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Chalkboard Project — Shilling for the Oregon Education Investment Board 0

Posted on April 02, 2015 by dmayer

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CLASS is a project of the Chalkboard Project also know as Foundations for a Better Oregon.

Whenever the topic turns to education in Oregon, the mention of the Chalkboard Project is sure to enter the conversation. Time and again ex-Governor Kitzhaber has invited  ”expert” testimony from the Chalkboard Project to enlighten members of the Oregon Education Investment Board (OEIB) on research and policy. The Governor always promptly exited the room when public testimony, conflicting or otherwise, was given . . . always.

The Chalkboard Project is a perfect example of the nationwide transformation that JoAnne Barkan writes about in Got Dough? How Billionaires Rule Our Schools in Dissent magazine:

The cost of K–12 public schooling in the United States comes to well over $500 billion per year. So, how much influence could anyone in the private sector exert by controlling just a few billion dollars of that immense sum? Decisive influence, it turns out. A few billion dollars in private foundation money, strategically invested every year for a decade, has sufficed to define the national debate on education; sustain a crusade for a set of mostly ill-conceived reforms; and determine public policy at the local, state, and national levels. In the domain of venture philanthropy—where donors decide what social transformation they want to engineer and then design and fund projects to implement their vision—investing in education yields great bang for the buck.

Foundations for a Better Oregon, a group of charitable organizations whose combined assets total over three billion dollars (that’s billion with a “b”) concocted the Chalkboard Project to become a player in the education reform scheme and have garnered unprecedented influence at a bargain basement price — about $21 million of theirs and $12 million of ours (taxes) as of 2013. These foundations came together to form the Chalkboard Project:

If Chalkboard was created by foundations to support education reform, one might wonder why in the past several years Chalkboard has been awarded millions in government grants. While it was originally supported entirely by the foundations and other charitable funders, in 2010 it received its first government grant of about $112,000 or about 7% of its $1.6  million in revenue. Over the next few years (after the creation of the OEIB) revenue from government grants skyrocketed to nearly $5 million annually or 70% of its revenue. In less than a decade, the Chalkboard Project has gone from being funded primarily by foundations to receiving  the majority of its revenue from the state.  It has also gained optimal influence over education policy in Oregon. You might ask why Chalkboard’s founding foundations, worth over $3 billion collectively, need government funding that could be much better spent by k-12 school districts? Good question.

According to information gleaned from scrutinizing 990s filed with the IRS, Foundations for a Better Oregon (a.k.a The Chalkboard Project) was founded in 2004 with a $150,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and some small change from others. One thing that foundations have championed is paying unqualified (out of field) people relatively large sums to act as CEOs to create their vision. This is not only true for Chalkboard, but for many other reform organizations as well. Sue Hildick has been the president since its founding, and although Chalkboard has several staff members, Sue and one other person are paid the lion’s share in salaries.  Sue pays herself $228,717 a year; Dan Jamison makes $170,949 and the other salaries and wages of $443,969 appear to be divvied up among the remaining 11 employees.  That’s 47% for the top two execs and 53% for everyone else. Funny thing. Since 2009, when the foundations were paying the bills, Sue was paid about $130,000 a year, but when the government — you and me– started paying most of the bills, her compensation rose about $100,000 to nearly $230,000 as of 2013. It’s good to be queen.

Chalkboard president Sue Hildick, who has no education credentials, enjoys the enviable position of providing counsel on matters that affect kids and families, teachers, and schools on a daily basis. Why Hildick? Is she an education wunderkind? Does she possess knowledge about teaching and learning that will make Oregon schools the best in the nation — as Chalkboard’s  mission states? Should Oregonians trust her to do what is best for our children? The answer to all of these questions is a resounding NO! Here’s why.

Chalkboard is one of those organizations cited in the Barkan article, one that wants to project its vision onto us. Nevermind that its vision may not be our vision. With a little of its own money and a lot of ours, it has envisioned a dream education for us. So, does Chalkboard share our vision?  Not if it isn’t advocating for the Quality Education Model (QEM). Not if it isn’t demanding that public school programs be fully and equitably funded. Not if it isn’t led by an engaged educator who can relate to the needs of teachers and students. We don’t need a bunch of filthy rich foundations telling us how to educate our kids and teachers.

So, where do our Chalkboard tax dollars go? It’s hard to say. None of the money seems to reach the classroom. No books or librarians in the budget. No music or art. There seems to be a lot of polling, marketing, lobbying, branding, and consulting going on. Listed on its website are these partners annotated here with the type of business each operates.

  • DHM Research — opinion polling
  • ECONorthwest — economic consulting
  • Mambo Media — marketing and media
  • NW Public Affairs — lobbyists
  • Quinn Thomas Public Affairs — lobbyists
  • Squishy Media — website development
  • Leopold Ketel — branding agency
  • Kira Higgs Consulting –thought leader with no education experience. What the?
  • Education First — founding partner is from the Gates Foundation, other staff are Broadies, TFAers, etc., few have real education credentials; services mimic the memes of STEM, College and Career Ready, Teacher Leaders

A quick look at its IRS 990s raises multiple red flags. Troubling. Here are some:

  1. Foundations for a Better Oregon should identify itself as doing business as the Chalkboard Project.
  2. The organization was founded by six charitable organizations (plus Gates) dedicated to making sure Oregon has the best schools in the country. Since 2011, (the year OEIB was created) well over half its budget has come from government grants instead of from the foundations. You might say the government (OEIB) is now the seventh foundation in the Chalkboard Project
  3. The conflicts of interest among board members are ubiquitous.
  4. The salary paid to two employees is nearly half the entire amount paid out to all other employees.
  5. The travel budget seems high compared to the number of employees. Where is everybody going?
  6. Conference fees (expense) seem high compared to the number of employees. Which conferences?
  7. The “Other” line item expense is nearly a million dollars in some recent years yet unaccounted for on the form.  Where did all that money go?
  8. There is no rhyme nor reason as to the amounts granted to school districts. For example, in 2012 and 2013 Salem-Keiser school district received over a $1 million in grants annually while Portland Public Schools received only $10,000. And why did the  governor’s office receive a $35,000 CLASS grant in 2011 and another grant for $75,000 in 2012? Head scratch.
  9. Expenses for consultants and lobbyists seem to be a sizable part of the business especially when compared to amounts paid out to most school districts.
  10. Since 2011, up to 70% of Chalkboard’s funding has come from government grants. Face palm.

The Chalkboard Project is only a tiny sliver of the education reform pie. It was created to marginalize education professionals and give businesses and foundations the means to control the teaching profession and public schools in Oregon. Chalkboard wields tremendous power in this state. It seems to be accountable to no one. To some, Chalkboard may even have the appearance of a slush fund with so much of its expenses either questionable or unaccounted for. As disturbing as that is, of much greater concern should be the OEIB’s power to act as a charitable foundation with our taxes, to ignore conflicts of interest, to cherry-pick who benefits and who does not, while holding all to the same standard. It’s unconscionable. Time to say no more of our tax dollars for Chalkboard. (Sorry Sue, you may have to take a pay cut.) Time to wave a not-so-fond farewell to the OEIB.

 

 

Opt Out PDX — Photo Essay 0

Posted on February 15, 2015 by dmayer

Parents with their kids in tow flocked to Play Date PDX Sunday evening to learn how to opt their students out of high stakes standardized testing. The kid-friendly venue provided a pleasant atmosphere to share information about the worrisome test their children will be subjected to this year.

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In December of 2013 the Oregon Department of Education said the new tests are needed primarily because Oregon’s current tests, known as OAKS, don’t cover the skills schools must impart under the Common Core State Standards that Oregon mandated schools cover by 2014-15. But parents and teachers say not so fast. Members of Oregon Save Our Schools, headed by the Opt Out of High Stakes Testing Committee chaired by LuAnne DeMarco, organized the event to share information about the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium or SBAC (referred to as s-bac) and how parents may request that their children not be required to take the test.

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Quintessential primary teacher Emily Crum objects to the new tests for several reasons. In states where the SBAC has already been given, two-thirds of students failed. Similar results have already been projected for Oregon students. Too much time is spent preparing for tests that are developmentally inappropriate for children. The tests take away valuable teaching time and leave little time for kids to be kids. Emily asked families to create  posters citing their reasons for opting out of the test. You may view the posters here.

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Elizabeth Thiel (left) gave testimony before the state legislature this past week explaining why she opposed the test as a teacher and a parent. Listen to Elizabeth’s fabulous speech here.

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More than 90 people came to receive information and resources to support their decision to opt out. You can find that information and opt out forms here.

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Many parents are finding out more about the dark side of high stakes testing and are not willing to simply follow the order of the task masters who are not acting in the best interest of children. Read here why one mother and educator will be opting her children out of the SBAC.

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Oregon is not alone in questioning the efficacy of the new tests that supposedly align to the Common Core State Standards. Fair Test and United Opt Out are promoting resistance to the tests nationwide.

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Jesse Hagopian, teacher and editor of More than a Score, happened to be in town and stopped by to talk with parents about his experiences in Washington state and how the Opt Out movement is affecting teachers nationwide.

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Ultimately, the question becomes, “What kind of school experience do we want for our children?” Do we want schools with rich curriculum and exciting experiences, a place where teachers and children want to learn and work and play?  Yes. We have the power to opt out of standardized testing!

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Why the IPS School Board election matters to Oregon 0

Posted on November 19, 2014 by dmayer

Most of my school days as a student and as a public school teacher were spent in Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS). These days Indianapolis seems determined to sell out its public schools. So, when I heard Stand for Children (SfC), a repressive education reform group based in Oregon (where I now live), was pouring large sums into the campaigns of three particular school board candidates, I paid attention. Why would SfC care about a school board election 2,000 miles away? Why should Oregonians think the goals of SfC in Indiana are any different for our state?

Perhaps, foreshadowing the IPS results, glossy brochures and pamphlets barraged voters at the mailbox in the final days leading up to the election. All three elected candidates, Mary Ann Sullivan, Kelly Bentley, and LaNier Echols, were endorsed by Stand for Children as well as other funders with deep pockets. SfC, in turn, receives much of its funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Over $100,000 was donated to the candidates who support for-profit charter schools, high stakes testing, and non-licensed school staff  like Teach for America and Teach Plus. Incumbent opponents raised only about $6,000 among the three of them, and while that may sound dismal in comparison to the outside corporate support, it had previously been the norm.

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Photo credit: Matthew Mayer

The ousted incumbents are current IPS board president Annie Roof, Samantha Adair-White and Michael Brown, who all had been endorsed by the local teachers’ union.

Brown was a strong supporter of former Superintendent Eugene White, voted against his buyout and has been skeptical of some of the changes the board has embraced since 2012, such as partnerships with charter schools. He said during the campaign that smaller class sizes, quality teachers and more involved parents are the keys to improving IPS.

Maybe Oregon Education Investment Board (OEIB) members, who often consults with SfC on education issues, think Oregonians aren’t aware of its bad behavior in other states. Maybe Governor Kitzhaber and Education CEO Nancy Golden think that parents, students, and community members aren’t aware of SfC’s agenda of privatizing our public schools. They would be wrong. State politicians and the OEIB cannot expect Oregonians to act like ostriches with their heads stuck in the sand on the very important issue of public education. We endorse smaller class sizes, quality teachers and more involved parents just like the ousted IPS board members.

Is SfC planning a coup to disrupt school board election here in Oregon? We’ll know soon enough in April, 2015, when Portland Public School board elections are scheduled.  Attempts on the part of  SfC and other reform funders to influence the outcome of the election will result in active protest. Oregon school boards are not for sale.

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How do I know what a good test looks like? 0

Posted on November 11, 2014 by dmayer

What does a GOOD test look like? Stand for Children has the answer.

Before reviewing the test, a word about the graphic design. Skimming this web page, it is clear that some designs are more legible than others. That’s true for test, too. Many people  think a computer test is “more standardized,” and therefore more fair than an old-fashioned pencil and paper test. That’s a misconception. Differences in the age of the computer, the brand, speed, monitor size, display, sound, and other tech attributes can make a difference in student performance. Some readers may find this page visually difficult to read and understand, just as some kids will find the test format and instructions difficult to read and understand. And, that doesn’t begin to take into consideration the range of dexterity and computer skills kids bring to the test.

On to the test. From the Stand for Children website:

BETTER TESTS: YOU DECIDE

We are finally moving to higher academic standards for our kids.

With those high standards come better tests that measure critical thinking, replacing bad tests that are just rote memorization.

Pop Quiz: Are the new tests better? Come decide for yourself.

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Questions about the tests.

  • Are the higher academic standards referred to above the Common Core State Standards?
  • What are the names of the old tests and the new tests? Is the old test the OAKS? Is the new test the SBAC?
  • In the first 3rd grade math problem, the new test is measuring area, not perimeter. Drag and drop! Drag and drop! Drag and drop! What is the correct answer to the old test problem? Should the question on the old test have been: What is the area? Was this an actual old test question?
  • In the second 3rd grade math problem as in the first, the student is simply asked to answer more problems at once. Dragging and dropping several answers instead of selecting only one answer. No partial credit?
  • Does the 5th grade Reading/Writing test require kids to do more than drag and drop to answer the question?
  • Does drag and drop now equal critical thinking?

Find out more about opting out of high stakes testing:

United Opt Out

Oregon Save Our Schools

Rotten Apples? 0

Posted on November 02, 2014 by dmayer

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For this teacher, the November 4, 2014, TIME magazine cover is intimately personal and painful. I view it from an unique perspective. I feel that gavel pounding my head just as surely as if the judge were standing above me. I have been deemed a “rotten apple” by a court of law. Because of a court ruling that you may find as unbelievable as I do, I have lost my job, my career, my dignity. I struggle to survive. Even though the original incident happened over a decade ago, it effects cast a lingering pall over the teaching profession.

Many other outraged teachers have voiced informed, indignant replies to TIME demanding an apology. Only a tiny fraction of the public who saw that cover and subliminally absorbed the “TEACHERS ARE ROTTEN APPLES” message, will know about the teacher responses. I’m adding my voice to the outrage machine which will also, most likely, be ignored. Speaking from personal experience, I’m making the case that it is exceedingly easy to fire a teacher — even if the court must make new law to do so.

In his letter that does not appear on the TIME website, Thomas L. Good, Professor Emeritus at the College of Education, University of Arizona writes:

Consider the front page cover that brazenly and in bold print decries (and implies that our teachers are) Rotten Apples and graphically displays a gavel that is about to smash an apple that looks healthy. Why? . . . Clearly I do not know the motives behind Time’s depiction of the issue nor will I pretend to know them.

I think I do know TIME’s motive, and unlike many employed educators, I have nothing to lose by speaking my mind. The intent of the TIME cover is to implant the BAD TEACHER message into the American psyche. As Vergara copycat lawsuits against teacher tenure wind their way through our court system, parents and the public will be reminded in a myriad of ways just how bad teachers are. The “bad teachers are impossible to fire” meme will become prolific with periodic boosts from major media outlets and incessant mimicking via social media. Members of an uninformed, unduly influenced public will far outnumber the educated few who will be powerless to stop this billionaire scheme. Unless we all become wise to this scam, the teaching profession and our publicly owned, publicly governed, publicly beloved schools are doomed. They will become the property of the wealthy elite.

The following video exchange between an Indianapolis TV news reporter and me and my attorney, Michael Schultz, tells my story succinctly. Note that even during a press conference to announce my appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States, I struggle to be heard. The case is Mayer v. Monroe County Consolidated School Corporation, aka the Honk for Peace case.  (Other relevant documents including the text of the TIME for Kids article and the petition to the Supreme Court may be viewed at the Free Speech Nation website.) A transcript follows each video clip.

Reporter: What brought you here today?

Deb: The original incident happened in January of 2003 when I was teaching a current events lesson to my class that had to do with Iraq. And I was using Time for Kids which is a magazine that was provided by the school. (Construction noise from the street nearby interrupts. Deb, who had already asked that the interview be moved to a quieter place, waits for the noise to subside a bit. Even at a press conference, Deb stuggles to be heard. Ironic.)

Reporter: You were teaching what?

Deb: I was teaching a current events lesson using Time for Kids which is a magazine that was provided by the school. It was approved curriculum. The issue was about Iraq. There were articles about weapons of mass destruction, about UN inspectors going in, and there was one little article about peace demonstrations being held in Washington, D.C., so we discussed that and one of my students asked if I would ever march in a peace march. And I said that peace demonstrations were going on all over the country, even in Bloomington, Indiana. When I drive past the courthouse square where the . . . (Again noise drowns out Deb’s voice.)

Reporter: Sorry, you don’t want to get drowned out.

Deb: I know.

Reporter: Okay, when they asked you, “Would you march . . .

Deb:… would you march in a peace march? I said when I drive past the courthouse square, where the demonstrators are, I honk for peace because they have signs that say, “Honk for Peace.” And I didn’t think too much about it. I thought it was a good common sense thing to say. I also went on to say that I thought we should seek out peaceful solutions to problems, and we teach kids to be mediators on the playground so they won’t fight and hurt each other. And that was the extent of the conversation. I had a student who went home to complain to her parents that I was encouraging the kids to protest the war which hadn’t even started yet. And the parent was very angry and eventually demanded that I not mention peace in my class again. I was told, the entire school was told not to mention peace in relationship to the war. I was intimidated from that time on, harassed, and eventually lost my job.

Attorney Michael Schultz:

The question we are actually putting to the United States Supreme Court is whether and under what circumstances do public school teachers have a right to free speech in class, or stated a little differently, whether or not the First Amendment limits a public school board’s power to punish a teacher for expressing an opinion on a matter of public concern. We’ve not taken the position that teachers should always be able to just go into class and spout out their opinions on issues. This was a class of fourth, fifth, and sixth graders. The curriculum was approved. It was Time for Kids magazine. It talked about current events. It had articles in it about differing opinions on the war. The article actually talked about protests of what President Bush was doing in December of 2002 — January of ’03, and the students naturally wanted to ask about the teacher’s opinion. She made her opinion in a very limited, very professional, appropriate way and got fired for it.

Reporter: What kind of message do you hope to send with this law suit?

Deb: Well.

Reporter: I mean, you’ve already lost.

Deb: I’ve already lost.

Reporter: You’ve lost the appeal.

Deb: I’ve lost the appeal.

Reporter: Now you’re going to the Supreme Court.

Deb: At this point the . . . (Noise from jack-hammering on the street beside us interrupts again. Deb is obviously frustrated by the noise and had already asked to move the interview to a quieter place, but the reporter insists on having the image of the courthouse in the background.)

Reporter: Hold on. Oh well. Okay. Sorry. Let’s go through this.

Deb: The court has ruled that basically the Constitution and several landmark decisions involving free speech at school are irrelevant. They’ve said that teachers have no right of free speech, and that means that a teacher can be fired for any little random comment that she makes. And the court has also said that a teacher’s speech is a commodity that she sells for a salary to the school which I think is a very dangerous concept, and I don’t think we should let that stand because I think free speech is an inalienable right, and I don’t think teachers should lose their rights as a citizen whenever they go to work.

Attorney Michael Schultz:

The law is always made by the losing battle and it is always the cases lost in trial court that eventually end up making new law or clarifying the law, and what we’re trying to do is get the United States Supreme Court to finally clarify the law in this area. We have all the circuit courts are sort of all over the place on how they deal with on whether or not a teacher’s in class speech is protected. In some circuits it is protected. We say in our petition that if Ms. Mayer had been – if this had happened to her in Ohio, for example, she’d probably still have her job. Even if it had happened in Texas, she’d probably still have her job.

On the day I learned the Supreme Court declined to hear my case, Personnel Pitfalls in Cyberworld, written by the attorney for Monroe County Schools, Thomas Wheeler, II, was published on the American Association of School Administrators website. From the article:

Assume Mayer applies for a teaching position in your district. Before the common use of keyword searches on the Web, a school probably would have received limited information regarding her discharge from the Monroe County School Corp., but probably would not have received any information relating to her lawsuit or anti-war activities. If you declined to hire her based on that information alone it would probably be well within your rights to do so.

However, in this Internet age, what if you perform a Google search showing her litigation and anti-war activities. Assume you take the exact same action, declining to hire her based on her prior discharge. Unfortunately, given the knowledge of her anti-war activities and lawsuit, your school district may very well be subject to legal action by Mayer alleging you violated her First Amendment rights by refusing to hire her based upon her anti-war protests.

I haven’t worked since.

My attorney, Michael Schultz, still receives requests from teachers with free speech issues. He explains that he can’t help them because of the Mayer decision.  It seems that in fighting for my own rights, the rights of many others were lost. For me, that’s a heavy burden to bear.

You might wonder where the teachers’ union was during this time. The National Education Association, of which I was a member, and the America Federation of Teachers refused to support me. I travelled to Washington, D.C. twice and literally begged for help. Michael E. Simpson, assistant general counsel for NEA, refused to support me. His reasons were arcane and absurd, and I have never been entirely sure whether they were the union’s or his own. Let’s just say his reasoning reflected badly on the union. Organizations, after all, are the people who constitute them.

Another case, decided while the Honk for Peace case was crawling through the system, is Garcetti v. Ceballos (2006). It abolished the free speech rights of government workers while at work, tentatively making an exception for educators. Although I didn’t know it at the time, Thomas E. Wheeler II wrote an amicus brief for Garcetti and then used the verdict in that case to argue against my petition to the Supreme Court. Both my case and the Garcetti case were decided without regard for the evidence or the law, but according to a predetermined opinion of the court. Mayer v. Monroe County Consolidated School Corporation (2007) meant to challenge the Garcetti ruling, but the Supreme Court declined to hear it. You may wonder why you don’t hear more from civil service workers exposing government corruption. My guess would be because of the Garcetti ruling.

Even when teachers do win one as in Renee v. Duncan where the California Supreme Court ruled that alternative certification teachers (Teach for America types) do not meet the definition of “highly qualified” teachers, the victory is short-lived. Because of generous contributions and lobbying efforts from billionaire-funded Teach for America, the United States Congress lost no time in posting a “temporary amendment” declaring “alt certs” highly qualified teachers.  The amendment is continually renewed in the Continuing Resolution that is guaranteed passage, thus preventing a national debate about whether poor and minority students deserve actual teachers. This Congressional end run around the court is another blow to teachers and their supporters. President Obama weighed in early against teachers when he applauded the firing of teachers in Rhode Island. Arne Duncan, promoting Race to the Top and Common Core, hasn’t been teacher friendly either. So, let’s recap, all three branches of government with support from billionaires and their foundations are waging a devastating public war on teachers. Why? Why? Why?

Let’s be clear about one thing. Vergara is not at all about employing the best teachers for our children. It’s about destroying the teaching profession and teachers’ unions. As Campbell Brown and her cronies proceed with their Vergara-like cases, there will be more covers and more stories about bad teachers. She, along with Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee,  Wendy Kopp, and other public relations darlings who have nary an authentic education credential amongst them, will make the rounds on talk shows, maybe visit The Colbert Report again and The Daily Show, and act as the true voices of education. Actual teachers, on the other hand, will be silent. Not because they aren’t screaming at the top of their lungs to be heard, but because no one in the mainstream media will invite them to the conversation. I’m not sure how much more of this I can take.

There are some bad teachers, it’s true. It is the job of administration to fire bad teachers. It isn’t impossible. A system is in place, and the rules should be followed. Laws and tenure protect the rights of good teachers so they can’t be fired capriciously. The next time you see a “bad teacher” story, replace that descriptor with a mental picture of your favorite teacher, or your child’s favorite teacher. Recognize that the gavel will indiscriminately fall on the head of a real person — not a meme. This could get messy.

Deb Mayer is a former teacher. Before teaching at Clear Creek Elementary School where free speech died, she taught at the prestigious Key School in Indianapolis, best known for introducing multiple intelligences into the classroom and instituting other educational theories into practice. She served as a faculty member at Indiana University (IUPUI). She is the recipient of the Defense of Academic Freedom Award. Currently, she is the director of the volunteer-run nonprofit, Great Schools for America, where she maintains Edwatch. She also maintains Teachers United Against Teach for America.

 

The Gates Foundation Education Reform Hype Machine and Bizarre Inequality Theory 0

Posted on October 10, 2014 by dmayer

Copyright, TruthOut.org. Reprinted with permission

Special thanks for the scholarship and insight from: Diane Ravitch (Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools); Anthony Cody (The Educator and The Oligarch: A Teacher Challenges the Gates Foundation, forthcoming); Paul Thomas (Social Context Reform: A Pedagogy of Equity and Opportunity); Mercedes Schneider (A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education); Joanne Barkan (See her must read investigative series in Dissent Magazine).

This comic accompanies a two-year long Truthout supported series illustrating the education reform debate from an alternative perspective, both ideologically and visually. For previous graphic essays on education by Adam Bessie, see also

“This School is Not a Pipe” (with Josh Neufeld); “The Disaster Capitalism Curriculum: The High Price of Education Reform” (with Dan Archer: “Part I: Washington D.C.”; “Part II: New Orleans”; “Part III: Finland”) and “Automated Teaching Machine: A Graphic Introduction to the End of Human Teachers” (with Arthur King).

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

Badass Teachers protest the Gates Foundation — Photo Essay 0

Posted on June 29, 2014 by dmayer

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“The Rally to Educate the Gates Foundation” in Seattle, Washington and is sponsored by Badass Teachers Association (WA-BATS), a grassroots group of career educators defending our public education system from private interest groups, on Thursday, June 26, 2014 at Westlake Park, 401 Pine St, Seattle.

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The first 45 minutes of the rally features speakers including Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant and UW Associate Professor Wayne Au.

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Deb Mayer, Catherine Carroll, Kris Alman, Anthony Cody, and Kathleen Jeskey join Washington teachers and activist to bring some badass action to protest the Gates Foundation’s shady involvement in privatizing our public schools. Our schools are not for sale.

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Catherine Carroll wants to teach the whole child. She objects to scripted curriculum, inappropriate standards, fake TFA-type teachers, phony education nonprofits, high-stakes standardized tests, and billionaires scheming to privatize our public schools.

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Parents object to the corporate insistence on RIGOR in the classroom, the emphasis on standardized testing in reading and math at the expense of art, music, P.E. and library.

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The “Corporate Vulture” casts a pall on equitable public schools for all.

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Seattle’s finest escort education advocates from Westlake Park to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

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WA-BATS refuse to be blamed for the failure of our society to erase poverty and inequality and refuse to accept tests and evaluations imposed by those who have contempt for authentic teaching and learning.

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WA BATS demand that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation divest from their education agenda which includes: Over Testing, Race To The Top, Teach For America, Ignoring Poverty, Class Size Increases, Charter Schools, Big Data-Piracy or Sharing, Union Busting, Narrowing Curriculum, Ignoring Parent Voice, Value Added Measures, Appointed School Boards, Privatizing Public Schools, Replacing Teachers With Screens, For-profit Business Model Policy, Tying Funding to Test Scores, Outsourcing to Private Vendors, Treating Kids Like Widgets, High Stakes Testing & Common Core State Standards.

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Rally Attendees Say YES TO: Parent & Educator Voice! Creativity! Small Class Sizes! Civics! Science! Music! Art! Drama! Physical Education! Parent Involvement! Libraries! Counselors! Experienced Teachers! Learning Through Play! Project Based Learning! Learning Support Staff! Adequate Compensation! Democratic Governance of Schools! Relevant Educator Training! Less Testing and More Learning! Transparent Decision Making! Equitable Funding For Every Child! Recognizing Each Student’s Potential! Culturally & Developmentally Responsive Curriculum! “

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In 2014 political power resides in monetary wealth and public policy is being determined by the mega-rich not the expert practicioner-in many professions. No one is asking teachers what schools need.

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Among the Speakers at the Gates Foundation site were Susan DuFresne, Co-Author of Teachers’ Letters to Bill Gates, Anthony Cody, Living in Dialogue, and Peggy Robertson of United Opt Out.

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Teachers are told that they don’t have high enough expectations for kids. This is ludicrous. Our governing system is becoming undemocratic but worse it IS harming children who need a wholistic classroom experience beyond test scores.

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The Gates Foundation must accept that teachers are more than software; that learning is individualized; and that education is a public endeavor.

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Excellent public schools are the cornerstone of a free society: big money is buying the education agenda. People must stand up to this oligarchical shift and reclaim public schools with the whole child at the center.

Business reformers need to spread their expertise in places where they know what they are talking about. Teachers are experts when it comes to student learning. Ask us what kids need to thrive and learn. We are happy to tell you.

We’re not going to take it anymore!

Anthony Cody at the Educating Gates Rally, Seattle from Schoolhouse Live on Vimeo.

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Thanks to Julianna Dauble, Renton teacher and Rally Organizer, for a great job organizing this event and for help with this commentary.

Yet another open letter to TFAers 0

Posted on June 04, 2014 by dmayer

Dear TFA Recruit,

You are considering a special education position this fall. Teach for America (TFA) has promised to transform you into an excellent, highly qualified teacher in only five weeks.  After you bought into that, it wasn’t a far stretch to believe that you could teach special education classes with only three more weeks of training.

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So, you are about to enter the world of SPED, a unique field of study with a language of its own.  It’s an alphabet soup of acronyms that provides a shorthand to experts who have additional duties over and above those of the regular classroom teacher. It comes with its own special laws, processes and protocols, and intricate funding systems. There is a reason that teaching SPED requires an additional certification.  There is so much to know. The vocabulary alone is mind-boggling. Below is a list of some SPED terms, not complete by any stretch of the imagination. Even if you could cram their names and definitions into your brain in only three weeks, the practical knowledge of how to integrate them into a curriculum demands experience.

Suppose you have a student identified with FAS? How does FAS manifest itself in a third grade boy? What kind of classroom behaviors can you expect? How does his educational needs differ from those of other students? What kind of services is he entitled to receive? Who will be on his team? How will you create the best possible IEP?  What kind of relationship will you develop with the child’s parents? 

Dear TFAer, if you really want to “give back,” become an assistant to a professional SPED teacher.  Enroll in a graduate program and learn to teach students with special needs.  Otherwise, who knows the harm you’ll do?  Certainly, not you – you may think everything is pie and ice cream because you just don’t know any better. There is real danger in not knowing what you don’t know. Your students have trusted us (the adults in the room) to give them the best teacher possible – one who knows how to teach them. It’s the least we can do.

In another open letter, An Open Letter to TFAers Tempted to Diagnose ADHD, Among Other Issues, Mercedes Schneider questions the idea of TFAers identifying or misidentifying students with ADHD.  I agree with her conclusions, but my concern runs much deeper.  I question the ability of a novice recruit to identify and educate all acronyms.

 

If you, dear TFAer,  are still not convinced that you aren’t the solution, here you go. Below is your new vocabulary to teach special kids. Many actual words like dyslexia and autism aren’t on the list.  To be fair, regular education teachers use some of these acronyms like DOE, ESEA, ERIC, and NCLB, too. But, then you already know that.

AAC, ABA, ABC, ADA, ADD/ADHD, ADLs, ADR, AIM, All, AML, ANLL, AMD, APE, APR, ARD, ATND, ARRA, AS, ASD, ASL, AT, AYP, BD, BIE, BIP, BMD, BOE, BP, BPD, CAC, CAP, CAPD, CAPTA, CAS, CBA, CC, CD, CDA, CDD, CDC, CEC, CF, CFR, CIFMS, CML, COP, CP, CPRC, CSHCN, CSPD, CST, DB, DD, DD Act, DIBELS, DIS, DMD, DoDDS, DOE, DS, DSI, DSM, DWS, ECE, ECSE, ED, ED, EDGAR, EDMD, EDMS, EDS, EHA, EHDI, EI, EIS, ELL, EM, EMH, EMR, EPSDT, ERIC, ESD, ESEA, ESL, ESY or EYS, FAE, FAPE, FAS, FBA, FC, FEOG, FERPA, FOIA, FDHD, FX, GBS, GE, GPRA, GSD, GT, HI, HO, HoH, HOUSSE, HPE, HQT, IA, IAES, ID, IDEA, IEE, IEP, IES, IFSP, IHE, ITCA, ITP, JD,  JRAA, KD, LD, LEA, LEP, LKS, LP, LRE, MD, MD or MH, MDS, MLD, MMD, MMR, Mod MR, MOU, MR, NASDSE, NCLB, NF, NICHCY NIH, NIMAS, NIMH, NLD, NPD, NPRM, OCD, OCR, ODD, OHI, OI, O & M, OSEP, OT, P&A, PAH, PALS, PASS, PBS, PCA, PD, PDA, PDD, PEI, Perkins Act, PIDD, PKD, PKU, PLEP or PLP, PP, PS, PT, PTI, PTDS, PWS, RA, RAD, RFP, RS, RTI, RTTT, §, SAS, SB, SCHIP, SD, SE, SPED SEA, SEAC, Section 504, SELPA SI, SID, SIG, SIP, SJS, SLD, SLI, SLP, SM, SPOA, SPP, SSDI, SSI, SST, T21, TA&D, TBI, TDD, TENS, TMH, TMR, TS, T-TA, TTY, TWWIIA, V.A.T.E.R, VI, Voc Ed, VR, VSD, WIC, WWC

Teachers United Against Teach for America invites you to join our campaign to assure that every child, especially children with special needs, has a real teacher.

Who’s Failing Whom — Injustice 0

Posted on May 18, 2014 by dmayer

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During the past decade, politicians appropriated the language of civil rights for the purposes of radically changing public education. Both Republicans and Democrats have rallied around the proliferation of segregated charter schools for our poorest African-American and Latino students. Unlicensed teachers are hired to teach in these corporate schools that profess to be public schools only without the messiness of parent and community participation. Longer schooldays, weeks, and years is the remedy proscribed by faux teachers contracting to teach for two years. They enforce zero tolerance policies as they push a test-centered curriculum because they do not know how to teach. Kids suffer, teachers suffer, and schools suffer.

There is great injustice in requiring  students to learn who are not given a teacher but plenty of tests.  On this 60th anniversary of Brown v. the Board of Education, I’m positively sure that when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. professed closing the achievement gap to be the civil rights issue of our time, segregated charter schools and TFA for our poorest minority students was not what he had in mind. “Separate but equal” never was and never will be.

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Who’s Failing Whom? 0

Posted on May 17, 2014 by dmayer

Each year Teach for America places more and more recruits into teaching positions in our public schools. Even as hundreds of thousands of teachers have lost their jobs in the last decade, TFA manages to co-opt those positions for “teacher temps” who usually contract for two years. What’s wrong with this picture. This series of photos gives some clues.

You may find out much more about the inequities of TFA and like us at Teacher United Against Teach for America.

 

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