Friday, February 05, 2016

Teach for America’s 25th Anniversary Summit starts today in DC

Teach for America's 25th Anniversary Summit starts today in DC – if it's anything like the 20th, it will be a blast! I'm going for the day tomorrow, taking an early train down and a late train back. If you want to get together email me here or text or call me at 646-258-0687.
If you want to attend and haven't registered, it's not too late: from the web site:

If you would like to register for and attend the Summit, walk-up registration will be available in Hall D of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center during the Summit.

Walk-Up Registration Hours

Friday, February 5: 9am—8pm

Saturday, February 6: 7am—4pm

For more information, see: Here's an overview:
Each day of the 25th Anniversary Summit will be distinct:
·         Friday starts with time to meet and greet old and new friends and sessions focused on leadership development
·         Saturday will bring a chance to dig deeper—get inspired, and learn—capped off with a big bash, the Main Event
·         Sunday is all about networking, making connections and strengthening relationships
·         Plus, don't miss the vibrant exhibition hall packed with people, products, services, and opportunities

 Subscribe in a reader

Before you publish any more rubbish about inspiring charter schools, take the time to come see them and learn the truth

Things like this make me groan and hold my head in my hands. Steve Nelson, the head of Calhoun, an elite, highly progressive Manhattan private school, in an essay he published in HuffPo (that I agree with!) decrying racism in this country, attacked me and "no excuses" charter schools, naming KIPP, Success and Democracy Prep:
A prominent hedge fund manager in Manhattan is a leading advocate for "no excuses" charter schools, such as KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program), Success Academies and Democracy Prep. Well-documented reports reveal that children at KIPP have been punished by being labeled "Miscreants," students at Success Academies have wet their pants due to stress and the refusal to allow them to go to the bathroom, and children at Democracy Prep have been shunned, branded by wearing yellow shirts and literally forced into silence, with other children and adults forbidden to speak to them. This "reformer" is on the record saying that these means of discipline are necessary because these children, nearly all of color, "need it." His own daughters attend Nightingale-Bamford, a highly selective, expensive, majority white, girls school on Manhattan's Upper Eastside. Please indicate the way you believe he might respond if any of his daughters reported such experiences during their school days.
Nelson is someone who should be our ally because he clearly cares deeply about the vast racial inequalities in our country, especially in education (in which we have a K-12 system where the quality of the school a child attends is primarily determined by two factors: the color of their skin and their zip code). Yet instead of championing high-quality charter schools that are addressing this very issue, he attacks them for being racist. Ya can't make this stuff up! 
What he writes is so wrong-headed in so many ways – but I guess that's not surprising since the extent of his knowledge and research seems to be limited to reading Ravitch's blog. (I surely hope that Mr. Nelson is a better model of intellectual honesty, curiosity and rigor for the students at Calhoun than he shows here.) He certainly doesn't know me nor did he attempt to contact me (I'm not hard to track down – try or (646) 258-0687), nor, to my knowledge, has he ever visited any of the schools he smears so ignorantly (for example, far from being "branded by wearing yellow shirts and literally forced into silence," the students at Democracy Prep wear these shirts with pride for civic events like its Get Out the Vote campaigns). If he truly wishes to understand these schools, he should visit them – they're all less than a 15-minute cab ride from his school and I'm certain they would welcome him (here's the contact information for each: KIPP, Vicki Zubovic,; Success: (646) 597-4641; Democracy Prep: Katie Duffy, 
As for Nelson's implication that I'm racist because, he claims, that I believe that cruel "means of discipline are necessary because these children, nearly all of color, "need it."", this is absurd. I don't believe nor have I never said any such thing.
Notice that he only quotes two words ("need it") (presumably from one of my emails) without providing any context – a classic way to dishonestly smear someone. Imagine, for example, that I published an article in which I wrote: "Steve Nelson punishes students at Calhoun by labeling them 'miscreants', which causes them to 'wet their pants due to stress.'" He, in fact, wrote the words I quote in his HuffPo article – but of course the sentence I've written is false, dishonest, and the exact opposite of what he actually believes.
I've searched all of my ed reform emails for the past five years for the words "need it" and couldn't find them (though they appear many times in various articles I forwarded in sentences like "We need to get extra help to students who need it", but nothing related to discipline).
My best guess is that he's referring to something I wrote long ago in which I observed that my daughters' school doesn't have slogans like "Climbing the Mountain to College" painted on the walls, whereas many high-performing charters do. Why? Because my daughters and their classmates, from the day they were born, have been surrounded by adults who all graduated from college. It would never occur to them not to go to college or not to finish college because they don't know anyone who hasn't done so. It's in the air that they breathe. But, it goes without saying, it's most certainly not in the air in the lives of most of the children most charter schools serve – so the charters have to instill it.
Or maybe he's referring to another email I sent in which I shared a conversation I had with Joanna Belcher, the rockstar principal of KIPP's Spark Academy elementary school in Newark (Dale Russakoff writes about her glowingly in The Prize: Who's in Charge of America's Schools?). I observed Joanna and her staff teaching the little children to walk quickly and quietly in line. Time after time, one or two children would get distracted and start talking or fall out of line and they'd all have to do it again.
Afterward, I told Joanna, "You know, there are a lot of folks who'd watch that and think that what you're doing is overly harsh and militaristic." She laughed and said (I'm paraphrasing from distant memory), "When I first started teaching, I thought so too. But then I learned. We only have kids for a certain number of hour every day – and we (and they) can't afford to waste a single minute. Our kids are moving between classrooms, to lunch, etc. a dozen times a day. Imagine if we wasted five minutes each time – that would be an hour a day down the drain!"
In summary, schools that successfully educate the most disadvantaged kids and give them a fair shot in life need to do a lot of things differently vs. schools like Calhoun and Nightingale that serve almost entirely the most advantaged kids. It's not because they're racist, but because different students have different needs that need to be addressed in different ways. Steve Nelson, before you publish any more rubbish about some incredible, inspiring charter schools, take the time to come see them and learn the truth.

Enough Already About Racism!! Racism Is a Thing of the Past

01/31/2016 11:27 am ET | Updated 2 days ago

 Subscribe in a reader

I am living proof that education reform has not failed in Newark

If he visited a KIPP school, maybe Nelson would meet someone like this and the scales would fall from his eyes:
My name is Wydeyah Hay and I am a TEAM Academy (KIPP New Jersey) founding class member, part of the first class when TEAM opened in 2002. This fall, I returned to the classroom as a Relay Resident at KIPP's Seek Academy. Through this program I'll be on my way to earning a master's degree by apprenticing in a well-run classroom. It was because of the values that KIPP helped instill in me that I was inspired to become a teacher and support my community.

While some of the things I've read have said that reform has failed in Newark, or that it was a "wash" for Newark's kids, I am living proof that this is not the case. Over the last five years, KIPP has opened four new schools in Newark and has grown to serve roughly 2,000 more kids. And politicians need only to see what I see in my school each day, that's no "wash" for the kids in these classrooms. 

Coming from Newark, people often have the perception that it's unfriendly or that if you stay here your future will be limited. My teachers and school leader at KIPP New Jersey helped me realize that there was more than being another statistic. To be blunt, I believe they saved my life. And now I'm back in my community to do the same.

My teachers at KIPP always enforced extending my education and climbing the mountain to college. With their support I got into Immaculate Conception High School (ICHS) in Montclair, NJ after graduating from TEAM Academy middle school in 2006. I went on to attend Virginia State University (VSU). I was determined to stay in school and I always made great grades. And KIPP helped support me every step of the way both emotionally and financially.
It is because of them that I graduated from college with honors.

I am living proof that education reform has not failed in Newark
posted by Wydeyah Hay | 0sc
January 19, 2016 

 Subscribe in a reader

Have All Those ‘White Moderates’ Martin Luther King, Jr. Decried From Jail Become Today’s Anti-School Choice Progressives?

Darrell Bradford with a very powerful, provocative and spot-on piece (aimed at people like Steve Nelson) entitled: Have All Those 'White Moderates' Martin Luther King, Jr. Decried From Jail Become Today's Anti-School Choice Progressives?

Again, here we see King's well-intentioned white moderates as today's white progressives. And again, the forces of what King fought against are at work. The opposition to expanded choices for families of color in residential clusters where schools don't work feels precisely like the denial of the kind of freedom white progressives have so much of they don't even notice it. In a world where education means so much, it feels like, for these kids, they care about it very little.

Nothing is served by sending a child to a school that does not work, is the wrong fit, or that many white progressive parents would never choose. And no institution has a higher value than the soul of an individual child that is being wasted away by underperformance. King offered that "Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever." And that the "yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself."

When one looks at the waiting lists for schools that work—of all kinds—the similarity is so striking the only way to not see it is to ignore it. The "order" of pre-civil rights America was not more valuable than freedom, and the ability to pursue it, for black and brown people. We used to call opposing this notion racism. Today, do we call it "progressivism?" I hope not.

 Subscribe in a reader

Stop Talking About Teachers As If They’re Missionaries

Amanda Ripley with some great points in this article, Stop Talking About Teachers As If They're Missionaries:

When Lisette Partelow embarked on a new career in 2012, she had all the props of an elite Washington professional: an Ivy League degree, management responsibility, challenging work, and a paycheck that placed her—in her first year on the job—in the top 25 percent of US salaries. Yet when she told people about her work, the response was very different than the one that awaited her attorney husband. "The reaction was 'Oh, that's cute,' " she remembers. " 'You must be sweet. But kind of dull.' "

Partelow, as it happens, was a teacher. And our standard narrative about teachers has long held that they're underpaid and underappreciated—selfless, perhaps, but not exactly aspiring masters of the universe.

That narrative isn't true anymore, at least not in the District. Over the past decade, DC Public Schools has radically changed how it rewards teachers—and what it demands in exchange. Teachers who work in low-income public schools and get strong performance reviews can earn more than $125,000 after fewer than ten years. They can buy houses and cars, which is as it should be. Last school year, DC's median teacher pay was $75,000, which means most teachers earned as much as other college-educated professionals.

Money isn't the only new feature. District teachers can now influence policy and curriculum. They can apply to become master educators, who formally evaluate teachers and provide targeted feedback. On paper at least, teaching in the nation's capital finally looks like an aspirational profession.

But we're living in a strange interregnum, when the vernacular hasn't kept pace with reality. Many people still talk about teachers as if they volunteer in a soup kitchen—as if the hardest part is just showing up. It's a subtle bias, born of good intentions, says Hope Harrod, DC's 2012 Teacher of the Year.

"When I tell people I'm a teacher, they say, 'Oh, my gosh—that's God's work. Thank you.' " She appreciates their gratitude, but the implications wear on her. "What they're basically saying is 'Thank you for doing that job so that I don't have to.' "

When this happens, Harrod searches for a way to correct the mistake. "They're missing that I am not actually sacrificing to do this. I'm working extremely hard because I believe in this intellectual journey—for my students and also for me. It is deeply engaging."

…Changing the way we talk about teachers isn't just about massaging the egos of people like Partelow and Harrod—it's about uplifting our educational system. If you boost the status of a job, you can attract and keep more great people. That has started to happen in DC, which now retains about 92 percent of its highest-ranked teachers.

But the biggest transformation will be cultural. As more people see teaching as prestigious, other magical changes follow: Parents begin to trust teachers a little more. Taxpayers start to believe their money is well spent. Politicians step aside so teachers can shape what's taught and how. Most important, kids notice, too. When they hear stories about how hard it is to become a teacher and see the respect with which teachers are treated, students start to infer that school isn't a joke after all—that when adults say education is important, they might actually mean it.

Stop Talking About Teachers As If They're Missionaries

They're highly paid professionals now. And that's a good thing.
By Amanda Ripley on January 29, 2016

 Subscribe in a reader

Many parents hated Common Core math at first, before figuring it out

Jay Mathews with a spot-on article, Many parents hated Common Core math at first, before figuring it out:

Much better information has come from Common Core parents and teachers whose help I sought in a December column. My son had complained about the tedious new ways of learning math in my grandson's first-grade class. I asked readers to email me what they thought of the new methods derived from the standards.

Astonishingly, given the political controversy and my own ambivalence about Common Core, almost all of the reactions from people with children in schools have been positive, particularly when talking about math.

Nearly every one of them said they disliked the program at first but changed their minds when they realized that their kids, with good teaching, were learning more with greater enjoyment than they did at that age.

Montgomery County parent Marianne Sullivan said that "like many parents in the early years, we were confused by the math in particular and not very supportive." But now her twin daughters "understand math concepts so completely after learning 'that crazy way' in elementary school that I am a huge believer. They reason and understand. They do not memorize and move on."

Many parents hated Common Core math at first, before figuring it out

Second-graders Jakob Sand, left, and Chase Dietzel work on a problem at Sageville Elementary School in Sageville, Iowa. (Jessica Reilly/AP)
 Columnist January 31

 Subscribe in a reader

Sexual violence isn’t just a college problem

Very scary and sobering:

Sexual assault has become a dominant topic on the nation's college campuses in recent years, as student activists have spoken out and the Obama administration has pushed for institutional change. But it has largely remained a hidden issue in elementary, middle and high schools, where parents assume their children are supervised and safe.

Now there are signs that the problem is receiving more attention, including a sharp rise in the number of federal civil rights complaints alleging that K-12 schools have mishandled reports of sexual violence.

Young people have alleged rape by their classmates not only in school bathrooms, as in the Alabama case, but also in hallways and stairwells and cars parked on school property. Children have reported being assaulted during overnight field trips and at school dances and athletic events. 

"We should not have blinders on about how early sexual violence can take place," said Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights at the U.S. Education Department. The problem in K-12 schools is similar in many ways to the problem on college campuses, she said, but there are also important differences, including the inexperience of young children and the power dynamics between adults and students.

"It has its own tinge of ugliness that is its own beast that we need to address," she said.

Twenty-one percent of middle school students reported that they experienced unwanted physical touching on school grounds, according to a 2014 study by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Among high school students, 4 percent of boys and 10 percent of girls say they have been forced to have sexual intercourse against their will, according to a 2013 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

 Subscribe in a reader

Unfair the teacher pension system

A smart, concise video that explains how unfair the teacher pension system is for almost all teachers:

 Subscribe in a reader

Union filed a lawsuit demanding that the courts shut down the program that empowers low income parents to choose a private school

From my friend and ed warrior John Kirtley:
I wanted to share news of an important event that occurred recently in our state.
A day after his father's holiday, over 10,000 people travelled to Florida's distant capitol of Tallahassee to join Martin Luther King III in a protest against the lawsuit filed by the teachers' union to shut down the Florida tax credit scholarship program. 
This program empowers low income parents to choose a private school for their children if they believe it will be the right learning environment for them. Companies receive credits against state taxes due for donations to a state approved non-profit. There are currently 78,000 children on the program. This is what we know about them:
·         Roughly 30% are African American, and over 40% are Latino
·         They come from families making roughly $25,000 per year for a household of four, with 60% from single parent homes
·         They were the worst performers in their public schools when they left
·         They are now making learning gains equal to children of all incomes, including high income children
·         Their parents often come out of pocket to use the program, since the scholarships are limited by law to around $5,700 per year
We also now know these facts about the program:
·         The state's official fiscal research arm has issued reports showing the program saves taxpayers tens of millions per year
·         The more a public school has children leave for the program, the larger the learning gains for the children who remain at that public school. 
Despite all these benefits, the union filed a lawsuit in August 2014, demanding that the courts shut down the program and evict the children from their schools. One of their complaints: many of the children attend faith based schools. Florida has one of the largest taxpayer funded pre-k programs, under which tens of thousands of children attend faith based pre-k programs (often at the same schools as children on the tax credit scholarship). Florida also has a taxpayer funded college scholarship program which students use at faith based schools.—including three of the four historically black colleges in the state. Florida also has a K12 voucher program for children with special needs, under which roughly 30,000 children attend mostly faith based schools—again, often the same ones attended by tax credit scholarship children.
And yet the union has chosen to sue only the one serving poor, primarily minority children.
No tax credit scholarship program has ever been shut down by a state Supreme Court, and even the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a case involving an almost identical program from Arizona that the union has no standing to sue. 
What will happen in Florida? We will see. But what we have already seen is who is on what side.
On one side we have the union. On the other we have low income families. We have over one hundred African American ministers, and over one hundred Latino ministers, who has come forth to denounce the suit.
They came to Tallahassee to ask: What side will you be on?
Here is a commercial that will be run by the Black Alliance For Educational Options (BAEO) that captures the spirit of the day:
Here is a link to a newspaper article about the march:
Below is a picture that captures just a portion of 10,000 coming up the street:
I hope you will share the news of this important event with your email recipients. Thank you!

 Subscribe in a reader

Angelica Alfaro is running for Illinois State Senate - advocating for high quality educational opportunities

Angelica Alfaro is running for Illinois State Senate to bring a fresh voice to Springfield. She is the daughter of Mexican immigrants and has dedicated her life to advocating for high quality educational opportunities for all children because of the impact of the excellent education she received at Noble Street Charter School. She was in the first ever graduating class at Noble and after college, she began a  career as alumni coordinator there. As Noble's first alumni coordinator, Angelica worked closely with students to support their graduation from college. Now she is running for Senate, in a tight race, to fight for a better education for the all children of the 2nd Illinois Senate District and all over Illinois. To learn more about her campaign and to donate, please visit:

 Subscribe in a reader

AP with Service to incorporate service learning into the AP classroom.

The College Board's Advanced Placement program is partnering with to create AP with Service, an initiative to incorporate service learning into the AP classroom. They are looking to produce videos that will feature an AP teacher and some AP students (based in New York City) who are willing to volunteer to speak on camera about the benefits of service in an AP classroom. If you are interested and available for filming February 24-26, please contact Leila by February 12 at with "NYC AP Teacher" in the subject line. As a thank you, we would provide you tickets to a future We Day. Here's a short video with background on Free the Children's We Day:

 Subscribe in a reader