The most important thing that teachers must remember is that they have the power, not middle managers or secretaries of education.

Despite mandates, there are countless ways individual classroom teachers can subvert the status quo and teach precisely how they want to teach. As a white male with a PhD, I recognize that I am not the average public school teacher, let alone a traditional Kindergarten teacher. I have certain privileges. But because of those privileges, I neither let them go to waste nor do I expect other teachers to have the same latitude that I do.

I’ve taken a lot of heat over the years asking tough questions and looking critically at every new initiative. I’ve tried to act as cover for other teachers who have been less willing to stand up for themselves, promising to have their backs.

Whomever Whoever is the Secretary of Education, teachers are the gatekeepers. Education reform has and continues to do whatever it can to demolish that wall of protection. Almost like a positive affirmation, I remind myself everyday every day that I am in control of all the influence that the Secretary has over my practice.

I am fortunate to be teaching Kindergarten because I am not subject to an excessive amount of standardized assessments. Unlike other teachers, I’ve had the latitude and privilege to choose my grade level out of many interviews and assert my preference to stay in Kindergarten despite the transitions that other colleagues are forced to make.

As a result, I spend almost no time looking at the Common Core. I have no need for it. Because administrators don’t care as much about untested grades, and therefore spend less time harassing me, I can and will add additional play time, outside time, and adjust my practices so there is less seat-time overall. The research and evidence are on my side, so I tend to worry less about the consequences.

I also spend a lot less of my time complaining about the impact of reform on my practice because I am quick enough to come up with alternatives. If I can’t stand a certain strategy or new initiative, I’ll adjust it or find an alternative rather than piss and moan about it all the while attending to business as usual.

Ultimately, my students will learn and succeed on all the canned assessments that are thrown my way. I have the evidence and record to back that up. But always remember: you the teacher have the control over what extent any reform has on your practice. Try taking back some of that control and you’ll see what I mean.

Few things in any given teacher’s career will make the ceding of ground more obvious than new administration. We’ve had three principals in as many years. Our school has struggled mightily all three of those years. Each new regime promises to turn the screws on us teachers by adding new meetings or initiatives, most of which are new ways of doing the same things as before.

As the old ways are lumped together with the new, it’s not obvious at first how much we’ve given, and how much has been taken. Quick example. A huge bone of contention in our District last year was the topic of an extended school day. Leadership wanted it; teachers didn’t. Or, at least, they didn’t want to simply add more time to the school day without some guarantee that the time, our time, would be well spent. There were too many questions about the extended day that teachers, with union support, easily voted it down on a school-by-school basis.

Our school voted the extended day down because we couldn’t really get our questions answered. We were simply adding an hour to the school day and that was that. There was nothing to say about the quality of the time we were adding.

With new administration, suddenly we are an extended day school. Funny how that happens.

I get it. Teachers are very reluctant to say no, especially with how easily it is to suggest we don’t give a sh*t about our students if we don’t do a million extra things every day. So we keep giving, and giving, until pretty soon, all those inches added up to a mile. And we wonder why teachers, especially those in struggling schools, are walking zombies.

No matter how small, watch how many inches you give. That ground is very hard to get back.


In our District, we are encouraging all students to be present and accounted for on a specific day because they will literally be counted.

As I overheard someone say, “This is how we get paid.”

Someone will come in and count all of our students to ensure we’ve enrolled all who we said we enrolled in order to justify our budgets. If that student is absent, we must have “work” provided to prove they are actively enrolled in school.

It’s not necessarily over for us, however. For a few weeks after “Count Day,” more or less, we brace ourselves for an influx of new students. Some years it’s been more, others less. But it’s the craziest thing, just new students coming one at a time, maybe in small groups, after this very specific date.

What’s happening?

The word on the street is that you keep your budgets once your students are counted on Count Day. When students leave thereafter, you don’t lose the money for that student, which also means that you don’t receive any additional funds for the new students you might will receive.

This is only anecdotal on my part, but I’ve observed this as a fantastic way for charters to rid their schools of more difficult students without losing funding in the process.

Happy Count Day!


This, according to the Washington Post. 

I say no, absolutely no.

In many cases, charter schools are operated by for-profit entities with boards and shareholders. By law, the rights of shareholders are protected. But in the process of ensuring adequate profits on investments, they are forgetting that they are providing education and not the manufacture of widgets. Additional money will not be reinvested in the school and community. It will become profit. Therefore, it is inevitable that some limited public money will be diverted to for-profit corporations. How much depends on how much below cost the schools can operate.

Most of the charters in DC are in low-income and highly segregated areas of the city. Funds to those communities are already limited. It is therefore unreasonable for any money, which could otherwise go to the community, to be siphoned off to fatten investors.

DC Public Schools is mulling the idea of turning over all “failing” schools to charters. One thing that is often cited is the autonomy possible in charters in the face of an unyielding bureaucracy. The District is what is unyielding, they are the bureaucracy. They set the rules, and yet they abhor themselves so much that they’d rather turn their primary means of purpose in this world, their schools, to outside entities.


Schools are a hot investment. Schools can be operated at well below cost in a number of ways to ensure adequate return on investment. One, cheaper labor can be hired in the form of interns or interim teachers from alternative certification programs, like TFA. Since those teachers are not beholden to union contracts, they don’t require due process or other expensive protections. A scripted curriculum and strict codes of conduct can ensure that these teachers are easily replaceable one year after another. That means diminished costs related to professional development and other long-term investments in its workforce. Professional development can be turned over to the alternative certification programs that quickly and efficiently train employees for these very specific charter workplaces.

Two, many charters rely on philanthropic gifts to augment budgets. That means public funding becomes less necessary, thus any cost savings can be diverted to profit. These large gifts, in the hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars, are exactly that: gifts that don’t need to be repaid. They can replace public, per-pupil funding entirely, so that public money is siphoned to shareholders. The gift-givers in turn exert some ideological control over the schools and likely receive their own tax benefits related to philanthropic giving. Successful school models can be brought to larger scales, thereby increasing the return on investment.

The autonomy offered to charters is very important to this model of investment so that it works properly. But if this autonomy is touted as a key to charter success, why can’t it be offered to public schools to see if they can enjoy some of that success as well? This kind of autonomy can take numerous forms, from something as small as its own wireless network with greater access to curricular resources all the way up to near complete control over hiring decisions, curriculum, and instructional methods. Charter schools can choose their own food vendors, hold parents accountable in interesting ways, and evaluate their own teachers.

All of these things could benefit a pre-existing public school without engaging in the complicated machinations required to turn public schools into charters. Charterization, coming from the District itself, means they’ve admitted complete and total failure to its most vulnerable populations. If a District is so willing to admit complete and total failure, how can we trust any of their decisions from this point forward? It seems that even its hasty desire for total charterization of the segregated Southeast should be viewed with extreme skepticism.

Perhaps they should also be replaced and others with better ideas should be given an opportunity.

Just a thought.