What does it mean to declare that #blacklivesmatter in education?

Last month the Movement for Black Lives, representing elements of the Black Lives Matter movement and related groups, issued a detailed policy platform denouncing what it called “corporate-backed,” “market driven” “privatization” in school reform, and helped set off a furor over this question.

Under the section labeled “community control,” M4BL called for an end to state and mayoral takeovers of school systems in favor of local, democratically elected boards, more equitable school funding and a de-emphasis on standardized testing. The group also demanded a moratorium on new charter schools, on school closures and on out-of-school suspensions, which they link to the school-to-prison pipeline.

Questions Of Race And Charter Schools Divide Education Reformers

Illustration: LA Johnson and Chelsea Beck/NPR

Charter school rant

The teachers only care about at risk students.
They say they acknowledge everyone but they don’t.
Nothing i do gets noticed.
I have all As.
I have been absent three tines this year.
Yet the kids who fail, fight, and skip can do whatever the fuck they want and including getting up and walking out if class and literally swearing at the teachers.
I am so fucking insignificant to them that my school log in still doesn’t fucking work.
If I had a choice id leave but I dont.
Public schools are seriously fucked up and I’m 110% done.
This bitch can threaten my best friend and they wont do shit.
She was also sexually harassed multiple times and they did nothing.
Other straight couples can basically fuck in class but when it comes to a lesbian couple they cant even hold hands.
Even though this school has a “gay straight alliance” which is retarded because they raise money and food and personal care items for the homeless not raise awareness for homosexuality they’re still assholes to homosexual people.
Its supposedly “a family setting”

Yep that’s why a bitch called me a ratchet wannabe and told me to kill myself.

My seminar teacher only cares for three people and they’re huge Junkies. She didn’t notice that I pulled away from the people I sat with in that class and that ive cried multiple times but one guy that’s an at risk kid had his head down and she let him stay in her class all day.

I thought da vinci was better than this but I guess not. Thanks for lowering my self esteem dumbasses. Only one teacher actually gives a fuck for me.

President-elect Donald Trump said on the campaign trail that school choice is “the new civil rights issue of our time.” But to many Americans, talk of school choice isn’t liberating; it’s just plain confusing.

Exhibit A: Vouchers.

Politicians love to use this buzzword in perpetual second reference, assuming vouchers are like Superman: Everyone knows where they came from and what they can do. They’re wrong. And, as Trump has tapped an outspoken champion of vouchers, Betsy DeVos, to be his next education secretary, it’s time for a quick origin story.

School Vouchers 101: What They Are, How They Work — And Do They Work?

Illustration: LA Johnson/NPR
Democrats reject her, but they helped pave the road to education nominee DeVos
Many Democrats have been supporting traditional Republican views of school reform for years.

It wasn’t all that long ago that it would have seemed impossible for anybody who labeled the U.S. public education system a “dead end” to be nominated as U.S. Secretary of Education, much less get support to be confirmed. Not anymore. Betsy DeVos, a Republican billionaire from Michigan who public school advocates see as hostile to America’s public education system, is likely to be confirmed despite a rocky Senate committee hearing, where, under caustic Democratic questioning, she seemed not to know basic education issues.

If DeVos does become education secretary, Democrats will of course blame the Republicans. DeVos is, after all, a Republican who has donated millions of dollars to Republicans, was selected to be education secretary by a Republican, and would win confirmation thanks to the Republican majority in the Senate.

But the record shows that Democrats can’t just blame Republicans for her ascension. It was actually Democrats who helped pave the road for DeVos to take the helm of the Education Department. Democrats have in recent years sounded — and acted — a lot like Republicans in advancing corporate education reform, which seeks to operate public schools as if they were businesses, not civic institutions. (This dynamic isn’t limited to education, but this post is.) By embracing many of the tenets of corporate reform — including the notion of “school choice” and the targeting of teachers and their unions as being blind to the needs of children — they helped make DeVos’s education views, once seen as extreme, seem less so. Historically, Democrats and Republicans have looked at public schools differently.

Democrats have traditionally been defenders of public education, seeing it as the nation’s most important civic institution, one that is meant to provide equal opportunity for marginalized communities to escape poverty and become well-informed citizens so they can become part of America’s civic life. Public education was seen as a civil right. Republicans have looked at public schools less as vehicles of social equity and more as places that are supposed to prepare young people for college and careers, an endeavor that should be measured with the same types of metrics businesses use to gauge success. Some Republicans have looked at public schools with suspicion, in some cases seeing them as transmitters of liberal and even godless values.

That’s why it was unusual when, in 2001, the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, the liberal Massachusetts Democrat, gave critical support to the new conservative Republican president, George W. Bush, in passing a new education law called No Child Left Behind (NCLB). A bipartisan, they said, was to make sure public schools attended to the needs of all students, but the law actually became known for creating new “accountability” measures for schools based on controversial standardized test scores.

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The Charter School Problem

A few days ago I read an interesting piece in the Economist, “A 20-year lesson: Evidence from America and Britain shows that independence for schools works” (Pub: Jul 7, 2012) that got me really thinking about what the charter school issue is. Especially now with the publication of Camika Royal, Ph.D’s speech to the 2012 Teach For America Corps at Institute in Philly, “Swift to Hear; Slow to Speak: A Message to TFA Teachers, Critics, and Education Reformers” in the Huffington Post, I wanted to get a word in edgewise.

As a member of Teach For America, and a student in a highly respected MST program, I hear a lot of debate about charter schools, and whether or not we should be investing/supporting them within our systems. I don’t have a solid idea about what the right answer is, and so I largely listen to what people are saying. This piece has significantly added data-based, hard evidence to my understanding of the problem.

In the article, the author discusses the success of schools that are given choice. Choice means a lot of things, and the types of freedom given to schools can vary, and have very different effects. Schools that are given more leeway in how they hire and fire teachers as well as how they support those teachers, how they develop curriculum, and how they create home-school, teacher-parent, and teacher-student relationships often fare very well. But not always. The charter experiment in the United States has shown that charters are not the absolute answer. However, categorically refusing charters is also not the answer. Anyone who has ever spent time inside a high-performing private school can tell you that the students benefit from the freedom enjoyed by the teachers and administrators. Like any school, not all students will succeed in a given private school, and again that opens the door not only to whether or not charters are a good choice, but also if school choice should exist for families.

Here are some of the point of view I’m beginning to develop:

  • For some cities, and some students, charter schools will be the answer. That being said, charter schools should never replace all district schools.
  • Charter schools that purport to “fix” the problems encountered in the public schools they are working within, replacing, or displacing should then have to work within the same confines that the district school had to work in. Charter schools that claim success where others have failed should have to work within the same budget (that means no outside private investors, among other things), should have to meet the same standards, accept similar or the same students, and should be required to meet the same standards in the same amount of time that the district school was measured by. A charter school is not succeeding where others have failed if it replaces low-income, ESL, and SPED students with students who do not face these barriers.
  • All schools, whether charter, district or private, should have to meet the same standards. The way they chose to teach those standards can be up to them, but all students should be able to perform the same academic tasks and demonstrate the same skills.
  • I don’t know what the answer is, but we have to find another approach to teacher tenure, last-in-first-out, and monetary incentives. Schools should be able to more easily get rid of ineffective teachers, no matter how long they’ve been in the system. This cannot happen until we have a fair, equitable, and reliable way to assess teacher efficacy that does not place teachers on the line for disagreeing with administrators.
  • We must find a way to properly incentiveze and support students and professionals who are the best in their class and in their fields, and bring them into the classroom with a reasonable amount of teacher education and experience under their belts. People must not be allowed to choose teaching as a profession because it is the “easy way out,” because it is not. We need the best and brightest in the front of our classrooms.
  • We must find a way to bring more male and minority teachers into our classrooms. Minorities are not just Black and Hispanic teachers, but also the wide variety of Asian populations that exist here, especially Hmong, Vietnamese, and other Southeast Asian groups. Native American’s too must be given better opportunities for success, and when they achieve highly, should be encouraged to enter education professions.
Charter Schools

Some of the best schools I’ve ever been in are charter schools, some of which are blowing the lid off test scores in such vexed communities as Boston, New York, and Chicago.  And some of the worst – and flakiest – schools I’ve ever been in are charter schools.  Yet people are choosing them.

-Chester E. Finn Jr.

Suffolk County Charter School: It  Actually Happened (sort of)

I haven’t seen anyone connect this any where else so I thought I would share what I found out by accident. If its old news then ignore me

Wow. Okay. So, I stumbled upon this area in my exploration of the Commonwealth Wasteland in Fallout 4 months ago before I completed my first play through. Suffolk County Charter School.

It was creepy and had a story to uncover so I went in. Im sure most of you know what I’m talking about so, no big deal. Its not secret or hidden. Just one of those cool Fallout areas that don’t have a quest attached but you feel compelled to figure out what the fuck happened.

Inside there were pink ghouls.

And pink goo.

While splattering these guys and looting everything in the facility (because Fallout) I uncovered the story behind this location. If you haven’t found it yet, SPOILERS, heres the summary:

“In exchange for funding, Principal Jackie Hudson agreed to implement the government’s experimental Nutritional Alternative Paste Program (NAPP) at the school. Participation required limiting food consumption within the school to a government-provided food paste. This decision was apparently made without the consent of faculty, students, or parents.

Per Principal Hudson’s announcements, the NAPP was launched on October 18 and any outside food was to be confiscated from then on. These announcements can be heard on three holotapes found throughout the school.”

So yeah. I just murdered a bunch of kids that were unwittingly being experimented on. I felt sort of shitty. My Sole Survivor didn’t give a fuck. She would gladly murder actual babies for that issue of Unstoppables or a bobblehead. She’s a collector, almost to the point of compulsion.

I found this area so interesting and tragic that I sought more info on the Fallout Wiki. There (and other sources/theories I’ve read) talk about how the pink goo is probably a reference to the film The Stuff (1985). 

A more popular theory is that its actually referencing “The Pink Slime”

“The food paste as a whole is a reference to Pink Slime, a food additive consisting of low-fat meat which was ground into a paste. It’s particularly infamous after being widely used as a meal alternative in American school lunches during 2012, which resulted in major controversy.”

Huh. Okay cool. I was satisfied with these being possible references. It made sense. And I never thought about it again. I mean, it was like, a year ago or some shit. I don’t know, a long ass time ago.

But then last night, while avoiding doing adult things, my ADHD kicked in as my meds wore off and I decided to hyper focus on watching weird YouTube videos covering topics like horrendous incidents, unsolved mysteries, conspiracy theories, that kind of stuff. Basically I sat there in my own world watching Rob Dyke and Dark5 videos.

Im not weird.

Anyway, Thats when I saw this and holy shit. I immediately thought of Suffolk County Charter School in Fallout 4. Something I hadn’t thought about in forever from a game I haven’t really played in months.

You can watch the video or heres a quick summary of events that took place at a school in Massachusetts:

“A group of former students who ate radioactive oatmeal as unwitting participants in a food experiment will share a $1.85 million settlement from Quaker Oats and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

More than 100 boys at the Fernald School in Waltham, Mass., were fed cereal containing radioactive iron and calcium in the 1940’s and 1950’s. The diet was part of an experiment to prove that the nutrients in Quaker oatmeal travel throughout the body.” New York Times, 1998

Yep. It happened in Massachusetts. MIT was involved.

Maybe all of this is stupid to everyone but honestly shit like this is why I LOVE video games. A simple location with no real importance to the main game (except collectibles) held a really interesting story that stuck with me, at least subconsciously. 

Easter eggs and references in games aren’t new but the fact that even after researching the in-game location I didn’t see any mention of the Fernald School (which could have been because the game was still fairly new then) and then randomly I stumbled upon what I think is unquestionably the real inspiration for this area is so cool to me.

Fallout lore is so dense and so far reaching, referencing other games, media, pop culture, and real life events. I fell in love all over again with this franchise based on this one small detail that dosent even matter in the grand scheme of the story. 

I had to share this because I couldn’t get it off my mind. That moment of being like “HOLY SHIT WAIT. THIS IS IN FALLOUT.” was something that I’m sure a lot of gamers can relate to and its exciting and interesting.

Hopefully you guys find this cool too!

camilliar replied to your post “camilliar replied to your post “hey i dont want to start any…”

It’s because I’m a Chicagoan and I feel like the irrational amount of hate radiating toward this city is out of proportion with our actual, real problems.

There’s a lot of things to hate about Chicago (like how it’s imploding due to corruption, or it’s has one of the highest rates of gun violence in the US, it’s fucking up our public school system with charter schools and spending teachers’ pensions, or that it’s one of the most racially segregated cities in the US) but so many people choose to hate on Chicago for stuff that’s pretty fucking stupid imho but what do I know 


Be wary of liberal leaders who will try to hide their allegiance to DeVos’ destructive education agenda. As soon as he sad he supports “accountable school choice initiatives”, it should be a dead giveaway.

Behind closed doors, politicians like this will be more than happy to help Devos gut public schooling and destroy teachers unions. They try to hide it, but they can’t hide their actions and their records.


In New Orleans, there are no more neighborhood schools. Instead, parents must choose — a charter school, private school, or one of six remaining traditional public schools. This fall, more than 9 in 10 New Orleans students will attend charters.

Parents apply through an open admissions lottery. They request their top choices, and then a computer makes assignments.

The district set aside one day in July for last-minute enrollment. It expected about 300 parents. More than 2,000 showed up in the next few days, and eventually almost 7,000 students would be assigned to new school seats.

The End Of Neighborhood Schools

Photo credit: Edmund D. Fountain for NPR

Top charter schools can often boast of sending virtually all of their graduates to college, even when the majority of their students are low-income or are the first members of their families to pursue post-high school educations.

As it turns out, many of those students don’t earn a degree.

Some of the best charter school networks — places like the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) or Harlem Children’s Zone — are working to change that. They are not only helping their graduates get into college, but are also counseling them once they are on university campuses. The idea is to boost the number of graduates who earn bachelor’s degrees.

Beyond College-Ready: Top Charter Schools Support Graduates In College

Photo credit: Courtesy of Harlem Children’s Zone
Caption: Students from a Harlem Children’s Zone school visit Hunter College in New York.