KnowAtom's Blog

Jennifer Berkshire

Nationally recognized education journalist Berkshire is the co-host and co-producer of Have You Heard, a monthly podcast on education issues.

Recent Posts

What is the Relationship Between Schools and Neighborhoods?

Jul 6, 2016 by Jennifer Berkshire

As we move towards a market-based system in public education, the argument has been that the goal is either to get the students out of their bad neighborhoods, or that the neighborhood doesn't matter if you can just get the student into a quality school.

As any sociologist will tell you, these things don't happen in isolation. Students live in neighborhoods, and the school is one of the most important institutions, along with the family and the other institutions that bind the community together. 

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Topics: Charter Schools

How Should School Quality Be Measured?

Jun 28, 2016 by Jennifer Berkshire

Almost everyone agrees now that just focusing on math and English is way too narrow and has taken us into a sort of tragi-comic cul-de-sac in a lot of ways. There are some really interesting experiments underway about how you create broader measures of school quality that align more with what parents want, what students want, what teachers want, but also produce the achievement gains that everyone is so focused on. 

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Topics: standardized testing, state-level standards

What Should the Relationship Be Between Charter Schools and District Schools?

Jun 21, 2016 by Jennifer Berkshire

In the original vision for charter schools, the idea was that charter schools would basically function as Petri dishes, developing new knowledge or practices, which could then be adopted by traditional public schools.  

However, it's harder and harder to find examples where that's what's happening. What you see more and more of is an expanding charter sector that competes with the district for students and resources. That original vision, where charters would be a laboratory of innovation and then export their best practices back to the district, isn’t what's happened. Instead you have a competitive, often strained relationship. 

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Topics: Charter Schools

What is the Purpose of School?

Jun 14, 2016 by Jennifer Berkshire

Lawrence is in the midst of a turnaround. There's a lot of emphasis on boosting academic achievement there. If you listen to the students, they envision the purpose of school as being about education through experience, with an eye toward helping them be leaders who can transform their own communities. The different schools of thought, I would say, are almost like different sizes of thought. How big your vision is of what's possible ends up determining your answer for what school is for.

You see in some communities a huge effort to tie schools to particular kinds of job training, where kids basically pick their occupation early on and get trained for it. Students who are being trained for a health career, for example, will attend a health academy. Or you might end up at a academy. Think about how much narrower that school of thought is, the school as a kind of vocational training center, versus what the kids in Lawrence are talking about, where they see school as broadening their horizons. 

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Topics: standardized testing

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