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27 resources on education, from a reporter who’s covered it

When my wife and I moved recently, the process forced me to dig through piles of stuff and discard what I didn’t care enough about to pack and then unpack. In the process I came across some really good stuff, and that triggered this list of books, organizations, films, and websites that I value.

1. The Hechinger Report is celebrating its fifth anniversary as a reporting organization, after many years of focusing on training education reporters and editors. It’s first rate. Help them celebrate.

2. New Visions for Public Schools just celebrated its 25th Anniversary. What has it accomplished? Today roughly one in five NYC high school students has benefited or is benefitting from the educational opportunities provided by New Visions schools. Small schools, strong leadership, and a commitment to learning opportunities for all students drive this exceptional organization. New Visions embraced the idea of small high schools before they were cool, grew when the Gates Foundation started writing checks, flowered when Joel Klein was Chancellor, withstood the Gates Foundation’s sudden departure, and continues to create opportunities for thousands of New York City’s children.

3. CEI, the organization created when the Center for Educational Innovation and the Public Education Association merged in 2000, has been helping schools improve since–take your pick–1989 when CEI was created, or 1895 when the Public Education Association was founded. Either way, it’s a remarkable track record. I got to know its principal, Sy Fliegel, in the late 1980’s when he was running District Four, the NYC school district that put school choice on the national map.

4., 5., 6. Reach Out and Read, Reading Is Fundamental (RIF), Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library….and every other program that puts interesting books in the hands of children. Click on this link to learn what’s at stake and what can be done.

7. Speaking of reading, Readworks is a wonderful resource for teachers who want their students to become better readers. (That’s just about every teacher I’ve ever met.)

8. “The Game Believes in You,” by Greg Toppo, is a mind-changing book by an outstanding reporter. Published by Palgrave Macmillan, it carries the subtitle “How Games Can Make Our Kids Smarter.”

9. I have Sir Ken Robinson’s new book, “Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution that’s Transforming Education,” in my books-to-read pile.

10. Also awaiting me is Freeman A. Hrabowski’s “Holding Fast to Dreams: Empowering Youth from the Civil Rights Crusade to STEM Achievement.”

11. Speaking of books, “Cage-Busting School Custodians” is Rick Hess’s newest effort in his franchise series. Write Rick directly at rhess@AEI.org to order the sequel to “Cage-Busting Leadership” and “The Cage-Busting Teacher.” Rumor has it that the prolific author has a contract for yet another in the series, (working title) “Cage-Busting School Crossing Guards.”

12. “Education Week” has been required reading since forever and remains so.

13.,14. Blogs from Diane Ravitch and Whitney Tilson make my list of Good Stuff. http://edreform.blogspot.com is published by Mr. Tilson, who views education from the right. He notes, “I sometimes don’t have time to post here everything that I send to my school reform email list, so if you want to receive my regular (approximately once a week) emates, please email me at WTilson@tilsonfunds.com.” (I read his email, not his blog.) At one time Diane Ravitch also viewed education from the right. Now easily the blogosphere’s most influential person on the left, Dr. Ravitch posts many times every day. Signing up for her email feed allows you to glance at everything and then read whatever you find compelling. She’s had more than 20,000,000 pageviews!

15. The Harmony Program puts musical instruments in the hands of school children who might not otherwise be exposed to serious music, and then provides excellent lessons taught by professional musicians. You can watch our NewsHour report about this wonderful New York City-based program as well.

16., 17. Investigative reporters Marian Wang and Heather Vogell, whose work for ProPublica is shocking readers and waking up lawmakers. Marian Wang exposed the machinations of Baker Mitchell, a North Carolina charter school operator whose ‘non-profit’ charter school has fattened his personal bank account. Before moving to ProPublica, Heather Vogell blew the whistle on Atlanta’s school cheaters.

18. The Khan Academy: free learning opportunities in easily-digestible chunks. Did I mention that it’s free?

19. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. The remarkable Ron Thorpe has revived this organization, blending into it the “Celebration of Teaching and Learning” that he created when he was at Channel 13 in New York City. Teaching is a profession that should be harder to enter but easier to practice, and the National Board is doing everything it can to make that a reality.

20. KIPP. The Knowledge is Power Program had to do something with the powerful knowledge that most of its graduates were not succeeding in college. Yes, KIPP has been growing, but it has also been reinventing itself.

21., 22., 23. Community Schools, Project-based Learning, and Blended Learning. They’re all significant, and, best of all, they’re not mutually exclusive.

24. “Most Likely to Succeed” is a new, as-yet-unreleased documentary that is ostensibly about project-based learning but that actually covers a much bigger topic: what we want for our kids. Look for it.

25. “If You Build It” is a terrific documentary about a refreshing way of learning.

26. And don’t miss “Brooklyn Castle.”

27. Our own “School Sleuth: The Case of the Wired Classroom” makes my list, of course. This 1-hour film brings back our film noir parody detective, The School Sleuth, who’d been on hiatus since he solved “The Case of an Excellent School” in 2000. This film hasn’t been released, but I predict you are going to love it. It’s a light-hearted way of exploring a serious issue, the use and misuse of technology in schools.

That’s my list. What have I forgotten? What’s on your list?

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