Selected Readings

These selections do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, opinions, mission or action plan of the DFPE. They are provided here to foster thoughtful conversation among those of us interested in the education of children.

Standards for Authentic Achevement and Pedagogy
By Gary G. Wehlage, Fred M. Newmann, Walter G. Secada (1995), Posted August 21, 2012

This study posits that standards for success should focus on the intellectual quality of teachers' and students' work and developed criteria to measure intellectual quality regardless of the particular form of instruction observed or the specific student outcome produced.

Veteran teacher on what "highly qualified" really means.
By Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post, October 18, 2011

This was written by educator Anthony Cody, who worked for 24 years in the Oakland schools, 18 years teaching science at a high-needs school and six years as a mentor and coach of teachers. He is a National Board-certified teacher. Mr. Cody relates his experiences with TFA and the dangers of Congress re-defining what a "highly qualified" teacher really is when they reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)...

Education Inc. - How private companies are profiting from Texas public schools.
By Abby Rapoport, Texas Observer, September 06, 2011

"IT'S NOT HARD TO IMAGINE Pearson's vision of utopia. Pearson is a London-based mega-corporation that owns everything from the Financial Times to Penguin Books, and also dominates the business of educating American children. The company promotes its many education-related products on a website that features an idyllic, make-believe town. It's called Pearsonville..."

The school reform deniers
By Steven Brill, August 21, 2011

Steven Brill, a reporter and founder of The American Lawyer magazine, has just published a new book, "Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America's Schools".

In this article he summarizes some of his reporting:

"Fact: American public education is failing our children and it is especially failing the disadvantaged children who need it the most...

Fact: This is not a matter of money. We spend much more per student than those other countries for our lousy results, and while we've kept increasing our spending, we haven't improved performance...

Fact: This is not about class size as much as it is about who is in front of the class. Of course, a classroom with 40 children is not likely to work as well as one with 10. But at the margins, class size doesn't matter...

Fact: Charter schools are not the magic bullet; there are too few of them, and probably not more than half are performing significantly better, if at all, than traditional public schools. It's the 95,000 public schools that we need to fix..."

"DON'T OVERSIMPLIFY - To be sure, my reporting produced more complicated results than knee-jerk anti-unionists or some of the reformers would expect.

First, good teaching is a lot harder than most outsiders understand; it's grueling work that hundreds of thousands of teachers do really well and with amazing dedication, though they are too often undercut and demoralized by mediocre colleagues and the unions that protect them, as well as by uncaring school bureaucracies.

Second, teachers' union leaders are not one-dimensional obstructionists or villains. I found places where they are engaged in real reforms aimed at helping the children instead of the adults."

How Education Reform Traps Poor Children
By Alfie Kohn, Edweek.org, April 27, 2011

"Love them or hate them, the proposals collectively known as "school reform" are mostly top-down policies: Divert public money to quasi-private charter schools, pit states against one another in a race for federal funding, offer rewards when test scores go up, fire the teachers or close the schools when they don't.

Policymakers and the general public have paid much less attention to what happens inside classrooms - the particulars of teaching and learning - especially in low-income neighborhoods. The news here has been discouraging for quite some time, but, in a painfully ironic twist, things seem to be getting worse as a direct result of the "reform" strategies pursued by the Bush administration, then intensified under President Barack Obama, and cheered by corporate executives and journalists."

The Pedagogy of Poverty Versus Good Teaching
By Martin Haberman April 26, 2011

"Unfortunately, the pedagogy of poverty does not work. Youngsters achieve neither minimum levels of life skills nor what they are capable of learning. The classroom atmosphere created by constant teacher direction and student compliance seethes with passive resentment that sometimes bubbles up into overt resistance. Teachers burn out because of the emotional and physical energy that they must expend to maintain their authority every hour of every day. The pedagogy of poverty requires that teachers who begin their careers intending to be helpers, models, guides, stimulators, and caring sources of encouragement transform themselves into directive authoritarians in order to function in urban schools. But people who choose to become teachers do not do so because at some point they decided, 'I want to be able to tell people what to do all day and then make them do it!' This gap between expectations and reality means that there is a pervasive, fundamental irreconcilable difference between the motivation of those who select themselves to become teachers and the demands of urban teaching.

For the reformers who seek higher scores on achievement tests, the pedagogy of poverty is a source of continual frustration. The clear-cut need to 'make' students learn is so obviously vital to the common good and to the students themselves that surely (it is believed) there must be a way to force students to work hard enough to vindicate the methodology. Simply stated, we act as if it is not the pedagogy that must be fitted to the students but the students who must accept an untouchable method.

In reality, the pedagogy of poverty is not a professional methodology at all. It is not supported by research, by theory, or by the best practice of superior urban teachers. It is actually certain ritualistic acts that, much like the ceremonies performed by religious functionaries, have come to be conducted for their intrinsic value rather than to foster learning."br />

Money Does Matter! Investing in Texas Children and our Future - PDF
Published by the Equity Center, Austin, Texas. October 19, 2010

The report highlights include:

  • A strong correlation between state funding and the TAKS passage rate and state funding and the dropout rate.
  • The importance of small class sizes, pre-kindergarten programs, interventions for struggling learners, rigorous curriculum and materials/technology.
  • Taxpayers in the poorest districts carry the heaviest burden.

Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card - PDF
By Bruce D. Baker, Rutgers University ; David G. Sciarra, Education Law Center; and Danielle Farrie, Education Law Center

Are school finance systems in the 50 states fair? Simply comparing overall funding levels won't answer that question, according to a groundbreaking report released October 12, 2010.

"Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card" posits that fairness depends not only on a sufficient level of funding for all students, but also the provision of additional resources to districts where there are more students with greater needs.

The National Report Card rates the 50 states on the basis of four separate, but interrelated, "fairness indicators" - funding level, funding distribution, state fiscal effort, and public school coverage. Using a more thorough statistical analysis, the report provides the most in-depth analysis to date of state education finance systems and school funding fairness across the nation.

The results show that many states do not fairly allocate education funding to address the needs of their most disadvantaged students, and the schools serving high numbers of those students.

Texas ranks 42nd with $8,813 with Mean Actual State and Local Revenue per Pupil. Texas gives DISD $5,249 per student - an amount that hasn't changed since 2006.

To Fix Education, School Hours and Money Need to Be Better Spent - PDF
By Frederick M. Hess, American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research - May 2009, Posted October 13, 2010

The recent push among policymakers and activists for a longer school day is just the latest manifestation of the "more is better" approach to school reform. But more time in school is not necessarily proven to generate better results. Successful schools with longer days have other characteristics that count toward success but that are not as hard to replicate. Moreover, without curricular or instructional reform, failing schools with longer school days will simply fail their students for several more hours per week.

Proving Grounds - School "Rheeform" in Washington, D.C. - PDF
By Leigh Dingerson, RethinkingSchools.org - Fall 2010, Posted September 28, 2010

Washington, D.C., is leading the transformation of urban public education across the country - at least according to Time magazine, which featured D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee on its cover, wearing black and holding a broom. Or perhaps you read it in Newsweek or heard it from Oprah, who named Rhee to her "power list" of "remarkable visionaries."

But there's nothing remarkably visionary going on in Washington. The model of school reform that's being implemented here is popping up around the country, heavily promoted by the same network of conservative think tanks and philanthropists like Bill Gates, Eli Broad, and the Walton Family Foundation that has been driving the school reform debate for the past decade. It is reform based on the corporate practices of Wall Street, not on education research or theory. Indications so far are that, on top of the upheaval and distress Rhee leaves in her wake, the persistent racial gaps that plague D.C. student outcomes are only increasing.

The Schott Foundation for Public EducationTexas State Report on Black Males and Education - PDF
Link to the website The Schott Foundation for Public Education State Reports on Black Males and Education, Posted September 10, 2010

Black Male students in Texas graduated at rates in 2007/8 near the national average for their group, while White Male students graduated at a rate below the average for their group. The racial achievement gap was therefore narrower than average. The bad news is that the Black Male graduation rate declined 6% from 2005/6 to 2007/8 from 58% to 52%.

"The Flat World and Education: How America's Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future"
by Linda Darling-Hammond, Posted August 23, 2010 (Washington Post Article)

Watch a video Lecture by Linda Darling-Hammond at the Chautauqua Institution, August 2, 2010, Chautauqua, NY.

"Today in the United States only 1 in 10 low-income kindergarteners goes on to graduate from college. At a time when education matters more than ever, the U.S. high school graduation rate has dropped from first in the world to the bottom half of rankings for comparable nations. While such sobering facts inform her new book, the author focuses on the successes of effective school systems in the U.S. and abroad in order to develop a clear and coherent set of policies that can be used to create high-quality and equitable schools."

An Alternative Vision for Public Education - A Pastoral Letter on Federal Policy in Public Education: An Ecumenical Call for Justice
prepared by The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, Posted July 01 2010

"An open letter to the president and Congress, sent May 18, 2010, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA ('a community of 36 Christian communions with a combined membership of 45 million persons in more than 100,000 congregations' in the U.S.) affirms that 'our society's provision of public education - publicly funded, universally available, and accountable to the public - while imperfect, is essential for ensuring that all children are served.' The letter espouses these tenents: 'We value democratic governance of public schools. Public schools must guarantee each child's right to educational opportunity. We reject the language of business for discussing public education. ESEA Reauthorization must expand educational opportunity. We value public school educators. We pledge to partner with you for just reform.'"

The Evaluation of Charter School Impacts: Final Report
The report was prepared for the Institute of Education Sciences under Contract No. ED-01-C0039/0010. The project officer is Marsha Silverberg in the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance. NCEE 2010-4029, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, June 2010. Posted June 28, 2010

"The evaluation, which we conducted in 36 charter middle schools across 15 states, compares outcomes of students who applied and were admitted to these schools through randomized admissions lotteries (lottery winners) with the outcomes of students who also applied to these schools and participated in the lotteries but were not admitted (lottery losers). This analytic approach produces the most reliable impact estimates. But because the study could only include charter middle schools that held lotteries, the results do not necessarily apply to the full set of charter middle schools in the U.S.

Key findings from the evaluation include:

  • On average, charter middle schools that hold lotteries are neither more nor less successful than traditional public schools in improving student achievement, behavior, and school progress.
  • The impact of charter middle schools on student achievement varies significantly across schools.
  • In our exploratory analysis, for example, we found that study charter schools serving more low income or low achieving students had statistically significant positive effects on math test scores, while charter schools serving more advantaged students - those with higher income and prior achievement - had significant negative effects on math test scores. "

A Cost Analysis for Texas Public Schools
prepared by Moak, Casey & Associates, Texas School Finance & Accountability Experts, Posted June 16, 2010

"The latest update for this document was published April, 21, 2009. It describes school district spending practices and examines Texas finance data for equity, adequacy, and capacity. Among the findings: Texas public schools increased expenditures for basic educational costs by an average of $1,116 per student from the 2001-02 school year to the 2006-07 school year (the first year of implementation of HB 1). This is a roughly 17% increase, which amounts to an average annual increase of 3.2%..."

Performance Incentives: Their Growing Impact on American K-12 Education
by Richard Rothstein, Posted May 05, 2010

"This working paper was supported by the National Center on Performance Incentives (NCPI), which is funded by the United States Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences (IES). This is a draft version of a paper that was presented at a national conference at Vanderbilt University on February 28-29, 2008. NCPI conducts scientific, comprehensive, and independent studies on the individual and institutional effects of performance incentives in education. A signature activity of the center is the conduct of two randomized field trials offering student achievement-related bonuses to teachers. The Center is committed to fair and rigorous research in an effort to provide the field of education with reliable knowledge to guide policy and practice..."

Creating a New Vision for Public Education in Texas: A Work in Progress for Conversation and Further Development
Respectfully Offered by Superintendent Participants in the Public Education Visioning Institute, Posted May 03, 2010

"Transforming our Schools from Bureaucracies to Learning Organizations Bureaucracies value power and authority, while learning organizations are driven by beliefs and values. Schools must be transformed from their current bureaucratic form, characterized by rules and sanctions, punitive accountability systems, routines, and standardization of everything, to learning organizations where only the mundane is standardized and standards are used to nurture aspirations and accommodate human variables..."

Looking Past the Spin: Teach for America
By Barbara Miner, Spring 2010 issue, Rethinking Schools Online , Posted April 19, 2010

"Most Teach for America recruits are idealistic and dedicated. But who is behind the organization, and does its approach bolster or hinder urban education reform?"

Diane Ravitch: No Child Left Behind, Reform Killing Public Education
By Kenneth Terrell, U.S. News & World Report, Posted March 25, 2010

"In the spring of 1991, education scholar Diane Ravitch got a phone call from Education Secretary Lamar Alexander inviting her to lunch in Washington. He asked her to become an assistant secretary, and - excited by this high-profile opportunity - Ravitch accepted and stayed until 1993. Since then, as a writer and blogger, she has become known as an advocate of reform via school choice, charter schools, and accountability. But to the surprise of many, Ravitch now opposes those strategies in her book "The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education". Ravitch recently spoke with U.S. News about her new views." [Link to Article^]

Why Public Schools Need Democratic Governance
by Diane Ravitch

Ravitch believes local school boards are the first line of defense for public education against the "business model" of education - charter schools and privately run schools. She cautions that the "business model" assumes that democratic governance is a hindrance to effective education; that competition among schools and teachers produces better results than collaboration; that local school boards are a nuisance and an obstacle rather than the public's representatives in shaping education policy; and assumes that schools can be closed and opened as if they were chain stores rather than vital community institutions. The author provides examples and case studies that decry this "latest fad" of education sweeping the nation.

Ravitch is a historian of education at New York University and author of The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education (Basic Books, 2010).

Weighing the Case for School Boards
by Frederick M. Hess

School boards govern school districts. That raises two linked questions: the desirability of boards as a form of governance and of districts as a way to organize schooling. Reform proposals routinely ignore this second question. This is a mistake, and it complicates governance challenges with organizational ones.

Frederick M. Hess is director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute and author of Education Unbound: The Promise and Practice of Greenfield Schooling (ASCD, 2010).

Choice without Equity: Charter School Segregation and the Need for Civil Rights Standards
by E. Frankenberg, G. Siegel-Hawley, and J. Wang

On February 4, 2010, the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at UCLA issued "Choice Without Equity: Charter School Segregation and the Need for Civil Rights Standards," a nationwide report based on an analysis of Federal government data and an examination of charter schools in 40 states and the District of Columbia, along with several dozen metropolitan areas with large enrollments of charters. The report found that charter schools continue to stratify students by race, class, and possibly language, and are more racially isolated than traditional public schools in virtually every state and large metropolitan area in the country.

The Educational Crisis Facing Young Men of Color: Reflections on Four Days of Dialogue on the Educational Challenges of Minority Males, The College Board Advocacy & Policy Center, January 2010

"For every 100 girls enrolled in kindergarten, there are 116 boys.
For every 100 girls enrolled in high school, there are 100 boys.
For every 100 women enrolled in college, there are just 77 men."
- Victor Saenz, "The 'Disappearing' Latino Male: Setting the Stage." A presentation at the College Board's Dialogue Day on Hispanic and Latino Males, Chicago, Ill., May 21, 2008

The Forgotten Choice? Rethinking Magnet Schools in a Changing Landscape: A Report to Magnet Schools of America
By Erica Frankenberg & Genevieve Siegel-Hawley with a Foreword by Gary Orfield
The Civil Rights Project, University of California, November 2008