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Getting Smart Podcast

May 13, 2020

In today’s discussion, Tom Vander Ark is speaking with Dr. Eric Tucker, the co-founder and Executive Director of the Brooklyn Laboratory Charter School. Brooklyn Labs is a next-generation college-preparatory 6–12 public charter school that prepares scholars with the academic foundation, digital literacy, and leadership skills necessary to succeed in college and professional life.

Recently, Eric created a 10-point plan based on insights and resources from practitioners and experts to help educators reimagine and strengthen education systems. In particular, it was created to encourage school and system leaders to consider how the needs of people of color and individuals with disabilities will be affected by re-entry.


In Tom and Eric’s discussion today, Eric recalls how debate changed his academic trajectory, as well as how he overcame learning disabilities and earned a doctorate at Oxford. They also discuss how Brooklyn Lab responded to the closure of schools and, of course, their 10-point plan for reopening schools with safety and equity in mind! (If you want to tune in specifically for the 10-point plan you can jump forward to minute twenty!)


Key Takeaways:

[:10] About today’s episode!

[:43] Tom welcomes Eric Tucker to the podcast.

[:50] Eric shares why he studied Africana studies at Brown University in ’98.

[2:22] Where did Eric’s appreciation for debate come from? And when did it start?

[5:30] How and when did Eric end up at Oxford getting his master’s in education research methodology and his doctorate in measurement?

[7:23] After leading the National Debate organization and doing a few other things, Eric had an idea of starting a new kind of school in the heart of Brooklyn. Eric tells the origin story of Brooklyn Lab.

[10:44] Now a well-known school, Brooklyn Lab serves a diverse group of students. Eric touches on this fact and elaborates on the unique needs of the student population.

[15:44] Eric speaks about how they make 1:1 and small group tutoring a priority at Brooklyn Lab.

[18:15] Jessica shares an important resource with listeners: the Getting Through microsite.

[18:55] Eric provides some reflections on what’s currently happening at Brooklyn Lab concerning the COVID-19 pandemic.

[25:50] Eric begins to speak about their 10-point plan for reopening schools with safety and equity in mind.

[30:14] Eric highlights some of the permutations that they’re looking at, at Brooklyn Labs, in terms of potential reopening scenarios.

[34:49] Eric summarizes their approach to budgeting and staffing when it comes to reopening schools.

[39:42] Eric speaks about what the first week back at school might look like and what he encourages school leaders to be thinking about.

[43:29] In the 7th and 8th point in the plan, they speak about using data to improve continuity as well as reimagining approaches to core services. Eric further elaborates on these points.

[47:52] In the last two points of their 10-point plan, Tom and Eric encourage school and system leaders to iterate and communicate and to consider the worst but model the best. Eric elaborates on what he meant by “consider the worst” and gives his thoughts on how we should think about future possibilities and factor them into our plans while continuing to forge ahead.

[52:40] Tom thanks Eric for taking the initiative to launch the 10-point plan and for joining the podcast!

[53:22] Eric signs off the podcast and shares his appreciation for Tom’s leadership and the Getting Through microsite.


Mentioned in This Episode:

Brooklyn Laboratory Charter School

How to Reopen Schools: A 10-Point Plan Putting Equity at the Center,”
by Eric Tucker and Tom Vander Ark



National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD)


Want to Hear More? Check-out:

Getting Smart Podcast Ep. 250: “Tom Rooney and Scott Rowe: Buildings are Closed, Learning Goes On!”


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