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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

The Discipline Gap At My High School

(0) Comments | Posted February 25, 2015 | 6:11 PM

I strongly support the work of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies to close the racial "discipline gap." I want to be clear in my agreement with "Are We Closing the School Discipline Gap?" by Daniel Losen et. al.

Part of my support, however, could be described...

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Anya Kamenetz's 'The Test' Points the Way to the Future

(1) Comments | Posted February 25, 2015 | 5:25 PM

Anya Kamenetz's The Test will stand on its own as an excellent work of scholarship. It will not be research findings, philanthropists, the USDOE, or even teachers who will determine the role of testing in the next generation of public schools. It will be the students and the parents of...

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Yong Zhao Explains America's 'Faustian Bargain'

(0) Comments | Posted February 19, 2015 | 9:36 AM

In one sense, I can understand why some Americans have flirted with the "Faustian bargain" that is high-stakes testing. As Yong Zhao explains in Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon, the authoritarianism of a single, test-driven ladder to economic success has an enduring power. But I don't understand reformers...

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Learning From Failure

(1) Comments | Posted February 9, 2015 | 4:23 PM

Most innovations fail. And like NPR Planet Money's Adam Davidson explains, "life span of innovations has never shorter, meaning that failure happens more quickly." So it is not too soon to start to contemplate of the obituaries of the contemporary school reform movement.

Professor Emeritus Larry...

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Why Rescue the Latest Failed 'Chief for Change'?

(8) Comments | Posted January 31, 2015 | 5:44 PM

Why would Tulsa even think of hiring embattled Chief for Change Deborah Gist as superintendent? Oklahoma voters recently rejected Chief for Change Janet Barresi and her devotion to test, sort and punish. Students, parents, teachers, and administrators have risen up in a grassroots rebellion against the bubble-in mania...

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Why Won't Arne Duncan and Other True Believers in High-Stakes Testing Face Reality?

(5) Comments | Posted January 28, 2015 | 9:25 AM

Democrats who support test-driven reform are showcasing a kinder, gentler soundbite to defend the indefensible. No longer do they take the "Sister Soldja" position, showing how macho they are by beating up on two of their most loyal constituencies - teachers and unions. Now, the rationale for attaching...

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The Future of Test-Driven Accountability Is Bleak

(0) Comments | Posted January 12, 2015 | 12:52 PM

The best single prediction for the top education stories of 2015 was made by the conservative Rick Hess who anticipates:

Proposals for "Smart" Policy Disappoint, Yielding Calls for "Smarter" Policy. We will hear a lot of anguished, thoughtful calls for "smart" regulation and policy. When those regulations and...
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Wrestling With 'Justice While Black'

(2) Comments | Posted January 5, 2015 | 4:59 PM

Perhaps the best thing about Justice While Black, by Robbin Shipp and Nick Chiles, is the way that it puts individual faces on the persons, disproportionately African-American males, who are systematically abused by the criminal justice system. Shipp draws on her experience as a criminal defense attorney in...

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Learning from the Cognitive Science of Make It Stick

(0) Comments | Posted December 21, 2014 | 3:12 PM

It was a canny move by Peter Brown, Henry Roediger and Mark McDaniel to intersperse warnings against "confirmation bias" throughout their excellent Make It Stick. Although we educators in the progressive tradition(s) will stress their evidence that explains the failure of test-driven reform, true believers in output-driven reform...

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'You Just Heard It!' We Must All Join the Great Truth-Telling Conversation

(1) Comments | Posted December 15, 2014 | 10:39 AM

We often hear that public education suffers from a "culture of compliance." I often add that the refusal of education leaders to speak obvious truths is due to the "blame game," which has created a culture of powerlessness. What I mean, but don't dare articulate, is that education across much...

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Can Schools Foster the Conversations Necessary to Create Justice?

(0) Comments | Posted December 4, 2014 | 3:45 PM

In 2000, Pat McGuigan, the conservative editor of the Daily Oklahoman, visited our high school government class. This was an exciting time when a bipartisan school improvement coalition, MAPS for KIDS, was sponsoring an ongoing conversation between the full range of community stakeholders and our diverse student bodies.

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Why Tulsa Teachers Risk Their Jobs to Opt Out of the Testing Madness

(0) Comments | Posted November 25, 2014 | 8:27 AM

Some non-educators are taken aback by the series of reports on the way that testing eats up incredible amounts of class time -- up to 80 days a year. Skeptics might believe that teachers across the nation are suffering from a mass hallucination, or maybe they don't understand the complex...

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The Wisdom of Kristof's and WuDunn's 'A Path Appears'

(0) Comments | Posted November 17, 2014 | 7:38 PM

A Path Appears, by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, begins with a 1921 passage by Chinese essayist Lu Xun:

Hope is like a path in the countryside. Originally, there is nothing -- but as people walk this way again and again, a path appears.

In other words, hope...

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Lessons of the Democrats' Midterm Fall

(3) Comments | Posted November 5, 2014 | 6:21 PM

Teachers have learned a lesson the hard way, and it should not be lost on the Democratic Party, the Obama administration, or Hillary Clinton. We now understand how hard it is to do our job, and serve our students with one hand, as we fend off test-driven reform with the...

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Making School Reform a True Civil Rights Movement

(1) Comments | Posted November 2, 2014 | 1:09 PM

Temporarily lost in the edu-politics of the mid-term elections is the importance the letter sent to President Barack Obama and congressional leaders by a coalition of civil rights groups. The coalition wrote, "We must shift towards accountability strategies that promote equity and strengthen, rather than weaken,...

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Shannon Hernandez and Breaking the Silence

(1) Comments | Posted October 28, 2014 | 10:14 AM

Shannon Hernandez was a superb teacher. She remains a "big dreamer, an out-of-the-box thinker, a change agent" and, above all, she remains true to the now heretical principle that our job is to "teach students, not subjects." But, like so many other teachers, Hernandez found that test-driven reform was "sucking...

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Will Bill Gates Read Anthony Cody's The Educator and the Oligarch?

(5) Comments | Posted October 24, 2014 | 10:12 AM

I should start my review of Anthony Cody's The Educator and the Oligarch by acknowledging that I blog for Anthony and we've had many, often extended, editorial discussions. There has been a clear pattern with our discussions/debates. My first thoughts on corporate reform have been consistently more moderate than Anthony's....

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Why Do Reformers Misrepresent the Power of Teachers' Expectations?

(2) Comments | Posted October 20, 2014 | 5:12 PM

Liberal school reformers, such as Russyln Ali, have long argued that if even one "high-flying" high-poverty school can overcome poverty, then teachers in schools that aren't selective, and who serve neighborhoods with intense concentrations of generational poverty, could do the same. Ali claimed, "The biggest challenge these educators...

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Reflections on the Teaching Coach Who Shadowed Students

(0) Comments | Posted October 15, 2014 | 10:13 AM

For 20 years, I urged colleagues to imagine themselves in the shoes of the students as they go through the school day. I also pushed for more parents shadowing their children at school. Then I read "A Veteran Teacher Turned Coach Shadows 2 Students for 2 Days --...

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Dana Goldstein Explains How Teachers Became America's Most Embattled Profession

(0) Comments | Posted September 24, 2014 | 10:29 AM

As promised, Dana Goldstein's thoroughly researched The Teacher Wars is more analytic than opinionated. Goldstein's objective narrative of assaults on the teaching profession lets the historical record take the place of commentary.

However, Goldstein's subtitle, "A History of America's Most Embattled Profession," recalls Babe Ruth's alleged prediction of...

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