The Weekly Update for all the news and views you might have missed.

Part 2


So now it seems that teachers need a $60M test to know if Johnny can read before entering kindergarten and if Susie knows her colors. Hmmm….

Kindergarten more challenging for students, teachers

Please understand that our Seattle Times is a corporate bellhop for the wealthy and sings the praises of all things ed reform all of the time. They shamelessly glorify privatization and most of us don’t buy the rag.  The paper is basically one big advertisement for the corporate takeover of our public schools.

With that in mind, I am providing a link to this article for its basic information, such as that is, and to show the trend that has taken this country by storm while the testing giants are laughing (at us) all the way to the bank.

With that intro, I give you this excerpt from our inglorious Seattle Times:

Washington’s new WaKIDS program, which stands for Washington kindergarten inventory of developing skills, is designed to help kindergarten teachers better understand the strengths and weaknesses of children.

The $2.75 million program, including private dollars, is in more than 300 schools in 102 of the state’s 294 school districts, including every school with free all-day kindergarten.

Those schools hold individual parent-teacher meetings before school starts, as well as taking a more formal assessment of each child’s abilities — from staying on task to standing in line and doing simple math — during the first six weeks.

The assessment helps teachers group students by ability and get extra help for those who need it.

And it gives the state a better idea of how well prepared 5- and 6-year-olds are to learn to read, write and do math by the time they finish kindergarten.

The fall 2012 statewide kindergarten data showed many 5- and 6-year-olds do not have the skills expected for entering school.

The biggest deficit was in math. Only 52 percent of the 21,811 kids tested have the math abilities they should have.


Race to Top grant

Washington was one of nine states to get a federal Race to the Top grant in late 2011 for early learning, in large part because of its work with WaKIDS.

The $60 million will be used to expand both the kindergarten-readiness assessments and a quality-rating system for private preschool programs.


Preschool needs

It also makes it obvious that kids need some instruction before kindergarten, because some are scoring at the 3-year-old level when they enter school, said Krissy Para, kindergarten teacher at Helen B. Stafford Elementary in Tacoma.

Needless to say, the “private money” referred to in this article is from the Gates Foundation.

This is a very sad state of affairs, when testing companies have now gotten a hold of our pre-schoolers.

Money should instead be spent on supporting families who need safe and nurturing full day programs for their pre-schoolers so that they can work, ensure that each child receive quality health and dental care, a place to sleep and plenty of healthy food to eat. Then Johnny will be ready to learn how to read and Susie will know her colors.

We are preparing a generation of test takers not ingenious, creative leaders who can think outside the bubble. I couldn’t add before kindergarten but I managed to get though calculus, physics and structures in college and grad school. How about you?

Now all of these test scores and too much other information about our children are being tracked from preschool through high school and beyond by Gates backed organizations and for-profit companies so buyer beware.

And this from School Matter

Race to the Top for Tots?

Obama’s Universal Preschool Proposal (Feb. 13) sounds great until you look at the details.

To be funded, states have to adhere to learning standards, which include a “rigorous” curriculum, and “effective evaluation,” in order to prepare students for the academic load of kindergarten (!!) (see “Fact Sheet President Obama’s Plan for Early Education for all Americans,” at

Is the Preschool Initiative simply the Common Core extended to preschool? Race to the Top for Tots? There is no evidence showing that the “tough” academic standards and the increased testing of the Common Core for K-12 will help students, and there is no reason to impose it on three and four year olds.

Stephen Krashen

And this from @ the chalk face

The Ultimate Goal in School?

My friend, Gail Richmond, posted the below photo, which was shared by a parent.  In class, apparently the lesson was that some of us are not being all that we can be.  Therefore, it was time to start doing some goal setting!  Children, if your RIT score is not high enough, you need to apply yourselves and reach the new number.  If you don’t, Pearson will tell your teacher, your school, and your parents that you are not “proficient,” but merely “emerging.”


As many have commented, whatever happened to what I want to be when grow up?  What my hopes and dreams are?

When my handwriting looked like this, my goal was to be an astronaut, or a fireman, but never a better test score.

I can’t tell which is worse:

  1. Either the teacher told them verbatim what to write, and the kids have no idea what it means,
  2. Or the teacher spent way too much time trying to explain the concept of this nonsense to the kids.

But there is some good news.

Not only are the teachers in Seattle standing firm but many others are joining them.

Here is a photo of the teachers at Orca K-8 who are boycotting the MAP test

Orca scraps the MAP

And a photo of members of the Seattle Education Association after their vote to support the MAP test boycott.


And this from the 34th District in Seattle:

Last night, the 34th Legislative Democrats of Washington State passed a resolution to immediately suspend the administration of the MAP test. One more victory for public school students and educators!

As I have stated here before, this testing has many ramifications. First, it’s expensive and by far those who benefit the most are the test makers. The scores are used as a weapon against our teachers, our schools and our districts. Test scores are used to shame teachers, the fallout many times being the students who feel the most shame, fire principals and close schools just to convert them into charter schools with no public oversight.

Chicago and Philadelphia are going through another round of school closures which will cause more pain and dislocation for so many families.

Chicago Public Schools Hit List of 129 Potential School Closings Creates a ‘Hunger Games’ Scenario for Chicago Families and Teachers


By releasing its preliminary hit list of 129 neighborhood schools that remain on the block for closure at the end of the 2012-2013 school year and proceeding with a second round of community meetings to garner feedback on how to best manage its manufactured utilization crisis, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) has told Chicagoans that if they want a school to stay open, they will have to fight for it. They will have to beg for resources that should be available to all, and in a sadistic game put forth by CPS where individuals and their lives are mere pawns, parents, children and teachers are pitted against one another in a battle for a basic citizen right—a neighborhood school.

It is, as one local activist put it, much like the post-apocalyptic scenario created in the 2008 novel “The Hunger Games” by author Suzanne Collins. 

In the book, boys and girls between the ages of 12 and 18 are chosen by an annual lottery to participate in the Hunger Games, where the participants fight to the death until only one child remains. As the intensity and stakes grow higher in the quest for survival, and some children are seen as appealing for their prowess, it becomes easier for those in power to secure the money and supplies to help them live.

Our public school system creates a similar paradox, where it high stakes test scores that are designed to “prove” that children are worthy of resources, instead of viewing them as one of life’s most precious resources. 

To read this post in full, go to the Chicago Teachers Union website.

And in Philadelphia:

Corporations Advise School Closings, While Private Charters Suck Public Schools Away

As charter proponents aim to cash in on major investment returns, Philly braces for a massive schools shakeup.

On Dec. 13, 2012, Philadelphia became the latest major American city to recommend sweeping school closures for the next academic year. Under this new proposal, a total of 37, or about 16 percent, of the district’s 237 public schools will be shuttered this June. That’s down from the 40 schools the city designated for closure back in May, but still represents an unprecedented move in Philadelphia’s history. The School Commission Reform, an outside body appointed to govern Philadelphia schools, has scheduled its final vote for March 7.

Overall, 44 schools will be affected by the shakeup: Of the 37 to be closed, three will relocate by merging with other Philadelphia schools. Beyond this, seven other schools will face major restructuring – i.e., though these school programs will remain intact, the schools themselves will be uprooted and moved to other buildings, merged with other schools, and/or forced to add or subtract grade levels. About 15,000 students will be affected by the proposed changes. And though official numbers have not been released, hundreds of teacher and staff layoffs are also expected.

There is nothing democratic about how this happened to the City of Brotherly Love. Though officials gave lip service to the idea of “parental empowerment” through “ school choice,” in the end, parents had no role in deciding what policies would be enforced. Everything was outsourced. As a Pew study reports, the city consulted with “URS Corp., a California-based engineering design firm, and DeJong-Richter, an Ohio-based company that specializes in school-closing issues” to come to its final consensus. Though town hall meetings were organized between 2010 and 2012 to hear citizen concerns, the closures, relocations and reconfigurations  were ultimately decided by the consulting firms, with no serious input from locals.

To read this article in full, go to alter net.

When parents and teachers fought back with an ethics complaint, the foundation in question decided to apply pressure by not funding anything in Philadelphia.

From the Parents Across America Weekly Update:

PAA Founding Member Helen Gym speaking at a press conference.
PAA Founding Member Helen Gym speaking at a press conference.

In response to an ethics complaint filed against them by Philadelphia PAA chapter Parents United for Public Education, the William Penn Foundation suspended funding to all city agencies until the ethics board ruled on the complaint. The move potentially holds up millions of dollars in city projects.

In December, Parents United filed a lobbying complaint against the Foundation and the Boston Consulting Group, arguing that a contract between the two entities constituted an effort to lobby the School District of Philadelphia around a controversial plan to close dozens of schools, privatize District management and expand charters. The Foundation had solicited millions of dollars from private donors to pay for its contract with BCG.

Parents United co-founder Helen Gym called the move by the Foundation an “unreasonable and unnecessary response to an important lobbying complaint currently before the ethics board.” Parents United’s full statement is below.

Read more about Parents United’s efforts at transparency on their blog post, “Dear Philadelphia, we are above the law.”

This week, I’ll leave you with Bill Moyers & Co.

The Fight to Keep Democracy Alive

As President Obama gave his State of the Union address on Tuesday, many wondered why there was not a word in the speech about taming the power of private money over public policy. There’s no question that big money calls the shots, or at least tilts the debate, on many issues vital to America’s democracy and integrity.

Dan Cantor, Executive Director of New York’s Working Families Party, and Jonathan Soros, co-founder of the Friends of Democracy super PAC and a Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, join Bill to explore the virus in our politics, and what can realistically be done about it. The two have joined forces to curb the influence of money on politics, even if it means creating yet another big money super PAC to battle for – instead of against – democracy.

Dora Taylor