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.

I wrote my doctoral dissertation on the lack of diversity in the teacher workforce, paying close attention to the root causes and potential solutions. It’s complicated because, of the roughly 50 teachers I interviewed and the hundreds of articles and books I read on the topic, teachers want to be good teachers.

They don’t want to be the Black teacher, or the white one, the man, the woman, or what have you. Granted, our race, gender, social class, and sexual orientation are inescapable. Nevertheless, very few people with whom I spoke were interested in focusing on their identity as anything other than a teacher.

A recent article from the Washington Post on teacher diversity emphasizes race, but that’s only a small part of the issue. In addition to a race, we are also a gender, social class, religion, and sexual orientation. All of these identities intersect in complicated ways. We can have a teacher, say, from a minority racial status, but then we see that teacher in practice confirm and reinforce traditional gender stereotypes. From my experience, for example, there are plenty of Black teachers with whom I’ve worked that emphasize pink and dresses for girls, blue and sports for boys.

Focusing on the race of our teachers is important, but I think we need to encourage a greater diversity of ideologies in teaching as well. We need teachers from diverse cultural and political backgrounds, from higher income and lower income families. We need teachers who are Muslim or Atheist. Simply put, we need teachers who cut across all cultural or social boundaries.

Race is an obvious focal point. Bodies are easily marked by race. Seeing more Black or Latino educators would be obvious to any outside observer. But having a Black or Latino educator, would that guarantee a rich and diverse learning experience, or would those teachers reify oppressive curricula, or underscore certain traditions within education that have been long disproved?

We can all pat ourselves on the back when we see a diversity of faces in schools. But diversity of that kind, in education at least, is only skin deep.


The WSJ discusses improving teacher quality with three experts, one of whom is actually a teacher. It is with great interest that I read the comments of educators on their profession. The educator in this piece, Mr. Vilson, who is a frequent commentator, once again disappoints me. It always seems as if his comments, and those of many others, are sanitized for public consumption.

It is a rare thing to find many education commentators, Mr. Vilson among them, propose any real, concrete, specific, and insightful propositions. Instead, they tend to come out like this:

Continuous, constructive feedback, strong professional development, and chances to determine one’s own path while still in the classroom are just some of the recommendations I’d make.

Or this:

Teachers should have a set of researched best practices, but we would do well to help educators learn how to be nimble as well.

It sounds too careful and sterile.

Without spending all day thinking about it, I can take a quick imaginary walk through my school and my own classroom and come up with my own very specific ways we could improve “teacher quality,” which is a phrase that turns me off.

Teachers are only as good as their support staff. We could invent numerous highly talented educators through adequate investment in paraprofessionals for every classroom, including careful thought on their credentialing and training. This would also include additional investment in the preparation of art, music, and PE teachers, for instance. My teaching would improve in marginal ways if I could count on a specialist teacher to manage my class properly so that I would not have to often return to chaos and disorder.

Hierarchical forms of school organization could be flattened, with very clear delineations of certain job tasks and responsibilities. Additionally, teachers can be offered stipends or salary upgrades for taking on instructional coaching and other specialist responsibilities. Flattened organization could also open up evaluation pathways. I’m not often able to evaluate my administration, or even my own paraprofessionals. I have more experience with some staff members than principals do. And, principals’ positions should depend on more than test scores. It should also include evaluations from teachers, which in my case, are not commonplace.

From a teacher preparation perspective, the larger accrediting bodies, like NCATE or AACTE, hinder innovation. Conformity is key, especially since school systems are trending toward common standards and assessments. The high stakes in schools rubs off on the high stakes of teacher preparation. Schools no longer look to institutions of higher education to improve or innovate their practice. Instead, the pressures that schools are under shape their priorities rather than it being a collaborative relationship. Thus, when student teachers seek to innovate or try new methods, they are often discouraged because a school needs to focus on its test scores.

Increased funding for higher education would improve teacher education because these schools would no longer need to admit any and everyone into their programs just to meet their bottom lines. They could afford to be more selective. Additionally, students should have the option to graduate with a degree in education science, for instance, if they find out that the practice of teaching is not for them. It has been my experience that students who may not be good at teaching realize they’ve spent so much time and money on the degree that they are reluctant to try another path. Schools prevent students from changing degree programs, or make it insanely difficult to find an offramp onto something else. They should be able to get a general education degree without certification if they find that teaching is not for them. That way, we preserve education as a discipline of study that can stand on its own without actual practice. Fewer untalented teachers are ultimately graduated from programs just because institutions simply don’t know what to do with them.

I could go on with this. Perhaps the WSJ did not provide a forum for substantive debate and a lot of detail. But with many education writers, I’ve been unimpressed with the general education knowledge of commentators and the specificity of their recommendations.

The clock, via CNN.

I’m sure readers have heard about the teen who made a clock and ended up arrested.

It’s stupid, right? Yeah, it’s stupid.

I won’t twist myself into knots trying to make some larger educational point about STEM or what have you. I also think the racial implications are pretty obvious.

This, however, does not bode well for those working in the education profession. This is a very obvious and frequent sign that some schools in some places scrape the bottom of the barrel for employees.

I’m also confident that recent reforms in education, including and not limited to the unreasonable attacks on the integrity of educators, discourage many good people from either getting into the profession in the first place or staying for the long term. Many of us have our reasons for staying, and many of us have our reasons for teaching in the most difficult environments.

Inasmuch as I defend teachers, it’s incidents like these that have me shaking my damn head.

The recent attacks on teachers have culled the professional herd so effectively that many simply lack basic common sense. They rarely, if ever, question authority or use critical thinking skills. I rarely see anyone really speaking up at faculty meetings or venting frustrations, and there are numerous. When you hand them a program, many follow it to the exact letter and word.

What the hell is the matter with us?