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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

How Paul Tough's Helping Children Succeed Helped this Teacher Better Understand Our Craft

(0) Comments | Posted July 21, 2016 | 7:46 PM

Paul Tough's Helping Kids Succeed includes many depressing statistics, most of which contribute to an indictment of the contemporary school reform movement. However, Tough cites other evidence which helps explain why reformers were so vehement in demanding transformative change and blowing up the education "status quo." The evidence...

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Nick Kristof and the Failure of Welfare and Education Reform

(0) Comments | Posted July 10, 2016 | 2:06 PM

Back before school reform killed so many of the opportunities to teach meaningful subject matter in a holistic manner, my inner city high school students frequently read Nick Kristof's New York Times columns and his in-depth reports on global problems. Our discussions were so wonderful that I almost...

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Hillary And The Education History That Teachers Can't Forget

(2) Comments | Posted July 8, 2016 | 9:23 AM

When Hillary Clinton was booed at the National Education Association annual convention for a pro-charter statement, teachers weren't attacking the precise wording of her sentence. They were booing the fact that the candidate was repeating the latest corporate reform soundbite. Moreover, the NEA enthusiastically responded to Hillary's bridge-building,...

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A Teacher's Response to the Draft Democratic Party Platform on Education

(0) Comments | Posted June 27, 2016 | 3:38 PM

A draft of the 2016 Democratic Party platform was leaked to Diane Ravitch, who urged her readers to read it and respond with our best ideas. Ravitch notes that the section on education "contains a lot of reformer lingo. Zip codes. Options. Accountability.," and it "brings echoes of...

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Will Corporate School Reformers Rethink the Morality of their "Solutionism?"

(0) Comments | Posted May 30, 2016 | 9:24 AM

Rick Hess might want to reconsider his choice of guest bloggers who take his place while he is out writing books. It will be hard for even the quotable Hess to compete with the posts from the last two weeks of his blogging sabbatical. First, Meira Levinson, Professor...

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Reformers Now Attack Reformers with the Same Venom They Used on Teachers

(0) Comments | Posted May 27, 2016 | 10:48 AM

I've enjoyed the last months where I pushed away from the computer when tempted to blog on the education reform dispute of the day and focused on coalition-building in Oklahoma City, as well as big picture analyses such as Thomas Frank's Listen, Liberal. But the open conflict among...

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How KIPP (and TFA) Went Wrong

(1) Comments | Posted April 20, 2016 | 3:05 PM

The already-underfunded, 90% low-income Oklahoma City Public School System has enough on its plate. Facing $30 million in new reductions, the OKCPS has cut 300 teaching and administrative jobs, with far more cutbacks coming, and its superintendent was abruptly replaced. Perhaps not by coincidence, a mass charterization effort, prominently featuring...

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Is a New Day Coming for Edu-Philanthropy?

(0) Comments | Posted April 18, 2016 | 6:06 PM

My book, A Teacher's Tale, provides a case study in the way that test-driven, competition-driven school reform failed, often taking bad inner city schools and making them much worse. It concludes with a call for replacing the test, sort, reward and punish shortcut with high-quality early...

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Test-Driven Teacher Evaluations Strike Out

(0) Comments | Posted April 17, 2016 | 10:37 AM

The first of the recent strikes against the policy of including test scores to evaluate teachers was delivered by Matthew Kraft of Brown University and Allison Gilmour of Vanderbilt. They studied the evaluation systems in 19 states and discovered that all the test and punish anxiety unleashed by Bill Gates,...

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Three Cheers for the Opt Out Movement

(4) Comments | Posted April 5, 2016 | 11:51 AM

Three cheers for the Opt Out movement! When the history of the collapse of data-driven, competition-driven school improvement is written, the parents and students of the grassroots Opt Out uprising will get much - or most - of the credit for driving a stake through the heart of the testing...

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Will Charters Really Try to Replace Suspensions With Win-Win Alternatives?

(0) Comments | Posted March 18, 2016 | 11:08 AM

A year ago, the Oklahoma City Public School System (OKCPS) was stunned when the size of our racial "discipline gap" was revealed in Are We Closing the School Discipline Gap? by Daniel Losen et. al. of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the University of California, Los...

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Abandon the Mentality that Created "No Excuses" Schools

(0) Comments | Posted March 13, 2016 | 12:02 PM

Chalkbeat's Elizabeth Green is the author of the excellent book, Building a Better Teacher. In the aftermath of the excesses documented at Eva Moskowitz's Success Academy charter chain, Green reviewed both sides of the arguments regarding "No Excuses" schools. Her inventory of the issues is fair. But, I...

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David Denby's Lit Up, Common Core, and the "Soulful Life"

(0) Comments | Posted March 13, 2016 | 11:17 AM

David Denby's Lit Up is the story of one New Yorker movie and literary critic embedded in three schools, witnessing teachers and students as they wrestle with 24 great books. Denby spent a year with sophomores in New York City's innovative Beacon High School, and then he learned...

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This "Bad Teacher" Slander Is Getting Old

(0) Comments | Posted March 9, 2016 | 1:18 PM

When the once-secret mass charterization plan was presented to the Oklahoma City Public School System Board of Education two weeks ago, "tempers flared ... and a standing-room-only crowd cheered and jeered," according to NewsOK's Tim Willert. Following the corporate reform playbook, several charter advocates repeatedly challenged the integrity...

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The Worst Thing About the Brutal 'No Excuses' Success Academy Video

(2) Comments | Posted February 7, 2016 | 11:15 AM

As Vox's Libby Nelson writes, the "undeniably upsetting" video of a Success Academy charter school teacher berating first graders is "the latest exhibit in a long-running debate about Success Academy and similar 'no excuses' charter schools." Nelson is correct in explaining that "it's part of a broader division...

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The NPE Grade Card Gives a Real-World View of State School Policies

(1) Comments | Posted February 2, 2016 | 3:12 PM

The Network for Public Education (NPE) unveiled its evaluation of how well the states and the District of Columbia support public schools. Education scholar Diane Ravitch introduced Valuing Public Education: a 50 State Report Card. It identified 29 measurable factors that guided the ratings of six criteria for...

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Why Education Isn't a 2016 Campaign Issue

(0) Comments | Posted January 22, 2016 | 11:31 AM

The conservative education reformer, Rick Hess, tells the uncomfortable truth that teachers and school patrons must recognize. Politicians often embrace education, but they typically do so in "symbolically potent ways," as opposed to making it a real-world priority. When noting that education is not as important of an issue in...

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Rick Hess Cage-Busting Teacher and Escaping from the School Reform Cage

(1) Comments | Posted December 21, 2015 | 7:55 AM

I've long admired Rick Hess's iconoclasm and his realism. The conservative Hess also writes things that drive me up the wall. His recent defense of District of Columbia Chancellor Kaya Henderson and her kinder, gentler implementation of Michelle Rhee's teacher-caging policies is an example. But I usually enjoy the witty...

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John Merrow Is Back (at Least Part-Time) and His Wisdom Is Just as Timely

(0) Comments | Posted December 14, 2015 | 10:45 AM

John Merrow retired from PBS after 41 years of stellar reporting. But, he's posted a couple of timely pieces demonstrating that Merrow, even as a part-time blogger, offers a full plate of wisdom. I'll start with his second reality-based piece.

As Merrow notes, Washington D.C. Chancellor Kaya Henderson...

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Poetic Justice Builds on the Dignity of Women in a Tulsa Jail

(0) Comments | Posted November 21, 2015 | 4:44 PM

Oklahoma imprisons women at double the national rate. About 80 percent of them are locked up for nonviolent offenses. We don't just incarcerate a higher percentage of women than any other state. We're number one in the entire country.

The time is right for Oklahoma and rest of the nation...

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