Archives for category: Supporting public schools

Melissa (Mel) Katz is preparing to become an elementary school teacher at The College of New Jersey. She has her own blog, The Education Activist: From Student to Teacher, and this is how she describes herself: I have been involved in education seriously beginning in my senior year of high school and especially my freshman year in college. I am a student activist, always researching, speaking in Trenton and at local board meetings, and traveling the state of New Jersey to meet different people and attend different education related events. Education is my life, my passion, and I couldn’t imagine spending every day anywhere else but in a classroom.


Mel recently attended a school board meeting in her hometown of South Brunswick and listened to the superintendent defend PARCC testing. In this post, she takes apart his claims and refutes them. If PARCC is so great, she asks, why have the number of states participating in it dropped from 24 (plus D.C.) to half that number? The superintendent defends Pearson and insists that PARCC testing will not drive instruction. She responds with logic and clarity.


Is there something in the water in New Jersey that encourages smart young women who are preparing to be career teachers–like Mel Katz and Stephanie Rivera–to speak up fearlessly about their chosen profession?



David Lentini of Maine writes in response to another reader on the purpose of schooling in a democratic society:



I like your idea. But I suspect that most states will have language similar to MO and ME. In fact, I would argue, that’s one of the major problems we have today—that we’ve forgotten the basic role of schools in maintaining our democracy, and we’ve become distracted with ideas of using the schools to prepare a “workforce” or create a social utopia (or both). The shift from the former to the latter was a hallmark of the Progressive Era.


Returning to the view that schools serve first to educate our children for their future roles as citizens, and not workers and consumers or “role players” in some social model, would greatly focus the curriculum on developing the intellectual faculties of the students and the attention of the parents.


Democracies require a commitment to three main qualities: equality, justice, and truth. Each of these is best supported by an education that emphasizes the development of observation, thinking, and expression. These in turn would require a focus on the arts, reading, and writing. In short, we would return to the philosophy that runs the very best private schools—the ones the élites like Bill Gates and Arne Duncan send their kids.


It would also require a commitment to end poverty, the single biggest factor in student achievement.


We would stop looking for magical solutions to avoid the poverty problem. We would stop using public education as a dumping ground for useless and superfluous technologies. We would finally grow up and stop looking for “Superman”. We would build our society on developing the most precious resources we have—our children’s intellects.

Lee Barrios is a retired Nationally Board Certified Teacher in Louisiana.

Open letter to BESE –

Occasionally, albeit rarely, I receive confirmation that I am not only NOT crazy but that I am correct. Because I always base my actions on evidence and am always open to correction, it doesn’t really surprise me and I sleep well at night.

This BESE, on the other hand, ( 8 of you to be exact) have proven that you have personal agendas and are determined to support the lies of Supt. White and his well known cadre of business and political promoters. You are all very intelligent individuals and have ample opportunity to seek out and understand the truth. I give you no benefit of the doubt.

As I have said repeatedly, you are complicit as proven by your actions. However it is never too late to redeem a modicum of respect and honor by standing up and admitting you have been duped. It appears that now is an appropriate time to do that.

You all and John White have created chaos, pain, suffering, loss of excellent teachers, embarrassment for our state, and REAL damage to the education and lives of our children. You must understand that there can be NO test this spring and that the whole high stakes testing accountability must be overhauled and transformed from a purely punitive weapon to some kind of constructive process. Get rid of all the TFA junkies in LDE and replace them with education experts so that can be accomplished! Begin with Supt. White!

Lee P. Barrios, M.Ed., NBCT
Secondary English, Journalism, Gifted
178 Abita Oaks Loop
Abita Springs, Louisiana 70420

“If a child struggles to clear the high bar at five feet, she will not become a “world class” jumper because someone raised the bar to six feet and yelled “jump higher,” or if her “poor” performance is used to punish her coach.” – – CommonSense

“I believe in standardizing automobiles. I do not believe in standardizing human beings. Standardization is a great peril which threatens American culture.”—— Albert Einstein

In contrast to the Bloomberg administration, which believed in closing schools with low test scores, the de Blasio administration is launching a “community schools” model, in which schools are paired with community organizations to help them improve. Here is a press release from the New York City Department of Education, a welcome departure from the past, when almost every school lived under threat of closure:



Each school to adopt transformative educational approach to address whole needs of children and provide targeted services such as vision care, mentoring, arts and sports education, social workers and other mental health services, youth leadership programming, and academic enrichment to help students catch-up or leap ahead

NEW YORK—Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña and Deputy Mayor Richard Buery today announced the first 45 Community Schools launched under the de Blasio administration have been matched with 25 local community-based organizations and approved to provide a slate of new services to help students develop and learn.

Under the $52 million four-year Attendance Improvement and Dropout Intervention (AIDP) grant administered in partnership with the United Way of New York, New York City will launch more community schools than any other city in the nation. Community Schools are a pillar of Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Fariña’s education agenda, supporting social, emotional, physical and academic needs of students to support learning. The AIDP-funded community schools will include a specific focus on chronic absenteeism and drop-out prevention.

The research-based Community School model has a proven track record of improving academic achievement. It creates strong partnerships between schools and experienced community partners to provide social services, counseling and mental health supports, targeted academic interventions, and engage entire families and communities as part of a holistic approach towards elevating educational outcomes.

Each of the 45 community schools has been matched to an effective community-based organization and a full-time in-school Community School Coordinator. The Community School Coordinator’s role is to customize and organize the delivery of supports to students such as mentors, mental health professionals, academically enrichment services during and after the school day, optometrists and dental services, as needed.

“We believe in investing in the whole child. Every student comes to class with different challenges that can make it difficult to learn. Community Schools respond to families’ needs in innovative ways so that students become more likely to attend class, and better able to focus and succeed. We know that when this model is done right, it has a proven track record of strong academic results,” said Mayor de Blasio.

“For our students to succeed they must be in school learning, and within the community school model, the whole needs of students are addressed,” said Chancellor Fariña. “Not only can there be an eye clinic or additional guidance counselors to address the social and emotional needs of our students, but parent involvement and engagement happens every single day. When I visit schools and see parents volunteering in the classroom, sitting in a communal room having coffee and discussing how to support their kids, I know these schools will become anchors within their communities and our students are the winners.”

“Combined with Pre-K for All and after-school enrichment in our middle schools, these Community Schools are going to lift up thousands of students. These schools serve some of our most challenged communities, and that puts even more pressure on our teachers and principals to help kids succeed and build a better life. Having seen strong Community Schools in action right here in New York City, I know what a difference they can make. We cannot wait to roll up our sleeves and get started,” said Deputy Mayor Buery.

“United Way of New York City is proud to partner with the de Blasio administration on this visionary effort,” said Sheena Wright, President and CEO, United Way of New York City. “We firmly believe this Community Schools initiative will be integral in transforming the lives of New York City’s children, and UWNYC is fully leveraging our unique strength and over 23-year experience working with CBOs to help successfully launch the City’s strategy.”
Dozens of studies from the past two decades have demonstrated the positive impact of Community Schools on academic achievement. An analysis of 11 of Boston’s K-5 City Connects schools found students had significantly outperformed peers in comparable schools in academic work across grades 3-5. Students in Tulsa, Oklahoma’s most successful Community Schools significantly outperformed their peers in math by 32 points and in reading by 19 points, with poor students in those Community Schools erasing the achievement gap with students from more affluent families.

Across New York City, Community School development is in full swing. Community School Coordinators are being hired this month to oversee school-by-school planning. Parent, staff and community forums to solicit input will begin early in the new year, with each school’s service plan developed in March and most services beginning subsequently. Some services such as mentoring for chronically absent students and on-campus counseling may begin by January 2015.

Among the programs announced today is Manhattan’s High School for Media and Communications, which will partner with Catholic Charities to provide prep courses for the SAT and Regents exams, as well as after-school programming in theater and the arts. Rockaway Collegiate High School will partner with Family Health International to provide adult mentoring for students, staff professional development and mental health services on campus.

“This program has the potential to fundamentally transform our schools and will make a difference in the lives of so many children and families,” said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. “Research clearly demonstrates that children who receive comprehensive services perform better academically, that’s is why I and my colleagues in the Assembly Majority have long supported AIDP initiatives and were proud to support Community Schools in recent State Budgets. Supporting the comprehensive social, emotional, physical and academic needs of students will pay huge dividends in the future and helps ensure our children receive the best education possible.”

“The beauty of a Community School is that it is built on the idea that we are stronger together,” said Karen Alford, Vice President for Elementary Schools, United Federation of Teachers. “Schools are stronger when they are paired with community partners. These organizations can bring targeted resources to answer the specifics needs of students and families at a particular school – a cookie-cutter approach won’t do. From our own experience, we know that strong community partners can make a real difference in the lives of students and in the climate of a school.”

“We welcome the opportunity to work in even deeper partnership with the Department of Education to make sure that all the elements needed for high-quality Community Schools are in place and strong,” said Phoebe C. Boyer, President and CEO of The Children’s Aid Society. “With City Hall’s full support, we can bring this proven strategy to more schools and ensure that even more New York City children have access to the supports they need to thrive in school.”
“We look forward to the opportunity to work with Principal Santi Taveras and the Dewitt Clinton community to provide counseling and enrichment services for all of the smaller learning communities that have been created at the school,” said Jim Marley, Assistant Executive Director of Good Shepherd Services. “We are also looking at partnerships to provide additional support to help students graduate ready for college or a meaningful career through Regents preparation and youth leadership training. Good Shepherd will lend its total support to help this school succeed and work in lockstep with the principal, staff and students to encourage families to take advantage of the new opportunities the school offers.”
“Phipps Neighborhoods is proud to be part of the Community Schools initiative,” said Dianne Morales, Executive Director and CEO of Phipps Neighborhoods. “Community Schools combine the unique strengths of schools and community-based organizations in partnership to create opportunities for students, families and communities to succeed and rise above poverty.”
“P.S. 15 is excited to partner with Pathways 2 Leadership, an organization that has demonstrated a commitment toward serving our youth through high-quality programming,” said Irene Sanchez, principal of P.S. 15 Roberto Clemente. “They bring with them an extensive
network of partners that will be invaluable to P.S. 15. They understand what it means to be a Community School. P2L has already brought on a full-time social worker and plans to offer a superior wrap around after-school program with P.S. 15 beginning in January. Our collaborative practices coupled with their expertise will support the creation of an exceptional community school.”

“CEJ is pleased that this administration recognizes the critical role of community-based organizations in supporting school success and combatting challenges like absenteeism that NYC schools have faced for a very long time. The deep local roots and expertise in community engagement and leadership development that neighborhood organizations like Make the Road NY bring to the Bushwick Campus high schools will be invaluable in creating Community Schools that build on neighborhood strengths and address challenges. These types of true community partnerships are the backbone of the Community Schools model,” said Zoraida Conde, a parent leader from Make the Road NY and the NYC Coalition for Educational Justice.

In addition to these first 45 schools, the City will launch another 83 Community Schools as part of its Renewal Schools plan to address historically low performing schools. Eleven of the newly designated AIDP Community Schools are also Renewal Schools.

The Department of Education is in the process of contracting with a third party evaluator for the AIDP Community Schools initiative and the administration is committed to studying the efficacy of the model over time.

For a full list of new Community Schools and to learn more, visit

The Network for Public Education needs your help today, December 2. We are running a national fundraiser on social media.


Learn more about NPE here.


The NPE exists to support public education as a cornerstone of our democracy, to elevate and defend the teaching profession, and to protect children against the abuses of high-stakes testing and data mining. We oppose the status quo of testing, school closings, and privatization. We advocate policies to improve public education, such as class size reduction, evaluation of teachers by peer review, no-stakes diagnostic testing, student privacy, and universal early childhood education.


We endorse candidates who support public education.


We are sustained by our friends, allies, and members. The money that we raise will be used to help pay for our annual conference, which will meet in Chicago on April 25-26. Please put the date on your calendar and plan to join us for an exciting event.


You can help us now by supporting the Network for Public Education’s ‪#‎Give2NPE on ‪#‎GivingTuesday fund raiser and Thunderclap!


Sign up on Thunderclap in just a couple of easy clicks with your Twitter account to maximize the message.


1. Please click on this Thunderclap link.


2. Scroll down to where it says “Support with Twitter”, click on it.


3. Then click “Add My Support”.


4. Click “Authorize App”


5. Be sure to leave the Thunderclap link embedded in the tweet!


Thunderclap will send out a message to all of your followers, but will never spam you or your followers.


Here are some sample tweets to send out:


#Give2NPE on #GivingTuesday! To become a member or make a donation Click HERE:


If you care about our public schools please #Give2NPE on #GivingTuesday Help us protect, preserve & strengthen them!


WE ARE MANY. THERE IS POWER IN OUR NUMBERS. #Give2NPE on #GivingTuesday Donate here:


TOGETHER WE WILL SAVE OUR SCHOOLS. #Give2NPE on #GivingTuesday Donate here:


If you can afford to make a small donation to NPE: #Give2NPE on #GivingTuesday Donate here:


Together we protect, preserve, strengthen public schools. #Give2NPE on #GivingTuesday Donate:


If you want to make a gift to NPE, go to the website, where you can donate with a credit card or Paypal. Or you can send a check to:


Network for Public Education
P.O. Box 44200
Tucson, Az 85733


If you are a student, a parent, a teacher, an administrator, or a citizen who cares about the future of our democracy, please help us fight for you.

Jonathan Pelto of Connecticut has done an amazing job of assembling a network of 200 bloggers and writers who support public education. That number is sure to grow as more parents and educators join the blogosphere.

Jon’s blog “Wait, What?” Is one of the most influential blogs in Connecticut.

Those who seek to privatize our public schools have vast amounts of money (the big foundations created their own blog, funded at $12 million), but we have bloggers and writers who are passionate and dedicated to the democratic role of public schools as a public good that belongs to the public, not corporations.

Jon Pelto writes:

Education Bloggers Network Hits 200 Members

The Education Bloggers Network is an informal confederation of more than 200 bloggers and commentators who are dedicated to supporting public education in the United States and pushing back the corporate education reform industry. While many have their own blogs, some write commentary pieces for local, regional and national newspapers and media outlets. Still others use their Facebook or other platforms to write about education issues.

Like the Committees of Correspondence leading up to America’s War for Independence, education 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 undermine our public education system, privatize our schools and turn our classrooms into little more than Common Core testing factories.

The Education Bloggers Network was developed in conjunction with the publication and roll-out of Diane Ravitch’s best-selling book, “Reign of Error.”

Over the past two years it has become a vibrant community of advocacy journalists, investigative bloggers and public education activists working to make sure that citizens have accurate and timely information about public education issues at the local, state and federal level.

The Education Bloggers Network is not about controlling editorial content but sharing information, helping bloggers enhance their platforms and provide expanded venues so that their articles garner greater readership.

For example, the Education Bloggers Network works closely with the nationally renowned Progressive Magazine and a number of Network members have their articles and commentary pieces cross-posted to Public School Shakedown a website hosted by the Progressive.

The Education Bloggers Network also works closely with the Network for Public Education, the leading advocacy group, founded by Diane Ravitch, Anthony Cody, and other pro-public education leaders. The NPE’s mission is to “protect, preserve, promote, and strengthen public schools and the education of current and future generations of students.”

As Diane Ravitch noted in a post about the Education Bloggers Network, “If you blog and if you support public education as a pillar of our democracy, consider joining the Education Bloggers Network.”

To become part of the Education Bloggers Network contact Jonathan Pelto, the founder and manager of the Network at

(A complete directory of the Education Bloggers Network will be available soon)

The Ratliff family in Texas are heroes of public education, they are moderate Republicans, and they been steadfast advocates for public schools.

They recently co-wrote an article that explains why vouchers are the wrong path for Texas.

“Bill Ratliff of Mount Pleasant is a former state senator and lieutenant governor of Texas; Thomas Ratliff of Mount Pleasant represents District 9 on the State Board of Education; state Rep. Bennett Ratliff of Coppell represents District 115 in the Texas House.”

In Indianapolis, there will be a crucial school board election tomorrow. Money is coming into the district from corporate reformers who see a chance to turn Indianapolis into another all-charter district, like New Orleans. They apparently don’t realize that most of the charter schools in New Orleans have been rated D or F by the charter-friendly State Education Department. Or that of 68 school districts in Louisiana, the Recovery School District in New Orleans is ranked #65. This is no model for Indianapolis or any other city.


The Indianapolis Public School Board election is one of the most hotly contested races in Indiana. A great deal of money has been injected into this election by reformers who support the further expansion of charters and vouchers in IPS. I urge my Indianapolis friends to support the following 3 candidates, who are currently members of the IPS Board.
Annie Roof is the current IPS Board President. She is an IPS graduate, a parent, and an IPS advocate. She has initiated community engagement designed to reach more constituents. She has worked diligently to make sure there is a great school for every student. She was part of a national search team to bring new leadership to IPS in the hiring of Dr. Lewis Ferebee. She has championed competitive pay and benefits for IPS teachers. Annie has ushered in a new era of transparency about the IPS budget and agenda items. She has advocated for increased autonomy at the school level where parents and community members and principals work together.


Samantha Adair White and Dr. Michale Brown are both incumbents and have both helped to bring the IPS Board and district a long way toward transparency and responsiveness to parents and community in the past 4 years (including the hiring of a new Superintendent Dr. Lewis Ferebee). Without their election, Annie Roof’s voice for public education will be lost especially since their opponents have been endorsed and funded by Stand for the Children and the Chamber of Commerce. If their opponents are elected, corporate reform candidates will control the majority of the Board and further privatizations would proceed very rapidly after the election, and Indianapolis will become another New Orleans or Chicago or Philadelphia, all cities where public education is under threat by privatizers.


Vote for your public schools tomorrow.

A concerned parent activist in Indiana sent this message:



As election campaign promises are being made, carefully consider any candidate who claims he or she will “reward our best teachers.”
“Rewarding our best teachers” is a purposely deceptive claim. In fact, after replacing traditional pay scales with merit based schemes in 2011, State Republicans immediately reduced funds from the “Teacher Performance Awards”. Originally budgeted at $11 million, the Republican controlled house voted to reduce this fund 82%. Across the state teachers evaluated as effective have been told, “there is no money for ‘rewards’.”
Many teachers today earn less money than they did in 2011, yet the 2014 Indiana Republican Platform claims “Retaining and Attracting Young Talent” is a top priority. The state continues to lose some of its best and brightest teachers to other professions.Talented youth entering college are being told, “You do not want to go into education.”
This year’s election must be about education. Voting for legislators or senators who claim to “reward our best teachers” is to vote for a promise that has already been broken.






In 2011, Senate Bill 0001 (SB0001) passed, eliminating teacher contracts and requiring what evolved into the RISE evaluation. Those who supported this idea claimed it would reward effective teachers. In reality, most teachers saw that their pay froze.


Once this plan was implemented, districts searched their coffers for funds in which to “reward” effective teachers but found them drained by these same state senators who also slashed educational funding.


In essence, SB0001 did just the opposite of what it was intended to do. More quality teachers have left the profession than ever before. Most teachers, even those who have been dubbed highly effective since this evaluation was put in place, find themselves making substantially less money than they did in 2011.


Further, school districts in financially struggling areas that needed support the most found themselves losing teachers to more affluent districts that could bolster their funds through referendums. SB 1, whether intentional or not, gives effective and highly effective teachers real cause to hesitate to seek challenging assignments—which, in the end, hurts students who need quality teaching the most.”


Finally, many politicians supporting this type of merit pay claim this election year they will focus dollars on the classroom. However, the RISE evaluation has created such red tape for schools that they have had to hire more administrators for this accountability or pull resources out of the classroom to manage.


Sadly, six senators who supported this measure and are up for reelection this year stand unopposed. That makes the four races where senators who supported SB0001 even more important. If you vote in one of the four senate districts below, please show your support for public education by voting for the challenger.


In State Senate District 47, Sen. Ronald Grooms voted for SB0001.
Vote challenger Chuck Freiberger


In State Senate District 45, Sen. James Smith voted for SB0001.
Vote challenger Julie Berry.


In State Senate District 41, Sen. Greg Walker voted for SB0001.
Vote challenger AndyTalarzyk.


In State Senate District 29, Sen. Michael Delph was absent, but supports policies like SB0001.
Vote Challenger J.D. Ford.

A coalition of pastors in Dallas has issued a stirring call for public support of public schools.

This comes at a time when billionaire John Arnold has been organizing a campaign to turn Dallas into an all-charter district.

Leading pastors in Dallas–George Mason and Frederick Haynes, joined with four others–wrote an opinion piece, in which they said that public support for public schools is vital and that “choice” is illusory. .

They write:

Eighty-four percent of children in this country attend public schools. Slightly more than 60 percent (over 3 million of our 5 million Texas public school students) are identified as poor. These children in our public education system are our neighbors, and we are called to love them by providing a vibrant and thriving school system. That’s why Dallas-area pastors are calling on elected officials and leaders in the business, faith, parent, labor and neighborhood communities to support the public schools of greater Dallas…..

By investing in public education, we invest in the future of 5 million Texas schoolchildren. This basic investment is the key to a child’s future economic mobility, the financial stability of Texas families and the state’s long-term economic prosperity. Dallas residents know the direct correlation between education achievement and economic viability.

We must prioritize the adequate funding of our institutions of public education for the benefit of all Texans. The past two sessions of the Legislature have seen contentious fights over public education policy. Because public education is such a sound investment in our children’s future, one wonders: What’s the dispute?

There are two competing visions for public education: one weakens the public portion, and one strengthens it. On one side, there is a drive to defund public education, de-professionalize teaching, misuse test scores to declare schools as failing, and institute paths to privatize schools in the name of school reform. These privatization schemes take the form of private school vouchers, for-profit virtual schools, and corporate chain charter schools that do not serve all students equally.

The other vision, a vision which we embrace, is to provide adequate funding for all schools, raise the bar with higher standards and more respect for the teaching profession, focus on a rich instructional program instead of a narrow overemphasis on testing, and engage community partners in support for neighborhood schools and the children and families they serve.

Those advocating privatization have attacked the public school system and falsely labeled neighborhood schools failures. This arbitrary judgment has been exposed as a cynical strategy to divert public education money for private purposes, and has brought advocates like us to the fight against privatization and in support of initiatives that tell the true story about the value of our public schools.

The “choice” that corporate chain charters and private schools claim to offer parents and students is illusory. It is really these private operators who exercise their own freedom to choose which students they will recruit and retain and which students they will exclude or filter out. And the latter group will disproportionately include Hispanics, African-Americans, English language learners, students with disabilities and students who are at risk because of disciplinary or academic difficulties. These children are our neighbors, too.

We join with Dallas community leaders and parents who understand that we must keep our attention upon the real and pressing — and constitutionally mandated — need for full funding for public education. Dabbling in political diversions that are peripheral to the adequate education of all the children of Texas is dangerous and foolhardy. This is not the time to divert funding away from our neighborhood schools, which provide a place of refuge and support for all Texas children, no matter their background, situation or educational need. More important, it is the loving thing to do.

George Mason is senior pastor at Wilshire Baptist Church. Reach him at Frederick Haynes is senior pastor at Friendship-West Baptist Church. Reach him through the church at friendship

OPEN LETTER: Other signers
Joe Clifford, senior pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Dallas
Bryan Carter, senior pastor, Concord Baptist Church, Dallas
Joel Sanchez, preaching minister, Skillman Church of Christ, Dallas
Andy Stoker, senior minister, First United Methodist Church


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 121,545 other followers