John Thompson
John Thompson was an award-winning historian, lobbyist, and guerrilla-gardener who became an award-winning inner city teacher after crack and gangs hit his neighborhood. He blogs at and is writing a book on 18 years of idealistic politics in the classroom and realistic politics outside. A former oilfield roughneck and hitch-hiker, a current backpacker and Obamamaniac, he is a "people person" who seeks compromises, while defending the principles of the liberal arts and constitutional democracy. He is a nonstop memo writer and enthusiastic basketball player, believing that education is an affair of the heart not a narrow part of the intellect.

Entries by John Thompson

ISIS Has Shifted Into Second Gear

(0) Comments | Posted September 4, 2014 | 12:48 PM

For those who have not being paying attention, the great Jihad is continuing but with the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), it has finally shifted into second gear. By now it should be evident to anyone but the most callow and most blinkered of us...

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Tony Wagner's The Global Achievement Gap Is More Relevant Than Ever

(0) Comments | Posted August 20, 2014 | 2:07 PM

When checking out Amanda Ripley's The Smartest Kids in the World, which argues that American education is falling dangerously behind other nations, I stumbled across Tony Wagner's six-year-old The Global Achievement Gap. Wagner begins with a frightening anecdote -- the type that could drive today's frenzied assault on...

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A Teacher's Plea to President Obama

(1) Comments | Posted August 11, 2014 | 1:12 PM

I became a teacher after Supply Side economics and the Reagan era banking collapse devastated our neighborhood. Three hundred houses were abandoned and the "Hoova" set of the Crips set up dozens of crack houses in vacant properties.

Mr. President, I became attached to the children in the drug...

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Limousine Liberal David Boies Wants to Fix Our Schools

(0) Comments | Posted August 7, 2014 | 8:37 AM

They used to be called "Limousine Liberals." Now, dilettantes like David Boies are known as corporate reformers.

Boies has become the kinder, gentler face of the blood-in-their-eye teacher-bashing of Michelle Rhee and Campbell Brown. A board member of Rhee's "astroturf" anti-union StudentsFirstNY, Boies will co-host the Campbell -...

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The New Yorker Nails the Real Lesson of the Atlanta Testing Scandal

(1) Comments | Posted July 30, 2014 | 10:54 AM

Rachel Aviv's excellent The New Yorker article, "Wrong Answer," hits the proper balance. Aviv rightfully focuses on the conspiracies and the outright cheating in the Atlanta Public Schools. She makes it clear, however, that the real lesson of the scandal is that test-driven accountability is the "Wrong Answer"...

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Why Neo-Plessyism Failed to Improve Chicago Schools

(1) Comments | Posted July 24, 2014 | 9:22 AM

The market-driven school reform movement intentionally uses test, punish, choice, and no-holds-barred competition to sort and separate students and educators. They scoff at the social science that explains the need for trusting relationships and diversity in schools, as they use the stress of tests and competition to supposedly overcome the...

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Why Can't Big Data Take a Bow, and Then Contribute to the Collaborative Commons?

(1) Comments | Posted July 14, 2014 | 4:37 PM

Back in the early 1960s, when our elementary school teachers and principal had a particularly important point to make, they brought us across the courtyard into the junior high auditorium. Needless to say, those events made a huge impression. I have a particularly vivid memory of one part of an...

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Replace Arne Duncan with Secretary of Education Bill Gates

(5) Comments | Posted July 7, 2014 | 11:16 AM

The National Education Association annual conference approved a national campaign for equity and against "Toxic Testing." It seeks to end the "test, blame and punish" system that began under President Bush and which has grown worse under the Obama administration. As outgoing NEA President Dennis Van Roekel says,...

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Is It Time to Escort Bill Gates Out of Our Schools?

(7) Comments | Posted July 1, 2014 | 5:16 PM

American constitutional democracy seeks a balance between the empowerment of individuals and the checks and balances necessary to protect the rights of the community. Bill Gates, like so many other billionaires, does not seem to respect the wisdom of poet Robert Frost. "Good fences make good neighbors."


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Schools Need a Moratorium on Fear

(0) Comments | Posted June 24, 2014 | 11:57 AM

The Gates Foundation recently took a half step forward. It reversed course and endorsed a two-year moratorium on stakes attached to tests during the transition to Common Core.

Regardless of what someone thinks about national standards, it should have always been obvious, No Moratorium, No Common Core....

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One Thing Is Certain: Duncan Must Be Dumped

(1) Comments | Posted June 12, 2014 | 11:07 AM

I'm Old School. I celebrate compromise. I believe our handshakes must be good, contracts must be honored. Especially in the effort to improve schools, the politics of destruction are wrong.

I don't believe in drawing lines in the sand, except in extreme cases. I used to teach my students...

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Paul Tough Explains Why 'Rich Kids Graduate; Poor and Working-Class Kids Don't'

(1) Comments | Posted May 27, 2014 | 1:40 PM

Regardless of his subject, Paul Tough's work is directly relevant to teaching and learning in high-poverty schools. Tough's New York Times Magazine article, "Who Gets to Graduate?," is no exception.

When teaching high school government, I used to mark up articles by Tough and other great journalists. I...

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Why Would Learning Be the Goal of 21st Century Schools?

(0) Comments | Posted May 25, 2014 | 5:38 PM

In his Education Week Commentary, "The Goal of Education Is Becoming," Marc Prensky expresses his frustration regarding the strange preoccupation of schools with the single goal of "learning." The real purpose of education, Prensky observes, "is becoming -- becoming a "good" person and becoming a more capable person...

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Why Did Corporate Reformers Overlook Newark's Children and Families?

(0) Comments | Posted May 19, 2014 | 2:20 PM

As the climax approached in Dale Russakoff's compelling New Yorker article, "Schooled," a Newark mother asked the key question of Superintendent Cami Anderson, "Did you think this through with our children in mind?" The mother then questioned Anderson's motives. After all, corporate school reformers energetically set out to...

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Who Are Our Third Graders Who Are Being Held Back?

(4) Comments | Posted May 13, 2014 | 2:37 PM

Who are the nearly 8,000 Oklahoma 3rd graders who failed Oklahoma's high-stakes reading test? Democratic House Minority Leader Scott Inman notes that 16 percent of the state's elementary students failed the test required for promotion to the 4th grade. In the high-dollar Oklahoma City suburbs, where students go...

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A Dialogue With the Gates Foundation About School Reform

(0) Comments | Posted May 7, 2014 | 9:03 AM

Once again, I would like to thank the American Enterprise Institute's Rick Hess and the Gates Foundation's Steve Cantrell for a dialogue on school reform. Here are my first thoughts on the conversations with Dr. Cantrell, as presented in Hess' Aftermath: My Note to the Gates Foundation.


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'Repeal and Replace' Common Core

(1) Comments | Posted April 21, 2014 | 2:18 PM

The American Enterprise Institute's Rick Hess writes that Common Core critics have raised valid concerns but they've failed to put forward a "notion" of what happens next. I agree that this is a problem. But, the conservative school reformer is on shaky ground when claiming that repeal in...

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The Wisdom of Spoken Word Poet LeDerick Horne

(0) Comments | Posted April 14, 2014 | 7:08 PM

From the policy analysts' perspective, the key lines in LeDerick Horne's "Dare to Dream" are:

Every child gets left behind
when all we focus on are tests

If adults are serious about school improvement and being "our Brothers' Keeper," however, we will wrestle with Horne's overall message....

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How Incompetent Tests Are Terrifying 3rd Graders

(0) Comments | Posted April 13, 2014 | 2:57 PM

The "embarrassing truth" for Tulsa World editor Mike Strain is that he missed two of the six sample questions on the test that Oklahoma 3rd graders must pass to be promoted. The embarrassing truth for society is that we are stressing our children, so some vomit...

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What If We Had a Test and Nobody Took It?

(0) Comments | Posted April 6, 2014 | 4:16 PM

In a rational world, the public school test prep season wouldn't heat up during the winter and the first of April wouldn't signify the beginning of the high-stakes test marathon, and the end of learning during the last quarter of the school year. Before NCLB, testing didn't distort instruction and...

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