Rachel M. Cohen

Rachel M. Cohen is a journalist based in Washington, D.C., and a former American Prospect 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
Politicians 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 shaping school accountability, and gives states considerably more discretion to craft their own plans. In order to receive federal funds, however, each state has to submit its...

The Hour of the Attorneys General

State Democratic AGs have assumed new importance in the effort to contain the Trump presidency.

AP Photo/Elaine Thompson
This article will appear in the Spring 2017 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . On a Tuesday night in early February, not three weeks after Donald Trump’s inauguration, three federal judges in San Francisco heard arguments about whether to halt his first major policy undertaking. Trump had issued an executive order banning hundreds of thousands of travelers from entering the country, including citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries, and all refugees. As many as 60,000 individuals had their visas revoked. Almost immediately, a pair of Democratic attorneys general, Washington state’s Bob Ferguson and Minnesota’s Lori Swanson, brought suit against Trump’s executive order, arguing it violated the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law as well as the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, harmed all Washington and Minnesota businesses and communities, and was “undermining [their] sovereign interest...

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
Teachers 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’ learning conditions are our working conditions.” As of Friday morning, 131 of the roughly 800 Noble teachers...

D.C. Charter Teachers Seek to Unionize

(Photo: Syda Productions/Shutterstock)
Syda Productions/Shutterstock This 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...

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)
Last 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 Act comes at a time when the president of the United States falsely claims that anywhere from three million to five million votes were cast illegally in the 2016 election, and...

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