Black Lives Matter At School National Week of Action Feb. 4 – 8, 2019

We call on educators to make commitments to teach social justice, anti-racist curriculum and foster student conversations about the Black Lives Matter movement. We also call on educators to grow the Black Lives Matter movement in every school and union.

The National Black Lives Matter Week of Action is one month away. Rethinking Schools editors and staff endorse the week of action Feb. 4-8, 2019, and encourage all educators, students, parents, unions, and community organizations to sign on in support and participate.

Black Lives Matter At School is a national coalition of educators organizing for racial justice in education. Last year, during the 2018 week of action, thousands of educators in more than 20 cities participated to affirm the lives of Black students. Educators taught lessons about structural racism, Black history, and anti-racist movements during the week of action and beyond.

The Black Lives Matter At School demands are simple:

1) End “zero tolerance” discipline, and implement restorative justice
2) Hire more Black teachers
3) Mandate Black history and ethnic studies in K-12 curriculum
4) Fund counselors not cops in schools

Below is a compilation of resources for educators who are committed to making Black lives matter in school. This is NOT white-washed, scripted curriculum. These resources are for educators determined to make classrooms sites of resistance to racism and anti-Blackness.

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The Official Black Lives Matter At School Starter Kit & Lesson Plans

 

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Teaching For Black Lives
Take 25% off your copy with code: GOT4BL25

 

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Rethinking Schools Magazine

 

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Coming Soon: Rethinking Ethnic Studies
Preorder for 20% off your copy + a free sticker with code: RES18L

 

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Free Rethinking Schools Archive Resources & Lesson Plans

 

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Zinn Education Project Week of Action Resources

 

 

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Teaching for Change #BlackLivesMatter Collection

 

Correction: January 7, 2019 A previous version of this post referred to Jazmine Barnes, a 7-year-old girl killed last weekend in what was believed to be a racially motivated attack. On Sunday, police arrested two African American men in connection with her death. Previously, witnesses identified a white man in a red pick up truck as the shooter. We believe these new details warrant a correction and apologize if our earlier post left an incorrect impression.

As activist Shaun King told the New York Times, “We live in a time where somebody could do something like this based purely on hate or race. That it turned out to not be the case, I don’t think changes the devastating conclusion that people had thought something like that was possible.”

You can read more about updates to the case here. 

While the details of Jazmine’s death have changed, our commitment to Black students remains the same.

Rethinking Schools vs. Heartland Institute

Dear Rethinking Schools friends,

Did you see that the Koch brothers-supported Heartland Institute is sending a climate denial textbook to every science teacher in the country? As the Moms Clean Air Force writes, “Every science teacher across America will receive a ‘free’ copy of a book of climate lies.”

The climate crisis is threatening life on Earth, and the fossil fuel industry is so drunk with greed that they continue to poison the curriculum around climate change.

Teachers desperately need resources to teach the truth about climate change and to counter the Heartland Institute’s materials that are flooding into schools.

Donate now so that we can send a copy of A People’s Curriculum for the Earth to every teacher who requests one in the states most threatened by lies spread by the fossil fuel industry.

As Naomi Klein, author of This Changes Everything, says, “A People’s Curriculum for the Earth is an educator’s toolkit for our times.” Help us send it where it’s needed most.

~Bob Peterson, Rethinking Schools Board President

Inside our Summer 2016 Issue

cover_200Articles in this summer issue are glimpses into the classrooms of educators who are teaching for social justice, defying the notion that schooling should be reduced to test preparation and the training of “successful” workers.

Our cover article, “The Problem with Story Problems,” is from teacher educator Anita Bright, who uncovers troubling biases embedded in story problems in math textbooks—from elementary through high school levels. Bright shows how seemingly neutral math problems are anything but. Instead, they often reinforce racial and gender stereotypes, encourage students to imagine themselves as bosses, reduce workers to sources of profit, and promote consumerism and the acquisition of “stuff.” But Bright also describes how teachers are helping their students think critically about these word problems and repurpose them with more humane and ecological values. Math teachers, she writes, can “create a classroom climate where challenging the status quo is accepted, normal, and encouraged.”

Subscribe Today! Save 20% with code: SubsD16

And that’s just the start. Here’s the full table of contents:
Problem with Story Problems
By Anita Bright
A teacher educator critiques the biases of story problems in math textbooks. Teachers around the country offer creative alternatives.
By Michelle Kenney
The tale of a high school English teacher’s journey into—and out of—formulaic writing programs as her school struggles with high-stakes exams.
By Wendy Harris
Parallels in the oppressive history of residential schools for Native American and Deaf children help Deaf students better understand their history and culture.
By Greg Huntington
A teacher writes about his hopes for the person his child will become—and some of the dangers along the way.

 

Politics of Paragraph photo

By Michelle Nicola
Latina/o students explore the impact of African roots on Mexican culture and history.

DEPARTMENTS

LETTER FROM THE EDITORS
Classrooms of Hope and Critique

By the editors of Rethinking Schools
LETTERS
Letters to the Editor
ON THE ROAD
Schools, Land, and Peace in Colombia

By Bob Peterson
SHORT STUFF
FBI Tells Schools to Spy on Students
Election Rhetoric Harms Students
RESOURCES
Our picks for books, videos, websites, and other social justice education resources.

Educating the Gates Foundation

June 26, Rethinking Schools editor Wayne Au spoke at a Seattle rally protesting the role of the Gates Foundation in public education: “Educating the Gates Foundation.” The rally was sponsored by Washington BATS (Bad-Ass Teachers) and Washington Save Our Schools. This is the speech he delivered at the rally. 

Educating the Gates Foundation Rally Remarks

by Wayne AuWayne Au

Good evening. I’m here tonight because I am deeply concerned. I’m concerned that public education is rapidly becoming privatized. I’m concerned that we are all part of a grand experiment, one that is hurting kids and communities. I’m concerned that we are losing democratic, public accountability in public education. I’m concerned with the state of public education reform and the role of Bill Gates and his foundation.

 

You see, right now Gates and his foundation are pushing an entire set of public education reforms like charter schools and vouchers, high-stakes, standardized testing, and using tests for teacher evaluation. We are getting this set of reforms purely because he and his foundation have leveraged vast financial resources to influence and negotiate politics. They are doing this despite all countervailing evidence, and they are doing this with no democratic accountability.

 

And that is just the thing. While Gates and his foundation tinker around with charter schools, high-stakes testing, the Common Core, and the junk science of using tests to evaluate teachers, they avoid the central and most important issue that impacts educational achievement: poverty.

 

But Gates and the Gates Foundation aren’t hearing that. As far as I can see, they are not about actual educational equality and equity. Instead they seem to be about opening up public education to the marketplace.

 

In fact, Gates has said as much. Back in 2009 in the run up to the Common Core, Gates said the following:

When the tests are aligned to the common standards, the curriculum will line up as well—and that will unleash powerful market forces in the service of better teaching. For the first time, there will be a large base of customers eager to buy products that can help every kid learn and every teacher get better.

 

I find this ironic. It seems to me that Gates wants to fix inequality in public education by relying on the same market forces responsible for the crisis in housing, the crisis in medical care, the climate crisis, the massive wealth gap, and the increase in the schools-to-prisons pipeline for youth of color, amongst other national travesties.

 

And all of this has me concerned because in many ways you and I and our children are unwillingly part of a grand experiment in education reform. Back in September of 2013, Gates himself said, “It would be great if our education stuff worked, but that we won’t know for probably a decade.” These folks pushing these reforms do not know if they will work, but they are willing to experiment on an entire generation of children.

 

And this raises another issue that we must contend with: institutionalized racism. We know that the system of public education does not serve low-income black and brown kids like it should. Unfortunately, here in Seattle we are a great example of this given the low achievement and disproportionate discipline rates for students of color. But the question we have to ask ourselves is this: “Have these corporate styled reforms like charter schools and high-stakes testing actually improved the conditions of education for the least served?”

 

On the whole the answer is “no.” Low-income students of color have had their curriculum gutted because of the tests. They are far more likely to experience scripted instruction and rote learning purely to prepare for the tests. They are far more likely to have art, recess, music, physical education, and even science and social studies cut in preparation for the tests.

 

And despite their never ending promises, the charter school sector has continued to find ways to keep out English Language Learners and students with disabilities, expel or counsel away low performing kids of color, maintain intense racial segregation, and NOT, I repeat, NOT out perform regular public schools in terms of overall achievement.

 

Given that both failure on high-stakes tests as well as expulsion and suspension from school greatly increase the chances of students to get caught up in the criminal justice system, I would argue that these reforms contribute directly to the racism of the schools-to-prisons pipeline.

 

In this way low-income black and brown students of color are the ultimate guinea pigs for the Gates experiment in public education reform, and I think it is ethically, morally, and politically reprehensible that wealthy elites feel so free to experiment on our kids.

 

This is especially true given that Gates’ own children have not had to face any of his own reforms. In fact, I want all of our children in public schools to have what Gates’ children have had.

 

Take Lakeside Schools, where his kids have attended. They had small class sizes, a large, well endowed library, top notch facilities, and a rich curriculum. These things seem to work for children of the elite. Don’t the rest of our children deserve them as well?

 

Lakeside students also don’t have to take 5, 6, 7, or 8 high-stakes, standardized tests a year. As my dear friend and education activist Jesse Hagopian says, we could say the boycott of high-stakes testing in Seattle really started at schools like Lakeside because the rich have rejected having their children take these tests for years: They just sent them to elite private schools.

 

I also want all of our kids to have some other things those Lakeside students have, like food security, a stable home to live in, jobs for their parents that pay livable wages, access to free or affordable healthcare…You know, all the basic human rights that the rich can afford and, increasingly, the poor cannot.

 

If Gates and the Gates Foundation really want to start increasing the achievement of low income and students of color, and if they are unwilling to have the real conversation about growing race and class inequality in this country, then I’ve got a suggestion: Fund a nationwide campaign for the implementation of Ethnic Studies. We’ve got research that shows that Ethnic Studies, like the program that was banned by conservatives in Tucson, Arizona, contributed greatly to positive educational outcomes and college attainment of students of color there. In that program students learned about their cultural histories and identities, and they learned about institutional racism in this country.

 

But I doubt we’ll see any Gates-funded campaign for Ethnic Studies because it doesn’t have the right kind of politics.

 

Speaking of politics, as the Seattle Times reported, Bill Gates recently said that, “These are not political things,” and that he’s merely supporting research about making education more effective. I’d like to close my speech tonight by pointing out how this statement rings hollow in so many ways.

 

For instance, we have ample research on the critical impact of smaller class sizes, the importance of culturally relevant practices, the fallacy of using test scores to evaluate teachers, the increased inequity produced by charter schools, the harmful effects of high-stakes, standardized testing, and the central role poverty plays in educational achievement. But Gates and his foundation don’t care to listen to any of this. They have their own agenda for public education, and they are wielding their mighty resources to advance this agenda with disregard of sound critiques or public deliberation.

 

Gates’ statement also rings hollow because these are all political things. Poverty is a political thing. Institutionalized racism is a political thing. High-stakes testing is a political thing. Charter school policy is a political thing. Private school vouchers is a political thing. All curriculum, especially the Common Core, is a political thing. Teachers’ rights to due process and protections provided by union contracts are political things.

 

When you attack public education and try to reshape it along the lines of private industry, and you do it with no democratic accountability to the public, THAT is a political thing. Every aspect of education policy is a political thing, and it is ignorant of Gates to think or say otherwise.

 

But that is why I am standing here tonight. That is why you are here as well. We all know better. We all know that public education is a political thing, and we all know that public education is a political thing worth fighting for. We can win this fight. Together we can remake our schools in ways that actually meet the social, cultural, and academic needs of ALL of our children. We can resist the privatizers like Gates. We can put the Public back into public education.

 

Thank you.

Two Rethinking Schools Books Earn Awards

We have wonderful news. Two of our recent books earned Honor Awards from Skipping Stones magazine–a journal that has been celebrating exceptional multicultural children’s literature and professional education resources for over 26 years.

REEcoverRethinking Elementary Education and Teaching About the Wars earned the awards. Luckily, we have a special promotion going on right now so you can get these books and any others from our collection now with our 20% end-of-school-year discount.  Use code GRADE14 at checkout.

Also a winner of the Independent Book Publishers Association Ben Franklin Gold Award, Rethinking Elementary Education is a collection of articles by teachers, parents, and activists about elementary school life and learning. The book covers classroom community, media literacy, language arts, science, social studies and other topics through a social justice lens.

Jonathan Kozol, author of Savage Inequalities, described Rethinking Elementary Education this way: “Another glorious package of encouragement and challenge from the most enlightened and most fervent group of teachers and their allies in our nation. Indispensable for elementary teachers–and a feisty provocation to all educators to stand up and fight for our beliefs.”

Teaching About the WarTeaching About the Wars, edited by Jody Sokolower, focuses on U.S. military engagement in Afghanistan and the Middle East. Although the United States has been at war continuously since just after 9/11, the role of the U.S. military around the world is rarely discussed in classrooms. This collection provides lessons and activities for teachers to engage students in critical thinking about this critical issue.

We’re so grateful for everyone who contributed to both of these books and to Skipping Stones for recognizing our work and passion for multicultural social justice education.

And we’re grateful to you for your continued support of our work.

If you want to see for yourself why these books earned accolades, use code GRADE14 for a 20% discount off these or any of the books in our collection.

What does it take to publish a book?

by Jody Sokolower

RSEditors_Jan2012_146We’re in the middle of a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to publish Rethinking Sexism, Gender, and Sexuality. Our goal is $20,000 and we still have about $6,000 to go.

Early in the campaign, someone wrote to ask us why we need so much money just to publish a book. We thought you might be interested in where that $20,000 will go.

The overwhelming majority of the work on Rethinking Sexism, Gender, and Sexuality is volunteer. I am paid staff at Rethinking Schools, but the other four amazing members of our editorial committee—Kim Cosier, Rachel Harper, Jeff Sapp, and Melissa Bollow Tempel—are volunteering their time, wisdom, and energy. None of the more than 50 teachers, parents, students, and teacher educators with articles in the book are being paid. They have written, revised, and revised again out of a commitment to social justice education and to bringing these issues into classrooms everywhere.

So where is all that money going? We have a wonderful art director, Sabiha Basrai, at Design Action in Oakland. She is committed to creating the most beautiful book possible for the least amount of money, but she still needs to be paid. We also have to pay for aspects of production that you may not have thought about—I’ve been an editor for a long time, but I didn’t realize we were going to need money for indexing until a few months ago! Here’s our production budget, which doesn’t even include expenses involved with marketing the book, paying for inventory, etc.

$8,000:  Production editor

$6,800:  Design and layout

$3,500:  Artwork and photos

$1,500:  Indexing

$1,000:  Proofreading

$7,000: Initial print run (3,000 copies of the book)

$500:  Misc

Total:  $28,300

Of course, the real value of Rethinking Sexism, Gender, and Sexuality can’t be put into dollars and cents. It’s the thought-provoking and inspiring work of everyone who has contributed an article, editorial time, or artwork to this extraordinary book.

As we near the last days of the campaign, we appreciate anything you can do to help us spread the word and make our goal.

Thanks for your support.

 

Links we liked this week: April 20, 2014

We like sharing interesting news, insightful opinions, activist victories, and actionable curriculum via Facebook, Twitter, and of course through our magazine and books.

We thought why not collect some of our favorites ideas, opinions, and stories in one place each week. It gives you a peek at what piques our interest, and gives us the opportunity to revisit the news that’s shaping our profession and the public debate about education.

Let us know what you think of this idea in the comments, and feel free to add to our list there as well.

abolition-earthday-posters4An Earth Day Message: Take Heart from the Abolition Movement, by Bill Bigelow. April 22 was Earth Day, and Rethinking Schools curriculum editor (and resident environmental justice expert), penned this column for our Zinn Education Project’s “If We Knew Our History” series.

DeColores: The Raza Experience in Books for Children, maintained by Rethinking Schools contributor Beverly Slapin. A blog filled with astute reviews and essays. Teachers and parents — and anyone who reads — will find the blog to be a valuable resource.

Protecting Classrooms from Corporate Takeover: What Families Can Learn from Teachers’ Unions, by Amy B. Dean, via Yes! Magazine. The Milwaukee Teachers’ Union, led by its president and one of the founding editors of Rethinking Schools Bob Peterson, is prominently featured in this well done article.

Teachers Are Losing Their Jobs, But Teach for America’s Expanding: What’s Wrong With That?, by Alexandra Hootnick, via The Nation. The Nation has reliably good coverage on big education issues. Don’t miss the special focus on Teach for America in the spring issue of Rethinking Schools, too.

Jim Crow in the Classroom: New Report Finds Segregation Lives on in U.S. Schools, via Democracy Now! This segment features an interview with journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, whose multi-part investigation “Segregation Now: Investigating America’s Racial Divide” can be found at ProPublica.

Americans Who Tell the Truth: Dave Zirin portrait, by Robert Shetterly. Our favorite sports journalist Dave Zirin was deservedly honored by Americans Who Tell the Truth with one of Robert Shetterly’s incredible portraits. Read about his accomplishments and view the portrait at this link.

Duncan Withdraws NCLB Waiver from Washington State, via the inimitable Diane Ravitch. This news caused quite a stir when we posted it on our Facebook page on Thursday, and rightly so. Ravitch provides a good explanation of what this means and its implications for public schools nationwide. The corporate-led school privatization movement marches on…

Pearson Pays $7.7 Million in Common Core Settlement, by Lindsey Layton via The Washington Post. The entire Common Core enterprise reeks of corruption. Here’s another piece of evidence.

Scholastic and Big Coal Team Up to Bamboozle 4th Graders, by Joan Brunwasser, via OpEdNews.com. An interview with our curriculum editor Bill Bigelow about the successful campaign Rethinking Schools initiated to get Scholastic, Inc. to stop pushing pro-coal propaganda to 4th graders.

Minneapolis Replaces Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day, by the staff of the Indian Country Today Media Network. Minneapolis is starting a movement. Let’s join them! (Also join the, um. . . . spirited conversation at our Facebook page about this bit of news.)