Archives for category: Supporting public schools

I recently saw photographs of John F. Kennedy giving a Labor Day speech in New York City during his Presidential campaign in 1960. He spoke in the center of the Garment District, on the west side of Manhattan. He spoke to tens of thousands of garment workers. Today, the Garment District has been replaced by luxury high-rise residences. Following NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement), the garment industry went to low-wage, non-union countries. The garment industry has few workers and no political power. The number of union members across the nation has dropped precipitously. The largest unions are public sector workers–especially, teachers–and they are under attack, as rightwing foundations, billionaires, and their favorite think tanks hammer away at their very existence.

What hope is there? Anthony Cody says there is plenty. He foresees the rise of “the teacher class.”

Here are a few quotes from a powerful statement. Read it all.

“The teaching class consists of educators from pre-school through college. This group is facing the brute force of a class-based assault on their professional and economic status. The assault is being led by the wealthiest people in the world – Bill and Melinda Gates, via their vast foundation, the Walton family, and their foundation, and Eli Broad, and his foundation. And a host of second tier billionaires and entrepreneurs have joined in the drive. These individuals have poured billions of dollars into advancing a “reform” movement that is resulting in the rapid expansion of semi-private and private alternatives to public education, and the destruction of unions and due process rights for educators.”

“As the latest report from Yong Zhao and ASCD illustrates, there is absolutely zero connection between the productivity of our economy and test scores. There may be some minimum level of academic achievement below which our nation’s economy might suffer, but our students are far, far above that threshold. So the entire economic rationale for our obsession with test scores and “higher standards” has been obliterated…”

Even liberal rationales for education reform are falling away. We have heard for the past decade that employers need students who can think critically and creatively, that everyone must be prepared for college. These arguments have been used to promote progressive models of education, along with the Common Core. The economic assumption here is that the middle class will grow as more students are prepared for middle class jobs. But the number of such jobs are shrinking, not growing. The supposed shortage of people prepared for STEM careers is a hoax, as we see with the layoff of 18,000 such workers by Microsoft. In fact, one economic projection suggests that in the next 20 years, 47% of the jobs of today will be gone as a result of technological advances and what Bill Gates terms “software substitution.” (see the full report here.)….”

“Teachers are paying attention. Study after study provides evidence that the central planks of corporate education reform not only fail to work, but are undermining the education of our students. This project that was supposed to be driven by data is collapsing, and would be long gone if our politicians were not being legally bribed to look the other way. Corporate education reform is a fraud, a hoax perpetrated on the public, with the active complicity of media outlets like NBC, which allows the Gates Foundation to dictate the very “facts” that guide their coverage of education issues….”

“Corporate reformers have diabolically targeted teachers where we were most vulnerable, by accusing us of placing our own interests above those of our students. Every element of corporate reform has been leveraged on this point. No Child Left Behind accused teachers of holding students back through our “soft bigotry of low expectations.” Due process has been undermined or destroyed because it supposedly provides shelter for the “bad teachers” responsible for low test scores.

“But this point of vulnerability is also our greatest latent strength going forward. Because teachers are deeply motivated by concern for their students, they are attuned to the devastating effects reform is having on them. Teachers are seeing what happens in communities when schools are closed – usually in poor African American and Latino neighborhoods. Teachers are seeing how technologically based “innovations” funnel both scarce funds along with student data to profit-seeking corporations. We have had more than a decade of test-driven reform, and teachers know better than anyone what a sham approach this has been. Teachers have seen and responded to the Michael Brown shooting, and though there are still difficult conversations ahead about race, teachers have a head start, because of our work with young people who are, like Michael Brown, vulnerable to racial profiling and the school to prison pipeline.

“Teachers have some important pieces of the puzzle, but we have not built the whole picture yet. There is a growing awareness of the discriminatory way laws are enforced, leading to huge numbers of African Americans and Latinos behind bars. But there is still a weak understanding of how this fits into a system that keeps communities of color economically and politically disempowered. School closures are a part of this disenfranchisement, as they rob communities of stable centers of learning. The disproportionate layoffs and terminations of African American teachers are a part of this pattern as well. We need a new civil rights coalition that brings these interests into sharp focus, and establishes alliances between teachers, students, parents and community members.

“When teachers bring a deep understanding of how our work has been hijacked and disrupted to bear on broader social issues, we find similar patterns elsewhere. We can see how profiteers are trying to sideline the US Postal Service, even though the level of service for the public will suffer. We see how the prison industry has turned into an enormous machine that sustains itself through vigorous lobbying, to the great disservice of many Americans. We see how laws governing debt are written to give tremendous advantage to financiers, while binding our students into a new form of indentured servitude. We see how leading Democratic Party politicians have taken campaign contributions in the millions from the sworn enemies of public education, and have become their servants….”

“The term “teacher leadership” has been used to describe a narrow range of activities often related to “getting a seat at the table,” or taking charge of professional development or Common Core implementation. But the real potential for teacher leadership arises when we take the lessons we have learned from a decade of being the targets of phony corporate reforms, and recognize our kinship with others who have been disenfranchised. The number of wealthy individuals who have sponsored this decade of fraudulent reform could fit in a small movie theater. Teachers number in the millions — our students and allies are in the hundreds of millions. The only thing that can beat the power of money is the power of people. But the people must be informed and organized. That sounds like work teachers ought to be able to handle.”

Peter Greene has often heard reformers say that children’s destiny should not be defined by their zip code. He read an article by one of the bigwigs in the New Orleans experiment, who argued against neighborhood schools and in favor of the greatest possible choice so that children’s schooling would not be tied to their zip code.

Greene responds that neighborhood schools build community cohesion.

Greene proposes an alternative to breaking up neighborhood schools:

“We’ve tried many solutions to the problems of schools that are underfunded and lack resources. We move the students around. We close the schools and re-open different ones (often outside that same neighborhood). Does it not make sense to move resources? We keep trying to fix things so that the poor students aren’t all in the poor schools– would it not more completely solve the problem to commit to insuring that there are no poor schools?

“Doesn’t that make sense? If the neighborhood school is not poor– if it has a well-maintained physical plant, great resources, a full range of programs, and well-trained teachers (not some faux teachjers who spent five weeks at summer camp)– does that not solve the problem while allowing the students to enjoy the benefits of a more cohesive community?

“Community and neighborhood schools have the power to be engines for stability and growth in their zip code. Instead of declaring that we must help students escape the schools in certain zip codes, why not fix the schools in that zip code so that nobody needs to escape them?”

In a recent article in the Houston Chrinicle, we read that business is mighty disappointed in the schools. They say they aren’t getting the trained employees they need. They think the schools are too easy. Some want more money spent in the schools that do well, as a reward.

No one seems to care that the Legislature slashed $5.3 Billion from the schools in 2011 and–despite a good economy–never restored it.

Here’s a challenge for those Texas businessmen who claim they can’t find workers because of the schools. Visit your local school. Spend a few days there. Ask them about their needs. Take the high school math test. Publish your scores.

If public schools are “failing,” find out who cut the budget and insist that it be restored as soon as possible. Nobody gets healthier on a starvation diet.

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

Arthur Camins understands the importance of public education. He understands that the very principle of public responsibility for the education of the children of the community is at risk. He doesn’t believe that it is sufficient to trade blows with those who do not value public education. In this post, he describes the necessity of framing a positive message, and he lays out a strategic plan to save public education.

He writes:

“For example, instead of the short-term, test-score success imagery of the Obama administration’s Race to the Top school funding competition, we need the long-term success imagery of preparation for future learning. Instead of the individual teacher-blaming imagery of accountability, we need the mutual-responsibility imagery of working together for success for all. Instead of the competitive, individual success imagery of choice, we need the mutual success imagery of community.

“A successful campaign for respectful, equitable, democratic education starts with values and is followed by solutions.”

Start with values, he says:

“Gaining support depends upon intentional framing. The starting point is expressing core values that have resonance with the public. Three values statements frame a positive public education agenda:

“Children deserve respect: We need an education system that ensures that all students are known, valued and respected by adults and peers.

“Children deserve equity: We need an education system that ensures that all students develop their talents and expertise to be successful in work, life and citizenship.

“Children deserve democracy: We need an education system that is governed by democracy and engages students so they learn how to participate in a democracy.

“This is what education is. This is what education does.”

In the remainder of his post, he describes the positive message and the solutions that resonate with the public.

Readers of this blog are familiar with the many organizations that have been created to attack public schools and teachers’ rights, including groups like Democrats for Education Reform (hedge fund managers); Stand for Children (pro-charter); StudentsFirst (pro-charter, pro-voucher, anti-union, anti-teacher); Teach for America; ConnCAN and 50StateCAN (pro-charter); Students for Education Reform; TeachPlus; National Council on Teacher Quality (favors rating teachers by test scores); Education Reform Now; and a bunch of other groups with si,liar names, overlapping boards, and similar funding (Gates, Broad, Walton, Dell, Arnold, Dell, etc.).

On our side, we have the Network for Public Education and dozens of grassroots organizations, some of which are statewide or community-based. None of us has much funding. Now there is a new national organization supporting public schools. This is good news to see elected officials and public citizens standing up for the principle of free public education.

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

Contact: Joshua Henne, 732-407-5938

DEMOCRATS FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION OFFICIALLY LAUNCHES

Democrats Remain United Around Core Set of Principles To Ensure Public Education Thrives For Generations To Come

(WASHINGTON, D.C.)– Today, national Democratic Party leaders announced the official launch of Democrats For Public Education (DPE) – a new 527 organization rooted in the belief that each and every child deserves access to strong, safe neighborhood schools with well-prepared and supported teachers. DPE represents a diverse coalition of Democrats from throughout the country who support public education. You can learn more at the new website: http://www.DemocratsForPublicEducation.com.

Democrats for Public Education will lift up public education in America. For far too long, a coordinated effort has been successful in framing a radical, false narrative that the Democratic Party is evenly spilt among those who stand strongly for public schools and those who believe public schools are detrimental to student success. This is simply untrue. With a few extremist, well-funded, vocal exceptions, Democrats remain united around a basic set of beliefs when it comes to educating our children.

“A high-quality public education is an economic necessity, an anchor of democracy and a moral imperative, “ said former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm. “Democrats For Public Education is a diverse coalition of Democrats from all across America. We’ve already received strong early backing from hundreds of leaders and activists at all levels of government, from communities coast-to-coast and states in between. That’s because we share the belief that every child deserves engaging curriculum, as well as social services to meet their mental, social and physical needs.”

“Democrats For Public Education is committed to bringing people together to ensure our public school system endures – and thrives – for generations to come,” said former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland. “This is about standing up for our principles, standing up for teachers, standing up for kids and standing up for public education.”

The goal of Democrats For Public Education is to show broad-based support around a core set of principles, which includes:

Fulfilling our collective obligation to help all children succeed;
Fighting for neighborhood public schools that are safe, welcoming places for teaching and learning;
Ensuring that teachers and school staff are well-prepared, are supported, have small class sizes, and have time to collaborate to meet the individual needs of every child;
Guaranteeing that all children have an engaging curriculum that includes art, music and physical education;
Providing children access to wrap-around services to meet their emotional, social and health needs;
Working to provide school districts – particularly those serving the highest concentration of students in need of extra services and support – with the resources required to provide all students with a world-class education; and
Making it clear that public education – for all children – is both an economic necessity and a fundamental civil right.
“As a proud graduate of Louisiana’s public schools, I know the importance of a good public education,” said Donna Brazile, Democratic Strategist and DNC Vice-Chair. “Frankly, it’s the only way we can strengthen, revitalize and grow our middle-class. And it’s the best way we can provide a springboard for the working poor and preserve our American values.”

“As Democrats for Public Education, we’re focused on just that – supporting public education,” said Rep. Mark Pocan, representing Wisconsin’s 2nd Congressional District. “We support superior standards and finding ways to make classrooms challenging and rewarding for both teachers and students. We believe in instilling critical thinking skills needed for 21st century jobs and the new economy. And we’re committed to a level playing field for all, with well-resourced schools responsive to the needs of the community.”

The list of Democrats For Public Education co-chairs includes the following – with more chairs to be announced in the coming weeks:

Governor Jennifer Granholm (MI)
Governor Ted Strickland (OH)
Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH)
Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI)
Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA)
State Superintendent Denise Juneau (MT)
Donna Brazile – Democratic Strategist & DNC Vice-Chair

At DemocratsForPublicEducation.com, visitors can continue adding their name to those all across America who have already signed up to show their solidarity. The DPE website will be a resource and information hub for supporters, activists and the press to keep up-to-date with the latest news on Democrats For Public Education, as well as education issues of interest in general.

You can also follow Democrats for Public Education on Twitter (@Dems4PublicEd) and on Facebook (Facebook.com/DemsforPublicEd).

The research is clear: schools in rural and semi-rural districts work best when they have the support of the entire community.

Cheatham County, Tennessee, doesn’t need competing schools–one that picks its students, the other legally required to accept all students.

Stick together. Act as a community. Don’t divide your community.

When your board meets on August 18, tell them you support public education. Tell them you want your school to be governed by an elected board, not an unaccountable corporation.

Tell them you support your community public school. Your school needs parental involvement and community support. It needs collaboration, not competition. Don’t let the elites push you around for their benefit. Schools are not a hobby or a plaything. They belong to the community. Don’t let them take it away. It is yours.

This is a great—actually an inspiring—interview with Stephanie Rivera, who is probably the most prominent student leader on behalf of properly prepare teachers and supporting public education. Stephanie started a student movement while studying to be a teacher at Rutgers University. She has also been a critic of Teach for America because she intends to make a career of teaching, not a two-year experience.

As you will read, she is deeply committed to teaching in urban schools, and she believes that students need to have teachers who look like them.

Here is a small sample:

“ES: You wrote a terrific post called Advocacy in the Age of Color Blindness where you challenged the idea that it makes no different what color a teacher is as long as s/he’s great. I’m amazed that it’s even necessary to argue about this, but the *best and brightest* first mentality seems to be gaining traction.

SR: The whole argument that if students are succeeding and all of their teachers are white then it’s OK to have all white teachers really misses the point. First of all, how are we measuring student success? Is it all test scores? Because raising test scores isn’t the only role of a teacher and it shouldn’t be. What do students learn from having teachers who look like them? I really believe that when students of color see teachers who look like them in these great professions it sends a powerful message that *hey, I can do something like that too.* It’s also about the ability of teachers to understand where their student are coming from.

ES: As a soon-to-be teacher I wonder what you think about the brewing battle over tenure.

SR: I strongly believe in teacher tenure because it protects teachers who have a more political understanding of what teaching is about. I really think that we need to be having some serious discussions in our teacher education programs about what tenure is. Future teachers don’t understand what it is, what it does and where it came from. Tenure does more than just provide job security. It allows you to speak out against things you think are wrong. It allows you to have a progressive curriculum. People who are going into teaching need a bigger, broader understanding of tenure.”

I read Jeff Bryant’s interview with the President-elect of NEA, Lily Eskelsen, and I think I love her.

She is smart, strong, and she doesn’t mince words.

She was a classroom teacher for many years, and she speaks from experience teaching many kinds of kids, including kids in special education and kids in a homeless shelter.

She knows that VAM is ridiculous.

She knows that tests can be valuable when used for diagnostic purposes, but harmful when used to pin a ranking on students, teachers, principals, and schools.

She gets it.

Here is a small part of the interview. Jeff asked why NEA delegates voted for a resolution calling on Duncan to resign.

“Bryant: So what’s the frustration for teachers?

“Eskelsen: Here’s the frustration – and I’m not blaming the delegates; I will own this; I share in their anger. The Department of Education has become an evidence-free zone when it comes to high stakes decisions being made on the basis of cut scores on standardized tests. We can go back and forth about interpretations of the department’s policies, like, for instance, the situation in Florida where teachers are being evaluated on the basis of test scores of students they don’t even teach. He, in fact, admitted that was totally stupid. But he needs to understand that Florida did that because they were encouraged in their applications for grant money and regulation waivers to do so. When his department requires that state departments of education have to make sure all their teachers are being judged by students’ standardized test scores, then the state departments just start making stuff up. And it’s stupid. It’s absurd. It’s non-defensible. And his department didn’t reject applications based on their absurd requirements for testing. It made the requirement that all teachers be evaluated on the basis of tests a threshold that every application had to cross over. That’s indefensible.

“Bryant: So any good the Obama administration has tried to accomplish for education has been offset by the bad?

“Eskelsen: Yes. Sure, we get pre-K dollars and Head Start, but it’s being used to teach little kids to bubble in tests so their teachers can be evaluated. And we get policies to promote affordable college, but no one graduating from high school gets an education that has supported critical and creative thinking that is essential to succeeding in college because their education has consisted of test-prep from Rupert Murdoch. The testing is corrupting what it means to teach. I don’t celebrate when test scores go up. I think of El Paso. Those test scores went up overnight. But they cheated kids out of their futures. Sure, you can “light a fire” and “find a way” for scores to go up, but it’s a way through the kids that narrows their curriculum and strips their education of things like art and recess.

“Bryant: Doesn’t Duncan understand that?

“Eskelsen: No. That reality hasn’t entered the culture of the Department of Education. They still don’t get that when you do a whole lot of things on the periphery, but you’re still judging success by a cut score on a standardized test and judging “effective” teachers on a standardized test, then you will corrupt anything good that you try to accomplish.”

Wow! This post will knock your socks off, unless you work for the U.S. Department of Education. The post was written by Mark NAISON, one of the co-founders of the BATs. (I don’t know why, but my iPad always converts Mark’s last name into all-caps.)

The Badass Teachers Association held a rally outside the U.S. Department of Education on July 28, and several were invited to meet with staff at the Office of Civil Rights to air their grievances and see if they could find common ground. After some talk, some of which was contentious, Arne Duncan dropped in unexpectedly and joined the conversation, but said he would talk about only two subjects:

“Secretary Duncan after introducing himself, and saying that he could only stay for a few minutes, asked for two things; first if we could articulate our concerns about the Department’s policies on dealing with Special needs students, and secondly, if Shoneice and Asean could step out with him to talk about what was going on in Chicago.

“In response to his first comment, Marla Kilfoyle started speaking about her concerns about Department from her standpoint of the parent of a special needs student as well as a teacher. She said it appeared that Department policies were forcing school districts to disregard individual student IEP’s and exposing special needs students to inappropriate and abusive levels of testing.

“Secretary Duncan deflected her remarks by saying that the Department was concerned that too many children of color were being inappropriately diagnosed as being Special Needs children and that once they were put in that category they were permanently marginalized. He then said “We want to make sure that all students are exposed to a rigorous curriculum.”

“At that point, I interrupted him in a very loud voice and said “ We don’t like the word ‘rigor.” We prefer to talk about creativity and maximizing students potential.”

“Secretary Duncan was somewhat taken aback by my comments. He said “ we might disagree about the language, but what I want is for all students to be able to take advanced placement courses or be exposed to an IB (International Baccalaureat) curriculum.

“At this point, Larry Proffitt interrupted the Secretary and said that in Tennessee, Special Needs students were being abused and humiliated by abusive and inappropriate testing and that their teachers knew this, and were afraid to speak out.

“We were clearly at an impasse here, which the Secretary dealt with by saying he had to leave and asking Shoneice and Asean to step into the hall with him and continue the conversation.”

This is a small part of a fascinating report on the BATs meeting at the DOE. When people ask me why I support them, I say, “They speak truth to power.” Here is the proof. Too many educators are docile and compliant. They are not.

Please read the whole post.

Do you think that Arne Duncan really believes that the greatest need of students with disabilities is access to rigorous AP and IB courses?

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