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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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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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TFA = SCAB 0

Posted on May 05, 2014 by dmayer

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Teach for America, Inc. is asking the chosen ones — those who have been accepted into the 2014 Corps — to change their Facebook profile pictures to one that espouses their newfound status. If TFA recruits are still burying their heads in the sand to shelter themselves from the true motives of Teach for America, I offer them a heads-up. There is not teacher shortage. Over the past decade, hundreds of thousands of teachers have lost their jobs. In pursuing a position with Teach for America, you are depriving a teacher of a job. You are depriving students of a professionally licensed teacher.

Teach for America is all about teacher bashing and union busting. The end game is the privatization of our public schools. If you are still naive enough to believe that by joining Teach for America your are giving back, that your are righting a social injustice, that you are benefitting poor minority children, I implore you to wrest your head from beneath the sand. Change your Facebook photo to this instead:

Teacher Against Teach for America FB page.

Standardized — The Movie 0

Posted on May 02, 2014 by dmayer

Portland area organizations are joining together to present Standardized. The movie is gaining attention around the nation as parents, teachers, students, and community members are becoming aware of the true cost of standardized testing. A national movement is growing to opt out of high stakes testing. A panel representing students, parents, and educators will answer questions following the screening. All are welcome.

You may reserve a ticket at Eventbrite.

Find a printable, interactive poster to share here: Standardized Poster

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For decades, standardized testing has been a part of public education. Within the last ten years, however, education reform has promoted even more testing. Test scores, mistakenly viewed as effective assessments of student ability and teacher/school effectiveness, are anything but. STANDARDIZED sheds light on the invalid nature of these tests, the terrible consequences of high-stakes testing, and the big money that’s involved.

Teachers United Against Teach for America 0

Posted on April 26, 2014 by dmayer

Teach for America, Inc. is the flagship of the education reform movement. The organization replaces professional teachers with unqualified college grads in the classrooms of some of our nation’s most disadvantaged children. This practice harms students and the teaching profession. It must stop!

For years I have implored NEA to support a professional recruiting organization to rival Teach for America which is nothing more than a glorified temp agency with Billionaire Boy support. At the Network for Public Education conference in Austin, Texas, leaders of both unions, NEA and AFT, agreed to give the idea consideration. So far, I’ve heard nothing from either organization.

So, I’m starting without union support and asking for yours instead. You don’t have to be a teacher to join this group. Parents, students, and everyone who cares about education justice is welcome here! Please “like” our Teachers United Against Teach for America Facebook page as we expose the harm TFA does to kids, teachers, and schools. Follow our progress as teachers begin to stand up to the dastardly behemoth of an organization that poses as an advocate for poor minority children while robbing them of the education they deserve.

Common Core Resolution to PPS Board 0

Posted on April 18, 2014 by dmayer

Portland Public School board member Steve Buel presented a resolution citing concerns with the implementation of Common Core $tate $tandards at Wednesday night’s meeting. He called for a three-year moratorium much to the chagrin of presiding member Pam Knowles, but to the delight of a sizable contingent of the audience of parent, teachers, and students. After a verbal skirmish over the rules, Steve was permitted to read the resolution.

The resolution is the result of hundreds of hours of research by concerned members of the community who have noticed the effects of Common Core in New York and Kentucky. Members of Oregon Save Our Schools and Portland Association of Teachers met to flesh out the details of the resolution. Steve Buel and Aaron Smirl drafted the final version presented to the board. They welcome any and all concerned about the implementation of Common Core to use our resolution as a model to call for a moratorium. The text of the resolution:

RESOLUTION ON COMMON CORE AND PPS (April 16, 2014)

Whereas, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were developed and promoted by two private membership organizations (The National Governor’s Association and The Council of Chief State School Officers), and by other organizations none of whom are connected with Portland Public Schools, and these organizations received millions of dollars from private third parties, philanthropies, and corporate interests to advocate for and develop CCSS for the benefit of corporations; and

Whereas, the corporate profit motives that drive the CCSS are often in direct conflict with good education and can work to the detriment of the children of Portland Public Schools; and

Whereas, the CCSS were developed and vetted by committees of individuals, almost none of whom were K-12 educators, through a process which was not subject to public scrutiny; and

Whereas, in our own state CCSS were adopted without open and transparent public scrutiny, and with minimal input by Oregon educators; and

Whereas, the implementation of CCSS and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium testing is a substantial financial burden on Portland Public Schools and Portland’s taxpayers; and

Whereas, CCSS have never been piloted, tested, or proven in any arena to increase student learning or prepare students for college, career or citizenship; and

Whereas, the funds spent to implement CCSS could be better used in well known, effective educational methods such as reducing class size, increasing reading support, adding programs such as the arts or CTE and alleviating the impacts of poverty on education; and

Whereas, high-stakes testing narrows the curriculum and emphasizes teaching to the test at the expense of other important educational topics and learning experiences; and

Whereas, there are serious questions about the validity of standardized testing to inform instruction, evaluate teachers or other educators, and measure the value of a specific school’s educational quality; and

Whereas, data collected under high-stakes testing has been shown to be vulnerable to misuse; and

Whereas,  the purpose of education is not solely preparation for college and career, but to educate a populace of critical thinkers who are capable as citizens of shaping a just and equitable society in order to lead good and purpose-filled lives; and

Whereas, top down imposition of the CCSS adversely impacts students of highest need,  underserved students, emerging multilingual students, and special education students; and

Whereas, curricular decisions should be in the hands of classroom and district professionals who understand the context and interests of their students; and

Whereas, the CCSS were developed mostly by non-practitioners, implemented too quickly, were not piloted correctly, and may not reflect the learning needs of many of our students; and

Whereas, significant time, effort, and expense associated with modifying our curricula to the CCSS takes precious resources away from meeting the actual needs of our students; and

Whereas, the Portland School Board and its Superintendent have a responsibility to make decisions which are in the best interests of its students

Be it therefore resolved PPS educators shall use the Common Core State Standards as only one factor among many in educating PPS students and put no more emphasis on these standards than other important educational factors, not listed in the standards, in an effort to make sure PPS students receive a comprehensive and well-rounded education.

Be it resolved district administrators and teachers take into account educational equity in implementing CCSS. This includes, but it not limited to, making sure students in all schools have nearly equal access to the following:

  • A broad range of educational offerings.
  • Access to courses outside of tested subjects which are both considered electives and/or part of a traditional education.
  • Appropriate testing practices which take into account the background of students including underserved students, special education students, ESL students, and poverty factors.
  • Equal testing support at each school where necessary.
  • Field trips, recreational activities, educational projects and other extra-curricular activities.
  • Parent communication regarding testing.
  • Computer access throughout the year.

Be it resolved money spent directly on CCSS shall be clearly identified in PPS budget documents.

Be it resolved money spent on CCSS and testing shall be carefully reviewed during the budget process by a committee which includes strong representation from parents, the community, and Portland Association of Teachers. This shall include money spent on testing materials, additional staff, additional computer equipment, professional development, and curricular materials.

Be it resolved all data generated by district response to CCSS shall meet a high standard of privacy.

Be it resolved CCSS shall not unnecessarily burden teachers with the following:

  • Inordinate amounts of professional development or training to implement the CCSS, both in amount of time spent and in overemphasizing CCSS professional development instead of other forms of professional development or classroom instruction.
  • Mandated use of CCSS curricular materials.
  • CCSS use by educators as a part of teacher evaluation or plans of assistance.
  • Use of Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium testing as part of teacher evaluations unless specifically mandated by state law.
  • Time spent on identifying CCSS use in teacher’s lessons.
  • Required practice testing for district-wide testing.

Be it resolved PPS administration shall convene a committee to assess the validity of CCSS and their use within PPS. This committee will include strong representation from the PAT as well as PPS parents, students and community members. This committee will review and report on the following questions:

  • Are there standards which we believe are incorrect for PPS students?
  • How much of the time spent on teaching to the CCSS could be better spent on other educational endeavors and what guidelines should be developed?
  • How much instructional time should be dedicated to intervention programs and test preparation classes for students who do not meet the CCSS requirements on the SBAC?
  • Are there standards which are developmentally inappropriate?
  • Are there CCSS related decisions which are not helping the education of PPS students?
  • What testing procedures or protocol might create a validity problem for SBAC testing?
  • Is the administration promoting CCSS in a realistic manner, making claims which are backed by peer-reviewed research and experience in other states or locales?
  • What steps should PPS take in order to correct any validity problems?
  • What is the effect of high-stakes testing on children and what can be done to minimize any negative impacts?
  • Are restrictions on children brought about by their scores, or their school’s overall scores on high-stakes testing appropriate? (i.e. missed electives, missed recess, loss of extra-curricular activities)

Be it resolved PPS make a concerted effort to inform parents concerning PPS’s use of CCSS as well as their right to opt out of testing.

Be it resolved inordinate pressure to perform on CCSS testing shall not be placed upon students, teachers or administrators.

Be it resolved pedagogy responding to CCSS shall be based upon well established educational principles which do not include an overemphasis on scripted curriculum, one type of approach to educational problems such close reading or non-fiction, wholesale diminishment of literature, developmentally inappropriate instructional practices, inordinate importance placed on testing, or the narrowing of curriculum.

Be it resolved PPS shall take a legislative position which opposes state and federal mandates which require PPS to use testing to label schools, personnel, or students based on test scores, including the labeling of focus/priority schools and subsequent consequences for these schools.

Be it resolved PPS shall take a legislative position that the state should suspend the implementation of Common Core for a period of at least three years and until this untested mandate has received adequate research and been field-tested.