Seattle Education

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Weekly Update: Teachers and parents push back, school privateers caught red handed and the scoop on online learning

The teachers in the school district of Reynolds, Oregon went on strike this week.

Adam Sanchez who is the co-author of the Rethinking Schools article  regarding Stand for Children,  recently started up a Portland Social Equality Educators group, based on the Seattle Equality Educators organization in Seattle.

To follow is a speech given at a rally of teachers in Reynolds, Oregon by Sanchez where he talks about why the strike is important and brings words of solidarity from teachers in Seattle, Eagle Point, Berkeley, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

And in Chicago, teachers are also fighting back.

From the Chicago Sun Times:

Screaming “Strike!” and “Fight,” thousands of Chicago Teachers Union members Wednesday rocked the Auditorium Theatre with anger and frustration over a contract offer they derided as an “insult.’’

Gazing over a sea of red CTU T-shirts spanning four balconies and a main floor, CTU President Karen Lewis told the reved-up crowd, “We are nearly 4,000 strong in here. . . .

“There are 1,500 more people in the street. Chicago Teachers Union — this is your finest hour!”

Lewis told members battling over a contract that expires June 30 that the rally was intended to “show the world that we are united.”

Turning to the crowd, she asked, “Why are we here?” Her response: competing chants of “Strike” and “Fight.’’

Lewis also cited other numbers. She pointed to a recent Chicago Tribune-WGN TV poll that she said showed “the general public . . . they are on our side. . . . They are not buying” the mayor’s education agenda.

Mike Klonsky, on his blog describes the rally in further detail.

That was the thunderous sound of 5,000 red-clad Chicago union teachers marching past CPS headquarters at Adams & Clark. Just when Rahm thought is was safe to come out of his office after last weekend’s NATO Summit fiasco, he once again became the target of working class venom. Speaker after speaker denounced Rahm’s ongoing war on teachers. His contract offer was denounced as an “insult.”  On every issue, they offered counters to his “reform” agenda of privatization, charter schools, longer school day,and test-based teacher evaluation.

To read Mike’s post in full, go to “Hey hey. Ho ho. Rahm Emanuel has got to go!”

Parents are continuing to push back in defiance of the edicts of Arne Duncan in terms of the over use of standardized tests which are used to evaluate a student’s performance as well as those of their teachers and their schools.

In Indianapolis:

A group of parents is defying the state Department of Education by refusing to submit their children to the state mandated I-STEP test.

The move is testing the boundaries of state law and putting one Indianapolis charter school in a vulnerable position.

Brooks joined a movement called United Opt-Out National, encouraging families to refuse state testing. Soon he found other families at the school, like Anne Waxingmoon and her daughter Cadyn, who shared his frustration.

“I would find more value in letting her play on a playground and thinking about paint drying than spending her time taking an I-STEP,” Waxingmoon said.

The parents joined an Opt-Out Indiana Facebook page, and decided to put it to the test at The Project School.

“There are plenty of other ways we can assess children without putting so much emphasis on just these few tests,” said Elizabeth Annarino, another parent who joined the opt-out group.

Brooks joined a movement called United Opt-Out National, encouraging families to refuse state testing. Soon he found other families at the school, like Anne Waxingmoon and her daughter Cadyn, who shared his frustration.

“I would find more value in letting her play on a playground and thinking about paint drying than spending her time taking an I-STEP,” Waxingmoon said.

The parents joined an Opt-Out Indiana Facebook page, and decided to put it to the test at The Project School.

“There are plenty of other ways we can assess children without putting so much emphasis on just these few tests,” said Elizabeth Annarino, another parent who joined the opt-out group.

To read the article in full and see an interview of two of the parents, go to  Parents defy DOE, refuse to submit children to I-STEP testing.

And in New York, Quiz Making Parents Testy:

After a spring of marathon standardized tests, thousands of New York school students are about to sit for one more: a test that won’t count but screens questions for future exams.

Test companies routinely try out questions before they are used on high-stakes exams. Often, the stealth questions are hidden among the valid ones during regularly scheduled tests.

But amid growing unease with the exams, the plan to administer a stand-alone “field test” to children at more than 4,000 public, charter and private elementary and middle schools next month has led some parents and educators to call for a sharp response: a boycott.

On mass email lists, at parent-association meetings and among themselves, parents have encouraged each other to let their children sit this one out.

Most of the state’s third-through eighth-graders recently wrapped up English and math exams that can carry significant weight: In New York City, results determine whether a child will be promoted to the next grade.

There is no penalty for skipping a field test or makeup administered. Still, some parents said they want to send a message. Standardized exams were stretched to eight hours over six days this year, and some parents said they resent more time spent on exams, especially one that appears to benefit the test vendor, Pearson PLC, more than students or teachers.

“I really felt like, enough is enough,” said Sally Langer, whose daughter is scheduled to take an English field test in June, along with the rest of the fifth-graders at Central Park East 1 Elementary School in Manhattan. “You want to pull these kids out of a creative, exciting learning environment, and you want them to fill in bubbles? No. It just doesn’t make any sense to me.”

To read the article in full, go to the Wall Street Journal.

Now, for details on how the corporate lobbyists are planting thoughts in Arne’s head, which they say in their own words, check out the post  Crowd-sourcing the up-till-now secret DOE/charter lobby emails.

And from Diane Ravitch’s blog, there is this post on the same subject:

I got an email last night from Leo Casey at the United Federation of Teachers, informing me that the UFT had just received a dump of emails from the New York City Department of Education, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. Leo noticed that Deborah Meier and I were mentioned several times in the emails and so he shared the trove with us.

Pretty ugly stuff. Read it here, in two parts, if you can open a google document:

The first thing I noticed was the chummy exchanges between the public officials in change of the New York City public school system and the top dogs of the charter leadership–the Wall Street hedge fund managers, the leader of Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), the leader of the New York City Charter Center, and various others. It comes clear that there is a strong and concerted effort to hand over as much public space as possible to the charters. The charter leaders are not the poor and oppressed of New York City; they are the powerful and monied, and the public officials who are paid to protect and support the PUBLIC schools of New York City are working hand-in-glove to advance the interests of the privately-managed charters, not the public schools. You will also notice, in one of the emails, that the charters are very concerned to make sure that there is no cap on their executive compensation. Heaven forbid! It’s important that their leaders continue to pull down $400,000 a year to oversee a few small schools.

To read the post in full go to Something Scary Happened Last Night.

For more on the topic of corporate interests in the American public school system and the attempt to suck the life’s blood out of our schools, read what Diane Ravitch writes in her post

Wall Street’s Investment in School Reform:

Dear Deborah,

You and I used to have lively debates about standards, curriculum, pedagogy, and a lot of other matters where we disagreed. Now those debates seem antique compared with the current uncertainty about the future of public education.

The question today is whether a democratic society needs public schools subject to democratic governance. Why not turn public dollars over to private corporations to run schools as they see fit? Isn’t the private sector better and smarter than the public sector?

The rise of charter schools has been nothing short of meteoric. They were first proposed in 1988 by Raymond Budde, a Massachusetts education professor, and Albert Shanker, the president of the American Federation of Teachers. Budde dreamed of chartering programs or teams of teachers, not schools. Shanker thought of charters as small schools, staffed by union teachers, created to recruit the toughest-to-educate students and to develop fresh ideas to help their colleagues in the public schools. Their originators saw charters as collaborators, not competitors, with the public schools.

Now the charter industry has become a means of privatizing public education. They tout the virtues of competition, not collaboration. The sector has many for-profit corporations, eagerly trolling for new business opportunities and larger enrollments. Some charters skim the top students in the poorest neighborhoods; some accept very small proportions of students who have disabilities or don’t speak English; some quietly push out those with low scores or behavior problems (the Indianapolis public schools recently complained about this practice by local charters).

Contrary to the vision of the founders, the charter sector is overwhelmingly non-union. It has come to depend on young college graduates, who start at the bottom of the salary scale and leave within a few years. This keeps costs low and enables the charters to pay their executives handsomely and to create rewards for the for-profit industry. Charters are known for high turnover of both teachers and principals.

The results are in: Some charters get high test scores, some get low scores, most are no different in test scores from public schools. The wonder is that there are so many low-performing and mediocre charters when they have everything the reform movement demands: no unions, no tenure, no seniority, performance pay, and plenty of uncertified or alternatively certified teachers.

A major reason for the phenomenal growth of charters, both nonprofit and for-profit, is the zealous support of Wall Street hedge-fund managers. As The New York Times has reported, charters are the favorite cause of hedge-fund managers. The hedge fund managers even have their own organization, Democrats for Education Reform. DFER’s agenda is indistinguishable from the conservative Republican agenda of choice and test-based accountability. The Los Angeles Democratic Party recently sought a “cease-and-desist” order to prevent DFER from using the word “Democrats” in their name since their policy agenda was not that of the Democratic Party.

To read the post in full, go to Bridging Differences.

Diane Ravitch was on Charlie Rose this week. The video can be found on the Charlie Rose website.

This week I’ll leave you with the Education Radio program on online learning titled The Reality of Virtual Schooling .

Here is the introduction:

In this week’s program, we explore the proliferation of virtual schools. Virtual schools offer on-line education to primary and secondary school students without the added expenses associated with brick and mortar structures and unionized teachers and support staff.

We hear opinions on virtual schools from well-known education scholars Jonathon Kozol and Diane Ravitch. We investigate one such virtual school, the Massachusetts Virtual Academy in Greenfield, Massachusetts. We talk with the superintendent of schools, Susan Hollins, who was the driving force behind the opening of that school in 2010, and we also speak with two Greenfield School Committee members, Maryelen Calderwood and Andrew Blais, who opposed it. Finally, we turn to early childhood education scholar Nancy Carlsson-Paige, who talks about the vitally important social, emotional and cognitive needs of young children that are in danger of not being met by virtual schools.

We also explore K12 Inc., a for-profit publicly traded technology-based education company that touts itself as the largest provider of proprietary curriculum and online education programs for primary and secondary students in the United States. It is also one of the fastest growing operators of virtual charter schools worldwide. K-12 Inc. was founded in 1999 by Michael Milken and William J. Bennett, a former Reagan Secretary of Education and Bush senior drug czar.  We take some time to talk about the background of these men, along with several others involved with this company, as a means to expose the insidious nature of companies like K12 Inc.


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