Friday Reading List: Student Input, the NAACP Charter Dustup, and Syria

On her blog this week, Rhonda Broussard interviewed Nicole Young, executive director of Bard Early College New Orleans. Young thinks that the next generation of education policy has to involve more listening to students and teachers:

I wonder if educators would have felt differently about NCLB if the process included youth and current teacher practitioners?  Even a little bit of distance from teaching and school administration means that you’ve lost some memory of that experience. Policy makers occasionally visit schools and feel like that glimpse is enough to inform their decisions.  Everyone knows that when the Feds come to visit your classroom, it is going to be the best day.  Even students know it!   I would encourage policy makers to spend more time on listening tours and hosting idea generation sessions with teachers and administration.

Some policymakers might think of this as a perfunctory exercise, but students and teachers have great ideas about how to improve schools. They won't necessarily know how to enshrine those ideas in the legalese of law and regulation, but that's not their job, it's yours, policy wonk!

Matt Kramer, who used to be co-CEO of Teach For America, is now at the Wildflower Foundation. They are proliferating Montessori-based micro-schools, which Kramer explains are teacher-led:

We continue to get new inquiries every day. Teachers are telling us they’re excited about the way Wildflower integrates Montessori values and their personal values and about the prospect of fully realizing their own vision for a community-embedded Montessori school, free from bureaucracy. They also tell us they value the administrative supports and financial assistance we’re going to provide and the opportunity to be connected to a larger community. We’ve selected our first cohort of eight Wildflower Fellows to spend the next year working in one of our Cambridge schools while they plan the launch of their own school in either [Massachusetts] or Colorado.

I'm working on an article about the micro-schooling phenomenon, and Wildflower is one of the places to keep an eye on, along with Alt School in the Bay Area and Acton in Texas.

In other news, The New York Times editorial board thinks the NAACP's proposed charter moratorium is misguided:

Where charter schools excel ... demand for admission is high. In New York City, for example, charter schools enroll about 107,000 students, roughly 10 percent of the city’s total enrollment. But more than 44,000 students who sought admission for the current school year were turned away. In Harlem and the South Bronx, there are now four applicants for every charter school seat. Given the demand for good charters, a moratorium would clearly be a bad idea. But the N.A.A.C.P. has raised legitimate concerns that lawmakers and education officials need to take seriously.

Sharif El-Mekki is more pointed:

David Levering Lewis, a scholar and historian of W.E.B. DuBois at New York University, recently shared how disappointed he believed DuBois would be with today’s morally anemic version of the NAACP. “DuBois would, I believe, be disappointed that the NAACP has not led but followed behind the great issues of the 21st century.” Some would say that today’s NAACP is an acronym for the National Association for the Advancement of Certain People. It is conspicuously not for the advancement of the millions of Black families trying to escape failing systems and schools.

Finally, Dominique Bonessi is in The Atlantic with a story about the complications of getting a higher education as a Syrian refugee:

Khaled’s story of disrupted education is the story of more than 30,000 university-age Syrians living in Turkey. And while data on the number of Syrians seeking postsecondary degrees in the country vary significantly—from 600 to 5,600, depending on the source—it's clear that the vast majority of college-age Syrian refugees have had to discontinue their educations. Of those Syrian students attending universities, the Turkish Disaster and Management Authority reported in May that 1,080 of them were receiving government financial aid.

Turkey is one of the primary hosts for displaced Syrian people, but Jordan, Kurdistan, Lebanon, and other nearby countries also are seeing the impact on their education systems. Organizations like the United Nations High Commission on Refugees, and NGOs like the Karam Foundation, are working to provide transitional and permanent support to students and their families. It's important to remember that the millions Syrian children living outside of their home country right now deserve a great education. It's good to see other countries pitching in, and I wish the United States would do more.