Here’s a dirty little secret for you. You know that word ‘achievement’? While it used to have something to do with heroic deeds and accomplishments, today achievement refers to one thing and one thing only: test scores. And schools across the country are taking increasingly desperate measures to raise them. Today we visit some schools where students are under virtual test-prep lockdown, practicing the art of test taking week after week in hopes that their scores on the looming high-stakes test will increase enough to prevent state intervention or worse, hand-off of the school to a private operator. In this twisted tale of testing run amuck, there is one clear winner: the consulting group that earns as much as $25,000 per school to help boost “achievement.” Continue reading
No one could lead a civil rights movement like Martin Luther King Jr. But let’s face it: the movement he led was old school. The civil rights issue of our time is the achievement gap, and closing it often requires doing the opposite of what Dr. King stood for. Which raises some important questions: if Dr. King returned today would he be an achievement gaptivist? Which billionaires would fund his important work? And with poverty and racism now officially regarded as excuses, what would he talk about? Meet Martin Luther King 2.0, now with more excellence. Continue reading
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
Today’s topic is civil rights. As in those things that you are not supposed to violate. Unless, of course, you are part of an effort to crush the achievement gap—otherwise known as the civil rights issue of our time—in which case you may apparently violate civil rights with impunity.
This article in the Boston Globe about the unbelievable generosity of local pharma giant Vertex tugged at my heartstrings and brought a tear to my eye. Vertex, which is building a ginormous new headquarters in Boston’s waterfront “innovation district,” manufactures two of my favorite drugs: Incivek and Kalydeco. I would recommend asking your doctor if both are right for you.
According to the Globe story, Vertex is investing $1.4 million to build a state-of-the-art lab for students in Boston public high schools. The company will also be working with students at two South Boston High Schools to provide supplemental workshops and classes, summer internships at the company, and a four-year college scholarship.
What’s in it for Vertex? Vertex executives said that they’re hoping to help close the achievement gap between urban students and their suburban schools. Now this didn’t surprise me at all because I know that if there’s one thing big pharma is passionate about it’s the achievement gap. Continue reading