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Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and Education Reform

Great schools matter for kids. I believe they are the most powerful force we have for reducing economic and social inequality in the United States over the long run. But it’s a mistake to work on “fixing” schools while ignoring the conditions and beliefs that make it possible for chronically underperforming schools to persist in the first place. Or the crushing realities they perpetuate in communities across the country. Read more

Diversity: Why is it Important?

I remember the exact moment I realized the importance of diversity in education reform. This realization occurred during a diversity exercise at the opening retreat for a high school leadership program. Ironically, I realized how important diversity was through an exercise that I thought was counterproductive to the inclusive aspect of diversity.We were standing in a circle and the exercise called for us to close our eyes, listen to a series of […] Read more

Boston Charter Schools: A Limited Opportunity

Andys is one of an increasing number of English language learners (ELLs) who have chosen to enroll in charter schools. Research shows that charter schools serve ELLs and other students with special needs more effectively. However, many students are unable to access the higher quality of services that these schools provide because of the Massachusetts charter cap. It’s time to lift the cap on charter schools so that more students, and particularly those with the highest levels of need, can attend the best schools. Read more

NewSchools Invests in Accelerator to Elevate Leaders of Color

It is often stated that education is the civil rights issue of our time. While there are many aspects related to equity in education that need to be addressed, a particular area of concern for NewSchools is the lack of racial diversity in leadership roles representing the very communities we serve. In a step toward change, NewSchools is pleased to be working with Carmita Vaughan on a leadership accelerator to identify, train and provide career counsel to emerging leaders of color in the education reform movement. Read more

GREAT Act: More Reality Needed in Teaching… and Op-Eds

We have a serious problem in the United States: when it comes to training teachers, we are somewhere between mediocre to terrible. And we do a particularly bad job of training effective teachers to serve in our highest-need areas (particularly areas of poverty) and our hardest to staff subjects. At NewSchools Venture Fund, we’ve made no secret of our strong support for proposed federal legislation, the GREAT Teachers and Principals Act (S. 1052 and H.R. 2196), that’s designed to address this problem. The GREAT Act is an entirely voluntary, state-based program that – if enacted – is designed to create new teacher and principal training academies that will embrace three core principles. Read more

The Changing Boston Charter Cap Scene

The political dynamic in the city is about to change, however, as long-serving Mayor Thomas Menino moves toward retirement at the end of 2013. Menino opposes charter school growth. Boston is a Mayoral control city, where the Mayor gets to appoint the school committee, which in turn appoints and oversees the schools superintendent. Boston’s superintendent Carol Johnson stepped down this summer, so the new Mayor will be instrumental in appointing a new superintendent at the outset of his or her first term. A strongly pro-charter Mayor could also wield significant influence over the state legislature in lifting the charter cap, at least in Boston. Read more

Charter Restarts: Enforcing Charter School Accountability

In its nine years, Harlem Day Charter School had seen nine principals at the helm. Despite these principals’ efforts, only a quarter of the students scored proficient on the state math exam, and even fewer on the reading. In a honorable and necessary move, Harlem Day’s Board Chair, Ben Lambert, called the state authorizer with a plan to heed his commitment and obligation of providing a quality school choice to Harlem Day’s students. His plan: replace the entire board (himself included) and turn the school over to a high performing charter operator, Democracy Prep. Harlem Day’s authorizer, The State University of New York (SUNY), agreed, and Harlem Day soon became Harlem Prep. Read more

Curriculum, the Trojan Horse of School Reform

As a country, we’ve vastly under-appreciated the importance of high-quality content as a key lever to improve teaching and learning. One of my mentors Dr. Denise Pope, lecturer at Stanford Graduate School of Education, calls curriculum the “Trojan horse of school reform.” I believe this to be true, now more than ever. The conditions are ripe for a curriculum revolution that has the potential to both improve student achievement and support great teaching.* Read more

Refuting Peter Buffett’s ‘New Code’

So, what should we make of Peter Buffett’s op-ed against “The Charitable-Industrial Complex”? I’ll confess I’m confused by his argument. Buffett begins by railing against something he calls “Philanthropic Colonialism,” which he describes as the hobby of philanthropists who want to improve the world by meddling with farming methods, education practices, or job training. There’s a legitimate argument to be made about how misguided philanthropic endeavors in local communities can go awry (and Buffet is hardly the first to make it). Read more