Archives for category: Parents

This is a book you will want to read if you are a parent, a teacher, a teacher educator.

Opting Out: The Story of the Parents’ Grassroots Movement to Achieve Whole-Child Schools is an essential addition to your bookshelf.

It was written by Professor David Hursh of the University of Rochester and parents leaders of the New York Opt Out movement Jeanette Deutermann, Lisa Rudley, and Hursh’s graduate students, Zhe Chen and Sarah McGinnis.

Together they explain the origins and development of the one of the most significant parent-led reactions against high-stakes testing and in favor of education that is devoted to the full development of children as healthy and happy human beings. The media liked to present the Opt Out movement as a “union-led” action, but that was always a false narrative. It was created and led by parent activists who volunteered their time and energy to save their children from test centric classrooms and wanted a “whole-child” education that helped their children become eager and engaged learners.

David Hursh has written and lectured about the assault on public education and the dangers of high-stakes testing.

https://www.waikato.ac.nz/wmier/news-events/prof-david-hursh-on-the-takeover-of-public-education

University of Rochester Meliora Address (2013): High-stakes testing and the decline of teaching. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GIQu2Hh_YkI

Keynote address: New York State as a cautionary tale (2014). New Zealand union of primary teachers and administrators. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hW4vZGsLiL4

The parent co-authors are leaders of the New York State Opt Out movement, primarily through their role in New York State Allies for Public Education, which has organized hundreds of thousands of parents to say no to excessive and pointless testing, whose only beneficiaries are the big testing corporations.

The parents of the Opt Out movement are a stellar example of the Resistance that is bringing an end to this current era of child abuse and test-driven miseducation.

I was happy to endorse the book and am pleased now to recommend it to you.

 

 

Liat Olenick was a charter school teacher. Fatima Geidi was a parent of a charter student.

They write in a joint article that proposals by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren should not be controversial. Charter advocates have reacted fiercely against any effort to regulate the privately-run schools. But, say the authors, charters will improve if they are both accountable and transparent, as Sanders and Warren propose.

They write:

 

As a former charter school parent and a former charter school teacher, we support these proposals – and we believe, that if implemented both at the federal level and with a similar approach at the state level, this agenda would actually improve charter schools while also limiting some of the harm they have done to district public schools.

First, a little about our experiences, which are, sadly, far from unique. 

I, Liat, spent my first year teaching at a Brooklyn charter school that was started by non-educators and suffered from extreme turnover in administrators and staff. We had six principals over the course of the first year, and ten teachers either quit or were fired. We also lost special education students because our school wouldn’t or couldn’t provide the services they needed. Instead, they were sent to nearby public schools. Now that I work in a public school in District 14, we experience the reverse process — my school has no choice but to accept the many students pushed out by charter schools when they don’t conform to their rigid academic or behavioral expectations.

I, Fatima, am a single mother whose son was suspended over 30 times by his charter school, Upper West Success Academy, starting in first grade, including for very minor issues, such as walking up the stairs too slowly. He was also denied his mandated special education services, which worsened the situation. The school demanded that I pick him up so frequently in the middle of the day that I was forced to drop out of college myself. When I finally pulled him out of the school, his therapist told me he suffered from symptoms of post-traumatic stress. 

Then when my son and I were subsequently interviewed on the PBS Newshour about how he had been treated at the school, Success Academy officials at the network sent copies of his disciplinary files, full of trumped-up charges, to every education reporter they could find and posted it online. Eva Moskowitz, the Success Academy CEO, also recounted false stories about his behaviorin her published memoirs. 

Although the US Department of Education eventually found her and the school guilty of violating the federal student privacy law called FERPA more than three years after I filed my initial complaint, Success officials have refused to comply with the law and continue to retaliate in the same way against other parents who dare to speak out against the unfair treatment of their children by releasing their confidential files to reporters. Meanwhile, the New York State Education Department has confirmed that Success Academy has systematically failed to provide students with their mandated special education services, even after having been ordered to do so by hearing officers.

Since my son left Success Academy, he is slowly recovering, and is now doing better in high school, but it took him years to undo the damage he experienced. I have met many other parents whose children suffered similar or worse fates. Success Academy charters are currently facing five different federal education lawsuits for violating student rights, and yet are the fastest growing charter chain in the state of New York, having received more than $60 million in grants from the federal government since 2006 to aid in their expansion and replication.

The Mind Trust is funded by billionaires to advocate for privatization of public funds and public schools.

Now it is going after parents.

Of course, the best person to make the case to parents is an education entrepreneur.

Dear Friends,

I deeply believe that those most impacted by systemic injustice are also the people who are best positioned to lead the fight to create a more just and equitable society. This is one of the many reasons why we are so excited about the work our Education Entrepreneur Fellow Ashley Virden is leading to empower Indianapolis parents to create the changes they deem necessary to dramatically improve our education system.

Read on for more about a recent event that Ashley hosted and how you can support her. You will also find information on our most recent Education Tour and a call for applications for our fourth cohort of Relay National Principals Academy Fellowships.

With gratitude,

Brandon Brown

CEO

Education Entrepreneur Fellow Ashley Virden leads parent organizing meeting

On November 7, our Education Entrepreneur Fellow Ashley Virden led a community meeting for parents looking to become more involved in their children’s education. She is developing an independent parent advocacy nonprofit that will empower parents to create necessary change for children and communities across Indianapolis.

Virden is specifically searching for a group of parents who are interested in receiving training in leadership, community organizing, and advocacy. If you or someone you know might be interested in supporting the work she is doing to uplift the voices of Indianapolis parents, please reach out to her at avirden@themindtrust.org.

“Parents deserve to have a voice in our city’s education system and in the schools our kids attend. I am excited to start building a community of empowered parents who want to be advocates for all students in Indianapolis.”

Ashley Virden, Education Entrepreneur Fellow

Education Tour series visits IPS Newcomer Program

On October 22, The Mind Trust hosted an Education Tour, formerly called Education Bus Tours, featuring IPS’ Newcomer Program. The Newcomer Program serves nearly 400 students in grades 3-9 who are new to the United States within the last year. Their students learn English alongside receiving core content instruction to prepare them for a successful transition to the school of their choice. In 2018-2019, the school served students from 33 countries, who spoke 22 different languages.

Now accepting applications for Relay’s National Principals Academy Fellowship

The Mind Trust is accepting applications for the fourth cohort of Indianapolis school leaders to participate in Relay Graduate School of Education’s National Principals Academy Fellowship, a nationally-recognized fellowship that provides school and school systems leaders with powerful instructional and cultural professional development. We are grateful to the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation for a grant of $990,000 to help sponsor the next three cohorts fellows.

A few of our staff and Fellows volunteered at School on Wheels, filling backpacks with school supplies for students who utilize their programming. School on Wheels provides tutoring and wraparound academic support for hundreds of Indy children and families impacted by homelessness.
Our School Supports team partnered with the Lavinia Group to bring a literacy focused professional development to our Fellows and other Indianapolis school leaders. The training focused on building independence in reading to unleash student potential.

The Mind Trust In the News

10 new schools are seeking innovation partnership with IPS via Chalkbeat

Mind Trust Adds Lewis to Board via Inside Indiana Business

IPS Study Abroad Program To Relaunch As High School At Arlington via WFYI

New teacher residency program launches in Indy: ‘It will lead to a better retention’ via Fox 59

Church’s money management lessons lead to transformation in impoverished neighborhoodvia Faith & Leadership, Duke University

Schools were quick to downplay ILEARN results, but experts stand by the test. Here’s why.via Chalkbeat

The Mind Trust
1630 N. Meridian St., Suite 450  | Indianapolis, Indiana 46202
(317) 822-8102 | info@themindtrust.org

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Audrey Watters is one of the leading voices among those who are concerned about student privacy.

In this post, she notes the growing attention to surveillance of children but observes that some parents are purchasing devices that facilitate surveillance.

Do you want your child to be surveilled by unknown persons and corporations?

Morgan Ames is a techie. She majored in computer science at Berkeley and now works at the Center for Science, Technology, Medicine, and Society. She wants to convince you that techies know computer science, but we should not look to them for advice about child-rearing, education, or other social issues. Their range of expertise is narrow. It may make them very rich. But it does not make them wise in every field of endeavor.

in particular, she is critical of the media narrative that techies shield their children from early use of technology.

She writes:

“These articles assume that techies have access to secret wisdom about the harmful effects of technology on children. Based on two decades of living among, working with, and researching Silicon Valley technology employees, I can confidently assert that this secret knowledge does not exist.

”To be sure, techies may know more than most people do about the technical details of the systems they build, but that’s a far cry from having expertise in child development or the broader social implications of technologies. Indeed, most are beholden to the same myths and media narratives about the supposed evils of screen time as the rest of us, just as they can be susceptible to the same myths about, say, vaccines or fad diets. Nothing in their training, in other words, makes them uniquely able to understand arenas of knowledge or practice far from their own.”

Whoa. I disagree with Ames. Monitoring children’s screen time and allowing them time to read and play is one of the most important jobs of parents today.

I think Ames would have been on safer grounds had she criticized techies’ entrance into politics or other realms about which they are clueless, where they think their financial success makes them superior to everyone else and encourages them to scoff at democracy. Or where they think that their financial success gives them the right to “reinvent” education and scoff at democracy. Think Zuckerberg, Gates, and Mrs. Jobs.

Parents and supporters of public schools in Little Rock are outraged that Governor Asa Hutchinson refuses to meet with them. The state took control of the Little Rock district, and parents want democratic decision making restored. Remember when Republicans used to support local control? Not anymore.

Rev/Dr. Anika Whitfield write to the Governor on behalf of a large coalition of parents.

Gov. Hutchinson, 

 
As you may have heard at our rally on September 25, 2019, to fulfill the legacy of the Little Rock Nine to obtain a world class equitable education for students currently being denied by discrimination and state laws, and to #ReclaimLRSD in total with a locally elected school board, we demanded a meeting with you.
 
The organizers of the Support OUR LRSD coalition, a coalition of parents/guardians, students, alumni, community activists and supporters, faith leaders, volunteers in the LRSD, teachers, educators, retired teachers, and LRSD business leaders and faith leaders and communities need to speak with you about the fate of our beloved LRSD. 
 
You have been talking at us, and not with us. You and your appointed board and commissioner of education have been making decisions that work against our will, decisions and requests. 
 
As our elected Governor, you vowed to serve the entire state. You have not been serving our best interest, because you have not given us the opportunity to meet.  You have not provided us with an opportunity to not only state our case with you face to face, but you have denied us the dignity of being heard by you and your staff on multiple occasions.
 
We are insisting that you meet us on Monday, October 7th or Tuesday, October 8th prior to the Thursday, October 10th State Board of Education meeting.
 
There will be two representatives from each of our coalition groups ready to meet with you.
 
Please have your staff provide me with the date and time you will make yourself available to meet with The People of the LRSD, members of the Support Our LRSD coalition, who are requesting to meet with you.
 
Rev./Dr. Anika T.  Whitfield 
Grassroots Arkansas, co-chair
Support Our LRSD coalition 
By the way, Rev/Dr. Anika Whitfield is featured as a hero of the Resistance in my new book SLAYING GOLIATH, which will be published January 21, 2020.

 

Gary Rubenstein enjoyed reading Robert Pondiscio’s book about Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy. He recommends it. What Pondiscio reveals is that SA does not cherrypick students, as critics charge: It cherrypicks parents.

One premise of the book is that the fundamental secret to Success Academy’s amazing standardized test scores, mentioned throughout the work is the filtering of the right families.  On page 266 he writes “The common criticism leveled at Moskowitz and her schools is that they cherry pick students, attracting bright children and shedding the poorly behaved and hardest to teach  This misses the mark entirely. Success Academy is cherry-picking parents.” Parents must go through a series of tests and hoops to jump through for their children to get into and to stay in a Success Academy school.  First there is, of course, the lottery. But winning the lottery is just the first step. Described in great — and frightening — detail in chapter 20 “The Lottery”, lottery winners have to attend a mandatory informational session where they are told how much work it is to be a parent of a child at the school — how lateness is not tolerated and there is a 7:30 AM start time.  How there is no transportation provided. How every Wednesday is a half day and there is no after school program. How absences require a doctor’s note. Many prospective lottery winners give up after that meeting. Then there are several other steps like extensive paperwork and uniform fittings and a dress rehearsal. Even Pondiscio is shocked to watch how a student who is deep on the waitlist eventually get admitted to the school.  But having families who are this willing and able to comply with the demands made by Success Academy leads, predictably, to high standardized test scores. He doesn’t say this so bluntly, but let’s face it — this is a kind of cheating.

But if you look at the back of the book, you see that it was well reviewed by various reformers including former NYC schools Chancellor Joel Klein.  How can this be? Well even though Pondiscio says the test scores need to be seen in the context of the family selection process, he also argues, several times throughout the book, that it is OK that they do this.  The argument is that wealthy families use their resources to get their child into a school that is a good fit for them so why shouldn’t poor families who have the resource of being highly functional use that to get their child into a school that is a good fit for them too?…

My first response to this would be that only 16 out of the inaugural 73 students even endured to graduate Success Academy.  If a higher percentage were actually served by Success Academy, then this argument of ‘shouldn’t they also get to choose a school that is good for them?’ would be more compelling.  Since for the vast majority, they did not choose a school that was good for them, even after going through all those steps, and they did ultimately choose to leave, so what kind of choice did they really get?  For the small number of families and children that turn out to be a good fit after all, there are at least double that number who regretted that choice and surely feel duped by the false promise that Success Academy actually cares about their children.

Maybe an analogy will make this more clear:  On airplanes, only wealthy people have the choice of flying first class while people who can’t afford that must fly in coach.  So now Success Airlines comes along and they have something they give people the choice of flying in something like first class except the seats are outside the plane on the wings and you have to get to the seats on your own and there’s a 2/3 chance that you’re going to be jettisoned from that seat before the flight is over anyway.  Should we say that having a choice like that is something that poor people deserve to have?

If Pondiscio is making the case here that Success Academy should have the right to exist, I’ve never said that they shouldn’t exist.  But their existence should not be to just benefit the few that are a good fit at the expense of not only the students at the neighboring schools but also the students who left Success Academy before graduating.  To do this, I think that they need more oversight and regulations and transparency about what goes on inside their schools.  And I’m glad that this book does a nice job about showing the sorts of abuse that occur in the school which I’ll get to next.

 

Here is news you can use! Carol Burris and Leonie Haimson now have a regular one-hour radio show on WBAI In New York. The show is called TALK OUT OF SCHOOL, and it will appear weekly. WBAI is part of the progressive Pacifica Network.

In their first show, they discussed student privacy, a subject on which Leonie is a national advocate and expert, and they analyzed current controversies about diversity, selective admissions, and racial integration, a subject where Carol has extensive experience as principal of a detracked high school on Long Island.

Leonie is executive director of Class Size Matters and co-founder of the national Parent Coalition for Student Privacy. Carol is executive director of the Network for Public Education.

Next week, Leonie will interview civil rights attorney Wendy Lecker.

Of this you can be certain, this show will be a place to hear talk that is characterized by experience, common sense, and wisdom.

 

 

Gay Adelmann, founder of the parent activist group called Dear JCPS, recently requested the financial records of the Kentucky PTA. The PTA refused to turn them over, although they are supposed to be a matter of public record. (Jefferson County is synonymous with Louisville.)

Dear JCPS co-founder, Gay Adelmann recently made a routine records request of the largest school district in Kentucky (27th largest in the nation), to obtain copies of local PTAs’ financial records for the past 5 years. These records, which, according to the “Redbook” are required by Kentucky law to be filed annually with each school’s year-end audit, consist of a preliminary budget and a one-page year-end financial review. Her hope was to identify schools that might benefit from a little extra help with programming or fundraising and raise community awareness so that these disparities could be taken into consideration while the district is actively tackling the bigger picture issues.

As often happens when records are held in multiple locations, or when district personnel are unavailable during summer break, the district notified Adelmann that additional time would be required before these records would be made available to her. They informed her she would receive the documents on August 30.

On August 12, Adelmann received an email from Kentucky PTA attorney Coy Travis informing her that his client had filed a complaint in district court to seek injunctive relief in order to prevent the district from turning these records over to her. A hearing was set for August 15 in which she was invited to appear.

After some skirmishing, the judge in the case ordered the PTA to release the documents. It must do so or file an appeal by September 16.

Adelmann writes:

At a time when privatizers are trying to get in through every nook and cranny, influential entities such as Kentucky PTA should be dedicating resources toward revealing predators and exposing their influence. This lawsuit does the opposite.

How much money and time is this lawsuit costing their dues-paying members and taxpayers? More importantly, where was this level of activism when charter schools, vouchers and loss of local parental voice on SBDMs were on the menu? In the past 10 years, only one resolution has been passed at the Kentucky PTA annual convention, and it was one that was initiated by Adelmann.

Transparency is integral to accountability. Bill Gates gave millions to the National PTA to win its support for Common Corea nd its silence on charter schools. Show your cards.

Parents and students demand a seat at the table in Providence as state leaders prepare to take control of district.

https://www.providencejournal.com/news/20190904/students-parents-demand-formal-role-in-state-takeover-plan-for-providence-schools

A group of high school students and Providence parents have filed a motion with the state Department of Education Wednesday demanding a formal role for parents and students to weigh in on the takeover plan for the Providence public schools.

Parents are joined by several youth organizations, including Youth in Action, Providence Youth Student Movement, Alliance of Rhode Island Southeast Asians for Education, and the Providence Student Union.

The group, represented by the Rhode Island Center for Justice, is asking State Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green to ensure parent and student involvement in the plan for improving the city’s schools, the leaders who will implement it, and the goals, progress and criteria for success for the plan.

The groups argue that students and their parents have a clear, strong, personal stake in the success of the district, and have a legal right to participate in decisions about the takeover.

In their motion, the parents, students and community groups are saying to the state: “No one has a greater stake in demanding improvements in the schools than parents and students, and no turnaround will succeed without a clear plan that includes the community.”