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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The System Works*

If schools produce dramatic gains but leave students feeling scared, and scarred, are they still successful? An eighth grader poses some tough questions…

Traumatized. That’s the word my friends and I use when we talk about our school. It really scarred us. We were so used to freedom, like being able to walk to lunch in groups. All of a sudden, we were treated like children. Our lockers were taken away. Instead we had cubbies in our classrooms. We were like *cubbies? Are you joking???* We weren’t allowed to transition; our teachers transitioned. We stayed in the same room, in our chairs for 8 hours a day. We only moved when we went to lunch. We had to line up in a particular order and if you weren’t in the  right order or if somebody was talking, you’d have to go back to the classroom and start again.  There was one time when we missed lunch because we went through this process fifteen times.

They said that discipline led to academic success. They were incredibly strict about the uniform and we weren’t used to that. In the morning when we walked in we had to lift up our pants so that they could make sure we were wearing the socks we were allowed to wear, check to make sure we had a belt and that we had the school logo on our shirts. They’d say *if you don’t have the logo, we’re not going to let you in. We’re going to send you to the dean’s office and you’re going to get a uniform and you’re going to get out­-of­-school detention.* What really bothered me was that even if you had an excuse, like your uniform was in the laundry, and your mom called, they would still send you to the dean’s office.     Continue reading →

Not a Second To Waste

Fast-growing UP Education Network has an innovative approach to educating low-income students that starts with not wasting a second of valuable learning time…

Editor’s note: UP Education Network operates five schools in Massachusetts, including two in Lawrence, where the author of this piece taught. While the school she describes is operated like a charter school, it is a neighborhood 6-8 middle school that students are zoned to attend. UP recently received $4.3 million fMultifunctional Timer PS50 Stopwatch Professional Chronograph Handheld Digital LCD Sports Counter Timer with Straprom the US Department of Education in order to replicate and expand its high-performing model. 

I was hired to teach at UP Academy in Lawrence, MA starting in August of 2014. Everyone on staff had a duty and mine was to stand in the girl’s bathroom and make sure that the students were leaving quickly and that they only used two pumps of soap and took two paper towels. If they used more I was supposed to give them a demerit. Everything is timed and teachers walk around with timers. Kids are timed when they go to the bathroom and when they have their snack so that they aren’t wasting valuable learning time. At orientation, which lasted a month before the start of schools, we spent an entire day on how to pass papers and how to get the students to compete against each other as they did this.  

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