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.  

Continue reading →

*Will Donald Trump Deport Me?* And Other Questions from My Nine-Year-Old Students

A student teacher reflects on what her fourth grade students are learning from Donald Trump…

By Mary Sypek

Trump*Ms. Sypek, what do you think of Donald Trump?* Karim asks. I quickly scramble around in my mind, trying to think of an answer that’s both diplomatic and clear. *I don’t really like Donald Trump,* is what I decide to say, to which he promptly responds, *I don’t like Donald Trump either.* I exhale, hoping I have managed to escape the topic of Trump without too much of a hassle. I am wrong.

It’s literacy time in Ms. Smith’s fourth grade classroom. Students are working with partners and in small groups to read nonfiction books about the US government, and I am working with four struggling readers. I am a student teacher at an urban public school in one of the most diverse cities in Massachusetts. In our classroom of 26, we represent 22 countries.
Continue reading →

Have You Heard?

The podcast series that I’ve been talking about forever is finally a real thing…

hyh-beacon-imageReader—or make that, listener: the day that really seemed as though it would never arrive is finally here! You can actually listen to the inaugural episode of our new podcast series, Have You Heard, as soon as you finish reading this page. The concept is simple: the debate over public education has been reduced to a stale screaming match. Our hope is that by introducing the kinds of voices that don’t typically make it into the conversation, we can cause a little, well, disruption. In this first episode, we head to Philly to talk to African American parents who are opting their kids out of standardized tests. And that’s just the start. In the coming months, we’ll be heading to New Orleans, Chicago, Detroit, Boston and beyond—the hottest of the hot spots in the battle to determine the future of our public schools. Now I know what you’re thinking: *Jennifer—you’re broke as you are constantly telling us. Did you re-marry up while we weren’t paying attention?* Well, not exactly… Continue reading →

An Open Letter to Teachers and Staff at No Excuses Charter Schools

The former dean of students at a New Orleans charter school urges teachers and staff at No Excuses schools to ask some hard questions about the model’s social and emotional costs…

By Ramon Griffin

Dear You:

no excuses chalkboardYou were selected to teach at your school because of your intelligence, spunk, tenacity, vigor and, most of all, your passion for public education. You are a risk-taker. You have a can-do attitude with swag to match. You believe that every child has the capacity to achieve academically and are committing your life to ensuring that you affect change in every student you encounter. Your dedication to ensuring that traditionally marginalized students receive a first class education is commendable. But do you know how much power you hold? Do you truly understand the *No Excuses* school culture that you are part of? Do you know the psychological and emotional costs that the No Excuses model has on students of color? Furthermore, do you care to know? Continue reading →

The Future of Teachers Unions?

Education reform advocate Eric Lerum and I talk about the future of teacher unions. In a bar. 

Well that went well… Oral arguments in the Supreme Court room drama of the year, Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association, are a wrap. And with the justices widely expected to hand down a decision that will [insert devastating verb here] public sector unions, I invited education reform advocate Eric Lerum, formerly of Students First, to join me in a different kind of oral argument. We recently sat down at a NYC bar to chew (and sip) over some big questions: do teacher unions have any future? How have teachers fared in the four states that have restricted collective bargaining since 2011? (Spoiler alert: not well.) What about the growing number of charter school teachers who are organizing unions? And do we really want a country where the ultra-rich exert unchecked influence over everything? OK – that last one was my question. More beer please!