Archives for category: Honor Roll

The Koch brothers arranged a panel discussion about vouchers and why they are beyond wonderful. It wasn’t a debate. All four members of the panel supported vouchers. No one was there to say that voucher schools have never outperformed public schools, that voucher schools promote segregation, and that voucher schools divert money from public schools. The controversial Steve Perry from Connecticut, a state which has no vouchers, strongly endorsed them.

Fortunately, a few brave souls joined the audience and asked questions. One of them was a parent who went right to the heart of the matter. He was not intimidated by the stacked panel.

“Some were there to offer a counter view. T.C. Weber, a Metro Nashville school parent, questioned the “end game” of diverting funding from public schools.

“Are you looking to destroy the public system that we already have and build a new one based on your ideas?”

T.C. Weber is a hero of public education. I am delighted to add him to our honor roll for his courage and his commitment to democratic institutions.

You are invited to a major event honoring Leonie Haimson, a brilliant, fearless leader. Please make plans to attend and meet her and other allies in the fight for better education! Haimson led the fight to block inBloom from gaining access to the confidential records of millions of children. Thanks to her leadership, inBloom went out of business even though it was backed by the Gates Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation, and Rupert Murdoch’s Corporation. One principled woman defended the privacy rights of children and families, and she won! She showed all of us the power of one person.

Join Parents Across America at its first annual Parent Voice Award Dinner honoring PAA co-founder Leonie Haimson, leader of New York City-based Class Size Matters in DC on July 28.

http://www.eventbrite.com/e/paa-parent-voice-award-dinner-honoring-leonie-haimson-tickets-11831617687?aff=es2

This year, Leonie nearly single-handedly organized parents around the U.S. to oppose the impending commercialization of student information by the inBloom company, which ultimately went out of business after every state on its original clientele list pulled out of the program. Leonie is also the founder of NYC-based Class Size Matters, a group dedicated to promoting smaller class size – a proven, effective school reform strategy. Leonie started the New York Public School Parents’ Blog and has been a leader in challenging school privatization, misuse and over use of standardized tests, and, most recently, the threat to student data privacy.

The 2014 PAA Parent Voice Award Dinner is being hosted by the National Education Association at their headquarters in Washington, DC.

Tickets will include cocktails and a buffet dinner — and are only $20!

Proceeds from the dinner will support PAA’s programs and the work of our chapters around the U.S.

The registration form also includes an option for those unable to attend who would like to make a fully tax-deductible contribution to PAA in honor of Leonie, or anyone who can attend and would like to make a tax-deductible donation to PAA over and above the cost of the ticket.

Thank you!

Texas journalist Jason Stanford says it is time to recognize one of the heroes of the Education Spring: former Texas Commissioner Robert Scott, who bluntly said that high-stakes testing had grown too powerful and who warned that Common Core was intended to create a national curriculum and testing system. He came under a lot of criticism at the time and had to step down, but he has been proven right. The movement against high-stakes testing continues to escalate, and the number of states dropping out of Common Core seems likely to increase.

“Scott announced his resignation as Texas Education Commissioner in May 2012, but his public career effectively ended that January when he said that standardized testing had become a “perversion of its original intent.” Testing was wagging the dog, and Scott placed the blame on testing companies and lobbyists that have “become not only a cottage industry but a military-industrial complex.”

“You’ve reached a point now of having this one thing that the entire system is dependent upon. It is the heart of the vampire, so to speak,” said Scott, who stood by his remarks even as others failed to do the same for him.”

Texas was the heart of the testing movement, and a vast majority of local school boards passed resolutions opposing the misuse of testing. Even the Legislature took a stand against high-stakes testing. Much of that momentum can be credited to Robert Scott, who had the courage to speak out when it was unpopular. He is a hero of American education.

Mark Henry, superintendent of the Cypress-Fairbanks district in Texas, stood up and spoke out for common sense and education ethics. In this article, he explains why his district–the third largest in Texas–will not participate in a pilot test to evaluate teachers by student test scores.

He writes:

“This latest movement to “teacher-proof” education places additional fear, anxiety and pressure on professionals who are stressed enough already. I have seen this first-hand with principals and teachers who fret over the STAAR test, a once-per-year high-stakes assessment that measures how a child performed on one test on one day. Is that really learning? I don’t think so. Testing is a key diagnostic tool, and results should be used to assess the progress of students so plans can be developed to address the gaps and deficiencies of each student.
Learning is not a business; it’s a process. Use of a teacher evaluation system tied to standardized test scores alienates educators by trying to transform classrooms into cubicles. There are many more elements that go into teaching and learning than a high-stakes, pressurized test. Tying student test scores to a teacher’s evaluation may improve test scores, but does it improve a child’s educational outcome?”

Henry says there are three reasons that schools fail: mismanagement by school boards and superintendents; ineffective principals; lack of community support.

He does not blame teachers for poor leadership or systemic failure.

He writes:

“Let’s quit trying to “teacher-proof” education and stop the overreliance on data from one high-stakes test. The answers for improvement are recruiting, training and supporting our teaching professionals. Attention to these will deepen the effectiveness of what we do in the classroom and the biggest winners will be our children. “

Mark Henry is a hero of public education for his willingness to stand against a misinformed and harmful status quo.

When I first learned that Superintendent John Deasy planned to spend as much as $1billion to equip everyone in theLos Angeles school district with iPads for Common Core testing, I was amazed that the district could afford such a large expenditure. Then I learned from reading Howard Blume in the Los Angeles Times that TE district would pay for the iPads from a 25-year construction bond fund approved by the voters who thought they were paying for the construction and repair of public schools. I was shocked. I wondered if anyone cared. The useful life of the iPad was probably 3-4 years. How could the money come from the construction bond, and would there be money to build nd repair schools if it was used for short-term technology purchases.? Would voters support future bonds if their purpose was so easily ignored?

It turns out that one member (perhaps not the only one) did care, and that was Stuart Magruder. He is an architect, and he was a member of the district’s Bond Oversight Committee. he was doing his job. For daring to ask questions and be a critic, the LAUSD board failed to renew his appointment. He was ousted.

For his courage and integrity on behalf of the public interest, he is a hero of American education.

Here is a first for this blog: Governor Jay Nixon joins the honor roll for his courage in promising to veto a voucher bill passed by the State Legislature.

The State Senate has enough votes to override his veto, but the House does not.

Governor Jay Nixon recognizes that the state has an obligation to provide quality public education for every child. It must meet that obligation by providing every school with the resources and staff it needs, not by sending public funds to private schools.

Governor Nixon may also be aware of the overwhelming research showing that private schools do not get better results than public schools when they enroll the same children.

The bottom line is that Governor Nixon bravely stood up for the principle that the public has an obligation to support public education.

Now it his responsibility to fight for adequate funding and oversight to improve schools that are struggling. In most cases, the schools need more help for children and families that are in need, not just academic programs. The most reliable predictor of low test scores is poverty. Missouri, like other states, must avoid the pursuit of illusory quick fixes. Vouchers don’t “work” better than public schools. Missouri must improve its public school system for all.

Thanks to Governor Jay Nixon for protecting one of the basic democratic institutions that made our country great.

I honor the Ossining School District in Néw York for having the good sense and courage to say “no” to field testing. The school superintendent Raymond Sanchez says in the letter below that he must protect instructional time for the students, who recently lost seven hours to testing. Enough is enough!

The people of Ossining have confidence in their public schools. The school budget recently passed with the highest approval rate in its history (72%).

From: Superintendent’s Office [mailto:oufsd@ossiningufsd.ccsend.com] On Behalf Of Superintendent’s Office
Sent: Wednesday, May 21, 2014 12:03 PM
Subject: New York State Field Tests

May 21, 2014

Dear Parents/Guardians:

Annually, the New York State Education Department randomly selects school districts to administer the New York State Field Tests. This year the Ossining School District was selected to administer the exams in 4th, 5th and 8th grades. These exams are intended to “provide data necessary to ensure the validity and reliability of the New York State Testing program.” The field tests are a series of standardized exams developed by the independent testing company Pearson. The company uses the field tests as trial for questions it may use on future exams.

After a discussion with the building administrators and the Board of Education, I am recommending that the Ossining School District not administer the field tests. My reasons are as follows:

1. Protect Instructional Time: Due to inclement weather, we have lost a significant amount of instructional time. In addition, students were recently administered 7 hours of exams. Administering the field exams will lead to additional lost time. Instead, our goal is to use the time to continue to provide our students with appropriate direct instruction.

2. Lack of Transparency: These exams do not provide parents, teachers or administrators with information regarding each child’s progress.

I want to reemphasize that I feel that this decision is in the best interest of the students we serve in our school district. It is critical that we protect the instructional time we have with our students.

If you should have any questions after reading this notice, please feel free to contact your building principal – Ms. Regina M. Cellio, Ms. Kate Mathews, or Dr. Corey W. Reynolds.

Sincerely yours,

Raymond Sanchez

Ossining Union Free School District
190 Croton Avenue Ossining, NY 10562
(914) 941-7700 | jforsberg@ossining.k12.ny.us

Every once in a while a superintendent tells the parents in his district what is in his heart, not the bureaucratic blather that usually comes out automatically.

Paul Jones is the superintendent of the Paris Independent School District in Texas. He posted a letter to the parents in his district on its website letting them know that the test scores do not define their child. No doubt he also understands that the scores are arbitrary and depend on whatever passing mark the test company or state official chooses.

He wrote:

“Next week, you will be receiving your child’s STAAR/TAKS results for the 2013-2014 school year. I’m writing this letter on behalf of PISD administrators, teachers, staff, and board members. These results should be considered as one of many instruments used to measure your child’s growth, not the end-all of your child’s learning for the year.

“These assessments do not reflect the quality of teaching or learning in our classrooms. Instead, they reflect a punitive; one size fits all test-driven system. Our students are much more than a once-a-year pencil and bubble sheet test. Your child means immeasurably more than just a number generated in Austin. There is no test that can assess all of what makes each child unique. The state mandated assessments are used by the state to score and rank our campuses and our district, however, this is not the only assessment we use for Paris ISD students. We have higher standards. Your child’s achievements must be measured by a multitude of accomplishments throughout the year. Your individual child’s academic growth is what is important, and we assess your child’s growth from the start of the school year to the end of the school year.

“In contrast, your child is assessed by the state with a criterion-referenced test (STAAR), which assesses how your child performs on a single day and uses those results to compare your child to a predetermined standard set by bureaucrats in Austin and a testing company headquartered in London, England.

“We all know students do not master skills at the same rate; each individual child has their strengths and weaknesses. This single test cannot measure what we know about your child. Many of our students play sports, play musical instruments, dance, sing, speak multiple languages, write and perform poetry or songs, and create amazing works of art. We have students working multiple jobs at night to help support their family. Many of our students are the main caregivers for younger siblings late into the evening hours. Our classrooms are reflective of a multi-faceted student involved in a wide variety of activities, both academic and extra-curricular. It is not just drill and kill for one test.

“Although the data from this assessment will help us know when to offer enrichment or intervention, we will use the state assessment for the purpose the original assessment system was created–a diagnostic tool for identifying areas of concern as well as strengths. Individual student data will be aligned with local assessment data to develop educational plans that ensure continued progress for our students. Your child’s growth and love of learning are our main goals at PISD.

“Unfortunately, bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. and Austin have designed a one-size-fits-all assessment system that doesn’t necessarily reflect your individual child’s growth and achievements. Our students, not the state assessment, will be our main focus and top priority. Our instructional goals are to prepare each child to be college and/or career ready for the 21st Century.

“So, yes, we live in a time when standardized test results are a reality. However, let’s not let the STAAR test overshadow what is truly important–each individual child. Let us not forget to celebrate the vast and numerous accomplishments and successes the students of PISD have achieved this school year. It has been a great one!

“Paul Jones,
Superintendent Paris Independent School District”

If you open the link, you will see that the reporter from the Dallas Morning News is less impressed than I am. He thinks that it is important to measure basic skills with a standardized test (if the test is worthy) and that Jones took a cheap shot at Pearson for being based in London.

I don’t agree. The standardized tests made by Pearson have no connection to what children were taught unless the district bought the Pearson textbooks. The teacher should test what she taught, not what Pearson prefers. Look, Texans should be outraged that the state paid Pearson nearly $500 million for five years, when Néw York got a five year contract for only $32 million. Sorry, Jeff, this is big business, not education. Nationally, billions are at stake. Superintendent Jones knows it. He also knows that every child needs to be appreciated for what they can do, not punished for what they can’t do.

What is admirable about Mr. Jones is that he understands that the tole of the school is human development, not the ranking and sorting of children for industry.

He has judgement, wisdom, a heart, and a brain. And that’s why I am adding him to the honor roll.

Troy LaRavierre, principal of Blaine Elementary school, one of the highest performing schools in the city, decided he had had enough. He wrote a candid letter to the Chicago Sun-Times blasting the administration of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, whose political interference and disrespect were unprecedented in his career.

This is a man of courage. He won’t be silenced, not by Rahm Emanuel or anyone else who demands that he betray the best interests of the children in his care. No, he is not a “hero” like the billionaires pumping millions into the destruction of public education. He is the real thing.

He wrote to the Chicago Sun-Times:

#################

“Since 2011, CPS principals and teachers have experienced unprecedented political burdens. Early on, teachers felt publicly maligned and disrespected by the mayor, leading to the historic strike of 2012.

“While publicly praising principals in speeches and with awards, behind the scenes this administration has disregarded principals’ knowledge and experience. They have ignored and even suppressed principals’ voices in order to push City Hall’s political agenda for Chicago’s schools.

“The administration’s interaction with principals is often insulting. During the debate over the longer school day, some principals questioned its merits. CPS officials were then dispatched to tell the principals their opinions didn’t matter. “You are Board employees,” a central office official told a room full of principals at a meeting, “and when you speak, your comments must be in line with the Board’s agenda.” He instructed us to have an “elevator speech” supporting the longer day ready at a moment’s notice. We were told that if Emanuel and the press walked into our schools, we’d better be prepared to list the benefits of his longer day. In a move that further humiliated principals, they were called on at random to give their elevator speeches at subsequent principal meetings.

“Shortly afterward, CPS slashed school budgets, voted to close 50 schools and made disingenuous statements about the slashed budget giving more “autonomy” to principals. They insinuated these cuts would have little effect on classrooms. I spoke up to give Chicagoans a factual assessment of the effects of these cuts. A reporter from WBEZ Radio recorded a statement I delivered at City Hall in July 2013 and posted it on the station’s website. It became one of the station’s most downloaded audio files.

“Several months later, I spoke about overcrowded schools on WYCC television. A few hours before filming, I emailed CPS officials to inform them. Later that afternoon — unaware the show had already been taped — those officials told me not to appear because I did not have permission. On the subject of whether I had the right to speak as a private citizen, CPS said I should wait to receive clarity. After more than two months I’m still waiting for “clarity” from CPS on my right to speak.

“Recently, during a break at a training session, a few principals gathered to discuss what they could not say publicly. They expressed concerns about the impact of Emanuel’s effort to cut teacher pensions on our ability to recruit talented people into the teaching profession. They questioned unfunded mandates that pull resources from classrooms, and condemned CPS’ expenditure of over $20 million on Supes Academy — an organization the CEO of CPS once worked for — to provide principal training, a training that principals agreed was among the worst they’d experienced.

“Principal after principal expressed legitimate concerns that none felt safe expressing publicly. Finally, I spoke.

“This administration gets away with this because we let them. We are the professionals. Yet, we allow political interests to dominate the public conversation about what’s good for the children in our schools. Every time these officials misinform the public about the impact of their policies, we need to follow them with a press conference of our own to set the record straight.”

“Those who responded expressed concerns about being harassed, fired or receiving a poor evaluation. Principals sat paralyzed by fear of what might happen if they simply voiced the truth. One of them asked me plainly, “Aren’t you afraid of losing your job?” The question awakened a memory:

“General Quarters! General Quarters! All hands, man your battle stations!”

“In 1989, when I was in the Navy, I was stationed onboard an aircraft carrier and accustomed to hearing the “General Quarters” battle readiness exercise. However, on January 4 of that year, it came with a sobering declaration: “This is not a drill.”

“Our ship had entered the Gulf of Sidra near Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya, and crossed Gaddafi’s “Line of Death.” Two Libyan warplanes were headed our way. Fortunately, our F-14 fighter jet pilots were able to shoot the warplanes down. Our captain later praised the pilots and ship’s crew for our willingness to risk our lives to preserve American freedoms.

“So when people ask me, “Aren’t you afraid of losing your job if you speak out?” this is my answer: I did not travel across an ocean and risk my life to defend American freedoms only to return and relinquish those freedoms to an elected official and his appointed board of education.”

Donna Dudley, superintendent of Moyers public schools in Oklahoma, made a conscious decision to defy the state.

 

It should not have been an extraordinary decision because it was what a decent human being would do.

 

Two of her students suffered a terrible loss the weekend before the state tests. Their parents were killed in a car crash.

 

Superintendent Dudley asked the state for permission to exempt them from the state tests.

 

The bureaucrats at the State Education Department said no.

 

Superintendent Dudley exempted them anyway.

 

I honor her here as a hero of public education.

 

The story broke after Superintendent Dudley wrote about it on Facebook and said she was willing for her school to get an F, if that was the consequence of doing what was right for the students.

 

Once the situation was publicized, the State Superintendent of Instruction, Janet Barresi, quickly apologized.

 

Mistakes were made.

 

When the state is wrong, individuals must do what is right regardless of the consequences.

 

Question is, when will the state–not only Oklahoma–but the federal government, President Obama, Secretary Duncan, and the U.S. Congress–admit that the emphasis on testing is out of control?

 

Why test dying children? Why test children who have no brain stem? Why test grieving children?

 

What has happened to our humanity?

 

Why must the demand for Big Data trump decency and kindness and basic values?

 

When will we stand together and say NO?

 

I reiterate the demand of the Network for Public Education for Congressional hearings on the misuse, overuse, and costs of testing in our schools today.

 

 

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