Every Child Deserves a Great Education

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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:


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.


TEACHERS for America – Photos 0

Posted on February 25, 2014 by dmayer

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If Bill Gates did this one thing, student test scores would soar 0

Posted on February 03, 2014 by dmayer

For decades Bill Gates and his billionaire buddies along with high ranking government officials have been “reforming” our public schools. They have invested hundreds of millions of dollars creating charter and virtual schools, de-professionalizing teaching, manipulating standards and curriculum, eliminating libraries and art, music, and P.E. classes, promoting larger class sizes, and legislating policy initiatives that defund schools. Have these interventions produced higher scores on competitive tests and improved the education experience of students?  No.

Here’s a suggestion for Bill and his buddies who want to reform our public schools: FEED THE CHILDREN. Concentrating on this one thing would cause test scores to soar.

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Feeding students good food without unhealthy additives, preservatives, and fats leads to high achievement.

On January 30, 2014, America learned that, “Up to 40 kids at Uintah Elementary in Salt Lake City picked up their lunches Tuesday, then watched as the meals were taken and thrown away because of outstanding balances on their accounts — a move that shocked and angered parents.”

Apparently this is not the first time children at that school have been denied food because as school officials pointed out, “The children were given milk and fruit instead of a full lunch — the meal that the school says it gives any child who isn’t able to pay.”

This isn’t the first time a child has been denied food by school officials. Just a few months earlier, according to KTRK the same Dickensian behavior was witnessed in Dickinson (irony noted), Texas, “A 12-year-old Dickinson student’s breakfast was tossed in the trash, because his account was short by just 30 cents.” He didn’t ask for more; he just asked for some.  Even though children in America aren’t forced to work off their debts in poorhouses as English children were centuries ago, many students come from poor houses where scrounging up as little as 30 cents for a meal is often a struggle. As families are faced with food stamps cuts, they must spend more of their income for food at home.

Both schools defended their actions by hiding behind policy. One might wonder how many school districts have such policies and how many children across the nation go hungry each day because they can’t afford to pay for food at school. In this age of education reform, when a student’s fate rests on how high he or she scores on a standardized test, shouldn’t we insist that all students be fed and fed well? The inhumanity of this intervention is undeniable. Shouldn’t any intervention taken on by the school be one that leads to student success instead of failure? Suppose instead of denying students food, schools provided them with nutritious and delicious meals. Wouldn’t that make a difference in student achievement? Yes.

The ideas of Donella Meadows, known for Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System, are overlooked in today’s education reform climate. Education reformers prefer to replace the whole system with one of their own liking, one they can ultimately own. Reformers, who are not educators themselves, are prone to believe that scholarship is irrelevant to the education profession. Their process is to ignore tried and true strategies that work, and instead to propose a hodgepodge of punitive initiatives using students, teachers, and even entire schools as guinea pigs while they determine which ideas are most profitable for them.

If sustained high student achievement is in fact the goal of true education reform, feeding children nutritious meals at school might be considered a small shift that could produce big changes. According to Meadows:

Folks who do systems analysis have a great belief in “leverage points.” These are places within a complex system (a corporation, an economy, a living body, a city, an ecosystem) where a small shift in one thing can produce big changes in everything.

Leverage points and interventions are ignored by reformers who insist, without a shred of credible evidence, that teacher quality as measured by student standardized test scores is the sole valid indicator of learning at school. The agenda and policy set by wealthy non-educators and government officials is so narrowly focused on the teacher/test correlation that it eliminates consideration of all other small interventions that might produce huge positive results, the nutrition – hunger/achievement correlation for example.

Fortunately for us, a study measuring the effects of a nutritious diet on student achievement has already been conducted. Before holding-teachers-accountable-for-every-single-ailment-of-our-education-system became fashionable, school districts experimented (in the true sense of the word) to find data to support the hypothesis that poverty and achievement are related. It’s hard to believe that just 30-some short years ago we cared enough about kids to try a jaw-droppingly innovative experiment like this one. Even though it was conducted some three decades ago, the results are every bit as valid today as they were then.

According to the New York Times, the experiment was initiated as a result of a lawsuit filed in 1978:

A settlement has been been reached in a three-year-old class action suit brought by Consumers Union in an effort to force the City of New York to improve the nutritional quality of its school lunch program. In light of the Reagan Administration’s recent proposals to lower the requirements for the national school lunch program and the improvements already made in the city’s program, however, the settlement may be moot.

The suit, based on a 1978 audit conducted by the General Accounting Office, found that 40 percent of the lunches served did not provide adequate amounts of food or the variety required by law.

Elizabeth Cagan, director of the Board of Education’s Office of School Food Service had already joined together with researcher Dr. Stephen Schoenthaler on The Impact of a Low Food Additive and Sucrose Diet on Academic Performance in 803 New York City Public Schools to determined the effects of a healthy diet on student achievement.

In the spring of 1979, New York City’s public schools ranked in the 39th percentile on standardized California Achievement Test scores given nationwide. That means that 61 percent of the nation’s public schools scored higher. They had been in the lower half of the country for years. However, for a few years in the 1980s, these same 803 schools ranked in the upper half of the nation’s schools. They went from 11% below the national average to 5% above it. What happened?

The introduction of policy based on the Feingold diet which lowered sucrose, synthetic food color/flavors, and two preservatives (BHA and BHT) over 4 years in 803 public schools was followed by a 15.7% increase in mean academic percentile ranking above the rest of the nation’s schools who used the same standardized tests. Prior to the 15.7% gain, the standard deviation of the annual change in nation percentile rating had been less than 1%.

All schools and all children showed improvement, but not all children made a 16% improvement. Rather, the lowest achievers improved the most. That bears repeating: the lowest achievers improved more than the mean average of 16%. The children who had not been helped by any other intervention improved the most. Incredible, but true! Literally a recipe for success! (Click here for a clearer image of the graph below.)

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So, what happened next? Why did the high test scores last for only four years? The reforms instituted by Cagan were not preserved. Soon the improvements made in the NYC lunch menu were altered to again include foods with unhealthy sweeteners, flavors, preservatives, food dyes, and fats. Children stopped eating or ate the cheap, poor quality food. Test scores dropped. Cagan’s tenure at NCY Food Services is a testament to the difference one person can make in the lives of millions. That her legacy was not preserved is a travesty for the children of New York City.

So, Bill Gates, and you, too Arne Duncan, I challenge you to a noble experiment. Feed the children. No more harmful sugar additives, flavors, food dyes, preservatives, or fats. None of that genetically modified stuff, either. Feed the children well, and they will achieve more, much more. This must be a nationwide systemic intervention, not a competition where some kids get good food and some kids don’t.  This isn’t The Hunger Games, after all, and besides, we can afford it. Feed all the children well. Then, install safeguards to keep  this fine intervention in place for years to come. Your goal of improving education will be a successful and sustainable one!

Don’t know how to get started? The Feingold Association is an all volunteer organization that offers nutrition education about healthy eating. If you watch nothing else, view the slide show, LET’S DO LUNCH! It seems to have been prepared especially with you in mind. Watch the whole thing — it’s long but worth it. Then, view the videos below. I’m sure you can take it from there. Let me know if you need help. I know of about three million others who will be happy to assist. And, after the Feed the Children Well project is up and running, we have some other suggestions for you.

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 and Stay Away TFA! 0

Posted on September 22, 2013 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!

To read more about what people are saying about Teach for America, check out our EdWatch page.

“Bennett” redefines “reform” 0

Posted on August 02, 2013 by dmayer

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Today I received an e-mail from my mentor, retired Indiana University – Purdue University (IUPUI) Professor of Science Education, Michael Cohen, about his long time nemesis, Tony Bennett, former Indiana State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Today Bennett resigned his position as Florida’s education commissioner amid scandal. He is accused of falsifying data to enhance the performance of his favored charter school. Still, professor Cohen is trying to have a sense of humor about it, but it’s tough. He writes:

We now have a new word in the English language.

To Bennett: (usually a verb). Named after Tony Bennett former Superintendent of Public Instruction in Indiana and Florida and also William Bennett (no relation to Tony) who was President Reagan’s Secretary of Education.

Definition: A verb meaning to manipulate data to prove your conclusion regardless of the evidence. Always done with a serious expression, a forceful position, and stated in terms of an emergency of impending catastrophe. Also used as bennetting to describe the process used to fabricate evidence to prove any point you want.

A bennetter is one who bennetts by only selecting data to prove their point and leaves out other critical factors that would contradict their position. Never provides the total picture.

There are many related words such as bennettazation, creating a system that fixes the results to provide only answers you agree with. See also bennettary, bennettology, and many, many more.

He adds with anger and angst that we all share:

But in reality it is a tragedy. Look at all the time wasted, kids and teachers hurt, parents being pushed into worrying they would make the wrong decision, time not spent on real development (rather than reform), schools stigmatized, money wasted, major changes created that cannot be undone, and probably lots of other things I can’t think of right now.

It’s a great example of the old saying, “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” Bennett used a little knowledge and lots of people followed him – from the State Board of Education and the Educational Roundtable, to school districts, individual schools, and individual teachers, students, and parents. And those who questioned the process (questioned Bennett or any reformers) were discounted as wanting to keep the “Status Quo.” It was a take no prisoners response to any suggestion that Bennett and his ilk might not be exactly correct.

Personally, I am mourning the loss of the Key Learning Community which had so many interesting and unique ways to look at schooling, not the least of which was that a school is a research institution and is always looking at ways to improve the learning and growing environment for students, teachers, and parents.

So we have to learn from this experience and figure how to go forward with real innovations.


Key Learning Community, where I once taught, is (was) quite possibly the most wonderful public school ever visualized and realized by a small group of innovative teachers. The “reformers” killed it.

(Michael’s comments published with permission.)

Indiana stands against the Common Core 0

Posted on March 07, 2013 by dmayer

Indiana is being lambasted with Common Core commercials produced by the anti-public education group Stand for Children. Why? Hoosiers are wise to state politicians who are privatizing their public schools. The people need more convincing that national standards are a good thing. Enter Stand for Children to get the job done. Thirty-second spots are airing across the state to convince parents, teachers, and community members that Common Core State Standards are essential to providing students with an adequate education. Will indiana residents be able to influence legislators to stop the Common Core?

For years Indiana has had strong state standards supported by Frameworks that assist teachers in delivering the curriculum. To replace decades of work completed by the people of the state with national Common Core standards seems ridiculous to some.

Here are arguments from Indiana educators and parents reduced t “Myths” by Stand for Children. Many of these arguments can be made by any of the 45 states that have signed on to implement the Common Core. Just insert the name of your state for Indiana. Regardless of Stand’s “facts,” the point may be argues that Common Core legislation was ramrodded through state legislatures without adequate discussion or debate, and without public approval.

Fact: Common Core is a state-led initiative by governors, state superintendents, and nonprofit agencies to modernize education standards. It is research-based and molded with more than 10,000 comments from the public. The Indiana State Board of Education, to which the General Assembly has given the task of adopting standards, voluntarily adopted the Common Core in 2010. Indiana received no incentives from the federal government for taking this action.

Fact: While Indiana’s standards are high compared to many other states, children are still leaving school unprepared for what lies ahead. In addition to the students who do not graduate from high school or choose not to attend college, one-third of Indiana students who do attend college require remediation in math or English.The Fordham Institute, one of the organizations often cited praising Indiana’s standards even said some of the Common Core shifts “would benefit Indiana’s already-strong standards,” and the Common Core State Standards are quality standards for the nation.

Fact: Common Core allows states to add standards on top of the Common Core. This is known as the “15% Rule”, due to the amount of standards that can be added. Additionally, Indiana law allows Home Rule, which means school corporations can adopt standards above the state minimum.

Fact: Standards, by definition, are not a curriculum. Common Core defines the “what” rather than the “how” of teaching. Common Core is a set of standards that outline what students should know at a particular grade level in order to be on track to mastering skills and content to be prepared for college and beyond. Curriculum – the map, schedule, and method for teaching standards – will be a decision left up to school corporations and teachers to construct.

Fact: Neither Congress nor the U.S. Department of Education was involved in the development of Common Core, nor have they mandated Common Core adoption. Not all states have chosen to participate. In fact, the Common Core are nationally aligned state standards because they were developed in collaboration between state and education leaders across the country.

Fact: Indiana currently spends $93.9 million annually on standards-related costs. And the costs of Common Core implementation have varied greatly. At least one estimate said a Common Core transition can save Indiana $23 million. Additionally, Indiana is in a better place than most states because the state allowed districts to make technology investments with textbook funds starting in 2009. (source) This means most – if not all – of Common Core implementation costs can be covered by existing spending.

Fact: The fact is that currently there are too many students graduating high school reading at a 7th grade level and even lower. This is a major reason why the Common Core were established in the first place. Common Core standards push students to read at even higher levels earlier in their school careers. For example, the current standard for a 9th grade reading level will become the new standard for a 7th grade reading level under full implementation of the Common Core.

Fact: An education rooted in the Common Core standards would actually prepare students to enter a university setting having spent the last 12 years building up to the complexity of material they will encounter at higher levels of education. Nowhere in the Common Core initiative or research do the authors define “college readiness” as readiness for a “two-year college” instead of a university.

Fact: Indiana did not adopt Common Core when it applied for the first round of RTTT funds, and the state did not apply for the second round. Indiana adopted the Common Core on its own terms in August 2010. (source) Indiana also adopted the new standards one year before the NCLB waiver was even an option for states.

Fact: Common Core standards call for 70% of all texts (not 70% of English Language Arts texts) read in 12th grade to be nonfiction, which includes content area texts, such as science and history. (source) This was done to support literacy instruction in other content areas and underscore the role that all teachers must play in literacy efforts. (source) This will help ensure students are graduating high school adequately prepared to read rigorous college and career-level material, a majority of which are informational texts.

Fact: The Common Core standards provide new standards for English Language Arts and math only, not social studies, science and technical subjects. Nor will these other subjects be evaluated on the new PARCC assessment test. Current Indiana Academic Standards will be used for these subjects.

Reflections on the Rhee protest in Seattle — photo essay 0

Posted on February 21, 2013 by dmayer

It was a dark and bitingly cold night when 70 or so education activists gathered at the town hall in Seattle to boycott Michelle Rhee. She was in town to promote her new book. Students and members of several groups including Seattle Education, Social Equality Educators, and Socialist Alternative met in solidarity to protest Rhee’s support of corporate reform, charter schools, and high-stakes testing.

Students protest Rhee’s support of charter schools that segregate or “colonize” minority and poor students.

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High-stakes tests favored by Rhee have led to a curriculum of “teaching to the test” and less art, music and P.E. in schools.

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During Rhee’s tenure as Chancellor of Washington D.C. Public Schools, widespread cheating occurred.

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There are at least 3,000,000 teachers in America who have more education expertise than Michelle Rhee. Jonathan Kozol is one that has written prolifically about America’s poorest students. The difference between educators like Kozol and Rhee is that Rhee is in the pocket of her billionaire funders who favor privatizing our public schools, and that buys her influence.

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Charter schools disproportionately enroll poor minority children and are known to push out students with special needs, students with behavioral problems, and English language learners.

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Tax cuts for the top 1%, including the richest corporations, and the abysmal design of No Child Left Behind have left our public education system in much need of repair.

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This one’s for you Bill, Eli, Walton brothers and sisters. 

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You can listen to an interview of Rhee by NPR’s Seattle affiliate, KUOW and a response by Seattle Education blogger Dora Taylor at the 17:15 minute mark.

Michelle Rhee, corporate education reformer was in Seattle Tuesday to promote her new book, Radical: Fighting to Put Students First. On the book jacket, Jonathan Alter champions her as “a hard-charging champion of education reform and a strong Democrat,” while Geoffrey Canada calls her “a national treasure.” Apparently reviewers at Amazon.com have a different opinion. Currently, the book has received a one-out-of-five star rating.

From Amazon cirtics:

There are a lot of stories where she’s the only one who cares about kids. She blasts the other teachers at the school where she taught at when she was in her 20′. The politicians, her central office staff, teachers and principals in DC, a funder who won’t give her enough money — they just don’t care. No one cares except Michelle.

When she quits DC’s schools, it’s more of the same. She name-drops all the people who called her and said they wanted to hire her and talk with her–foundations, the Aspen Institute, the Hoover Institution, Meg Whitman, Chris Christie, Rahm Emanuel. But she says no. Instead, she asks the Walmart family to give her $100 million to start her own organization, though it’s not clear whether she got the $100 million or what her organization, called StudentsFirst, actually does with its money. Do they put it into schools and classrooms? Is it a lobbying firm? A PAC? A charity like March of Dimes, only for schools?

If you’re really into Michelle Rhee and want to know all about her, hey, go ahead and read the book. Different strokes for different folks. But if you’re looking for an honest self-appraisal of her career, or if you’re the least bit skeptical or if you think critically about what’s really best for kids, this isn’t worth reading. Lots of people see Diane Ravitch as an alternative to Michelle Rhee, but I’d recommend John Merrow’s The Influence of Teachers: Reflections on Teaching and Leadership, which is far more serious and thoughtful than this.

Protesters in Seattle aren’t really that into Rhee, and they already know plenty about her. They met outside the townhall where she spoke passing out leaflets, picketing, and chanting for an hour before she spoke, although you wouldn’t know it from the Seattle Times coverage of the event. A more accurate account was provided by one of the attendees, Steve Nesich:

I sincerely mean no hostility or personal slight towards Sarah Freishtat, the young intern who wrote this story. I’m certain, like many young writers, she possesses a great deal of potential.

But, unfortunately, this is exceedingly poor journalism. It resembles the “puff pieces” I normally associate with some mass market magazines, replete with full page, full color ads, targeted to a demographic obsessed with frivolous distractions such as celebrity, fashion and “lifestyle”.

This view was reinforced, right down to the jarring, pseudo-Saskia de Brauw “wannabe” photo image.

For someone apparently unfamiliar with Rhee’s history, I assume it’s easy to “fall for her”, in more ways than one. Rhee is known for her ability to read and manipulate people, and leveraging that to get what she wants from them. Perhaps that explains the superficial and fawning coverage; however, it doesn’t justify or negate it.

Freishtat’s obsequious tone permeates this entire article. Her narrative demonstrates both a woeful lack of perception and the pangs of an aspiring, but malleable young journalist, desperately hoping to “stay in touch” with someone as wealthy and “connected” as Michelle Rhee.

I was at Rhee’s presentation, and the hall—with a surprising number of vacant seats—was far from “overflowing”. And a high percentage of that audience was clearly disturbed by Rhee’s “stage smile”, and overtly hostile to her many distortions and fabrications.

Ironically, one of the few clearly accurate parts of this story quoted Rhee as saying “if she could do it all over again, she would manage news sources better.”

Judging by the final copy in this “Edu Celebrity” piece, I’d say that Rhee has clearly accomplished the “news management” part of this—exceedingly well; she apparently managed to turn you from a news organization—at least in this instance—into a very compliant “marketing and promotions firm”, with all services courteously provided, gratis, by the compliant “professionals” at The Seattle Times.

Opt Out bumper stickers, yard signs, and buttons 0

Posted on February 19, 2013 by dmayer

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In January, when nearly all of the teachers at a Seattle high school decided to refuse to give mandated standardized district tests called the Measures of Academy Progress because, they said, the exams don’t evaluate learning and are a waste of time, people took notice. Since that time many other teachers, parents, and students have joined in to support them. They have released the genie from the bottle and it’s not going back in. Today many people are beginning to question the testing craze.

Fanning the flames of the debate is a newly released study identifying a stress gene. Slate DoubleX Gabfest posts a great discussion about testing based on an article that appeared in The New York Times February 6, 2013.  According to the authors of “Why Can Some Kids Handle Pressure While Others Fall Apart?”, researchers have discovered a gene that identifies how people react to stress. The conversation focuses on stress induced by standardized testing on students. Depending on their genetic make-up, researchers say, people can have either warrior or worrier reactions to pressure. Warriors, who are more easy-going and not stressed-out by tests, do better than worriers, who are generally more intelligent and better organized, but do relatively poorly on tests under pressure.

In Taiwan, where the research study was performed, administrators stopped giving the tests because they were disadvantaging, unnecessarily, the worriers. The test had been thought to identify the best and brightest achievers to go on to the university and professional careers. But based on test results, the people with higher IQs and excellent organizing skills were being sentenced to toiling in factories. Ironic.

The Little Data Point and the Big Bad Test written by a 12-year-old girl is read by her mother who is hosting the discussion. Her point, no pun intended, in not to be taken lightly.

Listen to the conversation on here.  The test discussion begins at the 21:30 mark and lasts about 15 minutes. Well worth a listen.

United Opt Out National

We opt out of high-stakes testing and we resist all market -based reforms that seek to privatize and destroy public education.

Let your voice be heard in the testing debate. Below are bumper stickers designed to support students and teachers who have been subjugated to unnecessary tests for far too long. These were designed at Build-a-Sign, a site chosen randomly from the internet. The Opt Out signs are interspersed with education appreciation ones. You may design your own and purchase bumper stickers and signs here or from a local vendor. Buttons were designed on templates provided at Make Pins.com. The objective is to support teachers who have no choice but to give meaningless test, and students who have no choice but to take them. UNTIL NOW!

Yard Signs 

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Bumper Stickers


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Boycott RHEE 0

Posted on February 15, 2013 by dmayer

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There will be a protest at 6:00 PM on February 19th in front of Town Hall where Michelle Rhee will be talking about her latest fundraising effort, her book. Join us. We will have signs…and tape.

Seattle Education posts a comprehensive, up-to-date review of Rhee — from her Teach for America days terrorizing little children to her scandal-ridden days as Chancellor of Washington, D.C. Public Schools, to her newest nonprofit venture (from which she will profit handsomely), Students First.

“Most of Rhee’s agenda runs counter to what parents identify as their top priorities, including small class sizes, less high-stakes testing, improving neighborhood schools, recruiting and retaining strong and experienced teachers, and giving parents a real voice in governing schools.”

It won’t be the first time teachers, parents, and teachers have boycotted Rhee. Last year at this time East Bay CTA & CFT Teachers Picketed Michelle Rhee chanting “We Are, We Teach The 99%.”