Match Charter Public School Founder Mike Goldstein on School & Teacher Prep Reform

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This week on “The Learning Curve,” co-hosts Gerard Robinson and Cara Candal talk with Mike Goldstein, founder of the Match Charter School and Match Teacher Residency in Boston. He shares why he became involved in K-12 education and founded Match Charter, and some of the innovations the school has implemented, such as high-caliber teacher preparation and use of Ivy League-educated teachers to drive successful student achievement. They discuss Match’s high-dosage tutoring program, and Mike shares the results of an experiment begun six years ago to replicate it in school districts. Mike also sheds light on charter graduates’ economic mobility, including job prospects and earning gains after college. Lastly, they delve into how charter supporters and leaders in Massachusetts and other blue states should proceed now that opposition is on the rise in states with some of the highest-performing charters, and what must be done to bridge the growing political divisions within K-12 education reform.

Stories of the Week: In New Mexico this year, the state is experiencing a 40 percent spike in the retirement of education employees. In Illinois, nearly 40 cents of every education dollar is spent on pensions.


Mike Goldstein is founder of Match Charter School in Boston, profiled by the illustrious Cara Candal for unusual approaches to tutoring and also teacher prep. Mike went on to become CAO of Bridge International Academies. That’s the largest operator of elementary schools in Africa, with over 800,000 students. Most recently, Mike advises start-ups that create parent choice – including AvelaReconstructionSchoolHouse – and is cooking up a new start-up to address a charter sector challenge (that our graduates often don’t escape poverty as adults). He lives outside Boston with wife Pru, two middle-schoolers, and pandemic pup, Grizzly.

Next Episode: The next episode will air on Wednesday, October 6th with guest, Raymond Arsenault, the John Hope Franklin Professor of Southern History at the University of South Florida, and the author of several acclaimed and prize-winning books on civil rights, including Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice.

Tweet of the Week:

News Links:

The Albuquerque Journal: NM sees 40% jump in education retirements


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[00:00:00] Cara: Hello listeners. And welcome to another week of The Learning Curve. I am here coming at us from I believe, beautiful Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with the great Gerard Robinson, Gerard, how are you doing? 

[00:00:14] Gerard: I am in beautiful Milwaukee. I actually moved here 17 years ago, for two year fellowship to take a look at the wrong choice program in Milwaukee, both public and private and everything in the middle.

[00:00:25] So it’s always good. The 

[00:00:26] Cara: start and all the start of it all there. Yeah. I’m sorry. I couldn’t be there with you. I was hoping to, but it just didn’t pan out that way. Gerard, I was thinking that, / this is like the episode about we’re going to. Talking to a former teacher. We’ve got, some stories about teachers.

[00:00:44] I feel like it’s the teaching episode. And there you are reflecting on your time in Milwaukee, where I think you probably spent a lot of time looking at schools and teachers. tell me a little bit about, the best time there. did you learn when you were there during your fellowship in [00:01:00] Milwaukee?

[00:01:00] GR: So when I was. We were reaching the cap of 15,000 students in the Milwaukee parental choice program. And so for our listeners who may not know this is the country’s first urban based private school, publicly funded voucher program in the country. And the reason I say urban based, because as you know, in new England, there were tuitioning programs that, , go back to the 18 hundreds, but it really started here through a nice coalition of people, , Democrats, like, Polly Williams, Dr.

[00:01:28] Howard fuller, and then. Tommy Thompson, who was here and, former speaker of the house and others. And so when I was here, we were reaching the 15,000 point cap at which point no more students could come in. And so I was tasked on the advocacy. To work with private schools, both think based and non faith-based to go to the capital which we did for two weeks.

[00:01:49] And students held up signs. I had conversations with lawmakers as to why lifting the capital’s important. And it was a course of partisan debate, audit all the questions about, you know, taking him out of public [00:02:00] education. Well, needless to say, it was a couple of lawmakers and change their vote and they say one of the reasons that they did so is they had actually talked to some of the students from.

[00:02:09] Real choice program, who said this program is first of all, helping my family, putting it in context, it’s it wasn’t solely about a building or books. It was about the people who benefited from it outside of class. And then the second was, , talking to some of the educators who were there, who some of them in fact were public school teachers at one point switched over to work in the sector.

[00:02:28] And so we were able to lift that. , that opened up the door of opportunity to thousands of more students, at that time was roughly 14,000. Today you have over 22,000. So playing a small role in that in lifting the campaign. And in fact, it was called lift the cap campaign. I began to call it, lift the crap campaign.

[00:02:47] So there was so much crap about the program and what it was doing to segregate a school. It was already medical said African-American and it was stealing money from a school system that in fact, at nearly a billion dollars. on the table for the postal system. And [00:03:00] yet I have fewer students in 2006, then when the program began in 1990.

[00:03:06] So I think that was something memorable because for me, it was also a chance to get involved in politics and see people who just took a principle stand and said, Nope, this is working for families. Let’s do it. 

[00:03:16] Cara: It’s huge Gerard. And you know, well, first of all, I, questioned whether or not we are beyond the crap because to the point that you just made.

[00:03:24] Same old arguments that we’re still hearing about establishing choice programs, expanding choice programs, et cetera. They just prove persistent intractable, , all of the things, all of the words. But what I love about your story Gerard is that you’re talking about students. You’re talking about family.

[00:03:41] And you’re talking about teachers, something that is a constituency that I think is very overlooked. We often think about teachers, not in the form of like the individuals who do the work during the day, but sometimes in the form of the unions that often represent them and the political forces. [00:04:00] That represent teachers that can often be opposed to these school choice programs, but that’s not to say, I think to the point you’ve made that teachers themselves are opposed or are always opposed.

[00:04:11] It’s a very individual decision and we have to honor the great work of those teachers who teach in the schools that kids choose. and we’re going to be talking to one such former teacher today , , who, is like so many of his colleagues for years. And in some of the people that, you know, I started the Milwaukee parental choice program, folks who are really rooted in the art, the science of teaching.

[00:04:33] Right. you were a teacher. I was a teacher. I don’t know. I’m just having a moment today, Gerard, where thinking a lot about the profession of teaching and tried to throw some love to the way of our teachers. So I hope you’re having a good time in Milwaukee. want. Sage or at one of the things that’s got me thinking so much about teachers and so much about giving teachers a little more love is my story of the week, which is from the Albuquerque journal.

[00:04:59] It’s by [00:05:00] Dan McKay. And this is a headline right out of New Mexico, but it’s just, you know, across the country as well. The headline here is that the state of New Mexico has seen a 40%. 40% charge, a 40% jump in education, retirement this year. Now we’ve talked on this show before about, oh, I don’t know.

[00:05:20] Is there a teacher shortage and is there a teacher shortage some places. And what does it mean if there’s a teacher shortage? The bottom line is this, , I don’t think anybody can definitively say why. , , yet we all have our best guesses. Was it the pandemic? Is it, but people. Are in many cases able to now go home with a pension because they’ve reached retirement age and yes, a lot of teachers do get generous pensions.

[00:05:42] Even if some of them aren’t getting paid on the daily, what they deserve to be paid. but the benefits can be good. but people are walking away and saying, you know what, I’m going to take that now Whereas in the past, like 10 years, we hadn’t seen this rate of retirement. There had been sort of a dip.

[00:05:57] People were staying longer in the profession, [00:06:00] even after they were eligible to retire. Now we have seen that spike again, and I’m not here to really concentrate so much on the why, but I I’m, worried about the impact Gerard, and here’s why I’m worried about the impact. It’s something that this article touches upon.

[00:06:14] And that is the fact that veteran teachers really. Matter in our school. Right. And in our schools, veteran teachers are the ones who not only are the culture bearers of a school, which is just so important. And I might add that school culture has so much to do with whether or not people choose to stay at a school, or indeed, maybe in many cases stay in the profession altogether.

[00:06:36] But veteran teachers are also the ones who mentor those younger folks coming into the profession and with a mass exit. Of our older, more experienced teachers and experience doesn’t always equal excellence, but experience has got to give you something, says the woman who is noticing more and more gray hairs on her head every morning.

[00:06:54] Right. But this is a, I think that it’s a really important conversation that we need to think, not just about [00:07:00] teacher attrition, but where the attrition is happening. And if it’s happening all within one main group, I think we’ve got a problem. The other thing to consider too, though, is. , one of the things that we know about millennials and gen Z is that they’re just not staying in jobs as long as.

[00:07:16] URI might’ve or certainly our parents did. they’re not staying as long. And teaching has always been sort of a, one of those things that a certain proportion of people are only going, gonna stay in the job for a few years and curious to see if we’re going to see that kind of churn, really playing out more, which gives me even further , pause, because if we have fewer veteran teachers, Gerard, and then we’ve got folks who just aren’t inclined to stay in a single profession or a single place year after year, , what does that mean for our kids?

[00:07:45] And it’s something that in glad this article highlights it, but it’s something that I hope we as a policy community have a much more intentional conversation about, because I think we can talk all we want about educational excellence and improving our schools. , but boy, [00:08:00] if we don’t have folks in there who are really working hard to make our schools, the excellent places we want them to be for all kids, , I think we’re in trouble.

[00:08:07] So what are your thoughts on this? 

[00:08:10] GR: We had a conversation about New Mexico. I believe two shows ago because the department of education did a national survey and identified in Mexico as one of two states that say they actually had, enough teachers to address the needs of students with, certain learning, challenges.

[00:08:26] And then two weeks later, we will. Basically what you were just saying that the number is also uncertain areas going in another route. Now this is a good state to look at because New Mexico is going to state that experimented with reform in a number of ways. I had a scan, their, their former state chief is someone who we know well and.

[00:08:45] Contexts, who knew knows the current person, but when you have that many people leaving and the pipeline of teachers coming in, yeah. That’s going to be tough, particularly in an oil state. And we also have to take a look at, how states actually raise funds and when you [00:09:00] have changes, and so much of is dependent upon, , one source in terms of the terms above.

[00:09:04] And that’s a resource, versus others. That’s going to be tough and a state where you have. unlike, let’s say a city like Washington DC, or a state like Texas, where you have thousands of people who move in annually. you don’t have the same dynamic in places like New Mexico. And so when you have retiring population, it’s pretty clear they’re going to do this a pipeline that’s going to come in, but maybe not.

[00:09:29] Fill the gap. that’s going to be a challenge. So I know there are good smart people in that area, both within and outside of government who will make this work. But it’s so funny. You’re talking about retirement because my story is about, since I’m in Wisconsin, it’s about our neighbor. Like. And this is from Adam Schuster and it’s from the Illinois policy Institute.

[00:09:51] And here’s the title nearly 40 cent on every education dollar in Illinois goes to pensions. Now I’m a supporter of pensions for educators. [00:10:00] I have a number of my friends who went to college with, , who have retired and have lived a comfortable middle-class status and really lifestyle because of the pension they have.

[00:10:09] But my friends in Illinois have talked about this for a number of years because. Basically based upon politics, contracts that people have signed with unions. And before people say this is union bashing, I grew up in a union home. In fact, I was a member of a union for three years when I left high school and worked in college with the community college.

[00:10:27] So it’s not about that, but we’ve made obligations to people who are expecting in their fifties, sixties, and seventies, to not only retire with dignity, but be able to do so comfortably. And when 40. On every dollar is going to a pension and you seen it. This pension isn’t this isn’t a new revelation. This represents a 458% increase in spending on teacher pensions since 2000.

[00:10:55] So this is something that the state of Illinois is going to have to figure out how to do it. [00:11:00] In the past two gubernatorial races, there were debates amongst candidates, who was going to be able to close. And some people laugh because they said it’s just an uncomfortable challenge. Others said, well, we can make the challenge, but it’s going to mean I’m going to take some pretty steep cuts, , in areas that people don’t want to.

[00:11:17] , I had a chance to see this in both Virginia and Florida, when I worked at state government of where both governor said, listen, we’re at a point where we’re going to have to have teachers invest more money into their pension plan because We’re going to find ourselves in a problem 20 years from now.

[00:11:30] So, there’s some tough recommendations that are coming on place, but I think they’re really two takeaways for me when we say. Promises to people about a pension. We need to have a 25 year look, not a two year look, not just enough to get through the next election, but we have to look down a lot and say, what do we have in place in terms of investments in government?

[00:11:51] And non-government. markets to make this happen. And this is something I want to say for my friends who just hate the free market system, or think we shouldn’t have any public [00:12:00] money going into the for-profit sector. If you take a look at where teachers invested their pensions and you take a look at what type of markets and what markets in fact are returning pretty good returns for them to retire, or guess what not all of that is simply government bonds.

[00:12:16] A lot of that is in the for-profit, , venture sector. Where people are making investments to make that happen. So we’ve got to look at that, but number two, , if we don’t see a major decrease and this number, so let’s say 10 years from now, when you and I having this conversation, let’s say, now it’s 50%.

[00:12:33] You’ve done something that the article talks about. You’ve discouraged younger teachers from entering the profession, because they’re saying, wait a minute, I’m entering for the right reason. I want to make this a career. I want to do all the things you guys see. But you can’t guarantee me that the pension that I pay in to today is going to give me a return on investment.

[00:12:53] So this is a big problem in Illinois. I remember several years ago that at one point the state had such , a [00:13:00] budgetary crisis that, , gas stations, , were given a second guessed on whether or not to take the credit cards used by police officers. They fill up their cars. Well, now this has gone into the teaching profession.

[00:13:11] I don’t have. a magic answer on, but I’m sure that other people want to solve this. We’ll take political will not just money, but the political will piece is going to be tough. And frankly, some of the conversation will have to come from teachers who’ve retired, who should be the ones driving, what lawmakers should think about.

[00:13:28] not per se, just lawmakers. 

[00:13:30] Cara: yeah, Gerard, you know, and I have to say if history is any teacher on this, I don’t know if we had this problem off before. There’s just a huge collapse and let’s be Frank about, it’s not only going to affect people going into the profession, but it is already affecting.

[00:13:45] Our schools it’s already affecting the experience that kids have in schools, because when states have budgetary crisis, that’s less money that they can give to schools. That’s another eye off the ball of what it takes to educate kids. And quite frankly, [00:14:00] a lot of times when we look at reports and like what states or districts spend on per pupil spending, what’s actually going to schools going to, supposed to be going to kids, individual kids.

[00:14:11] A lot of times, these extra costs such as pensions. Arms dis-aggregated right. It’s not, they can all be baked in. So one of the first questions I always ask when we see these huge numbers about like, what’s going to districts, or what’s going to schools is like, well, how much of that is actually getting to kids?

[00:14:28] And this conversation that we’re having on pensions is all part of that. I think you’re right. It’s going to have to be teachers that step up, but I also think tragically, and I’m not knocking teachers. I’m knocking just our whole education system and how we teach one another, even, in the best, most well-resourced schools and districts in this country, right.

[00:14:50] About just how such systems work. How many of us are taught, what it means to even invest for the future. When we’re young enough to understand that and to [00:15:00] get a leg up. And so, if I’m a teacher and I’ve been working all these years, I’m with you toward the guarantee of my pension. I’ve worked hard for that.

[00:15:06] And I want it, but this is if we are on the brink of systemic collapse, you’re right. It has to be a longer term game, but we also, I think, need to start even, we have a much broader conversation about like, what is it? Do we understand that we value. And do we understand about, where the money is going and who’s entitled to what, and this is just a reckoning.

[00:15:28] And I have to say, having grown up in the Detroit area, having grown up in Michigan and watching, for example, the collapse of the auto industry, This is the same. kind of thing, you know, where we are on the brink and it’s really, it’s frightening. My friend it’s really frightening.

[00:15:44] So these are things that , I hope we keep talking about and note to our producers. Maybe we need to , , get somebody on. Who’s really into looking at teacher pensions to talk to us about this, because I think it would be a really interesting conversation and certainly a great learning for me.

[00:15:58] All right, [00:16:00] Gerard coming up next. I’m really excited for this next guest. Not only is he local, but he is the founder of match charter school. And, if you don’t know match, if you are sort of an edge you want, you probably do. But if you’re listening to the show and you’re thinking I’ve never heard of that school, why should I care?

[00:16:18] we’re going to tell you in a little bit why you should care, but. Not only founded match charter school, but sort of all of these innovations that math was home to that have now spun off and are helping kids in schools and teachers across this country. So really excited to speak with my Goldstein coming up right after this.[00:17:00] 

[00:17:30] Listeners. We’re really excited to have with us, Mike Goldstein. He is the founder of match charter school right here in Boston, right here in my backyard. And, , as this little nugget, edited into his bio here saying that he has been profiled, that the match charter school has been profiled by the illustrious character.

[00:17:48] Ah, we could maybe something like that, but I have had definitely the pleasure of writing about Matt, as well as some of Mike’s other ventures, which are many, but match is known for many, many things, one of them is its [00:18:00] unusual approaches to tutoring and teacher prep, which are probably no longer unusual because I think that they’ve taken hold in many places.

[00:18:07] The country, after founding match and spending good deal of time there, which is where I met him one day, asking him if I could come and observe what they do. , Mike went on to become the CEO of bridge international academies. It is the largest operator of elementary schools in Africa with over 800,000 students.

[00:18:26] Most recently, Mike advises, startups that create. Including availa reconstruction and schoolhouse, and he’s cooking up a new startup. I can’t wait to hear more about this to address a charter sector challenge. That is the fact that our graduates often don’t escape poverty as adults. This is something I’ve heard my talk about a little bit in the past, and I’m excited to dig in here.

[00:18:47] Mike of course lives right here outside of Boston with his wife through his two middle-schoolers. Oh, I didn’t realize they were in middle school already. As we were just talking about his pandemic pop grizzly. So most important question, [00:19:00] Mike, how is grizzly 

[00:19:02] Mike: Grizzlies? Fantastic. , we just went through a thunderstorm and he didn’t even blink an eye.

[00:19:06] His nap was undisturbed. Same 

[00:19:09] Cara: thing. I got to say it was a serious storm here today, everybody. And does grizzly do this? My pandemic pup. when she hears sirens, she mimics. 

[00:19:18] Mike: No. That’s interesting. Yeah, 

[00:19:22] Cara: it’s super weird. And one of the most, it’s really accurate. It’s eerily accurate. So anyway, well, Mike, we are really happy to have you with us here today.

[00:19:30] Thank you so much for taking the time. Now. I think a lot of our listeners know you and know your. But let’s talk a little bit about match. So you founded match charter school is I believe this was an idea that you cooked up during your time at Harvard. You will correct me if I am wrong, but match used.

[00:19:49] See, I ha I do remember something I’m getting old, but some something for me. but match has used Ivy league educated teachers to drive successful student achievement. And now, as I [00:20:00] noted at the outset, it’s also known for really cool teacher prep program. Tutoring. Talk about the idea, tell our listeners how it all came together in, , these pillars of sort of the master approach that have spun off across the country.

[00:20:15] How did you get there? 

[00:20:17] Mike: well it’s, first of all, it’s great to be with you. I started at Harvard in 1996, in a two year master’s degree program learned about charter schools and got excited and decided to start one. And almost every idea that I wrote into my charter turned out to be a terrible idea in real time.

[00:20:35] but a great thing that happened was I got one thing, right. Which was, I was introduced to a guy named Charlie Sposato, who had taught in Massachusetts for 33 years. when I first met him. so older guy had won teacher of the year and just really a beloved teacher and he agreed to become our founding principal.

[00:20:58] And while a lot [00:21:00] of the ideas I had for project-based learning and other sort of cool and technology is things. , at least when I did them did not execute well. I think Charlie was masterful and most people who attended match in the early years think of him as someone who built an incredible call.

[00:21:20] Great relationships with parents. And he was very much a relationship first type of person. And that really informed the rest of my education. 

[00:21:30] Cara: You say he formed great relationships with parents. one of the things I remember as a graduate student, when I think I’d met you, when I was doing my doctoral work, it’d be you and went to match and was talking to people and, writing some sort of paper about it.

[00:21:42] I’m sure. And it was that parent teacher connection. Okay. Front, it was so forward. It was such a part. And one of the things that teachers said was like, now I think it’s commonplace to hear about connection calls and stuff like that, but this is something that, teachers were updating parents pretty much, you [00:22:00] can correct me if I’m wrong, but very frequently, if not every day and not to.

[00:22:04] talk necessarily about like what, student didn’t do or did wrong, but to like really talk about the growth and talk about the kinds of things that really make parents feel good about stuff. can you talk a little bit more about not only that approach, but also , what was it like founding the school and having to find.

[00:22:23] Teachers and I have to say, I need it. I need to know a little bit about, I remember dorm at the top of that building. I don’t know if it’s still there. Like I remember seeing it at one point. Can you talk a little bit about that aspect 

[00:22:35] Mike: of the model? Sure. So, I’ll hit a couple like stories. I think the first day of school, I remember the kids had just arrived.

[00:22:43] It was sort of eight 40 in the morning. The kids were now actually in classes. We couldn’t believe we’d actually opened this tiny little high school. And Charlie took out his cell phone. And then for the next few hours in a row is calling every single family, every single mom. [00:23:00] And, would sort of flag her, got some like, Hey, we got a lot of stuff to cover.

[00:23:03] We got a lot to do on our checklist. And he’s like, what else is there to do besides this? And that was really the heart of the work. And over the years, it’s match has built teacher training as you know, The foundation of it is not relationship just as a buzzword, which, you know, an education. A lot of times the enemy of a particular idea is the half-assed version of that idea.

[00:23:29] So the enemy of authentically building a relationship with like real conversation and really being interested in the other human being is some fake version or you’re sending automatic emails or a computer is sending texts or. It’s inauthentic and Charlie was the real deal. He did that. And I think match really built that into all of its teacher training.

[00:23:57] And then to fast forward, a few years to [00:24:00] 2004, what we realized is not only did we need good teachers, but the kids were arriving to our high school way behind. And the thing they responded to best was one-on-one to. And there was no way Cara, for that to scale from the teacher point of view, they had 80 kids, they couldn’t concurrently tutor every single kid.

[00:24:18] So we built out the top floor of that building on Commonwealth avenue as a dorm. And we said to recent college grads, Hey, do you want to move to Boston? You could live in our dorm on the third floor. And then every morning at 8:00 AM, walk down. And tutor from, , eight 30 in the morning till about five in the afternoon.

[00:24:41] And oh, and by the way, then at night, like help the teachers elegant to grade their papers and get them ready for the next day. All that kind of stuff. So 

[00:24:50] Cara: easy. Yes. Free rent, free place to live in Boston. 

[00:24:54] Mike: That’s not nothing right. That was going 

[00:24:57] Cara: to sneeze at no. so they’re [00:25:00] living in there and they’re tutoring during the day, and then they’re helping.

[00:25:03] Talk a little bit about Mike. So I want to talk about the tutor replication, which started about six years ago, but what are the other core elements of that program? Because , one of the things, especially with all the ARP money and, , state saying, my favorite thing that I’m reading right now is state saying that they’re going to use the money to start tutoring students soon.

[00:25:22] I’m thinking like, what have you been doing her a year and a half, but, , sometimes it gives me a little bit of pause because I’m thinking, okay, tutoring, what kind of tutoring? What does the tutor, talk a little bit about matches really specific approach to tutoring what you learned over the years, because I think you learned a lot and you refined it to the point that it’s been replicated.

[00:25:41] so what does it look like? And then talk a little bit about, the replication experiment and. 

[00:25:47] Mike: I think there’s good news and bad news on that front. , and yeah, you caught up with us in 2015 when my friend Alan saffron was spinning out a nonprofit of from match called saga [00:26:00] and saga has done a really good job of going to large districts like Chicago, public schools, DC public schools, New York city, public schools, and launching the match style, high dosage, math tutoring in traditional high poverty.

[00:26:15] Public schools and their results as measured by university of Chicago and randomized controlled trials. Like really gold standard stuff has been great. And they’ve been able to grow that. And I think Alan and his team have a few things that stick out to them. One is you’d need to be really choosy about the tutors.

[00:26:33] You can’t just take any warm body. Second. You need to deploy people as close as you can to like one, two or three kids in a group, but you can’t call tutoring it kids at once. It doesn’t work. And then a third piece is the tutoring has to happen during the school day as its own period from a kid’s point of view.

[00:26:55] So a ninth grader might have science class, then math tutoring [00:27:00] with one other kid. And then let’s say, , social studies class or whatever, but from the kid’s point of view, It’s a regular legitimized part of the school day, not after school, where you’re trying to make a run for it. And those are a few of the qualities that has made matches spinoff, I think saga, , go really well.

[00:27:26] And there’s others. Who’ve, done that too. Great Oaks foundation, has done that as well, where. All of those things, plus they’re very relationship driven. Like we were talking about at the top of the interview. I mean that Charlie Sposato stuff is really embedded into saga and to great Oaks and to others doing it the right way.

[00:27:44] However, Kara, I’m pretty worried about these billions of federal dollars that are going to be thrown at tutoring because I think, probably share the same fear as you. This is one of those things where. It’s going to be diluted so much in [00:28:00] quality that from a kid’s point of view, a typical tutorial is going to be something that you don’t feel like you’re making progress.

[00:28:09] The rules are unclear. , the vibe of it is all wrong and there’s a strong culture in a lot of schools. Kids resisting tutors because they don’t get enough details. Right. And then the whole program goes south. So I imagined billions wasted, some evaluation we can talk about on the podcast in five years, says, Hey Mike, you predicted this and I hope I’m wrong, but I would bet my own money then.

[00:28:36] Cara: Well, it might be 10 years Mike, because it’ll probably take them five years to actually start spending money. That’s just, my skepticism. Let’s take that for a minute because I hear you. And one of the things that comes to mind and maybe I’m wrong here, but , In an environment in some term, not all charter schools are like this, but in an environment that is more of match was at the time when you started tutoring with one school and now [00:29:00] it’s more, but, you have that, it’s that connection, like you said, the tutors are embedded into the school day.

[00:29:05] The tutors have connections to the teacher, so everybody’s sort of in sync. And if you are using whether it’s COVID relief, money, whatever. To implement this and it comes down from the district and it’s disjointed. I agree. It could go well, and it could go very, very wrong. Have you seen though in larger in district setting?

[00:29:25] So when we talk about the replication, has this mainly been in either smaller districts or one-off schools, charter networks, or have we seen districts do this successfully too? 

[00:29:36] Mike: I think what we’ve seen districts sometimes do well is choose partners outside partners that run the tutoring operation that’s Allen’s model with saga.

[00:29:45] So he is working with the largest districts in the country, but they’re contracting for him to go find tutors and he’s negotiating with them to get the conditions that the tutors. To succeed with kids and to also [00:30:00] win over and fit into the, win over the teachers and fit into the culture of the school.

[00:30:05] But I think it’s hard for large districts to have the capacity to generate quality things in house. I think they’re better if they can go out there and find the right partners. And I think some districts try to do that and sometimes. So let’s go 

[00:30:22] GR: to research and follow up in fact, on something that you just referenced.

[00:30:27] So years ago, Tom Kane and Roland fire both sounded the alarm on how charter school students were doing after graduation. In short, lots of charter school grads at everything that we asked of them, they went to college, and then they graduated. And then they got a minimum wage and not saying anything’s wrong with the minimum wage jobs.

[00:30:46] I want to make sure I’m clear about that. So what happens to a charter lemonade 25? if they start off poor to go into a charter school, make a difference to help them escape. 

[00:30:57] Mike: great question to regard, and this [00:31:00] is something that has troubled me, , over the years because the kids that I first met, I described that first day of school 21 years ago.

[00:31:07] So those kids are now 35 years old. And particularly from the first few math classes, I’ve stayed in touch, and Facebook, of course, you get to kind of keep an eye on, people as they go through their lives. And I was surprised at. How I thought a number of our own grads were struggling in a number of ways to get ahead economically with the kinds of jobs that they wanted.

[00:31:33] And my friend Roland, along with another scholar will Dhabi. They published a study in 2016 about Texas charter schools. And that was the first one to me, that empirically sounded the alarm of what I was seeing on Facebook and what they were finding was essentially. , very low earnings gains associated with being a charter graduate.

[00:31:57] And, Tom Kane has launched [00:32:00] with some colleagues, Sarah codas and others, a really big Harvard super-powered national study of this that got underway a couple of years ago. And there’s , a few years away from its findings. But my guess is it will be similar. Gerard, what I’m seeing is there’s four buckets, loosely of charter grads.

[00:32:18] And. Some are doing great economically, like you said, we’re talking about their economic circumstances and not their full lives. So I also want to be clear about that. Some of them are getting their college degree and doing well in the workplace. Some of them are getting a college degree and staying very poor, like earning, , in Boston terms, 30,000 bucks a year, and unhappy with their job and, , a minimum wage, not interesting.

[00:32:43] And then similarly with people who don’t have degrees, it’s the same thing. Some are earning, well, I’m pretty happy with what they’re doing. , one of the grads just got in touch with me. He’s never got a college degree, but he’s a construction manager in Arizona and he’s doing great in life, in job and everything with [00:33:00] family.

[00:33:00] And, but obviously more of those people who don’t get a degree are remaining poor. So those are the buckets of, what we’re seeing. And unfortunately, Particularly the group who were the first in their family to get a college degree and then still stuck in the workplace. I think that’s the group that, , troubles me a great deal.

[00:33:22] GR: Good point. So let me follow up. When we started the charter school movement, 30 years ago and halfway through some of us changed. Where we thought charter schools should focus. , it went from access and opportunity to achievement. So if, in fact we say, and if a study from Harvard, , shows that yeah, their , students were living in poverty.

[00:33:43] Is that a charter school issue or is that a schooling issue in general? Or is it say something about the neighborhoods. And the type of jobs are just available. Cause I’m trying to figure out how much of this do we put on charter schools when the numbers are great. And then when they’re great, then we say [00:34:00] it’s because of charter schools.

[00:34:01] Mike: a great question. One. I’ve been thinking about a lot. I don’t think necessarily that the economy that we have should get laid at the feet of the schools that kids happen to go to that part doesn’t make sense. And all of our mobility issues as a society. Shouldn’t get late at any school, including charters.

[00:34:21] However, , I do think there are some things that charters may be able to do to better help their students grow up and have better jobs. And also at least when I was first getting started, part of our narrative, what we told ourselves was the reason to go to this school. Is not just to have a good schooling experience, although that’s important, like the journey and not just the destination, but that the destination.

[00:34:53] Be the first in your family to get a college degree. And then the reason to do that, to get that college degree we often said was [00:35:00] because, , you’ll get a much better job. And certainly that’s what a lot of the families were saying to us. We’re excited about your school because we value a good education.

[00:35:09] But one of the reasons that we value a good education is it’s going to help our kid get out and do much better. And if we’re not delivering on that, maybe it’s not per se the fault of a school like match or other charges. But it certainly, at least I’ll just speak personally. I feel like, oh, I’m not living up to the bargain that I was telling them 21 years ago, as I was trying to recruit eighth graders to come to the school.

[00:35:33] GR: Got it. And I appreciate that. Let’s go switch over to politics. So there was one point in fact, there was a strong bipartisan push from Washington and state capitals across the country that really pushed for charter schools and then things began to change. So could you tell us what we need to do to bridge the gap that’s growing amongst K-12 reformers, particularly on the political.

[00:35:56] Mike: Yeah. I wish I knew. , I can tell you the [00:36:00] story that you and Kara know very well, that you both know well, which was charters in Boston, in particular were going really well for awhile. And with president Obama, because Massachusetts is such a blue state, his support for charter.

[00:36:16] Created a bit of air cover combined with the fact that the charters here we’re really as measured by any kind of independent outsider, we’re really helping kids make real big academic gains. And that was if you will, a golden period for charters and charter growth here, , and charters got to be about roughly 18% of all the students in.

[00:36:42] Then as you know, the politics broke down, , and charters have been blocked from serving the many families that want to go to charters. And I feel like there is literally no positive momentum right now.[00:37:00] , I think that folks like Jamie at the pioneer Institute would agree. Towards making these schools more available.

[00:37:07] and I don’t know how to solve that in a very blue state like Massachusetts. , I’m not sure what the grand bargain might be. That’s how charters got going. As you know, here in, , the early nineties was, Hey, on one hand, we’ll provide a lot more money for education. And on the other, we’re going to create some standards and we’re going to create this charter school mechanism.

[00:37:29] So sort of like reform for money was the grand bargain. But it seems like the last several years, it’s just been more money and more money with no countervailing side. There’s no, , policies that I see that are going to actually try to figure out how to make things better or expand choices for families.

[00:37:46] So in states like this, I don’t know a good thing. 

[00:37:50] GR: No. I mean, that answers, the reality of it. You know, I was shocked a few years ago when , , , an initiative in the state did not pass. And I’m thinking about,[00:38:00] Tom Birmingham in Massachusetts is also pioneer of the hard work.

[00:38:04] He and many progressives and Democrats in the state, what role they played in the night. To move chart, charter schools in Massachusetts to the top of the list on a lot of areas to a point where. People like, eh, I’m not sure charter school is really matter a lot, particularly for the communities that we have.

[00:38:24] And that’s why, when you, someone who knows the state well knows politics pretty well. When you say you don’t have an answer, if a shows, the honesty that people who’ve been working in this are still trying to grapple with it, but it also shows that we as a reform community, , have a lot of work ahead.

[00:38:41] When we’ve got to convince our friends, who’ve turned into frenemies, not to become enemies. 

[00:38:47] Mike: Yeah, I a hundred percent agree, vigorously nodding along as you’re saying that. And one thing, I think I’m more from the nerdy side of, I don’t understand the politics [00:39:00] less and I’m more, how can these charter schools actually be better for their students?

[00:39:05] And my hope is. If we sort of improve it execution, we win over some more people at the margins because they’d become more impressed with the results of charters. And to me, that links back to something we were talking about earlier about charter grads and their earnings. I do think it’s possible for charter schools to help alum.

[00:39:29] To get better jobs. And just to, you know, give one happy story to that effect over the last, , six months or so my friend Jordy in Philly has been coaching charter alums from Kip and some other places. And he, basically meets charter grads who are on average, you know, let’s say 23, 25 years old, they describe themselves as stuck in their job search.

[00:39:52] So, , they say something like, Hey, I’ve applied for. 15 jobs in the last two months, and nobody will even [00:40:00] return my call or respond. And then Jordy digs in. , basically a version of tutoring, but it’s job coach tutoring. And it’s sort of unusual compared to a lot of the career coaching. , these charter kids have had from their own colleges and so forth.

[00:40:15] It’s much more direct and blunt and honest and like, Hey, do I have permission to speak freely here? Like your resume is a disaster, and I know that somebody coached you on how to do it, but. It’s sending all the wrong vibes to the employer, let me help you fix it. And so what Jordy has been able to do, I think about 30 times, one-on-one with people over the last month is take somebody who’s earning like 30 grand and get them a job that pays more like 40, 45, 48, that they like a lot more.

[00:40:47] And I think there’s this transfer of social capital that charters can work on, which is. You know, less about math and English and more about knowing how the world really [00:41:00] works and then helping people to navigate, you know, the economy as it exists and to get ahead. And I think if you could put up wins like that on the board, that might really help with some of the let’s call it more moderate level.

[00:41:15] Who love to see stories where people are really getting ahead economically. And, that’s my hope that that might be a small piece of solving this big thorny political. 

[00:41:26] Cara: I have to say, I love how hopeful you are. And I think, , I won’t talk about the charter sector nationally, but with specific regard to some of what you’ve said about Boston and the wonderful studies that we have showing that so many Boston charter schools really were helping students make these huge academic gains.

[00:41:43] And this is my own personal bias here. I think that since 20 15, 20 16, since as you, the time you said, you know, we had cover under Obama for a while and then. Things sort of felt all downhill, politically and otherwise. And I think one of the, one of the issues with that, [00:42:00] and I’m not making a blanket statement here and not certainly not applying to all charters.

[00:42:04] the charter sector is also 25. Plus the charter sector is an adult. Now it’s all grown up in Boston, especially. And at some point I think some of the schools that were always innovative, , we’re getting to be a little bit stale and then we didn’t have room for new, innovative options to come in.

[00:42:23] And I know I’ve written about this, , ad nauseum, but you’re really making me think about, , how can charters differentiate themselves? , , in a way that wouldn’t have occurred to me before. So this, this really compelling idea of really helping folks around, , career pathways, helping folks, not just to college, but we always said to and through college, but what you’re really talking about is like forming networks that last for life.

[00:42:47] And it occurs to me, , that that’s something that folks who maybe go to very elite prep, schools and colleges and stuff have always had, and charters are well. , to give that , to their students, into their alum. , [00:43:00] Mike, we could talk to you, I think for another hour if we had the time. So we’re going to have to do a part two at some time.

[00:43:06] Next question for me would be something along the lines of like, what does accountability for charter schools look like when accountability is on the rails? Unfortunately, we are going to have to say goodbye for today, but it has been. It’s such a pleasure talking to you. And I have to say, I have always appreciated and continue to appreciate your candor and the fact that you’re still thinking about this stuff and how we can always do better.

[00:43:29] So it’s such a great champion for kids, Mike Goldstein. Thank you so 

[00:43:32] Mike: much.[00:44:00] [00:45:00] [00:46:00] [00:47:00] 

[00:47:05] Cara: And as always listeners, we’re going to end with our tweet of the week, this one from Hechinger report and the tweet and the title of the piece is Alabama aims for huge pre-K enrollment boost by 2025. Pandemic setback. So this is a really interesting article and inquiry that we’re profiling Alabama, because you know, when we don’t talk about hell, but I think that there’s some pretty cool stuff going on there.

[00:47:29] And there’s a lot, certainly a lot of room , for growth. But, , and this is talking about. The fact that in Alabama investments in preschools have really traditionally lagged and here the state is really trying to not only get those eligible for four and five-year-olds that might’ve missed last year into school, but that they’re gonna really start to put a focus on.

[00:47:53] Pre-K , and you know, Alabama is one of only a handful of states according to near, which is the national Institute for early [00:48:00] education. , it’s the only state that meets preschool standards and has met them 15 years in a row. So getting more kids in pre-K, I don’t know this is something I don’t really do in my day job, but boy, it is near and dear to my heart.

[00:48:12] pre-K , we want to talk about early literacy. It starts really, really early, so much earlier than many of us realized. So, , great. Look at Alabama here, highly recommended this report and Gerard, next week, we are going to be talking with Ray arsenal. He is the author of the definitive book on the freedom rides, which will be it’s the 60th anniversary.

[00:48:33] Can you believe it? Gerard? I’m hoping, wishing you well, have a great time in Milwaukee. Say hello to all of our friends and be back with you next week when you’re home, when you’re home safe and sound take care.


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