Journal of Educational Controversy


Saturday, December 31, 2011

More on the Order to Close the Mexican-American Studies Program in Tucson, Arizona

While you are waiting to read Augustine Romero’s article, "The Hypocrisy of Racism: Arizona's Movement towards State-Sanctioned Apartheid," in our upcoming issue of the journal (mentioned in our earlier post), check out the latest on the websites below.

1. “Tucson Orders Closure of Mexican-American School Program as Ethnic Studies Faces Nationwide Threat” Interview from Democracy Now

2. “Repeat After Me: The United States is Not an Imperialist Country—Oh, and Don’t Get Emotional About War’ From Rethinking Schools Blog

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Get an Insider's View on the Events that Led to Arizona's Ban on Ethnic Studies

We are getting closer and closer to the publication of our special issue of the Journal of Educational Controversy on "The Education and Schools our Children Deserve."  We have been making readers aware of the various dimensions of the issue in the posts below.   If you want an insider's view on the events we have been reporting on in our coverage of Arizona's ban on ethnic studies on this blog, take a look at our special, "In the News" section in our upcoming issue.  The Director of Student Equity of the Tucson Unified School District, whose district was targeted by the legislation passed in Arizona to ban ethnic studies, tells us about the events that led up to the legislation.  Get an insiders view from Director Augustine Romero and read the actual legislation in our upcoming issue.  Dr.Romero tells his own story in the article, "The Hypocrisy of Racism: Arizona's Movement towards State-Sanctioned Apartheid."

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Author Sam Chaltain Reveals his First Nominees for the World's Most Transformational Schools

Editor:  In the post below, we talked about author Sam Chaltain's attempt to elicit nominees for the world's most transformational schools.  Here is his initial list (scroll down to the link at the bottom of the post) from the nominations sent to his website.  Use the QED Transformational Change Model to decide how transformational each school is.  Is your school a transformational school?

Your Nominees for the World's Most Transformational Learning Environments

by Sam Chaltain

I know most of us have already checked out for the year, but I wanted to share the nominees I’ve received so far in my ongoing search for the world’s most transformational learning environments.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve received recommendations either via Twitter or posted comments on this blog and/or Huffington Post. I’ve done my best to capture every recommendation I’ve received. If I missed yours, or if you have a new one to add, just post your comment and I’ll add it to the master list.

Keep in mind that this list, which features 58 nominees overall, merely aggregates what people have recommended. Of the nominees, 47 are schools or programs here in the United States: 9 public charter schools, 4 public charter school networks, 3 general networks, 13 public schools, 13 private schools, and 5 “others.” For the 11 international nominees, 6 could only be classified as “other” — an interesting contrast, I thought. In any case, see what you think, check them out at your leisure (and keep in mind the QED Transformational Change Model as a way of judging how transformational they are), and let’s all keep adding to the list.

Nominees for World’s Most Transformational Learning Environments


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Author Sam Chaltain asks "What (& Where) Are the World’s Most Transformational Schools?"

Editor: Readers will remember Sam Chaltain's article, "Ways of Seeing (and of Being Seen): Visibility in Schools," in our special issue on "Schooling as if Democracy Matters," in our winter 2008 issue of the Journal of Educational Controversy. We will be reviewing Sam's book, American Schools, The Art of Creating a Democratic Learning Community, in the upcoming issue. In the post below, Sam asks for nominees of the world's most transformational schools using the criteria of the QED Foundation’s Transformational Change Model?
 We'd like to nominate the Whatcom Day Academy, our partner school in the League of Democratic Schools, as a transformational school. Our upcoming issue of the journal on "The Education and Schools our Children Deserve" will have an article about the school in a multi-media presentation so readers and viewers can see actual video of classroom practices. See our continuing column on other unique schools on this blog under the label "innovative schools."
We will provide a list of the nominees for transformational schools that Sam publishes in a future post. We wish to thank the author for permission to reprint his article.

What (& Where) Are the World’s Most Transformational Schools?

by Sam Chaltain
 OK, people, let’s get specific: Out of all the schools in the world, which ones are the most transformational when it comes to imagining a new way to think about teaching and learning in the 21st century?

There are a lot of inspiring schools out there, so I want to repeat: which are the most transformational – by which I mean schools that are demonstrating, by policy and practice, 10 or more of the 22 core categories from QED Foundation’s Transformational Change Model?

What I find so useful about the QED model (scroll down a bit on their home page to see it) is the way it identifies the central pillars of a high-quality education, and then demarcates what each pillar looks like in a traditional, transitional, and transformational setting. In a traditional school, for example, we tend to assume the student bears the primary responsibility for learning; in a transitional environment, that responsibility shifts to the teacher (see, e.g., just about every recently proposed accountability policy in the U.S.); but in a transformational context, the responsibility is shared via a learning team that includes, and extends beyond, teacher and student.

Of course, learning teams are just one part of a holistic system of environmental conditions. That’s why, taken together, the QED change model helps clarify what we need, and which stages our own evolution will need to pass through, in order to pull K-12 schooling out of the Industrial-era model and into a new, Democratic-era paradigm.

Because that sort of clarity is in short supply, too often we hold up models of school reform that are, at best, examples of transitional progress, not transformational change.

With that caveat in place, please help me find the best set of transformational schools the world has to offer – and please ground your recommendations in the QED change model.

I’ll start the bidding with two examples, and a sample of the ways in which the school is modeling transformational practices:

Science Leadership Academy (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) – SLA is an inquiry-driven high school that opened its doors in 2006. Students at SLA learn in a project-based environment where the core values of inquiry, research, collaboration, presentation and reflection are emphasized in all classes.

Selected Transformational Practices:

•Philosophy: Traditional – Coverage; Transitional – Depth/Breadth; Transformational – Standards-based Inquiry

•Goals: Traditional – Test Results Targets; Transitional – Curricular goals; Transformational – Learner Aspirations & Life Options

•Assessment: Traditional – Of Learning; Transitional – For Learning; Transformational – As Learning

•Educator Development: Traditional – Re-certification Hours; Transitional – Group Learning; Transformational – Collaborative Inquiry

Riverside School (Ahmedabad, India) — Riverside offers a curriculum and experiences of engagement with the city that enables children to better understand their skills, potential, and responsibilities as citizens. It is also developing social intervention initiatives in the city to provide a wide array of activities (cultural, instructional, and recreational) that can be synchronized with the regular school curriculum.

Selected transformational practices:

•Model of Success is Based On: Traditional – The Willing and Able; Transitional – Inclusion; Transformational – Racial and Social Justice

•Context for Learning: Traditional – Classroom; Transitional – School; Transformational – Learning Community

•When/Where Learning Happens: Traditional – In School; Transitional – Coordination between in- and out-of-school; Transformational – Anywhere/Everywhere

•Student Investment: Traditional – Requirements; Transitional – Engagement; Transformational – Passion

To be sure, Riverside and SLA are just two of the schools out there doing several things really well, and being very intentional about the way they do so. What other schools are demonstrating a transformational approach to teaching and learning? And in which specific ways are they doing so?

I look forward to your recommendations and ideas.

(This article also appeared in the Huffington Post)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

What our Schools Ignore Teaching at our Peril

“Only 2% of high school seniors in 2010 could answer a simple question about the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision.” This statistic comes from the National Assessment of Educational Progress—commonly called “The Nation’s Report Card." Why are state educational standards ignoring the teaching of the Civil Rights Movement and its history? The report, conducted by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the publisher of Teaching Tolerance, examines the educational standards of all 50 states and the District of Columbia and finds that most states get a failing grade. Their announcement to the report reveals that “sixteen states do not require any instruction whatsoever about the movement. In another 19, coverage is minimal. In almost all states, there is tremendous room for improvement.” One wonders about other crucial areas that might be ignored like U.S. labor history, world religions, and other crucial subjects. What ideological forces shape what we learn and what we remain ignorant of? One of our reasons for publishing our upcoming issue of the journal on The Education and Schools our Children Deserve was to explore these deeper questions. We hope to open up a conversation that looks at education as the formation of a human life in all its dimensions and what that education requires.

Readers can read the SPLC 108 page report, Teaching the Movement: The State of Civil Rights Education in the United States 2011, here.

See where your state stands.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

When an adult took standardized tests forced on kids

Here is a provocative piece from the Washington Post's "The Answer Sheet: A School Survival Guide for Parents (and Everyone Else)."   The article, "When an Adult Took Standardized Tests Forced on Kids,"  is by Marion Brady,  a veteran teacher, administrator, curriculum designer and author.  Critical of today's obsession with standardized tests in the states, the author argues that "decisions are shaped not by knowledge or understanding of educating, but by ideology, politics, hubris, greed, ignorance, the conventional wisdom, and various combinations thereof. And then they’re sold to the public by the rich and powerful." 

Watch for our upcoming issue of the Journal of Educational Controversy on the theme, "The Education and Schools Our Children Deserve," that will be online soon.  A frequent critic of testing, Deborah Meier, has an interesting article in this issue on what has been threatened and lost in our contemporary educational reform movement.  Watch for it.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Washington State’s Unique Educational Ombudsman Office in Danger

It seems as if we take two steps back for every step we take forward. In an earlier post below, we described the Office of the Educational Ombudsman in Washington State, an office that may be the first agency of its kind in the nation. We just received a letter that the office is in danger under HB 2127. Here is a portion of the letter from its office:

Last week, Governor Gregoire presented a Supplemental Budget calling for more than $2 billion in spending cuts which includes a 28% annual budget cut to the Office of the Education Ombudsman (OEO). This devastating cut will reduce our staff numbers significantly and we will not be able to serve state-wide parents, students and schools effectively. As you know our budget has been cut each year since we opened our doors in 2006, and we currently operate with 60% less of our original budget.

To date, OEO has resolved nearly 3,000 complaints and has saved millions of dollars to parents and school districts by preventing costly lawsuits and administrative hearings. We have kept students from dropping out, ensured that students learn in safe environments, and helped children with disabilities get their educational needs met. With our current budget of $547,000 a year, the return for the State’s minuscule investment is huge.

The Governor’s budget proposal is now House Bill 2127 which is currently in front of the House of Representatives and the Senate for hearings and debates. Legislators are taking public input and comments before making final decisions.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

C.A. Bowers Announces New Books

Editor: Readers will remember the article by C.A. Bowers in our issue on “The Hidden Dimensions of Poverty: Rethinking Poverty and Education.” The article was titled, “Rethinking Social Justice Issues within an Eco-Justice Conceptual and Moral Framework," and elicited a very spirited debate on our Rejoinders page. We would like to announce three new books by the author that we think our readership will enjoy reading. Watch for our special issue on "Sustainability and Education" in 2013. A call for papers will be announced by the end of the year.

Latest Books by C.A. BowersPerspectives on the Ideas of Gregory Bateson, Ecological Intelligence, and Educational Reforms

  • Perspectives on the Ideas of Gregory Bateson, Ecological Intelligence, and Educational Reforms
  • University Reform in an Era of Global Warming 
  • Educational Reforms for the 21st Century: How to Introduce Ecologically Sustainable Reforms in Teacher Education and Curriculum Studies

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Institutional and Cultural Silence: What Are We Teaching Our Children?

Editor: With our recent posts on the problem of bullying and harassment, we thought our readers would find this article interesting. It looks at the problem along with a number of recently related disclosures in the media within the framework of cultural and institutional silence. We thank Professor Blumenfeld for his permission to reprint his article.

Sexual Abuse and the Institutional Conspiracy of Silence


Warren J. Blumenfeld
Iowa State University
The allegations of sexual abuse and surrounding scandal, resulting in the firing of legendary football coach, Joe Paterno, and the president of The Pennsylvania State University, Graham Spanier, and the placement on paid administrative leave of assistant coach Mike McQueary, highlights in clear relief an overarching corporate/institutional culture of silence and cover up.

Whether it be allegations of sexual abuse of young boys over a 15-year period by former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky; convictions of sexual abuse on young boys and girls by priests that has rocked the Catholic Church; allegations of sexual harassment by Herman Cain, former National Restaurant Association CEO and current presidential hopeful, and reported NRA cash settlements to his female accusers; or the estimated one-in-three female soldiers who experience sexual assaults by their male counterparts and higher-ups within the military establishment, institutions frequently close ranks to protect alleged perpetrators at the expense of alleged sufferers. As they model a culture of conspiratorial silence, institutions send the defiant message that they care more about their institutions’ reputations than the alleged targets of sexual harassment and assault.

On an individual level, this is also apparent, for example, in episodes of schoolyard, community-based, as well as electronic forms of bullying. According to the American Medical Association definition: “Bullying is a specific type of aggression in which the behavior is intended to harm or disturb, the behavior occurs repeatedly over time, and there is an imbalance of power, with a more powerful person or group attacking a less powerful one.”

We seem to live in a culture in which adults often project the idea to young people that when they are the targets of bullying or when they witness bullying incidents, they must work it out themselves, and if they tell anyone, they are simply tattling.

According to bullying prevention educator, Leah Davies, however, a vast difference exists between “tattling” and “reporting.” Tattling is telling or complaining about the actions of a person or group intended to get another in trouble. Reporting, on the other hand, includes the divulging of information when an individual or others are hurt, injured, or are being injured. It is something intended to help oneself or another person.

Dan Olweus, international researcher and bullying prevention pioneer, enumerates the distinctive and often overlapping roles enacted in these episodes: the person or persons who perpetrate aggressive actions; the active followers; those who passively support, condone, or collude in the aggression; the onlookers (sometimes referred to as “bystanders”); the possible defenders; those who actually defend the targets of aggression (sometimes called “upstanders”); and those who are exposed and attacked.

Each day we all are called on to make small and larger choices and to take actions. At a homecoming dance at Richmond High School in California on October 27, 2009, for example, up to ten young men grabbed a 14-year-old young woman who had been waiting outside the dance for her father, dragged her behind a building, and gang raped her for over two and a half hours with approximately ten witnesses observing. Some even cheered on the attackers. No one notified the police. The perpetrators left the young woman in critical condition.

President Barack Obama, when asked about the events transpiring at Penn State commented that: “We can’t leave it to the system. We can’t leave it to someone else. We must take it upon ourselves to protect our children.”

So, which side are we on? This question brings to mind the truism that: “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”

Today as in the past, no more spot-on words were ever uttered, for in the spectrum from sexual harassment to sexual assault and rape, there is no such thing as an “innocent bystander.”

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld, Associate Professor, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, Iowa State University. He is co-editor of Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense), Editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge).

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

CANCELLED: Washington Educational Ombudsman to Speak on Bullying and Harassment on Nov. 17th

We regret to inform everyone that the November 17th event with the Washington State Ombudsman that we just announced below has had to be cancelled.  We are planning to reschedule the event in the spring. 

I have received some inquiries asking me -- what is the office of the education ombudsman?  The Office of the Education Ombudsman functions out of the governor's office and is independent of the public school system. It claims to be the "first agency of its kind in the nation."

Here is a description from its website:

The Office of the Education Ombudsman (OEO) resolves complaints, disputes, and problems between families and elementary and secondary public schools in all areas that affect student learning.

We function independently from the public school system and provide an alternative to costly lawsuits and administrative hearings. Our services are available to students from Kindergarten to 12th grade, and are free and confidential. Learn how to Request Our Services.

Our work contributes to quality public education, the closing of the achievement gap, and helps prevent students from dropping out. OEO is the first agency of its kind in the nation. Find out more in What We Do.

What is an Education Ombudsman?

OEO Ombudsmen are education professionals with extensive expertise in K-12 education, conflict resolution, mediation and family involvement in education. They advocate for fair processes for students in public schools.

How do Ombudsmen work?

Ombudsmen speak to all parties involved to understand the problem, research applicable laws and policies, facilitate and/or mediate conversations between parents and school officials, and guide all parties towards resolution focusing on what is best for the student.

Who should contact OEO?

Parents, legal guardians, students or educators who need to resolve a problem affecting a student. Also, professionals working with families who need to consult about public education.

What kinds of issues does OEO work with?

Ombudsmen tackle issues such as: bullying/harassment, suspension, expulsion, special education, enrollment, transportation, discipline, academic progress, truancy, and more.

You can learn more about the office at its website:

Here are some of their publications:

We Can Help

What Every Parent Needs to Know

Resolving Conflict at School

Participate in Your Child’s Education

Make the Most of a Parent-Teacher Conference

Bullying at School

How Does a School District Work?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Washington Educational Ombudsman to Speak on Bullying and Harassment on Nov. 17

We are providing an opportunity for the community to learn about the problem of bullying and harassment in the schools. Every school district in Washington State is now required to adopt new state model anti-bullying and harassment policies and procedures. We have invited an expert who can provide information and answer questions. Adie Simmons is the Washington State Office of Education Ombudsman Director whose office deals with these issues. If you are in the area, come learn how these new requirements protect students from harassment and how families can get help.

Bullying andTeasing is No Laughing Matter

Thursday, November 17, 6:30 – 8:30pm

Bellingham Public Library Lecture Room, 210 Central Ave, Bellingham, WA

This event is free and open to the public.

Sponsored by the Educational Institute for Democratic Renewal, the Journal of Educational Controversy, and the Whatcom County Chapter of the ACLU - Washington.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Fresh Analogy for Democratic Schools and Democratic Life

Editor: Sometimes a fresh analogy can unplug our thinking and open avenues for new perspectives and questions. In the post below, Jim Strickland, regional coordinator of the National League of Democratic Schools, offers one such analogy. Jim's earlier post on a Declaration of Education Rights stirred some interesting discussions. Perhaps, his latest post can stimulate us to think about the "plugs" in our collective lives.

A Renewal Analogy

Jim Strickland

National League of Democratic Schools

I'm in the middle of reading an Einstein biography and was struck by how certain physical processes are mimicked in the institutional world. For example, imagine the whirlpool created as water drains from a sink. The whirlpool is a real entity, but its existence depends on the dynamic interaction between the water, gravity, rotation of the earth, and the open drain. Plug the drain (stop the dynamic process) and the whirlpool disappears.

In similar fashion, healthy, democratic schools are like these whirlpools -- products of a dynamic process, the process of continuous renewal. You can stir the water with a stick, but cannot create a sustainable entity (whirlpool) without unplugging the drain. In this analogy, I think of the open drain as the creative power of ongoing dialogue -- the bedrock foundation of the renewal process. Trying to have healthy, democratic schools (or any healthy institution) without the dynamic motion made possible by the "open drain" is an exercise in futility -- like trying to preserve whirlpools without motion.

Here's to you "plug pullers" of the world...!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Important New Report on Bullying and Suicide

The Safe Schools Coalition announced a new report on bullying and suicide.  We thought our readers would like to learn about it.

From the Safe Schools Coalition:

Dear Safe Schools Coalition Members and Friends:

The Suicide Prevention Resource Center has released Suicide and Bullying Issue Brief examining the relationship between suicide and bullying among children and adolescents, with Special Attention to LGBT Youth.

Legitimate source? Yes. The SPRC is supported by a grant (1 U79 SM059945-01) from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

SPRC’s Suicide and Bullying Issue Brief is a review and analysis of the literature. It examines the relationship between suicide and bullying among children and adolescents, with special attention to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth. It also explores strategies for preventing these problems. This short publication can be downloaded at

Bullying and Suicide--Klomek, A. B., Kleinman, M., Altschuler, E., Marrocco, F., Amakawa, L., & Gould, M. S. (2011). High school bullying as a risk for later depression and suicidality. Suicide and Life Threatening Behavior, 41(5), 501-516.

Link to Abstract --

SOURCE: Suicide Prevention Resource Center’s The Weekly Spark, October 21, 2011

Excerpted from the brief, re: LGBT youth:

~ LGBT youth attempt suicide at a rate 2–4 times higher than that of their heterosexual peers.

~ A recent review of the research identified 19 studies linking suicidal behavior in lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) adolescents to bullying at school, especially among young people with “cross-gender appearance, traits, or behaviors”.

~ LGBT youth experience more bullying (including physical violence and injury) at school than their heterosexual peers.

~ A review of the research found that the relationship between bullying and suicide risk was stronger for LGB youth than for heterosexual youth.

Excerpted from the report, re: prevention:

Comprehensive school-based prevention programs can help prevent suicidal behavior. Research and experience suggest that school-based suicide prevention programs should not focus narrowly on student education and life skills training but also include the following:

• Activities to identify young people at risk of suicide (such as gatekeeper training and screening)

• Referrals to mental health services

The evidence for the effectiveness of school-based bullying prevention programs is mixed.


The following action steps may help create synergy in addressing both suicide and bullying.

• Start prevention early. Bullying begins at an age before many of the warning signs of suicide are evident. Intervening in bullying among younger children, and assessing both bullies and victims of bullying for risk factors associated with suicide, may have significant benefits as children enter the developmental stage when suicide risk begins to rise.

• Keep up with technology. Bullying often takes place in areas hidden from adult supervision. Cyberspace has become such an area. At the same time, young people may also use social media and new technologies to express suicidal thoughts that they are unwilling to share with their parents and other adults. Both bullying prevention programs and suicide prevention programs need to learn how to navigate in this new world.

• Pay special attention to the needs of LGBT youth and young people who do not conform to gender expectations. These youth are at increased risk for both bullying victimization and suicidal behavior. It is essential to respond to the needs of these young people, especially the need for an environment in which they feel safe, not just from physical harm, but from intolerance and assaults upon their emotional well-being.

• Use a comprehensive approach. Reducing the risk of bullying and suicide requires interventions that focus on young people (e.g., mental health services for youth suffering from depression) as well as the environment (especially the school and family environments) in which they live.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

More Collateral Damage from the Alabama Anti-Immigration Law

The Associated Press (October 22, 2011) reports that "Spanish-speaking parents say their children are facing more bullying and taunts at school since Alabama's tough crackdown on illegal immigration took effect last month. Many blame the name-calling on fallout from the law...."  One can only wonder how many more are afraid to come forward.

Residents can report any incidents of bullying, threats or violence on a special telephone hotline and e-mail address that has been set up by the Justice Department.


The problem of bullying is finally starting to gain national attention.  A good film around which to start a community discussion is "Bullied, A Student,  A School, and a Case that Made History."  It is put out by the Teaching Tolerance folks. 

Bullied: A Student, A School and a Case that Made History

Bullied is a documentary film that chronicles one student’s ordeal at the hands of anti-gay bullies and offers an inspiring message of hope to those fighting harassment today. It can become a cornerstone of anti-bullying efforts in middle and high schools.
Bullied includes:

•A 40-minute documentary film (DVD), with closed captioning and with Spanish subtitles

•A two-part viewer’s guide with standards-aligned lesson plans and activities for use in staff development

•Additional materials online

Bullied is designed to help administrators, teachers and counselors create a safer school environment for all students, not just those who are gay and lesbian. It is also intended to help all students understand the terrible toll bullying can take on its victims, and to encourage students to stand up for their classmates who are being harassed.
Readers can obtain a copy at:

Friday, October 14, 2011

Federal Appeals Court Blocks Alabama from Checking Student Immigration Status

UPDATE:   The Associated Press reports that the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocked a part of Alabama's anti-immigration law that required schools to check the immigration status of students.  It has been reported that large numbers of Hispanic students have been absent from schools since the law went into effect.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Latest Casualty of Alabama’s New Anti-Immigration Law: The Children

A recent Associated Press article (September 30, 2011) has pointed out a disturbing consequence of Alabama’s new anti-immigration law – a vanishing number of Hispanic students from the public schools. One of the provisions of the new law requires schools to gather statistics on the number of new undocumented students attending the schools after September 2011. The AP article reports that “local and state officials are pleading with immigrant families to keep their children enrolled" and have tried to assuage some of their fears. Despite the reassurances that the law does not ban anyone from school, many families are reportedly starting to withdraw their children or planning to leave the state.

Although the law purports to collect statistics only, it is having a strong intimidating effect. In fact, in an early analysis of the original law, the ACLU had pointed out “that deterring children from school was one of HB 56’s motivating purposes. For example, HB 56’s sponsor, Rep. Micky Hammon, described the bill as motivated by the costs of ‘educat[ing] the children of illegal immigrants,’ and predicted that enforcing HB 56 will result in ‘cost savings for this state.’” (Go to for “Preliminary Analysis of HB 56 Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act”)

 The bill does indeed seem to have this effect of driving children away from the public schools even if it doesn’t require citizenship for enrollment in its schools. In fact, as far back as 1982 in a landmark case, Plyler v. Doe, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states could not deny access to a free public education to children on the basis of their immigrant status. Despite the fact that this case was decided almost thirty years ago, the U.S. Department of Education had to recently remind school districts in a letter released on May 10, 2011 that expressed concerns that some districts were discouraging undocumented children from enrolling in their schools.  At the same time, the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice has been hearing several complaints.

On September 28th, the N.Y.Times reported that most of the new Alabama law that had been challenged by the Obama administration and civil rights groups was upheld by Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn of the Federal District Court in Birmingham. While blocking the provision that would have barred illegal immigrants from enrolling in or attending public universities, she did uphold the section that requires elementary and secondary schools to determine the immigration status of newly enrolled students.
The civil rights groups challenged this last section on the ground that it would unlawfully deter students from enrolling in school, even if it did not explicitly allow schools to turn students away. The judge dismissed their challenge for lack of standing, though she did not rule on the argument’s merits.
The Obama administration has announced that it will be appealing the ruling and has filed court documents on Friday. We will continue to keep readers informed of future coverage of the case and its consequences.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Look at Another Unique School

We have been featuring descriptions of some unique schools on this blog to enable readers to explore the different possibilities that are out there. You can read about some of these schools under our label "Innovative Schools."

 In one of our frequently read posts, David Marshak described the kind of progressive school that President Obama had sent his own children. See “Obama’s School Choice: Shouldn’t the education that Malia and Sasha receive be available to all?"

David is professor emeritus at Seattle University and our colleague here at Western Washington University, but he is also the president of the board for another progressive secondary school here in Washington State. In the post below, he describes some of the innovative features of this independent school for our readers. While Exploration Academy is an actual “bricks and mortar” school here in Bellingham, Washington, it has initiated an Explorations Academy Online (EAO), a new web-based learning experience, as part of its learning environment. The sixteen year old academy has been known for its interdisciplinary curriculum, service learning, wilderness experience, self-directed learning, and international expeditions, and David describes below the integration of this newer learning environment into the school. Rather than isolating adolescents in “industrial paradigm schools,” where students end up forming their own youth culture as a reaction to their isolation from adults, David believes they should be fully integrated into the adult world and allowed the freedom to take a significant role in their own learning as well as an opportunity to contribute their own unique perspectives in an authentic and meaningful way.

A Look at Explorations Academy Online

David Marshak

Explorations Academy Online’s program includes the following elements:
 Learning Coach  EAO begins by pairing each adolescent learner with an adult Learning Coach. The Coach and the learner talk face-to-face via Skype at least twice each week. Adolescents don’t want to distance themselves from all adults, just from their parents as they begin to establish their own individual identities. Adolescents want to interact with adults who want to interact with them in respectful and mutual ways.

Clusters Learners engage in one Cluster each term. A cluster is an interdisciplinary study, designed by EAO and led by the Coach, that is focused on one theme or question and that weaves together learning in the subjects of English, Social Studies, Science, and the Arts in a coherent and meaningful way. Some of the clusters available are Crime and Punishment, Life Cycles, You’re on Your Own, Water, Renaissance, and Shelter. Here teens engage in exploring conventional—and unconventional—academic content, but the content is structured in relation to contemporary issues, problems, and concerns that adolescents view as timely, relevant, and personally meaningful.

Learner's Investigations Each term the learner, in dialogue with her/his Learning Coach, poses a question that she/he wants to investigate. The learner and the Learning Coach frame this inquiry and the learner conducts it. The Learner's Investigation may relate to the Cluster that he/she is investigating, or it may be on a completely different topic. In this context teens design their own learning, with support from the Coach, and then they enact their design. Teens want freedom, and here they get it, although its bundled with responsibility and support.

Mathematics and World Language Learners study at least the equivalent of three years of high school mathematics, because math is required by most colleges for admission. The same is true for the study of a world language. These studies are required because many teens will want to go to college. Completing these prerequisites leaves that option open for learners.

Experiential Learning A significant part of the learning at Explorations Academy Online is experiential. The learner negotiates his/her specific learning experiences each term with his/her Learning Coach. Over a four-year career as a learner at EAO, the learner engages in at least two Experiential Studies in each category listed below:

THE ARTS: drawing, painting, singing, playing a musical instrument, pottery, or any other form of art or craft

ADVENTURE: hiking, backpacking, tracking, hunting, orienteering, or any other activity that is challenging and that takes place outside

SERVICE: any form of service to other people, animals, or the natural world

BODY/MIND DISCIPLINE: an activity that is physical and encourages awareness and mindfulness about that activity; for example, yoga, dance, tai chi, chi kung, aikido, long distance running, gymnastics

APPRENTICESHIP: a commitment by the learner to learn a skill(s) from an appropriate adult who is proficient in this skill(s); can be work-related, in the arts or crafts, or in any field of human endeavor

ECOLOGICAL EXPERIENCE: active engagement with an ecosystem in some meaningful way; for example, ecological restoration, gardening, permaculture, birdwatching, animal husbandry

In these experiences adolescents have a wide range of choice, within enough parameters to insure that they also have a wide range of experiences. So there’s a lot of freedom with clear boundaries. And all of these experiences take the learner out into the mainstream society in all of its complexities, so they interact with people of all ages every week.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Diane Ravitch to Speak at Seattle Town Hall on Nov. 17th

Diane Ravitch will be speaking on November 17, 2011 at 7:30-9:00 pm at the Town Hall in Seattle, Washington.   Her topic will be, "Getting Our Schools Back on Track."   The Town Hall  is located at 8th & Seneca Street in Seattle.  Advance tickets can be purchased through the Town Hall at:

Readers can read our earlier posts about Diane Ravitch here.  We will be reviewing her new book,  The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education, in the upcoming issue of the journal.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Author John Covaleskie Targets Zero Tolerance Policies

Editor: Readers will remember the recent article by author, John Covaleskie, on “Freedom Of Conscience And The Wall Of Separation,” in our summer 2010 issue. In that article, the author examined the role of religious discourse in the public life and public speech of a democratic polity. In the post below, John continues to explore other dimensions of democratic life and its betrayal with the growing reliance on zero tolerance policies in the schools. Zero tolerance policies have contributed to a national trend often referred to as the school-to-prison pipeline. The summer 2012 issue of the Journal of Educational Controversy will explore this issue in depth. The deadline for manuscripts is December 31, 2011.  Authors can find more information on the controversy here. The article below was cross-posted from the Social Issues blog and is printed here with permission of the author.

Zero Tolerance and the Failure to Educate

John F. Covaleskie

University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma

The older I get and the more exposure I have to schooling and educational policy in the United States, the more I wonder if we like children.

I was recently reminded of this when I saw yet another example of a very young child given an absurd penalty because of an over-literal interpretation of a “zero tolerance” policy in a local school ( The details of this case—first grade boy suspended because he pointed his finger as though it was a gun—are the sort that get people either laughing at the disconnect between the action and the severity of the response or outraged for the same reason. After all, a child’s finger, on even the most liberal interpretations of zero tolerance, is not a gun. But that response misses a deeper point: zero tolerance policies renege on the promise that schools are in the business of education for democratic life.

Mindless forms of “classroom management” have triumphed over efforts to help children become better people. And we know there are more positive and more effective – more educational – ways to respond to bad behavior in schools (see, for example Deborah Meier’s The Power of Their Ideas or Vivian Paley’s You Can’t Say, You Can’t Play). Perhaps it is because of the increasing focus on maximizing time on task in order to increase test scores, but I am not sure that is the reason: the policy of treating children like animals predates the regime of testing so often supposed to be its cause. Behavioral control has been the approach of “classroom management” for all of my professional life, and I started teaching high school in 1968.

One district where I was employed adopted Lee Canter’s “Assertive Discipline” program in the 1970’s; the catch-phrase of this program was “deal with the behavior, not the child.” I heard this from many teachers, always expressed with pride. The idea always puzzled me, however, because I has become a teacher because I wanted to deal with children, and in line with that commitment, I have always believed that a child’s behavior is a part of who the child is, and to treat those two things as separable is to fail to understand our role in democracy as much as it is to violate the integrity of the person the child is.

There are two reasons we should reject the emphasis on behavioral strategies for controlling behavior and “classroom management”: they are demeaning to both the children against whom they are used and to the teachers forced to use them, and they diminish the likelihood that our public schools will form democratic citizens. When they work, even when they are applied rationally, zero tolerance policies shape behavior by fear, not by consideration of what sort of people they should be, or what sort of choices they should make. Further, such policies send the message that the school and the adults in it do not think the child who breaks a rule counts for very much. They make clear to all children that the adults in the school consider the children to be disposable.

Zero tolerance policies explicitly state for all to see that we consider our rules more important than our children, and our children see this. Even the children who obey the rules understand where they stand in a regime of zero-tolerance. This will certainly increase the alienation children and young adults feel toward schools.

Children will sometimes behave badly. They will break rules, even really serious, important rules. Such events can be seen as opportunities to banish the miscreants, or as an opportunity to educate. Only the last honors our claim to be educators trying to prepare children to be citizens in a democratic society.

One of my former colleagues wisely suggested that the way to be more effective in classrooms is to “be the child,” to try to understand what need the child is meeting by misbehavior and then to help the child meet that need in more positive ways. This is not at all to suggest that classrooms should be places of permissiveness or places where there are no rules that matter. It is to suggest that our job is to help children understand and internalize the norms of democratic life the rules are meant to enact, and that they best learn democracy by living it. However, when we replace citizen formation with zero tolerance policies we do not prepare them for democratic life, but for what some now refer to as the school-to-prison-pipeline (

I do not understand why so many educators think the proper response to children who are alienated from the school’s social contract (I am making a large assumption here, I know) is to exacerbate and formalize that alienation with the official proclamation that they really do not belong. I do not understand how a culture that valued its young could make zero tolerance a policy.

One final irony: this incident took place in Oklahoma where—I could not make this up—there is a serious on-going effort in the state legislature to make actual guns on school, college, and university campuses legal.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Thomas Friedman's "Theory of Everything"

In an interesting column on a "Theory of Everything" in today's New York Times, Thomas Friedman attempts to bring together all the disparate events occurring in our global social environment from globalization, middle class crisis, tea party, worker replacement, unemployment, education, IT, social media, growing income disparity, grassroots social protests occurring across the globe and calls for an "accessible future."

In his final summary paragraph, he writes:

We are increasingly taking easy credit, routine work and government jobs and entitlements away from the middle class — at a time when it takes more skill to get and hold a decent job, at a time when citizens have more access to media to organize, protest and challenge authority and at a time when this same merger of globalization and I.T. is creating huge wages for people with global skills (or for those who learn to game the system and get access to money, monopolies or government contracts by being close to those in power) — thus widening income gaps and fueling resentments even more.

As a writer of a blog on education, I couldn't help but reflect on how all these disparate movements should be informing our thinking about the the role of public education in a democratic society.  Current mainstream thinking in our media about accountability, standardized testing, anti-teacher unions rhetoric, privatization of schools, and firing of teachers, etc, doesn't come close to the issues we should be addressing. Any thoughts?

P.S. Watch for our upcoming issue of the journal on the theme: "The Education and Schools our Children Deserve."   It will go online this fall.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Seattle and Silverdale to Join other Cities in National "Save our Schools" Day

Editor: We have published several posts on this blog about the National "Save our Schools" March that will be taking place in Washington D.C. on July 30th.  There will be similar events taking place in cities across the country.  Below is some information on events that will take place in two cities in the state of Washington: Seattle and Silverdale.

For our readers in Washington state, we are providing some information from the Washington Education Association here in Washington.


On July 30, educators, parents and concerned citizens from Seattle to Silverdale to Washington, D.C., and in many cities in between, will gather to reclaim control of our public schools.

The event, endorsed by NEA and WEA, is known as the Save our Schools (SOS) March and calls on Americans everywhere to demand:

Equitable funding for all public school communities.

An end to high-stakes testing for student, teacher, and school evaluation.

Curriculum developed for and by local school communities.

Teacher and community leadership in forming public education policies.

The D.C. event is just one of many that will be occurring across our country this Saturday. In Seattle, supporters will meet at 6 p.m. at the south side of the International Fountain at Seattle Center. Supporters will begin walking at 6:30 p.m. to join the Seafair Torchlight parade at Fourth Avenue and Denny Street. In Silverdale, supporters will participate from 10 a.m. to noon at the Silverdale Whaling Days.

The public is encouraged to show support for public education by wearing "Red for Public Ed" to the local events.

This is a day for people to stand up and be heard.

This is a grassroots movement. It is not funded by billionaires. It is supported by teachers, parents and citizens around the country who have a passion to be heard.

More information is available at SaveOurSchoolsMarch.org Please contact Washington's coordinators about local events: Renton teacher Becca Ritchie (who is handling questions west of the Cascades) and Yakima teacher Jane Watson (who is handling questions regarding events east of the Cascades).

See you Saturday!

Friday, July 15, 2011


Editor: As many of our readers know, the Educational Institute for Democratic Renewal that houses the Journal of Educational Controversy participates in  John Goodlad's National League of Democratic Schools.  Jim Strickland, the regional coordinator for the Western region of the League and a special education teacher in Washington State, has prepared this "Declaration of Education Rights" document that we want to share with our readers for their thoughts.  Jim is putting together two education rights workshops this summer -- one in Portland at the AERO conference ( ) and one in Washington, DC at the Save Our Schools March conference (   He is hoping to establish some sort of Education Rights Task Force to continue this work.

Toward a Declaration of Education Rights

by Jim Strickland
The National League of Democratic Schools


In the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a Declaration of Education Rights would serve as a common ethical standard, or moral compass, for education in a democracy by which we can guide our practice, develop programs and policies, and continuously evaluate our efforts. In this essay, readers are invited to review proposed articles for such a declaration and suggest possible revisions and/or additions. The ultimate goal will be to produce a collaborative document that can be submitted to other groups for consideration, input, and eventual adoption.

Ever since December 10, 1948 when it was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has stood as an international moral beacon of human dignity and freedom. The Universal Declaration was never meant to be the final word on human rights, nor was it intended to impose a single model of right conduct on all nations. The Universal Declaration was written to be a living document, reinterpreted and reinvented by each succeeding generation, a common standard that can be brought to life in different settings in a variety of legitimate ways.

Education today is in dire need of just such a common ethical standard. Not a legally binding prescription, but a moral compass by which we can guide our practice, develop our programs and policies, and evaluate our results. In our ongoing efforts to provide the education our children deserve and our world so desperately needs, we need a mutual commitment to values that will inspire us and keep us from drifting off course. In education, as in all areas of life, if we do not decide where we are going, someone will be happy to decide for us.

It is in this spirit that the following suggestion for a Declaration of Education Rights (DER) is being proposed. These 13 articles were inspired from a variety of sources, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Alternative Education Resource Organization (, the Institute for Democratic Education in America (, and the Institute for Educational Inquiry’s Agenda for Education in a Democracy ( Each article is followed by comments which note the source and/or clarify the article’s intent or implications.

In order to be effective, a Declaration of Education Rights must balance several competing requirements. A DER must:

1) Establish the conditions necessary to promote and preserve basic human and civil rights.

2) Address the values and requirements of democracy. For our purposes, we are using a broad definition of democracy as a value system – a way of living and working together based on freedom, justice, equality, and mutual respect. [“Democracy first and foremost, is a shared way of life. It begins with who we are as individuals and the relationships we have with those around us, and it radiates outward from that center to encompass all of humanity… it is, in essence, about human relationships.” (Goodlad, et al, Education for Everyone, p. 82)]

3) Ensure the conditions necessary for the continuous growth, self-development, and creative participation of the learner.

4) Differentiate between education -- a community responsibility -- and schooling -- one component of this larger context.

Declaration of Education Rights

Whereas a healthy, sustainable democracy requires the thoughtful and effective participation of its citizenry…

Whereas optimum political, social, and economic participation requires certain fundamental capacities and conditions…

Whereas it is the responsibility of democratic society to intentionally foster the development of these capacities and conditions essential to its continued vitality and to that of its citizens…

Now, therefore, this Declaration of Education Rights is proclaimed as a common standard of achievement for the continuous growth and self-realization of all people in the context of democratic community.

Article 1

Everyone has the right to participate meaningfully in his/her own education and the educational decisions that affect him/her. These decisions include those establishing the purposes, content, and assessment of learning activities.

COMMENTS: The right to participate in the decisions that affect us is a basic principle of democracy. The Institute for Democratic Education in America ( applies this concept to education in their stated mission “to ensure that all young people can participate meaningfully in their education and gain the tools to build a just, democratic, and sustainable world.” John Dewey also emphasized the importance of participation – “There is, I think, no point in the philosophy of progressive education which is sounder than its emphasis upon the importance of the participation of the learner in the formation of the purposes which direct his activities in the learning process, just as there is no defect in traditional education greater than its failure to secure the active co-operation of the pupil in construction of the purposes involved in his studying.” (Dewey, Experience and Education, p. 67) This article implies access to self-directed learning opportunities whenever possible.

Article 2

Everyone has the right to an education directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

COMMENTS: Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 26. This right guards against overly narrow definitions of education as primarily a means to the economic and political ends of the powers that be.

Article 3

Everyone has the right to an education that acknowledges and respects his/her cultural, religious, and/or ethnic heritage.

COMMENTS: Every educational system is based on a particular set of beliefs, assumptions, and cultural perspectives. Without overt acknowledgement and respect for the cultural, religious, and/or ethnic heritage of the student, there is real danger that these important sources of personal and cultural identity will be undermined.

Article 4

Everyone has the right to an education that acknowledges multiple ways of knowing and assists in the exploration and understanding of various world views.

COMMENTS: A cornerstone of democracy is the realization that other people may see and experience the world differently from us. Engaging in thoughtful dialogue that leads to a deeper understanding of one another is critical in our work for peaceful coexistence in a diverse world, as well as a critical evaluation of our own perspective.

Article 5

Everyone has the right to an education that fosters the capacities necessary for effective participation in a social and political democracy.

COMMENTS: From the Institute for Educational Inquiry’s Agenda for Education in a Democracy ( Democracy by definition depends on the thoughtful and effective participation of its citizens.

Article 6

Everyone has the right to an education that fosters the capacities necessary to lead responsible and satisfying lives.

COMMENTS: From the Institute for Educational Inquiry’s Agenda for Education in a Democracy ( This emphasizes the second part of the dual role of education noted by John Goodlad in Democracy, Education, and the Schools – “The mission of schooling comes down to two related kinds of enculturation; no other institution is so charged. The first is for political and social responsibility as a citizen. The second is for maximum individual development, for full participation in the human conversation (with the concept of conversation expanded into a metaphor for the whole of daily living).” (John Goodlad in Soder, Roger, Ed., Democracy, Education, and the Schools, p. 112)

Article 7

All educational institutions shall unambiguously reflect the values of democracy in their policies, practices, curriculum, organizational structures, and outcomes.

COMMENTS: As Marshall McLuhan noted, the medium is the message. Dewey also emphasized the critical importance of the lessons we learn indirectly by way of the educational environment – “Perhaps the greatest of all pedagogical fallacies is the notion that a person learns only the particular thing he is studying at the time. Collateral learning in the way of formation of enduring attitudes, of likes and dislikes, may be and often is more important than the spelling lesson or lesson in geography or history that is learned. For these attitudes are fundamentally what count in the future.” (Dewey, Experience and Education, p. 48) Democracy can only really be learned by a process of immersion. To be effective and sustainable, the means used must be aligned with the ends desired.

Article 8

P-12 education shall be free, as well as equitably and adequately funded. Technical, professional, and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of capacity.

COMMENTS: Adapted from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 26. The emphasis on higher education being equally accessible to all on the basis of capacity implies (but does not explicitly guarantee) the removal of economic barriers to such participation when appropriate.

Article 9

Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education in which their children participate.

COMMENTS: From the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 26. The UDHR version reads, “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.” The wording was changed to reflect an understanding of education not as something that can be given or imposed, but as something that requires the free participation of the learner. This article was originally included in the UDHR in the aftermath of WWII as a way to prevent oppressive regimes from using state mandated educational programs to indoctrinate its citizens.

Article 10

Everyone has the right to an education that acknowledges our place within the natural world, respects the interconnectedness of all life, and promotes the building of a just and sustainable world.

COMMENTS: This ecological literacy (see Orr, Ecological Literacy, 1992) is increasingly being recognized as essential not only to our quality of life, but to our very survival as a species and to the long-term health of our planet. The latter portion is taken in part from IDEA’s mission statement (see comments on Article 1).

Article 11

Education shall be compulsory through the primary years and freely available thereafter until the age of majority. No minor shall be denied access to a free and appropriate educational program for any reason. Furthermore, no person shall be compelled to participate in any educational program that does not protect the full range of these rights.

COMMENTS: The UDHR states that elementary education shall be compulsory, presumably to ensure the basic educational foundation required for optimum self-development and for effective political, social, and economic participation. After the primary years, the emphasis shifts from compulsory participation on the part of the individual to compulsory service on the part of society, with participation being optional at the discretion of the learner. This acknowledges the fact that coercive educational techniques are inherently counterproductive to “the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms,” as well as to the health and viability of democracy itself.

Article 12

Given that education is an ongoing process that extends far beyond the bounds of formal schooling, everyone has the right to live in an educative community that purposely contributes to the continuous growth and well-being of all its members.

COMMENTS: This highlights the difference between schooling and education, and promotes a vision of education as a community responsibility. Implied is the need to continuously advocate and work for the creation of truly educative communities. For our purposes, an educative community can be understood as one which depends on the real work and creative participation of each of its members, as well as actively promoting and protecting human and civil rights.

Article 13

No one shall be denied access to employment or postsecondary education, or be discriminated against in any way solely on the basis of P-12 academic credentials.

COMMENTS: It is unethical to use any criteria for employment that are not clearly necessary for the successful performance of the particular job being sought. Given the broad and varied nature of high school graduation requirements, for example, this cannot be said to apply to the high school diploma. This article also makes more feasible the development of and participation in alternative approaches to learning that do not result in standard academic credentials.

Another implication of this article is that schools will have to attract learners on the basis of the skills and experiences they have to offer rather than because they are the sole gatekeepers to economic participation. It safeguards against the accumulation of too much power in the education establishment to determine and/or limit the future opportunities of citizens. It does, however, leave open the possibility of using P-12 academic credentials and measures as one of several sources of information used together to assess a person’s aptitude for particular postsecondary jobs and programs.


The time has come for us to take a stand on what we believe to be the purpose and proper nature of education in our democracy. This Declaration of Education Rights is a first attempt to do just that – an articulation of values and principles intended to serve as a moral and functional compass for education in America.

Thomas Jefferson sparked a political revolution when he wrote that “we hold these truths to be self-evident”. But the moral and philosophical revolution that produced these truths had been steadily growing in our hearts and minds for hundreds of years. Jefferson merely affirmed them and recognized their revolutionary implications.

Like its inspiration, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Declaration of Education Rights contains some ideas that are intuitive and others that are more daring, but all of them reflect a revolution in thinking that is already under way. The implications are profound and far reaching.

In order to make this document as sound and powerful as it needs to be, we are asking for your feedback. Input will be used to refine this document for future use in public forums across the nation. Imagine the long-term impact of its official adoption, not only by schools, school districts, and educational organizations, but by state and federal departments of education as well.

Without a clear vision, it is inevitable that education will continue to drift in the winds of various political, economic, and special interest agendas. And as we drift, our children, our democracy, and our planet will suffer. Please help us chart the course for a redefinition of education that celebrates individuality while simultaneously promoting democracy – that reinforces creativity, nurtures greatness, and helps to build a just and sustainable world.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

March on Washington to Support Public Schools on July 30th

Save Our Schools March & National Call to Action
There will be a march and rally in Washington, D.C. on July 30 to support and reclaim control of public schools by educators, parents and concerned citizens. Labeled a Save Our Schools March and National Call to Action movement, the four day event will feature Jonathan Kozol and Diane Ravitch as keynote speakers.  Similar events will be held across the nation. This grassroots movement is calling on the public to demand:
• Equitable funding for all public school communities.

• An end to high-stakes testing for student, teacher, and school evaluation.

• Curriculum developed for and by local school communities.

• Teacher and community leadership in forming public education policies.

More information is available at

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

School Segregation: An Update on our Journal's Continuing Coverage

One of the purposes of our blog is to provide updates on topics covered in the Journal of Educational Controversy. Indeed, the journal itself is an experiment in creating a concentrated study of current controversies that is more than a one–time coverage of ideas but rather an ongoing in-depth look at a topic. Many of our journal’s issues have included an introductory section with articles that provide a broader context for understanding the topic, articles written in response to the actual controversy posed, and a section for related issues connected with the topic. The rejoinder section is intended to continue the conversation through peer review responses to the articles and the blog is intended to continue a more informal discussion of the ideas. Even our video series, “Talking with the Authors,” is intended to bring a broader understanding of the ideas by exploring the topic with the author in an interview that provides a look at the person behind the article. And our public forums, that are also videotaped and often made available in the journal, try to continue the exploration of these ideas in the context of a discussion or debate among the authors. Indeed, each issue of the journal is conceived as almost a mini-course on the topic with the conversation continuing into the future, something, we believe is unique for journals. Our goal is to provide a public space where scholars, educators, policymakers and the public can come together and engage in a deeper understanding of the controversies that arise in a pluralistic, liberal democracy.

Our winter 2007 issue on “Jonathan Kozol's Nation of Shame Forty Years Later” tried to do all these things. Dedicated to Jonathan Kozol, who was the journal’s distinguished speaker at our university, the journal published his prologue to the topic along with the video of his talk. The issue was published at the time his new book, The Shame of the Nation, the Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America, had just come out. Fortuitously, it was also the time the U.S. Supreme Court had decided to hear arguments in the Seattle case on the use of race as a factor in public school admissions policy in PICS v. Seattle School District No.1 et al. So in addition to the articles in response to the controversy, we published a special section on “Washington State Politics and the future U.S. Supreme Court decision.“ After the issue went online, the High Court rendered its decision and we covered it in our rejoinder’s section. Some key players took part in our public forum that year.

Our Introductory Section for that issue contained a background essay to provide a context for the theme. Gary Orfield, distinguished professor of education at UCLA and co-director of the Civil Rights Project/El Proyecto de CRP, had permitted us to excerpt sections of his 2006 Report on Racial Transformation and the Changing Nature of Segregation. A member of our editorial board provided a short introduction to a selection of excerpts along with a link to the entire report. This morning, we just learned about a new manual that was released by the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at UCLA on Integrating Suburban Schools: How to Benefit from Growing Diversity and Avoid Segregation. According to the press release, the manual is intended to provide “invaluable guidance for education stakeholders in suburban school districts — including school board members, parents, students, community activists, administrators, policymakers and attorneys “ as they try to achieve “positive and lasting multiracial diversity.”

The 2010 census indicated a very large movement of African American and Latino families to suburbia. As CRP Co-director Gary Orfield notes, “Many hundreds of suburban communities that were all-white when they were constructed, and had experienced little diversity until the recent past, are now facing important questions about how they can achieve lasting and successful integration and avoid the destructive resegregation by race and poverty that affected so many areas in the central cities a half century ago.”

The manual offers the following information:

• A comprehensive discussion of the critical importance of diverse learning environments in racially changing suburban school districts.

• The history of court-ordered desegregation efforts and an overview of the current legal landscape governing school integration policy.

• General legal principles for creating racially diverse schools.

• The vital role that teachers and administrators play in building successfully integrated schools and classrooms.

• Specific examples of suburban school districts promoting high quality, inclusive and integrated schools.

• Strategies for teaching in racially diverse classrooms.

• Methods for building the political will and support in your community for voluntary integration policies.

• An extensive and reader-friendly list of education and legal resources including easily disseminated fact sheets on important topics related to school diversity.

Our readers can download the manual by going to the website of the Civil Rights Project at: K-12 Research Section.  The press release also indicates that the manual may be copied or reprinted and used in classes without permission or payment.