Whose rights do they think they are protecting?

I’ve been puzzling about why so many respectable civil rights organizations have got school reform so wrong.  It’s not the whole story but this piece by Wayne Au is worth reading. 

Just whose rights do these civil rights groups think they are protecting?

By Wayne Au

On May 5, 2015, a group of civil rights organizations released a statement in opposition to the growing movement to opt out of the current wave of high-stakes, standardized testing. This testing lies at the very heart of current education reform efforts because it provides the fuel that the current education reform machine relies upon: data. Without the numerical data produced by the tests, there is no way to make simplistic comparisons, there is no justification for the corporate entry into public schools, there is no way to shape education along the logics of a competitive marketplace.

Because it challenges the validity of the tests and the data, the opt-out movement strikes at the heart of the reform movement. I feel this sharply here in my home city of Seattle as powerful men including U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Washington state Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn, and Seattle Schools Superintendent Larry Nyland threaten local test resisters with punishments. Opting out scares those in power because it undermines the education policies being done to — not by — our communities, particularly communities of color. Indeed, many of us have taken great pains to highlight the racially disparate impact of corporate education reforms, especially high-stakes standardized testing, specifically on communities of color.

(link to full article)

From Ferguson to Baltimore

Richard Rothstein is one of my favorites:

From Ferguson to Baltimore: The Fruits of Government-Sponsored Segregation

By Richard Rothstein

Thus began a century of federal, state, and local policies to quarantine Baltimore’s black population in isolated slums—policies that continue to the present day, as federal housing subsidy policies still disproportionately direct low-income black families to segregated neighborhoods and away from middle class suburbs…

View the rest of this post at Working Economics Blog

Progressive Education

Another of Nick’s Blogs

Nicholas Meier

My blogs here focus on my ideas about curriculum, teaching practices and educational policy, often critiquing what is currently practiced. What this essay will focus on is defining my philosophy of Progressive Education. And as a student and teacher of educational psychology, I feel I can safely say that the practices of Progressive Education match more closely what we know about how the brain works and how people learn in natural settings than what is practiced in the large majority of schools today. As importantly, Progressive Education matches more closely with the ideals and philosophy of a democratic society.

johndeweyquotes31Progressive teaching has deep roots in American education, from the Transcendentalist movement  of the early 1800s to John Dewey and Francis Parker in the late 1800s, early 1900s, and on to modern educators such as Herbert Kohl, Ted Sizer, and Deborah Meier to name just a few. For me, and…

View original post 1,166 more words

Self-Initiated Cognitive Activity

A nice blog on play by Nicholas

Nicholas Meier

The education world is full of acronyms for educational practices. I have one that I would like to promote. SICA: Self Initiated Cognitive Activity.

We know that self-initiation is an important quality for everyone to have to be successful in life. We should design activities in school that promote such behavior. Every day we hear about how entrepreneurship is the wave of the future—or is it the present? Every “self-made” millionaire required self-initiation.

And cognitive means thinking. If education is not meant to help students think better, then I don’t know what it is for!

Cognitive learning theory and even recent brain research has demonstrated how learning is enhanced when the learner is actively engaged in their own learning process, rather than being a passive recipient of knowledge from someone else.

This leads us to the obvious conclusion that school activities that are designed with student initiation and that engaging…

View original post 209 more words

The Teaching Profession

Dear readers,

I am off to Chicago for the tail end of AERA, for a Save our Schools meeting and for the second annual Network for Public Education gathering and, most importantly, to visit friends from “the old days.” My three children were born in Chicago, I started to teach there, and only left… let me see… fifty years ago! Can that be??

As I was packing I ran across an unusual piece in the April 15th Education Week, by Jack Schneider, at the College of Holy Cross in Massacheusetts.  I am going to read him more often.


He is the first writer on education reform who mentions the issue of “downtime.” He has five concerns about the profession (?) of teaching which even the unions don’t seem to really get: (1) Lack of downtime; (2) workload—for high school teachers up to 150 students, with frequent turnover; 3) Lack of the kind of autonomy that often defines professionalism; 4)  Structural isolation; 5) Not much feedback; none from colleagues.

But what astounded me most was what he put Number One: time to plan, prepare, and reflect. Time to collaborate. When I would hear folks demand MORE homework I would wonder—what kind of teacher time does that require. In elementary schools, with only (?) 30 kids, each assignment takes some planning (and don’t forget “differentiation”–the same assignment, without help, makes no sense for the all), some explaining, and then–oops–if they get returned they should be looked at and reflected on and given feedback. If we try to do each of these in 1 minute, that’s 3 minutes times 30=90 minutes.  Ad that’s just time for the homework! What about the other 5 plus hours of class time?

Enough. Maybe these professional gathering I am attending this week will solve this one.


p.s.  Just think, probably more than 200,000 families opted their kids out of April’s English language common-core tests in the State of New York.  Wow.

More Books: Bloodletting, Citizen, Wow, and More than a Score

Books by teachers keep pouring in. Here are a few.


Bloodletting, by David Ellison compared the latest “cures” to the cure-all for all medical problems of the 19th century (bloodletting). He goes through all the regular cures, diagnoses what is behind them and then offers his “2% solution”—which he argues requires a revolution. I fear he may get his wish for the latter, but not for what he is wishing for. A good read.


The WOW Factor by Julie Roberts is a chronicle of her first 8 years in the field of education . I would give it to my granddaughter who is in year one except that…it might discourage her. But Roberts ends on a high note.


What Kind of Citizen? Educating Our Children for the Common Good, by Joel Westheimer. He’s on my side—well, 90%. Myths can have a powerful positive influence, he argues, but we are facing seven that now impede progress. Joel’s critique of one such myths, schools must be sites of democracy is what accounts for it not being 100%. A must read.


More Than a Score, The New Uprising Against High-Stakes Testing, is edited by Jesse Hagopian. I have not read all the essays, but they include Karen Lewis, Nancy Carlson-Paige, Monty Neil and many more good thinkers including interviews with Carol Burris and Phyllis Tashlik. It is an antidote to my pessimism! Hurrah.

Reading these books reminds me how quickly we forget our own roots. It is time for the thousands of teachers, principals and citizens who were influenced by Ted Sizer and his fictional teacher Horace to mention his work—which took so many different forms. He was that very special combination of scholar, teacher, teacher educator, innovator, organizer, gatherer of ideas and people, and more. Let’s all go back and read Horace’s Compromise and remind ourselves of why it set off a firestorm of imitators—and some detractors—and produced an organization (The Coalition of Essential Schools) that at its peak had more than a thousand mostly public school members—reminder, schools not individuals. The ten principles he set forth cover the ground and the way he brings them to life in his books, speeches and conversations uncover the heart of his message. I wish he were here to help us today, but we can still listen to his words with care and imagine what he would say to our triumphs and our defeats. P.sS Join the Coalition—our prices have come down. (info@EssentialSchools.org

My Prognosis

My prognosis—IF we don’t pull off something big fast.

We will soon have a wave of states joining some form of the voucher business—pure market capitalism in place of public education “as we know it”– funded by we the people.

Amazingly we have witnessed a catastrophic example of the dangers of the free ”market place (2008) and come out of it with more and more PR on behalf of it! And it is selling. And with it a revival of an old definition of democracy itself: “free choice”—untrammeled by political interference. Free choice—two noble words—are a dangerous definition of democracy but it has its individualized appeal in a society where communal and workplace organization has been enormously weakened.

Tell me I’m wrong! Please.