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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.

 

The schools Portland students demand 0

Posted on January 15, 2014 by dmayer

January 12, 2013 — Hundreds of parents, students, and teachers gathered outside the Portland Public School Board meeting to protest the lack of progress toward a contract with Portland teachers.  PPS has decided to not negotiate class size and teacher work load.  After a rally outside, the rally moved inside where the board was meeting.

When the mic was open for public comment, students began a mic check.  The board immediately adjourned and left ignoring students.  Steve Buel, often a dissenting vote on the board, was the only member who stayed to hear the students’ concerns.  Photos tell the story:

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Students mic check the school board. The board with the exception of Steve Buel, promptly adjourns and leaves, ignoring the student action.

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Tonight at the school board meeting, the Portland Student Union presented “The Schools Portland Students Demand”. This list was compiled by Portland students and outlines what we believe will make our educational experience the most enriching and successful.

1. Class sizes less than 20

2. Proper funding of the arts

3. More time with guidance counselors

4. Student-teacher collaboration in building curriculum

5. Rich, relevant curriculum – not common core

6. Democratic process in the allocation of funds

7. Restorative justice – not suspensions and expulsions

8. Funding for wrap-around programs

9. Support for all teachers

10. No School Closures

 
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What does a self-proclaimed, true S.O.B. look like? 0

Posted on October 26, 2013 by dmayer

There is likely someone similar to him driving education policy in your state or school district. Watch as Rob Saxton, Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction in the State of Oregon, as he delivers a message to school administrators encouraging them to threaten teachers who dissent from Common Core.

Saxton:  

Do you know what the description of a great education leader is?  

It’s an S.O.B. with a kindly manner . . . I’m an S.O.B. with a kindly manner . . . You gotta be an S.O.B with a kindly manner.

Credit to Patriot Jason/Don’t Tread on Farms for the video.

What does Betsy Hammond, education writer at the Oregonian report about Saxton’s speech?

Some of his speech wasn’t that pretty. Either directly or using initials, he used some off-color words that a teacher would not use with students as he recounted things that have happened to him.

Hammond neglects Saxton’s statement that Oregon will be required to apply for another waiver in January 2014 identifying another round of focus and priority schools. (Starts at 6:15 mark in video below.)

There is no effort that is more important right now or is getting more attention than this one: our focus on priority schools. The Governor often asks, “When are we going to start to see that we’re making a difference in some of these investments? Where is that likely to happen?”

We need to be able to say to the legislature, “This is where we’re moving up — this investment. And the way we’re going about doing this work is changing outcomes for students.”

We have a new waiver that we need to be applying for this winter. . .(hem-hawing) When I look at the waiver that came from No Child Left Behind, I have to chuckle to myself because of what it required of us in the state. What it required of us was to sort of move away from the requirements of No Child Left Behind were to develop the new report card, work on educator evaluation systems that were already required by 290, and support Title I schools through Focus and Priority process.

What’s not to like? Is that just not like some of the greatest requirements you could ever have?

. . .

Now we need to apply for a new waiver. We’re going to try to go in the second part of the program which will be in January. One of the things they’re asking us in the new waiver is, “How would you identify additional focus and priority schools after the this four year cohort is complete?”

The structure of the ranking system insures that no matter how hard students and teachers work, there will always be focus and priority schools.

Sorry kids.

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In the process of delivering this hour long harangue which included two self-indulgent tales having nothing to do with educating our kids, Saxton quotes Theodore Roosevelt saying people often misquote him.  Then he proceeds to misquote him, “It is not the critic who counts,” he says apparently to bolster the resolve of the administrators he has just bullied into bullying their staffs. The quote is much more fitting to describe the work that teachers and parents do than invoking it to deflect criticism of himself, the OEIB, or the administrators he is encouraging to threaten teachers. Here is the actual quote from a speech remembered as The Man in the Arena delivered in 1910:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

You can view the entire video here to judge whether the Oregonian staff is keeping the public well informed on education issues. Watching the entire video will bear this out:  This ego-maniacal guy in charge of educating our kids poses a danger to teachers and students who value real education. Any free thinker can see that. He’s not the type of guy you would want in charge of your own child’s education, let alone the education of every single student in the state. 

Full length video of Rob Saxton – I’m an S.O.B. — Oregon Deputy Super Rob Saxton Threatens Teachers Who Dissent on Common Core & P20W a.k.a. Rob Saxton Keynote Oregon’s Continuous Improvement Network Meeting 10 1 13.

Photo Essay: OSOS invites OBA to “The People’s Table” 0

Posted on October 20, 2013 by dmayer

If there was ever any doubt about the cozy ties between the Oregon Business Alliance and Stand for Children, this event should remove any uncertainty. Stand for Children, once considered a real grassroots education advocacy group, has fallen prey to corporate predators that offer big bucks in exchange for legislative support on education policy. On October 17th, while Stand president Sue Levin was being recognized for her work and leadership throughout the session around PERS and revenue reform in a herculean effort to ensure a bright future for Oregon’s children, Oregon Save our Schools was hosting a dinner of its own. The menu at the people’s table included funding for more teachers, lower class sizes, libraries, art, and music. High-stakes tests were not on the menu.

Everyone is welcome at the people’s table.

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Portland parent Susan Barrett recalls her experience as a member of Stand for Children before realizing she was being used by the organization.
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The People’s Table
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Steve Buel & Duncan Decker address a pro public school crowd at the OBA Statesman Dinner (parody and play)

Ahjamu Umi – Get yourself into a social justice organization

Elijah – Cleveland High School Chapter Member of the Portland Student Union

Emily Crum, teacher and event organizer, invites everyone to join us at the people’s table.

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People’s Table Protest Rally

Go Away TFA — Oregon HB 2878 0

Posted on March 19, 2013 by dmayer

Oregon may be opening the door for Teach for America, the recruiting service that places non-licensed college graduates in the classrooms of mostly poor, minority children after only five weeks of “training” to serve in place of professional teachers. Maybe or maybe not. This bill is so ambiguous and poorly written that it’s difficult to figure out its purpose. One thing is certain. It calls for Oregonians to trust non-licensed employees to teach their children.
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Click here for a larger version.

Here’s what the bill means in plain English, section by sub-section:

77th OREGON LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY–2013 Regular Session
House Bill 2878

Sponsored by Representative PARRISH

Not surprisingly, Julie Parrish, District 37 — Tualitin and West Linn –  is supported by Stand for Children, an astroturf organization that has been successful in passing this type of legislation nationwide. Oregon is the only state where SFC operates that does not allow non-licensed teachers in schools. Parrish also pushed for legislation favoring charter schools and tying teacher evaluations to standardized test results.

Parrish on Twitter:

Thank you Oregonian for calling out the thuggish behavior of the OEA. Love my kids’ teachers, their union, not… http://t.co/guPJWc6o2h 02:10:04 PM March 14, 2013

Parrish is definitely anti-union.

SUMMARY

The following summary is not prepared by the sponsors of the measure and is not a part of the body thereof subject to consideration by the Legislative Assembly. It is an editor’s brief statement of the essential features of the measure as introduced. 

Allows person to teach certain courses in schools without being licensed by or registered with Teacher Standards and Practices Commission if certain requirements are met. Specifies restrictions to employment.

Non-licensed people can teach if they meet certain requirements.

A BILL FOR AN ACT

Relating to teacher qualifications.

Be It Enacted by the People of the State of Oregon:
SECTION 1. (1) Notwithstanding ORS 338.135 and 342.173, a person employed by a school district or a public charter school may teach without being licensed by or registered with the
Teacher Standards and Practices Commission (TSPC) if:

Notwithstanding ORS 338.135 and 342.173 — Notwithstanding means forget about these laws. Not usually a good thing. What laws should we ignore? ORS 338.135 defines among other things employees licensure and registration requirements and collective bargaining rights. ORS 342.173 states the effect of employing unlicensed teacher or administrator by certain districts including penalties and fines for hiring non-licensed teachers. A person employed by a school district or a public charter school may teach without being licensed by or registered with the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission if:

(a) The person is teaching only courses for which the State Board of Education has not adopted academic content standards as required by ORS 329.045;

ORS 329.045 is a revision of common curriculum goals, performance indicators, diploma requirements, essential learning skills and academic content standards. This includes rigorous academic content standards in mathematics, science, English, history, geography, economics, civics, physical education, health, the arts and second languages. This list seems to be fairly inclusive. What courses would the non-licensed teacher be able to teach? Is there a shortage of certified teachers in some courses? What are they? Why not name them in the bill?

I contacted TSPC and asked this question. The response:

I cannot tell you exactly which courses would be allowed to be taught by a non-licensed teacher; but they would be courses for which the Department has not adopted content standards. I can tell you that it will certainly cause confusion unless regulations were clear following passage of the bill.

I highly recommend that you contact the legislative representatives for teachers at the Oregon Education Association regarding this bill.

I’m currently waiting for a response from OEA.

(b) The school district or public charter school follows the instructor appraisal committee procedures adopted by the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission; and  

Follows the instructor appraisal committee procedures? Does this mean that the non-certified teacher will be evaluated like every other teacher?  This is vague.

(c) The person meets the other training or experience requirements established by the State Board of Education and by the district school board of the school district or the public charter school governing body.

Other training or experience requirements? What are the training and experience requirement? Why would we pass a law to allow non-certified people to teach with out even know what the requirements are?

(2) A person who is employed to teach as provided by this section:

(a) Is not eligible to become a member of the Public Employees Retirement System as a result of the employment; and

No PERS for non-licensed employees posing as teachers. Will the employee have any type of retirement plan?

(b) May not become a member of a collective bargaining unit that represents licensed or registered teachers.

Non-licensed employees posing as teachers can not join a union.

(3) No more than 40 percent of the total classroom teaching time at a school may be provided by persons who are teaching as provided by this section.

Whoa! Allows person to teach certain courses in schools without being licensed is a far cry from 40 percent of classroom teaching time provided by non-licensed employees. Does this mean that nearly half of any school faculty may be non-licensed employees posing as teachers.

There are red flags all over this bill. Even if it isn’t a pretext to welcome TFA into Oregon, it is a frightening precedent in regard to retirement restrictions, collective bargaining rights, and faculty composition. This bill is slated for a hearing March 25th. Let your representatives hear from you.

An Evening with Andy Hargreaves at PSU 0

Posted on February 05, 2013 by dmayer

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Professor Andy Hargreaves was welcomed by Portland State University President, Wim Wiewel, who talked in vague terms of Governor Kitzhaber’s pipeline to streamline Oregon education from cradle to career. He emphasized the ambiguity of the plan saying, “Where are all the boxes?” We don’t know yet. And, “Who or what will live in those boxes? We don’t know.” Hargreaves was introduced as someone to help figure this out.

What had been billed as a lecture turned out to be a 30 minute book talk followed by a short Q & A and book signing. Here are some key points from Hargreaves’ newest book, Professional Capital, co-authored with Michael Fullan, as noted in his presentation.

In his opening remarks, Hargreaves focused our attention on transforming teaching in every school. His formula: PC = f(HC,SC,DC).

“Teachers, along with parents, are the most important people in our lives. It’s the teacher, stupid.” he said.

He elaborated on the system we now have in place that knows only two strategies: to either reward or remove teachers. Then he said something that experienced teachers have known all along. He said in all the mountains of data collected on teacher quality and tying kids’ tests scores to teacher evaluations, reliable numbers correspond to principals’ judgements. Let me say that again with emphasis: He said principals are the best evaluators of teacher performance. Just as research shows that the grades a teacher assigns to a student are the best indicator of how that student will do in college (Krashen), the judgements, or evaluations, principals assign to a teachers are only reinforced by data. (One might ask why we are wasting extraordinary amounts of money on a system that tells us what we already know.)

Although I agree with much of what Hargreaves says, I am not comfortable with the language and presentation of his ideas. For example, his method of defining every idea in terms of “capital.” I have a strong aversion to using the word “capital” to describe human worth since I first came across this website: Strategic Management of Human Capital some years ago. The site elaborates in no uncertain terms the value and manipulation of human life in monetary (capital) terms. Knowing that as a teacher, I am thought of as human capital forces me, on some level, to think of my students in those terms, when for decades that thought had never entered my mind. Maybe this is a compromise educators must accede to these days in order to gain a foothold in today’s profit-driven, business-dominated education environment. I think the price is too dear.

In the words of Hargreaves:

Capital relates to one’s own or group worth –particularly concerning assets that can be leveraged to accomplish desired goals.

Business capital assumes that good teaching:

  • is technically simple
  • a quick study
  • can be mastered readily
  • should be driven by hard performance data
  • is about enthusiasm, effort, talent, and results
  • is replaceable by online instruction.

He then likened  so-called “teachers” produced in droves by organizations like Teach for America, The New Teacher Project/Center, and Teaching Fellows programs as delivering curriculum “karaoke style” — to applause from the educators in the audience.

Professional capital as it pertains to teaching:

  • is technically sophisticated and difficult
  • requires high levels of education and training over a long time
  • is perfected through continuous improvement
  • is a collective accomplishment
  • maximizes,mediates, and moderates online instruction

“Technology and teachers work well together.  One should not replace the other,” he said.

Hargreaves defines three other types of capital as a subset of professional capital: human capital, social capital, and decisional capital.

Human capital involves qualifications, knowledge, preparation, skills, and emotional intelligence.

Social capital involves trust, collaboration, collective responsibility, mutual assistance, professional networks, and a healthy amount of push, pull, and nudge to reach goals.

Decisional capital involves judgement, case experience, practice, challenge and stretching, and reflection.

Notably absent from this discussion is the idea of how cultural capital including race, ethnicity, socio-economic, and other conditions, factors into education.

Hargreaves mentioned Finland as an example of a country that reveres teachers as professionals. In 1992, Finland had an unemployment rate of 19%. Proactively, officials decided to invest in education by investing in teachers. Every teacher in Finland must earn a master’s degree before entering the classroom. Teachers are highly qualified in the true sense of that concept: knowledgeable, prepared, skilled, and emotionally intelligent. They earn the trust of their respective communities, and together with members of the community collaborate, take collective responsibility, mutually assist each other, create professional networks, and help each other to reach goals. Based on case experience, practice, challenges, and reflection they are able to make judgements on how to meet goals. Now fifteen years later, Finland’s education system is hailed as the finest in the world.

Fifteen years ago, the Finns did not articulate their education goals in terms of capital. They did not think of their children or teachers in terms of human capital. Using the definition of humans identified as capital, how difficult will it be for us to give children in our state or country the education they need and deserve? Do the same attributes that worked so well for the Finns take on a new and different meaning when we define ourselves as capital?

He gave a statistic that I find unbelievable. He said that in this country the average time spent in the classroom by new teachers is one year before leaving. (GASP from audience.) I have not been able to confirm that statistic.

Near the end of his talk, Hargreaves announced that he would be working on the governor’s vision of cradle to career. He said that he would be working with Education Northwest, Inc., which had just been awarded a $1.8 million grant for continued support of their work. He is part of the pipeline created by the OEIB that promises to do more with less. From Education Northwest:

As Secretary of Education Arne Duncan pointed out, NWRCC (Education Northwest) and the nation’s network of comprehensive centers “will help low-performing schools and districts close the achievement gap. They provide valuable support of the Administration’s P–12 initiatives to ensure that every child is able to receive a high-quality education.”

Hargreaves mentioned vaguely these as some of the goals for Oregon:

  • a smaller number of schools in districts to promote social capital
  • tighter faculty groups, and a smaller number of groups to promote decisional capital
  • higher standards for accreditation

On testing:

  • test prudently, not profitably
  • do not test every student in every grade every year
  • do test less people less often and give better tests

“We are not at a stage to give up testing altogether as Finland has done,” he said.

He left us with this quote from Nelson Mandela:

There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children and their teachers.

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Save Our Schools — one school at a time 0

Posted on July 16, 2012 by dmayer

This is the real life story about The Death and Life of One Great American School — to borrow a phrase from Diane Ravitch. Can you help us revive this school?

Tubman girls take the seats of PPS school board members and vote unanimously to keep their school open.

Today a group of parents and teachers who had been diligently trying to keep Harriet Tubman Leadership Academy for Young Women alive received another “nail in the coffin” from the Superintendent’s office of Portland Public Schools. After closing the school on June 13th, Superintendent Carole Smith encouraged parents to pursue a district supported charter school. In a letter dated June 18th, parents posed questions to her about what the nature of support would be. Today, on the day the charter application is due, Zeke Smith, Chief of Staff at PPS finally responded. Even if by some miracle the group had been able to complete the application in three weeks, the charter would not be expedited he said. The school would not open in September.

The closure of Harriet Tubman Leadership Academy for Young Women, a successful, inner city, 6-12th grade, all girls public school focused on math, science and leadership is a travesty and an injustice that should not be tolerated. The manner is which the school was closed shows an egregious lack of respect for the school community and quite frankly, the law. Three weeks after the announcement was made that closure was under consideration, the school was closed. POOF! GONE! The decision left students scrambling to find a placement for fall and wondering what they had done wrong to deserve this. Listen below to the girls as they tell the story of how they lost the excellent school they love.

Jada Commodore, 5th grader at Chief Jospeph Elementary School, implores the school board not to close the school she has looked forward to attending, “What did we do wrong to deserve this?” she asks.

Tubman is very diverse with 50% minority, 70% low income, and 54% of students wanting to pursue jobs in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). At this year’s science fair Tubman students won more awards than any other high school in the district. Yet, the school’s small size (a projected 220 students for next year which was partly a result of frequent threats of closure), made it an easy target for the school district.

Timeline for closure:

April 2, 2012 — Robo-calls sent from PPS Superintendent Carole Smith to the parents of Tubman students. “I’m calling you because I want to make you aware of a recommendation I’m making to the school board this evening that would have a direct impact on your child and family. I’m recommending that the Harriet Tubman Leadership Academy for Young Women be closed for the 2012-13 school year. With the large budget cuts that we’re going to have to make this upcoming year, we would not be able to provide your student a quality education in such a small school.

April 9th — Public hearings
April 10th — Enrollment and Transfer Teams arrive at Tubman. They announce that the vote has been moved from May 14th to April 23rd.
April 12th — Listening session
April 13th — Harriet Tubman removed from school choice options
April 23rd — Board votes 5-2 to close Tubman
June 13th — Last day of school

PPS reassigned teachers before the board vote.

It’s education gone wild!

Members of the community beg, beseech, and implore the board to keep Tubman alive. One board member responded this way: “The program that we know is working for kids, you’ve all spoken to it, we know it’s the right thing to do for kids, and we cannot afford to do it anymore. So, I apologize, I’m sorry for that.”

What should have been done to keep Tubman alive?

That is a question that the girls continue to ask. There was a plan to bring the girls together for a summer math program at Tubman beginning August 6th. The district, as of today, has not shown any interest in opening the space for the summer program. Parents are wondering what to do next.

Some parents are considering a legal challenge with the goal of keeping the school open as a neighborhood school. They have 180 days from the date of the decision to respond, but they have no money for a challenge against district attorneys well-versed in Oregon public school law. There is a feeling of hopelessness and disappointment in the Tubman community, “What has taken four years to build was dismantled in three weeks,” said parent and volunteer Jyothi Pulla. “Forty years after the passage of Title 9, girls are still lagging behind boys in math and science. Why would you close a program which is bridging those gaps and filling a need in the economy?” She wants to help form a Tubman girls club and pursue a Saturday or summer program for girls, to keep them connected and continue the pursuit of their interests.

How can you help the girls now? Contact the Superintendent and the school board: csmith1@pps.k12.or.us and SchoolBoard@pps.k12.or.us

Tell them:

Intel provided a grant which will allow for a three week summer program for Tubman girls. Please provide a space at Tubman so that the girls can have their summer program. Also, provide a space for Tubman girls to meet on Saturdays so they can stay connected and continue to pursue their interests in math, science, and leadership.

Contact us at mail@greatschoolsforamerica.org

We are UPSET — photo diary 0

Posted on May 13, 2012 by dmayer

This is the mission statement of UPSET, the newly formed activist education organization in Portland, Oregon, but it could well apply to many as school districts across the country deal with the austerity posed by shrinking funds available for education.

We are a school community in crisis – we no longer believe that the State of Oregon can deliver the resources needed to facilitate a proper educational environment in our schools. We are teachers, parents, and students who have decided to take action directly and together as a community. We will not stand by and silently let any more resources be taken from our schools; resources our communities’ youth so desperately need to give, thrive, find fulfillment, and lead in the 21st century.

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According to the Statesman Journal:

Portland Public Schools official Matt Shelby commented on the march: “We understand that people are frustrated. Certainly, we’re frustrated. At the end of day, school funding goes downhill, decisions made at the state level translate into a budget gap at the district level and that translates to the building level. Decisions made in Salem have a real impact on teachers and parents.”

Shelby said that the district is working to try to curb cuts. The district is facing a $27 million shortfall in next year’s budget. He said a tentative agreement has been reached that would use $5 million from Portland Mayor Sam Adams’ pledge toward Portland Public Schools. The Portland School District has also pledged $2.65 million from salary reductions for administrators and another $2.65 million from teachers who are delaying a salary increase by six months in the agreement. All of that is meant to save 110 teaching jobs and cover $10.3 million in staffing cuts.

UPSET (Underfunded Parents Students and Educators Together) rallied May 11th in Pioneer Courthouse Square to protest PPS budget cuts. The protest began at the Rose Quarter where over 800 people met to march to the city center.

We are UPSET:

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UPSETCROWD

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Once at Pioneer Courthouse Square, the U.P.S.E.T. rally begins. Students and parents comment on the effects of 20+ years of education funding cuts in Oregon (with a musical interlude provided by students from Atkinson, Buckman and Sunnyside elementary students).

Saving the best for last… Three PPS students present spoken word pieces, Grant High School history teacher Don Gavitte gives his closing remarks. Stick around until the end for the poetry slam. The impassioned words and delivery of three young high school girls is awe inspiring.

The momentum is building to fund our public schools adequately. Oregon Save Our Schools is calling for a statewide May 31st Action Day to demand that government officials provide an excellent education to all Oregon students. Are you listening Governor Kitzhaber?

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UPSETFUTURE

The ALEC — Stand for Children — Teach for America connection 0

Posted on May 07, 2012 by dmayer

It’s no secret that ALEC, American Legislative Exchange Council, has an education agenda. The templates for policy can be accessed at ALEC EXPOSED. However, transforming a template to policy doesn’t happen instantaneously. How does the ideology translate into law? Could it be with a little help from Teach for America? Bear with me while I connect the dots.

Last summer, quite by accident, I met a group of about six young adults on the MAX here in Portland who were traveling from the airport to train for their new jobs. They were talking about having just finished their teaching jobs and how happy they were to be done with it. Being an unemployed teacher myself, I listened for a while and then struck up a conversation. They identified themselves as Teach for America corps members who had just completed their obligatory two year stints in the classroom. They were headed to the Stand for Children offices to be trained in writing education policy. Most had been hired to work as legislative assistants in state houses around the country. I asked a few probing questions about their education expertise, especially in policy. Turns our none of them had any education credentials. Some had worked on their masters degrees during teaching, but none had studied education or education policy. They really didn’t get my point. The arrogance was palpable. I finally asked one of them point blank, “Don’t you think you should have some education and experience before writing education policy?” They assured me that over the next two weeks (I think, anyway, short time) they would be trained to do it.

I hadn’t thought about that encounter much since. But when I read Diane Ravitch’s latest article in the Answer Sheet, Ravitch: A Primer on the Group Driving School Reform, it occurred to me that Stand for Children could be the conduit to the uniformity in education legislation using Teach for America “leaders” as the delivery system. Last summer ALEC was barely a blip on my radar so I hadn’t make a connection back then.

Could Stand for Children be training former Teach for America corps members to write ALEC policy for state legislatures? I know Oregon legislators aren’t savvy enough to develop language and coordinate ideas that mesh with those in other states, but their Teach for America, Stand for Children trained assistants may well be. With a little help from a persistent friend, this is what I found out.

Leadership for Education Equity (LEE) is the political leg of Teach for America.

Leadership for Educational Equity (LEE) is a 501(c) (4) nonprofit organization that was launched in 2007 to inspire, train and support Teach For America alumni and corps members to pursue public leadership by providing or connecting them to high impact volunteer and career opportunities in politics, policy, advocacy, and elected office. Over the years, Teach For America alumni and corps members expressed a growing desire to engage more with the policy and political contexts that so impacted what they saw happening at the school and classroom level. Recognizing that Teach For America’s ability to engage in or to support advocacy and political work is quite limited as a traditional 501(c)(3) organization, LEE was born.

Translation: Legally, Teach for America can’t write or influence education policy, but by creating a faux nonprofit, it can.

On the LEE home page, a job posting for ALEC is listed.

Featured Job
Education Task Force Director

Company: American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)
Type of Position: Full-time; Non-Profit
Location: Washington, DC

After an exhaustive search no financial records for this organization were found. Funding sources are also scarce.

Teach for America’s influence reaches far beyond the damage its recruits do in the classroom. It produces “leaders” whose mission is to privatize public education under the guise of astroturf organizations like LEE and many others that only give lip service to education equity. Through this seemingly innocuous network, TFA has been able to infiltrate every facet of education by placing former corps members in positions of power. With an infrastructure like that, it’s no that wonder ALEC has been so successful in moving its education agenda forward.

EdWatch Update: Stand for Children 0

Posted on April 17, 2012 by dmayer

Yesterday I received an e-mail asking for help.

My name is ********. I am a teacher in the ******* School District. You’ve probably heard, but last night our union voted to strike. Our neighboring school districts are in similar situations. Not a good thing. I have been feeling that something was very strange with this negotiation. Something was up. A colleague and I started to dig a little. We thought perhaps the “Tea Party” might have influenced our school board, but there seemed to be little there. Then we stumbled upon you (Oregon Save Our Schools of which I am a member) and Stand for Children.

The three districts have ties with the ******** law firm. Perhaps you know of them. They specialize in busting unions and defending school districts. Our board members seem to be involved with Stand For Children.

. . .

Our associations have been at a loss to explain where these new ideas have come from, and so far, they have been outmaneuvered by the professional negotiations and tactics being employed by our administrators. And so, we are being forced to strike. I feel like we are being led into a trap.

In response we have updated the Stand for Children EdWatch page to include the most recent financial statements, annual reports, and articles about Stand’s shenanigans around the country. Stand executives, board members, and wealthiest supporters are arrogant enough to think that Oregonians aren’t aware of its dirty dealings including teacher and union bashing and outright election buying in other states. They don’t seem to realize that what happens in Massachusetts, Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington doesn’t stay there. We hear about it in Oregon, too, and we don’t expect to be treated any differently.

Find out more about Stand for Children on EdWatch.