Rachel M. Cohen

Rachel M. Cohen is The American Prospect's senior writing fellow. 

Recent Articles

Maryland Showdown on Testing, Charters, and the Direction of Public Schools

Federal law now gives states more power to shape school policy—and, predictably, conflict has ensued.

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky Maryland Governor Larry Hogan delivers his annual State of the State address to a joint session of the legislature in Annapolis, Wednesday, February 1, 2017. P oliticians and policy experts have long debated how and whether to hold schools accountable for what students learn. For 13 years under the controversial Bush-era No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), the federal government required states to identify schools that were failing by the metric of standardized test scores, and dictated how schools should intervene. Critics said the law amounted to untenable and unacceptable levels of federal overreach, and ultimately did little to close academic achievement gaps. Defenders say the law, while imperfect, led to small yet significant gains in student achievement, particularly for black, Hispanic, and low-income children. At the end of 2015, Congress passed NCLB’s successor, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which limits the federal government’s role in...

Chicago Teachers May Launch Nation’s Largest Charter School Union

Teacher turnover and pay equity are among the issues motivating Chicago’s largest charter school network to launch a union drive.

AP Photo/M. Spencer Green
AP Photo/M. Spencer Green A student at Noble Street College Prep, one of 17 schools operated by the Noble Network of Charter Schools in Chicago. T eachers at Chicago’s biggest and best-regarded charter school network have set out to form a union, a move that if successful would create the largest charter school union in the nation. In an open letter to administrators and school board members, teachers at the Noble Network of Charter Schools requested permission to organize a union without interference or fear of retaliation. Founded in 1999, Noble operates 17 campuses across the city, educating more than 12,000 students. “Under current local and national conditions, educators labor to remain in their classrooms while our value is diminished, our capacity drained, and our power constrained,” read the letter, which was delivered on March 3. “Both students and educators struggle to thrive in climates that prioritize test scores and compliance over creativity and personhood. Our students...

D.C. Charter Teachers Seek to Unionize

(Photo: Syda Productions/Shutterstock)
Syda Productions/Shutterstock T his morning, teachers at Paul Public Charter School, one of the oldest charters in Washington, D.C., publicly announced their intent to unionize—a first for charter schoolteachers in the nation’s capital. As in other cities where charter teachers have formed unions , the Paul educators are forming their own local—the District of Columbia Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff (DC ACTS)—which will be affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). Seventy-five percent of Paul’s teaching staff signed a petition in support of joining DC ACTS, and asked administrators to voluntarily recognize their union. The Center for Education Reform estimates that 10 percent of charter schools are unionized nationally, up from 7 percent in 2012. As more and more charter teachers have launched organizing efforts, the absence of charter unions in Washington, D.C., has been notable—particularly given the city’s high density of charter schools. There are 118...

An A.G. in Action

A day in the life of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman: Suing Trump, defending sanctuary cities, changing the law so more people can vote.

(Photo: Sipa USA via AP/Albin Lohr-Jones)
(Photo: Sipa USA via AP/Albin Lohr-Jones) New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman speaks at a press conference at Federal Hall National Memorial in New York City on February 8, 2017. L ast week on the steps of Federal Hall, the Wall Street building where George Washington was inaugurated and the Bill of Rights was introduced, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman unveiled the New York Votes Act , a package of election reforms he hopes can transform his state into a national leader on voting rights. About 100 people gathered for the press conference, where Schneiderman was joined by representatives from Common Cause, SEIU, and other progressive organizations. The attorney general’s omnibus bill—which includes reforms like automatic voter registration and early voting—would mark a significant step forward for the liberal state that has the third-worst voting participation rate in the country, and ranks as the fifth-worst state for voter registration. The New York Votes...

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