Arne Does Boston

Behind this week’s non-story is an interesting story…

What a week, reader! The excellence express rolled into the Bay State, carrying some seriously career-ready cargo—none other than Arne Duncan himself. What do you mean you didn’t know anything about it??? Now ordinarily this is the point at which I would lambaste you for eschewing excellence in favor of conducting your own race to the bottom of the wine box. But you’re off the hook. You see, almost no one knew that Arne was in town this week as his visit garnered nary an inch of newsprint. Which seems a little, well, odd, given that the battle over the Liftin O’ the Charter Cap is reaching its acme. Tin foil at the ready, reader. It’s time for another edition of *the story behind the story.*  Continue reading

Big Easy, Little Choice

A parent advocate says run—don’t walk—from New Orleans-style school choice

New Orleans parent advocate Ashana Bigard.

By Ashana Bigard
When I talk about *choice* in New Orleans I use quotations with both fingers and I wink too. Supposedly we have what’s called a *choice model for excellent education* but the reality is that the overwhelming majority of schools in New Orleans now operate the exact same way. They have rigid disciplinary codes that punish poor kids for being poor and are neither nurturing nor developmentally appropriate.

I’m an advocate for parents in New Orleans, which means that I work with them and represent them when their kids are suspended or expelled from school. Last year we had 54 school districts in New Orleans and all of those different districts make their own rules. For six years after the storm, the schools all set their own expulsion policies. As of last year we have a uniform expulsion policy but individual schools still make their own suspension rules.

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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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Broken Windows Schooling

Suspending huge numbers of minority students is bad—unless it’s done in the name of *college prep*

Suspending huge numbers of minority students is bad, bad, bad, as we learned this week from Obama administration officials. Which brings us to today’s high-stakes question: when is it fine, fine, fine for schools to have sky-high suspension rates? Answer: when said schools are academies of excellence and innovation that are *preparing students for college.* Ready the carabiner, reader—we’re about to scale the walls of Double Standards gulch. Continue reading

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