Welcome to my web page! For links to my blog, please click here: Keep Talking.
You may also use the links above to find resources on graduate study and advising at Michigan State University as well as information on our current doctoral students and graduates in music education.
There is also a link to a page devoted to the distribution of clinic and workshop materials, handouts, research presentations, and other music education resources. All materials are offered free of charge and may be duplicated as needed, with proper citations and acknowledgements.
See below for links to book chapters, articles, recent radio interviews and media coverage on education policy and other related issues.
My essay on teacher evaluation was published on Eclectablog, and attracted 2500 page views in 2 days.
May 27, 2017: Appeared as a guest on the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s radio show, Keep Hope Alive Radio with Jesse Jackson, to discuss Betsy DeVos’ role in the attacks on public education, the privatization of the public schools, vouchers, and charter schools. (http://keephopealiveradio.iheart.com)
May 15, 2017: Interviewed by a reporter from VICE News for my perspectives on the influence of the “gig economy” in K-12 and higher education in the United States.
My piece on the appointment of Michigan's Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education was shared on Diane Ravitch's blog: https://dianeravitch.net/2016/11/23/mitchell-robinson-from-michigan-this-is-the-real-betsy-devos/comment-page-1/
A number of my essays on education policy have appeared on Eclectablog; click on the titles below to take a look...
I am pleased to announce that I have been invited to join the editorial team at Eclectablog! I will be focusing on education policy, particularly as it relates to public education and the corrosive impact of for-profit charter schools on our public school system, and am thrilled to contribute to my favorite political website in Michigan.
Click here for a brief interview with Chris Savage, the founder of Eclectablog.
I'm honored to have my essay on charter schools reposted on the excellent Eclectablog, here.
I'm very excited to have my first publication in the LA Progressive! I’ve admired this publication for a long time, and am thrilled to have one of my articles appear on their website.
My post on recent changes to teacher evaluation in Michigan, and their negative impact on music teachers, was reposted on Diane Ravitch's blog here.
A big thank you to Mandy Mikita Scott for her inspiration and contributions to this post!
Click here to listen to my radio interview with fellow education activist Denisha Jones
on the Education Town Hall: BUS (Badass Teachers Association, United Opt Out, Save our Schools):
Death Knell for “Ed Reform”?
Mitchell Robinson, of Michigan State University, and Denisha Jones, of Howard University — both active in BadAss Teachers Association — discuss the disappointment of teachers and teacher educators, nationwide, as unions and others jump on the “teachers are the problem” bandwagon of #TeachStrong.
Jones explains how the new effort fails to include many experienced schools of education, possibly in recognition of the fact that previous attempts to privatize and control schools has been thwarted by teachers and teacher educators.
Robinson also argues, however, that recent changes of tack for ed reformers, including Gates Foundation teacher prep funding, suggest reformers’ frustration because “they have not done one thing” and consequent flailing. Signaling, perhaps, a death knell for combative and unsuccessful strategies.
I'm thrilled to share my recent guest post on one of my very favorite political websites, Eclectablog! Chris Savage does a great job of keeping Michigan's citizens informed about what's happening in the state's political scene, and it's an honor to have my essay shared on this venue.
My essay on the main characters in what is referred to as "the education wars" was reposted by Diane Ravitch on her blog. To read the essay, click here...
My blog has been included on the Teach 100 list of "top education blogs."
An article of mine on music teacher evaluation, Can it get more absurd? Now music teachers are being tested based on math and reading scores, was published on The Conversation—a new media platform designed to "Inform public debate with knowledge-based journalism that is responsible, ethical and supported by evidence.”
My goal with this effort is to share my scholarship with a wider audience, and try to influence the narrative around the issues that are important to the profession. This can be difficult with traditional academic venues, like research journals, that have a limited circulation, target only other music educators, and often require a paid subscription in order to access. I believe that we have an obligation as “public academics” to spread our scholarship in these ways.
The Conversation is an open access platform with online editions in the US, Australia, Africa, France and the UK, and has a monthly audience of 2.6 million users, and a reach of 23 million.
My blog post, "Imagine," was picked up by Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post on October 13, 2015. To read the essay, click here:
Click on the link below to hear my interview on the problems with Teach for America on the Rick Smith Radio Show.
Robinson: Young creatives not good for art education
—Mitchell Robinson is associate professor and chair of the music education area in the College of Music at Michigan State University. 6:04 a.m. EDT September 27, 2015
As a former public school music teacher, music teacher educator, arts education advocate and chair of the music education area at Michigan State University, I am writing to express my profound disappointment with the recent announcement from the Arts Council of Greater Lansing of the “Young Creatives Project,” an initiative designed to “support funding of teaching artists in Lansing School District elementary classrooms”. To be clear, “teaching artists” are not certified arts teachers, and are not licensed to provide instruction in schools.
I was deeply involved with the Arts Council’s early efforts to advocate for restoration of the nearly 20 music, art and physical education teaching positions eliminated by the district two years ago, and a central component of our community arts task force’s approach at the time was the recognition that it was the responsibility of the district to provide certified, qualified arts and physical education teachers to deliver instruction to Lansing’s children.
When the cuts were first announced, the Arts Council served as the “convener” of the Lansing area’s community arts providers and agencies, arts educators and other community organizations, and organized the local arts community in a forceful and principled response to the District’s actions. We understood that it was beyond the scope and mission of these organizations to provide sequential, curricular arts education to the children of Lansing, and that agreeing to consider this move would effectively relieve the District of its responsibility to provide instruction.
While the Arts Council’s new “Young Creatives Program” promises to partner with the LSD to provide “teaching artists” in the schools, this initiative will actually result in a greatly diminished arts education experience for Lansing’s children, and all but guarantee that the District will never reinstate art, music or physical education for the city’s youngest children. So while children in Holt, Grand Ledge and Waverly have faced similar budgetary challenges, but still offer and support strong, vibrant art, music and physical education offerings, their peers in Lansing will be deprived of these experiences. And the achievement gap between Lansing and other school systems will continue to grow wider.
If the Arts Council truly wants to do what is best for Lansing’s children, they will reconsider this shameless attempt to profit off of the LSD’s decision to eliminate elementary arts education
in the city, and work with the District’s leadership to restore these programs to the schools. Lansing’s children deserve the same quality of education as their peers in other area schools, which
includes music, art and physical education instruction delivered by certified, qualified teachers.
— Mitchell Robinson is associate professor and chair of the music education area in the College of Music at Michigan State University.
Diane Ravitch recently reposted a blog post of mine on how the reform strategy of "creative destruction" has wreaked havoc in the public schools of many major American cities, including New
Orleans and Detroit.
However, one of the more subtle, yet damaging, weapons in the reformers' playbook is simultaneously less visible to the uninformed eye and more insidious in its ability to accomplish the reformers' ultimate goal: the destabilization of public education by an intentional, purposeful strategy of near-constant turnover and turmoil in the leadership and teaching force in the schools.
The business world has a name for this practice: creative destruction. It's a term coined by economist Joseph Schumpeter, and "refers to the incessant product and process innovation mechanism by which new production units replace outdated ones." Also referred to as "churn," this business-centered approach to school reform considers students and teachers as "raw materials," and schools as "factories." The goal is maximizing profits, and significant "collateral damage" (i.e., school closings, teacher terminations, student expulsions) is not only acceptable, but expected, in the single-minded pursuit of the reformers' goals.
"Creative destruction" comes in numerous forms in public education, from the year-to-year involuntary reassignment of teachers from one grade level to another, to the practice of having
elementary teachers with "all subjects" certifications teach subjects (i.e., music, art, PE) they are unqualified to teach, to moving principals back and forth between schools as though they are
pawns in a game of administrative Pong.
For more, go to "If You Can't Beat 'Em, Destabilize 'Em!"
I'm excited to share that my recent blog post on Achievement School Districts has been picked up by Diane Ravitch, perhaps our most influential education blogger and historian.
Click below to read the article:
There is the Recovery School District in New Orleans; the Education Achievement Authority in Michigan; the Achievement School District in Tennessee; and more on the way in other states.
The main thing you need to know about these experimental districts is that they promise rapid improvement in the state’s lowest performing schools, and all of them have failed.
I'm happy to share that my chapter, “A Tale of Two Institutions or... Myths and Musings on Work/Life Balance,” appears in the new book, “On the High Wire: Education Professors Walk Between Work and Parenting” from Information Age Publishing.
The purpose of the work/life balance series is to highlight particular challenges that higher education
faculty face as they participate in the demands of the academy and try to prevent those demands from invading their personal lives. On The High Wire looks at a specific subset of university
faculty, education faculty with school-aged children, and the specific professional/personal balance these faculty need to find. The title On the High Wire suggests the precarious nature of the
“walk” for education faculty who are parents of school-aged children. We know that our identities are central to how we experience the world and how the world reacts to us. This reality is
clearly visible in this book. These multiple identities and roles come into conflict at multiple points and in different ways. This book explores these identities and roles through
autoethnographic accounts written by varied education faculty in order to make these tensions visible for the field to address.
Click here to read this article that appeared in Arts Education Policy Review.
The following post appeared on the Badass Teachers Association blog (http://badassteachers.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2014-12-04T09:29:00-08:00&max-results=7) on December 4, 2014
When we want to
improve something--a product, a process, a project--in the business world, we devote more time, money and resources into research and development; we recruit talented people and pay them a
competitive wage; we make sure we surround those persons with excellent facilities, equipment, materials, working conditions, benefits, and retirement packages; we treat those employees with
dignity, respect and compassion.
When we want to improve
something--teacher quality, student
learning--in public education, we establish invalid and unreliable accountability measures that have been proven not to work; we eliminate teacher tenure, teacher unions, and minimum salary
requirements; we make it easier for unqualified people to enter the profession, taking away jobs from more experienced (read = more expensive) teachers; we deregulate charter schools as we impose
unreasonable demands and expectations on our public schools, teachers and students.
And then we blame teachers and students for the problems created by this mismanagement, and label them as "whiners" and "complainers" when they have the nerve to voice their concerns about the damage being done to public education.
Qualitative research has become increasingly popular in music education over the last decade, yet there is no source that explains the terms, approaches and issues associated with this approach. In The Oxford Handbook of Qualitative Research in American Music Education, editor Colleen Conway and the contributing music educators provide that clarification, as well as models of qualitative studies within various music education disciplines. The handbook outlines the history of qualitative research in American music education and explores the contemporary use of qualitative approaches in examining issues related to music teaching and learning. It includes 32 chapters that address a range of topics, from ways of approaching qualitative research and ways of collecting and analyzing data, to the various music teaching and learning contexts that have been studied using qualitative approaches.
My two chapters are:
6 ‐ Changing the Conversation: Considering Quality in Music Education Qualitative Research.
31 ‐ The Politics of Publication: Voices, Venues and Ethics.
To browse an online version of the Handbook, please go to: http://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199844272.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780199844272
School districts across the nation are faced with challenging economic times. When tough decisions need to be made, arts funding is one of the first things some districts put under the microscope. Music Education at MSU looks at this through a different lens and plays a strong advocacy role for the arts in its community, across the state and nation.
In March of 2013, the Lansing School District announced it would cut more than 80 elementary art, music, and physical education teacher positions beginning in the fall of 2013. Faced with some tough budgetary issues and new State of Michigan Right-to-Work legislation, the school board and teachers union made the decision to eliminate teacher positions and supplement their programing by placing additional demands on existing teachers and seeking non-binding external subject matter resources and personnel.
Dr. Mitch Robinson, associate professor and chair of music education, and Rhonda Buckley, associate dean for outreach and engagement and executive director of the MSU Community Music School, took prompt action. They reached out to local and national arts organizations, teachers, parents, the MSU College of Education, and various associations to advocate for the centrality and importance of arts education in the general curriculum. New dialogues have evolved and relationships have developed as the College of Music continues to provide leadership on this issue.
Click here to read more on the College of Music’s perspective on this issue and listen to a radio interview with Mitch Robinson.
The 2013 Michigan Music Conference will feature an impressive roster of presenters with MSU affiliations--just click to see a full size version of the poster!
We should all be proud of our friends and colleagues who will be sharing their knowledge and expertise with their colleagues in our schools at this event. See below for a listing of these sessions.
I'd also like to point out three events for your special attention:
• Dr. Cindy Taggart will be presenting an all day (8:00am-4:00pm) pre-conference workshop, titled "Illuminating the Mystery: Music Learning Theory in Action. Cindy will be joined by two Spartan alums, Jennifer Bailey and Heather Shouldice, who will be co-presenters. This promises to be a terrific workshop!
• Dr. Kevin Sedatole, MSU's Director of Bands, will be conducting the Michigan All-State High School Band on Saturday. It will be great to have Dr. Sedatole share his musicianship and artistry with our state's young musicians. Congratulations Kevin!
• Dr. John Kratus will be receiving the MMEA "Award of Merit" for his contributions to the state's music education community, especially for his founding of the annual MMEA Honors Composition Concert, which will be held on Saturday, January 19. Congratulations to John for this well deserved honor!
Also, if you are planning to attend the MMC, please remember to join us for the MSU Reception on Friday. The reception will be held from 5:00-6:30pm in the Governors Room, and is a great way to catch up with old friends and touch base with the faculty and current students. We hope to see you there!
Congratulations to all of our presenters and clinicians, and thank you for sharing your expertise and ideas with your colleagues!
Click on the picture to the left to go to the Teachers College Press web page on our new book, What Every Principal Needs to Know to Create Equitable and Excellent Schools, edited by George Theoharis (Syracuse University) and Jeff Brooks (Iowa State University). My chapter is titled, "Music Teaching and Learning in a Time of Reform."
About the book. . .
School leaders who succeed at creating a high-achieving learning community must also be committed to creating an equitable environment for all students. In this new book, key scholars across the content areas show how to put into practice a commitment to equity and excellence across the Pre-K–12 spectrum. Readers learn directly from experts in each of the content domains (literacy, mathematics, science, social studies, music, early childhood, special education, English language learners, world languages, and physical education) how a commitment to social justice and equity can be grounded in core subject areas, why each has a place in the school, and what they need to know and do in each subject area. This book is a critical instructional leadership resource for new and veteran principals who want to see all students succeed.
“This book is a noble work of art; it is thoughtful, well written, and passionate. The authors and editors provide the pathway for all of us to contribute to social justice. It is a must-read!”
—Sarah Jerome, superintendent, Arlington Heights, Illinois, and past president of the American Association of School Administrators (AASA)
“By forging the linkage between equity and leader`s subject knowledge, Theoharis and Brooks provide a much needed and important extension in our understanding of instructional leadership.”
—Joseph F. Murphy, Vanderbilt University
“At last a book on what principals need to know that doesn’t sacrifice the idea of an education to develop the entire human being instead of workers who can compete with China.”
—Fenwick W. English, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
“Bridges the gap between the intellectual considerations of academia and the everyday aspects of leadership practice. It is a must-read for principals, superintendents, curriculum specialists, and those who prepare them.”
—Autumn Cyprès, The University of Tennessee
“Finally, a thoughtful, well-crafted book that guides school leaders on promoting both high-quality teaching and learning and equity principles to improve student learning across content areas and needs.”
—Terry Orr, Bank Street College of Education
“WOW! Social justice leadership with explicit core content areas addressed all in one book. All principals hoping to improve student achievement and equity should consider this book when thinking about their leadership.”
—Deborah Hoffman, principal, Lincoln Elementary School, Madison, WI
“As a school principal in high-need schools for the past ten years, I truly recommend this book to anyone interested in improving the state of learning and increasing achievement scores.”
—Rob DiFlorio, principal, Henninger High School, Syracuse, NY
Contributors: Antonio J. Castro • Julie Causton-Theoharis • Virginia Collier • Katherine Delaney • Catherine Ennis • Virginia Goatley • Beth Graue • Rochelle Gutiérrez • Kathleen A. Hinchman • Anne Karabon • Christi Kasa • Dave McAlpine • Mitchell Robinson • Victor Sampson • Sherry A. Southerland • Wayne Thomas
240 pages Paperback, $29.95 | 978-0-8077-5353-8 Hardcover, $76 | 978-0-8077-5354-5
Table of Contents
1. Literacy—Leading Literacy Programs That Foster Excellence in All Students
2. Mathematics—Beyond the Achievement Gap: What It Takes to Become an Effective Leader in Mathematics for Marginalized Youth
3. Science—Creating Effective School Leaders for 21st-Century Science
4. Social Studies—Teaching Social Studies for Democratic Equity and Excellence
5. Music—Music Teaching and Learning in a Time of Reform
6. Early Childhood—Learning to Love Your Noisy Neighbor: A Principal’s Guide to the Education of Young Children
7. Special Education—Leadership for Inclusive Education: What Every Principal Needs to Know
8. English Language Learners—What Really Works for English Language Learners: Research-Based Practices for Principals
9. World Languages—Understanding Foreign Language Instruction in Your School
10. Physical Education—Innovative Practices and Programs in Physical Education
George Theoharis is an Associate Dean in the School of Education at Syracuse University and an Associate Professor in Educational Leadership and Inclusive Elementary Education. He is the author of The School Leaders Our Children Deserve.
Jeffrey S. Brooks is Associate Professor and Program Coordinator of Educational Administration at Iowa State University. He is the author of Black School, White School: Racism and Educational (Mis)leadership.
To order, call 800-575-6566 or visit www.tcpress.com
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