Why Education Reform is Killing America’s Schools

by David Ellison

From the Introduction:

Bloodletting is an uncompromising, provocative exposé about education reform in the United States. In Bloodletting, David Ellison provides an evidenced-based overview of the on-going fiasco of American education, using cogent, accessible language, often citing his own poignant and too-often heart-wrenching personal experience. Bloodletting is a bold treatise from a 30-year veteran educator and a passionate writer.


Trade Paperback
Stairway Press

What others are saying about Bloodletting

“If you are sick and tired of smug corporate leaders from rich suburbs who assume that educators working with poor black and Latino kids are stupid and insist that the profound inequalities of families and communities in the world’s most unequal advanced society are irrelevant and that the schools can be fixed without more resources by even more harsh tests, sanctions, and attacks on teachers, this could be the book for you. It is a fierce assault on the agenda of the “billionaires” and the Bush and Obama administrations from an impassioned teacher who has had too much and wants sweeping changes.”

    - Gary Orfield, Distinguished Research Professor, UCLA


“David Ellison has his hand on the fading pulse of American education. His exposé on the various false fixes of school reform–including vouchers, charters, standardized testing, and even the current Common Core Standards–leaves the reader sharing both his outrage as well as his ‘stubborn hope that America and it’s schools will be great again.’ This is a must-read for teachers, parents, law makers… anyone who claims to care about this country’s schools and the children who too often fail to thrive in them.”

    - Jay Davidson, author of Teach Your Children Well: A Teacher’s Advice for Parents


"A veteran teacher schools us on the dangerous course of our present educational reforms. A must read.

Veteran teacher David Ellison has clearly and concisely identified the myriad problems with today’s school reform in America in his new book titled Bloodletting: Why Education Reform Is Killng America’s Schools. He discusses the issues that have led to our current state of despair, outlining specific reasons these most recent reforms are damaging our schools, and provides clear, but difficult, solutions. He calls out various government and big business officials for their attempts to use market-based reforms and explains why these are all steps in the wrong direction using the analogy of the primitive and dangerous medical practice of bloodletting:

We understand that those well-meaning doctors-of-old had misdiagnosed their patients. Indeed, diseases are much too diverse and complex ever to allow for any simple, generic cure. Thus, instead of healing, bloodletting often made people sicker.” (Introduction)

Ellison reveals the true causes of today’s plight: poverty, unqualified and disillusioned teachers, vouchers and charter schools, and gross underfunding. He highlights efforts of researchers to get these education reformers to use data to make things better rather than ignoring what it shows to further their harmful agendas. He debunks merit-pay as a solution to ineffective teachers by pointing out that what really gets teachers excited is “the moment when we show a student who never thought she could succeed that she can.” (p. 33) He also calls out charter schools for taking the best and brightest teachers and students from public schools, giving them smaller class sizes and more support and then leaving the kids who really need that support to wallow in paltry conditions.

As a local educator in my twentieth year, Ellison’s book spoke to me in a powerful way as both a teacher and a parent. Especially enlightening was the section that detailed the legacy of the great reforms the California Teacher’s Association has championed throughout its history and how as an organization we need to get back to those roots and focus more on addressing the issues that are truly hurting our children. In this time where I find myself drowning in mandated testing and the implementation of the Common Core standards, it often feels impossible to see beyond my classroom to the needs of our children as a whole. As a parent, I worry about the state our schools will be in as my children reach middle and high school. Will they get the support they need, or will they be beaten down by seemingly unreachable standards and anxiety-producing tests? Will they get to enjoy the arts? Will they receive vocational training, if that is what they desire? They’ve already had many experiences taken away from them such as the field trips that kids look forward to every year. My son even had his recess cut this year in the afternoon. This is having a huge impact on his ability to get his energy out before he comes home and his ability to focus on homework.

I’ve had the privilege of observing Mr. Ellison as a presenter. I’ve had a child be inspired by his teachings, and his writings have galvanized me in my own work. I’ve worked in the same district as Mr. Ellison for fourteen years and experienced the frustrations he describes in the book. I can assure you he has meticulously and accurately portrayed the state of education in our community.

Perhaps the most resounding portion of the book is our leaders’ refusal to look at the impressive example of Finland as a better option for school reform. In fact, we are moving in the opposite direction and I fear what that will do to our already crippled education institution. I have hope, however, because I work with some of the most downtrodden of our kids and they come to school each week attempting to reach their goal of earning a high school diploma despite the type of backstories Mr. Ellison describes in the book. Mr. Ellison states on page 94 that “the truth is, our educational system is so dysfunctional that we cannot just reform it. We must transform it, transcend it, redesign in from the ground up according entirely new and enlightened paradigm.” In order to go to work each week and send my own children to school each day, I have to believe we can do this. It’s going to take parents, teachers, and all community stakeholders to make this happen, but it can be done. Bloodletting is an effective critique of educational reform in all it’s gore and glory. Reading this book will educate you, infuriate you, and hopefully, inspire you."

    – MetalMom, 5 Star Review on Amazon


“Great for all parents to know! GREAT READ!!!!”

    – Patti G, 5 Star Review on Amazon