Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, September 18, 2007 - 16:54 | 0 comment/s |

Looks like Kanye West has been up to more than just competing with 50 Cent for record sales. Kanye has partnered with Strong American Schools for their Ed in ‘08 campaign, which we’ve mentioned before on TeachBreakthroughs. This is a nonpartisan effort to make education the #1 priority in the next presidential election—very Breaky.

It seems like every presidential hopeful wants the same thing for American children—“the best education possible”—but that’s pretty vague, which is why Ed in ‘08 is trying to get the candidates say exactly what they will do and how they will do it. Since the campaign was started in the spring, it’s goten a lot of attention on some different blogs, and hopefully it will get more and more attention as time goes on.

Ed in ’08 definitely has a lot to do with Breakthrough, so post your comments below. Then, if you want, you can help them out by signing their petition. We’ll keep you updated as the campaign continues its action, so keep your eyes out for another post sometime soon.


Posted by Anonymous on Monday, September 10, 2007 - 09:54 | 0 comment/s |

The congressional hearings about reauthorizing No Child Left Behind start today. Love it or hate it, NCLB is the single most influential schools initiative since Brown v. Board of Education. As in that desegregation case, the Federal government is stepping in to influence what has always been a local/state responsibility. What Washington brings to the party is unparalleled influence and funding to back up initiatives. Its limitations are its inflexibility and cumbersome bureaucracy. Not to mention the political concerns of unempowered teachers and the politicians that hate their tenure.

To note the start of today's hearings, The Washington Post asked a number of experts on both sides of the issue (US Sec. of Ed., NYC's Mayor Bloomberg, a member of KIPP's Board of Directors, etc.) about the future of the initiative. If there's any consensus, it's that the Federal gov't should be doing something, but that NCLB is somewhere on the continuum between "not quite there yet" and "horrific catastrophe."

As far as teachers are concerned, the debate hinges on these 2 facts:

  1. Teachers generally feel unappreciated and disrespected. As a job that is arguably as skill-based and essential as doctoring and lawyering, why do teachers generally get all of the blame, none of the credit, and none of the rewards?
    "How do you expect to find good teachers, if they expect to be treated poorly?"
  2. Teacher unions generally get the blame for preventing reform. Primarily in response to #1, unions have pushed for solid job security for their members, including strict tenure policies (after a certain number of years, a teacher can not be fired except in extreme cases). Advocates for reform say strong teachers are the key to better achievement, and that unions prevent such measures as merit pay and removing bad teachers.
    "How do you expect teachers to get respect, if you let bad teachers bring down a whole school?"

Find the whole piece here (

More discussion:
Draft NCLB Bill Intensifies the Discussion (EdWeek)
Could Teachers Become the New Lawyers? (Slate)

From the candidates:
Sen. Clinton (D - New York)

Sen. Obama (D - Illinois)

Sen. Edwards (D - North Carolina)

Fmr. Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R - New York)

Fmr. Governor Mitt Romney (R - Massachusetts)

Fmr. Governor Mike Huckabee (R - Arkansas)

A take from HBO's excellent, education-focused season 4 of The Wire:And, just for fun:

Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, August 28, 2007 - 15:45 | 0 comment/s |

Schuyler Swenson, veteran Breakthrough teacher and stellar campus recruiter, also happens to be an incredible photographer. These are pictures she took this summer in Denver, and they're beautiful. I hope you enjoy them, and I'm happy to pass on your kudos.

From Denver - Swen...

All photos are property of Schuyler Swenson. Please don't use them without asking for permission.

Posted by Anonymous on Wednesday, August 22, 2007 - 17:41 | 0 comment/s |

Wow... I don't know what to say, except that this will be stuck in your head for the rest of the week. Well worth 5 minutes of your day.



Hello Breakthrough,

Shimon Lin and I, two teachers at Hong Kong this summer made this video about our summer and played it at Celebration to a raucous audience. I thought you guys might want to see it. The quality is not great compared the original but it's the best YouTube could do.

Hope you like it.

From Hong Kong,
Tim Kau


Posted by Anonymous on Friday, August 17, 2007 - 11:08 | 1 comment/s |

As I'm sure you know, this video contest required a lot of time and effort on the part of the producers. The entries range from the moving to the whimsical to the goofy, but they're all sufficiently breaky.

Everyone that sent in an entry deserves MAJOR kudos, and a few minutes of your respective days.

Without further ado, I'm pleased to present:

Breakthrough DC:

Breakthrough San Juan Capistrano:

Breakthrough Santa Fe:

Posted by Anonymous on Wednesday, August 15, 2007 - 12:00 | 0 comment/s |

After some soul-searching, careful deliberation, and speedy tech support for the Breakthrough National Staff, we are ready to announce the winners of the 2007 Breakthrough National Spirit Stick.

To refresh your respective memories, we asked you to submit short videos illustrating the Breakthrough Spirit in the forms of Intellect, Service, and Community. We were thrilled to see submissions from Breakthrough DC, Breakthrough at Kent Denver, Breakthrough San Juan Capistrano, and Breakthrough Santa Fe.

Without further ado, the proud new owner of the beautiful 2007 Breakthrough Spirit Stick, hand crafted by talented National interns Sofia (SF '06) and Stephanie (Sac '05, HK '06), is

Breakthrough at Kent Denver!!!!

See the fine work of those Redfords of the Rockies, those Martin Scorseses of the Mountains, those Coppolas of Colorado here:

Tell them what they've won:

  • This lovely Spirit Stick:
  • Prominent display at National events throughout the year.
  • The admiration of the Collab.

Yup. All those things.

Major Kudos to all of the contestants, to be displayed in the coming days.

Posted by Anonymous on Monday, August 13, 2007 - 16:26 | 1 comment/s |


Today is August 9th, a day that I didn't think would arrive when I was stuck in the storming stages of weeks 3 and 4. As we're in our classrooms for the last day, without any students, without any decorations on the walls, scrambling madly to get the campus cleaned before our "Last Supper" as a faculty, I can't help but reflect on where we started and where we are now at the end. I remember driving from San Diego airport where I flew into to San Juan Capistrano midday on Friday, June 15th, (a day and a half late for training), nervous beyond belief. Not knowing anyone who would be at my site, and not knowing anything about San Juan Capistrano (except that the town is famous for its migrating swallows) I truly had no idea what was in store for me. That day seems to have occurred years ago, yet at the same time this summer has flown by quicker than any summer I've experienced in my lifetime. Our faculty has gone from 15 individuals, to a cohesive, productive functioning unit that is truly made up of 60 (students included). The learning I have taken from this program surpasses all expectations I held when I applied in January. At times I feel selfish because I think this program, this faculty and these students have given me so much more than I have given them or could ever give them. Not only have I received so many lessons about education and classroom management and teaching strategies, but I have been given the ultimate gift from my students; they have validated the past two years of college for me, they have assured my that my dream of being a teacher still rings true and I am on the right path, pursuing the right goals. I hope that my students have taken something from my classroom and our time together. Perhaps they won't remember all of Newton's Laws, or the composition of the planets, but if they take away with them a slightly more intense passion and love of learning I will consider my summer a success, and my efforts worthwhile.

Endings are always sad, but from this experience I don't leave with just a heavy heart; I leave with optimism for so many of our student's futures, and I leave with unwavering belief in the assured successes of my fellow teachers in all their future endeavors and pursuits.

Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, August 9, 2007 - 16:51 | 0 comment/s |

Yesterday, teacher (or, as this critical TIME article points out, "former teacher") Barbara Morgan blasted off toward the International Space Station aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour. The plan is for Ms. Morgan to complete the "Teacher in Space" mission that ended tragically for educator Christa McAuliffe and the crew of Challenger in 1986.

In order to get permission to fly, Ms. Morgan had to actually quit her teaching job and become an astronaut full time. While NASA is really promoting the Teacher in Space thing, Morgan hasn't actually been in a classroom as a teacher since 1998. She's been training as a scientist, and serving as something as an ambassador for NASA. TIME Magazine isn't totally into the mission, or the Space Shuttle program in general. One interesting side aspect of the mission, though, is that Morgan will return with basil seeds that have spent 11-14 days in orbit. She'll then distribute the seeds to classrooms around the country, and the kids will contribute data to NASA on how zero-gravity has affected height and growth rates. Fun stuff.

Posted by Anonymous on Wednesday, August 8, 2007 - 15:08 | 0 comment/s |

We call it "D2C at SBC," complete with its own songs, chants, and dances. It officially stands for Dare to Care, but it could also stand for Day to Cry.Dare to Care is a community service day. On Friday, classes were fifty minutes each instead of an hour each, so we had an early lunch and spent all afternoon at various community service sites around Cambridge. I was with a group of 8 or so teachers and 25 or so students at the Margaret Fuller House , a community center about a mile from the Kennedy-Longfellow school, where the Cambridge site is housed. The MFH has a camp for kids ages 5-7, and our students came and played with the MFH kids for the afternoon. It was so touching to see the SBC kids as the "adults." They responded so well to being the big ones. They played so responsibly with the younger kids, helping them take turns, solving conflicts, letting the little kids win occasionally, just all around playing beautifully with them and being great role models. One of the SBC teachers who also went to the MFH quoted what an SBC student said to her, in response to a question about what kinds of games we should teach the MFH kids. Here is the exchange:

"What do you think we should teach them, [name of student]?"
"Well, we should probably teach them good things."
"Good things? Like what?"
"Well, like respect, cooperation, things like that."

Posted by Anonymous on Monday, August 6, 2007 - 12:41 | 1 comment/s |

Is it Week 6 already? Since my last blog, Breakthrough DC had the Field Trip, Career Day, Community Service day, and the Olympics! Yet, I know that I am not alone in wondering where the time went.

I have gone down this road twice before. I know what goes on during the last week with the kids: amidst teaching, there is planning and rehearsal for Celebration, final projects, and saying goodbye. Having done Breakthrough before, I learned to prepare all the logistics for the week far in advance. That frees me to appreciate the remaining time with my students both inside and outside the classroom. Although I know ‘the drill of the end,’ I will still have a hard time saying goodbye. I will miss teaching them, laughing with them and playing games like “Big Money” and “Bunny Bunny.”

The students here in D.C. have shown enthusiasm and excitement for all aspects of Breakthrough, including their classes. They demonstrated high levels of spirit, and there is an energy surrounding them every day. They taught me, a native Californian, about aspects of D.C. culture like go-go music and “the Rec.” I feel and see the Breakthrough spirit here in Washington D.C.!

On another note, one of the largest differences in my experience here has been laying out the structure of the program. Before, I took for granted the fact that all procedures and policies were in place. It has been quite challenging as we continue to establish new policies and paperwork and utilize new methods in creating a lasting structure for the program. Also, the staff of seven teachers handles a lot of responsibilities. For example, where a committee of seven teachers usually heads the planning of Celebration, we all have a large role in its planning and execution.

Our motto has been “Excellence from the start.” I know that Breakthrough D.C. will excel through the end of its first summer of operation!