Misrepresenting the Power of of Teachers’ Expectations to Defeat Teachers

For nearly twenty years, school reformers have cited the Pygmalion Effect to argue that teachers are to blame for a large part of the achievement gap, because they have “low expectations.” In the 1990s, their soundbite was a part of a Sister Soldja campaign to beat up on teachers just enough to get test-driven accountability enacted, but it […]

Jesse Rothstein’s Refutation of Chetty et. al’s Longterm Impacts of Teachers

Lacking the expertise to critique the specifics of the methodology of “The Long-Term Impacts of Teachers” by Raj Chetty, John Friedman, and Jonah Rockoff, I have focused on becoming a good consumer of their study’s findings. I could not test the validity of their specific regression methods, but repeated rereadings and diverse email communications allowed […]

Before Michelle Rhee and Campbell Brown, There was “Why Teachers Can’t Teach”

Dana Goldstein’s The Teacher Wars recalls numerous great stories that illustrate how and why teachers became America’s “most embattled profession.” She reminds us that before Campbell Brown and Michelle Rhee, educators endured the wrath of the Texas Monthly’s Gene Lyons. After finishing Goldstein’s masterpiece, readers should google Lyons’ 1979 tirade, “Why Teachers Can’t Teach.” Lyons […]

Dana Goldstein’s The Teacher Wars Explains How Education Became So Embattled

Every generation must rewrite history from its own perspective. It has been a joy to look at the history of recurring education battles from the perspective of Dana Goldstein, and her The Teacher Wars, as well as Elizabeth Green’s Building a Better Teacher. I’ve have long blamed Reaganism and Supply Side Economics for much of […]

Dana Goldstein and New Insights into Why Teachers Are Targeted

Before reading Dana Goldstein’s The Teacher Wars, I mostly believed that it was bad luck that turned teaching into America’s “most embattled profession.” Primarily, teachers were in the wrong place at the wrong time when a self-righteous movement of inexperienced neo-liberals chose us as their enemy. I still believe that the best explanation of how […]

Are We Ready To Move Beyond Our Reform Wars?

As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, the ability to hold opposing opinions in mind is a sign of intelligence. Similarly, we should welcome Patrick Riccards’ call for dialogue, as we also explain why efforts to bridge differences must be pursued as teachers step up our counter-attack against corporate reform. Riccards calls for a practitioner advisory board. […]

Lessons To Be Learned from Elizabeth Green’s Building a Better Teacher

Elizabeth Green’s Building a Better Teacher contributes explicitly and implicitly to two key school reform debates. Although I’m not fully convinced by her main argument, she makes a great case that we can build a better teacher. The implicit issue is whether a concerted effort to improve teacher quality could drive reforms in high-poverty schools […]

Elizabeth Green Asks Whether True Believers in “No Excuses” Can Learn

The first rule of teachers in schools that serve every child who walks through the door is “pick your battles.” A teacher’s key skill, we’re often told from day #1, is “learn what to ignore.”   A charter school teacher who does not understand the essential nature of such survival skills may claim to teach the “same […]

Elizabeth Green’s Building a Better Teacher, the Rabbi, and the Chicken

The first half of Elizabeth Green’s Building a Better Teacher recounts the rise and fall of modern academic teacher improvement efforts, as well as the way that Japanese elementary schools, at least, learned from this (seemingly) quintessential American movement. I am not qualified to comment on Green’s discussion of Japanese schools, but this is the […]

Elizabeth Green’s Portrait of the Potential Benefits of Academic Teacher Education Programs

Elizabeth Green, author of the outstanding Building a Better Teacher, recalls that she attended affluent high schools but she didn’t have a surplus of engaging teachers. She still must have had far better teachers than I had in the 1950s and 1960s. I’m also likely to look differently at the question of whether we now […]

Elizabeth Green Tackles the Question; Are Teachers Born or Made?

It’s hard to believe that there will ever be an answer to the question of whether teachers are “born” or “made.” As with the question of whether comedians or poets are born or made, the way that the question is phrased, and its context, will determine the answers. As with the case with other timeless […]

How Amanda Ripley’s The Smartest Kids in the World Falls Short

Amanda Ripley’s The Smartest Kids in the World is primarily concerned with what we can learn from other countries, and several of those lessons are very valuable. It also has a very few pages that are jammed-packed with inaccurate, un-footnoted statements about standardized testing in America. My sense is that Ripley feels compelled to offer […]

James Heckman’s Research Argues Against Test-Driven Accountability

The Myth of Achievement Tests, by James Heckman, John Eric Humphries, and Tim Kautz is more than a meticulous work of social science. It also is an objective, but hard-hitting, analysis of the testing that has driven school reform, and a warning about the unintended harm done by ill-conceived policies. One of the best things […]

Concerns About the Focus on “Grit” in School Improvement

My approach was to focus on my students’ strengths. To do so, it could be said that I needed to “get inside the mind(s)” of my students. To help my students master a legitimate college prep curriculum, I would prefer to say that I needed to listen to my students. In my experience, if teachers […]

Drawing Upon Paul Tough to Nurture Soft Skills Not “Grit”

It is always reassuring to read about pedagogies developed in the classroom being later determined to be based on scientific principles documented by academic researchers. That is one reason why I was so impressed with Paul Tough’s New York Times Magazine article, “Who Gets to Graduate?” Tough’s article was published this spring and I immediately […]


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