In this installment of The Charter School Follies we meet our hero, Eva Moskowitz, the CEO and founder of one of America’s most well-known “No Excuses” charter management corporations, Success Academy Charter Schools in New York City.
Ms. Moskowitz, who never studied education, never taught in a public school, and “thought half of her teachers in high school were incompetent”, shares in today’s reading how surprised she was to find out that teaching is harder than she thought it would be. But only after first regaling us with tales of her high school exploits, and humble bragging about how tough her high school was compared to your’s…
“When I graduated from Stuyvesant High School—considered one of the best public schools in the country—I thought I was a great writer: I had received A’s on virtually every one of my high school essays.”
But when she received a C- on her first college essay (At Penn, no less…more humble bragging), she realized that she–a first-semester college freshman–did have more to learn after all. And that remedial lesson stuck with her, past her PhD in history (still no education study), a brief stint on the city council in NYC, and failed or abandoned electoral campaigns for Manhattan borough president and mayor of New York City.
And when she finally opened her own chain of charter schools, what, you may ask, was her solution to fixing the problems of education once and for all?
It’s called “State of Our Schools,” and is a 2-hour session before the beginning of the Fall’s classes for the new crop of edutourists at Eva’s charter school chain, the goal of which was to “hold students to higher expectations”, even though said edutourists have never taught anyone anything, and have also not ever studied education, and who also probably thought half of *their* high school teachers were incompetent.
A whole two hours!
My goodness, I don’t know how they do it.
Eva’s 120-minute Success Academy “teach ’em up” session makes Teach for America’s 5 week summer training institute look like the Marine Corps.
It’s worth a quick detour here to thank the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, for their relentless work on shedding light on the undiscovered problems in American education.
- Like how teaching is hard. And even harder when the first time you thought about it was when you started getting paid to do it.
- And how no matter how high you set the bar, it can always be raised higher. Whatever that means.
And asking the tough questions.
- Like, “Do charter schools take districts’ money?” (Spoiler alert: Yes. Yes, they do.)
- Or, “Is your state hell-bent on revising the CommonCore?” (Hint: No one is still talking about the Common Core but you, Fordham Institute.)
- And, “Are teachers wasting too much time developing their own curricular materials when there are high-quality 3rd party products readily available?” Um, no-in-so-many-ways-it-hurts. The best curriculum is the one that’s closest to the students and teachers in the classroom; developed by the teachers who are teaching it; and custom-crafted to the context and settings in which that curriculum is to be used. No teacher has ever “wasted” a nano-second developing curriculum materials, or lesson plans, or formative assessments for their students. Only someone who never studied education, or never taught, or cared about kids and learning would think otherwise.
After thinking about all of Eva’s “innovations” (like 2-hour professional development “cure all” sessions), and Fordham’s questions (“Are private school vouchers the best thing that ever happened to school reform, or the bestest thing?”) I can’t help but wonder…
If only there were places one could go after high school–if just to escape all those incompetent teachers!–to learn about how children learn, and study pedagogy, and child development, and one’s subject area or discipline, and be surrounded by caring, competent teachers, and other passionate, talented, committed future teachers. And maybe even get some practice in observing wonderful teachers in their classrooms, and…oh, I don’t know…as long as we’re dreaming here…how about a semester or so of guided practice in teaching one’s content area, supervised by a master teacher in her own classroom, with her own real, live students, in a real, live public school?!?!?
That way, the first time a novice teaches something to someone it wouldn’t be as the teacher-of-record in some “No Excuses” charter factory with a draconian “chief academic technician” breathing down their neck as they “teach” from a scripted lesson plan drawn from a canned curriculum purchased from an “e-learning start-up” located in a strip mall 3000 miles away from the school. And that novice wouldn’t be a recent Teach for America alum (“Class of Last Week!”) counting the days until they can bolt the classroom, planning their escape to law school, or medical school, or business school, or an ed-policy think-tank in Reston, VA, writing “policy briefs” on “how teaching is harder than it looks”, and the solution is to “scale-up” innovative initiatives like “State of Our Schools” and purchasing “high-quality” math and reading curricula from said start-up.
Good luck, Eva. Lots of things are harder than they look.
If you were a teacher you’d already know that.
And those things are even harder when there are “experts” like Eva out there, making teaching an entry-level gig, and turning schools into punishment factories for kids under the guise of “choice” and “competition.”