Spare a Little (Disruptive) Change?

Charter schools, parking meters and the privatization of Chicago…

Parking MeterQuick, reader: what do charter schools and parking meters have in common? If you’re drawing a blank, may I invite you to accompany me on a ride through Chicago’s South Side, at the expert hands of driver Frank Kuran? Full disclosure: Frank isn’t a traditional cabbie but a driver for that driver of disruptive change, Uber. Unable to find a cab that will take me to Gage Park and the K-8 school that I’m visiting, Frank has come to my rescue, and a la Tom Friedman, supplied me with a post that is practically writing itself. You see, Frank has plenty to say about the subject of education in Chicago and about the charter schools that are proliferating like Starbucks in this part of the city. *They’re a rip off,* he tells me as we make our way up Ashland. *Just like when the city sold the parking meters. It takes money away from the public and poor people pay the price.*   Continue reading →

The Chicago Charter Blues

The Windy City’s experiment with charter choice falls flat…

bluechicago2Chicago’s grand experiment with education reform dates all the way back to the 80’s—as in the 1880’s. In recent years, Windy City-style reform has meant charter schools, lots and lots of charter schools. So what has the Chicago’s choice-i-fi-cation meant for students? According to a new study, the charter experiment has wrought the unthinkable, producing worse schools that are even more highly segregated than Chicago’s already highly-segregated schools. The study made headlines and raised plenty of eyebrows, not to mention hackles. But can mounting evidence of an experiment-gone-awry shift the city’s reform winds? I recently chatted with Myron Orfield, the author of the new study, to find out.   Continue reading →

The High Cost of No Excuses

Professor Joan Goodman, the director of the Teach for America program at the University of Pennsylvania, talks about the philosophy behind *no excuses* charter schools, and the price paid by students who attend them.

walking in lineEduShyster: You’re the author of an article called Charter Management Organizations and the Regulated Environment: Is It Worth the Price? that’s the single best overview of *no excuses* charter schools that I’ve seen. Talk a little about the research you’ve been doing.

Joan Goodman: I began to focus on charter schools when the first Mastery Charter School was started in Philadelphia. These were supposed to be experimental schools which would have a variety of new approaches and they’d get rid of bureaucracy and we’d see all kinds of novel approaches to children. But particularly in terms of the charter management organizations they haven’t provided much variety—they’re all strikingly similar to one another. These schools have a very clear philosophy about what they’re trying to do, how they’re trying to do it, what they think is necessary, who they read, who their leaders are. And they’re explicit in describing it. The combination of the uniformity across these different schools and their explicitness about what they’re doing and why they’re doing it makes it easier to get hold of this movement than it is with say, public schools in a city or a school district where there’s so much variety and there isn’t a single philosophy. Continue reading →

Welcome to Boston, Families for Excellent Schools!

A few Excellent tips (and one Excellent idea)  to help you stand out in a crowded field…

welcome wagon

Setting up shop in a brand new city can be tough—especially when the ground you’ll be trodding upon is already quite well trodden upon. Which is why I’ve assembled this handy *welcome wagon* full of Excellent tips to help you get started. Among my helpful suggestions: always be sure to proofread your press releases, as the Boston Globe will be reprinting them verbatim. And hiring detail cops for the big march over the Zakim will set you back a bundle—better get to work on your grassroots fundraising drive now! 

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On Charter Schools, Say This, Not That

A new guide to charter messaging urges advocates to steer clear of corporate speak

say this not that-1Once every four minutes, a passionate charter advocate accidentally lapses into the kind of clinical corporate speak that can leave listeners cold—not to mention kids out of the equation. Would that there were a way to remedy this problem once and for all… Great news, reader. Problem solved! A handy new guide to charter school messaging ensures that never again will you mistakenly blurt out *market share* when you mean *student share,* or *businesses* when what you really meant to mean all along was *schools.* Continue reading →