Families for Excellent Trains

The campaign to lift the charter school cap in Massachusetts goes off the tracks…

Around the 20 minute mark of Arne Duncan’s talk, I began to choke. I’d made it through Duncan’s endorsement of Question Two, the ballot initiative to lift the cap on charter schools in Massachusetts, and the occasion for last week’s *Education Party* thrown by Democrats for Education Reform. It was when duncanDuncan started to talk about the need for school reformers to genuinely engage parents and families—*I’m not talking about astro-turf*—that the dryly bitter chuckling sound I’d been making escalated into something more profound. You see, that very morning, the Boston Globe had run an expose on the *family* at the very center of Question 2: a husband/wife team of GOP operatives who have orchestrated seemingly every aspect of the campaign.

There are other families involved, of course. Like Republican philanthropists Seth Klarman and Joanna Jacobson, whose largesse got the multi-pronged effort to lift the charter cap rolling, and who are referred to in the trove of internal emails the Globe made public as Klarman and JJ. And there is Families for Excellent Schools, whose CEO, Jeremiah Kittredge, is CC’d on all of the emails, along with a small army of lobbyists, PR hacks and the heads of a handful of Boston charter schools. An exemplar of the new *parent power,* FES was transplanted here from NYC, thanks to the aforementioned largesse of the aforementioned families, to marshall an army of parents behind the effort to lift the charter cap. The group quickly became known for such innovative marshalling techniques as automatically enrolling parents whose kids attended Boston charter schools in the parent army. Continue reading →

*Guinea Pigs in an Urban Laboratory*

In her new book, Unequal City, Carla Shedd looks at race, schools and perceptions of injustice through the eyes of young people…

unequal cityJennifer Berkshire: I want to start by giving everyone a moment to order your amazing new book, Unequal City. Waiting…Waiting… OK. Here we go. You did something highly unusual in your book: you looked at how major policy changes in education and housing over the past two decades in Chicago have impacted kids. And you did that by actually interviewing kids. Where did you get such a crazy idea? 

Carla Shedd: That was a big goal of mine, to really place kids at the center and think about how they understand these larger transformations in their lives. So often we have the numbers or we have snapshots of particular parts of the process and how kids are faring. But we really don’t listen to young people, and we never put their voices at the center of the conversation. How often are the people who are most impacted by these policies able to truly have a voice? In the book I argue that these young people are the city’s guinea pigs. They’re a walking experiment in an urban laboratory. Continue reading →

A Better Conversation?

I talk to Education Post creator Peter Cunningham about what *better* means, the art of the swarm and what Arne Duncan might have done differently…

EdPost1EduShysterEducation Post is now nine months old. How much better has the conversation gotten?

Peter Cunningham: I see elements here and there. I see other people calling for it. Even Nicholas Kristof’s piece in the New York Times where he says, look, there’s been a lot of blood spilled in this debate. Why can’t we unite around early learning? I think that’s a good illustration. Vitriol isn’t getting us anywhere. I’ve published people who disagree with me and I’d like to do more of that. I don’t want to just create a platform where people can spout off; I think there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. I want to give people a chance to honestly present other arguments.

EduShyster: Do you have a metric for measuring *better-ness*?

EdPost2Cunningham:  I think that an awful lot of people on the reform side of the fence are thrilled by what we’re doing. They really feel like *thank God somebody is standing up for us when we get attacked* and *thank God somebody is willing to call out people when they say things that are obviously false or that we think are false.* When I was asked to create this organization—it wasn’t my idea; I was initially approached by Broad—it was specifically because a lot of reform leaders felt like they were being piled on and that no one would come to their defense. They said somebody just needs to help right the ship here. There was a broad feeling that the anti-reform community was very effective at piling on and that no one was organizing that on our side. There was unequivocally a call to create a community of voices that would rise to the defense of people pushing reform who felt like they were isolated and alone.  Continue reading →

Is Education Reform Punk Rock?

Do real punk rockers prefer school choice? Not when it’s the major label or the big rock manager offering *choice.*

By Hugo Burnham
gang of fourEducation is the new punk rock. So says the t-shirt sold by my friend, an old punk rock drummer named Martin Atkins who has found, forced and finagled his way into higher education in the USA. As have I. *Higher* for us these days means education beyond K–12.

Martin played with PIL (that’s his Mickey Mouse watch sound on Metal Box’s immense *Four Enclosed Walls*), Ministry, Killing Joke, Pigface, and others. He wasn’t in NIN, but he was in a NIN video. (Just as I wasn’t in PIL…but I was on the Top of the Pops TV show with them.) And he runs a record label that has released a shitload of records. And he owns a studio. And he’s written two books. He is now teaching at the SAE Institute in Chicago. I’m exhausted just writing this—he’s a bloody machine. Oh, and just got his Bachelor’s Degree. At 55, yet! I got my Bachelor’s Degree at the *right* time, you know, when I was young. Martin is onto his Master’s next (ha ha…got mine already!). And we are both fathers. Alright then, so who’s the real punk here?! Continue reading →

White Suburban Dads—Even Worse than Moms?

If you could ask Arne Duncan just one question, what would it be?

lawnmowerBy Patrick Hayes
If you could ask Arne Duncan just one question, what would it be? That’s the dilemma I faced when I heard that my district would be hosting a live Q & A with Big Dunk.There was the obvious choice:

*Whaddya’ get Bill Gates for Boss’s Day?  The man has everything.*

Instead, I settled on this: Continue reading →