All In for Public Education - Recommended Readings/Resources

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Recommended Readings/Resources

Listed below are various resources to learn more about becoming an advocate for public education. Research should always be the first step in any communication effort. These resources will give you the background to become a stronger advocate for public education. Send additional resources with completed contact information to editorial@nspra.org.

Books that will help you understand school reform.

  • Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools
    by Diane Ravitch
    published 2014
    This is the book everyone is talking about in school reform.  It is a “must read.”
    It clearly, forcefully and persuasively argues against those who claim the education system is broken and beyond repair. It offers a reasoned call to stop the privatization movement that is draining students and funding from our public schools. In Reign of Error, Diane Ravitch argues that the crisis in American education is not a crisis of academic achievement but a concerted effort to destroy public schools in this country. She makes clear that, contrary to the claims being made, public school test scores and graduation rates are the highest they’ve ever been, and dropout rates are at their lowest point. For Ravitch, public school education is about knowledge, learning, developing character, and creating citizens for our society. It’s about helping to inspire independent thinkers, not just honing job skills or preparing people for college. Public school education's aim should be to educate citizens who will help carry democracy into the future.

  • 50 Myths and Lies That Threaten America's Public Schools: The Real Crisis in Education
    by David C Berliner, Gene V Glass
    published 2014
    If you read one book to try to learn about school reform, this is the one to read.  Easy to read and understand, scholarly and accurate, this book levels the playing field with the rich and powerful individuals and foundations now advocating reform.

  • Common Sense School Reform
    by Frederick M. Hess
    published 2004
    Forget everything you think you know about school reform. Cutting through the cant, sentiment, and obfuscation characterizing the current school reform debate, Frederick M. Hess lacerates the conventional "status quo" reform efforts and exposes the naivete underlying reform strategies that rest on solutions like class size reduction, small schools, and enhanced professional development.

  • Five Minds for the Future
    by Howard Gardner
    published 2006
    In Five Minds for the Future, bestselling author Howard Gardner shows how we will each need to master "five minds" that the fast-paced future will demand:
    · The disciplined mind, to learn at least one profession, as well as the major thinking (science, math, history, etc.) behind it
    · The synthesizing mind, to organize the massive amounts of information and communicate effectively to others
    · The creating mind, to revel in unasked questions - and uncover new phenomena and insightful apt answers
    · The respectful mind, to appreciate the differences between human beings - and understand and work with all persons
    · The ethical mind, to fulfill one's responsibilities as both a worker and a citizen

  • Stop Beating the Dead Horse: Why the System of Public Education in the United States has Failed and What to Do about It
    by Julie L. Casey
    published 2006
    One of the most crucial things the system has failed to do is differentiate between equal educational opportunity for all and equal (or identical) education for all. Instead of trying to make everybody the same, an educational system must ensure equal rights for everyone while still allowing them to develop at their own rate and in their own way. Only then can we have the diversity, creativity, and ingenuity needed to compete in the world today.

  • The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America (Paperback)
    by Jonathan Kozol
    published 2004
    In many inner-city schools, a stick-and-carrot method of behavioral control traditionally used in prisons is now used with students. Meanwhile, as high-stakes testing takes on pathological and punitive dimensions, liberal education has been increasingly replaced by culturally barren and robotic methods of instruction that would be rejected out of hand by schools that serve the mainstream of society.  

  • Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools (Paperback)
    by Jonathan Kozol
    published 1991
    New York Times bestseller, which has sold more than 250,000 hardcover copies.  An impassioned book laced with anger and indignation about how our public education system scorns so many of our children. Old, but still a must read

  • How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character
    by Paul Tough
    published 2012
    In "How Children Succeed," Paul Tough argues for a very different understanding of what makes a successful child. Drawing on groundbreaking research in neuroscience, economics, and psychology, Tough shows that the qualities that matter most have less to do with IQ and more to do with character: skills like grit, curiosity, conscientiousness, and optimism.

  • The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education
    by Diane Ravitch
    published 2010
    One of the books that formed Ravitch’s reputation.  It is aptly named!

  • Ghetto Schooling: A Political Economy of Urban Educational Reform
    by Jean Anyon
    published 1997
    Jean Anyon argues that without fundamental change in government and business policies and the redirection of major resources back into the schools and the communities they serve, urban schools are consigned to failure, and no effort at raising standards, improving teaching, or boosting achievement can occur.

  • Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses
    by Richard Arum
    published 2010
    According to their analysis of more than 2,300 undergraduates at 24 institutions, 45 percent of those students demonstrate no significant improvement in a range of skills—including critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing—during their first two years of college. As troubling as their findings are, Arum and Roksa argue that, for many faculty and administrators, they will come as no surprise—instead, they are the expected result of a student body distracted by socializing or working and an institutional culture that puts undergraduate learning close to the bottom of the priority list.

  • Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling  
    John Taylor Gatto
    first published in 1991
    A highly praised bestseller for over a decade, Dumbing Us Down is a radical treatise on public education that concludes that compulsory government schooling does little but teach young people to follow orders like cogs in a machine. A worthy read.

  • Why Don't Students Like School?: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom (Hardcover)
    by Daniel T. Willingham
    published 2009
    Kids are naturally curious, but when it comes to school, it seems like their minds are turned off. Why is it that they can remember the smallest details from their favorite television program, yet miss the most obvious questions on their history test? Cognitive scientist Dan Willingham has focused his acclaimed research on the biological and cognitive basis of learning and has a deep understanding of the daily challenges faced by classroom teachers.

  • Teach Like a Pirate: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator (Paperback)
    by Dave Burgess
    published 2012
    Based on Dave Burgess's popular seminars, this book offers inspiration, practical techniques, and innovative ideas that will help educators to increase student engagement, boost their own creativity, and transform their life as an educator. A different and personal approach to school reform.

  • What Teachers Make: In Praise of the Greatest Job in the World
    by Taylor Mali
    published 2012
    Former middle-school teacher and teachers' advocate Taylor Mali struck a chord with his passionate response to a man at a dinner party who asked him what kind of salary teachers make—a poetic rant that has been seen and forwarded millions of times on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.  A wonderful teacher rant based on the poem that inspired a movement.

  • Radical: Fighting to Put Students First (Hardcover)
    by Michelle Rhee
    published 2013
    Want to know what the reformers are thinking? This is your book. Part memoir, part manifesto, Radical is this advocate's intensely personal call-to-arms. Rhee combines the story of her own extraordinary experience with dozens of compelling examples. Radical chronicles Rhee's awakening to the potential of every child, her rage at the special interests blocking badly-needed change, and her belief that it will take a grassroots movement to create outstanding public schools.

  • Pathways to the Common Core: Accelerating Achievement (Paperback)
    by Lucy McCormick Calkins
    published 2012
    In addition to offering an analytical study of the standards, this guide will also help you and your colleagues implement the standards in ways that lift the level of teaching and learning throughout your school. Specifically, it will help you: become a more critical consumer of the "standards-based" mandates.

  • The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn (Hardcover)
    by Diane Ravitch
    published 2003
    Diane Ravitch, a leading historian of education, says that which began with the best of intentions has veered toward bizarre extremes. At a time when we celebrate and encourage diversity, young readers are fed bowdlerized texts, devoid of the references that give these works their meaning and vitality. With forceful arguments and sensible solutions for rescuing American education from the pressure groups that have made classrooms bland and uninspiring, The Language Police offers a powerful corrective to a cultural scandal.  This might be worth a second look for how to deal with pressure groups.

  • Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America's Schools (Kindle Edition)
    by Steven Brill
    published 2011
    It’s the story of an unlikely army — fed-up public school parents, Ivy League idealists, hedge-funders, civil rights activists, conservative Republicans, insurgent Democrats—squaring off against unions that the reformers claim are protecting a system that works for the adults but victimizes the children.  Brill offers some solutions, but this a good read for those who want to understand what is going on out there in educationland.

  • The Marketplace of Ideas: Reform and Resistance in the American University (Hardcover)
    by Louis Menand
    published 2010
    Institutional structure and the educational philosophy of higher education have remained the same for one hundred years, while faculties and student bodies have radically changed and technology has drastically transformed the way people produce and disseminate knowledge. At a time when competition to get into and succeed in college has never been more intense, universities are providing a less-useful education.

  • Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? (Paperback)
    by Pasi Sahlberg
    published 2011
    Finnish Lessons is a first-hand comprehensive account of how Finland built a world-class education system during the past three decades. The author traces the evolution of education policies in Finland and highlights how they differ from the United States and other industrialized countries. He shows how, rather than relying on competition, choice, and external testing of students, education reforms in Finland focus on professionalizing teachers' work, developing instructional leadership in schools, and enhancing trust in teachers and schools. This book encourages educators and policymakers to develop effective solutions for their own districts and schools.

  • Education Hell: The Crime of Test-And-Punish Policies (Hardcover)
    by Gerald W. Bracey
    published 2009
    Not for everyone, Bracey takes no prisoners.

  • Grassroots Organizing Toolkit
    by NSPRA
    The Grassroots Organizing Toolkit is a toolkit for communicators who can help their school districts with this new type of community engagement. It provides tips, tactics, templates, and resources to build grassroots support. This resource is a free download to NSPRA members and available to purchase for non-members.

Other Resources

  • The Horace Mann League
    www.hmleague.org
    The Horace Mann League is an organization for school leaders and superintendents focused on advocating for public schools. The group's weekly blog is particularly helpful for school communicators and others seeking to understand issues and opportunities facing today's public school systems.

  • Rise Above the Mark
    www.riseabovethemark.com
    Rise Above the Mark, a documentary narrated by Peter Coyote, tells the story of what happens when politics enters the classroom. Rise Above the Mark focuses on Indiana’s struggles with public school reforms — the same types of struggles experienced in schools throughout the United States. Experts Diane Ravitch, Linda Darling-Hammond, Pasi Sahlberg and others discuss how America can make positive changes to provide an exceptional public school system for all children. Contact West Lafayette Board of School Trustees and Superintendent of Schools, Rocky Killion, for more information.