A conversation about a path forward at #TFA25

Thirteen thousand people recently converged on Washington, D.C., for Teach for America’s 25th anniversary. Even though I have been critical of TFA, I was invited to speak about how to address both education and poverty, along with Howard Fuller, an education activist who supports education vouchers and other forms of privatization.

It's about fairness and opportunity

Walking up the steps to the United States Supreme Court early on Jan. 11 — before the court was to hear oral arguments in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association — I was buoyed by the overwhelming support we’ve seen for working people and our unions in recent weeks. Across the political spectrum, people agree that employees who benefit from a union should pay their fair share for the representation they receive.

Why we support the Every Student Succeeds Act

We know this rewrite of the ESEA law will not solve all the problems in public education, but it’s a huge step forward. It has the potential to create a new paradigm in public education, relegating the era of test-and-punish strategies to the trash heap. It even could begin to solve a serious teacher recruitment and retention problem, especially in hard-to-staff schools.

Our school discipline mistake

We all want safe and welcoming school environments where students can learn and teachers can teach. But two recent disturbing examples of extreme reactions to student conduct have brought the negative effects of such responses into sharp relief. That is why many of us have called for re-evaluating the zero-tolerance policies for student misbehavior adopted throughout the nation over the last two decades. These policies were promoted by people, including me, who hoped they would create safe learning environments for students by freeing them from disruptions by misbehaving peers.

Why we need ethnic studies

Our children are growing up in a global world. If we are truly going to prepare them to succeed in the 21st century, we must give them the tools to understand and value that global world. Learning about the cultures and histories that define all of us is an important component of our ultimate goal to reclaim the promise of public education for all.

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If there’s one thing our fractured society can agree on, it’s that every school should be safe and welcoming for students and staff. The recent incident in South Carolina comes at a time of reckoning for and reconsideration of discipline policies in American schools. Using research, experience and common sense, we can move toward ways to create safe and welcoming school environments.

Read the full column on Medium.

I am my union

When Chris Christie said that our union deserves “a punch in the face,” I was appalled but not surprised. When Scott Walker compared union members in Wisconsin to members of the terrorist organization ISIS, I was disappointed but not shocked.