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Why We Failed: 40 Years of Education Reform: A solutions-based account of the last 40 years of K-12 education in the U.S. Paperback – November 4, 2016
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About the Author
In 1970, Lonnie Palmer graduated from college with a Bachelor's Degree in physics and planned to continue on to a Ph.D. program but was interrupted by a notice from the U.S. Government – a draft notice. Knowing his low number would preempt plans to continue his education, Palmer took a temporary position teaching high school science — and a reluctant education reformer was born. Palmer was drafted into the U.S. Army and spent two years serving during the Vietnam War as a Science Research Assistant at Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland. But two years later when he was released, he returned to teaching, largely because of that experience between college and the Army. Over the next several years he taught high school physics, AP Physics, chemistry, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, pre-calculus, and AP calculus. He continued to teach, even as a school principal. Then in 1993, he was made Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Education in the City School District of New Rochelle, NY. An urban environment with a diverse population, New Rochelle was hot bed of reform. Using a Mellon Foundation Grant for educational innovation, Palmer implemented New York State Education Department approved variances on Regents exams that allowed teachers to substitute portions of 17 different exams with rubric-based research projects. Then in 1997, Palmer was hired by the City School District of Albany to lead that district away from decades of patronage, nepotism and cronyism to a results-based school district. His tenure came with the introduction of charter schools in New York. Following that, Palmer started a consulting business that analyzed and compared school district performance data and established benchmarks for effective school spending and academic performance. Soon, though, he answered the call of another school district in financial and academic trouble. Within two years under Palmer that district was upgraded on Standard and Poor’s and removed from the State’s Schools In Need of Improvement list. Recruited again in 2013 by another district, with several outstanding labor contracts, Palmer settled three contracts in a year and helped implement the new Common Core standards, that included freeing up funds from places where they weren’t improving the program. While the Vietnam War put his formal education on hold, Palmer eventually obtained a Master’s in Physics Education and a Certificate of Advanced Study in Educational Administration from SUNY New Paltz.
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Teachers, staff, administrators, school board members - new or experienced - should read this. Parents, interested residents and politicians that are drawn into the current dialogue on K-12 education could learn a lot from this.