Dropout Nation?

What exactly are college prep academies preparing students for?

A young test-taker at Boston’s City on a Hill Charter School, which is seeking to open two more college prep academies.

And now it’s time for today’s high-stakes test question: which of the following is better at preparing students to attend and complete college? A. Our union-stifled (and indisputably failing) public schools or B. The college prep academies that are popping up like payday loan services in cities everywhere. The correct answer, as you are no doubt aware, should be B—except that we don’t have so much as a SHRED of evidence to back up this proposition. What data we do have paint the sort of picture that you probably won’t find hanging in the offices of the state charter lobby. What gives? It turns out that the martial-arts style test drilling that increasingly reigns supreme at urban charters may not be the ideal way to prepare kids for college. Continue reading

Excellence Happens in Vegas

It’s time once again to climb aboard the rephorm express. Today we’re headed west, to Vegas, baby: home to the legendary Strip, the Hoover Dam, and these days, plenty of excellence, Teach for America style. Alas, what happens in Vegas likely won’t be staying there for long… Continue reading

The Case of the Missing College Graduates

Grab your magnifying glass, reader, and a heaping helping of fingerprint powder too—we’re going sleuthing. College graduates are the object of today’s inquiry, specifically students who, after attending urban academies of excellence and innovation, go on to attend college at STAGGERING numbers, yet disappear completely when it is time for that beloved tradition: the data round up. While it is an indisputable true fact that students who attend charter schools graduate from college and find outstanding 21st century jobs at rates that shame and embarrass their peers at Low Expectations High, you might be surprised to learn that there is exactly no research documenting that true fact. Well, there is one study. A 2011 report by KIPP Academy found that a mere 30 % of students graduating from KIPP schools actually graduate from college. 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

So You Wanna Buy a School Board Seat…

It is a true fact that elected school boards are often the biggest obstacles to closing the achievement gap forever and ushering in a bright future of excellence and innovation for our most motivated scholars. But purchasing an entire school board and taking it private can be an expensive proposition. And with so many un-excellent and non-innovative voters out there, even a massive ed-vestment can’t guarantee an excellent outcome.

Don’t despair, savvy edupreneur. Individual school board seats can be purchased for as little as $37,000, leaving you with plenty of big donors left to tap when it’s time to scale up your transformational venture come election time. Want to see how it’s done? Climb aboard the EduShyster express and join me on an all-expenses-paid trip to what must be the reformy-est place in America: Minneapolis, USA. Continue reading