Archives for category: Parents

Patty Williams has been an active advocate for good public schools in Wake County. The second of her two children just graduated and is off to college. Does this mean she will abandon the public schools? No way! In this article, she and her husband David Zonderman explain why good public schools are important for our society, our communities, and our economy. Whether you have children in the public schools or not, you benefit by making sure that all children get a good education and that all public schools provide one.

They write:

“Better schools produce better-educated students who get better-paying jobs that allow people to make a better life for their families and pay taxes for more investments in our schools and roads and parks – there is that virtuous cycle again.

“This fall, we have elections for our state legislature. Most candidates will go to great lengths to tell you how they support public education. But we all need to look beyond the rhetoric to the decisions they made. Ask those running for office whether they supported budgets that froze teacher salaries and cut money for classroom assistants and textbooks and supplies. Ask whether they endorsed the nearly complete deregulation of charter schools and vouchers that give our tax dollars to private and religious schools that can discriminate against children. Ask them whether they have a long-term vision for protecting and enhancing public education in our state. Actions speak louder than words in supporting strong public schools for all children in North Carolina.

“We all have a stake in making North Carolina’s public schools the best they can be. These schools are essential to building healthy communities, a vibrant democracy and a prosperous economy.”

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/08/18/4080529/all-of-nc-has-a-stake-in-strong.html?sp=/99/108/374/#storylink=cpy

Peter Greene regretfully, apologetically disagrees with Susan Ohanian, who recently expressed disappointment that the two national unions did not call on teachers to boycott testing. He says it would do no good because they would be fired and replaced by teachers happy to give tests and have a job. He says, pick your fights with care.

I am not sure I agree with Peter on this one. I agree that if a handful of teachers refused to give the state tests, they would be fired. But if an entire school refused to do it, they would send a loud message and probably no one would be fired. That was the lesson of Garfield High School in Seattle. When the teachers stood together, no one was punished.

Best of all would be if the principal and superintendent led the test boycott and carefully explained that they do not oppose all tests. tests should be used for diagnostic purposes, not for ranking and rating. learning is a process, not a race. School boards should declare that they oppose the deluge of testing that has third graders taking tests that last eight hours, that they oppose standardized tests for children in the k-2 grades, that they oppose the use of standardized tests for high stakes, that they oppose devoting a month of instructional time to testing. It would take extraordinary leadership and integrity and wisdom to stand up to the testing regime that has warped education. What a statement that would be!

Even better would be widespread parent boycotts. No one can fire parents. They have it in their power to pull the plug on this mess. I hope it comes to that.

In this era of Big Data, many organizations want to collect and use personal student data for their own ends. In recent years, the U.S Department of Education has weakened the privacy protections embedded in FERPA (the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act). Parent activists wants Congress to take action to protect their children’s privacy rights.

PRESS RELEASE

July 23, 2014

For more information contact:

Leonie Haimson: leonie@classsizematters.org; 401-466-2262; 917-435-9329

Rachael Stickland: info@studentprivacymatters.org; 303-204-1272

New Coalition Urges Congress to Listen to Parents and Strengthen Student Privacy Protections

A new coalition called the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy released a letter today to the leaders of the committees of the House and Senate Education Committees, urging Congress to strengthen FERPA and involve parents in the decision-making process to ensure that their children’s privacy is protected.

Many of the groups and individuals in the Coalition were involved in the battle over inBloom, which closed its doors last spring. They were shocked to learn during this struggle how federal privacy protections and parental rights to protect their children’s safety through the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) had eroded over the last decade.

The letter is posted here, and calls for Congress to hold hearings and enact new privacy protections that would minimize the sharing of highly sensitive student data with vendors and among state agencies and would maximize the right of parents to notification and consent. The letter also asks for strict security requirements, that the law be enforceable through fines, and that parents have the right to sue if their children’s privacy is violated.

Rachael Stickland, a leader in the fight for student privacy in Colorado and co-chair of the Coalition to Protect Student Privacy points out, “inBloom’s egregious attempt to siphon off massive amounts of sensitive student information and to share it with for-profit vendors took parents by surprise. Once we learned that recent changes to FERPA allowed non-consensual disclosure of highly personal data, parents became fierce advocates for their children’s privacy. We’re now prepared to organize nationally to promote strong, ethical privacy protections at the state and federal levels.”

Diane Ravitch, President of the Network for Public Education said: “Since the passage of FERPA in 1974, parents expected that Congress was protecting the confidentiality of information about their children. However, in recent years, the US Department of Education has rewritten the regulations governing FERPA, eviscerating its purpose and allowing outside parties to gain access to data about children that should not be divulged to vendors and other third parties. The Network for Public Education calls on Congress to strengthen FERPA and restore the protection of families’ right to privacy.”

“The
uprising against inBloom demonstrated the extent to which parents are will not tolerate the misuse of their children’s sensitive personal information,” said Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood’s Associate Director Josh Golin. “But parents cannot be expected to mobilize against each and every threat to their children’s privacy, particularly if they’re not even aware of which vendors have access to student data. It is critical that Congress take real steps to protect schoolchildren from those who see student data as a commodity to be exploited for profit.”

“Parents Across America, a national network of public school parents, emphatically supports this call for hearings as a first step toward reversing federal actions that have eroded parental authority over student data, and including even stronger privacy protections for our children,” said Julie Woestehoff, a Chicago parent activist and PAA secretary. She added: “PAA recommends restoring parental authority over student data that was removed from FERPA by the US Department of Education, enacting state laws that include parental opt out provisions in any statewide data sharing program, strictly regulating in-school use of electronic hardware and software that collect student information, and including significant parent representation on any advisory committees overseeing student data collection.”

Lisa Guisbond, executive director of Citizens for Public Schools, a Massachusetts public education advocacy group, said, “Citizens for Public Schools members, including many parents, are deeply concerned about threats to the privacy of student information. We support hearings and strong legislation to protect the privacy of this data. Parents are increasingly left out of important education policy discussions. In this, as in all crucial school policy discussions, they must have a voice.”

“Parents will accept nothing less than parental consent, when it comes to their child’s personally identifiable sensitive information. As a parent of a child with special needs, I understand the devastation that confidential information used without my consent could have on my child’s future. As a long-time advocate for people with autism and other developmental disabilities, I implore the U.S. House and Senate to put the necessary language back into FERPA to protect students and uphold the right of their families to control their personally identifiable data,” said Lisa Rudley, Director of Education Policy, Autism Action Network and Co-Founder of NYS Allies for Public Education.

Emmett McGroarty of the American Principles Project said, “Regardless of intention, the collection of an individual’s personal information is a source of discomfort and intimidation. Government’s broad collection of such information threatens to undermine America’s founding structure: if government intimidates the people, government cannot be by and for the people.”

Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters and co-chair of the Coalition, concluded, “Since inBloom’s demise, many of the post-mortems have centered around the failure of elected officials and organizations who support more data sharing to include parents in the conversation around student privacy. We are no longer waiting to be invited to this debate. It is up to parents to see that we are heard , not only in statehouses but also in the nation’s capital when it comes to the critical need to safeguard our children’s most sensitive data – which if breached or misused could harm their prospects for life. We are urging Congress to listen to our concerns, and act now.”

###

Ira Shor is a professor at the City University of New York, where he teaches composition and rhetoric. Shor understands that standardized testing is the foundation on which the entire “reform” project rests. Take away the test scores, and the data-driven teacher evaluation collapses, along with the ambitious plans for privatization.

Shor writes:

“Opt-Out: The REAL Parent Revolution”

We parents can stop the destruction of our public schools. We can stop the looting of school budgets by private charters and testing vendors. We can stop the abuse of our children by the relentless hours of testing. We can stop the closings, the co-locations, the mass firings, the replacement of veteran teachers with short-term Teach for America newbies, the shameful indignity of public schools told they have 24 hours to clear out so a charter can seize their classrooms. To do this, we have to opt-out our kids from the new testing regimes—refuse to let the schools test our kids with PARCC or Smarter Balanced, boycott the pointless and punitive tests which make the best years of our kids’ lives into a digital hell.

I opted-out my 10-year-old son from all state tests this year and will continue to do so when the useless and costly PARCC tests arrive next year. I will encourage other parents to join me in boycotting such standardized tests, which Diane Ravitch has rightly called “junk science” because they cannot accurately report a student’s achievement, learning process, or academic needs, or a teacher’s competence. For commercial and political reasons, it pleases Duncan, Gates and Co. to spread such tools from coast to coast, but they offer no evidence that such tools can do the job they claim, despite the constant promotion financed by Gates’s millions to the two teacher unions, to the national PTA, to “Education Week” magazine, and other key players working on his side.

Neither CCSS nor PARCC can make our kids “college and career ready.” This is impossible from the rigidly-defined, narrow Common Core State Standards(CCSS) skill-sets or from the hours of standardized testing, which over-produce metrics that don’t amount to teaching or learning. First, of course, I ask, Who can predict what the job market will be like when my 10-year-old enters it? Also, school curricula which narrowly focus on skills under-develop the critical habits of mind and communication which children need to make sense of the world as they find it. Employers, in fact, report that narrow subject matter is not what they look for in candidates, preferring instead future employees who have learned how to learn, how to ask questions and to make sense of situations, how to ask for help, how to work in groups, how to learn from others by example, and how to communicate. Hours of standardized testing cannot lead to these outcomes.

The national CCSS-machine also ignores the most important factor in a child’s test scores: family income(widely-discussed since 1966 and the famous Coleman Report, reiterated again and again by social research.) SAT/ACT/high-school and college graduation rates have always correlated closely with family income. Because our society has the highest rate of child poverty of any developed nation(about 35% of Black and Hispanic kids, about 11% of white kids), our national averages on standardized tests are pulled down. The strongest policy, then for raising average scores would be an anti-poverty program, what Christopher Jencks 40 years ago called “an incomes policy,” that is, equalizing family incomes. When he proposed equal izing incomes, policy in the U.S. tilted towards the bottom 80%, especially the bottom 20% of families, as research by Saez and Piketty and by Robert Reich have shown; in that era, Black kids closed about 20% of the “achievement gap” with their white peers(see Jencks’s “The Black-White Achievement Gap.”) CCSS and its PARCC testing will fail just like NCLB and RTTT failed before them, fail to close the achievement gap, fail to produce deep learning for the vast majority of children, fail to close the huge income gap.

Because our children are in this together, so are we. Because our kids cannot defend themselves, we have to defend them. We parents must step in to stop it. We should put our foot down and say, “Do it to your own kids first before you experiment on ours!” Tell that to Bill Gates, to Arne Duncan, to Eli Broad, to Daniel Coleman, to Michelle Rhee, to Wendy Kopp, to Eva Moskowitz, to Govs. Cuomo and Christie, to the hedge-funders in Democrats for Education Reform, who send their own kids to test-exempt private schools with small classes, well-paid veteran teachers, handsome campuses, and field trips so that their kids “feel at home in the world,” as the elite prep of certain kids is sometimes called.

If we parents opt-out, we remove our kids from the commercial machine invading and destroying public schools. We refuse to let our kids become mass subjects tested to distraction. We insist that inspired teaching and complex learning and rich arts should be at the center of every school.

Authorities count on our quiet compliance to cement their plans into place. We need defiance instead, for the sake of the kids and for the sake of the public sector without which democracy cannot survive. When we opt-out we rescue our kids, our public schools, and our society at the same time. Our opposition will force authorities to retreat, if we stick together, get tough on behalf of our kids, and insist that public schools belong to us for the public good, not to the private sector or to the commercial parasites stealing our children’s futures.

Go to United Opt Out and learn more about how to join the cause.

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!

A comment from a Mad Mom in Utah. When the parents wise up and act in concert to protect their children, the toxic reform hoax will collapse.

She writes:

“I live in Utah and I have a third and fourth grader that completed the AIR SAGE test this last school year. Yes, those test are just as long as reported for my children. These tests were given over a number of days and my children suffered from high anxiety on these days and they were exhausted. After the testing was finished I asked them how they felt about it and they said they didn’t really like it because it was long and hard (there is no ceiling). I also heard from my children that some kids in their classes cried or just put their heads down and quit, which is interesting because some of the questions were supposed to get easier if they get a wrong answer on a harder question.

“I spoke with a retiring third grade teacher in another district to see if her experience with SAGE was similar and she said it was awful for the children. She said the tests lasted up to 10 hours for some children because of the essay section. Although, she said she had two students finish the essay in 10 minutes and then they hid under their desks.

“The crazy thing is that in Utah State Code R277-515-4 Educator Responsibility for Maintaining a Safe Learning Environment in Section B4 it states educators “shall take action to protect a student from any known condition detrimental to that student’s physical health, mental health, safety, or learning”. But right after this section, in B5, it states their duty on administering all of this testing. So, which is it Utah? Because I can attest that this testing is doing more harm than good for our children. Should educators administer the tests and remain silent (which I think they are being told to do) or should educators share their experiences so we can learn from them and hopefully do better?

“Shame on those in the position of power in my state for making this happen. And shame on me for allowing my children to be the guinea pigs. I know better; but I was curious. They won’t be taking SAGE tests next year.

“Thank you to all of those that have stood up and have been brave! You have educated me and reminded me that I too can be brave. I have a voice and it is time to use it.”

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.”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 19, 2014
More information contact:
Eric Mihelbergel (716) 553-1123; nys.allies@gmail.com
Lisa Rudley (917) 414-9190; nys.allies@gmail.com
NYS Allies for Public Education http://www.nysape.org

Parents Outraged by APPR Albany Deal that Ignores the Children

The deal reached today by Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature regarding minimizing the impact of Common Core test scores on teacher evaluations is a slap in the face to parents across the state who have implored them to reduce the amount of testing that children are subjected to and to improve the quality of these exams and the learning standards.

“The deal does nothing to protect students or to address poorly constructed tests, abusive testing practices or concerns about the Common Core,” said Jeanette Deutermann, Nassau County public school parent and founder of Long Island Opt-Out.

“While protecting teachers, this does nothing to protect our children who will continue to be subjected to the stress and damage from inappropriate curriculum, standards and exams,” said Anna Shah, Dutchess County public school parent.

In light of this misstep, it is not surprising that Governor Cuomo and Commissioner of Education John King have lost the confidence of New Yorkers. The recent Siena poll shows that only 9% of respondents say they “completely trust” Governor Cuomo to act in the best interests of our students, and only 4% completely trust Commissioner King.

“Governor Cuomo and Commissioner King have made it clear they will not heed the concerns of millions of outraged parents across the state. Their arrogance is dangerous and will only continue to hurt our children, our teachers and our schools,” said Nancy Cauthen, NYC public school parent and member of Change the Stakes.

Many New Yorkers have expressed dismay that Governor Cuomo continues to ignore the growing number of unfunded mandates, insolvent schools, and increasing poverty that public schools face, while promoting excessive and developmentally inappropriate testing practices and flawed learning standards. He has also put the interests of his wealthy contributors who support charter schools that rob public schools of resources. “Neither testing nor the Common Core will help close the achievement gap or erase the inequitable funding and inadequate conditions that plague our public schools,” said Marla Kilfoyle, Long Island public school parent and General Manager of BAT.

“Let’s not forget that according to King and Cuomo, eight year old children will continue to sit for almost seven hours of testing over the course of six days, tests that no one can see or critique. Parents will not be fooled by token changes that do nothing to protect students from these abusive practices. Unless a moratorium directly reduces or suspends testing for students, our children will continue to suffer,” said Bianca Tanis, Ulster County public school parent.

Katie Zahedi, Dutchess County principal at Linden Avenue Middle School said, “As long as the NYSED and Cuomo’s education office are run by non-experts, beholden to forces bent on dismantling public education, our students will continue to be subjected to bad policies.”

“It’s time for a Governor that supports the priorities of parents, evidence-based teaching practices, and REAL learning for the students of New York,” said Eric Mihelbergel, Erie County public school parent and co-founder of NYSAPE.

NYS Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) is a coalition of more than 50 parent and educator groups throughout the state.

###

Leonie Haimson of ClassSizeMatters calls on NYC parents and concerned citizens to attend public hearings about allocation of money.

Starting Tuesday of this week, the NYC Department of Education will hold mandated hearings in each borough on the use of more than $500 million in state Contracts for Excellence funds – which, according to state law, is supposed to include a plan to reduce class size.

Right now, class sizes in the early grades are the largest in 15 years, despite the fact that smaller classes are the top priority of parents in the DOE’s own surveys, and the constitutional right of NYC students, according to the state’s highest court.

Yet instead of allocating specific dollars for this purpose, the DOE has left it up to principals to decide which among five programs they would like to spend these funds. To make things worse, in an Orwellian bit of doublespeak, the DOE will allow principals to spend these funds not to lower class size – but if they merely claim that they will be used to minimize class size increases.

Please attend these hearings and speak out; more information and a schedule is here, and a petition you can sign is here.

Leonie Haimson
Executive Director
Class Size Matters
124 Waverly Pl.
New York, NY 10011
212-674-7320
leonie@classsizematters.org
http://www.classsizematters.org

http://nycpublicschoolparents.blogspot.com

Stephanie Simon writes in politico.com 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?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 113,642 other followers