Looking for something to read this summer? Here are 9 books that should be on every public education advocate’s list

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by Marit Vike; image courtesy of Pedro Ribeiro Simões

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Just like most students have to pick from a summer reading list, you too can keep up with reading before the new school year begins. While certainly not required, here is a list of books highly recommended to engage and allow you to remain educated in the fight for better public schools for everyone.

The Prize: Who’s in Charge of America’s Schools

A 2010 cautionary tale for those wanting to throw money at education reform, written by Dale Russakoff, is a must read for educators who really want to look out for their students. His piece catalogues Mark Zuckerberg’s attempt to throw $100 million at the public education system in New Jersey without the local knowledge necessary to meet the community’s needs. On the path to detailing the failures of Zuckerberg’s attempt, Russakoff discusses poverty’s role in school challenges and the need to take a step back to look at the big picture so that you can spot inadequacies and focus on students.

The Reign of Error: The Hoax of Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools

If you are tired of the constant blame game suggesting that public schools are at fault for all systemic problems, here is a book to present a clear cut analysis of this corporate reform efforts and how it holds up under scrutiny. Reign of Error, written by Diane Ravitch, masterfully breaks down the doublespeak and mythology that clouds the corporate education reform movement using concrete research. She even proceeds to offer a poetic recognition of the difficulties that have been perpetuated by inequality and segregation to create a book full of real solutions without neglecting the systemic binds of society.

The Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession

To truly understand the current political climate and the frequent accusations placed upon teachers, it helps to take a step back and see how this whole story unfolded. Dana Goldstein, in her book The Teacher Wars: A history of America’s Most Embattled Profession, provides a window into the origins of the teacher wars and how it has evolved through the lens of politics and media. Refusing to be bogged down entirely by the negativity, Goldstein focuses on innovative ways that prepare young teachers for the job. Goldstein will leave you feeling well prepared to combat accusations and hopefully a little inspired to share your teaching secrets.

The Public School Advantage: Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools

Finally, in a world full of faulty assumptions, there is hardcore data offered by Christopher and Sarah Lubienski in their new book, The Public School Advantage: Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools, that proves their book’s title. While recognizing the advantages of learning in a wealthier peer group or slightly smaller classes found in private schools, their book highlights the many deficits public schools overcome with properly trained teachers. This is a summer must read for any out there ready to disprove those trumpeting their horns for charter schools.

Defending Public Schools: The Nature and Limits of Standards-Based Reform and Assessment 

Volume four of this four-part, non-consecutive series, edited by Sandra Mathison and Wayne Ross, would make a wonderful addition to any public school advocate’s summer plans. Defending Public Schools. Volume IV aims its energy at standards-based reform and particularly shines a light on the effects of No Child Left Behind. Acknowledging that there is always a need to improve schools, this volume holds up public schools as the best means to an education and seeks to educate its readers on the dangers of standards and how, with the right knowledge, teachers and administrators can fight back.

Working for Social Justice Inside and Outside the Classroom

With many politicians and corporate education reformers calling for vouchers and charter schools, it could be easy for educators to tire of the fight, however, Nancye McCrary and Wayne Ross in their book Working for Social Justice Inside and Outside of the Classroom, spell out a hopeful call to arms. This work serves as a collection of tales that will remind you that, yes, many educators and communities are taking action on behalf of social justice and so can you.

School: The Story of American Public Education

While not all of you are history teachers, this is one history book all educators should read. Whether your interests focus on the treatment and outcomes of different minority groups in school, the affects of testing, or the evolution in educational philosophies, School: The Story of American Public Education, edited by education scholars, is the book for you. Sometimes controversial, this book will keep you on your toes with ideas and provocative images.

Educational Courage: Resisting the Ambush of Public Education

Nancy Schniedewind and Mara Sapon-Shevin wrote their book, Educational Courage: Resisting the Ambush of Public Education, to give educators the inspiration to continue and bring real-world perspectives into the classroom. Confronting the idea that education is a marketplace commodity, the authors incorporate countless stories of action on the individual and collective level. This poignant four-part book shares the voices of those who exited the system to take a stand, as well as others who challenged themselves within the system to teach beyond standards and subject boundaries. If you have ever felt alone or weary, this can be your new source of inspiration.

Reaching and Teaching Students in Poverty

Most educators know that the only way to change the inequality in public education is through national advocacy campaigns. But with so many politicians ducking the poverty question, Paul Gorski’s book, Reaching and Teaching Students in Poverty, can come in handy. From personal experience, he discusses the inequities in public education and how the “achievement gap” is really an “opportunity gap.” Gorki’s careful use of terminology to shape the debate, in conjunction with his tips on how to cultivate a learning environment that recognizes and responds to biases, creates a book that would aid educators who are combatting systemic inequality.

Reader Comments

  1. Looking forward in reading some of these books. As a public school teacher, I’m feeling very frustrated and disappointed with DeVos’s views of Public Education vs. Charter Schools. Trying to keep positive! 🙂

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