OZY Talks Schoolin’ - OZY | A Modern Media Company

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Because the kids are our future, and we miss doodling in our notebooks.

OZY’s Sit-down With Russlyn Ali

Russlyn Ali, the former assistant secretary for civil rights in the Department of Education, sat down with OZY’s Carlos Watson to talk about a controversial topic: teacher tenure, and why she thinks we should end it. In California, an innovative class action suit aims to topple it; Ali explained the plaintiff’s side of the story. In Vergara v. California, a group of nine students contend that their right to a quality education is hurt by the state’s labor laws governing teacher tenure in K-12 public schools. The case is framed as a civil rights issue, arguing that tenure makes it nearly impossible for schools to fire ineffective teachers, and that this system ends up disproportionately affecting low-income, ESL, African-American and Latino students.

John White Challenges the School System

John White’s ascent has been meteoric. In about 12 years, he moved from teaching high school English in Jersey City, N.J., to running Louisiana’s system of nearly 700,000 kids and 70 school districts — serving in some of education reform’s highest-profile urban hot spots along the way. White’s main focus is Louisiana, where he served as superintendent of its Recovery School District for seven short months before getting fast-tracked to the statewide post. And he has his work cut out for him.

Education’s Mr. Fix-It

Few people in education carry a more interesting backstory — or pack a more interesting punch — than Harvard economics professor Roland Fryer. Young, black and heralded, he’s having as much impact on education as anyone in America today. Abandoned by his mother and abused by his father, he made his way back into the game through a series of second chances. Now he is determined to make sure that his own good luck becomes the norm. Fryer is betting that he can get private-school-type education results for poor kids — without starting a new school. How is he doing this? By following five not-so-simple steps.

Academia’s Digital Divide

The biggest determining factor in how academics make tenure? How much and where they publish their ideas. Traditionally this meant hard-copy publication to establish scholarly cred. But with academic publishing avenues disappearing, faculty on the tenure track face a significant challenge getting work printed in a format that’s acceptable to the powers that be. For a new generation of academics who operate almost solely in the electronic realm, that means digital publication had better earn some respect, and soon, to keep the centuries-old tenure process viable. So far, most university departments have been slow to embrace the idea — after all, no one wants to insinuate that every doctoral candidate is just a few blog posts away from the brass ring that is tenure. 

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