Author: briancharles3

Brian Charest, Ph.D., is an assistant professor at the University of Redlands. He is a former Chicago Public School teacher who also worked at the Nova Project in Seattle. He earned his doctorate in English Education from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2013. He's presented locally and nationally and published articles on teaching, ecological schooling, social justice, and radical pragmatism. Most of his university teaching has involved community-based work of some kind, where students in his courses work closely with local community-based organizations, schools, and residents in "real world" settings. He's also taught community-oriented writing courses and American literature at the University of Illinois (UIC). At DePaul University in Chicago, he taught a range of courses for teachers, including writing across the curriculum and a course on teaching young adult literature. His interests include education reform, teaching English, teacher education, social justice, civic and community engagement, and grassroots education reform strategies.

Encouraging Persistence in Writing

A great new blog post by Kate Sjostrom about the gifts we give our students when we invite them to write the stories that matter to them:
“Perhaps the greatest gifts we can give such students are the gifts Ms. Angela gives her students: an invitation to tell the stories they want to tell, an authentic audience, and the time to craft those stories they care about for an audience they care about, too. With those gifts, perhaps even the most reluctant of writers can learn to persist.”

Teachers, Profs, Parents: Writers Who Care

By Kate Sjostrom

Who are these children sitting around me? Surely they are not my eight-year-old daughter and her classmates, though they look like them and go by their names. These children have just asked if they can skip recess to finish critiquing the story we have been reviewing for over two hours. These children have been only constructive in their feedback, never once dismissing something they “just didn’t like.”  

The one who looks like my daughter and whose story we have been reading begs, “Please, Mom.” I look at her—at the blue-grey eyes that I share, at the blue and green striped shirt I helped pick out this morning—and I cave. “Sure,” I tell her. “We can keep going.” But I watch her from the corner of my eye as she readies her pencil to take more notes on what is not yet working in her…

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Open Letter in Support of School Walkouts to Protest Gun Violence

If you’re a university educator in CA, please consider signing this open letter! Thanks.

Cloaking Inequity

This is just a short reminder to take a moment to read and then sign this open letter in support of administrators, teachers, and students in California who wish to participate in the national school walkouts to protest gun violence.
This letter will be submitted by a group of faculty in the CEJ (Center for Educational Justice at the University of Redlands in the School of Education) to the California Department of Education in response to the recent call for several National School Walkouts. All university-based researchers (including faculty, researchers, and administrators) throughout California are invited to sign their names in support of this letter.

Listed on the letter will be each signer’s Name, Title, and College/University/Affiliation.
To sign, please click below and submit information in the form fields below the letter by March 9, 2018.

The following letter was co-authored by the following faculty in the School of…

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Nurturing a Culture of Equality: The Nova Project

Is there room for democratically run, inquiry-based schools in today’s climate of test-and-punish accountability? Is it possible to create spaces where students follow their own interest and pursue inquiries that matter to them? And, if so, what would an inquiry-based high school look like in practice?

Well, I can tell you a few things about The Nova Project, a public high school in Seattle, where I currently teach: at department meetings there isn’t much talk about how to implement the Common Core; and, we don’t spend much time talking about test scores—except when we’re discussing our opt-out numbers (we had 100% last year); what you will see though, are teachers discussing how to best support students, how to partner with community organizations to get services and provide opportunities for students in school and out in the larger Seattle community; you’ll also hear teachers planning courses on the films of Kurosawa and Wes Anderson; or, courses on Dante’s Inferno and graphic novels, as well as Shakespearean tragedies; you’ll also see classes focusing exclusively on Young Adult Literature (YAL); as well as classes on African American Studies; spoken word poetry; writing blogs; novel and short story writing; courses on the history of skateboarding; courses on the history of the neighborhood; courses on math and music; courses on the environment; animation, dance, and music courses; and, classes on philosophy. What’s more, we don’t have grades at Nova; students demonstrate competencies through things like projects, performances, artworks, and critical reflections.

But my point in writing about all of this is not simply to brag about how great Nova is, and it’s certainly not to suggest that we’ve solved all the problems of education, or that we have somehow created a template for schooling, but rather I want to remind folks of what’s possible, even today in the age of accountability and standardization. I want to make clear that it is possible to make positive changes in public schools, to get involved, to opt out, to go on strike, to occupy, to push back, to demonstrate, and to adapt what we do in schools as well as how we do it. Ideas about inquiry-based and project-based education and research about democratic education aren’t new. So, the question is this: Why aren’t more of us organizing our schools around these ideas?  Why aren’t more of our education leaders pushing for real creative and innovative public schools and then giving teachers and students the space to explore what’s worth knowing and doing?

In this post, NCTE writer Bill Bystricky continues his investigation into The Nova Project, a public high school in Seattle that embraces democracy, equality, and freedom.

Putting Humanity Back at the Center: The Nova Project

In this post by writer Bill Bystricky on the NCTE blog Literacy & NCTE, Bill looks at The Nova Project, an alternative public high school in Seattle where I teach. Bill examines what it means when a school takes democracy seriously and involves students in all aspects of school decision making, including hiring, budget, and curriculum development.

The question I ask is this: Why aren’t more public school officials supporting the creation of schools like The Nova Project, particularly when we’ve known for such a long time that research supports inquiry-based education, that put students at the center of their learning?

Read more here: Democracy in a Public High School


The Common Core SBAC: Separating fact from fiction, the top ten FAQ’s and answers about opting out

FAQ on opting out of the SBAC.

Seattle Education


There have been a lot of questions about the Common Core Standards (CCS) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) tests. There have also been conflicting messages, misinformation, some correct information and some boldface lies about opting out of the tests.

Much of the confusion is due to the fact that our state legislators, in their finite wisdom, chose to approve the CCS for our state, sight unseen. That’s right, the CCS had not been completely developed or reviewed when our elected officials in Olympia voted to approve them for every school district in our state. The concomitant SBAC test (in other states it’s the PARCC test), which has not been deemed valid or reliable by way of a  peer reviewed study, is now being taken by students within the Seattle Public School district.

It has been projected that at least 60% of our students will “Fail” the test…

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Film Review: Defies Measurement weaves together problematic purposes of ed reform

A great new documentary about the way in which testing and accountability inform the the current effort to dismantle public education.

Cloaking Inequity

In Defies Measurement, Shannon Puckett expertly weaves together the problematic purposes of testing, Common Core, corporate reform, No Child Left Behind, Teach For America, The Gates Foundation, The Broad Foundation, charter schools, and privatization. The film begins with Chipman middle school and traces the inspiration and impact that the school had on a diverse groups of students over the long term beyond their experience at the Bay Area middle school. The core of the film traces the testing and accountability reform context from their birth in eugenics to their invasion of public schools in the 2000s. At each step, the movie has an acute sense of counter narrative to the common discourse and argument in favor of school reform.

DEFIES MEASUREMENT strengthens the discussion about public education by exploring why it is so important to address the social and emotional needs of every student, and what happens when the wrong people make decisions for…

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Juan Gonzalez: Jesus “Chuy” Garcia and the Tale of Two Cities

Great piece on the Chicago mayoral race.

Diane Ravitch's blog

Juan Garcia, crack investigative reporter for The New York Daily News, interviewed Jesus “Chuy” Garcia about his race against Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Emanuel had hoped to win a decisive victory, but Garcia forced him into a runoff.

Garcia’s theme echoes the winning theme of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio: Chicago has become “a tale of two cities.” A city where the rich and powerful prosper and become more rich and powerful, and a city where working people see their life prospects diminishing.

“People are feeling the effects of inequality in this city, and they don’t like it,” Garcia told me in an exclusive interview Tuesday.

“Rahm has run this city for the benefit of the select few, the high rollers, hedge fund managers, big developers,” he said, “and the people voted for change.”

The Chicago race has instantly turned into the next big test for the soul of…

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Turning Schools Inside Out: Connecting Schools and Communities Through Public Arts and Literacies

In this co-authored essay we tell a story about how students in a methods course partnered with a Chicago high school in order to turn their school inside out by displaying larger-than-life teacher portraits and statements at street level throughout the community. This work explores how public art and activism can help teachers and students develop notions of civic literacy and engagement in order to change prevailing ideas about teachers and schools in our communities. Can teachers learn to relate effectively in communities outside of schools? Is this a desirable or even useful goal for educators? We set out to explore notions of partnership, community, civic literacy and engagement, and the role that teachers and students might play in shaping their communities. To read out more about this project and how you and your school can get involved in similar work, click here: