Take It Till U Make It

At a growing number of urban schools, it’s all testing, all the time

Remember how just the other day you were despairing that public education has devolved into a sad synonym for testing of the standardized variety? Well I’ve got great news, reader—it turns out that you were wrong! According to a new study by an organization called Teach Plus (that I’m guessing you’re not a member of), American students don’t spend nearly as much time on testing as you do complaining about the amount of time they spend on testing. Continue reading →

Martin Luther King 2.0, Now with More Excellence

If Martin Luther King Jr. returned today, would he be an achievement gaptivist? And which billionaires would fund his important work?

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.

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STEM Cells

What if there was an easy peasy way to solve the skills gap, the STEM gap, the achievement gap, the expectations gap and the next, yet-to-be-named gap? Great news, reader! According to the New York Times a solution to our STEMtacular crisis lies within imminent reach. You see, reader, our failed and failing public schools rely on conventional methods to teach math and science, resulting in the many gaps listed above. But thanks to the unconventional methods utilized by the Knowledge is Power Program or KIPP, lower-income minority students are no longer being held back. Just what are these unconventional methods? Safety goggles on—we’re headed into the excellence lab… Continue reading →

The Achievement Racket

An inspirational sign greeting students and teachers at a struggling Massachusetts elementary school.

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 →

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 →