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Listening to Our Elders

Working and Writing for Change

Samantha Blackmon, Cristina Kirklighter, and Steve Parks, eds.

In 2011, the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) turned one hundred years old. But our profession is endlessly beginning, constantly transforming itself and its purpose as new voices and identities claim their rights in our classrooms and in our country. The recognition of such claims, however, does not occur without a struggle, without collective work.  
  Listening to our Elders attempts to capture the history of those collective moments where teachers across grade levels and institutions of higher education organized to insure that the voices, heritages, and traditions of their students and colleagues were recognized within our professional organizations as a vital part of our classrooms and our discipline. In doing so, Listening to Our Elders demonstrates this recognition was not always easily given. Instead, whether the issue was race, sexuality, class, or disability, committed activist organizations have often had to push against the existing limits of our field and its organizations to insure a broader sense of common responsibility and humanity was recognized. 
  Listening to Our Elders features interviews with Malea Powell (Native American Caucus), Joyce Rain Anderson (Native American Caucus), Jeffery Paul Chan (Asian/Asian American), James Hill (Black Caucus), James Dolmage (Committee for Disability Issue in College Composition), Geneva Smitherman (Language Policy Commitee), Carlota Cárdenas de Dwyer (Latino/a Caucus), Victor Villanueva (Latino/a Caucus), Louise Dunlap (Progressive Caucus), Karen Hollis (Progressive Caucus), Louie Crew (Queer Caucus), William Thelin (Working Class Culture and Pedagogy SIG), Bill Macauley (Working Class Culture and Pedagogy SIG).

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Making School Reform Work

New Partnerships for Real Change

edited by Paul Hill and James Harvey

Bringing change to our public school system is hard, and the current system of education governance creates barriers that can make that reform even harder. Here six authorities in public education discuss how local philanthropies can overcome them even if school districts cannot. Making School Reform Work identifies new institutions that can be created by foundations and civic groups to remedy deficiencies in local school governance, formulate bold reforms, and guarantee implementation. These institutions include incubators for starting new schools, independent data analysis centers, public-private partnerships for recruitment and training of school leaders, and new ways of funding and managing school facilities. The contributors are Sarah Brooks (Carleton College), Michael DeArmond (University of Washington), Marguerite Roza (University of Washington), and Abigail Winger (Milwaukee consultant).

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Marching Students

Chicana and Chicano Activism in Education, 1968 to the Present

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Money, Mandates, and Local Control in American Public Education

Bryan Shelly

"This book is outstanding. . . . [N]o one has delved into the issue of school financing with such depth, data, and thoughtful analysis. It is simply the best in the field." ---Susan B. Neuman, University of Michigan, and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education "The most pressing question in American education today is how to allocate school financing and policy-making responsibility among local, state, and national governments. Bryan Shelly's valuable book sheds new light on this question and should be of great interest not only to those who study education policy, but also to scholars of federalism, public finance, and public policy more generally." ---Patrick McGuinn, Drew University "Bryan Shelly offers an insightful and persuasive analysis of the relationship between centralized funding and local control in American public education. His findings---of 'local control' as a reified ideal and political weapon in the politics of redistribution, and of the power of unfunded mandates operating at the margins of local school budgets---will provide a welcome addition to the study of the politics of school finance in the United States." ---Scott Abernathy, University of Minnesota Pointing to the disparities between wealthy and impoverished school districts in areas where revenue depends primarily upon local taxes, reformers repeatedly call for the centralization of school funding. Their proposals meet resistance from citizens, elected officials, and school administrators who fear the loss of local autonomy. Bryan Shelly finds, however, that local autonomy has already been compromised by federal and state governments, which exercise a tremendous amount of control over public education despite their small contribution to a school system's funding. This disproportionate relationship between funding and control allows state and federal officials to pass education policy yet excuses them from supplying adequate funding for new programs. The resulting unfunded and underfunded mandates and regulations, Shelly insists, are the true cause of the loss of community control over public education. Shelly outlines the effects of the most infamous of underfunded federal mandates, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), and explores why schools implemented it despite its unpopularity and out-of-pocket costs. Shelly's findings hold significant implications for school finance reform, NCLB, and the future of intergovernmental relations. Jacket photograph: © iStockphoto.com/michelle_d

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Multiethnic Moments: The Politics of Urban Education Reform

When courts lifted their school desegregation orders in the 1990s—declaring that black and white students were now "integrated" in America's public schools—it seemed that a window of opportunity would open for Latinos, Asians, and people of other races and ethnicities to influence school reform efforts. However, in most large cities the "multiethnic moment" passed, without leading to greater responsiveness to burgeoning new constituencies. Multiethnic Moments examines school systems in four major U.S. cities—Boston, Denver, Los Angeles, and San Francisco—to uncover the factors that worked for and against ethnically-representative school change. More than a case study, this book is a concentrated effort to come to grips with the multiethnic city as a distinctive setting. It utilizes the politics of education reform to provide theoretically-grounded, empirical scholarship about the broader contemporary politics of race and ethnicity—emphasizing the intersection of interests, ideas, and institutions with the differing political legacies of each of the cities under consideration.

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A New Deal for the Humanities

Liberal Arts and the Future of Public Higher Education

Gordon Hutner

Many in higher education fear that the humanities are facing a crisis. But even if the rhetoric about “crisis” is overblown, humanities departments do face increasing pressure from administrators, politicians, parents, and students. In A New Deal for the Humanities, Gordon Hutner and Feisal G. Mohamed bring together twelve prominent scholars who address the history, the present state, and the future direction of the humanities. These scholars keep the focus on public higher education, for it is in our state schools that the liberal arts are taught to the greatest numbers and where their neglect would be most damaging for the nation.
 
The contributors offer spirited and thought-provoking debates on a diverse range of topics. For instance, they deplore the push by administrations to narrow learning into quantifiable outcomes as well as the demands of state governments for more practical, usable training. Indeed, for those who suggest that a college education should be “practical”—that it should lean toward the sciences and engineering, where the high-paying jobs are—this book points out that while a few nations produce as many technicians as the United States does, America is still renowned worldwide for its innovation and creativity, skills taught most effectively in the humanities. Most importantly, the essays in this collection examine ways to make the humanities even more effective, such as offering a broader array of options than the traditional major/minor scheme, options that combine a student’s professional and intellectual interests, like the new medical humanities programs.
 
A democracy can only be as energetic as the minds of its citizens, and the questions fundamental to the humanities are also fundamental to a thoughtful life. A New Deal for the Humanities takes an intrepid step in making the humanities—and our citizens—even stronger in the future.

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No Child Left Behind and the Public Schools

Scott Franklin Abernathy

“A powerful, detailed, and exceptionally balanced critique of NCLB. It offers some hope for how we might overcome its faults. No legislator or educational expert should be allowed to get away with not reading it—whether to agree or disagree. It’s a must learning experience.” —Deborah Meier, Senior Scholar and Adjunct Professor, Steinhardt School of Education, New York University, and author of In Schools We Trust “A concise, highly readable, and balanced account of NCLB, with insightful and realistic suggestions for reform. Teachers, professors, policymakers, and parents—this is the one book about NCLB you ought to read.” —James E. Ryan, William L. Matheson and Robert M. Morgenthau Distinguished Professor, University of Virginia School of Law This far-reaching new study looks at the successes and failures of one of the most ambitious and controversial educational initiatives since desegregation—the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. NCLB’s opponents criticize it as underfunded and unworkable, while supporters see it as a radical but necessary educational reform that evens the score between advantaged and disadvantaged students. Yet the most basic and important question remains unasked: “Can we ever really know if a child’s education is good?” Ultimately, Scott Franklin Abernathy argues, policymakers must begin from this question, rather than assuming that any test can accurately measure the elusive thing we call “good” education.

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Objectifying Measures: The Dominance of High-Stakes Testing and the Politics of Schooling

In the past twenty years, the number of educational tests with high-stakes consequences—such as promotion to the next grade level or graduating from high school—has increased. At the same time, the difficulty of the tests has also increased. In Texas, a Latina state legislator introduced and lobbied for a bill that would take such factors as teacher recommendations, portfolios of student work, and grades into account for the students—usually students of color—who failed such tests. The bill was defeated.

Using several types of ethnographic study (personal interviews, observations of the Legislature in action, news broadcasts, public documents from the Legislature and Texas Education Agency), Amanda Walker Johnson observed the struggle for the bill’s passage. Through recounting this experience, Objectifying Measures explores the relationship between the cultural production of scientific knowledge (of statistics in particular) and the often intuitive resistance to objectification of those adversely affected by the power of policies underwritten as "scientific."

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Performance Incentives

Their Growing Impact on American K-12 Education

edited by Matthew G. Springer

The concept of pay for performance for public school teachers is growing in popularity and use, and it has resurged to once again occupy a central role in education policy. Performance Incentives: Their Growing Impact on American K-12 Education offers the most up-to-date and complete analysis of this promising —yet still controversial —policy innovation.

Performance Incentives brings together an interdisciplinary team of experts, providing an unprecedented discussion and analysis of the pay-for-performance debate by

• Identifying the potential strengths and weaknesses of tying pay to student outcomes;

• Comparing different strategies for measuring teacher accomplishments;

• Addressing key conceptual and implemen - tation issues;

• Describing what teachers themselves think of merit pay;

• Examining recent examples in Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina, and Texas;

• Studying the overall impact on student achievement.

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Politicians, Judges, and City Schools

Reforming School Finance in New York

During the 1970s, a nationwide school finance reform movement—fueled by litigation challenging the constitutionality of state education funding laws—brought significant changes to the way many states finance their public elementary and secondary school systems. School finance reform poses difficult philosophical questions: what is the meaning of equality in educational opportunity and of equity in the distribution of tax burdens? But it also involves enormous financial complexity (for example, dividing resources among competing special programs) and political risk (such as balancing local control with the need for statewide parity).

For those states (like New York) that were slow to make changes a new decade has brought new constraints and complications. Sluggish economic growth, taxpayer revolts, reductions in federal aid, all affect education revenues. And the current concern with educational excellence may obscure the needs of the poor and educationally disadvantaged.

This book will provide New York’s policy makers and other concerned specialists with a better understanding of the political, economic, and equity issues underlying the school finance reform debate. It details existing inequities, evaluates current financing formulas, and presents options for change. Most important, for all those concerned with education and public policy in New York and elsewhere, it offers a masterful assessment of the trade-offs involved in developing reform programs that balance the conflicting demands of resource equalization, political feasibility, and fiscal responsibility.

"Synthesizes the political and fiscal research [on school finance reform] and applies it to the New York Context....A blueprint for how to redesign state school finance....A fine book." —Public Administration Review

"This is a book that lucidly discusses the issues in school finance and provides valuable reference material." —American Political Science Review

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