The Precarious Position of the Charter School Sector

MASSACHUSETTS EDUCATION Commissioner Jeffrey Riley announced earlier this year that he had brokered an agreement with the mayor of New Bedford, home to one of the state’s worst performing school districts, and a charter school there to allow the school to open a new campus in the city as long as it enrolls students like a traditional neighborhood public school.

The deal garnered a lot of interest for potentially paving the way for other states and school districts looking to grow their charter sector in a politically fraught environment. But earlier this month, Massachusetts state legislators used rare procedural maneuvers to block the legislation needed to give the project a green light, preventing it from ever being introduced in committee and thus ever allowing lawmakers to vote on it.

In the Bay State, where voters said, “No, thank you,” just two years ago to expanding charter schools, critics of the New Bedford deal argue that they don’t want a two-tiered public school system, and anything that smacks of emboldening charter advocates – like a back-door deal to open a charter school – sets a dangerous precedent, even if it’s blessed by the mayor and state education commissioner.

Full story at US News

Expansive Survey of America’s Public Schools Reveals Troubling Racial Disparities

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released today the first comprehensive look at civil rights data from every public school in the country in nearly 15 years.

The Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) from the 2011-12 school year was announced by U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder at J.O. Wilson Elementary School in Washington, D.C.

This is the first time since 2000 that the Department has compiled data from all 97,000 of the nation’s public schools and its 16,500 school districts—representing 49 million students. And for the first time ever, state-, district- and school-level information is accessible to the public in a searchable online database at crdc.ed.gov.

Full story of school racial disparities at ed.gov

The Global Search for Education: Education Is My Right – Mexico

What happens when you place the child back at the heart of learning?

This simple philosophy was used to launch an experiment with the goal of improving eight poor rural Mexican public schools. Since 2009, the tutorial networks (as the grassroots initiative was called) have been leading a country-wide school improvement effort in 9000 schools with the lowest academic achievement on the national standard test. Today in Part 4 of “Education Is My Right,” we will explore what education reformers can learn from this unique and innovative strategy which has attained such positive results that it is now being supported by educators and policymakers in Mexico’s highly centralized system of public school education.

It is my pleasure to welcome to The Global Search For Education, Gabriel Cámara, the founder of Mexico City-based Convivencia Educativa (Educational Coexistence) A.C. and Redes de Tutoría S.C. (Mentoring Networks). I also asked Helen Janc Malone, author of Leading Educational Change: Global Issues, Challenges, and Lessons on Whole-System Reform, which features Gabriel’s work, to weigh in. Helen is the Director of Institutional Advancement at the Institute for Educational Leadership in Washington, DC.

Gabriel, please summarize the goals of the tutorial networks.

Tutorial networks in public schools are a means to obviate a major distortion imposed on learners by the predominant culture that determines the themes that teachers and students should learn, and the times within which they should be mastered. Instead of allowing the free encounter of interested learners with a competent mentor, standard practices in classrooms force impersonal recitations of content to generally passive audiences. The known effect is not only lack of interest in the particular subject being presented, but the missed opportunity to practice learning academic subjects in earnest, with commitment, visible results and satisfaction – the foundations of the enduring ability to learn by oneself. Contrary to common practice, tutorial relationships in a classroom facilitate the matching of what is of interest to each student with what is available in the mentor’s repertoire. The immediate objection, from the conventional perspective, is that it would be well-nigh impossible for one teacher to match the interest of every student in a large group, even if the teacher is knowledgeable and willing to help. Tutorial networks deflect the objection, as all members in the group learn from one another. Tutoring what one learns, and has shown to have mastered, becomes the occasion to learn in depth and to create a convivial community in the group.

Full story of the global search for education at the Huffington Post

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