Update on SFER

Nope, the dialogue between myself and SFER is far from being done. Yesterday I had two phone calls from SFER students, both founding members at separate universities. They went great. It was a lot of hearing each others’ perspectives on different issues, in addition to clearing up misconceptions previously held. As I stated before, I appreciate constructive criticism. Although I may disagree, I think it’s important on my end to at least make the effort to listen what they have to say.


See: I’m A Student and I Stand Against Students For Education Reform (SFER)

In the end, it was a lot of agreeing to disagree, but agreeing to keep the dialogue open. The one student who attends Princeton recommended I attend a meeting sometime this semester since I’m so close. Agreeing it’d be a way to get a better jist of what they’re about. The student I spoke to from Ohio University told me a great deal about his specific chapter. The one thing that took me by surprise was when he told me the discussions they hold at their meetings. They don’t hold it strictly to just SFER members, but invite other campus groups that may even hold opposing view points to their meetings for discussions. In addition, he told me he feels that the main goal of SFER, at least at his school, is to create more conversation on education reform.


See: Diane Ravitch – When Students Awaken, Everything Will Change

From both calls, it was clear that there was still a significant support for charter schools. As I noted multiple times before, I believe public education is still the best route for equal education (but then again, their main goal seems to be closing the achievement gap). With that being said, both students referenced the “achievement gap” has the critical issue. Which again, makes me a little iffy. One of the students also brought my attention to the voices of the students–is there equal opportunity for student voices to be heard? He stated that he really likes SFER because:


    • It serves as a “great platform.”
    • They are nationally recognized
    • Connected to important people
    • They have easier access to funding
    • They have a good reputation, so those making decisions will be more likely to listen to him


That concerns me because it brings about the question, will students be forced into sacrificing their beliefs so they can feel like they are being heard? Isn’t this kind of forcing some type of inequality itself? That our government\policy makers are choosing one group of students to listen to over another, just because of their association? Just thoughts I’d like to put out there.


See: Meeting With SFER Program Directors

Which is why the idea of creating an alternative is really appealing and important to me. As much as the students tell me over, and over, and over again that there is “no silver bullet,” and that they’re not pushing their beliefs on anyone, there are facts that cannot be ignored. They are attached to organizations that do push for a particular view, and students shouldn’t have to oblige by those principals just to have their voices heard. I respect their goals to close the achievement gap. But personally, as well as other students I’ve spoken to, there are issues in education that come before that. It is also important to not only look at what they are looking to do, but at what they’re not. They’re reluctance to believe in the importance of saving our public schools speaks for itself.

Actually, let me make an additional note. From what I gathered from the conversations yesterday, they both said something along the lines of, “I wish we didn’t need charter schools.” But, due to the state of where public schools are now, they are necessary.And one last thing, kind of off topic. I just wanted to throw in a personal reflection (I seem to be doing that a lot lately). I really need to work on speaking how I write. I love sharing this story, just because it was such blunt constructive criticism that sticks with me. One of my (absolute favorite) professors said,


“You know what’s really surprising, is the difference between the way you speak and write. You write brilliantly and so eloquently, but you struggle just to get a sentence out to me! Did you grow up in a home that didn’t really value conversation? (Ugh, is it that obvious?) I hope you work on that, because it’s hard knowing what you are capable of thinking, but seeing you struggle to get it out. Your thoughts are important and need to be heard, don’t let something you can improve on get in the way of that.”


I only mention this here because I definitely felt this on the phone. I think I even mentioned this prior to me speaking on the panel at Save Our Schools. It’s invigorating to finally come to the realization my voice is being valued, but now it is critical I improve on using it outside of my blog. I want (and must) learn how to speak as confidently as I write.


My apologies for slightly getting off topic! I’ve been feeling a lot more comfortable sharing more personal thoughts on my blog. Hopefully that’s a positive thing.


Okay, well I think I’ll end there. I was actually supposed to go on a “blog and twitter detox” today, but apparently that didn’t work out so well.


If I catch some downtime this week, I’ll be posting up another critical look at SFER. It first came to my attention from certain documents someone sent to me from an SFER chapter. The documents are a little bit over a year old, so I asked Alexis & Catharine if they could send me the updated form. Alexis responded  that they are have been updating and reviewing them this summer. Aside from the forms, it is still conveyed on their mission. We’ll see.



Have a great week,




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13 thoughts on “Update on SFER

  1. There seems to be a memorized talking point being passed around: “We wish we didn’t even need charter schools.”
    You mentioned that after your last meeting with other SFER people.

    Which charter schools are they talking about? Why is it public schools can learn from charters and not the other way around? Why isn’t it possible that some charters can learn from public and public from charters? Like TFA, they create a division.

    Do they only use test scores when comparing schools? If so, there has been plenty of research, which can be easily found, that most charters do not out-perform public schools and those that do cherry pick their students. I also believe they spend a huge portion of their instruction on test prep vs. authentic assessments.

    Are they thinking of the Kopp/Barth brand of charters? I don’t know too many well informed parents who want their kids in a militaristic test prep factory. I have heard that the kids who leave call it the Kids in Prison Program, KIPP.

    Interesting they are drawn to this organization because of the funding. I am not sure those that work for the
    Gates Foundation often disagree with Bill and Melinda….it kind of breeds group think and mind control. This is Bill’s opinion…conduct research and write opinion pieces that support this stance.

    SFER has an agenda and it is privatization, whether they know it yet or not.

  2. Thanks for sharing. My perspective is we need more people not only talking about educational reform, but also creating strategies/programs/policies and putting them into practice.

    What resonated most was –> “will students be forced into sacrificing their beliefs.” I believe it is essential to hold true to your values and upbringing, never compromising. That’s what makes you strong, resilient, and gives you your voice.

    In my personal work, there are many programs/companies/agencies I could critique and question, but my energy, time, and talent is wasted. I will not spend my time on it. There is too much need in my community.. So many students are seeking help, I’d rather spend my time with them, then worrying about how others are trying to affect change.

    Continue your work. Continue to gain confidence in your spoken word. I am empowered by your work!

    Y recuerda, hasta la victoria siempre. No podemos parar hasta que todos los estudiantes tiengan las mismas oportunidades educativas!


  3. Pingback: The Downside of Charters and The Traditional Public School. « Cooperative Catalyst

  4. I am happy that you continue researching SFER. Feel free to reach out. But I am still waiting to see what your contribution is towards education equality. What actions have you taken since we last met? Did you ever visit a KIPP school? What are your ideas to fix the poverty issue? Eriq’s comment stayed with me.

    “In my personal work, there are many programs/companies/agencies I could critique and question, but my energy, time, and talent is wasted. I will not spend my time on it. There is too much need in my community.. So many students are seeking help, I’d rather spend my time with them, then worrying about how others are trying to affect change.”

    I’d love to see how you are spending your time problem-solving–on the ground, in low income neighborhoods and schools, talking to parents and kids about what needs to change. You have an opportunity to address poverty and take the lead here. What exactly is your plan to “save our schools?” I hope this post is coming soon. Take care.


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