Rethinking Schools

It's Time to Start Teaching Kids About Climate Change

The room was bustling with 28 3rd graders diligently working in pairs and practicing their scripts for the “People’s Climate Summit.” The 8- and 9-year-olds were discussing parts, devising props and costumes, and sounding out Bengali words and scientific terms.

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Little Kids, Big Fears: Talking About North Korea (and Trump) With Eight Year Olds

Recently, an editor from the magazine Rethinking Schools was chaperoning a school field trip when he overheard a 2nd-grade student talking about how he wanted to “nuke the world.” 

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Private Donations to Public Schools: The Latest Way to Undermine Funding Equity

At 24, as a brand-new teacher looking for my first job, I went through the rigmarole of applications, interviews, and job fairs. My first offer came from Lake Oswego, a city I knew only by its reputation for affluence and racial homogeneity (whiteness). I had never visited, even though it was a mere 20-minute drive from Portland, Oregon, where I had lived most of my life. I took the job, a one-year, temporary position. I would be a “foundation teacher”: My salary was paid not out of the regular budget, but by the Lake Oswego Schools Foundation, a separate, private fundraising apparatus.

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The Disturbing Impact of Islamophobia in Our Schools

Like many, I watched in shock as the terror attacks unfolded in Paris last November. ISIS, the same group that had killed 43 innocent people in a double suicide bombing in Lebanon the day before, was now attacking Parisians. I checked Facebook to see if my Parisian friends were safe and noticed two things: First, several friends had messaged me to ask if my friends in Paris were safe (I lived there in 2008). Second, there was a feature enabled called the Facebook Safety Check that lets users mark themselves “safe” after an attack, earthquake, or other disaster.

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Nation’s Largest Teachers Union Endorses Teaching Climate Justice

In May, the Portland, Oregon school board passed the country’s first comprehensive “climate justice” resolution. The school board voted unanimously to “abandon the use of any adopted text material that is found to express doubt about the severity of the climate crisis or its root in human activities,” and called for all schools to teach a “climate justice” curriculum. The Portland resolution said that students in city schools “should develop confidence and passion when it comes to making a positive difference in society, and come to see themselves as activists and leaders for social and environmental justice—especially through seeing the diversity of people around the world who are fighting the root causes of climate change….”

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Education Under Occupation: East Jerusalem

This interview explores the impact of the Israeli occupation on Palestinian children through a focus on the situation in East Jerusalem. When Israel declared itself a state in 1948, it forcibly ejected 750,000 Palestinians, who became refugees. Israel calls this its War of Independence; the Palestinians call it the Nakba—the catastrophe.

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What Does It Mean to Be a Good Teacher? Sometimes, Bucking the System

It was a sunny afternoon in May 2015. Several dozen Albuquerque Public School (APS) teachers gathered around a metal garbage can outside district headquarters just a few minutes before the final school board meeting of the year. As local news cameras rolled, the teachers came forward one by one to burn their end-of-year evaluations. Like many states across the United States, New Mexico has adopted a value-added model of teacher evaluations, basing 50 percent of the overall score on student test scores. Whether rated as “minimally effective” or “exemplary,” the teachers individually and collectively made a powerful case for why their evaluations were arbitrary, unreliable, and deeply damaging to the profession of teaching.

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Writing for a Complex World: A Conversation with Children's Author Jacqueline Woodson

It is March 2015. America is reeling from the killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, John Crawford, and Ezell Ford. As the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter is trending, images of unarmed Black women killed by white shooters begin streaming on Twitter feeds: Aiyana Jones, Renisha McBride, Shereese Francis, Rekia Boyd. Gay marriage is debated; violence against transgendered youth persists.

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Even in Communities Directly Impacted by Climate Change, Schools Remain Silent on the Issue

I teach 6th grade in a small Yup’ik fishing village in southwestern Alaska. Alaska and other arctic regions are at the forefront of experiencing climate change. “The arctic is warming at twice the rate of anywhere else on Earth,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Arctic Report Card. As the climate changes, the traditional ways of subsistence are threatened. Climate change is having a real and direct impact on this community now, yet the school and curriculum continue to be almost completely silent on the issue—and so much else that matters in my students’ lives.

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Can We Rescue the Common Core Standards From the Testing Machine?

I hear this a lot these days: The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are, in and of themselves, fine. If we could just uncouple them from the testing and implementation regimens, all would be well. The standards themselves are an improvement, so let’s build on that opportunity, and not stand in the way just because their ugly testing step-cousin is trying to sneak through the door with them. We just need to get rid of the high-stakes tests.

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