toggle me

Youth Mission Process

Many educators agree that if there is are two things at-risk students need it is a good future and their being in control of that future for themselves. The Youth Mission Process is a means to an end…a way for teachers to help students quickly discover their talents and interests and from that develop their purpose in life. Upon this foundation, they can plan their lives and also see the relevance of all that they are learning in school and how it can be meaningful for them. This is a significant activity not to be taken lightly. We suggest that educators do the process FIRST for themselves. It is not just for children.

Let Me Be Your Camera – Understanding AD/HD

Educational video on understanding AD/HD or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. In an entertaining way executive functioning is explained in a way that is easy to understand. It’s not just for kids!

Diane Ravitch – A View on Education Reform (clip from The Daily Show)


The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

Back in Black – Education Crisis (clip from The Daily Show)

Humor is so important to life and to our profession. I have proudly maintained that educators have a great sense of humor. It is a wonderful tension reliever and humor is sometimes necessary in high pressure situations in order to maintain a sense of sanity. Check out the following video by Lewis Black and his special Fall Message.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

Diane Ravitch Defends Public Education

[Speech Transcript]

My Speech to AFT Convention, Detroit, July 28, 2012

Diane Ravitch

Well, my friends and teachers and members of the AFT, I feel I’m coming home.  As Randy mentioned, I was a very dear, personal friend of Al Shanker.  Sandy Feldman was a dear, personal friend; Randy Weingarden is a very dear personal friend. And I want to say all of us owe Randy a tremendous debt.  Of thanks for her tireless, fearless work these past two years.  As the forces of anti-unionism, as the people beating up on teachers got more and more intense, she’s been out there engaging in hand-to hand and face-to-face combat with the most virulent enemies of public education and of teachers – thank you, Randy!

Well, I’m almost willing to bet that I’ve met almost everybody in this room, because in the last couple of years, I have spoken to you in New York City, in Chicago, in Los Angeles, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Boston, Miami, Detroit, New Haven, Providence, Houston, Hartford and many, many other cities and I have a confession to make.  When I go to bed at night, I often wear a nightshirt that says “With Us, Not To Us – Hartford Federation of Teachers”! I thank you, Hartford, for the night shirt.

AFT has been in the forefront of the struggle for public education, for professionalism and for protecting the middle class. But today the beliefs of the American Federation of Teachers are challenged as never before. Public education is under attack by the forces of privatization, by people who make both promises to drain students and funding away from public schools and in some states they are bankrupting public education by draining students and funds away. The teaching profession is under attack by those who blame teachers for conditions beyond their control. They want to take away your professionalism and turn you into “testing technicians”. The public schools are under attack by those who heedlessly slash your budgets, increase class size and reduce essential services for children. The Teachers’ Unions are under attack. You’re under attack for one simple reason – you defend public education. You defend the rights of children. You stand in the way of the budget cutters. You fight privatization. You oppose high-stakes testing.

If you take away teachers’ rights to bargain collectively, they silence your voice. They eliminate the one force that can stop them. That leaves the path clear for them to cut funding; to turn more public schools to non-union charter chains; to introduce for-profit online charter schools; to double class sizes and to implement policies that hurt children and reduce the quality of education. You MUST NOT let them do it!

Today… today you face a political juggernaut that calls itself the “Reform Movement”. They corrupt the plain-face meaning of the word “reform”. The reformers say that the American education is failing; they say it is obsolete. They say that we spend more and that achievement is flat. They want to persuade the public to abandon their public schools. They’re laying the groundwork for privatization. They claim that our schools are in an unprecedented crisis. They say this again and again – it’s a big lie. They are wrong!

There is only one valid longitudinal measure of academic achievement for America’s students as a whole and that is the Federal, National Assessment of Educational Progress –NAPE – and NAPE is a no-stakes test and this is what it shows. The test scores of American students are at their highest point in history. The test scores of white students, of black students, Hispanic students and Asian students are at their highest point ever in 4th grade and in 8th grade, in Math and in Reading. The increases in Reading have been steady and significant and the increases in Math have been very large. The increases have been greatest for black students and Hispanic students. Simple facts, but they ARE facts. They are a matter of record.

We should be thanking our nation’s teachers for this steady improvement but reformers don’t do that. Instead they keep up a steady drumbeat of criticism. They say the teacher experience doesn’t matter. They say that teachers should not be paid more for getting a Master’s Degree. Well I don’t get it. How will American education improve if teachers have less experience and less education?

The reformers believe in evaluating teachers predominantly by student test scores. But test scores are not a valid way to determine which teachers are best and worst. Firing teachers is not a school improvement strategy. Firing teachers creates turmoil and churn an instability which makes the profession itself unattractive to prospective teachers. In city after city, experienced teachers have been laid off and replaced with poorly trained, inexperienced teachers who will be gone in two or three years. This is wrong. Our children need and deserve experienced teachers, and parents want them, too. Our children need stability; so do schools.

The reformers believe in closing schools. Reformers call it “creative destruction”. They’re right; it is destruction. But there’s nothing creative about it. What they don’t understand is that public schools are embedded in communities. They don’t understand that killing a neighborhood school is like putting a knife into the heart of a community. That’s wrong. The reformers take no responsibility for helping schools – that’s too hard, that’s not their job. They don’t know how to help schools so they close them, they open new ones, and hope for the best. They forget public schools are public institutions; they’re not shoe stores! They don’t open and close on a dime. They don’t understand that struggling schools enroll students with the greatest needs. Those schools need help, not firings and closings.

Reformers like to talk about school turnaround – they love the idea of a turnaround. It sounds a little bit like a happy dance around a Maypole, doesn’t it? We’re all going to go out and do a turnaround. The reality is brutal! Half the staff is fired, even if not a one of them has had a negative evaluation. The community loses its school. A new staff is brought in, and five years from now if nothing else changes, that school will close, too. This is madness.

The AFT has stood tall against high stakes testing. High stakes testing is diverting billions of dollars that should be used to reduce class size and improve instruction. Tests should be used for information; tests should be used to diagnose the needs of children, and to help teachers as well as children, not to close schools, not to fire teachers. Because of high stakes testing, our schools are cutting down on the arts, physical education, on history and science and foreign languages and civics. They’re laying off librarians and guidance counselors and social workers and nurses. Some are even eliminating kindergarten. This … is… insane.

The reformers like to say that merit raises will compel teachers to raise test scores, as if you aren’t trying now. What you need to know is that merit pay has been tried again and again and again for a hundred years. It’s never worked. It doesn’t work because it undermines teamwork and collaboration. Merit pay destroys the culture of the school and this week a new study came out. This new study says that if you give teachers extra money at the beginning of the year and threaten to take it away, then the scores will go up. This is called “Loss Aversion”. This is not merit pay; it’s manipulative and it’s sadistic. I bet the scores will go up if you threaten to cut off teachers’ fingers. Or to confiscate their homes – that’ll work, too! Loss aversion insults the dignity of teachers. I wonder… would doctors save more lives if we threatened to take away their pay? Would economists make better predictions about the economy if we threatened to take away and close down their computers?

Reformers say they can judge the quality of teachers by the test scores of their students. This is wrong. No high performing nation in the world is doing this. We’re leading the way in the wrong direction. Value added assessment should never be used to fire teachers or to award bonuses. The National Academy of Education and the American Educational Research Association issued a joint statement earlier this year in which they said Value Added Assessment is inaccurate, unreliable and unstable. The teacher who is ranked effective this year is likely to be ineffective next year and vice versa. If you use a different test, if you use a different model, the ratings will change. Test scores are influenced more by the student’s family than by the child’s teachers. The scores are affected by children’s lives, by their opportunities, by their daily crises, by the vocabulary they hear, by their out-of-school activities – all of which are beyond the teacher’s control. Value Added Assessment, used as it is today, is junk science.

Your job, your reputation, and your career should not depend on such an unreliable or unstable a measure. The single biggest predictor of test scores is family income. The single more reliable predictor of low academic achievement is poverty. The United States leads the advanced nations of the world in child poverty. We ARE number one. Nearly one-quarter of the children in this country grow up in poverty. In other highly developed nations, the child poverty rate is under 5%. This is the shame of our nation. But the reformers say, “Don’t talk about poverty, don’t talk about children who are homeless, don’t talk about children who are sick and hungry, don’t talk about children who have asthma or vision problems or hearing problems or need dental care. Don’t talk about that,” they say. “You’re just making excuses.” Well, I disagree. We must talk about poverty. We must ask why the world’s richest, most powerful nation looks away from the needs of its children and allows to many to be hungry and homeless and sick.

Let’s talk about what schools and children need. They don’t need more testing; they need more education! They need experienced teachers. They need early childhood education. Young mothers need good prenatal care. Children need a full and balanced curriculum. They need one that includes the arts, and history and civics and foreign languages and literature and science and mathematics. They need physical education every day. Children need time to sing and dance and play. They need band and chorus and drama and dance. They need time to read great books and do science experiments. If the reformers really want to fix our schools, they should open a health clinic in every school that doesn’t have one. They would be amazed at the improved academic performance of children who come to school healthy and ready to learn.

What do professionals need? Professionals need to do their work without fear. They need to know their school is not in danger of being closed because of test scores. They need to know that they have the academic freedom to teach about evolution and to assign books that deal with controversial issues. They need to know that they will be evaluated by supervisors who are Master Teachers, not by principals who took a one-year course on how to be a principal! Professionals need to work in a professional atmosphere where they are treated with respect and dignity and where they have the resources and support they need. Policy makers should stop dreaming up schemes they based on carrots and sticks. Carrots and sticks are for donkeys, not professionals! We know what motivates professionals. Professionals work hard because they believe in the mission. Professionals work hard because they want to make a difference in the lives of children. Professionals want to collaborate; they don’t want to compete for prizes.

Now despite all the dark clouds – and there are plenty of them – there are reasons for hope. The United Federation of Teachers fought Mayor Bloomberg’s determination to fire thousands of teachers in 24 schools and they won. They beat the city of New York in binding arbitration and when the city refused to accept the decision of binding arbitration, the union beat the city again before a judge. And here’s the best part – it took a judge seven minutes to make a decision. Congratulations, UFT. Another reason for hope; the Chicago Teachers’ Union scored a stunning victory. The Chicago Teachers’ Union beat Mayor Rahm Emanuel! CTU brought 10,000 members into the streets. Ninety-eight percent of its members voted to authorize a strike. They passed a law that said you can’t strike unless you get 75% of the vote and they said CTU could never do it and they got 98%! The mayor blinked and they won; way to go, CTU. The United Teachers of Los Angeles has resisted pressures to evaluate teachers by invalid measures. Billionaires have launched a lawsuit against UTLA and UTLA has said “no and no and no”. Stay strong, UTLA!

But that’s not all… that’s not all. Earlier this Spring, Florida parents and teachers joined to defeat the Parent Trigger Law. They recognized that the purpose of the Parent Trigger Law was to trick unsuspecting parents into turning more public schools over to the charter chains, especially the for-profit charter chains. I call this the Parent Tricker Law. And then in Louisiana, which has just passed the most right-wing legislation ever passed in America about education, the teachers and school boards have joined to sue the state to block the use of public funds for religious and private schools. In North Carolina, the school boards of the state went to court and stopped the K-12 Corporation from opening a for-profit online charter school that would have taken millions of dollars away from the public schools of that state. And more than half the public school boards in the state of Texas have passed resolutions against high stakes testing. Remember, Texas is where all this craziness started; this is where it’s going to stop.

Other school boards across the nation are following the lead of the Texas school boards. We cannot allow right-wing governors and legislatures to dismantle our schools and to harass our hard-working, dedicated teachers. We cannot allow billionaires, and corporate executives and Wall Street hedge fund managers to privatize and control our public schools.This terrible time will end. There are cycles of history. Bad things don’t last forever. Bad ideas eventually are exposed. And when this era does end, as it will, you will be there to celebrate the collapse of this reign of error. Be proud of your profession; be proud of the work that you do; be proud of your union. Insist on the importance of public education in a democratic society with doors open to all, not by lottery, but by right. Insist upon the dignity of your profession. Join forces with parents who are your greatest allies. Join with principals, with administrators, with school board members. Invite your local civic and business leaders to visit your classrooms and to join you in stopping the Walmartization of public education. In numbers, there is strength. Keep your union strong. You will persist. Your cause is just. And… you… will… win!Thank you.

["Diane Ravitch Defends Public Education." American Federation of Teachers National Convention.  Detroit, MI 28 July 2012. Web. 04 August 2012. <>.]

Teachers Who Succeed with At-Risk Youth

Angels & Warriors! A narrated PowerPoint by Dr. Anthony Dallmann-Jones.

El Sistema: Changing Lives Through Music

Straight from CBS’ 60 Minutes (April 13, 2008): “Through a system of early training and local orchestras, Venezuela has not only provided an uplifting musical experience for its at-risk youth, but also developed an orchestra that is world famous.”

Read more on the CBS site, or view the entire segment below!

A Game of Hope

Kids from two Texas high schools learn how football can impact life beyond the field, thanks to one game. This clip illustrates how educational reform comes from the heart, not the budget!

Read more on the NBC Dallas/Fort Worth site, or view the entire segment below!

View more videos at:


Brooklyn Kids Give Back in South Africa

Brooklyn teens learn about the devastating effects of AIDS in South Africa through participation in “Journey for Change,” a youth empowerment program founded by activist Malaak Compton-Rock (wife of actor/comedian Chris Rock).

Read more on the CNN site, or view the entire segment below!

Olympian Transforms Poor Children’s Lives through Judo

Bronze medalist Flavio Canto helps young people through free judo lessons, with more than 1,000 Rio de Janeiro youths enrolled in his Reaction Institute, teaching them discipline, humility, courage and determination.

Read more on the CNN site, or view the entire segment below!

Pete Carroll’s Winning Coaching Style

Byron Pitts profiles USC football coach Pete Carroll, who, in addition to his success in making the Trojans a football dynasty, is making positive contributions toward lowering gang violence in Los Angeles.

Read more on CBS’ 60 Minutes site, or view the entire segment below!

How Schools Stifle Creativity

Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity.

Read more on the CNN site, or view the entire segment below!

Tough Love in the Kitchen

Wilma Stephenson might be the toughest cookie at Frankford High School in Philadelphia. Just ask the students taking her culinary arts class.

Read more on the CBS Sunday Morning site, or view the entire segment below!

The Harlem Children’s Zone

Geoffrey Canada’s Harlem Children’s Zone has helped put historically low-achieving students in New York on academic par with their grammar-school peers. CNN’s Anderson Cooper reports.

Read more on the 60 Minutes site, or view the entire segment below!

Gustavo Dudamel’s Musical Misson

Now that he is the musical director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Gustavo Dudamel wants to transplant in the U.S. the Venezuelan child orchestra system that changed his life. Bob Simon reports.

Read more on the 60 Minutes site, or view the entire segment below!