For the news and views you might have missed
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee held a hearing on testing and accountability this past Tuesday as ESEA begins to move toward reauthorization.
PAA submitted our position paper on testing to the committee, and individually to every member of the committee, and all House education committee members.
We called for grade span instead of annual testing (HELP Chair Sen. Lamar Alexander’s Option 1) and flexibility and support for states to develop assessment systems that include multiple measures.
Here’s a link to the recording of the testimony of the panel members selected to speak here, and to their written testimony.
Here’s what you can do
1) Continue to contact your Senator and Congresspeople today and ask for their support for grade-span testing and state flexibility in selecting appropriate assessments, Option 1 of Sen. Alexander’s ESEA bill.
2) If you haven’t done so already, share your thoughts with Chairman Alexander who has asked for input on his proposal here: fixingNCLB@help.senate.gov.
3 + 1 talking points:
1) I support grade-span testing in place of annual testing requirements.
2) I support flexibility for states to choose assessments that help children and don’t force schools to become standardized test prep factories.
3) I support including a parents’ right to opt their children out of any standardized test.
+ 1) Add your own story – what has caused you to oppose high-stakes standardized testing?
More on ESEA to come
The next Senate HELP hearing is on January 27th and deals with teachers and principals. We will keep you posted on future Congressional ESEA hearings and topics – we will be keeping an eye on issues including expanded charter school funding, virtual learning and vouchers.
PAA has endorsed the Local School Council (LSC) model of parent empowerment. You can find out a lot more about LSCs by joining a webinar hosted by Education Week and featuring PAA’s Julie Woestehoff, a veteran Chicago LSC member and long-time LSC trainer and advocate.
Sign up here for the webinar, which will take place on Monday, February 9, at 2 pm Eastern time.
News from the PAA Board retreat
The Parents Across America Board of Directors met in Dallas, TX, last week for a two-day business meeting and strategy session.
Among other actions, the Board voted to appoint Deb Mayer to one of two Board vacancies. We are delighted to welcome Deb to the Board. She is a former teacher, a teacher hero, and leader of PAA affiliate SOS-Oregon. Deb brings amazing energy and conviction to her work.
The Board also voted to name Julie Woestehoff as PAA’s interim executive director. Julie has put in many hours per week over the years on PAA business without compensation – which will continue to be the case given PAA’s current minimal budget – and this appointment recognizes her contributions. It’s also an important step in PAA’s development. Julie served as the executive director for Chicago-based Parents United for Responsible Education for 20 years.
We were also pleased to accept Carrie Lynn Harris’s generous offer to be PAA’s volunteer Membership Director. Carrie Lynn is the wife of Board member Nate Harris and brings a wealth of experience and skill to this role. You’ll probably be hearing from her soon!
Meeting new leaders
While in Dallas, we were able to get together over Tex-Mex food with PAA leader Jennifer Collins, of our PAA-NorthEast Texas chapter, and Ft. Worth teacher Christine Fougerousse, another active education advocate. More on their activities below.
If you share our overall goals of progressive, positive education reform and more parent input in education policy making, we invite you to affiliate with us if you are an existing group, or to form a new PAA chapter. The more of us there are, the stronger our voice will be at every level.
Community-based school accountability, Denton, Texas-style
Among many interesting things we talked about with PAA-NETX’s Jennifer Collins was a district-initiated community-based accountability report. Here’s what Jennifer told us:
I am working as a parent representative with the Denton ISD Education Improvement Council (EIC). Our project for the year is to develop a community-based accountability report grounded in our community’s values and what quality education looks like to us. We are basing our report on the Community-Based Accountability Report produced by Clear Creek ISD in the Houston area. Here is a link to the accountability page of Clear Creek’s website.
Jennifer brought an ally with her to our Tex-Mex feast in Dallas, a teacher from Ft. Worth, Christine Fougerousse, who writes a great blog, Texas Education Tipping Point. Take a look, and like her Facebook page, too!
Jennifer also reported on a symposium she attended in Austin on Dec. 2, the Coalition for Public Schools Voucher Symposium:
The panelists were:
Dr. Kevin Welner, Director of NEPC, Prof. of Education Policy, Univ. of Colorado at Boulder
Dr. Julie Fisher Mead, Dept. of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison
Dr. Luis Huerta, Teacher College, Columbia Univ.
Allen Weeks of Save Texas Schools talked about the two community schools in Austin which has seen great success. More information can be found here.
Finally, Jennifer recommended John Kuhn’s wonderful book, Fear and Learning in America: Bad Data, Good Teachers, and the Attack on Public Education.
Because it is short, simple, and yet very moving, I think it is a great book to give to anyone who if on the fence about education issues and maybe just needs a nudge in the right direction. I gave it to our school principal as a year-end gift last year and he really loved it. I am winning him over bit by bit!
My Amazon.com review reads:
If you only read one book about education reform, make it this one!
“Substituting achievement gaps for gaping social wounds as the target of our frantic labors only lets us pretend we are making great progress as we stir up a cloud of dust and make a sound and fury doing it. But the hard things remain–we don’t fix them–because progress on test scores is not the same thing as progress.” –John Kuhn
If you are interested in learning more about corporate education reform, high-stakes standardized testing, charter schools, and the so-called achievement gap and failing schools, I highly recommend this moving and very readable book by Texas school superintendent John Kuhn. Through personal stories of his time as a teacher and principal in rural Texas and as a missionary in Peru, as well as recounts of events in US and world history, Kuhn gives a rich and eloquent explanation of the context, motives, actions, and consequences of current education reform policies–and all in under 200 pages!
Great resources, and a great evening with new friends!
Keep up with our blog for more news and commentary on public education from the parents’ point of view.
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