Table of Contents

    Cover Theme
  • "Rewriting the Script"

    Together, the following eight articles outline how the standards-tests-punishment machine has subverted public schools from their democratic promise. With action, we can write a future where education isn't a soulless profit machine for the few.
  • Think Less Benchmarks

    A flawed test does more harm than good

    By Amy Gutowski

    "Thanks to the folks at the Discovery Channel, that TV channel with the nifty little logo of the earth spinning, my 8-year-old students have four more opportunities to stop learning and fill in the bubbles."

  • Cover Story
  • Beyond NCLB

    By Monty Neill

    A new era requires new thinking

  • Teaching in Dystopia

    Testing’s stranglehold on education

    By Wayne Au

    "The problem is this: Testing is killing education. Not only is it narrowing the curriculum generally, it promotes bad pedagogy, while making some private companies very rich in the process."

  • Reading First, Libraries Last

    Scripted programs undermine teaching and children's love of books

    By Rachel Cloues

    "In these bleak NCLB days of regimented, scripted reading programs and financially drained school districts, I am deeply worried about the future of elementary school libraries."

  • The Scripted Prescription

    A cure for childhood

    By Peter Campbell, Peter Campbell

    Testing mania reaches the pre-K classroom.  "It saddened me to think that my daughter's first impression of school was based on taking a test and failing it."

  • Bogus Claims About Reading First

    By Stephen Krashen

    When it comes to Reading First, don’t believe the hype

  • Textbook Scripts, Student Lives

    A math teacher goes beyond the standardized curriculum

    By Jana Dean

    "Textbooks, published by corporations that have much to gain by maintaining business as usual, aren't likely to press students to envision a future any different from the past and present."

  • Bonfire of the Disney Princesses

    By Barbara Ehrenreich

    Contrary to their spin machine, Disney’s princesses are far from role models

  • Underfunded Schools Cut Past Tense from Language Programs

    By The Onion

    "A part of American school curricula for more than 200 years, the past tense was deemed by school administrators to be too expensive to keep in primary and secondary education."
  • TV Selfishness and Violence Explode During 'War On Terror

    2nd graders discover new trends in TV since 9/11

    By Margot Pepper

    "Six years into the 'War on Terror,' my 2nd-grade Spanish immersion students found that aggression, selfishness, and insults have exploded on national television."

  • Queer Matters

    Educating educators about Homophobia

    By William DeJean, Anne Rene Elsebree

    "While we were excited to support the opening of the educational closet, unintentionally we became seen as the 'residential experts' for all things queer."

  • Feeding Two Birds With One Hand

    Why educators should demand a national health care plan

    By Bob Peterson

    "I can't imagine any teacher union leader or local school board member who wouldn't welcome a new federal program that would make the issue of healthcare benefits a moot point in bargaining."

  • Building Teacher Solidarity

    Larry Kuehn talks about building ties between teachers in Canada, Mexico, and the United States

    translation missing: en.articles.interviewers Bob Peterson

    “I would really like to see a new movement that gives the kind of hope
    for change that there was when I came into teaching in the late 1960s.”

  • Cover Stories
  • The Power of Words

    By Linda Christensen

    Top-down mandates masquerade as social justice reforms

  • Departments Free
  • Short Stuff
  • Resources
  • Review
  • Letters to the Editors
  • Good Stuff

    By Herb Kohl

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Textbook Scripts, Student Lives

A math teacher goes beyond the standardized curriculum
Textbook Scripts, Student Lives

Three years ago my school district invested in a new, highly structured math program. At the same time, the central office vowed to invest in its teachers. Those taking on the program got the opportunity to co-plan with others teaching the same grade level. Because I love teaching math and like collaborating, I agreed to be part of this centralized bid to support student success.

The school board approved the purchase of the Connected Mathematics 2 series, published by Prentice Hall. The back of the textbooks promised: "Classroom tested, proven effective!" The publishers claimed that the curriculum as packaged would spiral elegantly through three grade levels and leave no gap in anyone's understanding. My heart sank at our first collaboration meeting. The hired consultant took up all the talk time and then handed us teacher's editions and proclaimed that we had nothing to worry about: 70 percent of the content in the books matched state standards, and all we had to do was open the books to page one and follow the pacing guides he'd provided.

During my first year of teaching, I learned what an asset a textbook can be. I taught in a school without books. I wrote every single math, language arts, social studies, and science lesson, and also taught music, physical education, and art. My students moved on to 7th grade, their skills improved, and I required a weeklong solo stay at the beach to recover. (I watched daytime television and did jigsaw puzzles.)

Since then, I've also come to realize that a textbook can provide continuity for students. There's no way, however, that textbook authors can know what happened in my classroom the day before yesterday. Nor can they listen to my students' stories in order to connect academics to the daily and local struggles of their families and community. I want to teach responsively and with hope for a better future for my students. Textbooks, published by corporations that have much to gain by maintaining business as usual, aren't likely to press students to envision a future any different from the past and present. I want students not only to master the concepts and procedures that will be on the next standardized test, but also to be able to use the mathematics they learn to examine how race, environmental issues, and economics affect their lives and their world. If I'm to do that, the textbook can come along for the ride, but I've got to be in the driver's seat.

The students I teach live in Tumwater, Wash. Ours is the smallest of three towns surrounding the state capital, Olympia. Interstate 5 cuts our county in half and connects it to Seattle just an hour's drive to the north when the traffic is not bad. When I first moved here 20 years ago, log trucks rumbled to the bay and plywood mills lined the waterfront. Now, with the easy reach of the deep-water ports of Tacoma and Seattle and the loss of most of our Western Washington big trees, ship-to-shore container trailers and warehouses outnumber log trucks and mills. Most people work for the state, in the service sector, or in the trades. Some commute up or down the freeway. We have few private schools. Almost everyone goes to public school, and families tend to trust teachers with the task of teaching their children to read, write, and do mathematics.

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