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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Summer is the time when new teachers learn and when veteran teachers relax and then learn. Whether at the beach watching over your kid who is flinging the beach ball too hard, or at home with your face right on the full-power air conditioner, here's hoping the following five books give you something to enjoy and discuss. These books fall into three categories: leadership, race, or math (and in one case, all three). I'm recommending them all, and feel free to let me know what you think in the comments section below.

  1. Math Matters: Understanding the Math You Teach, Grades K-8
    by Suzanne Chapin and Art Johnson

    When I wanted to rethink my lesson planning, I remembered having this book somewhere on my bookshelf. I'd never read it before, but as I sifted through it, I found concrete and fresh approaches to the thinking behind the math I taught. It leaves enough room for the teacher to create lesson plans around it, but still demands rigor and understanding of the math being taught. For example, their chapter on percentages has a nice progression that might remind you of this new set of standards everyone keeps talking about.

  2. "Multiplication is for White People": Raising Expectations for Other People's Children by Lisa Delpit
    If you’re not familiar with her first book, Other People's Children, you’ll love this multi-dimensional update. Her book sets the record straight on the ways in which people had distorted her earlier work, and provides a plethora of examples for thinking about teaching children of color in all subject areas. For teachers of color, I might also recommend reading this if you're taking public transportation, and let the uncomfortableness simmer.

  3. The Art of Coaching: Effective Strategies for School Transformation
    by Elena Aguilar

    Full disclosure: the author writes for Edutopia. Since I got a chance to look at this book, I found myself enthralled with the idea that someone would integrate social justice with developing schools and teachers. Aguilar proves herself a transformational leader in the truest sense, managing the delicate balance of direct discussion with a nuanced coalition-building, all with hints of passionate people who've influenced her work. This is also great for anyone looking to lead better.

  4. Rethinking Mathematics: Teaching Social Justice by the Numbers
    by Eric Gutstein and Bob Peterson

    For experienced math teachers, we always want to find ways to bring "real-life" situations into the math class. Gutstein and Peterson make a great attempt at pulling math back from the abstract to the concrete. After reading just a few of these articles, I was already finding ways to talk about social issues without looking too contrived or off-track from my curriculum.

  5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
    I'll probably recommend this book to anyone and everyone who is or has been a teacher. As someone who has taught math in a special needs environment, I found this book truly shifted the way I thought about teaching children who don't fit the mainstream academically. Well-written and fast-paced, it has a narrative that captivated me to the point where I almost missed a few classes. I won't ruin it for you here. Just pick it up.

Well, that's as far as I got. By the time you read this, I hope you have a margarita in one hand and a highlighter in the other. Which means you have to drop one of these to pick up any of the aforementioned books. Best of luck!

Comments (25)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

zep's picture
zep
Education Specialist

Hauck, I'm glad you mentioned that you are summarizing the European model, in most cultures in our country thankfully they expect more from an education than just paying the bills. I'm not sure that working in a job that you don't at least love the field (nothing wrong with taking stepping stone jobs which may not immediately be rewarding) can ever be considered a "healthy environment" for either the worker or the family. I would also question if there's much "honor" in passing on a legacy of not pursuing a career you love; do as I say not as I do generally doesn't work.

zep's picture
zep
Education Specialist

[quote]A. S. Neill was a fraud." Please cite one such study, I've yet to come across any research that does anything but validate Neill's anecdotal findings.

zep's picture
zep
Education Specialist

[quote]Lida Delpit's book would be a much better book if she didn't side step the obvious. The toxic culture from which these kids come, behavioral deficiencies." You'll need to specify exactly what about students of color various cultures is "toxic" and why you call their behaviors "deficient". I've been working with these kids for 25 years and I deeply respect the rich varied cultures I have come into contact with and find their behaviors always a response to an economic, social, &/or political condition beyond their control. These conditions are the target of Delpit's research for which she should be commended for calling to our collective attention.

M. A. Hauck, M.Ed's picture
M. A. Hauck, M.Ed
Life Skills Support Teacher

My opinion of AS Neill is mine and is not backed by research. However, my contention that children crave, need, and thrive under structured environments, especially those who are at-risk, is well documented. Sure, if you have a classroom full of high IQ overachievers, then they'll assume any task with little prompting to complete.

My definition of a toxic urban environment has been well documented on this and other websites . Unlike you, I don't see people of color. I see everyone the same way and have the same high expectations for everyone. I don't buy into victimhood or enabling students. The best thing for adjudicated at-risk kids is a residential treatment facility if they have been diagnosed with a disability. It will provide structure and and high behavioral expectations. Too many kids are in urban schools with undiagnosed disabilities, but the systems there are too inefficient to target the kids behaviorally or academically. The teachers are not trained or are apathetic to the need. Philadelphia spends $10K per student and they still fail.

Stop playing around and push to restore intact family units with a mother and father as the head of a household. That's what kids need the most-- a real family. Push for more faith based initiatives in at-risk neighborhoods . Churches need to be at the center of these communities. You or I won't find a pastor or parishioner who would disagree with that.

These chi chi flower child educational models are not the answer for at-risk kids. They've rarely been held accountable and their skills are typically many grade levels below. They need heavily structured remedial assistance, not "Tarot class."

zep's picture
zep
Education Specialist

"Too many kids are in urban schools with undiagnosed disabilities"; respectfully I find far too many of my urban students who are diagnosed with disabilities they don't have, its a convenient way to "track" them into hard core behavior mod programs which stifle them and lead to them dropping out at the current 50% clip we find across urban centers nationally. I also would respectfully suggest that the track record of schools such as Neill's which was founded on educating the kids who were kicked out of conventional schools have a success rate unequaled by any religious based program. I recently spent 3 years researching one such urban school, for those who choose college their collective gpa at an average age of 16 is 3.5, I certainly don't equate success of a K-12 system with their percentage in college but for the record approximately 90% of their kids do go on to college.

M. A. Hauck, M.Ed's picture
M. A. Hauck, M.Ed
Life Skills Support Teacher

[quote]"Too many kids are in urban schools with undiagnosed disabilities"; respectfully I find far too many of my urban students who are diagnosed with disabilities they don't have, [/quote]

As a special education teacher, I do not agree. Typically, it's non-special education people who make that very same remark. It's those who study everything through a socio-economic lens and have to frame everything they observe in terms of race, ethnicity, or gender.

[quote]its a convenient way to "track" them into hard core behavior mod programs which stifle them and lead to them dropping out at the current 50% clip we find across urban centers nationally.[/quote]

Intensive behavioral programs are exactly what they need because their behaviors are that extreme. They leave because they can't endure the programs. It's not supposed to be easy. It's supposed to be hard work. That's among the things they haven't yet learned about real life--the hard work required to succeed.

Please remember that there is a huge difference between just researching and actually being in the trenches working with students on your caseload on a daily basis with all the attendant meetings and reams and reams of paperwork devoted to documenting progress. Special education is all about legal compliance, so continuous data gathering, documentation, and data interpretation is essential in addition to providing services to students.

[quote] I certainly don't equate success of a K-12 system with their percentage in college but for the record approximately 90% of their kids do go on to college.[/quote]

Having taught at the college level for ten years, I've learned that many colleges have all but eliminated any truly stringent criteria for admission simply based on the idea that they need to fill enrollments. I once taught in a college where some students (who were simply recruited for their athletic skill) were barely able to write a proper English composition with correct grammar and spelling. It was essentially 13th grade, not a place for the best and brightest, which college is supposed to be, isn't it?

M. A. Hauck, M.Ed's picture
M. A. Hauck, M.Ed
Life Skills Support Teacher

"Neill's which was founded on educating the kids who were kicked out of conventional schools have a success rate unequaled by any religious based program."

Since this likely happened in England, a nation nearly driven to ruin in the 1970s, it would be invalid to generalize this to the USA. Besides, parochial schools in the USA offer the best combination of academic quality and moral standards. In my previous post, I was referring to faith based organizations involved in the social lives of urban neighborhoods. People need spiritual centers to be good morally sound citizens. Belief in a higher power is essential to this foundation.

zep's picture
zep
Education Specialist

Not to drag this out too far but is it possible for an agnostic or atheist person to be good morally and a sound citizen? I would argue that the spiritual piece is incidental to your more significant questions regarding morality and citizenship. As for Neill, his philosophy was brought across the Atlantic decades ago and schools, admittedly too few, in the urban environment in the U.S. which have used his philosophy with fidelity have flourished with a far superior record to the best parochial schools. There certainly is a place for parochial schools, no single system will meet the needs of all kids in my opinion, but there is a desperate need for schools which accept kids as they are and facilitate their reaching for THEIR dreams rather than some adult's opinion of what they need to learn, particularly when the adults assume that all kids need a white middle class end-game.

zep's picture
zep
Education Specialist

I continue to "work in the trenches" every day, as I have for 15+ years; I have sadly witnessed students tracked into Special Ed on account of their behavior rather than any real learning challenge. This is well documented in the film, War on Kids, available from: http://www.educationrevolution.org/store/product/the-war-on-kids. College is a place where young people receive the education necessary for them to procure jobs requiring a degree; I prefer to stay away from any judgment of best & brightest, depending on the definition, a h.s. drop-out artist or a trade-school educated electrician may be the best and brightest, its all relative.

Kenneth John Odle's picture
Kenneth John Odle
Science and English teacher

[quote] People need spiritual centers to be good morally sound citizens. Belief in a higher power is essential to this foundation.[/quote]

No, they don't. This is a gross generalization and an offense to those of us who lead morally sound lives and encourage our students to strive for higher ideals without waiting for a deity to step in.

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