About the Blog

I will post a new entry every few weeks. Some will be new writing and some will be past work that has relevance today. The writing will deal in some way with the themes that have been part of my teaching and writing life for decades:

•teaching and learning;
•educational opportunity;
•the importance of public education in a democracy;
•definitions of intelligence and the many manifestations of intelligence in school, work, and everyday life; and
•the creation of a robust and humane philosophy of education.

If I had to sum up the philosophical thread that runs through my work, it would be this: A deep belief in the ability of the common person, a commitment to educational, occupational, and cultural opportunity to develop that ability, and an affirmation of public institutions and the public sphere as vehicles for nurturing and expressing that ability.

My hope is that this blog will foster an online community that brings people together to continue the discussion.


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Thursday, June 13, 2013

A New Book: Public Education Under Siege, edited by Michael B. Katz and Mike Rose. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013

            I want to let you know about a collection of essays by historian Michael Katz and me that is coming out this month. The book grew out of a series of articles Michael and I commissioned for Dissent magazine during 2011-2012. We added a number of new chapters, along with an introduction and conclusion to provide a compendium of brief, jargon-free treatments of a broad range of issues that should be part of current school reform discussion but typically aren’t. For example, we hear continually about the achievement gap, but not about income inequality, residential segregation, or imbalances in the way schools are financed. We hear little about language policy. The focus of mainstream school reform is on the schools, as it should be, but frequently with a pitifully thin knowledge of what goes on within schools themselves—the dynamics of classroom life—or of the social or economic history of the neighborhoods in which schools are embedded.

            We hope that Public Education Under Siege can be a kind of sourcebook for people who want to expand the discussion of school reform.

            I’ll reprint below the “roadmap” of the contents that we provide at the end of the introduction—which will give you a quick sense of the book. Then I’ll reprint the Table of Contents.

            Unfortunately, the book is not cheap (Amazon lists the hardback at $45.68 and the Kindle at $37.43). I apologize for the price of the book. Both Michael and I did our best to get the price reduced, and neither of us nor the contributors make anything on it. Still, we hope the book finds its way into the hands of those who can use it to open up the national conversation about school reform.

            Here’s the roadmap:

            Public Education Under Siege is divided into three sections. Part I, The Perils of Technocratic Educational Reform, begins with Mike Rose’s use of his observations of classrooms combined with his research to explore the negative effects of current reform initiatives on schooling. This theme is picked up in Joi Spencer’s reflection on teaching mathematics to low-income African American students in the current reform environment. David Larabee argues that school reform proposals, notably value-added evaluation, ignore the actual characteristics of teaching as a complex and demanding form of professional practice, and Joanne Barkan investigates the education reform movement’s “high profile, well-financed, and seriously misguided campaign to transform the [teaching] profession.” Richard Kahlenberg is concerned about the “bipartisan and unfounded” assault on teachers’ unions, while Kevin Welner shows how conservative think tanks have influenced the adoption of market-based approaches to school reform by “progressive” reformers. Historians Harvey Kantor and Robert Lowe offer a trenchant overview of the mixed influence of human capital thinking on federal education policy, from the Smith-Hughes Vocational Reform Act in 1917 to the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001. In the section’s last chapter, Janelle Scott examines the civil rights claims of market-based reformers to argue that such reforms not only are disconnected from the issues that animated historical civil rights organizing, but also fail to tap into existing and vibrant grassroots organizing around educational inequality.

            Part II focuses on the intersection of education, race, and poverty. Historian Michael Katz shows why public education is part of the American welfare state and how its recent history exacerbates income inequalities by following the same market-based trajectory as the rest of the welfare state. Pamela Walters, Jean Robinson, and Julia Lamber examine the use of school finance reform to equalize educational opportunities and find that shifts in the meaning of equality have allowed opponents of finance reform to undermine its equalitarian potential. Maia Cucchiara raises uncomfortable questions about public-private relations in school reform. She uses the example of a public school in a gentrifying city neighborhood to examine the equity issues involved in using public funds to increase the school’s resources in an effort to draw and hold middle-class families. Ansley Erickson compares the rhetoric of choice in the language of both desegregation and charter schools to obscure the reality of historic and present-day policies that structure inequality. In the section’s closing chapter, Heather Thompson examines the impact of the huge rise in incarceration on schools and children, arguing that massive incarceration is a neglected source of the achievement gap between whites and racial and ethnic minorities.

            Part III proposes alternatives to technocratic reform. In the opening chapter, prominent education reformer Deborah Meier draws on the material elsewhere in the volume to reflect on recent reforms. Tina Trujillo and Sarah Woulfin profile a principal who exercises strong leadership in creating a successful public school for English-language learners, and Claire Robertson-Kraft highlights the polarized debate on teacher unionism and proposes a model of professional unionism to reconcile opposing positions. Paul Skilton-Sylvester cuts through polarities in the charter school debate with his description of how the environmental mission of K-8 charter school has helped the faculty hold their ground against pressures to narrow the curriculum to achieve higher test scores. Pedro Noguera connects the achievement gap to broader patterns of inequality in American society and presents lessons learned from schools that successfully educate poor children of color, while Eugene Garcia argues that reductive language policies have restricted learning and contributed to inequality of outcomes for English-language learners. The last two chapters focus on the role of public accountability and low-income parents in school reform. Eva Gold, Jeffrey Henig, and Elaine Simon draw on their research on mayor Michael Bloomberg’s assumption of control of the New York City public schools, and Rema Reynolds and Tyrone Howard give examples of the work of low-income parents in reforming their local schools.

            In the final section, the editors look at what these chapters collectively tell us about education reform, followed by Mike Rose’s advice to young teachers.

            And here’s the full Table of Contents:

Table of Contents


Part I. The Perils of Technocratic Education Reform

Chapter 1. The Mismeasure of Teaching and Learning: How Contemporary School Reform Fails the Test
            Mike Rose
Chapter 2. Views from the Black of the Math Classroom
            Joi A. Spencer
Chapter 3. Targeting Teachers
            David F. Labaree
Chapter 4. Firing Line: The Grand Coalition Against Teachers
            Joanne Barkan
Chapter 5. The Bipartisan, and Unfounded, Assault on Teacher’s Unions
            Richard D. Kahlenberg
Chapter 6. Free-Market Think Tanks and the Marketing of Education Policy
            Kevin G. Welner
Chapter 7. The Price of Human Capital: The Illusion of Equal Educational Opportunity
            Harvey Kantor and Robert Lowe
Chapter 8. Educational Movements, Not Market Moments
            Janelle Scott

Part II. Education, Race, and Poverty

Chapter 9. Public Education as Welfare
            Michael B. Katz
Chapter 10. In Search of Equality in School Finance Reform
            Pamela Barnhouse Walters, Jean C. Robinson, and Julia C. Lamber
Chapter 11. “I Want the White People Here!”: The Dark Side of an Urban School Renaissance
            Maia Cucchiara
Chapter 12. The Rhetoric of Choice: Segregation, Desegregation, and Charter Schools
            Ansley T. Erickson
Chapter 13. Criminalizing Kids: The Overlooked Reason for Failing Schools
            Heather Ann Thompson

Part III. Alternatives to Technocratic Reform

Chapter 14. Abandoning the Higher Purposes of Public Schools
            Deborah Meier
Chapter 15. Equity-Minded Instructional Leadership: Turning Up the Volume for English Learners
            Tina Trujillo and Sarah Woulfin
Chapter 16. Professional Unionism: Redefining the Role of Teachers and Their Unions in Reform Efforts
            Claire Robertson-Kraft
Chapter 17. Pushing Back: How an Environmental Charter School Resisted Test-Driven Pressures
            Paul Skilton-Sylvester
Chapter 18. The Achievement Gap and the Schools We Need: Creating the Conditions Where Race and Class No Longer Predict Student Achievement
            Pedro Noguera
Chapter 19. !Ya Basta! Challenging Restrictions on English-Language Learners
            Eugene E. Garcia
Chapter 20. Sharing Responsibility: A Case for Real Parent-Student Partnerships
            Rema Reynolds and Tyrone C. Howard
Chapter 21. Calling the Shots in Public Education: Parents, Politicians, and Educators Clash
            Eva Gold, Jeffrey R. Henig, and Elaine Simon

Part IV. Conclusions

Chapter 22. What Is Education Reform?
            Michael B. Katz and Mike Rose
Chapter 23. A Letter to Young Teachers: The Graduation Speech You Won’t Hear, But Should

            Mike Rose

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