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Photo: Steve Brill's School Reform Sustainability Problem

Jessica reid wsj
This is Jessica Reid, a minor character in Steve Brill's new book who, as Brill reveals in this WSJ excerpt, at the end of the book quits her grueling charter school job and takes one at a traditional public school that she feels will be more sustainable. Following a similar path, Brill acknowledges in the last pages of his occasionally fascinating 400+ page account that the "no excuses" charter schools and Race To The Top reforms he focuses on aren't really sustainable, either. If only someone had told them sooner.  My interview with Brill -- he's quite a character -- will be in the next issue of Scholastic Administrator.

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If it weren't for Mr. Brill's recent WSJ article on "super teachers", I would not have thought about working conditions. I have now learned that retention is significantly higher at charter schools than traditional schools. As a taxpayer and an employee in private industry, ignoring high turnover of talent has fiscal impact. In the case of school, high turnover is not helpful to the school community. Ignoring it is not acceptable. What human resources model are these NY charter schools using?

In that WSJ article, it does not mention that Ms. Reid is at a "traditional" school. I am glad to learn this piece of info.

The job that nearly broke her marriage, that sounds familiar at our school. Married teachers struggle a lot. Single teachers come in pumped full of Kopp ideology and feel justified insulting any teacher publicly who does not match their time commitment. Some of us have kids of our own, it is simply not possible to work 14 hours a day for us. Of course, these single teachers burn out after 2-3 years and quit, never making any deep connection to the community around them, including the kids. It was all an exercise in vanity. Kids will learn more from a happy teacher who might be a little slow, some of my best, most beloved teachers were disorganized and chatty. I pity kids today, they are being taught by robots to be robots.

I hope you managed to elicit from Mr. Brill an explanation of why he decided this was the latest hot thing to go into. It's really an extreme case of helicoptering in. Was it just the immense amount of money behind the reform hype?

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