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.”

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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