Thursday, April 2, 2015

D.A. Russell Lifts the Curtain on Problems in Urban High Schools

Think the state of public schools in America is acceptable? Think again.

I've had the honor of helping author D.A. Russell put together a blog tour for the 2nd edition of his non-fiction book, Lifting the Curtain: The Disgrace We Call Urban High School Education. The author is a retired math teacher who felt an overwhelming need to document the very real problems with education that are affecting the children both inside and outside the classroom, by spending three years surveying 760 teachers and students in 19 urban high schools in 15 cities in Massachusetts. You  can learn more about how he became inspired to research and write the book here.

In the first edition of Lifting the Curtain, Russell outlined the issues that are plaguing today's high school educational system, and offered solutions necessary to incite change. After releasing the book, he heard feedback from so many teachers that he decided to put together a 2nd edition so their voices could be heard. It also includes additional topics that weren't in the 1st edition, such as the loss of electives in today's schools.

I learned a lot personally from reading this book. I truly had no idea how difficult the teaching profession has become to navigate. You can't just hope your love and passion for teaching children will carry you through the obstacles he outlines in this book. You'll be stonewalled by PDPs, standardized testing mandates, the pressure to pass children, bullying by school administrators, and much more. (A note: Both of my elementary-age kids are in a charter school in the suburbs, which I can tell is a slightly different animal, but I'm sure it has its own set of issues nonetheless.)

I highlighted like crazy as I was reading Lifting the Curtain, and I've listed some of my favorite passages below:

A significant difficulty in trying to analyze what is happening today in education is that the statistics we really need to see--information about student attitudes, parent expectations, and current classroom methods--simply did not exist until I decided to design and conduct an extensive survey of students and teachers. We have all the date we can handle on teacher salaries, class size, test scores, graduation rates, and racial/social classifications. But the real indicators of the crisis in education remain largely hidden.

We seem to have asked everyone outside of the school building what is wrong with education, but ignored the views of everyone inside the building.

I realized that even people who really care about education could not possibly know what really happened inside our classrooms. How could they? This is one "elephant in the room" that no one outside the school would ever know was trampling everything in its path. The system is amazingly effective in hiding its problems.

The final chapter of the book provides a clear and set of solutions to all the problems Russell outlines in the earlier chapters of the book. But to learn what they are . . . you'll have to check out Lifting the Curtain for yourself!

Lifting the Curtain (2nd Edition):

The 2nd edition of the acclaimed look at today's failed education system -- with dozens of teacher submissions from across the USA and nine new chapters! Both KIRKUS and CLARION praise this important book "...from the unique perspective of a classroom teacher" that shows the real problems that have destroyed the education of our children. Few parents or legislators have any chance of seeing the real state of education in our urban schools. It is a shameful disaster -- unlike anything that we, as parents, experienced just 15-20 years ago. The real problems stay largely unseen, because career DoE bureaucrats and school administration are extremely good at hiding their failed policies behind the curtain of the school entryway. In Lifting the Curtain, Russell provides a detailed look at urban high school education from inside the classroom, including three years of research, and the first ever major survey of what students and teachers think of the educational system. If we want a real solution for our children, then for once we must focus on the real problems, the ones carefully hidden behind the educational curtain.

About the Author:

D. A. Russell has spent the last ten years as a math teacher in one of the urban high schools that is the subject of Lifting the Curtain. He is an honors graduate of Dartmouth College, and has his master’s degree from Simon School, where he was valedictorian of his class. Russell is a decorated Vietnam veteran. He has two children that he treasures, and four grandchildren. His son is a police officer who served in the US Army in Afghanistan, earning a Bronze Star for valor. His daughter is a lawyer and his most passionate fan and honorary literary agent. Russell has a passion for children that dominates his life. He has taught and coached children for decades. Few things are more important in Russell’s view than to cherish the children who are our real treasures in this world. He is a contributor for education matters to the Huffington Post, and runs a personal blog at: LiftingTheCurtainOnEducation.wordpress.comdedicated to letting teacher voices be heard in the real problems with education.

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