Friday, October 28, 2005

Sister Rosa Parks - thank you.

Oct. 25, 2005 - Thank you sister Rosa for bringing struggle to our movements and inspiring us to fight on!
Thank you for not just taking on racism and segregation just that one day in Montgomery, Alabama, Dec. 1. 1955. But also for strategizing with E.D. Nixon, organizers and community groups, before and after that day, and for most of your life.
Thank you for nurturing young folks and giving them the skills and experience needed to become the warriors of tomorrow.
Thank you for visiting an Francisco in 1997 and honoring one of our schools [where my wife taught for many years] with your name – Rosa Parks Elementary School in the Fillmore District. The mural on the wall of the school stands out as one of the finest in our City.

Great resources for teaching about Sister Rosa:
Putting the Movement Back into Civil Rights Teaching

SF/Bay Area Freedom School [an amazing grassroots summer project by a number of parents, teachers and youth]

Stanford’s MLK papers project -

Lastly, don’t miss - Education for Liberation: Putting the Movement Back into Civil Rights Teaching. Saturday, November 12, 2005Laney College, Oakland, CA. A day-long conference for teachers, youth activists, parents, social justice activists, school administrators/school board members. All who pre-register will receive a free copy of Putting the Movement Back Into Civil Rights Teaching. Small workshops on the Civil Rights Movement, education reform issues, and contemporary social justice struggles, led by Bay Area activists. The conference is free. Lunch is provided ($5 donation requested.) Register on-line.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

CA High School Exit Exam - Blaming the Victims

EDITOR'S NOTE: John Rogers is Associate Director of the Institute for Democracy, Education and Access (IDEA), a research center at UCLA that examines key policy issues affecting equity and access within California's educational system.

Q: Why are African-American and Latino kids failing the High School Exit Exam in larger numbers than other groups?
A: African-American and Latino students are far more likely than any other group in the state to attend schools that lack qualified teachers, space and instructional materials. Take, for example, the eight high schools in South Los Angeles. More than 99 percent of the students in those high schools are African-American or Latino. More than one-third of the teachers at these schools lack a full teaching credential. Two-thirds of the math teachers are not credentialed to teach math. Because most of these schools are dramatically overcrowded, they use a year-round calendar that provides students with 17 days fewer instruction each year than other high schools in the state. And, students attending these high schools came from South Los Angeles middle schools with similar shortages of qualified teachers and overcrowding.
Q: Statistics say that 85 percent of English learners in this state are Latino students. Does this also have an impact on the results?
A: Yes, many of the Latino students who have not yet passed the exit exam are recent immigrants still learning English. Their inability to pass the exam is often a function of their taking a test in a language that they don't yet fully understand. Latinos who are fluent in English have far higher pass rates.
Q: Many see the exit exam as a way to ensure that a high school diploma means something, and that students who graduate have at least basic English and math skills. Shouldn't we have something like the exam to make sure all students have these basic skills?
A: If we want to ensure that all students can demonstrate basic skills, we need to provide all students with access to quality instruction. More fundamentally, I would argue that basic skills are not enough. What parent would be satisfied with basic academic competence as a goal? Our high school diploma should mean young people are prepared for successful futures, which requires greater investment in our schools.
Q: On Sept. 30, the Human Resources Research Organization -- an independent evaluator of the Exit Exam -- released the exit exam passage rates. What did the results show? And what does it mean for different groups of immigrant students?
A: This recent report confirms what we have been saying for several months: that around 100,000 students in the Class of 2006 are at risk of not graduating this spring because they have yet to pass the exit exam. The vast majority of these students are: 1) special education students; 2) immigrant students still learning English; and 3) African-American and Latino students attending schools with substandard conditions.
Denying these students diplomas will undermine the ability of many young people to move on to successful futures and will generate cynicism among young people who have not been given a fair chance to succeed. It is not too late to avoid these outcomes. California still has time to follow the report's recommendations and to create options for students who have not yet passed the exit exam.
Q: What kinds of options did the report recommend?
A: It suggested on that districts could grant students diplomas if the students successfully completed a summer program. Options such as this offer a way for the state to avoid the calamity of having perhaps 100,000 students denied a diploma.

From Pacific News Service

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Bay area youth groups support alternatives to the CA High School Exit Exam, but the Governator vetoes them on Oct. 7, 2005

I bumped into my friend Tiny of Poor News Network/KPFA [94.1FM] at the 10/16/05 Poor People's March and Community Congress which was organized by an alliance of mass-based grassroots organizations and the Living Wage Coalition in SF. The SF people's 'community congress' was inspiring and powerful. Click here for more on the event from

The previous week Tiny covered the important work of Oakland Bay Area's grassroots youth groups -

  • the new la Fuerza Unida [not the San Antonio grassroots group which took on Levis Corporation in the Pre-NAFTA period of struggle against Globalization and plant closures] and
  • Youth Together [an amazing multiracial organization fighting for youth self-determination with the help of seasoned organizers like Raquel Jimenez and others].
Both organizations along with Californians for Justice, LA's Coalition for Educational Jusitice, SF's Teachers for Social Justice and many others have been urging support for CA state educational justice legislation -

  • AB1531, which would have allowed school districts to develop alternatives to the mandatory high school exit exam that California students have to pass before they graduate and receive their diploma, and
  • SB385, which focuses on allowing English learner students to take the high school exit exam in the student's first language.
Both bills were vetoed by the "increasingly right wing leaning Govenator" on Friday Oct 7th.
In response to the veto, Assembly Member Karen Bass, (D. Los Angeles) who authored 1531 said, "I am disappointed that the Governor can't see the residual effect of mass failure of students whose schools do not have adequate resources."

Click here for Tiny's full article on the organizing and the event

For more people's news and perspectives check out Poor News Network

Or by RADIO - worldwide -
For Your Poor News Network, Pacifica Radio! Listen to KPFA San Francisco/Bay Area!
Every last Monday of the month at 7:30 AM listen to PNN's radio broadcast (KPFA 94.1fm) on your San Francisco dial or on line. [ ]

For more on educational justice and other racial equity legislation in California - check out the Oakland-based Applied Research Center's legislation page

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Latino Communities Oppose Props 74, 75 and 76

From Duane Campbell's Choosing Democracy Blog -
Latino Leaders oppose CA Propositions 74, 75 & 76
Latino Leaders Unite Against Governor’s Agenda, Urge Community to Vote No on Propositions 74, 75, 76 and 77
Monterey Park, CA – Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez and L.A. City Council President Alex Padilla gathered with other California Latino elected officials and community leaders for a press conference today in order to show that they are united in opposition to the Governor’s agenda, which takes California in the wrong direction and hurts Latino families, and instead are working to support good schools, affordable health care, safe communities and a better quality of life.
“The Governor’s so-called reform agenda – which was dreamt up by Pete Wilson and his staffers who now work for Arnold – hurts our public schools, threatens quality health care and cuts funding to local law enforcement,” Speaker Núñez said.
“The Governor’s people have said outright that they are counting on us to not turn out to vote. But we’re here to show the Governor that the Latino voters cannot be taken for granted, cannot be brushed aside, and cannot be silenced.”
“We are opposed to these phony reforms because they hurt our public schools, threaten quality health care and cut funding to local government and law enforcement,” said L.A. City Council President Alex Padilla.
“These initiatives are designed to shift power to the Governor and make things worse for the average Californian.”
“This weekend, we will be walking precincts in East L.A. in the name of my late husband, Miguel Contreras,” said Maria Elena Durazo, UNITE/HERE Local 11 President. “I ask the Latino community and all hardworking Californians to get out there and show the Governor that we won’t be silenced, and we won’t be ignored.”
... Participants in the press conference, held at the East Los Angeles Community College, consisted of elected officials as well as Los Angeles community leaders, including Congresswoman Hilda Solis, State Senator Richard Alarcon (D-Sun Valley), Assemblymember Ron Calderon (D-Montebello), L.A. City Councilman Ed Reyes, SEIU Local 660 President Annelle Grajeda, SEIU Local 1877 President Mike Garcia, Salvadoran Legal and Education Fund executive director Carlos Vaquerano, Silvia Beltran of Homies Unidos, and President of Latino Movement USA Juan José Gutierrez.The Alliance for a Better California is a coalition of nearly 2.5 million firefighters, nurses, teachers, police officers, and other working Californians and community members who oppose Propositions 74-78.
More on the Alliance for a Better California campaign against Props 74-78.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Applying the lessons of Reggio Emilia to U.S. Schools

This weekend I had the honor of introducing Carlina Rinaldi, lifelong educator and a member of the City Council of Reggio Emilia in Italy to a large group of teachers and early childhood education advocates at SF's Commonwealth Club. Innovative Teacher Project leader Dr. Susan Lyon had invivted me to present a proclamation from our City to Rinaldi, a worldwide expert in progressive educational reform.

The seminar was part of A Collaboration of Three Schools in the Study of the Reggio Approach called Making Learning Visible: A Day Seminar with Carlina Rinaldi: Pedagogista, Consultant to Reggio Children, Reggio Emilia, Italy.

Reggio Emilia in the US -
Since developing in the city of Reggio Emilia in the post-Fascist era after WWII and in that city's revolutionary 1960's period, the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education and societal change has spread to hundreds of cities around the world, including San Francisco.
Rinaldi told me that schools in her city are named after revolutionaries such as Brazilian educator/Marxist political theorist Paolo Freire and even Chile's former President Salvador Allende who was assassinated in a US-military-backed coup on Sept. 11, 1973. Before his death in 1997 Freire had helped Reggio Emilia in the early stages of the development of their innovative educational system, according to Rinaldi.

In the US, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) first introduced the Reggio Emilia model of early childhood education at their Anaheim conference in 1987.
Since that time, inspired by the exhibition "The Hundred Languages of Children" and fueled by delegations of educators who have seen firsthand the city and its early childhood classrooms, American interest in Reggio Emilia has grown at a remarkable pace.

From the Exhibit -
"This exhibit opposes any prophetic pedagogy which knows everything before it happens, which teaches children that every day is the same, that there are no surprises, and teaches adults that all they have to do is repeat that which they were not able to learn."
Loris Malaguzzi [one of the founders of the movement]

San Francisco Unified School District's Presidio Child Development Center and Tule Elk Park Child Development Centers have developed into national models of the implementation of Reggio Emilia in the US.

Most US programs have focused on key features of Reggio Emilia's municipal early childhood program, including:

* the role of the environment-as-teacher,
* children's multiple symbolic languages,
* documentation as assessment and advocacy,
* long-term projects or progettazione,
* the teacher as researcher, and
* home-school relationships.

The Vision Statement of SF's Tule Elk Park Child Development Center is simple:
"All children will find their brilliance."

“Creativity requires that the school of knowing finds connections with the school of expressing, opening the doors to the hundred languages of children.”
Loris Malaguzzi [one of the founders of the movement]

If you haven't done so, please consider visiting SF's
Presido Child Development Center and the Tule Elk Child Development Center.

For more on Susan Lyon and the Innovative Teacher Project
or the National Association for the Education of Young Children

For more on the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education:
Here's a great list of Reggio Emilia info:
Wayne State University on the Reggio Emilia Philosophy

Friday, October 14, 2005

CA immigrants and youth take on the Governor and big business groups in Nov 8 special election

With 3 weeks to go before
CA's Nov. 8th Special Election
The Alliance for a Better CA field campaign is roaring ahead in SF. The Alliance represents 2 & ½ million Californians up and down the state. Phone banking isn’t easy – but many parents, union members, teachers, nurses, health care workers and community activists are putting in tremendous amounts of energy to defeat the Governor and big business’ efforts to de-fund public education, hurt new teachers and silence workers, labor, and progressive organizations.

how to plug in –

1. For Immigrant communities

2. Youth and student groups or

Join us in the Fight Against Schwarzenegger's Right-Wing Agenda Which Directly Attacks California Students!

Help us protect education, health care, a woman's right to choose and workers rights!

We need your help! All activities take place at 1338 Mission St., between 9th and 10th Streets.

1. November 8th- Take Election Day Off!
2. Weekend Precinct Walking, Saturdays and Sundays until the Election, 9:30 am-2:00 pm
3. Phonebanking Every Night from 5:00-9:00 pm
4. Office Work, Anytime, Every Day, 9:00 am-9:00 pm

Call us at (415) 503-5797 and let us know when you can help.

Proposition 73 makes it harder for young woman to access safe choices.

Proposition 74 will punish new teachers and do nothing to address the real problems in education.

Proposition 75 will take away workers' voice in politics and silence some of Schwarzenegger's most powerful opponents.

Proposition 76 will drastically cut funding for education and health care and give the Governor the power to slash budgets.

Proposition 77 will change legislative districts and could greatly harm the diversity of our State Legislature.

Proposition 78 is funded by drug companies and does nothing to help Californians seeking affordable health care.

We are urging a Yes Vote on Propositions 79 (real prescription drug relief) and Prop 80 (regulation of the energy industry).

See you soon!
Nicole Derse
SF Coalition Director
Alliance for a Better CA
Cell: (415) 374-5429

SF League of Pissed off voters –
CA Voter Guide

Confused by this whacky special election? The SF League of Pissed Off Voters has done all the research so you don't have to! We took the time to educate ourselves about everything on the ballot, we talked it over, and then we voted. This page is our cheat sheet summary of our endorsements. Follow the links to each item to read what the they're all about.
State Propositions
Prop 73: HELL NO! Parental Notification of Abortions
Prop 74: HELL NO! Public School Teachers Tenure
Prop 75: HELL NO! Public Union Dues
Prop 76: HELL NO! Governor Budget Power & School Funding Limits
Prop 77: NORedistricting Roulette
Prop 78: HELL NO!Big Pharma's Perscription Drug Plan
Prop 79: HELL YEAH! The People's Perscription Drug Plan
Prop 80: No EndorsementElectricity Re-regulation

Why You Should Care About this Whack Election
Schwarzenneger still doesn't get it. California has finally caught on that he's a worse governor than he is an actor, but he's still wasting $45 million of our money on his special election. His props are all about grabbing more power for Arnie and his rich friends while screwing over kids, young women, working people, teachers, and seniors. November 8th is our chance to let the Governator know what we think about his agenda.Meanwhile here in San Francisco, there are some cool city props that we can actually feel good about supporting!
Voter Owned Elections: Public Financing for the Mayor's Race!This isn’t on the Nov. 8 ballot, but it’s a really cool campaign and we need your help to make it happen. The idea of Voter Owned Elections is simple: rather than private interests funding political campaigns, the public funds them. The result is that the politicians are accountable only to the public, rather than their campaign contributors. Check it out at
Do you have any questions or comments about this stuff, or do you want to know more about the San Francisco League? Email us at:

for more on the league of independent voters' work to build a broader movement with young people and students in the lead -

for more info on PILA's "Movement Building Electoral Work"

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Blogging from Mission High School - thoughts on SF's small schools movement

Waiting for a meeting with our county community school and continuation high school teachers from throughout the San Francisco Unified School District I am sitting in the cafe across from the historic Dolores Park and Mission HS blogging through the cafe's wi-fi network.
Mission High is one of our schools which faces devastation from the CA High School Exit Exam, the federal NCLB policies and a history of neglect and institutionalized racism/classism from our district.
The high school is also undergoing 'restructuring' through our district's small schools initiative. The reform effort was started up by a grassroots movement of teachers from Balboa High School, parents and neighborhood organizers and activists from the SouthEast neighborhoods of our City who have been fighting for equity and better schools for low income communities of color, like the Mission District.
School Board Commissioner Mark Sanchez worked with the movement and the San Francisco Organizing Project/PICO to author the first board policy in support of the small schools movement. After visiting with Sanchez the Julia Richmond small school complex in NYC and other small schools in Oakland, I co-authored that resolution which passed our board in early 2002.
Shortly afterwards with some political and financial support from the Gates Foundation's Tom Van Der Ark, the SFUSD began the SSRI [Secondary School Redesign Initiative] or our 'small schools' initiative. Since that time SFUSD and communities have nurtured a number of small schools in SF - June Jordan School for Equity [formerly Small School for Equity], AIM High, Y-TEC, etc.
For some history on the small schools movement in SF - see Asian Week's coverage -
small schools movement in sf
SF's progressive 3 year old high school June Jordan School for Equity is one of the victories of the small schools movement -
info on june jordan school for equity
RE Mission HS's redesign - for more context see Kathy Emery's writing on the history or "tragedy" of Mission High in SF Unified. Chapter 8
Emery on Mission HS history
Lastly, for an excellent critique of the small schools reforms around the US and big business and corporate foundation driven small school reform efforts see Rethinking Schools' Summer 2005 Issue - Is Small Beautiful? The Promise and Problems of Small School Reform - Rethinking Schools, Vol. 19, No. 4 - rethinking schools' small schools resources.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Failure of High Stakes Tests - researchers analyze NAEP data

From educational justice leader and Professor of Education
at Sacramento State University Duane Cambell's blog
Choosing Democracy
After analyzing National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test data from 25 states, three prominent education researchers have determined that there is no consistent link between the pressure to score high on a state-mandated exam and that state's student performance on the NAEP.
Sharon L. Nichols, the study's lead author, concluded:
"A rapidly growing body of research evidence on the harmful effects of high-stakes testing,along with no reliable evidence of improved performance by students onNAEP tests of achievement, suggests that we need a moratorium in public education on the use of high-stakes testing."

"David C. Berliner and Gene V. Glass of Arizona State University and Sharon L. Nichols of the University of Texas at San Antonio — who analyzed National Assessment of Educational Progress test data from 25 states and determined:
There is no consistent link between the pressure to score high on a state-mandated exam and that state's student performance on the NAEP.
The pressure created by the standardized-test-as-God formula has primarily served to increase student retention and dropout rates. "

Prof. Berliner gave an excellent presentation at the National School Board Association's Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) conference on Sunday [10/2/05]. Citing Jonathon Kozol's new book Shame of the Nation and other sources, Berliner pointed out the racism and classism of our educational system in the U.S. as compared to all other industrialized countries of the world.
  • "Our child poverty rate of 18 percent is the highest in the industrialized world," Berliner pointed out. "It's hard to teach poor kids. From birth to age 17, of a child's waking hours, 15 percent of the time is in school. That means 85 percent is with family and in neighborhoods. If those families are not strong and those neighborhoods are not healthy we lose the battle to get the kids to come in the door ready to be educated. If we want to improve our schools we might want to look at reducing poverty."
For more on Berliner's views:
Our impoverished view of educational reform

Berliner also stressed the relationship with children's poverty levels and socio-economic status with high stakes test scores.
One San Francisco parent K.C. Jones who runs a great blog calls our state's measuring rod for a school's performance or API Academic Performance Index the "affluent parent index". In agreement are the California Teachers Association, CALCARE and many parents that have taken the time to look more closely at how standardized test scores are being used by the education officials in D.C. and in Sacramento.
For KC Jones' analysis from and more info:
KC's analysis
CALCARE is CA's statewide coalition against high stakes testing:
Susan Ohanian on the Affluent Parent Index:

In 2001 CTA - the CA Teachers Assn - released the results of an exhaustive study comparing various indicators of the lowest- and the highest-ranking schools under the state's Academic Performance Index (API).
Info on CTA study