What’s the Point?

Even as the debate over charter schools in Massachusetts heats up, the ultimate goal of the experiment is anyone’s guess…

It’s time for a field trip, reader, and today we’re headed to a little place I like to call *an alternate reality.* Shall I summon forth the scene?

entering_brockton (1)A special meeting of the Board of Education is underway. Members have convened to discuss the single most successful school turnaround in state history: once failing Brockton High School, which 15 years ago under went a remarkable teacher-led transformation. Board chair Paul Sagan has allotted extra time to hear from teachers who helped lead the acclaimed literacy initiative, subject of national accolades (although, weirdly, mostly ignored in Massachusetts). Secretary of Education James Peyser has a question. Is it true that a third of each graduating class or some 300+ kids per year, at a school where 63% of students are considered *high needs* and 20% are still learning English, routinely qualifies for the state’s Adams scholarship, guaranteeing four years of funding to any public university in the state? Peyser does the math on his phone, then checks it on his other phone. He strokes his chin, musing aloud that this number dwarfs the combined total of grads from Boston’s charter schools, and, oddly, seems to include not just girls but boys too. Another question, this one from state Commissioner Mitchell Chester: this teacher-led concept sounds promising. Since every school has teachers is it replicable? At which point the Board members pause to check their calendars to schedule a visit so that they can see for themselves what lasting, teacher-led transformation looks like.

OK—so that’s not exactly how things went down. Instead, the Board voted to gift Brockton with a new regional charter high school that will compete against Brockton High by offering less—Look Ma, no art or music!—all the while draining an estimated 5% of the city’s total education budget per year.  Continue reading →

Holy State Takeover!

Nine state takeover takeaways (because I ran out of time before I could come up with #10)

HolyokeWell that certainly didn’t take long. The official state takeover time piece barely registered two hours and the Holyoke Public Schools had officially entered a new state: taken over. If you are keeping count at home, that’s about half as long as the public hearing that preceded the vote, during which some 1,000 + Holyokesters, including some who stood for four hours, packed a hall to register their objections to the state’s takeover plans. In other words, nothing to see or hear here folks, especially, it seems, if you were one of the ten members of the state’s 12 member Board of Education who didn’t actually visit a single Holyoke school prior to casting your vote…

Continue reading →

P is for PARCC, Pearson and Pushback (and Peeps)

Before the first day of PARCC testing, the results are in. Push back against indefensible state policies and the state will crack.

peepsThe special time you’ve been waiting for has at last arrived, boys and girls. It’s PARCC testing week! Think Easter but with a few key differences. Like instead of hunting for eggs, you’re after *college and career readiness.* Also, those Peeps in your basket aren’t for realz but are being *piloted* to help determine what should go in your basket next year. Which is to say that it’s never a good idea to put all of the kids’ eggs in one basket, even if the state’s chief educational standards bunny happens to serve as the chair of an egg distributor.  Continue reading →

Rich Student, Poor Student

Students in Salem, MA learn a hard lesson about class

backtoschoolDear [insert name here]:
Welcome back to school, Salem, MA student! If you’ll be attending this school, this school or this school, let me take this opportunity to congratulate you. Like the mariners of yore, your parents successfully navigated the treacherous shoals of Salem’s school *choice* system. And that’s great news for you because it means that you’ll be having your *whole child* educated this year, including the part of you that loves art, music and super cool project-based learning. As for those of you who’ll be going to this school, this school, this school or this school, well, your education is going to look just a little bit different. Shall we pop in and see? Continue reading →

Back 2 Basics

Everything that’s wrong with urban education reform in a single, bitter-tasting tale

B2BReader: I feel that I must address the elephant in the room. I’m talking, of course, about history—the sore subject that is absolutely not being eliminated from the Boston Public Schools. And irregardless of what you may have heard, there is no truth at all to the rumor that students in the city’s schools will now receive their daily dose of history and social studies only at lunchtime, served up from the schools’ fallow salad bars by historical impersonators. I’m happy to report that a growing number of students in Boston can look forward to a rich and nutritious curriculum, if by rich and nutritious you mean *two squares* of math and English.  Continue reading →