Williams: Schools are more likely to do what’s easiest for them if no one’s watching. Why standardized tests are critically useful, especially now
A clammy, sniffling toddler in the Washington, D.C. park near my house would have looked and sounded pretty normal — back in January 2020. But now, folks were giving the maskless toddler and her parents a wide berth as the two had an animated argument about their community’s right to know about those sniffles. Did they really...
By Conor Williams | December 20, 2021
A parent’s plea: After 18 lonely months of COVID, the kids are not alright. Here’s why this back-to-school season must balance learning with healing
It felt like this fall would — at long last — be different. Last March according to the National Center for Education Statistics, just short of 40 percent of U.S. students were still learning entirely remotely. Roughly the same percentage were back attending full-time in-person learning (another 23 percent of students were enrolled in hybrid learning)....
By Conor Williams | September 1, 2021
Williams: Let’s keep the innovations the pandemic brought to teaching English learners and reaching their families
Here, in the wrenching 13th — or perhaps 14th, depending on how you mark the tragedies — month of the pandemic, so many American families are frayed. Even with vaccines bringing us nearer to something like its end, the strains of the long lockdown are weighing on pretty much every parent, caregiver and kid. And...
By Conor Williams | May 24, 2021
Williams: The politics — and economics — around why we should make pre-K universal are changing
After a flurry of proposals early in the presidential primary campaign, as predicted, public education reassumed its usual place near the bottom of the national political hierarchy. The dynamics followed the normal pattern from recent years. While plenty of the presidential debates — and intervening media coverage — featured discussion of higher education affordability and...
By Conor Williams | April 29, 2020
Williams: Coronavirus pandemic reveals the reality — and the risk — of America’s child safety net being its public schools
What’s a school for in the 21st century? Start with the bedrock: they’re for helping children develop academic skills and access core content, right? Those famous R’s: reading, writing, ‘rithmetic, you know the deal. We also count on them to grow democratic citizens — informed, aware, civic-minded community members. But that’s just the beginning. Public...
By Conor Williams | March 18, 2020
Remembering LA parent leader whose example inspired families across the country seeking integrated schools
The first time Courtney Everts Mykytyn and I spoke, we almost didn’t get around to talking about schools. I was trying to interview her for an Atlantic Monthly article I was writing about privileged families hoarding access to dual language immersion programs. But we couldn’t stop talking about our kids. Hers were about a decade...
By Conor Williams | January 6, 2020
Commentary: When success is not enough — charter schools delivering better outcomes for low-income students still target of progressive ire
“Video games are bad for you; they’re distracting,” says one kid. “They’re too violent,” says another. It’s jarring to hear middle-schoolers talk down on-screen entertainment, but the boys in this Bay Area classroom are doing their level best — and in Spanish, no less. To be sure, they’re practicing taking positions and marshaling evidence as part...
By Conor Williams | July 10, 2019
An interview with Courtney Everts Mykytyn on her quiet movement to integrate schools in L.A. & beyond
After a prolonged lull, American school integration debates have reignited in recent years. Courtney Everts Mykytyn, the founder of California-based Integrated Schools, is quietly becoming a force in these conversations. Her four-year-old group describes itself and its mission this way: “Integrated Schools is growing a grassroots movement of, by and for parents who are intentionally, joyfully...
By Conor Williams | February 11, 2019
Interview with former Sacramento schools chief, author of ‘Wildflowers: A School Superintendent’s Challenge to America,’ on educating the ‘whole child’
The present erosion of American democratic institutions has a range of ugly consequences — anxiety, distrust, polarization, etc. But most concretely, our current political catastrophe has produced heavy gridlock. Creative, productive policymaking is at an all-time low — including in education. The 2015 passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act ended the No Child Left Behind era...
By Conor Williams | October 8, 2018
Williams: California, where orange is the new red and school accountability just got much harder to read
Oh, California, you paradise, you far-flung western shoal, you frontier beyond purple mountains and fruited plains, you earth-shaking technological marvel, you never-ending party — California, you’re the land of good news, where the economy booms and the culture is wildly, diversely, supremely cool. You’re the golden realm at the end of our national rainbow. Fittingly,...
By Conor Williams | November 13, 2017