November 22, 2017

The New York State Board of Regents gave several reasons for their recent rejection of two charter school applications but one of those reasons—that the curriculum was insufficiently innovative—seems rather incredulous. In fact, one of the two rejected schools, which would have been located in the beautiful upstate town of Truxton, would have been the first agriculture-based rural charter school in New York State and their propo...

October 23, 2017

“You shoulda been there,” John Merrow wrote on his blog a few days ago, referring to our inaugural Independent Charter School Symposium. Indeed, you shoulda -- but many were and many more would have been if we’d had the wherewithal to advertise more broadly. For a fledgling in a crowded nest of education conferences, the Symposium overperformed and there’s every reason to believe that the goodwill and energy unleashed at the con...

August 7, 2017

When I was growing up in Oak Park, Illinois back in the 50’s our elementary school day started with a discussion of current events: the early stirring of the Civil Rights Movement, Khrushchev, the A-bomb, Sputnik. Yet, despite the Cold War and the  “duck and cover” drills, it was not a particularly frightening time, and few of us went to sleep afraid, because the words we heard from grown-ups and the faith we had in them and in...

July 10, 2017

If, as suggested by last week’s Chalkbeat article, the struggle for the soul of the charter movement is between believers in data-driven accountability and believers in the magical power of the markets, then the lay of the land is worse than I had thought.

Neither the technocrats nor the free-marketers have any understanding of pedagogy. Yet both groups feel entitled to dictate conditions under which hundreds of thousands of stud...

May 25, 2017

As die-hard believers in the potential for community-minded folks on the progressive end of the education spectrum to use chartering to create inspiring and innovative schools for all learners, perhaps we should be cheered by the administration’s budget proposal which would direct much needed and well deserved money towards the work we are doing.

But, we are far from inclined to cheer.

The budget proposal, especially with rega...

March 10, 2017

While many of us were transfixed on the machinations of Congress to undo the Affordable Care Act, the Senate yesterday voted 50-49 to “scrap the Obama administration’s rule for holding schools accountable for student performance” proving once again how much simpler it is to smash stuff than to build stuff. To be sure, these accountability measures, which are as much the product of Bush-NCLB as Obama-RTTT, left much to be desired...

March 2, 2017

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s characterization of our country’s historically black colleges and universities as a case study in the efficacy of “choice” offended a great many people who rightfully trace the roots of HBCU’s to a heritage of racism rather than entrepreneurism.

For those of us in the charter world, however, these remarks caused additional heartburn. Our nation’s most respected civil rights advocacy groups, like...

February 20, 2017

About a month ago, Francis Fukuyama wrote a clever and disturbing piece called The Emergence of a Post-fact World. Fukuyama has kept a rather low profile since his buoyant 1992 end-of-history musings and subsequent neoconservative dalliance, but the professor is fully awake now, and steaming. If, as Fukuyama suggests, we are truly at the threshold of a post-fact world, then his end-of-history prediction wasn’t simply off by 25 y...

January 26, 2017

It’s understandable that Betsy DeVos would find a reservoir of goodwill from national and local charter school advocates. But the unabashed embrace she’s received from many of them as nominee for Secretary of Education is hurting the charter school brand and all of us who are working to sustain an innovative sector of autonomous and accountable public schools.

This is not because she seems to be a stranger to pedagogy, although i...

December 1, 2016

Chalkbeat’s thoughtful article on the charter sector’s response to the selection of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education did a good job of presenting the conundrum we presently find ourselves in. For better or worse though, in a city the size and complexity of ours, the head of the federal DOE is not in and of itself a major game changer. Only a few initiatives from Arne Duncan’s office ever moved the needle here, so there’s no...

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