Have you ever heard of Skrillex? No!? He's only the most awesomest electronic musician on the planet! But don't take it from me, let Edmond (not his real name) tell you. Edmond is one of my brilliant but socially awkward 6th grade science students, and for days he had been asking me if he could show me a music video during recess. His recess is my lunch break and my scramble-to-get-things-done time, and with the pressures of report cards weighing on me, I wasn't in the mood to watch YouTube videos. So I told him "Nope, maybe tomorrow." And then ...


During my interview with Jean-Claude Brizard, I asked him to explain the source of his aggressive ambition to fix Chicago Public Schools. Reforming a massive, decades-old, broken urban educational system is not a job one man can do alone. And it's not a job without difficult decisions, political pressures, and bitter opposition. Does the No Child Left Behind law work for or against his reform efforts? How do charter schools fit into his reform agenda? Which educator(s) does he look up to or turn to for advice? Brizard addressed these questions and others in the final excerpt of the ...


Urban school districts across America are grappling with how to improve their education quality while also cutting programs to fix their massive budget deficits. In Illinois, the failure to win a $400 million Race to the Top grant exacerbated the problem because well-intentioned but expensive reform laws were passed but not funded. The perfect educational storm may be brewing in Chicago: A $720 district shortfall; a shrewd, fiscally minded new mayor; an aggressive reformer as the new schools chief; and a critically outspoken union president charged with representing 32,000 teachers. To address the budget gap, CPS chief Jean-Claude Brizard ...


I first met CPS chief Jean-Claude Brizard in August and then wrote the blog post "Ready or Not, Here We Reform." One of my teacher-friends was so upset that I called Brizard "a very smart leader" that he wouldn't read my blog for a month. Controversy is nothing new to Brizard: From his $250,000 salary to his turbulent 3-year stint as the superintendent of schools in Rochester, New York to his offering Chicago teachers half of their contracted 4 percent raise only if they agreed to extend their school day by 90 minutes, people either highly respect him or ...


In honor of my last post which chronicled my personal perils under Chicago's teacher evaluation system, I thought it would be interesting to take a deeper look into the reform measures being considered to replace the current evaluation system. Quantifying quality teaching on a large scale is a complex mission, and I've invited a friend who has been studying the issue to explain a major sticking point: Evaluating teachers of non-tested subjects based on student growth. Guest Blogger: Alex Seeskin Alex is the English Department Chair at Lake View High School in Chicago. He is a Teach Plus Policy Fellow ...


As one of my opening lessons on science lab safety, I use a scenario of students who create utter mayhem in the lab with glimpses of them also being safe. This anticipatory set is fun to read and students quickly identify things they should never do. By the end of the lesson they have internalized all eight safety rules. Today, Congress is struggling with how to advance teacher evaluations in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), and states and school districts across the country are challenged to implement education reform laws on this topic. My hope ...


My principal abruptly had her baby this weekend leaving the staff a bit in shock. One of my students just confided to me that he is gay. I couldn't sleep for two days worrying about a different student who ran away from home on the coldest, wettest night of the season. (Now found, he survived by panhandling, riding the bus, and sleeping in a stranger's car). My husband and I took turns taking a day off work to nurse my kindergartener's nasty cold. During which time the gas company detected a gas leak in my basement so alarming that the ...


On Monday, we closed our schools in honor of Christopher Columbus Day. I love always having a long weekend to celebrate my Oct. 9 birthday. But it annoys me that we celebrate a man whose exploratory ambitions led to the demise of millions of indigenous people in the Caribbean and opened the Atlantic to the Africa slave trade. And Columbus' legacy continues to reverberate in the African American educational experience. My ancestors were slaves in America, in generations not far removed from mine. My maternal grandparents were sharecroppers in Shaw, Mississippi, which basically meant that they managed a white man's ...


Last night I met Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis at a Teach Plus roundtable discussion and sat right next to her at dinner. Lewis is a fascinating figure, a former high school chemistry teacher whose humorously blunt personality helped catapult her to the union's top spot in 2010. She prides herself on being brutally honest, which she said caused her to get famously cursed out by an angry Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. When a friend of mine at dinner asked her how Lewis envisioned charter and district schools working together, she responded, "I want to unionize charter schools." That's ...


It was a provocative question: Is the role of a teacher to educate students for college or for the wider world? That was the first question that NBC newsman Brian Williams asked on Sunday at the second annual Education Nation Teacher Town Hall. Now I know that college has become the new high school; that an undergraduate degree has become the basic level of education required to get an upwardly mobile job. Teaching students with college in mind is the noble thing to do. What teacher wouldn't want every student prepared for college, whether he decides to go or not? ...


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