Table of Contents

    Cover Story
  • Free Facing Cancer

    Social justice in biology class

    Authored By Amy Lindahl

    A high school science teacher expands her curriculum to include the impact of cancer on her students lives, and the environmental, social, and political realities of who gets sick and who gets treated.

  • Features
  • Free The Danger of a Single Story

    Writing essays about our lives

    Authored By Linda Christensen

    A master teacher responds to the endangerment of our youth with powerful essays and powerful essay writing.

  • Free From Johannesburg to Tucson

    Authored By Bill Bigelow

    The courage, determination, and political insight of Tucson students bring to mind students who battled for liberatory education in South Africa.

  • Immigration, Sports, and Resistance

    An interview with Carlos Borja

    Authored By Gilda L. Ochoa

    After Carlos Borja built an award-winning track team, he was fired for refusing to oust his assistant coach, who was undocumented.

  • Free Fracking

    In the end, we're all downstream

    Authored By Julie Treick O'neill

    A 9th-grade social studies teacher uses Gasland to help her students explore the environmental and social impact of hydraulic extraction of natural gas.

  • King Corn

    Teaching the food crisis

    Authored By Tim Swinehart

    King Corn follows an acre of corn to market and a future as ethanol, food sweeteners, and animal feed. The journey anchors a curriculum on the international food crisis and how much choice we have over what we eat.

  • Taking Teacher Quality Seriously

    A collaborative approach to teacher evaluation

    Authored By Stan Karp

    If test-based evaluation of teachers is unfair and unreliable, whats a better approach? A negotiated union/district plan in Montgomery County, Maryland, offers an alternative.

  • Professional Development

    New terrain for big business?

    Authored By Rachel Gabriel, Jessica N. Lester

    Race to the Top timelines create pressure on winning states to farm out professional development. Is online "canned" PD the wave of the future?

  • Departments Free
  • The New Misogyny

    What it means for teachers and the classrooms

  • Short Stuff
  • Sean Arce Honored—and Fired
    Fight to Defend Public Education in Philly
    Biological Weapons Training in Middle School?
  • Reviews
  • Another Alaska

    Authored By Beverly Slapin
  • Good Stuff
  • Stand for Justice

    Authored By Melissa Bollow Tempel
  • Resources
  • Our picks for books, videos, websites, and other social justice education resources.

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Professional Development

New terrain for big business?
Professional Development


It has become increasingly popular to say that individual teachers are the single most important factor affecting student achievement. This is hastily followed by pointing out the need to weed out the ineffectives. Now this rallying cry is being used by educational consulting firms that position themselves as partners in reform to sell remedial, one-size-fits-all programs for professional development (PD). These canned PD programs contribute to a vicious cycle in which teachers appear to be failing and in perpetual need of more remediation.

One example is from Tennessee, which has a multimillion-dollar contract with one of these firmsBattelle for Kids (BFK), a national, not-for-profit organization that provides strategic counsel and innovative solutions for todays educational improvement challenges. BFK has contracts in a dozen states and several countries, so BFKs contract with Tennessee is an example of a much largerand growingproblem with canned professional development.

As we warn against BFKs solutions, we suggest that now is the time to rethink teacher PD. Systems of inequity in K-12 schools do not start and end with the school day. They are sustained by approaches that position teachers as failing, deficient, and in need of remediation, instead of as willing and capable of collaborating, investigating, and problem-solving. If students deserve a liberating pedagogy that empowers them to think independently and creatively, so do teachers.

PD as Big Business

Tennessee was a first-round winner in the Race to the Top (RTTT) competition. In Tennessee, and in most winning states, the tight timeline and large-scale changes required by RTTT (e.g., longitudinal data systems, revised teacher evaluation and support, and turning around low-performing schools) are beyond the capacity of existing state departments of education and require outside contracts to even begin. This has created a bonanza for educational consultants and service contractors. BFKs contract with Tennessee alone reached into the tens of millions of dollars for the four-year RTTT period.

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