The highly respected CLARION review of Lifting the Curtain found a passionate voice about the fate of our schools from the unique perspective of a teacher.
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.
IWow-WomenOnWriting.com, September 2014:
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. 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.
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!
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.
The recent convictions of high school teachers and administrators who changed students’ test scores drew me to D.A. Russell’s book, Lifting the Current: the disgrace we call urban high school education. And as I got into the book I found that changing test scores is just the tip of the iceberg. All involved – students, teachers/administrators, and parents cheat – just so the students will pass and the schools will continue to receive the funding they need to stay alive.
It is deplorable. And, according to Russell, it is easily solvable. He presents the symptoms, the causes, and the ways to solve our urban high school problems in his eye-opening book.
Russell, a long time high school math teacher, would not give in to 1) students requests for do-overs if they failed, 2) parents who believe education is only the teachers job and threaten law suits if they don’t live up to their expectations, and 3) busy-work assignments from unqualified and inept bureaucrats. He holds the theory that if we let a student fail, that student will actually be inspired to get help and learn and eventually become more successful in the long run.
These kinds of problems in education did not exist twenty years ago. In those days students didn’t copy homework from their buddies or be proud of their failing grades. Now they can get away with it. Parents will complain, teachers will cave, and they’ll get a so-called passing that is as low as 20 to 29 percent anyway.
What bothers me the most is how these failing students will turn out as adults. How can people become our future leaders, business and technology experts, soldiers, police, and fire fighters? How will they ever be able to run anything or save anybody? As Russell says: “None of us saw the long-term negative impact of programs centered on the great-sounding, but completely destructive concept that a child can not be allowed to fail. We have ended up creating a culture of failure, where failure is expected, and failure is accepted. We fell into the circular logic trap of thinking today’s children were too dumb to learn as we did, so we dumb down their education, so the children become dumb.”
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.
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.
Russell's account of the downfalls of high school education, specifically in urban areas, is alarming, yet truthful. His accounts are based on his years of experience teaching and show concrete examples of where the system has failed our youth. On a positive note, Russell does not just list the weaknesses in the system, but gives clear direction on how they can be remedied. This book should be required reading for everyone involved in making the rules on education, teaching students as well as the parents of these urban students.