Tagged: motoko rich

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Recommended Reading: “Where Are the Teachers of Color?”

favicon Motoko Rich’s latest piece in the New York Times asks a basic, perennial question: “Where Are the Teachers of Color?”

Ms. Rich reports that 80 percent of teachers in the United States are white. This isn’t surprising news. I don’t have the data, but my gut says that fewer people of color are going into the teaching profession now than have in the past.

This is a big problem, but it’s not one that will be solved quickly or easily. This is because teaching is underpaid and carries low status in society. The emphasis on testing — and the resulting cheating scandals, Atlanta being the most famous — probably doesn’t help, either.

Please check out the article (link below) and let me know your thoughts.

“The majority of those who successfully attend college choose careers other than education, mainly because of the pay,” said Marvin Lynn, dean of the School of Education at Indiana University in South Bend, who is starting a scholarship program for minority students interested in education careers.

Source: http://j.mp/1Cz4sX6 (via Pocket). You can also find this article at Iserotope Extras, a curated list of my favorite articles about teaching, reading, and technology. favicon

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Recommended Reading: “Home Schooling: More Pupils, Less Regulation”

favicon Motoko Rich is my favorite education reporter. She never disappoints. Her latest article, “Home Schooling: More Pupils, Less Regulation,” is solid as usual.

Though I don’t think about home schooling too often, it’s still a topic in education that gets me going. There are some cases where home schooling is probably the best move. But it’s not often, in my opinion.

From Ms. Rich’s reporting, I can infer that home schooling, for the most part, is (1) loosely regulated, and becoming less so, (2) becoming more popular with the ascent of the Common Core, (3) a Christian parents’ response to the dangerous anti-religious teachings of public schools, (4) a white parents’ response to sending their children to schools with too many kids of color. (To be fair, Ms. Rich does not discuss race directly in her article.)

Please read the article — particularly the Minecraft anecdote! — and let me know what you think, particularly if you are an advocate of home schooling. It’s important that I’m open to opposing views.

“Unlike so much of education in this country, teaching at home is broadly unregulated. Along with steady growth in home schooling has come a spirited debate and lobbying war over how much oversight such education requires.”

Source: http://j.mp/1DspEzZ (via Pocket). You can also find this article at Iserotope Extras, a curated list of my favorite articles about teaching, reading, and technology. favicon

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Recommended Reading: “As Apprentices in Classroom, Teachers Learn What Works”

favicon Motoko Rich is my favorite education reporter. In “As Apprentices in Classroom, Teachers Learn What Works,” Ms. Rich writes about best practices in preparing new teachers for work in urban public schools.

Instead of flinging new teachers out to classrooms and letting them survive through grit and luck, Aspire Public Schools helps newbies gain confidence and skills in classroom management over a one-year residency program, focused on a much longer apprenticeship than what’s usual in teacher preparation programs.

There are some critics, of course — those who say that charter school organizations like Aspire are mechanizing teaching and teacher practices. But classroom management is by far the most important skill to master. As someone who sometimes struggled with promoting a smooth and easy classroom environment, I likely would have benefited from this program.

Please check out this article and let me know what you think!

The idea is that teachers, like doctors in medical residencies, need to practice repeatedly with experienced supervisors before they can be responsible for classes on their own. At Aspire, mentors believe that the most important thing that novice teachers need to master is the seemingly unexciting — but actually quite complex — task of managing a classroom full of children. Once internalized, the thinking goes, such skills make all the difference between calm and bedlam, and can free teachers to focus on student learning.

Source: http://j.mp/ZBzZej (via Pocket). You can also find this article at Iserotope Extras, a curated list of my favorite articles about teaching, reading, and technology. favicon

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Recommended Reading: “A Walmart Fortune, Spreading Charter Schools”

favicon Motoko Rich makes another excellent contribution to reporting about the charter school movement. In “A Walmart Fortune, Spreading Charter Schools,” Ms. Rich tracks the Walmart Foundation’s investments to large charter networks, like the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP).

“WASHINGTON — DC Prep operates four charter schools here with 1,200 students in preschool through eighth grade. The schools, whose students are mostly poor and black, are among the highest performing in Washington.”

Ms. Rich reports that the majority of students in Washington D.C. now attend charters. That’s astounding. The same is true, I believe, in New Orleans.

She also succinctly summarizes the criticism of charter schools:

Critics say that Walton backs schools and measures that take public dollars — and, some say, the most motivated families — away from the existing public schools, effectively creating a two-tier educational system that could hurt the students most in need

I’ve worked in charter schools for most of my career. But they haven’t been part of a large charter network. There is a difference, I think. Part of the difference, of course, is how much backing a large network can get. But especially interesting to me is how few really, really rich people are funding and therefore orchestrating this nationwide movement.

The past month or so, whenever I read about private funding for charter schools, it’s always the same people. And the Walton Foundation is at the front. As Ms. Rich reports, the funding goes from Walton to Teach for America to KIPP, with a little left over for New Leaders for New Schools.

Source: http://j.mp/1hATMMj. You can also find this article at Iserotope Extras, a curated list of my favorite articles about teaching, reading, and technology. favicon

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Background on the New York Times article

6a00d8341c6a7953ef014e8a0ca5c8970d-120wifavicon A few folks are asking how my recent article in The New York Times came to be. They want to know: Um, Mark, exactly how is it possible that the NYT deemed you a “knowledgeable outside contributor” qualified “to discuss news events and other timely issues?”

Well, I was definitely very, very lucky. Here is how it happened.

1. New York Times reporter Motoko Rich wrote “At Charter Schools, Short Careers by Choice,” in which she concluded that some charter networks are now comfortable hiring young teachers who plan to leave the profession for “bigger and better things” after just a few years in the classroom.

2. I was deeply disturbed by the article and wrote this post, “Are Charter Schools Youth Cults?” in Iserotope. It’s one thing to hire young teachers, work them senseless, churn them out, and know full well that they’ll leave quickly. It’s another thing — quite a pretentious, icky thing — to admit this publicly.

3. As I usually do, I shared my post on Twitter.

Up until now, everything was normal. After all, it’s not a strange thing for me to read something, have a reaction to it, and write about it (or put it up on Iserotope Extras). But then, a few hours later, things got interesting.

4. Ms. Rich tweeted me.

This might be silly to say, but that tweet made my day. A New York Times reporter thanked me for something I wrote and called my thoughts “nuanced?” Did that really happen? Yes, this was a Surreal Moment.

5. Loyal Iserotope readers offered excellent responses to the Iserotope post. Laura, Heidi, Angela, and Geoff pushed my thinking. In fact, some of their language appears in my article. (I am very grateful. They will receive royalties, for sure. 🙂 )

6. The New York Times’ Room for Debate editor Nick Fox emailed me, said he had read the post on Iserotope, and wondered if I would contribute a piece to an upcoming forum on whether teachers need experience to be effective. This was Surreal Moment No. 2.

I had to read the email three times to make sure I was understanding correctly. After I returned to my senses, I realized that this wasn’t just a general call for submissions. This was an editor asking me directly to write something for publication. It was to be 300-400 words, and it was due at 1 p.m. the next day.

7. I wrote a draft. As I wrote, there was joy, adrenaline, fear, and giddiness. The looming deadline got me a tad feverish. It reminded me of my time working on The Epitaph, my high school newspaper — an experience I’ll never forget. (Thanks, Nick!)

8. Not wanting to be fired by my new (and old — more about that in a later post) employer, I ran the article by the director of development to ensure I wasn’t saying anything inappropriate. Kate gave me the OK and even spent time tightening the piece, just minutes before deadline, via Google Docs.

9. I filed the article…and waited. And passed the time. And crossed my fingers. Until, that night, my article was published in Room for Debate. This was Surreal Moment No. 3. Jubilation ensued.

It’s a great feeling, to be sure, and it makes me want to write more — not just for my own personal goals, but also to make sure that teachers have a voice in this conversation. I might not be in the classroom anymore, but I hope that my perspective is one that respects and honors teachers and the work they do. It’s crucial that teachers get their words out there. I hope you enjoy the article! favicon

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Are charter schools youth cults?

favicon We all know that charter schools tend to have younger, less experienced teachers than their traditional counterparts. And there are pros and cons to that.

But this morning, I read an article in the New York Times that left a pit in my stomach. In the piece, “At Charter Schools, Short Careers by Choice,” reporter Motoko Rich concludes that charter schools foster an environment whereby it’s acceptable, and even welcomed, for teachers to stay in the classroom for a very short time before moving up to become an administrator or pursuing a more lucrative, prestigious profession.

Ms. Rich calls charter schools “youth cults.” That’s a provocative statement.

I’ve worked in charter schools for 14 out of my 17 years of teaching, so I understand their demands. In my 20s, I routinely worked 70 to 80 hours a week. At my school in San Francisco, we were young, and sometimes, we were tired. But rather than encouraging teachers to leave after a couple years, our school talked about sustainability. It’s a good thing, we believed, for students to have teachers with full lives, including families and outside interests. It’s a good thing for students to have teachers from diverse backgrounds. As a result, our school made changes, including adopting a salary schedule to encourage teachers to stick around for more than five years.

Now I’m learning that my experience was a rare one. In the past few years, big and powerful charter school networks have grown stronger. As a result, they no longer have to hide the truth. Check out what Jennifer Hines, a senior administrator of a Houston-based charter network, said:

There is a certain comfort level that we have with people who are perhaps going to come into YES Prep and not stay forever.

On the one hand, it’s comforting that there is truth-telling. On the other, as someone who taught for a long time and who still believes in the importance of the classroom teacher, I think it’s hugely bothersome. Also annoying: her language, which comes across across to me as too careful (e.g., “certain comfort level,” “who are perhaps,” “stay forever”). That’s a calculating sentence.

In the article, Ms. Rich goes on to profile a 24-year-old teacher, Tyler Dowdy, who is in his third year and is already looking for the next new thing. My first reaction was, That doesn’t seem to be a problem. My first school (not a charter school) made me a leader in my second month. But then came this quotation at the end:

I feel like our generation is always moving onto the next thing and always moving onto something bigger and better.

All I have to say is, Ugh, ugh, ugh. Like, a major ugh. There is so much wrong with that quotation. (Ms. Rich is likely very pleased to have gotten it.) There is so much pretension, so much privilege, and so much condescension in that statement.

Nonetheless, I can’t entirely blame Mr. Dowdy. He’s just a young teacher who is hard-working and smart and maybe unaware of the complexity of public schooling. That’s because he’s worked at a school with an expectation that matches his own.

(Yes, I just sounded old and curmudgeonly and jaded there! Sorry about that.)

Rather, maybe the problem is not with young people who want to teach for a few years and then become principals or doctors. As Ms. Rich suggests, perhaps the problem is with charter school networks and organizations like Teach for America, which “churn out” teachers, according to charter school detractor Diane Ravitch.

But even if that’s true, I’m not sure what the answer is. There’s too much of an either-or dialogue going on: either we stick entirely with the public school system, along with all of its faults, or we move toward more charter schools, along with their faults. I do wonder why we can’t figure out something somewhere in the middle that meets the needs of more young people.

What do you think? favicon