Classroom Alchemy

“Hey, how was Philadelphia?” asked Darius*, as I checked his work (“Sketch a parabola in which b=0”). “Pittsburgh,” I said, pleased and taken aback. It was Wednesday, first day back after our 4-day Veterans Day weekend. Sometime on the previous Thursday, I’d mentioned casually I was going back east for my uncle’s 70th birthday. Six…

Higher Standards and Santino

A couple years ago, an administrative vice principal (AVP) walked into my classroom and asked, “I’m checking up on previously ELL students who were reclassified English proficient (RFEPed) to be sure they are getting enough support. What can you tell me about Santino?” “Santino? He’s doing well. He’s gotten either a high F or a…

Transcripts vs. Reality

First published in the Mercury News, December 27, 2010. Since archived. In “Waiting for Superman,” the much-discussed documentary on charter schools, Redwood City’s Summit Preparatory Charter School is celebrated for its inclusive curriculum. All Summit students are required to take college prep and Advanced Placement courses, with no separate tracks for high-, middle- or low-achieving…

The right way to assess teacher performance

First published in the Washington Post, June 18, 2010.  This is back when I was trying to write op eds. There’s only a limited amount of topics I can limit myself to under 1000 words and have something safe for publishing. The Obama administration’s Race to the Top program demands that teachers be evaluated by student test…

The Driftwood and the Vortex

I wrote this for Larry Cuban’s blog as well, first published on March 2, 2013. “Ms K, I need to do my work with Ms. V. My education plan is my civil right!” Deon’s entire body was contorted in a geometric impossibility, the better to shout at me from the back of the room. “Hey,…

The Miracle and the Moment

Note: I wrote this for Larry Cuban’s blog, it remains one of the two or three best pieces I’ve ever written, capturing  that day, which still makes my heart go pitty pat, and the glory of teaching when none of the students care if they’ll ever “use” the information again. FIrst published June 27, 2012. **********************************…