Dear Deborah, At last! Over the course of our three years of blogging together, I have been writing a book, as you know. Today is publication day for The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education. The title is a conscious echo of Jane Jacobs' important book about urban planning. You know the feeling. It is both exhilarating and scary, because now the book must stand on its own and face readers and reviewers. In the book, I trace my evolution from conservative advocate of charters, merit pay, and accountability to ...


Dear Diane, How did we let "them" pit so many good people against each other? Maybe it's just New York City? Parents, teachers, and kids are fighting each other over who is invading whose turf, who belongs, who is an insider vs. an outsider. A busload of mothers goes to Albany on behalf of charters and another on behalf of the "regular" public schools their children attend. Young teachers with fire in their bellies go into charter schools; others dream of starting one, while senior teachers see their futures imperiled. None of them are bad folks. Meanwhile, what you call ...


Dear Deborah, Last week, I warned that the explosive growth of charter schools would lead to financial and political scandals, as greedy entrepreneurs and unprincipled speculators discover the riches ripe for the picking. A reader challenged me, and I offer as the latest (but not the only) evidence a story that appeared in The New York Times on Feb. 15 ("At Bronx Vocational School, Concern Over Plan for Charter"). The New York City Department of Education intends to close a construction trade program at Alfred E. Smith Career and Technical Education High School and replace it with a charter called ...


Dear Diane, Will this period mostly be known for the extraordinarily high levels of everyday corruption and the buying and selling of democracy? We're growing accustomed to it. We jail folks for smoking pot, while corporations (full-scale citizens, according to the Supreme Court) can't be jailed for real crimes against others. Principals and teachers meanwhile are castigated for "cheating" children in ways that seem entirely in keeping with marketplace ideals. For example, teaching to the tests, not teaching what won't be tested, and providing succor in ways that the rules prohibit (pausing to pat a child on the back, handing ...


Dear Deborah, It is not surprising that the Race to the Top has generated enormous buzz among educators since it dangles $4.3 billion to states that do what the U.S. Department of Education wants them to do. Now President Obama has announced that he is so pleased with the response to the Race that he intends to add another $1.3 billion in prize money to the competition. Since this is an administration that claims to be about results, it is surprising, is it not, that they are increasing the prize money in the absence of any evidence ...


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