Dr. Martin Haberman: A Legend In His Own Time Leaves a Legacy

Jan 2, 2012 by

Dr. Martin Haberman 1932 - 2012

January 1,2012, the community of educators nationwide and beyond lost an educational icon, Martin Haberman. The Haberman Educational Foundation staff, HEF National Trainers and the Haberman Educational Foundation Advisory Board members are saddened by this news. Dr. Martin Haberman,distinguished professor Emeritus, a long time educator, researcher, writer and mentor to so many, passed away in Milwaukee ,WI, where he spent a lifetime career at the University of Wisconsin,Milwaukee. This article by Kathy Quirk speaks of his work and his dedication to the children and youth of America, which by all means,is unprecedented. He will be missed.

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Here are comments from educators and friends as the message of his passing spreads:

I am going to greatly miss that wonderful man as, I know, we all will. He will live on in our work and in the lives of the thousands he has touched. Fred Chesek U of Chicago


That is very sad news. If there’s a bright side, it’s the life Martin led, full professional accomplishments that will continue through you. Thanks for letting me know. Leo Klagholz HEF Advisory Board


No one was ready for this. We can be thankful for knowing him, having the opportunity to work with him, and helping champion his great work. Gus Jacobs UMKC


I just received a call letting me know that our colleague and friend Marty Haberman passed this morning. Since I know that you each knew Marty and greatly appreciated his work, I wanted to share this sad news with you in the event that you hadn’t heard. As I shared with my Milwaukee colleague, we can only hope to live our lives as dedicated to the plight of this country’s most underserved children as Marty did—what a legacy of an unwavering commitment to social justice! Wanda Blanchett UMKC


I’m saddened to learn of Dr. Haberman’s passing. He was icon for me. I, too, will continue to do all that I can to uphold the rich legacy that he has left us. He was a great man! The professional and person alliance that the two of you forged was one of the best professional relationships that I have ever observed. May we gain comfort knowing Martin’s spirit will shine brightly in our lives forever. Richard Streedain NLU

Here is what Mark Larson, Assistant Professor at NLU says about him. This must be a very hard time for you in particular, Delia. The great Dr. Martin Haberman, whose 50 plus years as an educator were focused with astonishing precision on the improvement of schools for children in poverty, passed away on the first day of the new year. I loved him for his unyielding commitment, caustic sense of humor, truth telling, and keen insight. He told me once: “I’m a pragmatist doing the best I can with the world as it exists.” He did damn well. He will be sorely missed, but the impact of his work will be felt for generations. I am pleased to hear you plan for his work to continue. How could it be otherwise? He shaped so many lives and so much of our thinking. His contribution has been extraordinarily generous and is without end. We are all the better, and so is our world, because there was a Martin Haberman. I’m deeply shocked and saddened. Mark Larson NLU
What an enormous loss for you personally–I’m so sorry. My only direct contact with Dr. Haberman was a brief but cherished phone call several years ago, which you helped arrange shortly after I first contacted you. But I considered him my mentor even before that, just as I have ever since. His legacy will be large and lasting, and I look forward to continuing to promote and support his work. Peace to you during this difficult time and always. David Ginsberg


Golden Apple Foundation

Today, we mourn the passing of Dr. Martin Haberman who modeled grit and zest like nobody else! I loved my conversations with him: he was feisty and candid and funny. You can hear our latest one through the KIPP/NLU Distinguished Educators Conversations in the link below in Jenny’s email.

Martin Haberman, former professor at University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, creator of the Haberman Interview, author of Star Teachers of Children in Poverty and Star Principals, and father of the alternative teacher certification movement in America, died over the holidays as well.

First of all, you’d be uncomfortable in Martin’s presence, because his irascibility and plain passion for improving teacher preparation made him few friends amongst his university brethren. He quite simply found much of contemporary university teacher preparation horse hockey, full of bland uselessness presented to children too young to be  prepared to teach the too left out the too important. He was influential, and certainly was a mentor to Golden Apple when we introduced alternative teacher certification to Illinois in 1998. Before Teach for America and Chicago Teaching Fellows and AUSL presented teachers for Chicago schools, the GATE program, and its predecessor Teachers for Chicago were Golden Apple-inspired or consortium products. GATE rose after TFC was closed, and Martin Haberman was the philosophical architect whose theories colored our vision of alternative teacher certification.

And oh was he challenging! We brought him to Chicago to lecture to our Fellows, only to see him walking out, claiming “I have wasted my time here!” after fielding a question about whether good teaching transcends the circumstance of the school setting of the child that witnessed it. Years later, he remembered that moment to me in a phone call and said “I regretted my walking out, even though I was right to do so.”

His Haberman interview was a rigorous and astonishingly accurate revealer of potential teaching talent amongst the adults we interviewed. I interviewed many hundreds of adults in our decade-long run as a program. Every once in a while I would fudge in the scoring (“one wrong answer—the whole interview is a failure and that person is not quality enough to teach” he thundered to me). I would see someone with skill and promise who would give just one wrong answer—and every time I closed my eye to the moment and presented that candidate to the program—dang if that person washed out every time and every time on one of Haberman’s principles on what constitutes excellent teaching.

Conducting the interview itself was exhausting, requiring the interviewer not only to ask questions but to create scenarios, present impassioned possibilities and improvise personalities, all in an effort to see in fourteen questions whether we could trust these adults with our path to teaching. More than one person I met in these interviews called it “the most challenging forty minutes I ever spent.”  Agreed! And the 400+ we presented to teaching in tat decade (and the 600+ we rejected along the way) were remarkable for their longevity and contribution to improving the quality of teaching in CPS in a time when teaching in CPS drew fewer candidates.

Principals often disliked the interview because it universally cast the principal as the avatar of the-way-we-always-did-it antagonists. But Haberman always saw the excellent teacher devoted to students above all. He was exciting to talk to because of his unpredictable nature and his undeniable passion for excellent teaching. Dom Belmonte, CEO at Golden Apple Foundation

Delia Stafford
President &CEO
Haberman Educational Foundation,Inc.


Haberman’s Career Dedicated to Quality Public Education

By Kathy Quirk
Martin Haberman

Martin Haberman, distinguished professor emeritus of curriculum and instruction in UWM’s School of Education, discovered his life’s work while standing in a draft board line in New York City waiting to take a 30-word vocabulary test.

“They had a fancier word for it, but it was basically a vocabulary test,” Haberman says. “If you passed the 30-word vocabulary test, you could stay in college. If you failed it you went into the army and would be very likely to go to Korea, where 58,000 service people were wounded or killed.”

Haberman passed the test the three times he was called up and was able to finish college. Among “the 500 guys standing in line” waiting to be processed and tested, he found that those most likely to fail the vocabulary test were Puerto Ricans, African Americans and poor whites. The experience taught him two valuable lessons: “a sound basic education could save your life; and “the fundamental inequities in the American public education system are life threatening. “

That experience changed my life,” Haberman says. His goal became to change the education system for the children in poverty in urban schools — those for whom school success was fundamentally a matter of life and death.

He went into teacher education, he says, “because I felt I could have more influence there than as a teacher with no voice or ability to influence policies in highly bureaucratic urban schools or state departments of education.” After earning his master’s and a doctorate in Teacher Education from Teachers College, Columbia University, he came to UWM in 1962. He has been awarded Honorary Doctorates of Humane Letters from Rhode Island College and the State University of New York.

Forty-six years later, Haberman is still working to improve teaching in urban schools. Although he officially retired in May after 43 years on the faculty of the UWM School of Education, Haberman is currently leading a hands-on master’s class for urban teachers, writing, researching, and running a foundation. He says “not much has changed since my official retirement. I’m just getting paid from a different source (the retirement plan).”

Haberman has developed more teacher education programs which have prepared more teachers than anyone in the history of teacher education. The most widely known of his programs was the National Teacher Corps, which was based on an internship program he developed in Milwaukee. He has since written and researched extensively about the factors that make teachers – and their students – successful in urban schools. He has developed a selection interview to guide school districts in hiring teachers who are likely to succeed and stay in urban schools which is used in more than 220 school districts nationally. His latest book (2005) is “Star Teachers of Children in Poverty.”

Haberman summed up his philosophy of teacher preparation in a 2004 article: “For children in poverty, success in school is a matter of life and death, and they need mature people who have a great deal of knowledge about their subject matter, but who can also relate to them. It is also necessary to recognize that most of what effective teachers learn they learn on the job from mentors, colleagues and self-reflection.”

Early in his career in Milwaukee he developed an innovative internship program for liberal arts graduates which caught the attention of the late Wisconsin Sen. Gaylord Nelson and Sen. Ted Kennedy. This became the model for the National Teacher Corps, which eventually prepared 100,000 teachers. “It was a notable failure,” Haberman says in his typical blunt style, “but I learned a lot about what doesn’t work and it made me famous.” And, he adds in a dry aside, “if a program gets a lot of grants and attention nobody ever asks if it really helped kids?” But the Teacher Corps, which ran from 1963-1972, was a learning experience, says Haberman, “and I’m a firm believer in experimenting with teacher education models. We learned a lot about what worked and what didn’t work.”

Building on that early experience and the 40-plus years of research since then, Haberman has developed a significant body of knowledge on the ideology and behavior of effective teachers for diverse children and youth in urban poverty. “The surest and best way to improve the schooling and the lives of the approximately 15 million children and youth in poverty is to get them better teachers,” he says.

In an article in the June 1995 Phi Delta Kappan, Haberman outlined 14 key teaching behaviors that are characteristic of “star” teachers. In the same article he argued that selection is more important than training and that a level of maturity must be reached before teacher training can have value. “Two of the fundamental attributes of successful teachers are maturity and judgment,” says Haberman, “that’s why it’s important to establish programs that bring well-educated college graduates with valuable life and work experience into the classrooms.

“Fundamental belief systems separate star teachers and teachers who burn out and fail in challenging situations,” says Haberman. For example, “some teachers believe some kids learn more than others because they’re smarter. Teachers who believe that might be good at grouping students and marking papers, but are more likely to fail or quit,” says Haberman. “On the other hand, teachers who believe school success is explained by effort are more likely to get their students to succeed. Why? Because they figure out ways to motivate, interest and get them to work harder.”

At UWM and in Milwaukee and Wisconsin, Haberman says, he found such a wonderful laboratory for experimenting with ideas to improve education that he never was tempted to go elsewhere. “I was very fortunate to be at UWM and in Milwaukee. They have also given me the opportunity to try anything I’ve ever wanted. I couldn’t have found a better place. UWM has been an absolute, perfect laboratory. I can say the same for the State Department of Public Instruction in Wisconsin which has accredited every model I ever asked them to let me try.”

The Haberman Educational Foundation works with school systems across the country to screen and interview teachers (principals and superintendents) who will be most likely to stay and be effective with diverse students from poverty backgrounds.

“The number of cities that use my teacher interviews bring in about 30,000 mature adults who will be effective with diverse children in poverty every year.”

“If you estimate the number of children those teachers will reach,” says Haberman, “I’m touching the lives of millions of kids in positive ways…. and that’s a very, very warm feeling.

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