*I Went to the National Charter Conference & All I Got Was This Lousy Responsibility Bracelet*

New Orleans parent advocate Ashana Bigard leaves the National Charter Conference with a responsibility bracelet—and some big questions…

By Ashana Bigard

I attended the National Charter Schools Conference from June 21 to June 24 in New Orleans. On Sunday, June 21, as I was checking in, I asked about free spaces for the parents in the community who have children in charter schools. To my surprise and dismay there was no slot open. The conference kicked off with a Mardi Gras style parade. It was a celebration of charter schools and their success in New Orleans, which is a national model for innovation in education—or so they say… Continue reading →

Disrupt This!

What happened when teachers confronted a union-busting charter CEO at the National Charter Schools Conference in New Orleans?

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Charter teachers (and disruptors) Julia McLaughlin, Karla Tobar and Chris Baehrend.

When is *disruption* not just a super cool buzz word but something that’s actually, well, *disruptive*? That would be when teachers attending the National Charter Schools Conference in New Orleans asked the CEO of an Ohio charter management organization about firing teachers for trying to organizing a union at his schools—and using taxpayer money to pay the fine when he got caught. This went about as well as you might expect. And when security arrived, combing through the crowd for disruptors, that’s when things got really disruptive…  Continue reading →

In the Future, All the Seats Will Be High Performing

I talk to Andy Smarick about the urban school system of the future…

future 8EduShyster: Let’s talk about the future. In your vision, urban parents will choose between their choice of high-performing charter schools. But one can’t help but observe that the cities that seem to be hurtling towards the future at the greatest velocity don’t seem to have all that much choice about where they’re headed.

Andy Smarick: I don’t agree with that at all. I believe that the systems that are going in that direction are places where families, communities and organizations have the most say. They’re places that have the longest charter school wait lists, or in some cities they have the longest scholarship or tax credit wait lists. What I do agree with you about is that in these systems where there are more and more autonomous schools, we don’t have a system yet for ensuring that there is democratic control of the entire system. I think these cities are showing us that parents desperately want a different kind of system, they want choices, they want to be able to exercise their options. But now it’s up to us to ensure that there is democratic control as well.  Continue reading →

*If Any Charter School Needs a Union, It’s Urban Prep*

A former teacher weighs in on teaching and learning conditions at a Chicago charter school…

Urban_Prep_EnglewoodEditor’s note: A few weeks ago, I ran a post by Urban Prep teacher Dave Woo about why he and his colleagues at a Chicago charter school are organizing a union. Teachers at the school will vote on June 3rd on whether they want to be part of the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff. In the meantime, Urban Prep administrators are making the case that having a union is antithetical to the charter’s mission—which, according to one former teacher, appears to be *promoting the Urban Prep brand with an eye towards national expansion.* The teacher, whose testimony I’m sharing here, urges all of us to stand with his former Urban Prep colleagues.  Continue reading →

*Maybe I’m a Bad Kid*

Strict charter school discipline is especially tough on boys. Here’s one student’s story… 

By Steven Thomas

steven 2When I was in sixth grade I attended the Academy of the Pacific Rim. I went through a lot during this time. My mother and father got a divorce, and it was kind of hard on me. I didn’t know what was going on. This was the first time I’d gone to a school that was really challenging. The hours were from 7:40AM to 4:10PM everyday. I was just coming from elementary school, and the hours just seemed absurd. I wasn’t used to getting up that early or to being in such a strict school, and by the first couple weeks I was in trouble. On top of that, I had an IEP and I didn’t get a lot of help. At a young age I was diagnosed with autism. I didn’t speak until I was three and a half. I was in speech therapy for eight years. Continue reading →