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.
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.
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.
I just left the White House, where the president signed the Every Student Succeeds Act into law. This law will usher in the most sweeping, positive changes to public education policy in nearly two decades, from pre-K through college.
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.
Imagine a school where the principal keeps a "Got to Go" list of the kids they plan to push out through harsh discipline or administrative deception. According to the New York Times, that's exactly what happened at Eva Moskowitz's Success Academy Charter Schools in New York City.