I started this blog in 2005 to augment my book The Art of Teaching Science (Public Library), and to write about progressive & humanistic science teaching. Over the years it morphed into a blog that not only explores science education, but its more of a discussion of the unnerving intrusion of corporate education-wannabes with lots of money who want to change education for their own ends.
In the research and reading that I do to write this blog, I’ve come to know a vanguard of voices who have created a movement to oppose a cabal of corporate pirates whose goal is to privatize public education, and mutate the teaching profession into nonprofessionals who have little experience and even shorter life expectancy as teachers.
In this blog post, I am using the word “vanguard” to introduce you to people who are on the forefront of a movement to oppose and take action against groups and people who seek to privatize public education, and inflict harm into the nation’s schools by advocating standardization and high-stakes accountability. These persons are for the most part people or small groups who have taken risks to speak out and act on the positions they hold, often in opposition to forces more powerful and financially more resourceful.
I used the word vanguard in a review I wrote of Mercedes Schneider’s new book, on Amazon, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education (Public Library). I titled the review of her book as Uncovering the Culprits Causing Harm to Public Education. Here is what I wrote:
Dr Mercedes Schneider’s book arrived the other day and I was thrilled to see the names and chapters devoted to many of those who I have written about on my blog. But you won’t find the kind of writing in Mercedes’s book about these people and organization anywhere else. In my view, Mercedes Schneider is at the vanguard of voices who are uncovering the harm that the people featured in her book are inflicting on public education. In amazing detail and wonderfully written you’ll be taken on journeys into the minds of corporate and education thieves, many of whom have become wealthy on the backs of American school students and teachers.
This vanguard is composed of educators who offer different accounts of what teaching and learning should be, and who should lead the effort to improve eduction. Here are a few that have influenced and inspired me.
A Vanguard of Voices
One of these educators is Dr. Mercedes Schneider, who writes a blog at deutsch29 on education reform. Dr. Schneider has a Ph.D. in Applied Statistics and Research Methods from the University of Northern Colorado, and was a professor at Ball State University. With teaching experiences in Louisiana and Georgia, she returned to Louisiana to teach high school English. From there she launched her blog, and just last week, published her first book.
Her book identifies people and groups that are very different from the “Vanguard” of voices that I’ve included in this post. Here is a little more of what I said about her book:
In this book we have at our fingertips answers to important questions about how such a limited number of individual’s faces crop-up in various media outlets as the experts on public schools. If you want to find how to get wealthy and have a really big office, read about Joel Klein in chapter 1. Find out how Teach for America is transforming teacher education into a temp business by reading the Wendy Kopp story in chapter 3. You’ll find important episodes about characters including Eva Moskovitz, Michelle Rhee, Erik Hanushek, Arne Duncan, David Coleman, Chester Finn, and others. You’ll also find out about organizations that fund each other in the name of reform, but in the end seek to dismantle public education. Welcome to TFA, the New Teacher Project, the National Council on Teacher Quality (not), the Aspen Institute, the Gates Foundation, and cousins Walton and Broad. And the best is yet to come as she saves the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the nation’s bill mill for the last chapter. The content of the book is thoroughly researched and authenticated. If you read her blog, you’ll certainly enjoy this book.
This is a must read book.
I met Anthony Cody several years ago online through his blog Living in Dialog which is published on Education Week Teacher. He was gracious enough to re-blog some of my blog posts, and introduce me to NEPC’s Best of the Ed Blogs. Anthony Cody worked for 24 years as a science teacher at a high-needs middle school in the Oakland Public Schools.
Anthony is a National Board-certified teacher, and leads workshops on Project Based Teaching. Recently he co-founded the Network for Public Education, which had its first annual meeting in Austin last month. He has worked endlessly to bring dialog to the issues surrounding educational reform. He was brave enough to engage the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation in a series of exchanges, and has written more than 100 blog posts about the billionaires intrusion into public education.
His blog articles are some of the best on the net.
He can be followed on Twitter.
Chris Thinnes is one of those educators you wished you had for a teacher. If you are a teacher, he is the kind of administrator that you would want to work with. His blog consists of his reflections and thoughts about education, and his reflections are deep and powerful. He blogs at Chris.Thinnes.me.
I’ve been a lifelong advocate for inquiry and progressive & humanistic education, and shared on this blog some of the work that Chris Thinnes was doing with his colleagues at school. I wrote this about his work:
Working together from the ground up, rather the top down, Chris Thinnes says on his blog how he and his colleagues work together to “formulate, analyze, prioritize, and activate driving questions that democratically find the intersections of personal interest and shared priorities.” You can go to Chris Thinnes blog, and read the kinds of questions he and his colleagues asked at their first meeting which focused on how a teacher creates an environment and climate conducive to learning. It is this kind of democratically organized work that leads to teachers growing into cultural workers, inquiry teachers, and artists in their own right.
As way of introduction, here is what Chris said about the in-school meeting among all the staff to explore ways to improve teaching:
He wrote his reflections on the first Network for Public Education and titled it An Education Spring in Our Step: Reflections on the #NPEconference. He says:
But I want to reflect on the conference from a more personal, perhaps more emotional, and potentially more self-indulgent perspective. I want to explore some patterns that I noticed, and some dynamics I found inspiring, in the community of #NPEconference participants. These had a profound impact on me that I’m likely to explore in the weeks and months to come: they helped restore, and to create anew, a faith that we can ensure – precisely by recognizing the nature and the impact of these dynamics in our community, and in our solidarity — the fulfillment of a vision framed most eloquently by my dear friend Peter Gow: “We want to see democracy, not capitalism, survive as the root, stem, leaves, and fruit of American education.”
You can follow him on Twitter.
Like many of you, I became aware of Dr. Ravitch through her writings, not only through her most recent book, The Reign of Error (Public Library) but also when she published The Death and Life of the Great American School System (Public Library), and the blog she co-hosted with Deborah Meir called Bridging Differences. Dr. Ravitch’s blog, perhaps one of the most visited education sites on the net, uncovers and reveals the actions of a very large population of educators who are pushing back the efforts of the “billionaire boys club. (a Ravitch term).
For the people in this article whose ideas have inspired me, they would probably name Diane Ravitch as a person they look to as a beacon of strength and wisdom about the current state of education in America. I would, too.
Dr. Ravitch is an historian and a research professor at New York University. She is co-founder of Network for Public Education, and was the keynote speaker at the first conference of the NPE.
Paul L. Thomas
Dr. Thomas, a professor at Furman University is a voice that I go to learn the truth about poverty in the United States and how it affects the education of about 30% of the nations children and youth. His writing on “the becoming radical” (blog), is must read for education reform. Paul taught high school English in rural South Carolina before moving to teacher education. He is a column editor for English Journal (National Council of Teachers of English) and series editor for Critical Literacy Teaching Series: Challenging Authors and Genres (Sense Publishers), where he authored the first volume—Challenging Genres: Comics and Graphic Novels (2010).
He has served on major committees with NCTE, and has been named Council Historian (2013-2015), and formerly served as co-editor for The South Carolina English Teacher for SCCTE. Recent books include Ignoring Poverty in the U.S.: The Corporate Takeover of Public Education (Information Age Publishing, 2012) and Parental Choice?: A Critical Reconsideration of Choice and the Debate about Choice (Information Age Publishing, 2010).
Julian Vasquez Heilig
Dr. Heilig is professor of Educational Policy and Planning, and African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas. I’ve come to know him through his blog, Cloaking Inequity, which brings a level of research, mixed with anecdotal experiences, that is very difficult to beat. It’s one of my favorite stops on the Internet, and I recommend it highly. Dr. Heilig writes about important issues and topics.
One of the organizations that I think has connived its way into American schools is Teach for America. Julian Vasquez Heilig has done extensive research to refute claims that TFA is a practical way to produce teachers for public schools. You can find his report here at the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado: Teach for America: A Return to the Evidence. You will find that Dr. Heilig’s blog is a real experience, and one that will bring you in touch with crucial issues on educational reform.
Follow him on Twitter.
My intention in this article was to make the claim that there is a grass-roots movement of people and organizations that are unearthing new realities to prevent public schools from falling into the hands of corporate and philanthropic America.
I can’t even make a dent in the number of people who are calling out the billionaires such as Gates, and Broad, and saying “enough is enough.” The struggle to prevent the continuation of test obsession and standardization is one that is fought on the ground every day.
To complete this article, I want to include the following people and organizations that are representative of a large number of courageous people who are willing to take risks to oppose actions of corporations and government that are not in the public interest.
Dr. Jean Sanders is an educational researcher and consultant who I met through this blog. She says on her LinkedIn site that “my main concern now is the travesty of “takeover” of public education by mandarins, neophytes and corporate types who never spent a day teaching anything in a classroom.” She has been gracious to read my blog, and take the time to write comments that extend my own learning.
Hanna Hurley is a fellow Georgian, and activist who questions and writes about education. She is a child advocate and special education consultant. Follow her on Twitter.
A fellow progressive educator, and geologist, Grant Lichtman is the author of The Learning Pond, a blog he writes, and The Falconer: What We Wish We Had Learned in School, and a forthcoming book on his 60 day trip around the United States visiting innovative schools. Follow him on Twitter.
Ed is a fellow Atlantan, and is an advocate for public education, and a Deming scholar. He has written several posts on this blog, and he has shared Deming-based research on systems education, and in particular has analyzed NAEP Trial Urban District Assessments using control chart processes. He was a candidate for the Atlanta School Board. He has inspired me by his activism, and relentless service to improve education in the Atlanta Public Schools.
Ed Johnson can be reached here.
Matt Jones and EmpowerED Georgia
Matt Jones, a public school educator, founded EmpowerED Georgia, and working with citizens in the state has created an advocacy group supporting public education. EmpowerED Georgia has used its resources to oppose legislation that would privatize public education, or cut the funding for Georgia schools. Matt Jones has been the leader of this group, and has inspired many of us. Visit the EmpowerEd website for a collection of papers and positions on important education topics.
Follow EmpowerED Georgia on Twitter.
Chicago Teachers Union
The Chicago Teacher’s Union, representing more than 30,000 teachers, has set the tone for the way teachers can work together to protect public schools from corporate intrusion and government give aways (to charter management), and to pavé the way to improve education in public schools. The union blogs at this site.
The Garfield High School Faculty
Teachers at Garfield High School boycotted the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP). It was one of the first efforts by a school faculty to say no to administrators who insisted on using a test that the teachers felt was a waste of time and money. MAP represents (in my view) the extreme in our obsession with testing. Students are administered the test four times during the year to offer “measures” to tell if students reached certain benchmarks. The use of benchmarks is a clever device, but the problem is there is no research or scientific basis for benchmarks. They are pure opinion, and as the Garfield teachers rightly said, the tests don’t measure what they teach. You can go to their Facebook page at Solidarity with Garfield high School testing Boycott.
John Kuhn is a Texas superintendent, but to many of us he is a fearless leader whose presence at various conferences and meeting, and his new book Fear and Learning in America: Bad data, good teachers, and the attack public education (Public Library) provides the kind of evidence and support needed to further the opposition to the demise of public education.
Follow him on Twitter.
Joyce Murdock Feilke
Joyce Murdock Feilke came to my attention when we learned that Atlanta’s new superintendent was before superintendent of the Austin Unified School District. Joyce, a school counselor with 30 years of experience, described what she called toxic environments in many schools because of our testing obsession. She and I communicated, and I wrote several posts (Psychological Abuse: A Springtime School Ritual?) about her struggles, and later resignation when the superintendent simply denied that any of this was going on in these schools. You can read her article in the Austin American-Statesman.
Ed Chamness, a former teacher, and parent in Austin, Texas, and professor Julie Westerlund founded the Texas chapter of the Opt Out Movement. I came in contact with Chamness and Westerlund when I reached out to Joyce Murdock Feilke to find out about what she called “psychological abuse” created by the state-wide obsession with high-stakes testing in an Austin elementary school where she was a school counselor.
Edy Chamness and Julie Westerlund were professional colleagues of Joyce’s and provided more and compelling evidence that children are being used in an experiment, rooted in punitive classic conditioning to meet the goals of the school district, which is increase student test scores and eventually graduation rates.
YONG ZHAO is currently Presidential Chair and Associate Dean for Global Education, College of Education at the University of Oregon, where is a full professor in the Department of Educational Measurement, Policy and Leadership(EMPL). His recent series, “How Does PISA Put the World at Risk” (http://ow.ly/x0g48) is only one example of his evidence-based deconstruction of prevailing myths in education policy and politics, both on his blog and in a series of must-read book-length works.
Jose Luis Vilson
JOSE LUIS VILSON is a math educator for a middle school in the Inwood / Washington Heights neighborhood of New York, NY. He’s also a committed writer, activist, web designer, and father. He co-authored the book Teaching 2030: What We Must Do For Our Students and Public Schools … Now and In The Future with Dr. Barnett Berry and 11 other accomplished teachers. He writes for Edutopia, GOOD, and TransformED / Future of Teaching, and has written for CNN.com, Education Week, Huffington Post, and El Diario / La Prensa NY. His first (and must-read) solo project, This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and the Future of Education, has just been released by Haymarket Books.
DEBORAH MEIER encourages new approaches that enhance democracy and equity in public education. She is on the editorial board of Dissent magazine, The Nation and the Harvard Education Letter. She was a recipient of the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship in 1987. Her books, The Power of Their Ideas, Lessons to America from a Small School in Harlem (1995), Will Standards Save Public Education(2000), In Schools We Trust (2002), Keeping School, with Ted and Nancy Sizer (2004) and Many Children Left Behind (2004) are foundational texts for those interested in the intersections and dependencies of education and democracy: so, too, her EdWeek blog on “Bridging Differences.”
Bridging Differences Blog: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/Bridging-Differences/
THOMAS HOBSON is a preschool teacher, writer, speaker, artist, and the author of “A Parent’s Guide to Seattle.” For the past 11 years, he has been the only employee of the Woodland Park Cooperative preschools, allowing him to work very closely with families in a true community setting. His blog, by turns, demonstrates an exceptional acuity of insight about learning, teaching, children, and community — and lights a fire for us all to ask deeper questions about education in a democracy.