Cool Class


Remaking Public Education
What Class?
Remaking Public Education
Who Teaches It?
Professor Abe Feuerstein, Education
I developed this course to help students consider the impact that recent changes in schooling have on the role of public education in our society. We examine topics such as the growing importance of standardized testing and the increasing number of charter schools. I want to provide students with an opportunity to think more deeply and critically about the ways these changes influence issues such as educational quality and opportunity.
The course begins with a focus on charter schools — how and why they developed, how they are governed, how they perform and their influence on traditional public schools. Then we begin an in-depth examination of standardized testing and efforts to use test scores to gauge school performance and student learning. Students learn about school reform, including federal initiatives such as No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top and the Every Student Succeeds Act, as well as programs such as Teach For America. We also look at issues related to education funding and the causes of recent teacher strikes across the nation.

I appreciate the kind of journalism and storytelling that can really engage listeners, so rather than assigning traditional research papers, I ask students to develop podcasts on educational issues related to class topics. Students in teams of four pitch ideas to the rest of the class that would engage a public audience. Teams do research, interview knowledgeable people and write a script. They then learn to use sound-editing software and produce a polished seven-minute podcast that features their voices and the voices of the individuals they interviewed. Students use feedback from me and the class to rethink and revise their podcasts throughout the semester. At the semester’s end, we have a listening party, and each group gets a chance to share their finished project.

I hope students leave this class able to understand the political forces and ideologies that shape educational reform efforts, and how those forces have shifted over time.