Archives for category: Parent Groups

Parents in Texas rose up to fight the over testing of their children and to send a message to the Legislature. Testing is not teaching, but the Legislature seemed to think that the way to fix the schools was to add more tests while slashing billions in funding.

Reacting to parent groups like TAMSA (Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessmentt), the Legislature dropped a proposal to require students to pass 15 tests to graduate (it remains five). Almost every school board in the state passed a resolution ahAinst high-stakes testing.

And now the State Education Department (headed by a non-educator) has acted: it switched testing vendors, taking most of the state testing away from Pearson and giving it to ETS.

Jeffrey Weiss of the Dallas Morning Mews asks the key question:

“Whether students, teachers or school officials will notice the change is a question state officials declined to answer Monday.”

Does it really matter which vendor administers too many tests? Does it matter who writes theultople-choice question? Will the stakes change?

Parents Across America issued a statement opposing Common Core, PARCC, and SBAC.

1) PAA is NOT opposed to learning standards or assessment. We believe it
is important for school communities to have a shared vision and goals
for student learning, and effective tools for monitoring student

2) PAA is NOT opposed to federal involvement in public education. We
believe that the federal government and the U.S. Department of Education
have an important role monitoring and addressing issues of school
resource equity and student civil rights, and researching and promoting
best practices in education.

3) PAA recognizes that the push for national standards and tests did not
start with CCSS/PARCC/SBAC. We acknowledge the real desire of many who support CCSS/PARCC/SBAC to improve the quality of education, especially for some of the nation’s neediest children. However, we believe such efforts are based on a faulty analysis of the challenges facing public
schools and a disregard for the harmful and ineffective results of
standardized test-based accountability.

We oppose the CCSS because they are not derived from any community’s
shared vision of a quality education. We oppose the PARCC/SBAC
assessments because they are products of the same companies whose tests are being rejected daily as time-wasting intrusions on real learning by growing numbers of parents, teachers, students, and administrators
across the nation.

We oppose CCSS/PARCC/SBAC because we believe that they were designed to allow corporate interests easier access to the “educational marketplace”
and to private student and family data. CCSS/PARCC/SBAC will provide new
ammunition for the attack on teachers and the teaching profession when
scores show even more “failing” students and schools. Ultimately, this
new, even more coercive version of top-down, test-focused education will
deprive too many of our most vulnerable children – children of color,
children living in poverty, special needs students, English-language
learners – of the empowerment and opportunity that deep learning and
strong schools can offer them.

PAA calls for an immediate nationwide moratorium on implementation of
CCSS/PARCC/SBAC. This moratorium will provide states and local districts
the opportunity to step back from CCSS/PARCC/SBAC, allow for extensive
public review and input on these programs, and decide for themselves,
without federal intrusion, if or how these materials will be used.

We believe that, if used at all, CCSS should be considered as
recommendations only in the development or revision of local standards,
and that, if used at all, PARCC/SBAC tests should be voluntary for
schools, teachers and students, and have no high stakes.

For more information, please see our fact sheet, “Common Core Basics,” and “Annotated References,”

which provides extensive background information on our CCSS/PARCC/SBAC

PAA has very different ideas about what’s needed in education than those
embodied in CCSS/PARCC/SBAC. Please see our position paper, “What is a Quality Education?”

In a story published in the New York Times, Kate Taylor and Motoko Rich describe test refusal as an effort by teachers’ unions to reassert their relevance. This is ridiculous.

Nearly 200,000 students opted out. They were not taking orders from the union. They were acting in the way that either they wanted to act or their parents wanted them to act.

I emailed with one of the reporters before the story was written and gave her the names of some of the parent leaders of the Opt Out movement, some of whom have spent three years organizing parents in their communities. Jeanette Deutermann, for example, is a parent who created Long Island Opt Out. I gave her the names of the parent leaders in Westchester County, Ulster County, and Dutchess County. I don’t know if any of them got a phone call, but the story is clearly about the union leading the Opt Out movement, with nary a mention of parents. The parents who created and led the movement were overlooked. They were invisible. In fact, this story is the only time that the Times deigned to mention the mass and historic test refusal that cut across the state. So according to the newspaper of record, this was a labor dispute, nothing more. Not surprising that this is the view of Merryl Tisch, Chancellor of the Board of Regents, and of everyone else who opposes opting out.

By taking this narrative as a given, the Times manages to ignore parents’ genuine concerns about the overuse and misuse of testing. Not a word about the seven to ten hours of testing for children in grades 3-8. Not a word about the lack of transparency on the part of Pearson. Not a word about data mining or monitoring of children’s social media accounts. To the Times, it is all politics, and the views of parents don’t matter.

The great mystery, unexplored in this article, is why the parents of 150,000 to 200,000 children refused the tests. Are the unions so powerful as to direct the actions of all those parents? Ridiculous.

How could they get it so wrong?

Governor Andrew Cuomo has called for an investigation of teacher ratings on Long Island.

This follows a “Newsday” report that the portion of ratings under local control were “skewed” towards effective ratings.

Cuomo wants evaluations to count student scores as 50%, instead of the present 40% (only 20% is based on state tests, the other 20% on local measures

For some reason, Cuomo is determined to find some teachers he can fire. He is certain–despite evidence to the contrary–that low scores are caused by teachers.

He must have had terrible law school professors. There have been numerous reports that he failed the bar exam four times. If this is true, I hope he sued his law school for hiring ineffective professors.

Leonie Haimson lists here the best and worst education events of 2014.

She cites the demise of inBloom as one of the best and the Vergara decision as one of the worst.

What would you add to her list?

Apparently Congress doesn’t care about the privacy of student data and doesn’t think that parents need to know which vendors are getting their children’s confidential records.

The Parent Coalition for Student Privacy issued this statement:

JULY 30, 2014 ADMIN

For immediate release: July 30, 2012

Rachael Stickland, 303-204-1272;
Leonie Haimson: 917-435-9329;

On the Markey/Hatch student privacy bill

Rachael Stickland, co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, said: “Though we appreciate the effort that Senators Markey and Hatch have undertaken on behalf of better privacy protections for students, their proposed legislative fix falls short of what’s needed; it sets no specific security standards for the storage or transmission of children’s personal information, allows unlimited disclosures and redisclosures to for-profit vendors and other third parties without parental consent as long as the data isn’t used for marketing purposes, and doesn’t even require that schools and districts inform parents as to what personal information is being shared with which particular vendors. Thus the clause that requires that parents be able to amend the information held by the vendor is nonsensical as its unclear how they would even know who to contact.”

Said Leonie Haimson, the other co-chair of the Parent Coalition, “Nothing in this bill would have stopped the outrageous data-grab of inBloom, or any of the other companies set to take its place. We need a far stronger bill to do the job that parents are demanding: protecting their children’s privacy and safety from breaches and unwarranted data-mining.”


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.

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!

In response to a post by Peter Greene (“The Arne Duncan Drinking Game“), this reader describes the National PTA convention in Texas. The National PTA has received $2.5 million from the Gates Foundation, including $500,000 specifically for Common Core. Also, the National PTA provided a screening of the anti-public school “Waiting for Superman” at its annual convention in 2011. Odd.

She writes:

“I was at that PTA convention in Texas and I bit my tongue through his entire speech. I wanted to throw up. I have lost faith in the PTA. While I love what PTA does at a local level for our schools, I am sickened by what I see at the state and National PTA levels. Our voices as members have been sold out to corporate interests, and the top leadership is out of touch with parents today. Most of the top leaders dont even have children in public schools anymore so they think we are overreacting about the excessive testing and problems with common core. The leaders enjoy the power and prestige of their office and won’t listen to parents and teachers.

“Even more alarming, the general meetings at the national PTA convention were sponsored by Discover Card, Microsoft, and Pearson. During the general meetings, attendees were forced to sit through 15 minute commercials about their corporations and hear about their “partnerships” with PTA. The week before the convention, delegates received emails from PTA with advertisements for Pearson, telling us to be sure to stop by Pearson’s booth in the exhibit hall. How much did PTA get to spam our inboxes with marketing? We paid a lot of money to attend that convention, I don’t appreciate my email address being sold like that, especially to Pearson.”

Stephanie Simon writes in about how parents organized, lobbied, agitated, and brought down inBloom.

Simon writes:

“You’ve heard of Big Oil and Big Tobacco. Now get ready for Big Parent.

“Moms and dads from across the political spectrum have mobilized into an unexpected political force in recent months to fight the data mining of their children. In a frenzy of activity, they’ve catapulted student privacy — an issue that was barely on anyone’s radar last spring — to prominence in statehouses from New York to Florida to Wyoming.”

Most shocking of all is that the Obama administration is prepared to spend $1 billion (half from the federal government, half from the states) to track the movements of every child:

“Now, parents are rallying against another perceived threat: huge state databases being built to track children for more than two decades, from as early as infancy through the start of their careers.

Promoted by the Obama administration, the databases are being built in nearly every state at a total cost of well over $1 billion. They are intended to store intimate details on tens of millions of children and young adults — identified by name, birth date, address and even, in some cases, Social Security number — to help officials pinpoint the education system’s strengths and weaknesses and craft public policy accordingly.

“The Education Department lists hundreds of questions that it urges states to answer about each child in the public school system: Did she make friends easily as a toddler? Was he disciplined for fighting as a teen? Did he take geometry? Does she suffer from mental illness? Did he go to college? Did he graduate? How much does he earn?

“Every parent I’ve talked to has been horrified,” said Leonie Haimson, a New York mother who is organizing a national Parent Coalition for Student Privacy. “We just don’t want our kids tracked from cradle to grave.”

Why does the Education Department want so much information about every child? What is the rationale for assembling Big Data about our children? Does Congress know about this? Is there any other government in the world that is data mining its children?

Will parents mobilize to stop the federal government from mining their children’s personal data?

A group of Tennessee moms created a brilliant Facebook page calling for the removal of Kevin Huffman, the state education commissioner.

The site is vivid, graphic, and highly charged with the fury of really angry moms.

One entry points out that Huffman likes to say that Kentucky does better than Tennessee, even though both have the same level of poverty. So the moms produced a comparison graph showing that Kentucky has no vouchers, no charters, and spends more per pupil than Tennessee.

Another entry posts the contract that Huffman awarded to his former employer, Teach for America. Thanks to Huffman’s largesse, TFA will pick up $7 million to send in ill-trained youngsters to teach in Tennessee’s neediest schools.

There is no power so great as the power of outraged moms. They are stronger than the Koch brothers, stronger than the Walton Family Foundation, stronger even than Bill Gates. When the lives of their children are at risk, they are a mighty and unstoppable force.


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