School Turnarounds in the Age of Trump

When bad education policy and immigration politics collide, the result is uncertainty and anxiety for immigrant students…

Kristen Leathers with some of her students at Boston’s Brighton High School.

By Kristen Leathers
A few weeks ago, I received a letter from the Boston Public Schools informing me that I’m being let go from Brighton High School where I’ve taught for the past 10 years. I wasn’t the only one. Brighton High and two other Boston schools were deemed turnaround schools last fall and every staff member in each of these schools, from the headmaster to the paraprofessionals, was excessed. When faced with questions about the future, I told my students that I am still committed to working at Brighton High and teaching them, but I can offer them no assurances as I have none for myself.

We recently did a project in my intermediate ESL class where students wrote a letter about how the turnaround process was affecting them and what they felt would be needed to fix Brighton High School. We’ve been talking a lot about current events and I felt that it was important for them to find and use their own voices. Many of them talked about how devastating it is to be losing their teachers. They described this place as a refuge and a second home; losing that makes them feel frightened, anxious and confused. Continue reading →

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.

Continue reading →