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Lifting the Curtain: The Disgrace We Call Urban High School Education

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Both KIRKUS and CLARION reviews laud what they both see as a passionate view of the problems in education from the unique perspective of a classroom teacher. (Please see: LiftingTheCurtain.com for excerpts, survey results, and illustrations.) The quality of education in today's urban high schools is a disgrace, and both our high school administrators and career bureaucrats Both KIRKUS and CLARION reviews laud what they both see as a passionate view of the problems in education from the unique perspective of a classroom teacher. (Please see: LiftingTheCurtain.com for excerpts, survey results, and illustrations.) The quality of education in today's urban high schools is a disgrace, and both our high school administrators and career bureaucrats in Department of Education are remarkably effective at hiding the problems behind the curtain of the school entryway. Attending an actual class would shock most parents, revealing schools that are unlike anything that we experienced just 15-20 years ago. We might know about a couple bad teachers, or hear the incessant cries for more funding, or notice the building needs major repairs. But we can never get behind the curtain to see the real, systemic causes of widespread failures in educating our children. The scope of the problem is nationwide. Both ACT and SAT testing services reported that less than half of 2013 high school graduates were ready for college. And that terrible figure does not include all those high school graduates who did not even take the test to apply for college. Everyone claims to have all the "answers." Legislators pass new laws with wonderful goals, but with unintended consequences that are destroying our children's education. A growing minority of urban parents expects teachers to take sole responsibility for raising and motivating their children. Unqualified career bureaucrats in Department of Education cubicles, far from any classroom experience or understanding, pass a host of yearly mandates that hurt our children. Unqualified principals do the minimum to get by, while taking care of their cronies. But no one, except those teachers who still fight to educate our children despite the system, tries to fix the real systemic problems. Russell brings a decade of teaching in urban schools, along with his passion for children, to lift that curtain for all of us. An off-hand joke by a Boston talk show host (..". to fix education, just shoot all the teachers...") was the catalyst for Russell to realize that the best and brightest, those who could most help us fix education, had no chance to know what is really happening in our schools, and how bad it actually is. We have asked everyone outside of the school building what is wrong with education, but ignore the views of everyone inside the building! Those who profit from the current failures in education protect their positions by vigorously attacking any whistleblower who dares reveal how badly education is failing our children. With Lifting the Curtain, Russell draws the ire of career bureaucrats, cronyistic principals, the "clique" who dominates within-school decisions, a minority of urban parents, and the five percent of teachers who are not worthy of their positions. But what Russell says is embraced just as passionately by all the good teachers and involved parents, and by a remarkably large majority of children that still wants the chance to learn and succeed.


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Both KIRKUS and CLARION reviews laud what they both see as a passionate view of the problems in education from the unique perspective of a classroom teacher. (Please see: LiftingTheCurtain.com for excerpts, survey results, and illustrations.) The quality of education in today's urban high schools is a disgrace, and both our high school administrators and career bureaucrats Both KIRKUS and CLARION reviews laud what they both see as a passionate view of the problems in education from the unique perspective of a classroom teacher. (Please see: LiftingTheCurtain.com for excerpts, survey results, and illustrations.) The quality of education in today's urban high schools is a disgrace, and both our high school administrators and career bureaucrats in Department of Education are remarkably effective at hiding the problems behind the curtain of the school entryway. Attending an actual class would shock most parents, revealing schools that are unlike anything that we experienced just 15-20 years ago. We might know about a couple bad teachers, or hear the incessant cries for more funding, or notice the building needs major repairs. But we can never get behind the curtain to see the real, systemic causes of widespread failures in educating our children. The scope of the problem is nationwide. Both ACT and SAT testing services reported that less than half of 2013 high school graduates were ready for college. And that terrible figure does not include all those high school graduates who did not even take the test to apply for college. Everyone claims to have all the "answers." Legislators pass new laws with wonderful goals, but with unintended consequences that are destroying our children's education. A growing minority of urban parents expects teachers to take sole responsibility for raising and motivating their children. Unqualified career bureaucrats in Department of Education cubicles, far from any classroom experience or understanding, pass a host of yearly mandates that hurt our children. Unqualified principals do the minimum to get by, while taking care of their cronies. But no one, except those teachers who still fight to educate our children despite the system, tries to fix the real systemic problems. Russell brings a decade of teaching in urban schools, along with his passion for children, to lift that curtain for all of us. An off-hand joke by a Boston talk show host (..". to fix education, just shoot all the teachers...") was the catalyst for Russell to realize that the best and brightest, those who could most help us fix education, had no chance to know what is really happening in our schools, and how bad it actually is. We have asked everyone outside of the school building what is wrong with education, but ignore the views of everyone inside the building! Those who profit from the current failures in education protect their positions by vigorously attacking any whistleblower who dares reveal how badly education is failing our children. With Lifting the Curtain, Russell draws the ire of career bureaucrats, cronyistic principals, the "clique" who dominates within-school decisions, a minority of urban parents, and the five percent of teachers who are not worthy of their positions. But what Russell says is embraced just as passionately by all the good teachers and involved parents, and by a remarkably large majority of children that still wants the chance to learn and succeed.

32 review for Lifting the Curtain: The Disgrace We Call Urban High School Education

  1. 4 out of 5

    Margo Dill

    It's probably no surprise to most readers, who pick up Lifting the Curtain: The Disgrace We Call Urban High School Education by D. A. Russell, that there are problems in our cities' high schools. Media likes to blame the teachers and administrators, and often legislators create laws to try and "fix" the problem. What's refreshing about Lifting the Curtain is Mr. Russell is an urban high school teacher. He is in the middle of the problem, and he has researched it. Even better, he's not just a whi It's probably no surprise to most readers, who pick up Lifting the Curtain: The Disgrace We Call Urban High School Education by D. A. Russell, that there are problems in our cities' high schools. Media likes to blame the teachers and administrators, and often legislators create laws to try and "fix" the problem. What's refreshing about Lifting the Curtain is Mr. Russell is an urban high school teacher. He is in the middle of the problem, and he has researched it. Even better, he's not just a whistle blower. He's created several workable and practical solutions to tackle the issues that plague our high schools. In the first 2/3 of the book, Russell explains why he writes about this issue as well as a survey he created for urban educators and high school students (and the results) and then eight systemic failures in the schools. The last third of the book is the solutions--there's not just one as he points out. It's not JUST the teachers, or ONLY parents, or THE administrators. The pages are adorned with illustrations from a tenth grade student, Jessica Fitzpatrick, who took Russell's stick figures and created cartoon-like drawings to capture his points. So what are some of these systemic failures that Russell sees from his own experiences and from studying the surveys? Here's just a sampling of his list: unqualified administrators, rampant cronyism, inclusion classes, special education hijacked by parents, burned out teachers, and teacher unions. Although you may or may not agree with each of his points, his passion for getting to the root of the problem and helping teenagers is all over these pages. One of his main points is right now, this is what is going on in our schools, and we are failing our kids. Shouldn't we shake things up a bit, change things around, to reach more teens and bring them success? This book makes me want to shout from the mountaintop... Yes! His solutions may also be controversial to some, but these are ideas you will see on blogs and in the news. Again, he is saying, "We need to do this. We need to change. Here's how we start." What I love is that he's not just pointing out the problem, and he's not targeting any one group as being wrong. His solutions range from fixing trust and integrity issues within the walls of the schools to allowing children to receive failing grades so they know they need to try harder, from focused professional development plans for teachers to make-up days for absences or truancy and more. If you believe in education and want to help urban students succeed, Lifting the Curtain is a book for you to check out. All educators would benefit from reading it, regardless of where or whom they teach. Mr. Russell is brave to tackle this emotional and tough topic, and he does so with grace and passion.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Robyn

    I was completely frustrated with the quality of education I received back in the 70s and 80s. I had hoped that as time went on our educational system would improve, but it seems it has declined. I’ve met graduates who can’t write a simple letter; I know young people entering the workforce who can’t follow instructions. What’s happened? Turns out, a lot has happened! In “Lifting the Curtain” Russell explains all the nasty bureaucracy, the new rules designed to push students through (whether they’ I was completely frustrated with the quality of education I received back in the 70s and 80s. I had hoped that as time went on our educational system would improve, but it seems it has declined. I’ve met graduates who can’t write a simple letter; I know young people entering the workforce who can’t follow instructions. What’s happened? Turns out, a lot has happened! In “Lifting the Curtain” Russell explains all the nasty bureaucracy, the new rules designed to push students through (whether they’re ready or not), and the ties binding the hands of teachers who want to do better. Thankfully, after revealing all the darkness he offers us a solution. Anyone who cares about a child should educate themselves about what is really happening in our schools. Granted, this book is not written like a novel, but Russell adds enough humor and personal anecdotes to make what would be a very dry subject palatable. What really matters is the information—what is happening and what can we do about it.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Donna

    A brutally honest voice revealing how unqualified teachers got their positions, Special Ed issues and why it is so difficult to fix. A refreshing look at public education from the point of view of students as well as a non-related, non-connected, highly qualified Teacher.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Vox

    Brutally true

  5. 5 out of 5

    D.a. Russell

    Both CLARION and KIRKUS reviews of Lifting the Curtain praise a passionate voice about the fate of our schools from the unique perspective of a teacher. With all that we hear about the problems in education, teachers are always stunned at how much the real problems are carefully hidden behind the curtain of the school entryway. Three years of research, 760 surveys of teachers and students, and hundreds of interviews went into this look at what teachers face when trying to overcome the serious pro Both CLARION and KIRKUS reviews of Lifting the Curtain praise a passionate voice about the fate of our schools from the unique perspective of a teacher. With all that we hear about the problems in education, teachers are always stunned at how much the real problems are carefully hidden behind the curtain of the school entryway. Three years of research, 760 surveys of teachers and students, and hundreds of interviews went into this look at what teachers face when trying to overcome the serious problems in urban high school education -- from unintended consequences of well-meaning legislation, conflicting and destructive mandates by career DoE bureaucrats, unqualified administrators, and rampant cronyism. CLARION Reviews, July 2014: “There is a crisis in public education in the United States. It’s a familiar story—one that’s in the news every day—and everyone has an opinion about how to fix it. Few news items, however, examine the crisis from the teacher’s perspective. D. A. Russell does just that in this scathing critique of a particularly problematic part of the US public school system: urban high schools. Russell offers a unique perspective as an urban high school teacher who has witnessed the rise of the inclusion classroom, content codification via Common Core standards, and the proliferation of standardized tests. In Lifting the Curtain: The disgrace we call urban high school education, the longtime math teacher calls on politicians and the media to stop blaming teachers for our educational woes and instead look at the inherent flaws in the system. In Lifting the Curtain, Russell lends a passionate voice to the current conversation about the fate of our schools. It’s sure to spark spirited debate and discussion among teachers, parents, and principals.” KIRKUS REVIEWS, August 2014: Russell makes no claim to being a disinterested observer, and both his enthusiasm for working with his students and his frustration with the limitations of the public school system are evident as the driving forces of the book Russell draws on his years teaching high school math, surveys of his students and colleagues, and news coverage of trends in education to indict many of the policies and assumptions that govern today’s schools. He lays out what he sees as the most pressing challenges—lack of parental support, an incentive structure that rewards minimal student effort, the pressure of bureaucratic mandates, etc. Russell uses his classroom experience and reasonable logic to explain why students benefit from being allowed to fail, or how problematic curriculum requirements demand that teachers fit 115 minutes of instruction into a 70-minute class. An impassioned look at the shortcomings of public education, from the perspective of an inner-city high school teacher. Please lift the curtain, and see for yourself. And visit http://liftingthecurtain.com/default.... for more information.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Madeline Sharples

  7. 5 out of 5

    R. Robert

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kristen

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ashley Kimler

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lynn Pharr

  11. 5 out of 5

    Stacie Wold

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kelli

  13. 5 out of 5

    Tim Thompson

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sophie

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kammie

  16. 5 out of 5

    Carol Schomas

  17. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie Cummings

  18. 5 out of 5

    Declan

  19. 5 out of 5

    Abby

  20. 5 out of 5

    Abby

  21. 5 out of 5

    Christina's Book Chronicles

  22. 4 out of 5

    0340438045

  23. 5 out of 5

    Dwight Hoeberechts

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kim Melms

  25. 4 out of 5

    Janice

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ginger

  27. 5 out of 5

    David

  28. 5 out of 5

    Emily Radwin

  29. 5 out of 5

    B

  30. 4 out of 5

    Liza

  31. 5 out of 5

    Fayth

  32. 5 out of 5

    Kay

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