Monday Reading List: District-Charter Collaboration, Writing Habits, and School Closures in NYC

Lindsa McIntyre and Shannah Varon are school principals in Boston. They co-authored a piece at The Hechinger Report about collaborating across neighborhoods and sectors:

Since 2011, our schools – one charter, one district – have participated in a partnership that demonstrates that when schools step out of their comfort zones they not only can improve student outcomes, but can effect positive change across entire teaching communities. Charter schools were established, in part, as laboratories of innovation to help support district improvement. But when schools compete for children and revenue, the relationship can become strained, making it politically difficult to share strategies and results with traditional districts ... In 2014, the Burke became the first school in Massachusetts to shed its turnaround status;  it achieved a 12-point gain in English proficiency and a 26-point increase in math proficiency on state tests.

McIntyre and Varon explain how they managed their relationship, despite differences and challenges. It's an important story to tell, as so much of the rhetoric around district and charter schools - particularly in Boston - has gravitated to "us vs. them" narratives.

One of the areas of collaboration for McIntyre and Varon was college readiness. Anemona Hartocollis of The New York Times looks at why that work is so complex:

For young people with college-educated parents, the path to higher education may be stressful, but there is a road map. If their standardized test scores are too low, they can pay for a prep course; if their essay is lackluster, they can hire a writing coach. No one will be the wiser. If they can’t decide which college is the “best fit,” they can visit. When they are tempted to give up, their parents will push them on. But for many working-class students ... there is no money for test prep or essay help. The alternatives to higher education — joining the military, working for $13 an hour at the local factory or getting a cheaper, faster trade-school certificate — are alluring. The cost of college may seem formidable. At a basic level, many of these students simply lack the knowledge of how to manage the increasingly complex college applications process.

Hartocollis profiles students from a range of demographic, geographic, and academic backgrounds, while describing their respective processes of pursuing higher education. Money is a big part of the problem, but many students arrive at college completely unprepared for the level of rigor, due to lackluster preparation in high school.

This is a bit meta, but Damon Young at VSB has some tips for people who want to write publicly, including:

4. Know that if you want to get better you have to get used to being lonely. Because it’s going to take thousands and thousands of lonely hours reading and writing (mostly reading) for you to do that. Actually, getting used to being lonely isn’t enough. You have to enjoy loneliness. Prefer it to (most) people, even.
5. Also, become well-acquainted with doubt, anxiety, sleeplessness, fatigue, jealousy, jitters, the tenuousness of mettle and confidence, angst, disappointment, vacillation, worry, and, occasionally, panic. These will be your new best friends.

Young isn't wrong. I will add, though, that writing doesn't have to be "your job" in order for you to do it with regularity. Like other creative pursuits, it's rare to be able to engage in creative writing as a career unto itself. I can speak from experience: even if your day job is something else, that shouldn't stop you from writing!

Finally today, Alex Zimmerman of Chalkbeat writes about school closings in New York City:

After outcry from some school communities, and near silence from others, the city’s plan to close five schools in its signature turnaround program was approved Wednesday night. The vote from the Panel for Educational Policy, which must sign off on school closures, came after nearly four hours of angry comments from parents, educators, and elected officials, many of whom said the city had gone back on its promise of giving their schools time to improve ... All five schools are part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Renewal initiative, a program designed to flood them with additional academic resources and social services to help sow improvements rather than closing them outright — the approach favored by the Bloomberg administration.

Closing schools can be devastating to communities that already lack access to both public and private resources. It's telling that the DiBlasio administration continues to pursue school closures, despite the mayor having run on a platform of sharp departure from his predecessor's - Mike Bloomberg - approach to reform, which notoriously included closures. My broader point here is that even the most vocally progressive politicians succumb to the fiscal, and technical, pressures of governance. Have a great week!