11: It's Educational

April West

Alana talks with public school teacher April West about progressive education, charter schools, and teacher and student assessment in the age of No Child Left Behind.

April also explains how she came to re-evaluate her perspectives on standardized testing and social justice in education.


Listen to Episode 11 Episode 11: It’s Educational.

About Our Guest

April is the humanities teacher at the Berkshire Arts & Technology Charter Public School (BArT).  She has many years of both college and high school teaching experience. Before teaching high school, she provided instruction in writing and cultural studies for four years at The Ohio State University. 

She has a BA from Bennington College with a thematic degree in Social Conflict, an MA in Comparative Cultural Studies from The Ohio State University, and an MAT from Bennington College’s Center for Creative Teaching.

She is an alternative country music enthusiast and has many artistic interests including quilting and the fiber arts, costume design, paper collage, and woodworking. She also has a great interest in local histories and community issues.

Music in This Episode

Intro: “The Remainder,” Rosehips from the album Rosehips.

Intermission: “Your Contemporaries,” The Lindsay from the album Dragged Out.

Outro: “Enough,” Rosehips from the album Rosehips.



Check out Emily Hanford’s audio documentary, Testing Teachers at American Radio Works. You can download the radio program, listen online, or read the transcript.

The director of An Inconvenient Truth has produced a new documentary, Waiting for “Superman.” The film examines the current state of public education in the United States through the experience of five children.

Do Charter Schools Worsen Inequality of Two-Tiered Education System, or Help Address It?  This question was posed in a roundtable discussion sponsored and produced by the left-leaning TV/radio news program Democracy Now! in February 2010. 


Get Fast Facts about education in the United States from the Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences. For more in-depth data, visit the site of the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

State Education Data Profiles allow you to compare up to four states on key educational data, including demographics, finances, enrollment, public libraries, and postsecondary education.

The National Education Association (NEA) provides enrollment, attendance, salaries, per student outlay, and other data at the state level. The Status of the American Public School Teacher report, published every 5 years, includes statistics about public school teachers in the U.S. including educational background, teaching experience, political leanings, etc.

Finding Articles

The Education Resources Information Center, or ERIC, is probably the best place to start for finding articles on issues related to education. ERIC is a major education index includes citations and abstracts to journals, books, and documents in all fields related to education.

You may also able to access other article databases on education through your university or public library.

Selected Articles


Green, Elizabeth. 2010. “Building a better teacher.” The Times Magazine. March 2.

Huberdeau, Jeff. 2010. “BarT deemed ‘high growth’ for MCAS Scores.” North Adams Transcript. September 17.

Klein, Jeol. 2010. “Waiting for the Teacher’s Union.” The Huffington Post. September 24.

Ripley, Amanda. 2010. “What makes a great teacher?” The Atlantic Magazine. January/February.

Schworm, Peter. 2010. “Many strong MCAS results.” The Boston Globe. September 8.

Smith, Jenn. 2010. “MCAS results show gains.” Berkshire Eagle. September 17.  


Vaznis, James. 2009. “MCAS scores fall shy of target.” The Boston Globe. September 17.


Tough, Paul. 2008. “A teachable moment.” The New York Times. August 14.

Tough, Paul. 2008. “24/7 school reform.” The Way We Live Now. The Times Magazine. September 5.


Jan, Tracy. 2007. “The long road back: The fate of a school and its headmaster’s career rest on restoring what was once a Boston educational icon.” The Boston Globe. September 16.


Apple, Michael W. 1979. Ideology and curriculum. Routledge education books. London: Routledge & K. Paul.

Darling-Hammond, Linda, and John Bransford. 2005. Preparing teachers for a changing world: what teachers should learn and be able to do. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Davis, Brent. 2004. Inventions of teaching a genealogy. Mahwah (N.J.): L. Erlbaum.

Delpit, Lisa D. 1995. Other people’s children: cultural conflict in the classroom. New York: New Press.

Farr, Steven. 2010. Teaching as leadership: the highly effective teacher’s guide to closing the achievement gap. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Freire, Paulo. 2000. Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum.

Goldhaber, Daniel D., and Jane Hannaway. 2009. Creating a new teaching profession. Washington, D.C.: Urban Institute Press. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.

Merseth, Katherine K., Kristy Cooper, John Roberts, and Mara Casey Tieken. Inside Urban Charter Schools: Promising Practices and Strategies in Five High-Performing Schools

Johnson, Susan Moore. 2004. Finders and keepers: helping new teachers survive and thrive in our schools. The Jossey-Bass education series. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Kozol, Jonathan. 2008. Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation. Paw Prints.

Kozol, Jonathan. 2010. Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools. Paw Prints.

Lemov, Doug. 2010. Teach like a champion: 49 techniques that put students on the path to college. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. 

McCarthy, Cameron. 1998. The uses of culture: education and the limits of ethnic affiliation. Critical social thought. New York: Routledge.

Payne, Ruby K. 2005. A framework for understanding poverty. Highlands, Tex: aha! Process.

Shor, Ira, and Caroline Pari. 1999. Education is politics: critical teaching across differences, K-12. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook Heinemann.

Shor, Ira. 1992. Empowering education: critical teaching for social change. University of Chicago Press.

Tough, Paul. 2008. Whatever it takes: Geoffrey Canada’s quest to change Harlem and America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.


Having high-risk students

Having high-risk students living in poverty is NEVER an excuse for a school not to show any growth

In the news!

Great episode!

I especially loved listening to you honestly discuss your school's analysis of its flat growth line. I'm so glad that, as a community, you guys decided to change your mindset and start believing in challenging kids more. High-stakes testing is not without its [very serious] problems, but in general, high standards drive improvement (and as another high school English teacher, I agree--the MCAS is actually a good test of students' reading comprehension and writing skills). Having high-risk students living in poverty is NEVER an excuse for a school not to show any growth (though it MAY--again, MAY--be an excuse for some students testing below what the state considers to be a "proficient" level). I think the mark of a good school (and therefore the standard by which all schools should be judged) is the growth that students make while they're there.

growth data rocks!

Thanks for your comments! In terms of accountability and motivation, I was so happy that Massachusetts started calculating student growth along with an absolute score. It tells a much more descriptive story of what a student, school, and teachers are achieving than just a an absolute score.

So Awesome, I don't know where to start.

Charter schools are what give me hope for our education system. We need more educators who are open minded enough to change their beliefs when they aren't working. And who understand the ability of teachers to be agents of social justice.

I thought the high % of foster youth in your school was interesting; I'd love to see data on outcomes for foster youth who have attended charter schools. I've worked with foster youth off and on for several years and their rate of college attendance/graduation is abysmally low, as I'm sure you know.

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