Archives for category: Supporting public schools

David Gamberg, superintendent of two neighboring school districts in Long Island–Southold and Greenport–has taken the lead in trying to forge a vision for the renewal of public education. He is one of the brave superintendents who have organized meetings with his peers, with fellow citizens, with other educators, to think about how to improve the public schools. He, along with his fellow superintendents in Shelter Island and Shoreham-Wading River, brought together renowned experts to discuss ways to strengthen the education profession though collaboration and teamwork, rather than falling for the false promise of competition. Competition in the small towns and villages on the North Fork of Long Island would shatter communities, not strengthen them. I have met with David Gamberg; he is very proud of the music programs in his community schools as well as the garden where children raise their own vegetables. He is a kind person, who cares about children and those who teach them. Imagine that.

In this essay, Gamberg considers the choices before him and his colleagues:

 

Two Roads Diverged…

David Gamberg

…no this is not Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken, but it is where we stand—at a crossroads in education. We have two competing views of how we as a nation should travel into the future. On one side exists a technocratic solution—the system has failed or is failing, and therefore a radical change is necessary. This is the disruptive innovation view. To those who subscribe to this view, the covenant that we have had with public education since the days of Horace Mann in the 1850s is no longer what drives this most fundamental democratic enterprise. They would carve up neighborhoods, sort and select human beings into winners and losers (children and adults alike), and treat learning like a business.

 

On the other side exists a powerful vision to promote the core values and practices established by the highest achieving educational systems on earth. Many exist here in America, while others are thriving in both large and small countries outside the U.S.

 

Don’t be fooled by the protagonists that stand at the fork in the road waving a false banner of bad business practices trying to lure the public. Their claims suggest the road ends with the pot of gold promising that we will regain the lead in a globally competitive market place. Cheered on by celebrities and the media elite who fail to see the potholes in the road that no banner of merit pay, standardized testing, vouchers, and charter schools will repair—this is a road to ruin. This crowd of cheerleaders claims to see great promise in racing, competing, and overcoming society’s challenges with “Taylor like” dystopian metrics used to beat others, where only the strong survive.

 

A road that celebrates childhood, and one that sees professional teachers and teaching as being indispensible to building the future of our nation is a stark contrast to our foray down the path of slick silver bullets that dominate the landscape of the current reform agenda. Don’t be misled. There are no easy “microwavable answers” to what we must do to promote the best for our children in America’s schools. Intractable issues like poverty, civic engagement, and the preservation of an enlightened citizenry will not be solved by tougher standards, market driven schemes, and a divided public education system.

 

At issue is a choice of how we can best serve our democracy. This is not a choice between the public and private sector, the left or right on the political spectrum. It is, however, a choice between a society that advances the principles of how individuals and organizations perform well, given the best evidence available, or how we might follow a narrow band of profit driven, unproven metrics that leads to potentially corrupt and short sighted returns.

 

Evidence abounds that the current reform agenda is reeling with mistrust, broken communities, and a simplistic attempt to leverage what works in some “ business sectors” and misapply it in others.

 

The alternative to the current agenda is not a pipe dream. This is not some nostalgic yearning for the good old days. Rather, hard won victories in strengthening the professional work of educators and forging lifelong habits of mind in our youth that will serve both themselves and the larger society well do exist. It is a wise path that sensible leaders and thoughtful adults espouse for themselves, their families, and their communities. In the words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.”

This comment came from a teacher in Mexico who read the post by a charter school teacher in a “no excuses” charter school. .

She writes:

“I am a kindergarten teacher in Mexico we belong to the so called third world and what you have described as a bad experience is what is happening here too. This kind of teaching has led us to a lack of values and a general violent citizenship. This is a wrong way, it is like going backwards. If you as a country start teaching your kids as third world countries or as dictatorships do you are in danger of losing the progress and the benefits of a civilized society where human rights and human development will be lost. Please keep on fighting to support your public schools so we can have a role model to follow; do not give up what you have achieved, give us some hope by standing for the joy of learning, for the respect of children, for preserving their integrity and dignity, do not let go, please, keep on leading the way so we can refer to you when we try to explain to our authorities what school should be.”

“Please look at this teacher you will love it though it is in spanish. Performance para repensar el rol del docente – El…: http://youtu.be/f00lfICI6s4″

Sara Stevenson, one of the heroes of this blog, reads the Wall Street Journal regularly, and she gets outraged every time the paper writes an editorial or publishe an article blasting public schools. That occurs frequently, as the WSJ supports privatization, not public schools.

When Sara read an article by a charter teacher in his second year of teaching, she wrote the following letter. In what other field would a person with so little experience pretend to expertise?

She wrote:

Dear Editors,

Almost daily you publish pieces lashing out against public schools. You give prime print real estate to a second year teacher, Nicholas Simmons– something you would never do for a newbie in any other profession.

I am grateful that you have published some of my letters through the years, but I am requesting a bigger platform. I would love the opportunity to write a short piece, along the lines of Mr. Simmons’s, about the selection bias inherent in high-flying charter schools and elite private schools. I’d also like to discuss the demoralizing effect your barrage of education bashing has on those of us working daily in our nation’s public schools. If you don’t want to hear from me, although I have twenty-two years of teaching experience (eleven as a public school librarian and ten as a private, Catholic high school teacher), please consider publishing a piece by Perrin-Whitt ISD superintendent, John Kuhn. I stayed up late last night reading his fabulous book: “Fear and Learning in America.”

Here is a review of his book that I posted on goodreads.com this morning.

John Kuhn, of the famous Alamo letter and rallying cry at the Save Texas Schools Rally in 2011, has written a book that will completely confirm or convert you to the cause of protecting the great democratizer, public education, from its assault by government, business, and so-called reformers. If I had used a highlighter to mark significant passages and hard-hitting barbs, every page of this book would be permeated yellow. The book is that good. It’s also highly personal with stories about how this good ole Texas Baptist farm boy woke up to the attack on teachers and public schools and how current policies play out in real children’s lives. This is the most important book to read on what is happening in education in this country. Get involved. Save our Schools! Read this book!

I am having a difficult time holding onto my WSJ subscription, which I have had since 1991. I love your reporting, your Personal Journal and other features. Your editorial pages are a trial for me, but I force myself to read them and respond. I know I can’t change your minds, but please listen to us. Give the other side a voice. I am not a union teacher. I’m in Texas, where we have no unions, no tenure. I’m 54 and just now passed the $50,000 salary threshold. I love my work as a middle school librarian. I am passionate about inspiring my children to become lifelong readers, who make the best citizens. On the other hand, I am disheartened by your editorial board’s continued assault on public schools.

Thank you for listening.

Sincerely,

Sara Stevenson
O. Henry Middle School librarian
Austin, Texas
512-414-6998

http://www.ohenrylibrary.com

P.S. If you wonder why I’m able to write this during work hours, it’s because my library is shut down for the third day this week for state testing.

Phyllis Bush, one of the founders of Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education, describes here the growing sense of hope among her fellow activists.

Bush joined a contingent of colleagues in Austin for the first conference of the Network for Public Education. Bush is a member of the board of NPE.

Everyone, she says, felt the energy in the room when hundreds of Resistance leaders gathered.

She writes:

“Arising from this message of validation, we could feel there is hope and that the tide is turning. Momentum is building, and it feels as though we are approaching a tipping point. The 500 activists at the conference represent thousands more across the country who are questioning the wisdom and the speed with which education reforms and untested policies have been implemented and which ask for virtually no accountability for charter schools and for voucher-funded parochial schools.

“Parents and teachers are protesting the vast amount of instructional time devoted to preparing kids to take tests whose only real value appears to be to label students, teachers schools, and communities as failing…..”

“Throughout the country there is a growing sense of outrage over the bill of goods corporate reformers have sold legislators. The primary way in which these reformers have operated is by writing stock legislation that governs legislation at the state level and threatens local districts with punitive action.

“Throughout the country, there is a growing sense that parents and educators have been right all along; public schools are not failing. The corporate, for-profit reformers view children as data points and test scores; their view is unacceptable. The research shows that this “brave new world” of testing, accountability, charters and vouchers that Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee, the Koch brothers, the Walton Foundation and ALEC have promoted is not working.”

“Parents and teachers know that the joy of learning comes from imagining, creating, playing, thinking, experimenting, problem solving and being ready to learn. The joy of learning comes when a child has an “aha moment” when he or she finally gets it. Parents know that play contributes to learning; that children need the physical activity at recess and in gym class just as much as they need “rigor” sitting at a desk; that art and music help children learn much more than learning to practice for a test and bubble in an answer sheet.”

Jeff Bryant here
describes the rise of an anti-democratic worldview
that
threatens not only public education but democracy itself.

 

Under the fraudulent guise of “education reform,” extremists seek to
destroy public education and turn it over to private entrepreneurs.
They trust the marketplace, not the public. They are true believers
in the doctrines of free-market economist Milton Friedman, not
those of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Horace Mann.

 

He quotes an Ohio legislator who says that public schools–which are a
cornerstone of our democracy–are “socialist.” If so, then we have
been a “socialist” nation for over 150 years. At least 90% of our
population was educated in those “socialist” schools and created
the greatest, most powerful nation in the world.

 

Then he quotes the founder of Netflix, Reed Hastings, who longs to see an end to
locally elected school boards, to be replaced by privately managed
charters. Democracy, Hastings seems to think, is too inefficient,
too messy. Are there enough billionaires like Hastings to run the
nation’s schools? Why do these people have such contempt for
democracy? Why do they like to replace democratic control with
mayoral control, governor control, anything but elected school
boards? Several districts in New Jersey have been under state
control for 20 years, with no results. Mayoral control has done
nothing for Cleveland or Chicago other than to increase
undemocratic decision making.

 

Bryant concludes: “The idea of democratic governance of schools as a principal means for ensuring
the quality of schools has never worked perfectly for sure. “It’s
true that too few people bother to vote in school board elections.
The electoral system is often prone to manipulation from powerful
individuals and self-interested groups. Elected boards are often
overly contentious to the point of dysfunction. And the country’s
history is replete with examples of local boards that perpetuated
widespread mistreatment of minorities to the point where outside
intervention was necessary. “But where else has democratic
governance achieved perfection? There are democratic solutions to
these problems: Do more to increase voter education and turnout,
limit the influence of money and factional interests, and ensure
checks and balances from outside authorities that are also
democratically elected. “If we want to give ordinary people more of
a voice in determining the education destinies of their children
and their communities, the solution is more democracy, not
less.”

Boston’s Citizens for Public Schools show how a powerful group of parents, teachers, and concerned citizens can inform the public and keep the heat on legislators. I was unable to repost all the links; there were so many! Go to their website to find them all.

Here is their latest update:

CPS writes:

What a fascinating week it’s been for education news! First, there was the spectacle of leading charter school proponents busting their gaskets at the slow pace of legislative action on lifting the charter cap. Then there was the jaw-dropping statement from a state education official that the state will not force families to participate in PARCC field tests (after an earlier statement that parents had no right to opt their children out of state testing). Scroll down to read about these stories and more. We rely on our members (your voices, your actions and your membership contributions) to keep going, so if you have not yet become an official part of the CPS family, join today by clicking here!

Best regards,
Lisa Guisbond
CPS Executive Director, lisa.guisbond@gmail.com

News You Can Use About Our Schools

The Charter Cap Battle Boils Over

Tempers flared and fingers stabbed out vitriolic editorials at the news that the Joint Education Committee wanted time to hear from voters and think about proposed charter cap and school turnaround legislation.

Sen. Chang-Diaz

First, Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz released a statement announcing the one-week extension. The statement was posted at the Blue Mass Group blog, prompting an interesting series of comments, including an excellent post by CPS member Shirley Kressel.

Sen. Jehlen

The Boston Herald then printed a vicious editorial attack on Senators Chang-Diaz and Jehlen, saying there should be “a special place in hell reserved for those who would deprive children of a way out of a failing school.” On behalf of CPS, my letter to the editor points out, “It takes courage to resist and not kowtow to deep-pocketed charter proponents. Parents see how charter school growth has constricted resources available for basics like art and music, gym and social workers. Lifting the cap will make this bad situation worse.”

Meanwhile, tempers flared at the Pioneer Institute, which launched this public attack on Secretary of Education Matt Malone, saying his views on charters are “characterized by bigotry and demonization.”

Some groups kept their decorum and stuck to the issues, including the Black Educators Alliance Massachusetts (BEAM), which wrote this letter on lifting the charter cap. It says, in part, “The state should not lift the cap on charter schools without addressing the funding inequities imposed on districts such as Boston and the disproportionately lower number of English language learners and students with disabilities enrolled in charter schools.”

Finally, we got a needed dose of delicious satire from EduShyster, who wrote, “a funny thing happened on the way to the charter cap-lifting fête. Lawmakers began to hear from some actual constituents-upon whom they actually depend for actual re-election-about devastated public school budgets, the loss of local control and a growing fear that more charters means dual, and dueling, school systems that educate very different students.” A tip of my cap to you, EduShyster!

Don’t forget that the State Auditor’s Office is close to completing a comprehensive audit of charter school finances and practices. We remain convinced that it would make sense for legislators to read that report before considering changing the charter school cap.

Meanwhile, if you want to add your voice to the fray, here’s a petition from the Boston parent group Quest, seeking investments in Boston public schools and maintaining the cap on charter school growth. And don’t forget to sign on to the Boston Truth Coalition’s Principles of Unity, which include this: “We believe in investing in public schools, which serve the majority of students in Boston, and we oppose lifting the cap on charters, which drain resources from district schools and don’t serve ALL students and their diverse needs.”

_____________________________________________

Breaking PARCC News: Parents & Students Have Rights!

The PARCC test controversy continues to rage, with state officials reversing themselves on whether parents have the right to opt their children out of the field tests this spring. Recall that a Feb. 20 letter to the Worcester School Committee from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) said state law did not permit parents to opt their children out of state testing and therefore “participation in the PARCC assessment field test is mandatory.” But this week, at a Framingham forum on PARCC testing, the message was different. In answer to a question, Bob Bickerton, senior associate commissioner at DESE, said “common sense” will prevail, and “We’re not going to force the kids to take the test.”

Meanwhile, add Tantasqua to the list of school committees voting to allow parents to opt out of PARCC field testing.

Todd Gazda
And in Ludlow, MA, Superintendent Todd Gazda wrote a blog post titled, “Enough is Enough!” In it, he decries the top-down imposition of “national standards, increased regulations, standardized testing, and mandates regarding what and how our children should be taught.” He says that assessments are an essential part of education. “However, standardized tests whose scores take months to arrive, often after the student has moved on to another teacher, have a limited utility for shaping the educational environment. I am concerned that we are creating students who will excel in taking multiple choice tests. Unfortunately, life is not a multiple choice test. Enough is enough!”

Boston Globe writer Scot Lehigh interviewed U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan during his Massachusetts visit to plug his favored corporate reforms. To back up his claim that students’ lack of preparedness for college is a state and national emergency, Duncan said that 40% of Massachusetts high school students require remedial coursework in college. This is not true. Thanks to award-winning New York principal Carol Burris for her Answer Sheet blog holding Duncan and the Globe accountable for their misuse of statistics to promote Common Core testing and more charter schools. Burris insisted that Lehigh and the Globe run a “clarification” (at the end of another Lehigh oped) that set the record straight by acknowledging that just 21% of students who attend four-year universities in Mass. take at least one remedial course.

Don’t forget about CPS’s fact sheet: What we know about PARCC test refusal. And we’re keeping track of school committee resolutions on opting out, here. Please let us know if we’ve missed any.

And read all about a successful Take the PARCC test event in Somerville, then think about planning one in your community.

_____________________________________________

Reforms We Can Believe In: Equity, Restorative Justice, Diversity

How different from current U.S. school reforms is a system based on equity? In an interview published in the Atlantic, Finnish education chief Krista Kiuru describes a vision close to CPS’s heart, of a whole child education: “Academics isn’t all kids need. Kids need so much more. School should be where we teach the meaning of life; where kids learn they are needed; where they can learn community skills. We like to think that school is also important for developing a good self-image, a strong sensitivity to other people’s feelings … and understanding it matters to take care of others. We definitely want to incorporate all those things in education.”

In the interest of equitable and adequate school funding, public education advocates including the Mass. Teachers Association and the American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts, along with the Mass. Association of School Superintendents, the Mass. Association of School Committees and others are calling for a commission to re-examine the state’s Foundation Budget (required amount that public schools must spend on education). The budget formula, part of the state’s Chapter 70 education aid law, was passed to ensure adequate funding to meet the education needs of all students. However, the formula has not been updated in 21 years. Read this fact sheet about a bill to establish such a commission.

The Opportunity to Learn Campaign offers a tool kit and illustration of zero tolerance versus restorative justice.

The goal of diverse and inclusive public schools seems to have fallen off the agenda of our political leaders and policymakers. In this report, the author recommends that “policymakers address race-conscious policies, practices and conditions that perpetuate segregation and inequality while simultaneously tapping into the changing racial attitudes of Americans by supporting racially diverse schools.”

_____________________________________________

For and About Teachers

Watch this video from Educators for a Democratic Union and listen to these teachers describe the way testing is getting in the way of teaching students the best way they know how.

Inspiration from Seattle teachers in this article about their successful test boycott and plans for more action.

_____________________________________________

Upcoming Events of Interest

Charters, Publics, Pilots & Everything In Between

How are the Differences in Schools Affecting Equity in Boston? Monday, March 31 from 5-7 PM at Spontaneous Celebrations, 45 Danforth St in Jamaica Plain.

Citizens for Public Schools, Inc. | 18 Tremont St., Suite 320 | Boston | MA | 02108

Rocky Killion, the superintendent of West Lafayette, Indiana, public schools and his film crew created a fabulous documentary about the greatness of teachers, of our kids and our public schools.

They traveled across the nation to interview leading policy experts, and spent lots of time in classrooms interviewing teachers and principals.

They produced “Rise Above the Mark,” which is inspiring. It is about an hour long.

You can contact the team and get a showing by going to the website www.riseabovethemark.com

 

 

When Arne Duncan visited Boston recently, he lamented the sorry state of public education in Massachusetts–the highest scoring state in the nation on NAEP, a state whose students have been ranked at the top of international tests—and he praised privately managed charter schools for their excellence. For reasons he has never publicly explained, he wants to see more public dollars and students turned over to unaccountable corporations. He is a cheerleader for privately managed charters and the nation’s chief critic of public education. He aids and abets the movement to privatize public education. As public policy, this is irresponsible. To call this bizarre is an understatement.

When Duncan spoke with a columnist from the Boston Globe, he alleged that 40% of the high school graduates in the state require remediation when they get to college.

In this post, Carol Burris demonstrates that Duncan was confused, misinformed, or worse.

Duncan told the columnist that 40%–a”staggering” number of students—need college remediation.

Burris writes:

” What is “staggering” is the gross inaccuracy of the claim. Here are the facts:

“Twenty-two percent of the students who attend four-year state universities in Massachusetts and 10 percent of the students who attend the University of Massachusetts take at least one remedial course. That group (students who attend four-year public colleges) comprises 28 percent of all high school graduates in the Commonwealth.

“Thirty percent of all Massachusetts graduates attend private four-year colleges. Although I could not find remediation rates for such students, we know that nationally 15 percent of students who attend not-for-profit four-year colleges or universities take remedial courses.

“Using the above, I estimate that the percentage of students in Massachusetts who attend four-year colleges and take remedial courses is roughly 17 percent, not the 40 percent that Duncan claimed.”

It is also staggering that the U.S. Secretary of Education does not have accurate data about our nation’s highest-performing state.

And it is staggering that the columnist feels no need to fact-check the data.

And most staggering of all is that Duncan wants to harm our nation’s public education system, which is part of the fabric of our democracy.

What is his goal?

If you blog and if you support public education as a pillar of our democracy, consider joining the Education Bloggers Network.

This is an informal group that was assembled by Jonathan Pelto of Connecticut.

There are no responsibilities or burdens, just the opportunity to share your work with others across the nation who share your passion and interests.

Please contact Jonathan Pelto at jonpelto@gmail.com if you wish to become part of this dynamic group, which now includes more than 100 independent bloggers.

This is how Jon describes the Bloggers Network:

“The Education Bloggers Network is a confederation of more than 110 bloggers who are dedicated to supporting public education and pushing back against the corporate education reform industry.

Like the Committees of Correspondence leading up to America’s War for Independence, the bloggers work alone and in groups to educate, persuade and mobilize parents, teachers, education advocates and citizens to stand up and speak out against those who seek to privatize our public education system and turn our schools into little more than Common Core testing factories.

The Education Bloggers Network developed in conjunction with the role out of “Reign of Error,” and has become a vibrant community of advocacy journalists dedicating to ensuring citizens have accurate and timely information about public education issues at the local, state and federal level.

If you blog about education issues and would like to join or learn more about the Education Bloggers Network, contact Jonathan Pelto, a Connecticut blogger who is helping to guide the development of the Network. You can find Jonathan Pelto’s blog, called Wait, What? at http://www.jonathanpelto.com or email him at jonpelto@gmail.com

Matt Haney, a member of the San Francisco local school board, here responds to Reed Hastings’ proposal that local school boards should be replaced by charter schools.

School boards are part of our democratic concept of education. They are elected by the public to serve the public. They can be thrown out of office if they don’t serve the public.

Charter schools, by contrast, are run by private boards, elected by no one. Some are dominated by wealthy entrepreneurs like Hastings. Some are finAncially incompetent or self-serving.

Whatever their faults, school boards are a democratic institution. Charter boards are not.

Not that it matters, but I cancelled my subscription to Netflix, the company that made Reed Hastings very rich and empowered him to assail public education.

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