Saturday, July 30, 2011

Save Our Schools March in Sacramento

            An estimated 2000 – 3,000  parents, teachers, and public education supporters marched in Washington, D.C. and in  eleven  support rallies in other cities including Sacramento, California  on July 30.  The Sacramento event had about 100 participants. The events were organized by parent groups and other pro public education groups and supported by teachers unions.  The rally, although small by Washington standards was at least 20 times larger than the Tea Party rally held in Washington this week in support of the Tea Party’s proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution to balance the budget.
            There was limited media coverage of the Save Our Schools rallies.  The Save Our Schools March was organized by a wide variety of local groups and education advocates.  Speakers included Diane Ravitch, Jonathan Kozol, José Vilson, Deborah Meier, Monty Neill, Cornel West, and Pedro Noguera, among others.  Schools around the country are suffering from severe  budget cuts and teacher lay offs  imposed by the economic crisis and the  resultant decisions of legislatures to cut budgets.
In addition parents and  teachers  say they are fed up with so-called “reform” policies in No Child Left Behind  that falsely label more than 80% of U.S. public schools as failures.   They oppose several programs of the Obama Administration included Race to the Top including the proposed new amendments to the NCLB law that would increase competition between under funded schools.   March participants, including many teacher union members, oppose the shift to more for-profit charter schools rather than public schools,  the assault on the teachers’ unions,  and the emphasis on high stakes testing which has driven many public goals from the school curriculum.
Parents and teachers insist on more democratic participation in reform effort rather than the current domination of “reform” agenda by corporate and Right Wing interests including the Gates, Broad, and Bradley  Foundation, among others.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Why We March: Save Our Schools

Monty Neil:My organization, FairTest, also endorsed Save Our Schools. True, in time more specifics are needed, but the most fundamental task is to save our schools from the education ‘deformers’ who have decided that tests (the standards don’t really matter except for the tests) and punishments are the core of a ‘solution’ to the very real problem that too many students do leave school not having learned enough to be effective citizens. It is a destructive ‘solution.’
California Rally and  March
Saturday, July 30, 11am-3pm
State Capitol Building
1315 10th Street, Sacramento
Join other Californians on the Capitol steps to support public education. Sponsored by California supporters of the Save Our Schools March, National Call to Action .
Finland, by contrast, decided to build a system based on having high-quality teachers who would be prepared well (not a BA and short training course, a la TFA), engage in ongoing shared professional learning, and be largely in charge of the shape of schooling. They have brief national standards, but those are not imposed through tests. Finland does far better than the US, which chose a disastrous detour through testland. Finland also has a child poverty rate under 5% while the US is now well over 20%. Finland is more homogeneous, but has growing numbers of immigrant students (15% if memory serves) with 43 different languages. But of course US poverty is an ‘excuse’ to the deformers, who have managed to simultaneously promote damaging education ideas while deflecting attention from massive poverty.
There are many reasons why the basic framework, the paradigm, of federal and state laws and policies must be changed – I use the US failures and Finnish success simply to highlight how a different approach has produced markedly different results, though the underlying social structures and poverty also matter.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Save Our Schools March- Sacramento

March in Sacramento.  July 30.  State Capitol.
California Rally & March
Saturday, July 30, 11am-3pm
State Capitol Building
1315 10th Street, Sacramento

Join other Californians on the Capitol steps to support public education. Sponsored by California supporters of the Save Our Schools March, National Call to Action & the Student CTA.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

AFT President on so called "School Reformers"

From the speech of AFT President Randi Weingartner at the AFT convention.

We need to study what works, as I recently had a chance to do in Ontario, Canada—which has a school system as diverse as many American urban school districts. For a while, Ontario suffered from the divisiveness we are all too familiar with, and it lagged behind the United States in achievement. In 2003, a new government was elected and immediately moved to change the tone. They focused on collaboration and building the capacity of the teaching force. They created a Partnership Table that brings everyone together around policy development; teachers have a voice right from the start. Funding is from the province and is distributed equitably to the local boards. Ontario did this throughout the province; they created an effective system—not a handful of successful schools. They focused on educating all kids—not just some. Teachers unions are full partners—in fact, leaders—in this work. In this short time, Ontario has dramatically raised student achievement and greatly narrowed the achievement gap.
Other countries that have summoned the political will also have seen dramatic, nationwide turnarounds in a relatively short period of time. We heard many similar success stories back in March, at an international summit in New York. What became immediately clear was that the top-performing countries all put a strong emphasis on teacher preparation, continuous development, and mentoring and collaboration—and in each of these countries, teaching is a highly respected profession.
Take Finland, which I visited last fall. Teacher training is demanding, rigorous and extensive, with ample clinical experience. Finnish teachers are esteemed and are compensated fairly, and their training is fully paid for by the government. And they’re virtually 100 percent unionized, as teachers are in most of the top-performing countries.
I am delighted that a leading Finnish educator is with us today. Pasi Sahlberg is, to use his term, a school improvement activist. Pasi has generously shared many of Finland’s lessons about improving education with us over the years. Thank you, Pasi!
Look, I know America isn’t Finland. It doesn’t take a breakfast of herring to realize that. But even though we’re not them, we can learn from them. After all, they readily admit that they learned from us. But they took the best ideas, scaled them up, supported and sustained them.
I can’t talk about the international comparisons without noting how the so-called reformers have distorted them: They use international comparisons to denigrate American schools. But they ignore their lessons. Worse, they pursue policies that are completely antithetical to the successful strategies used in high-achieving countries. It just doesn’t make sense.
While other countries were setting a course, one that was supported by investment and political will, what was the United States doing? A series of stop-start experiments: Stop-start on curriculum. Stop-start on standards. Experimenting with vouchers, merit pay, tour-of-duty teaching, and the latest experiment—Race to the Top. And many have started denigrating public schools and public educators, putting ideology over effectiveness, and experimenting without regard to evidence. And that must stop.
The problem with all of these experiments is that our children are not lab rats. This is not about navigating through a maze. It’s about navigating through life. And we have to help them do that.
That is why the AFT has put forward this powerful quality agenda. And that is why you are all here—on your own time and, in many cases, your own dime—to learn about new ways to enhance quality in your classrooms.
But, without muscle behind it, no agenda will ever lead to a new reality.
And make no mistake, a new reality is what we’re fighting for, one in which teaching really becomes a profession and leads to genuine advances in student learning. And by improving student learning, we’re improving the prospects of our nation.
A quality agenda unites educators and the broader community. The current discussion around education has been hijacked by a group of self-styled “reformers” who believe that public education in America should consist of islands of excellence staffed by passers-through, instead of dynamic school systems staffed by professionals. Islands versus systems. Passers-through versus professionals. Let’s really look at what these two different views mean in practice.
Note. I am not now a member of the AFT. 

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Systematic cheating to pass tests in Atlanta's School system

By KIM SEVERSON: New York Times 
ATLANTA — A state investigation released Tuesday showed rampant, systematic cheating on test scores in this city’s long-troubled public schools, ending two years of increasing skepticism over remarkable improvements touted by school leaders.
The results of the investigation, made public by Gov. Nathan Deal, showed that the cheating occurred at 44 schools and involved at least 178 teachers and principals, almost half of whom have confessed, the governor said.
A culture of fear, intimidation and retaliation existed in the district, which led to a conspiracy of silence, he said in a prepared statement. “There will be consequences,” Mr. Deal said.
That will certainly include dismissals, according to school board members and the interim superintendent, Erroll B. Davis Jr., and could possibly result in criminal charges.
Mayor Kasim Reed of Atlanta called the release of the investigation “a dark day for the Atlanta public school system.” The cheating, he said, showed a complete failure of leadership that hurt thousands of children who might have been promoted to the next grade without meeting basic academic standards.