When Public Money Goes Private: Charter Schools, Privatization, & Pipelines

safe

Image Credit: Rob Pongsajapan

In a few weeks, Massachusetts will vote on lifting the cap on its number of charter schools. Naturally, this has led to a feud rivaling Shakespeare’s Montagues and Capulets—minus the star crossed lovers who will admit to liking someone from the other side.

Wherever you live, you’ve likely come across charter school debates. You’ve probably even heard phrases like corporate interests, privatization, and for-profit schools thrown around. And if you’re anything like me, you’ve scratched your head as to what these phrases actually mean.

Recently, a friend of mine asked, Does anyone actually understand the model behind the “for profit” charter schools? Aren’t publicly funded schools non-profit by nature? How are charter schools creating a revenue stream?

My questions exactly….

Charter schools don’t charge tuition, so it’s easy to think they wouldn’t create any “profit” system anyone would be interested in.

But that’s where we’d be wrong.

When Public Money Goes Private

Before anyone gets excited, I’m not going to talk about whether individual charter schools are good/bad/amazing/evil/etc. For that argument, please see every other article about charter schools ever. Here, I hope to explore the relationship of charter schools to profit, land, and privatization.  Continue reading

Advertisements

No-Nonsense Teaching and Narratives of Enslavement

Just. Say. Sit Down—his voice buzzed into my earpiece—Stop saying ‘Please.’

No, I was never in the secret service. This was a teacher training program. From the back of my classroom, my “real-time coach” whispered into a microphone, a notebook covering his face so students couldn’t hear. If it sounds like a bizarre setup, it was. While it’s always helpful to have another set of eyes on the room, this coaching was directed at reforming my language. Yes, I suffered from a particular linguistic afflictionone that was ostensibly leading to noncompliance in my classroom: my propensity for “permission seeking language.” I asked too many questions, made requests instead of commands, and had the gall to say “please” and “thank you” to the students in my classroom.

No-Nonsense Teaching

A recent NPR article outlined the increasingly popular “No-Nonsense” teaching method. In this approach, teachers manage their classrooms through explicit directives, minimal praise, and 100% compliance. To. The. Letter.

“Your pencil is in your hand. Your voice is on zero. If you got the problem correct, you’re following along and checking off the answer. If you got the problem incorrect, you are erasing it and correcting it on your paper.”

The piece calls the approach a “unique teaching method [that] empowers teachers to stop behavior problems before they begin.”

But last week, the NYTimes released footage of a teacher at Success Academy, a No-Nonsense charter network, berating a 1st grade classroom for struggling with math. Continue reading

Why Technology is No Quick “Fix” for Education

Flickr Image via frankieleon

Flickr Image via frankieleon

Many speak of technology’s potential to “fix” education. But if it can, the question is–why hasn’t it yet?

The tools for a digital revolution are there, and have been for quite some time. Twenty years ago, the possibility of a TV set in every classroom was supposed to utterly transform education, unite the world, and even replace teachers. (As children of the 90’s will attest, nothing made you happier than walking into the classroom and seeing that beautiful TV cart—Bill Nye and no homework!). And this was all before near-ubiquitous internet, Skype, and online courses put the world at our fingertips.

So why has there been so little, actual change? Last week, in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Kentaro Toyama discussed what calls technology’s Law of Amplification: In his experience, technology’s impact has a built-in limit: how well a system functions already. According to Toyama, “While technology helps education where it’s already doing well, technology does little for mediocre educational systems; and in dysfunctional schools, it can cause outright harm.”

Take the example of open online courses, available free of charge to Continue reading

High Stakes Testing and Critical Thinking: Is Balance Possible?

desks

Note: This post was part of a larger conversation between nine educators on C.M. Rubin’s Global Search For Education Blog on The Huffington Post.

 Can teachers balance high stakes test prep with critical thinking?

Let me first say that I don’t have a magical answer; anyone who says he does is trying to sell something. Let me also say that, for this post, I’m going to set aside the (utterly imperative) question of whether or not schools should engage in high stakes testing, and instead focus on how teachers—within our current reality—can balance test prep alongside deep, critical learning.

Like many, I’ve struggled with this balance, particularly while teaching in South Korea where “high stakes” takes on a whole new meaning: Though Korea boasts some of the world’s highest test scores, this comes at the expense of untenable student stress, staggering rates of teen suicide, and an education system largely geared toward cramming for tests. Fortunately, my employer understood that critical thinking can actually boost test scores, and we engaged students in collaborative learning, tackling real world issues through interactive “critical thinking projects.” Students worked hard, improved their English, and actually had some fun in the process.

And oh yeah: They passed exams, often with flying colors.

As a high school English teacher in the U.S., I’ve seen a school-as-test-prep mentality increasingly Continue reading

“Fortunately,” We Don’t Have Language Learners Here

Writer

Note: This post was co-written with two student teachers, who wished to keep their names and institutions anonymous.

Dear Veteran Teacher,

You may not remember, but earlier today, your new student teacher asked you how to make her lessons more accessible to diverse learners.

You dismissed that as largely unnecessary – at such a high-performing school as yours – and told her, “You’re fortunate, we have no English Language Learners here.”

You probably weren’t aware of what you said. Or what it meant.

I’m sure you’d never say, “You’re fortunate – we have no students of color here,” though you have very few.

You’d never say, “You’re fortunate – we have no students with special needs here,” though I don’t see them either.

So I’m wondering, how did such an unfortunate comment could roll so effortlessly and unabashedly off your tongue? Continue reading

“Women’s Work”

The 250 page pre-reading for my first Ed course can be summed up in a Haiku:

 “Teaching is for girls”

They said in 1830

Felt infer’ior since.

If you’ll forgive the syllable-cheating, that’s a decent overview. Ellen Condliffe Lagemann’s, An Elusive Science: The Troubling History of Education Research was a fascinating read, obviously much deeper than my haiku attempt, and was also, well, troubling.

One major issue popped up—as I ineptly haiku-ed—around 1830 when ever-economical schoolmasters realized they could pay female teachers far less than men. Society also rationalized that women educating young ‘ins was a more “natural” state of things. Thus, education came to be viewed as “women’s work” and subsequently—as was the unfortunate perception of many things feminine at the time—of lesser value.

OregonOccupation_zps7066e6d7

Really Oregon Trail? NO special advantages?

Unfortunately (and perhaps unsurprisingly), times may not have not changed much. Last Sunday, the New York Times ran an article asking “Why Don’t More Men Go Into Teaching?” which the author seemed to believe was a cyclical problem: Apparently men don’t go into teaching because men don’t go into teaching:

Continue reading

My English is Valid-er than Your English

I’ll admit it: I enjoy the occasional Grammar Police diatribe (especially Weird Al’s recent “Blurred Lines” parody, “Word Crimes”). Who doesn’t love hyperbolic prophecies of the demise of the English language as we know it? But I’ve recently seen this gem floating around Facebook walls, and it’s messing up my grammatical superiority buzz:

Grammar Disc 1

The post, displayed with pride (usually by teachers), succinctly expresses what many of us feel: that people who use “peopler English” seem smarter, more articulate, and more worthy of employment at my future coffee-and-catnip shop than those who do not.

As clearly explained by gems like this: Continue reading