Why you should care
Because an unexamined education system is not worth having.
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 the state’s labor laws governing teacher tenure in K-12 public schools hurt their right to a quality education. 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’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.
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.
Poland has experienced a leap in the quality of its education, from a poorly constructed Soviet education system to one of the best teaching countries in the world. Implementing policies like a streamlined vocational training program and a focus on language classes has propelled Poland from the bottom of education charts to a position well ahead of the United States, all while spending far less. What does the U.S. have to learn from Poland? Maybe throwing money at the problem isn’t the answer, after all.
Mike Johnston is charismatic and driven, but most importantly, he is not afraid to sit down with his opponents and chat. A son and grandson of teachers and principals, Johnston himself was a teacher and principal before moving into politics. Called a “zealot” for ushering in what some call “punitive, anti-teacher” reform, Johnston has his fair share of opponents, and yet his political future looks bright as he seeks to change the way Americans learn.