Here’s What Happens When Early Childhood Teachers Go Deep Connecting with Families

When I first started teaching early childhood special education four years ago, I was confident in my teaching ability and behavior management skills. I was quickly confronted with the realization that I was working not only with my students, but with their families. During my first round of parent-teacher conferences and the first few IEP meetings, I wasn’t sure what…

Chicago’s Freshman OnTrack Effort Shows Why Playing the Long Game Makes Real Change

Much of the Chicago narrative in Emily Krone Phillips’ new book, The Make-or-Break Year, parallels the national arc of school reform. Early, stringent emphasis on accountability pried open classroom doors and created urgency around the need to change adult beliefs and practices that weren’t helping students graduate, especially those facing disadvantage due to race or economic status. But Chicago’s unique success…

How Freshman OnTrack Transformed Hancock High School

Earlier this week, we took a look at some big-picture lessons from Emily Krone Phillips’ new book, The Make-or-Break Year. To see the work from a school-level lens, Krone Phillips recounts Hancock High’s remarkable turnaround using Freshman OnTrack. At first, the Hancock story reads a bit like a traditional ed-reform narrative—idealistic principal Pam Glynn pushes her team of skeptical, mostly-White teachers…

‘The Make-or-Break Year” Offers Ed Reformers Sobering Lessons in Real School Change

“If we have to remove dead weight, we will remove dead weight.” That’s what the assistant principal of Chicago’s Orr High School told me in 1998, when I asked him how he dealt with no-show students. What he meant was, they’d be dropped from the school rolls and handed a list of alternative schools to call. As both an education…

George Washington High School Gets “Rooted” in Mentoring

Near-peer mentoring–bringing together older and younger students rather than pairing students with adult mentors–is getting a lot of attention these days. Washington High School in Chicago’s East Side neighborhood is now offering its students a near-peer mentoring opportunity through a new after school club, Rooted. Senior Marcos Muñoz (left)  and freshman Kenneth Johnson are members. “When I was kid, I always…

As a Charter Network Leader I Fight for Students, and a Strike Will Hurt Them the Most

Nobody likes a teacher strike. I know. I have lived through a number of them. And I may have to do it again. My life and my background speak to the importance of education and school choice, two topics currently under discussion both in the city of Chicago and throughout our country. As an African-American woman and educator, I am a…

Is An Elected School Board Just a Distraction?

Last week I had the opportunity to talk school board governance and its impact on student achievement on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight. You can watch the segment above to see me talking it over with elected school board supporter Roderick Wilson, executive director of the Lugenia Burns Hope Center in Bronzeville. Popular frustration with decisions like the massive school closings and…