Friday, December 31, 2010

Education scholars?

Krashen has made a strong comment at Hess's EdWeek blog, including a really kind acknowledgment of my work; see Hess's post and Krashen's comment here.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Monday, November 22, 2010

Krashen posts my response on Schools Matter

This was submitted to The New York Times, but no response from there yet; Krashen was kind enough to post at Schools Matter: Simplistic manipulation of data

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

January 8, 2010, Writing Workshop (Lexington Middle)

Reconsidering Writing Instruction—Honoring the Authentic, Managing the Mandates
P. L. Thomas, Furman University (paul.thomas[a]
Lexington Middle School
Lexington, South Carolina
• Read aloud: "Eleven," Sandra Cisneros
• Authentic and direct instruction of surface features:
What we know about teaching surface features; rejecting the "error hunt":
Weaver, C. (1996). Teaching grammar in context. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Landrum, J. E. (2007). Students: Do experts follow the rules you’re taught? Journal of Teaching Writing, 23(1), 1-16.
• Workshop: What makes a piece of writing "good"? (voice)
Prologue, Vertigo, Louise DeSalvo
• Reconsidering genre/essay format
"The Five Paragraph Essay and the Deficit Model of Education," Brannon et al.
Reconsidering the writing process (Weaver, 1996)
Reconsidering the rubric:
Kohn, A. (2006b, March). The trouble with rubrics. English Journal, 95(4), 12-15.
Mabry, L. (1999, May). Writing to the rubric: Lingering effects of traditional standardized testing on direct writing assessment. Phi Delta Kappan, 80 (9), 673–679.
Wilson, M. (2006). Rethinking rubrics in writing assessment. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Wilson, M. (2007, March). Why I won’t be using rubrics to respond to students’ writing. English Journal, 96(4), 62-66.
After Lunch
• Writing Workshop: The essentials (Time, Ownership, Response)
• Workshop: Reading like a writer
"Beginnings" handout
• Final: Questions, Debates, What to do now?
Recommended Resources
NCTE Resources:
NCTE Beliefs about the Teaching of Writing (
Teaching Composition: A Position Statement (
NCTE Principles of Adolescent Literacy Reform: A Policy Research Brief (
Amrein, A.L., & Berliner, D.C. (2002, March 28). High-stakes testing, uncertainty, and student learning. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 10(18). Retrieved [March 01, 2007] from
Atwell, N. (1998). In the Middle: New understanding about writing, reading, and learning (2nd ed.). Portsmouth, NH: Boyton/Cook.
Atwood, M. (2002). Negotiating with the dead: A writer on writing. New York: Anchor Books.
Ball, A., Christensen, L., Fleischer, C., Haswell, R., Ketter, J., Yageldski, R., & Yancey, K. (2005, April 16). The impact of the SAT and ACT timed writing tests. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.
Calfee, R. (1994). Ahead to the past: Assessing student achievement in writing. National Center for the Study of Writing Occasional Paper No. 39. Available on-line:
———. (1994). Implications of cognitive psychology for authentic assessment and instruction. National Center for the Study of Writing Technical Report No. 69. Available on-line: techreports.html.
Calkins, L. M. (1994). The art of teaching writing (2nd ed.). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Cambourne, B. (1999). Conditions for literacy learning: Turning learning theory into classroom instruction. A minicase study. The Reading Teacher, 54(4), 414-429.
Fletcher, R. (1993). What a writer needs. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Freedman, S. W. (1991). Evaluating writing: Linking large-scale testing and classroom assessment. National Center for the Study of Writing Occasional Paper No. 27. Available on-line: techreports.html.
———. (1995). Exam-based reform stifles student writing in the U. K. Educational Leadership, 52 (6), 26–29.
Freedman, S. W., Dyson, A. H., Flower, L., & Chafe, W. (1987). Research in writing: Past, present, and future. National Center for the Study of Writing Technical Report No. 1. Available on-line: Resources/techreports.html.
Freedman, S. W., Flower, L., Hull, G., & Hayes, J. R. (1995). Ten years of research: Achievements of the National Center for the Study of Writing. National Center for the Study of Writing Technical Report No. 1-C. Available on-line:
Freedman, S. W., & Hechinger, F. (1992). Writing matters. National Center for the Study of Writing Occasional Paper No. 31. Available on-line:
Freire, P. (2005). Teachers as cultural workers: Letters to those who dare to teach. Trans. D. Macedo, D., Koike, & A., Oliveira. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
——— . (1993). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum.
Graham, S., & Perin, D. (2007). Writing next: Effective strategies to improve writing of adolescents in middle and high schools – A report to Carnegie Corporation of New York. Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education.
Graves, D. (1994). A fresh look at writing. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Graves, D. (2002). Testing is not teaching: What should count in education. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Greene, M. (1978). Landscapes of learning. New York: Teachers College Press.
Greene, M. (1995). Releasing the imagination: Essays on education, the arts, and social change. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Hillocks, G., Jr. (2003). Fighting back: Assessing the assessments. English Journal, 2(4), 63–70.
———. (1995). Teaching writing as reflective practice. New York: Teachers College Press.
———. (2002). The testing trap: How state writing assessments control learning. New York: Teachers College Press.
Kincheloe, J. L. (2005a). Critical constructivism primer. New York: Peter Lang.
Kincheloe, J. L. (2005b). Critical pedagogy primer. New York: Peter Lang.
Kohn, A. (2006b, March). The trouble with rubrics. English Journal, 95(4), 12-15.
Landrum, J. E. (2007). Students: Do experts follow the rules you’re taught? Journal of Teaching Writing, 23(1), 1-16.
Mabry, L. (1999, May). Writing to the rubric: Lingering effects of traditional standardized testing on direct writing assessment. Phi Delta Kappan, 80 (9), 673–679.
Nash, R. J. (2004). Liberating scholarly writing: The power of personal narrative. New York: Teachers College Press.
National Council of Teachers of English. (1998). Defining and defending instructional methods. Available on-line:
Noskin, D. P. (2000). Teaching writing in the high school: Fifteen years in the making. English Journal, 90 (1), 34-38.
Pinker, S. (1994). The language instinct. New York: Harper Perennial.
———. (1999). Words and rules: The ingredients of language. New York: Basic Books.
Rosenblatt, L. M. (1988). Writing and reading: The transactional theory. National Center for the Study of Writing Technical report No. 13. Available on-line:
Routman, R. (2004). Writing essentials: Raising expectations and results while simplifying teaching. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Weaver, C., ed. (1998). Lessons to share on teaching grammar in context. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
———. (2002). Reading process and practice, second edition. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
———. (1996). Teaching grammar in context. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Williams, J. M. (1997). Style: Ten lessons in clarity and grace (5th ed.). New York: Longman.
———. (1990). Style: Toward clarity and grace. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Wilson, M. (2006). Rethinking rubrics in writing assessment. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
———. (2007, March). Why I won’t be using rubrics to respond to students’ writing. English Journal, 96(4), 62-66.
Zemelman, S., Daniels, H., & Hyde, A. (2005). Best Practice: Today’s standards for teaching and learning in America’s schools (3rd ed.). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Zinsser, W. (2001). On writing well: The classic guide to writing nonfiction (25th Anniversary Edition). New York: Quill.

Comment Is Free America (The Guardian, UK)

The Corporate Takeover of American Schools

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Op-Eds available online

Thomas, P. L. (2011, January12). 21st century segregation: Inverting King's dream. The Daily Censored.

-----. (2011, January 10). Supermen or kryptonite?—Legend of the fall, pt. V. The Daily Censored.

-----. (2011, January 8). Spend energy on S.C. students, not on more tests. The Greenville News.

-----. (2011, January 8). Defending the status quo?--False dichotomies and the education reform debate. OpEdNews.

-----. (2011, January 3). Calculating the Corporate States of America: Revisiting Vonnegut's Player Piano. OpEdNews.

-----. (2010, December 28). Wrong questions = wrong answers: Legends of the fall, pt. IV. The Daily Censored.

-----. (2010, December 26). Statistics obscuring real education challenge. The State.

-----. (2010, December 17). Fire teachers, reappoint Rhee: Legend of the fall, pt. III. The Daily Censored.

-----.(2010, December 16). Finnish envy.

-----.(2010, December 6). The truth about failure in US schools.

-----. (2010, December 2). The education celebrity tour: Legend of the fall, pt. II. The Daily Censored.

-----. (2010, November 28). Our faith in a "culture of poverty" never left. The Daily Censored.

-----. (2010, November 16). The corporate takeover of American schools.

-----. (2010, November 14). The teaching profession as a service industry. The Daily Censored.

-----. (2010, November 3). Our debate culture—Someone wins, but never the Truth. The Daily Censored.

-----. (2010, October 24). The politicians who cried "crisis." truthout.

-----. (2010, October 23). The (shifting) truth about charter schools.

-----. (2010, October 19). Legend of the fall: Snapshots of what's wrong in the education debate. The Daily Censored.

-----. (2010, October 16). "Don't ask, don't tell": There's a reason Captain America wears a mask.

-----. (2010, October 10). A tale of two films.

-----. (2010, October 6). Stop focusing on SAT. The State.

-----. (2010, September 28). The great charter compromise: Masking corporate commitments in educational reform.

-----. (2010, September 21). 2020 vision for No Child Left in Poverty.

-----. (2010, September 10). "The truth is always hard to swallow"—And other ironies.

-----. (2010, September 6). Political reform must precede educational reform—Words Matter.

-----. (2010, August 27). Bitter lessons from chasing better tests.

-----. (2010, August 21). Brave words? No, but startling occasion(s).

-----. (2010, August 21). Change the real "status quo" hurting education. The Greenville News.

-----. (2010, August 17). Reconsidering education "miracles."

-----. (2010, August 14). Rugged individualism and our pursuit of education.

-----. (2010, August 11). Why common standards won't work. Education Week, 29(37), 33-34.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

New Book from Sense

Challenging Genres: Comics and Graphic Novels

6 October 2010 Op-Ed in The State

Stop focusing on SAT

With the release of 2010 data on the SAT and the concurrent handwringing over scores, SC should take this opportunity—with the weight of economic decline challenging our schools—to drop our charge to raise SAT scores and to increase the number of students taking the SAT.

The bold moves we should make instead are ending all SAT-prep courses in our schools, banning further purchases of SAT-prep materials and software, and encouraging all colleges across the state to become SAT-optional.

Let's consider first why our current SAT goals are destined to fail.

In SC, we are seeking two goals (raising SAT scores and increasing the number of students taking the SAT) that, in fact, contradict one another. These goals have created a statistical and ethical problem for our state.

The pool of students taking the SAT ten or twenty years ago (before we began to encourage more students to take the test) was a unique population that was more elite than the normal distribution of students. Once we began encouraging more students to take the test, the pool of test takers shifted toward the normal distribution.

The statistical problem we face as a state is the exact reason the College Board re-centered the SAT in 1995: When you move a unique and elite population toward the normal distribution by increasing that population, the statistical average must move toward the middle, thus down.

The ethical problem: Raising an average score while shifting an elite population toward a normal distribution can occur only by corrupting the data (through test taking instruction, for example, which also distorts the validity of the data in terms of reflecting student ability).

So SC must either see our average drop as we increase the pool of test takers (a public relations nightmare for politicians and schools) or we must distort the data from the test by teaching to the test (rendering the test even less credible).

Beyond the contradiction of our SAT goals, SC should become SAT-free because of the wealth of evidence that the test is not worth the expense of time and money invested by our public schools:

• Schools across SC and the US have dedicated large amounts of financial resources and school time to the SAT during the parallel growth of accountability mandates, yet, as a study at shows, SAT scores have dropped along with a widening of the achievement gap on the test during the accountability era. In short, SAT goals and school reform goals are also conflicting agendas.

• The College Board's own research has shown as recently as 2008 that SAT scores are less effective than GPA for predicting freshman grades (the only purpose of the SAT).

• A 2010 Harvard study has confirmed a 2003 study that the SAT is inherently biased against minority students; the SAT also works against our efforts to address life and educational inequities for all students.

• The College Board in 2002 issued a statement denouncing the historical and flawed use of SAT average scores to judge and rank schools and state educational systems. Since the media persist in ignoring this warning, states should remove the misleading data from the debate.

Before discarding the SAT, however, we should consider the key powerful lesson that the test has provided year after year.

Let's start with the facts of who takes the SAT. The pool of students taking the SAT is more elite academically and financially than the general population of students. As they are college-bound and elite, these students are also enrolled in more challenging courses than the general population of students. Those students taking the more challenging courses, then, are also enrolled in the classes of the most experienced and highly qualified teachers.

The lesson? Despite the relative affluence of students taking the SAT, despite their rigorous course loads, despite the high quality of their teachers, what are the strongest correlations with their scores?

SAT scores are now and have always been most strongly correlated with the income level of the parents and the educational background of the parents.

The SAT has a much stronger reputation than it deserves; it is no more useful than GPA, which is free. And continuing to fret over and work toward goals tied to the SAT is time and money wasted that would be better spent addressing poverty and its impact on students' lives and achievement in our schools.

Instead of chasing contradictory SAT goals, SC should reignite the charge against the SAT begun a decade ago in California. If SC would now commit to becoming SAT-free, we would be seeking an outcome that is both achievable and in the best interest of our students and our state.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

28 September 2010 Op-Ed in OpEdNews

The great charter compromise: Masking corporate commitments in educational reform

Monday, September 20, 2010

Piece accepted for

In the coming weeks, will be running a commentary by me on education poilcy under Obama/Duncan. . .

Excited about the acceptance and will post here when it runs. . .

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Sense Series Update

I have submitted the first volume, Challenging Genres: Comic Books and Graphic Novels, to my new series at Sense Publishers:

Critical Literacy Teaching Series: Challenging Authors and Genre
will explore in separate volumes major authors and genres through a critical literacy lens that seeks to offer students opportunities as readers and writers to embrace and act upon their own empowerment. Each volume will challenge authors (along with examining authors that are themselves challenging) and genres as well as challenging norms and assumptions associated with those authors' works and genres themselves. Further, each volume will confront teachers, students, and scholars by exploring all texts as politically charged mediums of communication. The work of critical educators and scholars will guide each volume, including concerns about silenced voices and texts, marginalized people and perspectives, and normalized ways of being and teaching that ultimately dehumanize students and educators.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

First national Op-Ed accepted. . .

Probably in August, Education Week will run my first national Op-Ed. . .Will give details as I learn them. . .

Saturday, June 19, 2010

19 June 2010 Op-Ed The Greenville News

Test scores aren't the most serious problem

On 28 May 2010, the Huffington Post announced on its top headline, "WHAT WE VALUE"—in all caps and bold blue font. Below, the subhead added, "Wars Get Funded, Laid-Off Workers Don't."

Setting aside the partisan bias of this online publication and also setting aside the direct topics of this headline, we should all consider seriously the evidence of what we value as a society. As the article shows, in the U.S. we are apt to reveal what we genuinely value with what we fund—just as we also reveal what we value by the conditions we allow to exist, especially concerning education and the conditions of the lives of children.

To be blunt, we say we care about education, we say we value children—but we simply don't.

The evidence of our priorities lies in the dishonesty of the century-long demonizing of public schools, including our habit of making international and state-by-state comparisons of education in order to promote the misguided claims that drop-out rates and SAT scores prove that our schools are relentless failures.

Pick-pockets, magicians, politicians, and ideologue prove to have something in common: The ability to draw our attention over here so we don’t look too closely over there—where the real thing is taking place.

Since we value comparisons, let's look carefully at one international comparison. Often U.S. public schools are condemned in comparison with Finland so we'll start there.

In Finland, 2.8% of the children live in relative poverty while in the U.S. 21.9% of children live in relative poverty (UNICEF Innocenti Report Card No. 6, 2005). And here is the point we must not ignore: We as a country are simply willing to tolerate childhood poverty at a rate that other countries will not endure.

And we are also willing to misinform by condemning the quality of our schools—while failing to acknowledge that school achievement is a reflection of social poverty. In other words, the data on student achievement in Finland and the U.S. tells us something about our society—something that isn't very appealing—but almost nothing about our schools.

Yet, we don't have to make any comparisons to see what we truly value. David Berliner offers a snapshot of how we allow out-of-school factors to overburden the lives of children, and ultimately corrupt the achievement of those children when they enter our schools.

Low birth weight (LBW) has profound implications for children, and as Berliner notes, "LBW babies are not distributed randomly among racial or income groups." And the disproportion among races and socioeconomic class of LBW babies parallels exactly the achievement gap in our schools.

Next, and more broadly, Berliner explains, "If a lack of medical insurance (and its correlate, untreated illness) were distributed equally across society, local public schools would all have the same challenges, with instructional problems due to increased illness and untreated injuries dispersed across schools. . . .But this is not the case."

As with LBW, we simply do not value the health of children—particularly if they are children of color or children living in poverty. And that failure by us as a society is reflected again in our schools.

Berliner offers more out-of-school factors—food insecurity, environmental pollutants, family relations and family stress, and neighborhood characteristics—that parallel the two noted above, and they all reveal what we value, or more directly, what we do not value.

The Condition of Education 2010, released 27 May 2010, offers more sobering evidence about what we value. The number of schools labeled as high-poverty is increasing—from 15% to 20% of elementary schools and from 5% to 9% of secondary schools over a nine-year period.

Stern ideological beliefs about individual responsibility concerning adults sit at the heart of American values, and while I find that stance tenuous, I cannot accept that same stern view regarding children.

Children have no political power, even in a free country. And children in poverty by association have even less power due to the factors beyond their control that burden their lives—their access to health care, their access to eye care, their access to healthy and plentiful food, their access to safe housing, and, yes, their access to high quality schools.

All children deserve better schools. We have failed in that promise in too many ways. But to make that charge without acknowledging first that we have failed and continue to fail children as a society is a clear message about what we value—and as a country tolerating a high percentage of children living in poverty, we have much more serious problems than how our test scores compare with Finland.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Chapter accepted for book on Obama educational policies

"The Educational Hope Ignored under Obama: The Persistent Failure of Utopian Goals and Crisis Rhetoric" will be Chapter One in Paul R. Carr and Brad J. Porfilio's The Phenomenon of Obama and the Agenda for Education: Can Hope Audaciously Trump Neoliberalism? (Information Age Publishing), scheduled for late 2010 or early 2011.

16 March 2010 Op-Ed in The State

A smarter way to focus education dollars

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Three new articles accepted. . .

I am very excited about these pieces and will post when they are published:

Thomas, P. L. (2010, July/September). The Payne of addressing race and poverty in public education: Utopian accountability and deficit assumptions of middle class America. Souls, 12(3). TBD.

-----. (accepted). “A respect for the past, a knowledge of the present, and a concern for the future”: The role of history in English Education. English Education. TBD.

-----. (accepted). Diving into genre—A case for literature as T(t)ruth. Notes on American Literature. TBD.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Poetry publication history

Thomas, P. L. (2011, March). quilting. English Journal, 100(4), TBD.

-----. (2008, September). horae. English Journal, 98(1), 15.

-----. (2008). billboard, drawn to two. In Ed. R. Harkai, Still Home: The Essential Poetry of Spartanburg (pp. 15-19). Spartanburg, SC: Hub City.

-----. (2008, Fall). aching, yellow wood to bare. root, 2(3), 21.

-----. (2007, Fall). mountain biking, upon hearing Adrienne rich speak and read her poetry. root, 1(2), 26-27.

-----. (2006, Spring). Wishing away the bars. James Dickey Newsletter, 22 (2), 41.

-----. (2003, Spring). rocks, scissors, paper—stoned. the echo, 11.

-----. (2002, November). Mary (sea of bitterness). English Journal, 92 (2), 118.

-----. (2001, May). Poetry showcase: if—pining, melting, leprosy, Mary (sea of bitterness), the death of us. drift, 1 (3), 29.

-----. (2001, January). michael has a beautiful voice. drift, 1 (2), 11.

-----. (2001, September). wishing away the bars, bones of contention, the me not me. drift,1 (1), 16, 18.

-----. (1998, Fall). blouses and skirts. The South Carolina Review, 31 (1), 138.

-----. (1997). Salvador Dali’s Daughter Mine. Writers INC, 33.

-----. (1997, January). michael has a beautiful voice. The Carolinian, 29 (13), 12.

-----. (1996, Spring). etching. The Old Red Kimono, 25, 45.

-----. (1994). 3 1/2’s (three halves). Outerbridge (25), 74.

-----. (1993, February). dairy road. South Carolina Writing Teacher, 3 (3), 4.

-----. (1992). don’t let your legs. Amelia: twenty, 12 (1), 158.

-----. (1990, Fall). She could. Cumberland Poetry Review, 10 (1), 48.

-----. (1989, Fall/Winter). Dairy road. Aura Literary/Arts Review, 27, 40-41.

-----. (1989, Fall). Dickey. Oregon English, 11 (2B), 35.

-----. (1987, January). Thoughts in silhouette. The Writer, 100 (1), 22-23.

-----. (1985). Nada y pues nada. The Piedmont Literary Review, 10 (3).

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sense Series Update

I am excited to announce that we are close to having the first three volumes of the new series with Sense under contract:

• Jeanne Gerlach's work on Sandra Cisneros

• My volume on comics and graphic novels (which I will support with a companion blog)

• Karen Stein's work on Rachel Carson

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Call for Manuscripts: Sense series

Critical Literacy Teaching Series: Challenging Authors and Genres

Series Editor: P. L. Thomas, EdD, Furman University
Publisher: Sense

Kincheloe (2005) offers a foundational argument about the role of critical pedagogy in our classrooms:

"[P]roponents of critical pedagogy understand that every dimension of schooling and every form of educational practice are politically contested spaces. Shaped by history and challenged by a wide range of interest groups, educational practice is a fuzzy concept as it takes place in numerous settings, is shaped by a plethora of often-invisible forces, and can operate even in the name of democracy and justice to be totalitarian and oppressive." (p. 2)

This series will explore major authors and genres through a critical literacy lens that seeks to offer students opportunities as readers and writers to embrace and act upon their own empowerment. Further, the volumes in this series are guided by Freire (2005) as well:

"One of the violences perpetuated by illiteracy is the suffocation of the consciousness and the expressiveness of men and women who are forbidden from reading and writing, thus limiting their capacity to write about their reading of the world so they can rethink about their original reading of it." (p. 2)

We are seeking book-length manuscript proposals for volumes in this new series. Volumes may address individual authors or genres of literature.

Volume ideas may include (but are not limited to) the following:

Sandra Cisneros
Louise Erdrich
Rachel Carson
Alice Walker

Graphic novels and comics
Children’s literature

Send proposal ideas or questions about potential volumes to the series editor, P. L. Thomas, by email (paul.thomas[at]

Series Editorial Board:

Karen Stein, PhD, University of Rhode Island

Shirley Steinberg, PhD, McGill University

Jeanne Gerlach, EdD, University of Texas-Arlington

Leila Christenbury, PhD, Virginia Commonwealth University

Renita Schmidt, PhD, Furman University

Ken Lindblom, PhD, Stony Brook University