Julian Vasquez Heilig

Don’t Trust Charters More than a Sweaty Used Car Salesman (A Citizen Research Template)

Recently I have noticed a new snare from charter cheerleaders. The approach is for them to ask you to tell them which charters school you love/like. This is a clever trap. My response is, “Why don’t you tell me the worst offenders on the issues of equity and access and tell me which ones we should close?” Then wait for the pregnant silence.

A-F Accountability Letter Grades: Reform or Different Name, More of the Same?

Education “reformers” are still pushing A-F accountability letter grades. In this approach, districts and schools are given letter grades like a student might receive. Are A-F letter grades a “reform”? I was inspired to write this post because Jimmie Don Aycock, current Texas House Education Committee Chair mentioned in the TFA Policy Forum held at the UT-Austin LBJ School of Public Affairs on 4/22/14 that A-F was his preferred approach to accountability. Current Texas Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott also released an education platform this week that supports the A-F letter grade system. Policymakers (in Texas and elsewhere) think A-F is a sexy idea education “reform” idea that works. So the question is whether an A-F accountability grading system is a new, more desirable reform for education policy or whether A-F is a different name and more of the same? It turns out there is already allot of evidence out there…

The “War Report” Radio Show: False Promise of NCLB for Public Education

Leave No Child Behind is a moniker appropriated from the military’s “Leave No Man Behind.” Perhaps the moniker belies the mindset of the authors of high-stakes testing and accountability policies, because we are in the middle of a “war” for public education with the privateers— those seeking to profit from our education system.

Colonizing the Black Natives: Reflections from a former NOLA Charter School Dean of Students

Are some charters’ practices new forms of colonial hegemony? When examining current discipline policies and aligned behavioral norms within charter school spaces, postcolonial theory is useful because of the striking similarities between problematic socialization practices and the educational regimes of the uncivilized masses in colonized nations. A number of postcolonial theorists focus on multiple ways that oppressors dominate their subjects and maintain power over them. For example, while working as the Dean of Students for a charter school in New Orleans, it took me some time to realize that I had been enforcing rules and policies that stymied creativity, culture and student voice. Though some of my main duties involved ensuring the safety and security of all students and adults at the school, investigating student behavioral incidents and establishing a calm and positive school culture, I felt as if I was doing the opposite.

Why are TFA and “reformers” perhaps the least interested in reform?

Why are TFA and, more generally, “reformers” perhaps the least interested in reform? Why do they get defensive when faced with critiques based on empiricism (data and research) and efficacy (is their reform working)? See for example Jonathan Alter get defensive when I discuss charter school data and research on the Melissa Harris-Perry show. He went Jerry Springer. Is it because their reform is driven by ideology rather than the best interests of children and society? During the past week, TFA alumni have joined members of the public in the #resistTFA movement and put forth a variety of suggestions for #reformTFA. Some Twitter users responded to the critique and framed it as “hate” and “attacks.”

Narrative vs. Counter-narrative: Teach For America in their own words

What do Teach For America corps members say in private conversation? How can you not love Teach For America after having a conversation with one of their gregarious and articulate supporters? Their rhetoric is convincing— typically tugging on the heartstrings. Have you also noticed that they are also masters of citing data that they have NEVER released or had independently verified by the public? Anyways, let us begin with a personal Facebook message that is typical of what you see in Teach For America’s glossy brochures (and from their lobbyist and embedded staffers on Capitol Hill).

Honoring MLK: Remembered For the Extremist That He Was

“The question is not whether we will be extremists… but what kind of extremists we will be…” Would MLK be a “school reformer” in the mold of Rahm, Bloomberg, Rhee or Broad? Do you think he would be a member of the anti-union Democrats for Education Reform? Or anti-union Students First? Or support organizations that take money (Teach For America) from the anti-union Walton Foundation?… What do you think MLK had to say about “Right to Work”? What do you think he would say about the corporate-funded Center for Union Facts personal attack on Randi Weingarten in Times Square in NYC?

Sneak Preview: How Citizens Can Hold Teach For America Accountable

Following the comprehensive 2010 National Education Policy Center (NEPC) TFA brief (See Teach For America: A review of the evidence (The research that TFA loves to hate…), we received many requests for input from parents and educators across the nation regarding the impact of TFA in their community. Many of the requests came from communities in the 8 states to which TFA has expanded in recent years, such as Seattle. It is important to note that the numbers of TFA teachers, attrition rates of TFA teachers, cost to communities among other aspects do vary by community.

Invited Testimony: Same Shift, Different Day for Latinos and African Americans

Relevance=tracking is not a new conversation or outcome in Texas or elsewhere. In fact, 100 years ago an influx of African American and Latino students into segregated schools due to compulsory schooling laws drew the same response from policymakers in the Lone Star State. I discussed this retro shift in my testimony to Texas State Board of Education on November 20, 2013 (See YouTube video above):

Today I will discuss the historical context of this debate. What’s interesting about the conversation we are having today is in essence it is the…Same Shift, Different Day

That’s S-H-I-F-T


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