• Bridging Differences

    In Bridging Differences
    Deborah exchanges views with a different colleague, each for a month or two.  Her current correspondent is Harry Boyte, a Minnesotan (although his roots are southern). He has always been a friend and mentor, even though we come to stuff in different ways and even disagree on and off. He is a professor and an activist, a theorist and a practitioner, with a focus on democracy—beginning a long time ago when he worked with Martin Luther King. He has written or edited ten books on the topic and founded a Center on
    democracy which is now at St Augsberg College, but formerly at the University of Minnesota.  

  • Where I’ll Be

    Dec 1-3, 2016 Fall Forum Coalition of Essential Schools: Providence, Rhode Island

  • Network for Public Education

  • Good Morning Mission Hill

    For information on showings or purchasing the video Good Morning Mission Hill
  • Central Park East Elementary School

  • Twitter Updates

Beyond Testing

Dear Friends and Family,

I want to let you know that my new book, Beyond Testing: Seven Assessments of Students and Schools More Effective Than Standardized Tests is out and is currently being offered at a discount by TC Press!

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Below is a description of the book :

Beyond Testing describes seven forms of assessment that are more effective than standardized test results: (1) student self-assessments, (2) direct teacher observations of students and their work, (3) descriptive reviews of the child, (4) reading and math interviews with children, (5) portfolios and public defense of student work, (6) school reviews and observations by outside professionals, and (7) school boards and town meetings. These assessments are more honest about what we can and cannot know about children’s knowledge, skills, and dispositions, and are more adaptable to varying educational missions. Readers can compare and contrast each approach and make informed decisions about what is most appropriate for their school.

Click here to visit the online book page. Please note that there is a 20% discount when using the code “TCP2017.” Exam copies for text adoption are available by clicking here.

My Upcoming Books

Dear friends,

I have not written since December 2016. On this page I mean. Actually I have been writing a lot on demand so this frivolous web page (or whatever it is called) has been ignored.

I am faithfully writing a weekly Bridging Differences exchange with Harry Boyte on our EdWeek blog, while involved in various degrees on three books that I claim to be co-authoring. One, the work primarily of a former Mission Hill colleague Matthew Knoester, is now pretty much finished and Teachers College Press will be printing it soonish. It is on alternative forms of assessment to standardized testing that are more accurate, more useful and in keeping with the democratic spirit and intent of schooling. No number can sum us up, and the presumption of experts in data ad technology to think that is possible has an old and dishonorable history.

The second book is the product of examining my own work which led to a collaboratively reframed idea with another Mission Hill colleague, Emily Gasoi. It will (we hope) appear next fall under the title This School Belongs to You and Me. Publisher, Beacon Press. We are both worn out and excited about it. It is a dialogue about the issues that have bedeviled me for fifty or more years. We explore together how schools can be a force for nourishing democracy or for squelching it. If it is not visible in our schools, where else can the young see it played ?

The third is still in the formative stage. Two colleagues (Shane Safir and Matt Alexander, the founders of June Jordan high school in San Francisco) are putting together the stories and thoughts of colleagues who have intentionally tried to create democratically governed schools—stories with sometimes not so happy endings. We hope to figure out, as we read them, what wisdom they may offer us as we, each in our own domain, carry on the fight to build a more perfect democracy. ASCD is interested and we have collective some great stores and are still playing around with how to present them and others we hope will contribute. (While also being as active as we can in the critical fight to prevent what we have from disappearing altogether under Trump.)

More on that activism in my next blog. In the meantime, be on the lookout for my aforementioned upcoming books!

More Books!

Here is my latest in both some new(ish) books that I want to recommend as well as a few older ones that are still worth reading.

 

artisan

The Artisan Teaching Model,
by Kenneth Baum and Daniel Krulwich

“Explore a powerful and innovative new approach to leadership development within schools. Based on the authors’ success in a South Bronx school, this book merges the idea of teamwork with the concept of an artisan-apprentice relationship. As in any apprenticeship, newer members of the profession work alongside experts (“artisans”). As apprentices become more skilled, they take on larger and more substantial roles and continue to work alongside, and together with, artisans. Over time, the apprentices become artisans themselves and in turn share the art and craft of teaching with newer teachers.”

white

For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood—and the rest of y’all too
By Christopher Emdin

“Drawing on his own experience of feeling undervalued and invisible in classrooms as a young man of color and merging his experiences with more than a decade of teaching and researching in urban America, award-winning educator Christopher Emdin offers a new lens on an approach to teaching and learning in urban schools. He begins by taking to task the perception of urban youth of color as unteachable, and he challenges educators to embrace and respect each student’s culture and to reimagine the classroom as a site where roles are reversed and students become the experts in their own learning.”

mismeasuring_our_lives

Mismeasuring Our Lives
by Joseph Stiglitz, Amartya Sen ad Jean-Paul Fitoussi

On the problems with using GDP for measuring economic process (which is as biased politically as measuring chidren’s education their teachers effectiveness and the school itself) and offers alternatives.   (Then reread “Mismeasuring Man” on testing.)

 

choicedtime

Choice Time: How to Deepen Learning Through Inquiry and Play, PreK-2
by Renee Dinnerstein

“In her inspirational, well-researched book, Renée describes the kinds of learning opportunities that all parents want for their own children. Her accessible writing style makes it easy to envision the environment, teaching, and community she describes with such clarity you’ll want to get started on her ideas tomorrow.” —Jennifer Serravallo

And go back and read  Parental Involvement and the Political Principle by Seymour Sarason, as well as his book Productive Learning with Stanislaw Glazek

Also a reminder of a book I recently reviewed here:

Education and the Commercial Mindset
by Samuel Abrams
On keeping the market place and privatization out of public education.

 

Meanwhile, please come up with wonderful ideas to protect the vulnerable and rebuild the Democratic Party.  (Reminder: the Democratic Party got more votes in both the Presidential race and the senatorial races.)

 

Education and the Commercial Mindset

Education and the Commercial Mindset

mindset

by Samuel E Abrams
Harvard University Press
2016

This is book that you should rush out and buy/read. The author, Samuel E. Abrams is currently the director of the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education, Teachers College, Columbia. When I first saw the title and the source, I did not think it would be a book I would be enthusiastic about.

However, I discovered immediately that the author taught for a number of years at NYC’s Beacon High School, which I know and respect. So I decided maybe my biases were unfair. Indeed I was wrong to be wary. Chapter One should be a must for all those who want (or should want) to understand the period we are in and the issues confronting us. If you can’t imagine reading the whole book—start there. Then decide.

Actually every chapter that follows is important including one on charters with a focus on KIPP—which Abrams is more sympathetic to than I am. But like the rest of the book he presents the issues with lots of documentation and data, and he presents KIPP fairly. He covers considerable territory with some historical background on every topic he deals with for those who love it. His final chapters on schooling in other distant lands focuses on the Nordic nations with a lot, of course, on Finland.

I could quibble with this or that, I won’t until after you’ve had a chance to read it.

The books gave me insights that make me realize the task we face here in the United Statesis in some ways harder. Most of the other countries he describes—and in fact most of the nations in the world—are more homogeneous than the United States. In addition, as Abrams reminds us over and over, none of the nations that get compared with us have anywhere close to the inequality in wealth of the USA, nor the degree of poverty. This shocks me over and over again. It is easier to imagine that what you want for your child should be available to all children when you imagine that all children could be yours. The “others” are too foreign—in all senses—for too many Americans. It is easier to create a sense of grievance—an us versus them mindset in the USA. It is easier to believe that some kinds of families don’t deserve to get the best because they will only misuse it, squander it, or it wouldn’t even be good for them—they need something different (and cheaper).

The countries he describes, he argues, have a very strong sense of the communal good and thus have never had as many alternatives to public education for the rich. And, of course, these are all very much smaller countries and don’t face the additional complications that come with being a nation of sub-nations (states). They are built on assumptions of trust and mutual respect which is far less common in our country. Even the voucher system that Sweden adopted (which startled me) is quite another thing in a nation of so much equality and homogeneity. Of course, this actually suggests we need schools to create trust more than they do. We need schools that help build such trust and sense of shared and common good even more than these nations do but of course are too distrustful to do so on the scale needed. Chicken and egg dilemma.

This accounts, perhaps, for why Abrams never discusses the role of schools in the development of democratic norms and habits. He seems to take democracy for granted when discussing the Nordic school tradition, and perhaps also because democracy is so rarely used as a rationale for or against the current reforms.

Among other reasons to read this book is that it is a good read. He writes well, and while you may choose to skip around here and there, now and then, the power of his story will, I think, reach you—and help you the next time you get into an argument on behalf of the reforms you believe in.

Five stars.

Books, books and more great books!

Dear friends and colleagues,

I regularly like to promote some favorite books of mine here.

This time let me introduce you to a few of quite a lot of interesting books that have been published lately about schooling and a few that I just recently read but were published some time ago.

Two are close to home and include a chapter by me!

Meier

Teaching in Themes, edited by Deborah Meier, Matthew Knoester and Katherine Clunis D’Andrea

Glover

The Teacher You Want To Be, edited by Ellin Keene and Matt Glover.

Then…

kahlenberg

Public School Choice vs Private School Vouchers, edited by Richard Kahlenberg was published in 2003 but it’s definitely worth reading as we move toward voucherization.

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Fearless Teaching, by Stuart Grauer. Accounts of very different approaches to schooling and teaching. You know, for sure, that he’s a teacher by what and how he put this book together.

Michie

We Don’t Need Another Hero, by Gregory Michie.  Exactly my point. Chapter 13 is entitled, “Race to the Top of What? “  Maybe democracy?

democraticschools

You might follow it up with an oldie (2007), Democratic Schools edited by Michael Apple and James Beane—which includes an essay by me and Paul Schwarz.

SBM-front2

Schooling Beyond Measure, by Alfie Kohn is a new and precious collection of his current topic I enjoy thinking about.

TakingBackChildhood216x326

Taking Back Childhood, by Nancy Carlsson-Paige has been reissued. It first came out in 2008 and remains a classic—especially designed for parents.

Diamond

Teaching Kindergarten by Julie Diamond, Betsy Grob and Fretta Reitzes,  A collection of essays by folks who know what they are talking about, including a Mission Hill teacher (Kathy Clunis DAndrea) and a forward by Vivian Paley and Prologue by Ruth Charney.

kindergarten

While you’re at it read Kinderarten by Julie Diamond about a year of learning—for both Julie and her students.

Martin

Making Space for Active Learning: the art and practice of teaching edited by Anne Martin and Ellen Schwartz with a foreword by Helen Featherstone.  Those names should be enough to  catch your attention and each essay is by a teacher I know and admire.

delorenzo

Sketches in Democracy by Lisa DeLorenzo.  He is a music teacher and this book is a treasure; about the role of music in our school lives—or what it can be.

ochsborn

Squandering America’s Future, by Susan Ochsborn is a telling story about the historic changes in the way we view children and how it’s hurting us today.

ENOUGH!  I’ll get back to this because I have a bunch of other books on the chair besides me that I want everyone to read.

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

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

Bloodletting

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.

wowfactor

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.

cover_westheimer

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.

MorethanScore

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

Books: Loving Learning and An Empty Seat in Class

I just finished two books that I want everyone to read.  I can’t tell whether they speak “especially” to me, but try them.

LovingLearning

Loving Learning is written by Tom Little and Katherine Ellison and was published in 2015.  The dual authorship is probably a reflection of the fact that Tom died in 2013.  One additional reason for my loving it is that Mission Hill and Deborah Meier play a role in it.  It is a story of Tom’s trip across America to visit 43 self-proclaimed and some not proclaimed progressive schools after 27 years as head of an Oakland independent/private school.  He was also one of the founders of the Progressive Education Network (which meets annually–this year in NYC in the fall).

Emptyseat

An Empty Seat in Class, by Rick Ayers is about teaching, of course, but the focus is on the impact of a student’s death and other traumas on all those around them.  While that is the focus but actually it isn’t quite the heart of the book.  I also recommend it for its description of what it is like to be fully committed to being a teacher.  (Yes, he’s Bill’s brother—but don’t let that be the reason to read or not read it!).