can subscribe on iTunes—just search for Have You Heard under news and politics).

Before I go there is one thing I could really use your help with. Now that I’m officially consigning @EduShyster to the dustbin of history, I need a new Twitter handle. If you have a suggestion send it to jenniferberkshire@gmail.com.

Thanks for reading. I don’t know about you, but I’ve got some work to do…

Jennifer

 

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