Archives for category: Parent Groups

Spring is coming.

People are standing up and speaking up.

Teachers at Garfield High in Seattle say “no more.”

Teachers at Ballard High School support their colleagues at Garfield.

The Seattle Education Association supports the Garfield and Ballard teachers.

Randi Weingarten tweeted her support.

Superintendents, one after another, are saying the testing obsession is out of control.

The principals of New York State stand together to demand professional evaluation, not trial by testing.

Parents are defending their children by supporting their teachers and their community schools.

The PTA of Niagara County in New York say hands off our public schools.

Communities are opposing school closings and corporate takeovers.

Students are speaking out because they know what is happening to them is not right.

Journalists are starting to recognize that the “reformers” are not real reformers but privatizers.

It is starting to happen.

We will put education back into the hands of educators and parents and communities.

We will work to make our schools better than ever, not by competition, but by collaboration.

Last year, someone emailed and asked me to create and lead the movement to stop the corporate reformers, and I said I couldn’t do it, that all I can do is write and speak.

That truly is all I can do, but when I started this blog in late April, it turned into a platform for the movement, and leaders are emerging all over the country, and learning about each other. They are communicating.

I am not the leader, I am the facilitator. You are the leaders.

A Néw York City parent organization has created a report card for Michelle Rhee. Good read.

Here is a great new parent and community group supporting strong public schools in Tennessee.

Please check it out.

Are there active parent groups in Memphis? Chatanooga? Knoxville? Other cities and towns?

Please write to let us know.

As I travel the country, I am often astonished to see how discouraged educators and parents are by the unproven schemes foisted on their schools by politicians.

The worst of these schemes come from radical politicians who think that government should get out of the business of providing public education.

They want education to be a commodity that you pick up whenever you want, wherever you want.

That is their ideal, though they are far from accomplishing it because it is fundamentally a very idiotic idea.

Governor Bobby Jindal is on that track in Louisiana.

Governor Rick Snyder is pushing hard in Michigan to ensure that education is available “any time, any place, anywhere, anyhow,” or words to that effect.

He doesn’t see to see any purpose or value in public education or public schools.

He recently got a report from a pretentiously named group of faithful right-wing operatives who call themselves the “Oxford Foundation,” even though they have nothing to do with Oxford University and they are not a foundation. They are Republican party wonks, cranking out what the governor wants.

The basic idea behind many of the radical deregulatory schemes is to strap the money to the child’s back (usually called either “fair student funding” or “weighted student funding” or some variation thereof) and then let the student take the money anywhere.

To a local public school; to a religious school; to a for-profit virtual charter; to a trade school; to anyone who hangs out a shingle or advertises on TV. In time, there would be no limits on what sort of institution fits the rubric of “any place, any time.”

Yes, there is pushback. I recently met with a group of superintendents in Michigan whose districts encompass nearly half the children in the state: They are not happy. They are discouraged. In private, one said this whole approach is “educational malpractice.”

And the parents are organizing.

I recently received this excellent post from Michigan Parents for Schools.

The parents understand that what is happening will destroy their schools and their communities.

They know more about their children and about education than Governor Snyder and the “Oxford Foundation.”

The best way to stop this madness is to educate the public. Educate parents.

Bottom line: Vote the rascals out.

People often ask me: How can parents and teachers hope to beat the big money that is buying elections in state and local races around the nation? What chance do we have when they can dump $100,000, $200,000, $500,000 into a race without breaking a sweat?

True, they have a lot of money. But they have no popular base. The only time they win votes is when they trick voters with false rhetoric and pie-in-the-sky promises. They call themselves “reformers,” when they are in fact privatizers.

They claim they know how to close the achievement gap but their standard-bearer, Michelle Rhee, left DC with the biggest achievement gap of all big cities in the nation.

They claim to be leading the “civil rights issue” of our day, but can you truly imagine a civil rights movement led by billionaires, Wall Street hedge fund managers, ALEC, and rightwing think tanks?

They say they love teachers even as they push legislation to cut teachers’ pensions and take away their job rights and their right to join a union.

There are two reasons they will fail:

First, none of their ideas has ever succeeded, whether it’s high-stakes testing, charters, vouchers, merit pay or test-based teacher evaluations.

But even more important, the public is getting wise. The public has figured out the corporate reform strategy. In state after state, parents are organizing.

Here is one great example in Texas, of all places.

Similar groups of parents are organizing in every state. Even students are getting active in the movement to protect the commons.

When the public gets wise, the privatization movement dies.

Leonie Haimson has some excellent ideas about where to make budget cuts and how to raise revenues to protect children in the looming fiscal crisis.

Haimson is executive director of Class Size Matters in New York City and has long been the city’s leading parent activist. Her ability to analyze research and budgets is astounding. Her courage in fighting for students and parents is unmatched.

Leonie Haimson was among the first people to be placed on the honor roll as a champion of public education. She was one of the original founders of Parents Across America.

She is a tireless and effective advocate who makes a difference in improving the lives of children.

A teacher in Memphis writes about how parents in her school reacted to the announcement that it would be taken over by the Achievement School District and turned into a charter school. Her school is poor but it has made steady growth and is not one of the lowest performing schools in the city. The media in Memphis, she says, is not reporting the genuine rage of the local black community:

First, see this article in my local paper about the state takeover of 10 more schools and the meetings about that takeover:

http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2012/nov/07/10-more-memphis-schools-to-be-taken-over-by/

I am a teacher at one of those schools in Frayser, a neighborhood the Achievement School District (ASD) seems to have targeted since they took over three schools there last year. The article notes that 6 of the 10 schools taken over will be run by charter operators.

I attended the meeting last night at Pursuit of God in Frayser, an impoverished and predominantly black neighborhood. The crowd was angry that their children’s teachers were going to be fired and that their children would have to adapt to a whole new school. They spoke about the great current teachers in their schools. They wanted to know what was going to make these schools better, and there was no one from the ASD who could explain that.

There was also concern expressed by a 30-year veteran teacher and resident of Frayser that this was an attempt to segregate the poor black neighborhood of Frayser from the rest of the county in the upcoming merger of Memphis City and Shelby County School Systems.

The community at the meeting was very antagonistic to state takeover. I overheard an employee of the church comment, “We got a tough crowd tonight,” and the ASD people were clearly uncomfortable.

I expected an article in the local paper to mention the atmosphere at the meeting.

The media ran this segment: http://www.wmctv.com/story/20049306/tn-asd-getting-set-to-take-over-more-memphis-schools

And the paper did not report on the events of the meeting. The shot of the crowd was purposefully taken while most of them were in the other room getting refreshments. There was no other coverage of the meeting in the media.

Parent groups in New York are trying to block the release of student data to an entity that includes Wireless Generation, a technology company owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, in collaboration with the Gates Foundation.

“On Sunday, October 14, at a press conference held at the midtown law offices of Siegel Teitelbaum & Evans LLP, attorney Norman Siegel and New York parents released a letter sent Friday to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and the New York State Board of Regents, demanding that the agreement between the NY State Education Department and the “Shared Learning Collaborative” be released, setting out the conditions and restrictions on the use of confidential student and teacher data to be provided to this limited corporation. The letter asked that parents be informed exactly what information concerning their children will be shared with this corporation, why the transfer of this data does not violate federal privacy protections, and demanding that the parents have the right to withhold their children’s information from being shared. The letter is posted at http://bit.ly/W6H2qV”

Read the background information here about Wireless Generation, Gates, etc. very important!

I hereby place the Niagara (NY) PTA on our honor roll. They are heroes of public education. They stood up for their children, their teachers, their principals, and their local schools.

These smart, independent, thoughtful parents passed an excellent resolution against high-stakes testing and against the state’s untried educator evaluation system, created hurriedly to justify Race to the Top requirements.

Many other PTAs are considering following the lead of the Niagara PTA.

This is democracy at work!

This is the American people telling the state officials, stop the misuse of testing. Stop ruining the education of our children. Stop demoralizing our teachers.

Here is a clear example where an upstate PTA makes more sense than the New York State Board of Regents or the New York State Education Department.

Here is the resolution written and adopted by the Niagara PTA:

Parent Teacher Association Resolution
November 16, 2012
Niagara Region Parent Teacher Association

Background:

There is now more than two decades of scientific research demonstrating that high-stakes testing regimes yield unreliable measures of student learning. Such tests cannot serve as a basis for determining teacher effectiveness. In fact, scientific research shows that high-stakes testing lowers the quality of education. Some of the documented harmful outcomes of high-stakes testing are: “teaching to the test”; narrowed curriculum opportunities; increased emotional distress among children and increased “drop outs”; corruption; the marginalization of both very high performing students and students with special needs; an overall lowering of standards and disregard for individual difference, critical thinking and human creativity. Thus, high-stakes testing has been proven to be an ineffective tool for preparing students for the 21st century.

The intent of this resolution is to ask the State Education Department to suspend its testing program until such time as it can create a new one that reliably measures educational progress without harming children and lowering the quality of education. We need a testing program that helps students and schools, not harms them.

Rationale for Submitting as an Emergency Resolution:

All of the following developments have occurred since April 15, 2012:

• In April, 2012, the New York State Education Department’s testing program’s relationship with Pearson, Inc. produced assessments that were judged by psychometricians, practitioners, parents, and students to be demonstrably flawed instruments, incapable of measuring student learning or teacher effectiveness.
• The New York State Education Department has published numerous memoranda and documents related to assessment and the Common Core Learning Standards, each of which add layers of unprecedented bureaucracy and great uncertainty, proving that there are many aspects of implementation, and the consequences of implementation, that NYSED can’t manage without causing great damage to our schools.
• The research of Walter Troup, of the University of Texas, and others, has demonstrated that the methodology used by Pearson to create the New York State assessments renders them “virtually useless at measuring the effects of classroom instruction” (New York Times, July 28, 2012).
• The United States Department of Education has granted the New York State Education Department a waiver from the requirements of No Child Left Behind (May 29, 2012), which technically lifts the federal testing mandate in grades 3 – 8. Finally, school districts have been informed as recently as September 19, 2012, that more field testing is necessary this October, requiring more testing and less learning.
• As of September, 2012, the curriculum associated with the Common Core Learning Standards still has not yet been fully developed (NYSED continues to ask vendors to write is curriculum modules), nor has it been has not been implemented fully in any part of the United States or New York State so that it’s effects on students can be measured or researched.
• To date, there has been no trial or testing to verify effectiveness of this student testing and teacher evaluation system, and no research to show that holding students or teachers accountable to the Common Core Learning Standards has been proven to increase the effectiveness of either.
• The Chicago teacher’s strike was a crisis that was primarily focused on the inappropriate role of standardized testing in evaluating students and linking these tests to teacher annual professional performance reviews. We should be aware of the very real possibility that the numerous controversies, implementation issues, and confusion may well cause considerable disruptions to the important work of educating our children.
• Why would we spend millions of dollars and subject children to another year of emotional distress when it has been determined that these high stakes tests yield no useful information?

Therefore we submit the following resolution:

1. WHEREAS, dating back to 1865, the New York State assessment program was historically a successful collaborative effort involving teachers, administrators and college and university faculty resulting in assessments that measured the efficacy of locally developed curricula in helping students meet state learning standards and yielded data that informed teaching and learning; and, the future well-being of each community in New York State relies on a high-quality public education system that prepares all students for college, careers, citizenship and lifelong learning, and strengthens the nation’s social and economic well-being; and

2. WHEREAS, the New York State PTA supports the health and well being of all children, and has voiced its concern regarding government over reliance on testing, stating that it has “tipped the balance of objectives, tasks, and assessments heavily toward standardized tests” resulting in consequences that can have a “profound impact on students, schools, and the community”, including subjecting students to “drill and kill” test preparation and less focus on curricular areas likely to develop the “whole child”; and

3. WHEREAS, when parents were asked about the high-stakes standardized testing and its negative effects for students from all backgrounds, and especially for low-income students, English language learners, children of color, and those with disabilities in a recent survey of 8,000 parents in New York State, it was found that 75% reported that their child was more anxious in the month before a test, and 80% reported that test preparation prevented their child from engaging in meaningful school activities. Sixty five percent of parents felt that too much time was devoted to test preparation, and 87% of them believed that too much time was being devoted to standardized testing. Ninety five percent of parents were opposed to increasing the number and length of tests causing many informed families to “opt out” of all New York State assessments; and

4. WHEREAS, all schools and school districts in New York State have been spending growing amounts of time, money and energy on high-stakes standardized testing to comply with state and federal accountability systems, in which student performance on standardized tests is inappropriately used to measure individual student progress and teacher effectiveness, which undermines educational quality and equity in U.S. public schools by hampering educators’ efforts to focus on the broad range of learning experiences that promote the innovation, creativity, problem solving, collaboration, communication, critical thinking and deep subject-matter knowledge that will allow students to thrive in a democracy and an increasingly global society and economy; and

5. WHEREAS, it is widely recognized that standardized testing, in particular the New York State assessments developed by Pearson, Inc. and administered to children in grades 3 – 8 in April of 2012, provided no data that will help teachers improve their instruction for children, and were judged by assessment experts, school administrators, teachers, and families to be invalid and unreliable instruments to judge student learning or teacher performance, and are damaging the culture and structure of the systems in which students learn, including narrowing the curriculum, teaching to the test, reducing love of learning, pushing students out of school, driving excellent teachers out of the profession, inhibiting the ability of schools to foster engaging school experiences that promote joy in learning, depth of thought and breadth of knowledge for students necessary for student success; and

therefore be it

RESOLVED, that the New York State Parent Teacher Association calls on Andrew Cuomo, Governor of the State of New York, the Board of Regents of the State University of New York, and Dr. John B. King, Jr., Commissioner of the State Education Department to enact a moratorium on policies that force New York State public schools to rely on high-stakes testing due to the fact that there is no convincing evidence that the pressure associated with high-stakes testing leads to any important benefits to student achievement; and be it

RESOLVED, that the New York State Parent Teacher Association calls on Andrew Cuomo, Governor of the State of New York, the Board of Regents of the State University of New York, and Dr. John B. King, Jr., Commissioner of the State Education Department to end its agreement with Pearson, Inc. and return to the inclusive practice of assessment design that included teachers and administrators, and engaged the college and university academic community, resulting in the development of tests that effectively measured each district’s progress in helping students meet state standards using their own locally developed curricula and will provide practitioners with data that can be used to improve teaching and learning; and be it

RESOLVED, that the New York State Parent Teacher Association calls on Andrew Cuomo, Governor of the State of New York, the New York State Senate and Assembly and Dr. John B. King, Jr., Commissioner of the State Education Department to eliminate the requirement that 40 % of teacher and principal evaluations be based on New York State Assessments and an impractical and unproven Student Learning Objective(SLO) testing model, to develop a system of Annual Professional Performance Review which does not require extensive standardized testing, and requires districts to document that their Annual Professional Performance Review Process assesses the progress of each teacher in meeting the New York State Teaching Standards using multiple measures of teaching performance.

-END-
CONCLUSION : Given the Mission and purpose of the PTA which clearly states that the PTA is: “A powerful voice for all children, a relevant resource for families and communities, and a strong advocate for the education and well-being of every child.” We believe it is our duty and responsibility to be a voice and advocate for our children and our schools.
REFERENCES
For a general overview of standardized testing technology and the issues associated with high-stakes testing, See Daniel Koretz, Measuring Up: What Educational Testing Really Tells Us. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008; and George Madaus, Michael K. Russell, and Jennifer Higgins, The Paradoxes of High-stakes Testing: How They Affect Students, Their Parents, Teachers, Principals, Schools, and Society. Charlotte, N.C.: Information Age Pub., 2009.

The following studies and research briefs caution against using student test scores to evaluate teachers: Peter Schochet and Hanley S. Chiang, Error Rates in Measuring Teacher and School Performance Based on Student Test Score Gains. U.S Department of Education (NCEE 2010-4004), July 2010. Available online: http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/pubs/20104004/pdf/20104004.pdf; Tim Sass, “The Stability of Value-Added Measures of Teacher Quality and Implications for Teacher Compensation Policy.” In Brief 4. Washington, DC: Urban Institute, November 2008. Available online: http://www.urban.org/publications/1001266.html; the following report represents the views of nationally leading education experts: Eva Baker et al. “Problems with the Use of Student Test Scores to Evaluate Teachers.” Washington, DC: Economic Policy Institute, August 29, 2010. Available online: http://www.epi.org/publication/bp278/. Note as well the letter sent by the National Research Council to the U.S. Department of Education warning it about the limits of so-called “value-added measures” of teacher effectiveness. See: http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12780#

For a general overview of the relationship between high-stakes testing and corruption, see Sharon Nichols, Sharon Lynn, and David C. Berliner, Collateral Damage: How High-Stakes Testing Corrupts America’s Schools. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press, 2007.

Research continues to draw a link between dropping out of school and high-stakes testing, see: Elizabeth Glennie, Kara Bonneau, Michelle Vandellen, and Kenneth A. Dodge, “Addition by Subtraction: The Relation Between Dropout Rates and School-Level Academic Achievement.” Teachers College Record 114, no. 8 (2012): 1-26., and Martin Carnoy, “Have State Accountability and High-Stakes Tests Influenced Student Progression Rates in High School?”, Educational Measurement: Issues and Practice 24, no. 4 (2005): 19-31. That high-stakes testing lowers the quality of instruction and narrows the curriculum to what is tested has long been documented, see, for example, Linda McNeil’s, Contradictions of School Reform: Educational Costs of Standardized Testing. New York: Routledge, 2000; Recent research on high-stakes testing and gifted students is reviewed here: Tonya Moon, “Myth 16: High-Stakes Tests Are Synonymous With Rigor and Difficulty,” Gifted Child Quarterly 53, no. 4 (2009): 277-279.

Recent work continues to reveal a limited relationship between test scores and economic performance, e.g., Henry Levin, “More Than Just Test Scores,” Prospects: Quarterly Review of Comparative Education, 137 August 20012. Available online at http://roundtheinkwell.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/more-than-just-test-scores-sept2012-2.pdf

A growing body of research documents the role of high-stakes testing in causing teachers to leave the field. See for example, Daniel Sass, Belinda Flores, Lorena Claeys, and Bertha Pérez, “Identifying Personal and Contextual Factors that Contribute to Attrition Rates for Texas Public School Teachers.” Education Policy Analysis Archives 20, no. 15 (2012): 1-25.

See: David Berliner, “Our Impoverished View of Educational Reform,” Teachers College Record 108, no. 6 (2006): 949-95.

WHEREAS 2

• NYS PTA Where We Stand Position Paper on Standards, Testing and the Whole Child
• Recent work continues to reveal a limited relationship between test scores and economic performance, e.g., Henry Levin, “More Than Just Test Scores,” Prospects: Quarterly Review of Comparative Education, 137 August 2012. Available online at http://roundtheinkwell.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/more-than-just-test-scores-sept2012-2.pdf
• For a general overview of the relationship between high-stakes testing and corruption, see Sharon Nichols, Sharon Lynn, and David C. Berliner, Collateral Damage: How High-Stakes Testing Corrupts America’s Schools. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press, 2007.

WHEREAS 3

http://www.fairtest.org/sites/default/files/HowTestsDamageEd.pdf
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/what-parents-say-testing-is-doing-to-their-kids/2012/05/30/gJQABJCz2U_blog.html
• Research Regarding Test Anxiety:
• Ryan, K. E., Ryan, A. M., Arbuthnot, K., & Samuels, M. (2007). Students’ motivation for standardized math exams. Educational Researcher, 36(1), 5-13.

• Zohar, D. (1998). An additive model of test anxiety: Role of exam-specific expectations. Journal of Educational Psychology, 90(2), 330-340.

• Jones, M., Jones, B. D., Hardin, B., Chapman, L., Yarbrough, T., & Davis, M. (1999). The impact of high-stakes testing on teachers and students in North Carolina. Phi Delta Kappan, 81(3), 199-203.

• Carter, E. W., Wehby, J., Hughes, C., Johnson, S. M., Plank, D. R., Barton-Arwood, S. M., & Lunsford, L. B. (2005). Preparing adolescents with high-incidence disabilities for high-stakes testing with strategy instruction. Preventing School Failure, 49(2), 55-62.

• Paris, S. G. (2000). Trojan horse in the schoolyard. Issues In Education, 6(1/2), 1.
WHEREAS 4

• For a general overview of standardized testing technology and the issues associated with high-stakes testing, See Daniel Koretz, Measuring Up: What Educational Testing Really Tells Us. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008; and George Madaus, Michael K. Russell, and Jennifer Higgins, The Paradoxes of High-stakes Testing: How They Affect Students, Their Parents, Teachers, Principals, Schools, and Society. Charlotte, N.C.: Information Age Pub., 2009.
http://www.mcte.org/journal/mej07/3Henry.pdf
• Baines, L. A., & Stanley, G. (2004). High-stakes hustle: Public schools and the new billion dollar accountability. Educational Forum, The, 69(1), 8-15.
• Behrent, M. (2009). Reclaiming our freedom to teach: Education reform in the Obama era. Harvard Educational Review, 79(2), 240-246.
• Johnson, D. D., & Johnson, B. (2002). High stakes: Children, testing, and failure in American schools. New York: Rowman & Littlefield.
• Keefe, J. W., & Jenkins, J. M. (2005). Personalized instruction. Phi Delta Kappa Fastbacks, 1-2, 7-49
• Popham,James,W (2001), The Truth about Testing, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development,Alexandria, VA

WHEREAS 5

• The following studies and research briefs caution against using student test scores to evaluate teachers: Peter Schochet and Hanley S. Chiang, Error Rates in Measuring Teacher and School Performance Based on Student Test Score Gains. U.S Department of Education (NCEE 2010-4004), July 2010. Available online: http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/pubs/20104004/pdf/20104004.pdf; Tim Sass, “The Stability of Value-Added Measures of Teacher Quality and Implications for Teacher Compensation Policy.” In Brief 4. Washington, DC: Urban Institute, November 2008. Available online:

• A growing body of research documents the role of high-stakes testing in causing teachers to leave the field. See for example, Daniel Sass, Belinda Flores, Lorena Claeys, and Bertha Pérez, “Identifying Personal and Contextual Factors that Contribute to Attrition Rates for Texas Public School Teachers.” Education Policy Analysis Archives 20, no. 15 (2012): 1-25.

• Barksdale-Ladd, M., & Thomas, K. F. (2000). What’s at stake in high-stakes testing: Teachers and parents speak out. Journal of Teacher Education, 51(5-), 384-97.

http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.niagara.edu/ps/retrieve.do?sgHitCountType=None&sort=DA-SORT&inPS=true&prodId=AONE&userGroupName=nysl_we_niagarau&tabID=T002&searchId=R1&resultListType=RESULT_LIST&contentSegment=&searchType=AdvancedSearchForm&currentPosition=1&contentSet=GALE|A66664668&&docId=GALE|A66664668&docType=GALE&role=&docLevel=FULLTEXT

• Baines, L.A., & Stanley, G.K. (2004). High-stakes hustle: Public schools and the new billion dollar accountability. The Educational Forum, 69(1), 8-15.
• Berliner, D. (2011). Rational responses to high stakes testing: The case of curriculum narrowing and the harm that follows. Cambridge Journal of Education, 41(3), 287.
• Bracey, Gerald,W (2002) ,The War Against America’s Public Schools, Allyn & Bacon A Pearson Company,Boston MA

• Hursh, D. (2005). The growth of high-stakes testing in the USA: Accountability, markets and the decline in educational equality. British Educational Research Journal, 31(5), 605-622.

http://web.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.niagara.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=9&hid=126&sid=3abc620f-8a26-4b3f-a827-9efd52fc6e45%40sessionmgr113

• McNeil, L., Coppola, E., Radigan, J., & Heilig, J. (2008). Avoidable Losses: High-Stakes Accountability and the Dropout Crisis. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 16(3), 1-48.

http://www.eric.ed.gov/PDFS/EJ800872.pdf

Last spring, Jeb Bush and Michelle Rhee tried to push the phony “parent trigger” legislation through the Florida legislature. It seemed to be a slam-dunk, since the legislature is controlled by Republicans and the governor is Republican, and the skids were greased to turn more public schools over to the charter corporations. These corporations give generous campaign contributions, so the table was set to add to their portfolios.

But they forgot about the parents, the alleged beneficiaries of the “trigger.”

Florida parent organizations turned out in force to oppose the “trigger.” They knew what the game was, and they knew it was not for their benefit that Bush and Rhee and ALEC were so eager to “empower” them with the ability to give their public school to a corporation. The Florida PTA and groups like Testing is Not Teaching, Fund Education Now, and 50th No More opposed the “trigger.”

Parents made a difference. They understood that the goal of the “trigger” is to shoot public education in the heart. They convinced enough Republican senators to vote against the bill that it ended in a 20-20 deadlock in the state senate. Of course, the forces of greed will return again, but parents will organize again.

Parents in Chicago are organizing to support the Chicago Teachers Union. One group, the parents of the 19th Ward, have been outspoken. I got this email today:

I wanted to share this post, which was written by Nellie Cotton, an involved Chicago Public Schools parent, an activist who speaks truth to power in a snap, a strong CTU supporter and a woman I am so happy to call my friend. Nellie has agreed to let me forward her post. I think it speaks to the experience a lot of parents have had in CPS, but not a lot have taken up the cause as brilliantly as Nellie.
 
Maureen Cullnan
19th Ward Parents
I was just thinking of how I became involved in all this and of all the wonderful people who have helped me become empowered. Please forgive me for rambling.
 
All this first started about three years ago when due to budget cuts, we were going to lose positions. One of those was an exceptionally gifted and beloved teacher, Miss Susan Cummings. Miss Cummings is simply amazing as a teacher. Her love of teaching and her “spark” are palpable. I felt helpless. Not knowing what to do, I approached my LSC for guidance, only to be told this happens, nothing you can do against CPS and, by the way, “Where were you when this issue first came up? “
 
I could not let this rest. My daughter Cecilia (she was Miss Cummings’ student)  and I went door to door with a petition demanding her position not be cut. We collected 261 signatures and went to a board meeting to present them, sent copies of the  same stuff every Tuesday and Thursday to our congressman, House Speaker Michael Madigan, and to Mayor Daley. I went to the monthly CPS school board meetings. Then one day as I had given CPS CEO Ron Huberman my weekly packet, I coincidentally met that dynamo ,Karen Lewis. She was president-elect of the CTU and she introduced me to Jesse Sharkey, who took my information and urged me to join CORE, any parent groups, or my LSC because “Parents and teachers must work together to be effective.” 
 
I knew then she was a dynamic force. 
We are grateful we still have our Miss Cummings!
  
Fast forward to Mayor Emanuel pushing longest day on CPS schools. Again I was shot down by my LSC, as this was a done deal, I was told. CPS had several staff people come talk to the parents and tell them it was a done deal, accept it.  
 
I couldn’t!  I knew better.  
 
My mother picketed and boycotted in order to get a high school built in Pilsen.  I had been active in keeping Pope John Paul II school open!   Again I started with petitions, signs and red bows on trees. I asked to use Lawler Park to have an informational meeting and, honestly, did not have a real grasp on all the issues at the time.  I was struggling with medical issues, my Mom was terminally ill, and I was just going on faith. 
The day of my meeting, I realize now that I had no grasp of the issues. I was going on moxie alone. I was so blessed to have Maureen and Christine contact me out of the blue and take time to do a presentation on the issue at hand. I was blown away. They came armed with information and passion. They are incredible! Through them and because of them,  I have met so many other fantastic people that are affecting positive changes and inspire me every day. Wendy Katten, Erica Clark, Kelly, Jennie, Becky, Laura and Jimmy, The 19th Ward Parents,  I am proud to know you, you guys ROCK! And so many others …
 
If nothing more,  this journey has afforded me the opportunity to meet such incredible people. Thank you for advocating for what truly matters!
 
Nellie Cotton
CPS parent
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