A Happy, Good News Story

In which we visit one of my all-time favorite programs and learn the surprising reason for its success

A student in the Andover Bread Loaf writing program in Lawrence shares her work.

It’s field trip time, reader, and I’ve got a special treat in store for you today: an actual good news story. So turn that frown upside down and climb aboard—we’re headed to Lawrence, Massachusetts, a city not exactly known for good news.Today’s destination has nothing to do with the grand experiment in education reform that’s currently underway on both sides of the Spicket River (remember this is a good news story). Instead we’re here to drop by one of my all-time favorite programs: Andover Bread Loaf—a writing workshop led by and for students in the Lawrence Public Schools.
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The Match that Started a Blaze

Tutors at a no-excuses charter school learn some hard lessons

Editor’s Note: The Boston Globe’s James Vaznis has a terrific investigatory piece into the working conditions of the city’s growing tutor corps. Stay tuned for more on this story as it’s far from over. 

By Barrett Smith
Last December, I drove down to Boston from Middlebury College in Vermont where I was finishing my senior year. On a crisp Monday morning, I parallel parked, straightened my tie and walked into an interview to become a tutor at a “no excuses” charter school. A week later I had an offer sitting in my inbox, inviting me to become a member of the “Corps,” so called because the program used to be part of AmeriCorps. I was the first of my roommates to receive a job offer and joining the Corps sounded pretty damn good. Continue reading

50 Shades of Rhee

A new story in the Atlantic magazine is raising eyebrows with the claim that the Democratic Party is Michelle Rhee’s bitch.

A new story in the Atlantic magazine is raising eyebrows with the claim that Michelle Rhee is taking over the Democratic Party. In other words, the Dems are now the mean mistress of #edreform’s bitch. But like the other great love story of our time, Fifty Shades of Grey, the relationship between the Dems and Madame Rhee  is complicated—not to mention, ahem, transactional. Let’s take a look shall we?

The love that dare not speak its name
The Dems may be hooking up with Michelle Rhee but they certainly didn’t want anyone to know about it at the Democratic convention. Rhee’s favorite reform “props”: firing teachers, charters, vouchers, firing teachers, were reduced to unmentionables. Instead, even reform A-listers like Arne Duncan spouted pro-teacher pablum about how teachers are “professionals” and we should “pay them,” and—I am not making this up—“No teacher should ever have to teach to the test?” Are you serious Arne??? By the way, that sound you just heard wasn’t thunderous applause but Madame Rhee cracking her cat o’ nine tails. You practically just blurted out on national TV that you’re cheating on her! YOU BETTER NOT BE DOING IT WITH THAT DIRTY TEACHERS UNION. Continue reading

OMG: We Can Learn So Much From Charter Schools!

Public schools are beginning to implement some charter school “best practices”–like unloading kids who are a drag on graduation rates and test scores.

The great thing about charter schools is that there are so many great things about charter schools. But if I had to pick one it would be best practices. These are all of the things that charters do better than traditional union-stifled public schools, like innovation, high expectations and no excuses. Luckily, charter schools are happy to share their best practices unless they are for-profit charters in which case all of their practices are proprietary. Continue reading