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Best Practices Make Purrfect

Charter schools and kittens are both purrfect and have many best practices which they can be encouraged to share with the appropriate material incentives.

The subject of today’s EduShyster lesson is best practices. Which means that if you are a traditional, “low-expectations” teacher, this subject will hold no interest for you. (I happen to have it on excellent authority that your 600 page iron clad union contracts expressly ban best practices from school grounds). I invite you to check back in when we return to a more appropriate topic:  how to turn empty wine boxes into classroom holiday decorations. See you then!

Anyway, back to best practices. Do you ever read a story about a charter school that is 100 times more innovative and has like 1000 times more best practices than its sad failing public counterpart? Because EduShyster is among the handful of remaining people who still subscribe to the Boston Globe (I kick it old school), I have this experience almost everyday. Which gave me a brilliant idea: what if there were a way for charters to share some of their best practices with public schools? Now obviously they can’t possibly share all of the as that would take 862 years, and the for-profits are out because their best practices are—shhhhhhhhhh—proprietary. 

Apparently geniuses think alike because just this week the Department of Education (which I am secretly hoping Mitt Romney will eliminate) announced its Exemplary Charter School Collaboration Grant. The $12 million program is all about spreading the best practice love between high performing charters—which I’m pretty sure is redundant—and sad failing public schools, which I’m pretty sure is also redundant. Here’s how Arne put it:

“By sharing best practices, schools can work together to solve persistent challenges in public education,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. “It is so important that we break down traditional barriers and all work together to ensure that every child gets the world-class education they deserve.”

Note to EduShyster premium members: please check off 3 edu-cliches on your play-at-home scorecards. For everyone else, let’s take a look at what said best practices are, shall we? Here in Boston the spirit fingers of collaboration will soon be shared by the Boston Collegiate Charter School and its perennially struggling public counter part: Dorchester’s Burke High School. While the results of their new fling won’t be seen till next test time, I suggest we take a sneak peek at what lies ahead for the Burke using our nifty data interpreters.

Get new kids
One secret Collegiate can let the Burke in on? It’s a lot easier to get those cool high test scores when you have cool new kids to generate them, or as they say at the Burke nuevos estudiantes. You see, a quarter of the Burke students struggle to even speak English, compared with just .7 at Collegiate CharterLas mejores prácticas numero uno: ¡encontrar niños que hablan Inglés!

Size means nothing
Remember the old days when a kid started in the 9th grade and the school was supposed to keep him or her around until he graduated? Apparently nobody told the Burke that those days are over. Collegiate Charter can school them on the cool new era of best practice math. Here’s how it works. You start out with 81 9th graders and end up with 28 12th graders which equals 100% positive coverage in the Boston Globe and a $200K grant from the Department of Education.

Get cool new teachers
And by new I mean fresh, which translates into innovative and best practice-y. Nearly half of the teaching force at Collegiate is under the age of 32, which studies have shown is the precise age when LIFO lifer tendencies set in. And while 93% of teachers at the Burke are licensed to teach in their subject areasjust half of the Collegiate teachers are. Studies have also shown that freeing teachers up from the demands of training makes them 90% more likely to produce a best practice than a LIFO lifer.

Race to the top
It is now well established that minority students fare best when taught by young white teachers with little formal training. The Burke will be well advised to follow Collegiate’s race to the top in this respect. Like many urban public schools the Burke tried to hire teachers that look like the students they educate, while Collegiate knows that when it comes to generating test scores, blonde rules every time. Fifty seven percent of teachers at Best Practice Academy are white, compared to 28% at the Burke. Which makes purrfect sense when you think about it. As many Hollywood movies have proven, young attractive female teachers are 90% more likely to turn a school around and also generate ticket sales.

if you don’t believe me go and see “Won’t Back Down,” which is currently running a 2 for 1 ticket sale, I bet if Walden Media had cast Hayden Panettiere in place of Viola Davis, the movie would be CLEANING UP right now.

What’s your favorite best practice? Send mail to

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