Archives for category: Students

The Parkway School District in Missouri posted this beautiful video about the first day of school. It asked students what they hoped for. It asked teachers what they hoped for.

Please notice that no one mentioned higher test scores.

They spoke of hopes and dreams. Being better. Making new friends. Having school feel like home. Caring. Feeling wanted. Belonging.

A 20-year veteran of the Los Angeles public school district, who is also NBCT, explains the Rafe Esquith situation here. The writer has the nom de plume of Geronimo. I know who he is; I have met him. But I am not telling.


ON RAFE ESQUITH’S SUIT AGAINST LAUSD

Education has been on trial for a long time in Los Angeles.

We have seen it in many forms, most notably in how business interests in education trump pedagogical interests on many fronts…corporate technology, standardized testing, Charter Schools and billionaire influence on public policy.

The Los Angeles Unified School District is misnamed. It is not a “unified” entity. It can be divided in two using hoary Edu-Marxism (apologies, but I beg your indulgence!). There is the 1% at the top of the District apparatus (or apparatchiks) who control and set policy and then there are the actual educators who are supposed to be the reason for the season–but have been demonized by the structure that ostensibly is supposed to support their efforts.

On Wednesday, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge Wednesday denied LAUSD request to dismiss a defamation lawsuit brought by the internationally renowned fifth-grade teacher Rafe Esquith, whom they fired last October.

A veteran of the district for over 30 years, Esquith filed the defamation lawsuit against the district in August after he was placed on paid leave and assigned to “teacher jail” pending an internal investigation after a fellow teacher complained that Esquith made a joke about nudity in front of his students in regards to the production of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” the students were performing.

Huck Finn began the entire sorry process that led to Esquith’s dismissal and the current class action suit against LAUSD; it is a top level farce that Twain would have ridiculed in his day but would not have been the least surprised about.

It is most helpful to think about the people who actually run LAUSD as proprietors of a brand that should be called LAUSD, Inc.

LAUSD, Inc. is not interested in good teaching. It is not interested in good pedagogy. It is not interested in what inspires students to want to learn.

LAUSD, Inc. is interested only in LAUSD, Inc. itself.

LAUSD Inc’s greatest concern is for its brand. The apparatus set up in LAUSD headquarters functions only to propagate a self-serving system. In Ken Kesey’s famous “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, Chief, the deaf-mute Indian narrator, calls this system “The Combine.” Not that many of the people who run LAUSD have actually read that novel, but their day-to-day priorities are very different from what Education SHOULD and COULD be; it is much more mundane–the business of Education is the Business of education.

Alas, I also can not say with any confidence that many of the District’s top brass have actually read America’s most famous novel, Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”–the literature that got him into trouble in the first place. They would insist that it wasn’t part of their job description and irrelevant to their duties.

Without going down the rabbit hole of all the anti-education, anti-teacher, anti-student policies that LAUSD, Inc. has championed over the years, let us examine this one emblematic case that sort of sums up all that is wrong with how education is viewed by the LAUSD Corporation.

Rafe Esquith’s case should give people who are interested AND vested in true, meaningful education great pause.

Depressing as this telling fact is, I will not go into how completely unsurprising that not any single District Big Shot ever could make it down to Hobart Elementary School to watch Esquith’s magic in action. The author of many acclaimed bestselling books on teaching and an instructor responsible for changing hundred of young lives, his Room 56 had international guests and world class educators parade through marveling at his unconventional teaching methods–but nobody of any authority–not an LAUSD Superintendent nor even one solitary School Board member could be bothered to visit.

They were not interested in anything Hobart Shakespearean related.

Beaudry HQ gave it a big yawn.

The reality for LAUSD, Inc is, they couldn’t really care less what happens in a classroom–just don’t cause it any grief.

The LAUSD, Inc. brain trust in Beaudry is not made up of a bunch of smartypants.

This is not a group known for its inspired, intellectual curiosity.

This group who runs LAUSD, Inc. adhere to the same dynamic, corporate thinking that you would find populating the board rooms of Mobil Oil or Ralston-Purina.

Education–how you and I might think of it–does not disturb their machinations.

So much about Esquith’s case is troubling and indicative of a school district that has zero concern for the intellectual well-being of the students. If it did, LAUSD, Inc. would be championing a pedagogy VERY DIFFERENT from the one that they foist on LAUSD’s children. The leaderships view of what good education is in Rafe Esquith’s individual case is a personal tragedy for him; the leadership’s view of what “good education” is for the 600,000 students in their charge is a tragedy of grand proportions.

The investigators asked Esquith who he dated in college and who at the school disliked him. They asked for all his financial records since 2000. The “incriminating” evidence they used as the backbone from their case, the district searched his personal emails to obtain. According to the LA TIMES article http://www.latimes.com/local/education/la-me-edu-rafe-esquith-lawsuit-20160713-snap-story.html, Esquith’s attorney, Ben Meiselas claimed that the emails were taken out of context. Elsa Cruz, one of Esquith’s former student whose email had been singled has denied that he ever sent her anything inappropriate as alleged in LAUSD’s charges. “The communications described in the statement of charges between Mr. Esquith and myself are small pieces of much larger conversations that are taken wholly out of context.” She claims that the district.”cherry-picked points “to depict our conversations as having an inappropriate or sexual nature that is completely inaccurate.”

This is the modus operendi of LAUSD. A little history lesson is in order before going back to Esquith:

In the dark days of Supt. John Deasy, the entire elected School Board was mum on his pedagogy and methodology. The Board gave him tacit cover to do whatever he wanted. It is not an exaggeration to say that Deasy went after teachers with a Dick Cheney zeal using David Holmquist, the District’s General Counsel, as his John Yoo to give him the legal cover.

This is a school system that offers cover to those at the very top. David Holmquist, whose base salary is $260,552, has fought vigorously to protect the District from any bad publicity and loyally served John Deasy’s call to purge hundreds–maybe thousands–of teachers from the ranks and vigorously prosecuted LAUSD’s Teacher Jail program. A different set of priorities and standards were devised by Holmquist for the those who screwed up and abused their positions if they were in District power offices.

Some in Los Angeles Unified were definitely more equal than others.

“I will never apologize for putting students’ interests ahead of teachers,” was Deasy’s righteous mantra during his tenure where this man arrogantly placed business and corporate interests ahead of both students and teachers time and time again. His moral courage was how much he could bully teachers such as Patrena Shankling https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PlIuF1em_Y0 and never to any person of power above him who was politically connected with money and influence.

If you are not sickened by what happened in Shankling’s classroom and believe that John Deasy should ever be allowed to be near educators OR children again, then you and I have very different standards of classroom behavior and decorum.

Like all of his patrons, Deasy was a man who never apologized and took great pride in his use of executive and autonomous power and privilege. This was encouraged by many of the management team whom he worked with at District Headquarters and rewarded.

Deasy enjoyed and served a life of patronage from powerful men who paid for his entire, hopscotch career through the moneyed power corridors of education. Even when he left LAUSD in abject disgrace where the toady LA TIMES editorial board could only manage to bluster about the tragedy of his downfall, he could count on the largess of the corporate benefactors who puffed up his churlish bravado. Currently, Deasy remains obscenely well-paid in the Fortress of Solitude of Eli Broad’s empire, an opulent private world where he answers to no one except the rich and powerful, re-emerging only as a paper phantom, issuing friend of the court briefs to Vergara and offering his insights to Edu Reform Managers-to-be.

One day there will be a full accounting for what happened to all those teachers and their “rights” and “due process” that LAUSD assured the public they received.

Sadly, if Rafe Esquith’s and the other hundreds of teachers in similar situations were just the work of John Deasy and David Holmquist, that would be bad enough.

The current LAUSD President Steve Zimmer, with chest thumping vigor, thundered in a campaign speech that he has proudly voted to fire EVERY SINGLE teacher who came before him for justice. Zimmer put on his most concerned, self-righteous face channeling some Texas Governor on steroids, stating that in his eyes, those hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of teachers were guilty and should not be teaching in his system.

There was zero doubt in his blankly, incurious mind.

Were the students of LA protected from a thousand dreadful teachers?

No.

LAUSD, Inc was protected.

LAUSD claims Esquith’s emails weren’t hacked, so one supposes they got them off his school computer when they sealed his classroom and his personal account was open on it. Under the pretense of an investigation, LAUSD went through thousands upon thousands of personal emails to find evidence against him. It is a chilling abuse of employee privilege that claims that right. Obviously if they were a law enforcement agency, they couldn’t do that, but LAUSD doesn’t believe it is bound by the same rules of engagement.

It begs the question if any employee is safe from their employer going through every personal detail of their lives to render judgment on that individual.

Could anybody withstand someone going through twenty years worth of emails to figure their moral worth? Would something invariably crop up?

The emails of John Deasy and David Holmquist are scrupulously under lock and key.

Reading the entire 32 page document of LAUSD’s “case” against Esquith–and please do!– http://laschoolreport.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Responsive-Documents-Esquith-SOC_redacted-final.pdf it clearly shows that they threw in EVERYTHING they had into their “findings”.

EVERYTHING.

They didn’t leave anything out. What is also indicative of LAUSD’s mindset is the fact they STILL used the initial Huck Finn joke as part of their indictment against Esquith despite the ludicrous nature of that comment.

This is not the work of intelligent scholars in an academic institution.

This is the work of lawyers who want to get rid of an employee that has proven troublesome to the corporation.

David Holmquist is planning to appeal this latest ruling hoping to stem Esquith’s suit. Hopefully he will fail and the dark files will be open on what LAUSD, Inc has perpetrated over the years. The East German Stassi nature of those cases highlight the brute force and cruelty that LAUSD, Inc. perpetrated on so many teachers who thought they were working for an organization called Los Angeles “Unified” because it worked for the betterment of all–not just those on the corporate end.

I have no special insight to Esquith’s particular case, although the fairness and justice LAUSD, Inc. administers to its employees is eerily similar to the justice cops administer to poor neighborhoods compared to the inhabitants of rich ones.

You may be predisposed to place your faith in the justice and righteousness of LAUSD Inc.’s wisdom and sense of proper pedagogy.

So much of the intellectual evidence is contrary to granting that good will, however. In the cases of many teachers in the system, Deasy, Holmquist and the School Board have a finger on the scale that instinctively forces teachers to prove themselves worthy of their bankrupt leadership.

I’m as anxious as you are to see this Shakespearean play’s ending. Misuse of power, according to Shakespeare, never ends well.

For the second year in a row, American students won the International Math Olympiad, besting competitors from around the world! About 100 nations send teams of their top students to compete.

The next positions in the team competition were taken by Korea, China, Singapore, Taiwan, North Korea, Russia, UK, Hong Kong, and Japan.

Do you think you will read about this in the mainstream media? Or in the media owned by the corporate reformers, whose stock in trade is bashing America’s students and teachers?

Congratulations, math champions!

Just when you thought that educational entrepreneurs had gone as low as they could go, along comes an app to pay children to study and respond to prompts. Patrick Leddy, the developer of the cash-for-grades app, has previously developed apps for selling custom tailored clothing, financial services, medical devices and cosmetics.

Launching first in the U.S. in December, the cash-for-grades e-learning app Incentify is based on the premise that children will be willing to study or do homework chores they don’t want to do in return for cash or other rewards.

“All of our technology is based on Harvard University studies, which have determined … whether kids responded to incentives and did better in school or not,” said Incentify’s CEO and founder Patrick Leddy. “And sure enough, conclusively, they do respond better to incentives.”

Leddy argues that before engaging with teachers and educational content at school, children need to be motivated to study instead of day dreaming or playing games.

“The classrooms are not at the speed of the children,” he told Techtonics. “The children are the Google generation. So how is it that we expect the kids to run at light speed outside of the school, but when they get in the school, they’ve got to slow down to horse and buggy?”

The Google generation – young people with “instant gratification” at their fingertips – can benefit more from e-learning than a traditional classroom, said Leddy. “We know for a fact that e-learning all by itself teaches a kid faster than teacher, pencil, paper and book.”

Dangling “a carrot” in front of kids to entice them to study is a model Leddy intends to take to other parts of the world to empower girls, in particular, who often are married off at an early age.

Whatever the reason for early marriages, Leddy argued children who earn money while learning are unlikely to be sold off for a dowry.

There are at least two things wrong with this app.

First, the app is based on the work of Harvard economist Roland Fryer, Jr., who has long sought the economic incentive that would lead to higher grades and test scores. His efforts have been funded with millions of dollars. He has paid children for getting higher grades or test scores, and he has paid them to read books. His efforts have come to naught, although children did read more books for pay but they did not get higher test scores or grades. So, the basic claim–that this incentive is effective–has no evidentiary basis.

Second, modern cognitive psychology rejects the belief that rewards will promote better outcomes. The work of Edward Deci, Dan Ariely, and other cognitive psychologists have shown that extrinsic rewards may get short-term results, but they do not last and they eventually undermine motivation. Daniel Pink has written about the importance of their studies (Drive) and why the real spurs to motivation are intrinsic, not extrinsic. It turns out that people are paid to do something that matters, they will stop doing it when the money stops.

I received this comment from a teacher in Manatee County:

Diane – I wanted to give you an update on yesterday’s story and some context about what teachers have been doing. The Florida Department of Education’s attorney has clarified that the portfolio option is available and must be allowed based on state statute. I suspect that the districts involved were encouraged to take the hardline position, particularly based on parts of an email from a DOE official (that the Manatee Superintendent released) which did imply that a test was required or the student would have to go to summer reading camp to build a portfolio. Now the DOE has “clarified” their position, stating that a district may not exclude any of the good cause exemptions (specified in statute) in their local policy.

The FEA Delegate Assembly recently passed a New Business Item advocating for a parent’s right to Opt Out, and the union has used that in lobbying efforts. At our latest Governance Board Meeting, President McCall hosted a panel discussion on Opt Out which included one of our attorneys, Cindy Hamilton from Opt Out Florida (https://www.facebook.com/TheOptOutFloridaNetwork/posts/1075887432465602) and Luke Flynt, our Secretary-Treasurer talking about the Opt-out movement and how complicated it is to be a teacher in this political environment. The FEA website has a statement about opt out with both warnings and information including links to the Opt-out groups. (https://feaweb.org/

The union has been consistent in warning teachers not to encourage opting out for the students and parents inside their classrooms because of state law, but we have also shared the complete statutes including all of the good cause exemptions to the required passing score on FSA. We have suggested that, as parents and citizens, teachers do not lose their first amendment rights, but they should be very careful about how and when they choose to exercise them. There is real concern that the department could go after teachers’ certificates if they advocate for opting out on school time or while acting in their employment capacity.

We have also had union leaders sharing the information provided by opt-out groups in their area, but they have also provided warnings about potential consequences particularly for 3rd grade students and for meeting graduation and scholarship requirements. The commissioner has stated several times that the state assessments are required by law, and that opting out is not allowed. She has also stated that parents who do not want to take assessments should find another place to educate their children.

Clearly, the great puzzle is why the Florida legislature is all for parent choice when it comes to “choosing” a school, but opposed to parent choice when it comes to complying with an order to take tests.

Students at two high schools in Palo Alto, California, opted out of the tests of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, the Common Core test funded by the US Department of Education.

 

“For the second year in a row, both Palo Alto and Gunn high schools failed to meet the government’s required participation rates for new standardized test, the Smarter Balanced Assessment, with about half of the junior classes choosing to opt out.

 

“About 47 percent of Gunn juniors and 61 percent of Paly juniors submitted exemptions, with their parents’ permission, to opt out of two days of testing the week of May 16, according to Janine Penney, the district’s manager of research, evaluation and assessment.

 

“At the elementary level, approximately 1 percent of third through fifth graders opted out, according to Penney, and less than 3 percent of middle schoolers.

 

“California schools are required by federal law to meet a 95 percent participation rate. Schools with federal Title I status, meaning they have high percentages of low-income students, could face losing federal funding if they don’t meet the participation threshold. Paly and Gunn are not Title I schools.”

 

California high school students are smart. Don’t believe anyone who says otherwise.

 

 

John Thompson, teacher and historian, writes here about two examples of a disturbing trend. In the first one, a teacher writes about her abhorrence of data walls, which publicly shame children. The other is the current flap in Florida, where some districts are punishing children who do not take the state test, even though they are known to be good students whose work in class demonstrates their ability.

 

 

He writes:

 


Have They No Shame?

 

Virginia 3rd grade teacher, Launa Hall, exposes a shocking example of how corporate reform has lost its soul. In doing so, she reminds us of the way that bubble-in accountability started the nation’s schools down this abusive road. Hall writes, “Our ostensible goal in third grade was similar to what you’d hear in elementary schools everywhere: to educate the whole child, introduce them to a love of learning … But the hidden agenda was always prepping kids for the state’s tests.” When educators’ jobs shift from the unlocking of children’s whole potential to increasing test scores, some or many educators will stand and fight against destructive pedagogies, but it is amazing how many otherwise caring human beings will agree to inflict so much pain on children.

 

In Florida, for instance, most schools aren’t punishing 3rd graders for “opting out” of tests. Two districts, however, are warning parents that their children will be retained if they opt out. The Manatee district is “cherry-picking” from the state law in order to hold back a third-grader who “has gotten nothing but rave reviews from teachers.” Another parent opted her son out of the testing because of his test anxiety; “she said her son reads on a fourth-grade level and performs at or above grade level in the classroom.” These school systems are obviously willing to hurt those kids in order to send a message to parents who have the temerity to push back against the testing mania.

A few years ago, I thought I witnessed the ultimate abusive practice designed to shame children into working harder to meet higher quantitative targets. It was bad enough that the New Orleans “No Excuses” charter school I was visiting prohibited talking in the cafeteria during lunch. Even worse, their data wall was prominent in the lunchroom for everyone to see. I had once seen an Oklahoma City data wall, identifying the scores of all students, but it was in a room, inside another room, and it was for faculty eyes only. Teachers and administrators in OKC had long been warned that a NOLA-style breach of confidentially could cost us our teaching licenses, but that had seemed redundant. What sort of human being would publically reveal individual students’ attendance and/or classroom performance data?

And that brings us back to Launa Hall’s story. She notes that posting students’ names in such a way without parental consent may violate privacy laws. But, “At the time, neither I nor my colleagues at the school knew that, and … we were hardly alone.” Hall adds that the U.S. Education Department encourages teachers to not display the numbers for individuals, who are identifiable by name, and that approach would have been more “consistent with the letter, if not the intent, of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. But it would be every bit as dispiriting. My third-graders would have figured out in 30 seconds who was who, coded or not.”

Hall’s focus is not on the legal games adults are playing but on the damage done by this shaming to individual children. She paints us a picture of the pain that was inflicted on “Child X” when she saw her real name followed by “lots of red dots” declaring that she was not meeting official state standards. Of course, Hall “tried to mitigate the shame she felt.” The teacher’s efforts at reconnection may have helped a little, but the student “still had all those red dots for everyone to see.”
Hall then tells us “exactly who is being shamed by data walls.” Janie (her pseudonym for Child X) “is part of an ethnic minority group. She received free breakfast and lunch every school day last year, and some days that’s all she ate. Her family had no fixed address for much of the year, and Janie, age 8, frequently found herself the responsible caretaker of younger siblings.”

The Post story prompted around 400 comments and more discussion on social media. Almost all were opposed to the public posting of children’s data, often decrying the walls as insane and reprehensible. One commented, “Hard to imagine this actually occurring. Why not just put the dots on their foreheads?” Some commenters tried to blame the individual teachers who posted data walls, but others explained how that is often required by under-the-gun school systems.

Even so, the few supporters of such data walls, as well as the venom of some commentators casting blame on individuals, illustrate the tragedy unleashed by corporate reformers appealing to our basest instincts. A few recalled the good old days and complained “today’s little flowers can’t take competition or even comparisons of any kind,” or said that similar things happened 50 years ago, but “if some little snot bragged about getting the highest grade, he/she would get beat up after school.” One personified the market-driven mentality which gave us such brutality, saying that 3rd graders should be separated “into two tracks: one would be the “everyone gets a trophy track,” while “the other track would be the ‘competitive track,’ which would feature these dreaded ‘data walls,'” so we could see who became more successful in life.

Hall is magnanimous in wrapping up this sorry tale of cruel competition and compliance, “when policymakers mandate tests and buy endlessly looping practice exams to go with them, their image of education is from 30,000 feet. They see populations and sweeping strategies. From up there, it seems reasonable …” But, how could they disagree with her admonition? “Teaching the young wasn’t supposed to feel like this.”

I would only add that the ultimate tragedy would be the creation of a new generation of educators and patrons where this sort of shaming feels like teaching.

Manatee County, Florida, is standing by its stated policy: Third graders who do not take the state test or do not take the SAT-10 will be held back, no matter what their teacher says, no matter what kind of work they can show, no matter what. Period.

To be fair, Manatee is not the only county planning to flunk third-graders who opt out. And to be even more fair, they are just complying with a truly absurd state law.

Many researchers believe that retaining children in third grade is harmful, that it dampens students’ interest in learning, and that eventually retention turns into dropping out in later grades. After all, the students who are held back suffer humiliation.

But while researchers may debate the value of retention, no one argues that a good reader should be flunked because he or she did not take a test. What is the purpose of retaining a good reader, an excellent reader? The district can say it was “just following orders.” The district can say its hands are tied to state law. But no matter what they say, holding back a student for punitive reasons proves that “reform” is not about the kids. It is about a hard-right ideology that wants to standardize children and impose iron conformity, even to unjust laws.

And that is the problem with the Florida law. When excellent students are held back as punishment, then the law is stupid and unjust. As we have learned from opt out in other states, the children who do not take the test are very likely children of educated parents, who consider the test to be unnecessary and burdensome. If the students can demonstrate that they can read by reading-out loud to an examiner, doesn’t it make sense to allow them to advance a grade based on the fact that they can read rather than on their willingness to submit to a multiple-choice test?

Understand that when you discuss the willingness of a third-grader to take a test, you are really talking about their parents, not the child. It is virtually certain that the parent tells the child not to take the test because the parent wants to make a statement.

Bear in mind that the parent pays the taxes that pay the salaries of the legislators, the principal, the state education department staff, and the teachers. These are public employees. Why should they ignore the will of parents? Why should the legislature celebrate school choice, yet deny parents the right to remove their child from the testing regime?

Time to review Peter Greene’s sensible commentary on this goofy situation.

He writes:

An eight year old child who had a great year in class, demonstrated the full range of skills, and has a super report card– that child will be required to repeat third grade because she didn’t take the BS Test.

This is what happens when the central values of your education system are A) compliance and B) standardized testing. This is what happens when you completely lose track of the purpose of school.

What possible purpose can be served by this? Are administrators worried that the child might not be able to read? No– because that is easily investigated by looking at all the child’s work from the year.

What possible benefit could there be to the child? Mind you, it’s impossible to come up with a benefit in retention for the child who has actually failed the test– but what possible benefit can there be in flunking a child who can read, her teacher knows she can read, her parents know she can read, she knows she can read– seriously, what possible benefit can there be for her in retention. How do you even begin to convince yourself that you are thinking of the child’s well-being at all when you decide to do this?

This is punishment, not so pure, but painfully simple. Punishment for non-compliance, for failing to knuckle under to the state’s testing regime. And in taking this step, the districts show where their priorities lie– the education of the children is less important than beating compliance into them and their parents, less important than taking the damned BS Test.

Officials in these counties scratch their heads? What can we do? The law is the law. Well, in the immortal words of Mr. Bumble, “the law is an ass.” And furthermore, just look across county lines at some other Florida counties that are NOT doing this to their third graders. Go ahead. Peek at their answer. Copy it.

Hell, Superintendent Lori White of the Sarasota schools is retiring in February of 2017– is this really how she wants to finish up her time there?

Here is a report on the Boston student walkout that took place today.

 

Students protested Mayor Walsh’s budget cuts, which hurt every public school and were especially deep for students with disabilities.

 

Today the students of BPS chose to walk out again. Edward Tapia of Boston Student Advisory Council said, “The main reason why I am walking out is because I am tired of Marty Walsh playing with us as if we don’t know anything about the budget cuts, and also I want us to prove to the city that having the City Council hearings during school hours will not hold us back from advocating, empowering student voice and fighting for our rights.” Excel High School student Trinity Kelly said, “We’re telling Mayor Walsh we are not misinformed.” BPS student Gabi Pereira wrote, “I have a little brother with an IEP, his education is under attack and so is mine.”

 

The students are walking out to ask that BPS is fully funded, not only for themselves, but for their younger brothers and sisters, cousins, friends and the future students of BPS. Additionally, they want an end to high stakes testing because they feel that it’s being used against them as a tool to identify which “failing” schools to close. They want restorative justice practices implemented across the district and an end to overly punitive suspensions and expulsions.

 

The mayor told the media that there must be adults behind these walkouts; the implication was that kids are not smart enough to figure out what he is doing to their schools and that they don’t care.

 

He is wrong. And the students are proving to him that they know the score and they know they are being cheated.

 

The link includes a list of the cuts to each school. Gone are librarians; music programs; science classes; music departments; SPED programs.

 

Here is an example:

 

Boston Community Leadership Academy
• Losing over $500,000
• 1 Librarian, 1 math teacher, 1 science teacher, 1 history teacher, 1 theater teacher, 1 leadership coordinator
• Losing gym class
• Losing Strategies for Success (9th grade class helps kids get organized, read for meaning)
• Losing Numeracy (10th grade class that works on math problem solving and MCAS skills)
• Losing Writers Workshop (10th grade class that works on writing and MCAS skills)
• Losing SAT prep (11th grade class that works on SAT skills and college readiness)
• Losing AP Biology
• Losing AP World History
• We had to change our schedule from a 6-period day (teachers teach 4 of 6) to a 5-period day (teachers teach 4 of 5), with longer classes, less collaborative time for teachers, and fewer options for students.
• Cuts to autism program

 

I have said before and I will say it again: Students are powerful, more powerful than they know. Politicians will always claim that the union is behind every protest, but it is not true. The students suffer the cuts. The students feel the loss of teachers and programs. They have a voice, and when they use it, no one accuses them of greed and self-interest. Of course, they are interest in their lives and their futures. They should be. When they protest, politicians quake.

 

 

Grace Davis is a sophomore at Ponderosa High School in Parker, Colorado. She was upset that so many teachers left every year, and she decided to hold a student protest to call attention to the issue. (I posted about this here on May 8). She got clearance from the school. She read about her First Amendment rights. She thought everything was set.

 

Colorado Public Radio told the story here.  

 

Two members of the school board asked to meet with her. One is the president of the board. Grace brought a recording device with her and taped the meeting. From her research, she knew it was legal to tape a conversation without the consent of all parties under Colorado law.

 

The meeting lasted an hour and a half. (Grace missed a class while she was harangued.) The board members warned her that her family would be liable  for any damages. They threatened, they cajoled. Grace, on her own, with no parent or advisor, stood her ground.

 

The protest was held without incident.

 

Grace went to the next school board meeting and explained what happened. She called for the resignation of the two board members for bullying her.

 

The board was split; the board president hired an outside lawyer to conduct an investigation. CPR noted the ties between the school board president and the lawyer, suggesting that this will not be an independent investigation.

 

How owe can it be that sophomore Grace Davis is wiser than the district school board? She understands the importance of teachers. She exercised critical thinking, came to her views after personal experience and careful research. She personified the courage and independence we hope to teach all students.

 

I am pleased to add Grace Davis to the blog’s honor roll.

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