On the Rocketship

Richard Whitmire’s new book chronicles a bumpy ride for Rocketship charter schools…

9781118607640.pdfEduShyster: Your book is meant to chronicle the take-off of a high-performing charter school but to me it read more like a cautionary tale. You made the strongest case I’ve seen for why Silicon Valley-style disruption and education are a mismatch. I’m thinking of Rocketship’s decision to blow up its instructional model, making classrooms much larger, in order to generate more revenue for expansion.

Richard Whitmire: There were actually two reasons for that model change. California’s per-pupil spending is $7,500, one of the lowest in the country.The state was cutting back further at that time and delaying payment to charters. Rocketship also felt that it had hit kind of a wall. They’d been able to take these low-income minority kids to the mid 800’s [on the California Academic Performance Index (API)], but they weren’t getting up to the level of the suburban schools. This seemed to solve both of those problems at once. They could save some money and they could do some more personalized learning in this larger classroom.  Continue reading →

Planet Ponzi

Rocketship Education’s plan for intergalactic domination hits a rough patch

Editor’s note: Rocketship Education responded on Twitter that my post was *great fun to read* and contained *rocket word play to the max,* but that my *facts are a bit off.* For your reading pleasure, I’ve noted some of Rocketship’s specific issues with my claims and included some of the company’s responses at the end of the post—JCB

Once upon a time there was a boldly disruptive innovator who had a boldly disruptive idea. Why not turn old school schools into rocketships by fitting them with thrusters and boosters, then send them soaring into outer space where, thanks to zero gravity that keeps expectations buoyant, there is no achievement gap? Strap yourself in reader. We’re headed up, up and away to see for ourselves how this space-age disruption is faring.

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Edushyster Speaks (and speaks)

Was the recent day of action to reclaim the promise of public education a flash in the pan or the start of something big? And more importantly, how will we measure the emerging movement’s effectiveness (and who can we fire when it fails to live up to its potential?) In an interview with Rob Perry of the Network for Public Education I answer these questions and plenty of others too—like what’s my favorite brand of winebox and if I could have any corporate sponsor in the world, what would it be? So press play and let me know what you think!

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The Fight Ahead

What we should be talking about when we talk about Teach for America

Teachers and students protest the closure of 50 public schools in Chicago. Teach for America increasingly drives the policies behind such school closures.

Unless you’ve been under a rock, you’ve no doubt noticed that the debate about Teach for America has ratcheted up considerably in recent weeks. Here’s the quick and dirty version: urban districts are closing dozens of schools and laying off teachers, even as they’re bringing in new Teach for America recruits. When news began to spread that a popular Chicago teacher had been laid off (the news delivered by his mother, no less), the back-and-forth reached a boiling point. How was it right for the Chicago Public Schools to axe a well-regarded teacher, one of 2000 let go, while expanding the number of TFA corps members, who’ll be entering the city’s schools this fall after just five weeks of training?

It’s a heated and emotional discussion but it also misses the larger point. TFA’s threat to urban teachers isn’t in these new corps members but in the policy of rampant urban charter expansion that TFA is driving. What’s more, the rancorous tone of the debate threatens to push away the growing number of alumni who have begun to question TFA’s mission and orientation. So what should we be talking about? Here’s a look:
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EDjango Unchained: The Coming Revolt against ‘No Excuses’ Schools

A middle-school student at a ‘no-excuses’ school in Memphis.

For tens of thousands of black and brown students who attend what are billed as “college-prep” academies, today’s return to school begins as always: in straight, silent lines. For these students, more and more of them in our cities every day, school is now synonymous with control. While the specific systems of rewards and punishments vary from one urban charter school to another, the premise is the same: poor minority children must be made to be compliant. Resistance is met with still more punishment until the lesson is finally learned: compliance = success. No excuses. Continue reading →