What would happen if one of the wealthiest men in the world decided to remake the institution of public education in America? What if that man believed he understood the secrets to success, and sought to align the nation's schools to his vision and methods? What if he decided to devote all his time and considerable money to this objective? Could he succeed? We are in the process of finding out just how far money and a sharply defined agenda can take you. Bill Gates' first challenge was to define a vision. After experimenting with small schools, he discovered that ...


I spent yesterday back in Oakland, participating in the Occupy Oakland general strike. Several hundred Oakland teachers were there as well, part of a crowd that swelled to around ten thousand in the afternoon. Below are photos and a video that capture some of the spirit of the day. And some thoughts about how the Occupation Movement is shifting the debate, and creating space for some new questions to be asked about how our schools are working. Oakland became notorious last week after city officials carried out a poorly conceived pre-dawn eviction of the downtown occupation. The operation was military-style, ...


Billionaire Bill Gates was in the news again this week, bemoaning the sorry state of America's schools, insisting that business leaders like him have a lot to teach us about measuring performance. Mr. Gates, in years past, has worried about the fact that we rank poorly on international educational comparisons, suggesting this will cause us to fall behind economically. The answer, according to Mr. Gates, is that we must get rid of bad teachers. He said, during his appearance on Oprah last year, that if we got rid of all the bad teachers, "our schools would shoot from the bottom ...


When I was in Washington, DC, last July, I participated in a press conference prior to the Save Our Schools March, which I had helped organize. A gentleman who had asked several critical questions spoke with me afterwards. He tried to help me understand why tough federal mandates were needed to improve schools. He told me "You know there are school districts all over the country that have been stuck for decades, where there is corruption. We have got to have some way to force them to improve." This is the mentality that brought us No Child Left Behind. This ...


Research consistently shows that teacher effectiveness and satisfaction with our work increases when we are able to engage in deep and meaningful collaboration. Earlier this month I wrote about one model for this sort of work, Teacher Action Research. Today I am sharing an interview focused on another model, Lesson Study. Both of these models have a strong history in the Oakland public schools. At Mills College in Oakland, distinguished research scholar Dr. Catherine Lewis is a national expert in Lesson Study, who has studied the practice for more than a decade, and worked with thousands of teachers in the ...


Guest post by John Thompson. In 2009, I assumed that President Obama appointed Arne Duncan to split the differences between data-driven and traditional reformers. I sure hoped the President did not think that a non-educator who became the CEO of Chicago schools at the age of 37 would have had the opportunity to learn how schools actually work. I hoped that Duncan understood that the briefings he received in that position were based on numbers that often said little about teaching and learning. Duncan served at the end of a twenty year experiment in "reform." I doubt that he had ...


A few days ago I posted this: Civil Rights Groups Press for Truly Qualified Teachers. I have hit a nerve, because the piece has gotten a number of comments. Last night some sharp questions arrived from a reader named Mike Hailey. I am interested in highlighting this dialogue, so I am going to post his questions and my answers here, and invite him to respond below. Mike Hailey writes: I have a couple of questions: First; Is the objection that TFA and other alternatively credentialed teachers are teaching in the classroom at all or that they have been designated as "Highly...


As Congress wrestles with the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), they have a chance to address the issue of teacher quality once again. The Coalition for Teaching Quality -- 82 organizations representing civil rights, parent, community, disability, and education advocates -- have come together to demand that Congress re-commit to the objective that all children should have a well-prepared teacher. No Child Left Behind brought us a Federal mandate for "Highly Qualified Teachers" for all students. But after that law was passed, groups like Teach For America pushed for exceptions to be made, so that their ...


In his September 28 reflection on Education Nation, John Merrow has provided us with a distillation of the solution being offered to improve learning in our low-achieving schools. Copy KIPP. For those who have not reviewed the methods at KIPP, Merrow describes them for us. KIPP kindergarten teachers explain to their kids why they are going to walk in a line and why they are expected to be quiet in the halls. Lots of regular teachers just tell the kids to line up and be quiet. The first way is respectful and creates shared responsibility, while the second seems likely ...


Over the past two decades living and working in Oakland, I became well acquainted with Dr. Anna Richert. This professor of education at Mills College has built a powerful network of teachers engaged in systematically reflecting on their teaching practice. I have served as a member of the advisory board for the Mills Teacher Scholars for several years. I wrote about their work last May in this post. As we look for ways to improve our classrooms for our students, teacher research ought to be very high on the list. I asked Anna to share some of her expertise in ...


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