Author: Ephraim Weisstein

My Personal Journey Coming to Grips with White-Skinned Privilege

September 23, 2014 by

Image 1I frankly don’t know where to begin. I was asked to write a blog because I am supposedly one of the few white people in the field of education reform who has successfully diversified their education reform organizations. First of all, I hope this is not true and that there are many white leaders with wonderfully diverse boards and staff. Secondly, while I would agree that I was able to help diversify my organization, the Center for Youth Development and Education within the Commonwealth Corporation, the word “successfully” begs for more explanation.

So here goes.  While I considered myself a radical educator at the time, I frankly had no real clue about white-skin privilege or the reality of racism that people of color face daily in this country. I was the head of a group of approximately twenty professionals in the Boston area, which included four black and brown people.  When I left, the numbers were about 11-11.  But just counting the demographic breakdown doesn’t begin to surface the heart of the issue. (more…)

Our Piece of the Pie and Competency-Based Education

September 24, 2013 by

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Launched nearly 35 years ago, Our Piece of the Pie® (OPP®) is dedicated to helping Connecticut youth become economically independent adults.  All of OPP’s strategies and services are structured to lead at-risk or disadvantaged youth, ages 14-24, toward the goals of achieving a college degree or vocational credentials and obtaining rewarding employment.  This posting will focus on OPP’s journey in building its signature competency-based high school model.

OPP’s Competency-Based High Schools at a Glance

  • Founded in 2009, Opportunity High School in Hartford is a unique partnership between Hartford Public Schools and OPP serving over 100 over-aged and under-credited students
  • Founded in 2012, Learning Academy of Bloomfield is a co-operated high school between the Bloomfield Public Schools and OPP. During 2012-2013 the school served over 20 students with all seniors receiving diplomas
  • In August  2013, OPP began its work with Norwalk Public Schools under an agreement with the state to turn around Briggs HS in Norwalk, a “failing” school serving up to 100 high-risk students
  • With the June 5, 2013 vote of approval by the CT State Board of Education, OPP will open Path Academy, its first charter school, in Windham in August 2014 serving a maximum of 200 high school students who are off-track; in doing so, OPP becomes  a charter management organization (CMO)

Eight Core Philosophies

The Path Academy model is the prototype for all of OPP’s Competency-Based High Schools. OPP builds the model around eight core philosophies that guide the innovative school model: (more…)

Autonomy, Apples, and Oranges

May 14, 2012 by

What have you learned about how to work with districts in introducing competency-based schools–and what district leaders can do?

I have been working since 1985 on competency-based education (CBE) models to better serve over-aged and under-credited  students, first as the Education Director of Jobs for Youth High and later as the founder of Diploma Plus and more recently Schools for the Future.

The following lessons learned for how to establish strong working relationships with districts are generalized for CBE.  (Click here for a checklist) However, anyone working with marginalized students, especially those that are over-age and undercredited, will need to negotiate upfront the expectations of the population you want to serve and how students will gain admission to the school (first come; lottery, application; placement). (more…)

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