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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

Oklahoma PTA Votes to Boycott State Tests

(0) Comments | Posted July 14, 2015 | 4:42 PM

Nate Robson reports in Oklahoma Watch that the Oklahoma Parent Teachers Association (PTA) has voted to boycott all non-federally mandated tests "in an attempt to pressure lawmakers to cut back the number of high-stakes tests students take." The PTA also asked that the state Department of Education not...

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Jonathan Kozol's Death at an Early Age Is Still a Must-Read

(0) Comments | Posted July 5, 2015 | 11:55 AM

Rereading Jonathan Kozol's Death at an Early Age on the 50th anniversary of his firing from the Boston Public School System is to be forced to confront the unrelenting horror of school segregation. Its subtitle is The Destruction of the Hearts and Minds of Negro Children in the...

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Why Not Commit to Win-Win School Improvement?

(0) Comments | Posted May 25, 2015 | 5:29 PM

NPR Marketplace's Amy Scott, in "The Changing Role of Advanced Placement," explains that the number of students in North Country High School, a working class school in the Baltimore suburbs, has more than tripled in the last five years. Scott reports that students who ordinarily would not be...

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Robert Putnam's Our Kids and Reclaiming the American Dream

(0) Comments | Posted May 21, 2015 | 9:31 AM

Robert Putnam, in his seminal synthesis Bowling Alone, recalls the first two thirds of the 20th century, when "a powerful tide bore Americans into ever deeper engagement in the life of their communities." In Our Kids, Putnam describes the 20th-century boom that produced increases in both absolute and...

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How Testing Is Driving More Oklahoma Teachers, and Other Educators Across the Nation, Out of the Classroom

(0) Comments | Posted May 13, 2015 | 3:21 PM

KOSU's Emily Wendler reports that Robyn Venable taught for 31 years. She is one of the wave of Oklahoma teachers who are reluctantly leaving the profession. Ms. Venable loved teaching, but she is retiring because "[t]he testing is just ridiculous, the paper work is growing by leaps and...

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How Can Teachers Confront the Challenges of Baltimore, Ferguson and Urban America?

(0) Comments | Posted May 3, 2015 | 12:11 PM

Now that Baltimore has captured our attention, we must all ask what should be done When Work Disappears. Our urban crisis did not begin with deindustrialization; racism, Jim Crow and de facto segregation were the fundamental causes. With the energy crisis of the 1970s, however, the decline of economic opportunity...

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Should We Hold Arne Duncan and Every Other Reformer Accountable for Every Child They Hurt?

(4) Comments | Posted April 30, 2015 | 9:24 AM

U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan has long refused to face reality. Duncan still ramps up his incredible spin for test, sort, and punish by claiming that it is a civil rights issue. He continues to support the stress of high-stakes testing as the means of overcoming the damage...

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Remembering the Oklahoma City Murrah Building Bombing

(0) Comments | Posted April 20, 2015 | 4:04 PM

On April 19, 1995, Ted Metscher, the president of the Oklahoma Federation of Teachers, was taking his students on a field trip to a downtown hospital. As the casualties arrived from the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building, Metscher vowed to never push away from the negotiating table. Before long,...

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Oklahoma Student Steals the Show During the Teachers' Rally at the State Capitol

(0) Comments | Posted April 7, 2015 | 4:23 PM

The current school reformers' meme is that the backlash against test-driven reform is just a white middle-class movement, a pawn of the teachers' unions. Had true believers in competition-driven reform attended the rally at the Oklahoma State Capitol, they could have listened to students like Kiante Miles. His...

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Why Are We Facing So Many 'Under-the-Radar' Corporate Attacks on Oklahoma Public Schools?

(0) Comments | Posted March 23, 2015 | 4:29 PM

The previous blockbuster discovery for Oklahoma City and Tulsa schools was S.B. 68, the "under-the-radar" bill to authorize cities to compete with school systems in sponsoring charter schools. The Tulsa World's Andrea Eger, in "Change in State Law Sought for Tulsa Public Schools Would Allow Outsourcing of Instruction,"...

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Another Example Why Teaching Must Become a Team Effort

(0) Comments | Posted March 18, 2015 | 4:34 PM

The research of Robert Pianta and others indicates that as few as 25 percent of teachers "provide a level of instructional or emotional support consistent with the production of learning gains." I can believe it, at least in places with the challenges that my old high school faced....

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It's Just the Start of the Winter/Spring Testing Season, and Already...

(0) Comments | Posted March 13, 2015 | 8:27 AM

Since the beginning of bubble-in mania, also known as corporate reform, learning has typically stagnated during the winter test-prep season and halted for the school year with the April testing season. With Common Core, however, children have already taken their seats in front of computer screens and started...

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We Have to Stop Ignoring Adverse Childhood Experiences

(4) Comments | Posted March 5, 2015 | 8:13 AM

NPR's Laura Starecheski, in "Can Family Secrets Make You Sick?," describes the medical science that explains how adverse childhood experiences may lead to chronic adult illnesses, including heart disease and cancer. Her excellent report was the first of two accounts of adverse childhood experiences (ACE) and the way...

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The Discipline Gap At My High School

(0) Comments | Posted February 25, 2015 | 5:11 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 | 4:25 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 | 8:36 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 | 3:23 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 | 4:44 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 | 8:25 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 | 11:52 AM

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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