With autumn just around the corner, it’s about time to think about heading back into the classroom. Whether you’re an educator, activist, administrator, parent, or socially-engaged citizen, here are five progressive education titles to put on your personal syllabus this fall:
Recounting the triumphs and setbacks he’s encountered in implementing the pioneering Citizen Schools program, Eric Schwarz shows in The Opportunity Equation that some of the nation’s lowest-performing schools in its lowest-income cities can, with help, provide their students with many of the same experiences wealthy communities afford to their children. At a time when many stakeholders in the education debates are looking for new, silver-bullet shortcuts to educational excellence, Schwarz shows that the best solution is human-centered, rooted in the American tradition of citizen voluntarism, and, most important, achievable. We can provide quality education for all students and close the opportunity gap in this country—and we can do it together. Available September 2, 2014. Click here for information about The Opportunity Equation book tour.
Arguing that our schools are currently in the grip of a “cult of rigor”—a confusion of harder with better that threatens to banish both joy and meaningful intellectual inquiry from our classrooms—Alfie Kohn’s Feel-Bad Education is a stirring call to rethink our priorities and reconsider our practices. Whether Kohn is clearing up misconceptions about progressive education or explaining why incentives for healthier living are bound to backfire, debunking the idea that education reform should be driven by concerns about economic competitiveness or putting “Supernanny” in her place, his readers will understand why the Washington Post has said that “teachers and parents who encounter Kohn and his thoughts come away transfixed, ready to change their schools.”
Lost amid the debate over educational policies are the stories of the educators, parents, and students who are most affected by legislation such as No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. Educational Courage—a collection of empowering stories edited by veteran educators Nancy Schniedewind and Mara Sapon-Shevin—brings together the voices of teachers, parents, and educational activists who are resisting market-driven initiatives such as high-stakes testing, charter schools, mayoral control, and merit pay. The diverse narrators who write in this volume confront the educational agendas that undermine teachers’ judgment and knowledge, ignore the different backgrounds of students and parents, and debase the learning process. Yet these educators, parents, and activists also offer stories of resistance and hope as they fight to uphold the ideals of democratic public education.
What would happen if a school eliminated the “tracks” that rank students based on their perceived intellectual abilities? Would low-achieving students fall behind and become frustrated? Would their higher-achieving peers suffer from a “watered-down” curriculum? Or is tracking itself the problem? A growing body of research shows that tracking doesn’t increase learning for the minority and low-income students who are overrepresented in low-track classrooms. This de facto segregation has led many civil rights advocates to argue that tracking is turning back the clock on equal education. On the Same Track draws on Carol Corbett Burris’s own experience as a New York high school principal, on the experiences of other schools, and on the latest research to make an impassioned case for detracking.
With Place, Not Race, law professor and civil rights activist Sheryll Cashin reimagines affirmative action and champions place-based policies, arguing that college applicants who have thrived despite exposure to neighborhood or school poverty are deserving of special consideration. Those blessed to have come of age in poverty-free havens are not. Sixty years since the historic decision, we’re undoubtedly far from meeting the promise of Brown v. Board of Education, but Cashin offers a new framework for true inclusion for the millions of children who live separate and unequal lives. A call for action toward the long overdue promise of equality, Place, Not Race persuasively shows how the social costs of racial preferences actually outweigh any of the marginal benefits when effective race-neutral alternatives are available.