Haberman championed education for children in poverty

Martin Haberman, distinguished professor emeritus in the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) School of Education, died Sunday, Jan. 1 in Milwaukee at the age of 79. A memorial service is set for Sunday, Jan. 15 at Goodman-Bensman Funeral Home, 4750 N. Santa Monica Blvd. Whitefish Bay. Visitation will begin at 11 a.m. and the service will begin at 1 p.m.

Haberman, who taught at UWM for 43 years, was a nationally known expert on preparing teachers, particularly teachers who worked with children living in poverty.

Friends and colleagues remembered him for his fierce dedication to that work.

“His passion for preparing quality teachers for children in urban poverty is his legacy to each of us,” wrote Haberman’s UWM faculty colleagues Hope Longwell-Grice and Linda Post in an email to School of Education faculty and staff.

Since retiring from UWM in 2005, Haberman had continued his work on teacher preparation and selection with the Haberman Educational Foundation. The foundation’s national training staff travels to school districts all across the country and trains school leaders in the research-based Haberman Star Teacher/ Principal Selection protocols. These protocols help them select teachers and principals who will be most likely be able to work effectively 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,” Haberman said in a 2005 interview. “If you estimate the number of children those teachers will reach, I’ m touching the lives of millions of kids in positive ways…and that’s a very, very warm feeling.”

In the same interview, Haberman said his passion for teacher education grew out of his own experiences standing in a draft line in New York City during the Korean War. The key to remaining in college and out of the Army was scoring well on a 30-word test. While he was successful, he said, he saw many African-American, Puerto Rican and poor white men who couldn’t pass the test. “That experience changed my life.”

He realized, he said, that “the fundamental inequities in the American public education system are life-threatening.” His goal became to change the education system for the children in poverty in urban schools.

He went into teacher education, he said “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.”

Haberman, who earned his master’s and doctorate from Teachers College, Columbia University, before coming to UWM in 1962, was the author of several books and numerous articles on teacher preparation. He was frequently cited in the national news media on teacher training and the factors contributing to teacher success.

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 Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy. This became the model for the National Teacher Corps, which eventually prepared 100,000 teachers.

“It was a notable failure,” Haberman said with his typically blunt honesty in the 2005 interview, “but I learned a lot about what doesn’t work and it made me famous.” He saw the Teacher Corps, which ran from 1963-72, as a learning experience. “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 years of research that followed, Haberman 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 said.

At UWM and in Milwaukee and Wisconsin, Haberman said in the 2005 article, 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.”

A tribute posted on Education News by Delia Stafford, executive director of the Haberman Educational Foundation, drew comments from educators all over the country.

A former colleague, Wanda Blanchett, now dean of the School of Education at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, posted: “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! ”

“I loved him for his unyielding commitment, caustic sense of humor, truth telling, and keen insight,” Mark Larson, an assistant professor at National-Louis University, posted. “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.”

Haberman is survived by a daughter, Jill Eannelli; grandson Nicholas Eannelli and nephew Daniel Haberman His wife, Florence Haberman, preceded him in death.