Monday, January 26, 2015

VIDEO: I AM NOT A TEST SCORE- Baltimore's Youth Dreamers

I am NOT a Test Score!

This video was created by the students in the Youth Dreamers, Inc.
( to accompany a book they are publishing called I Am Not a Test Score: Lessons Learned from Dreaming
This is a recently published collaborative book about what the young people and their adult allies learned from dreaming and building Baltimore's only youth-run youth center. It includes lessons learned inside and outside classrooms that were not controlled by standardized tests. Through this accompanying video, we give voice to other youth in Baltimore who share how they want to be taught, how they feel they should be judged, and what inspires them...beyond standardized tests.
Published on Aug 4, 2013


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

MLK Would Say: " Black Education Matters!"

With Public Schools Under Attack, What Would Martin Say?

ByYohuru Williams
'King saw the goal of education as more than performance on high-stakes tests or the acquisition of job skills or career competencies. He saw it as the cornerstone of free thought and the use of knowledge in the public interest.' 
This year marked the fiftieth anniversary of Mississippi Freedom Summer and the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, one of the most important pieces of civil rights legislation in US history. It also has marked a renewed push by the proponents of corporate education reform to dismantle public education in what they persist in referring to as the great "civil rights issue of our time." The leaders of this effort, including US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, are fond of appropriating the language of the civil rights movement to justify their anti-union, anti-teacher, pro-testing privatization agenda. But they are not social justice advocates. And Arne Duncan is no Reverend King.

In a 2010 speech observing the forty-fifth anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery March, Duncan boldly invoked the words of John Kennedy: "Simple justice requires that public funds . . . not be spent in any fashion which encourages, subsidizes, or results in racial discrimination." Duncan enjoined those in attendance, "Let me repeat that, President Kennedy said that no taxpayer dollars should be spent if they subsidize or result in racial discrimination." Yet Duncan and the Obama Administration-through Race to the Top, a program similar to the Bush Administration's No Child Left Behind-have pursued policies that exacerbate segregation and racial inequality.

In a 2010 interview with then-chancellor of the New York City Department of Education Joel Klein, Duncan went even further, invoking the name of Martin Luther King to justify attacks on public schools. Dr. King "explained in his powerful Letter from Birmingham Jail why the civil rights movement could not wait," said Duncan. "America today cannot wait to transform education. We've been far too complacent and too passive. We have perpetuated poverty and social failure for far too long. The need is urgent and the time for change is now."

But there is plenty of evidence that King would never have endorsed corporate education reform or privatization. Consider how King defined the role of education.

While still an undergraduate at Morehouse College in Atlanta in 1947, King said: "I too often find that most college men have a misconception of the purpose of education." They "think that education should equip them with the proper instruments of exploitation so that they can forever trample over the masses." He continued: "Still others think that education should furnish them with noble ends rather than means to an end."

Here, King plainly laid out two visions of education that continue to war against each other. While he acknowledged the importance of an education in preparing persons for the workforce, enabling "man to become more efficient, to achieve with increasing facility the legitimate goals of his life," he also saw a much deeper purpose.

"We must remember," King warned, "that intelligence is not enough . . . Intelligence plus character-that is the goal of true education." He asserted, "The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate."

King saw the goal of education as more than performance on high-stakes tests or the acquisition of job skills or career competencies. He saw it as the cornerstone of free thought and the use of knowledge in the public interest. For King, the lofty goal of education was not just to make a living but also to make the world a better place by using that production of knowledge for good. "To save man from the morass of propaganda," King opined, "is one of the chief aims of education. Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction." The notion that privatization can foster equality is fiction.
King was born into a world in which privatization was the enemy of equality. In the 1930s, for instance, the NAACP struggled against agents of the Democratic Party in many southern states that tried to define it as a private club; they cut off avenues to full political participation through vehicles like the white primary. Poll taxes and literacy tests were also still employed in many locations to deny African Americans political participation. It is hard to imagine King under any circumstances endorsing either testing or privatization as the means of ensuring equality.

In fact, King by implication strongly rebuked the privatizers in his observations regarding Senator Eugene Talmadge, the notorious segregationist governor of his home state of Georgia.

Talmadge, King observed, "possessed one of the better minds of Georgia, or even America," and "wore the Phi Beta Kappa key." King reflected, "By all measuring rods, Mr. Talmadge could think critically and intensively; yet he contends that I am an inferior being. Are those the types of men we call educated?"

The same could be said at present for the cadre of corporate education reformers touting Ivy League degrees and billion-dollar bank accounts without an ounce of empathy for those harmed by their efforts. Like Talmadge, they fail to see beyond the narrow confines of their own self-interest the inherently dangerous and corrosive impact their policies are having not only on the nation's youth but also the foundations of American democracy. When Arne Duncan suggests, for instance, as he did in a speech at a Brooklyn charter school in 2009, that based on high-stakes testing, "we should be able to look every second grader in the eye and say, 'You're on track, you're going to be able to go to a good college, or you're not,' " there is a serious problem. In neglecting to address how the nation would deal with the so-called failures on these high-stakes tests, he is not only betraying the movement but the very function of education as King imagined it.

King would never have endorsed high-stakes testing. "The function of education," he explained in 1947, "is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically." Furthermore, he never would have supported any individual or group that promoted a view of education simply as a means of ensuring job efficiency without human compassion. Education that "stops with efficiency," he warned, "may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no morals."

King saw how school privatization was used to maintain segregation in Georgia. He witnessed the insidious efforts of Eugene Talmadge's son, Herman, a distinguished lawyer, who succeeded his father in the governor's office. Herman Talmadge created what became known as the "private-school plan." In 1953, before the Supreme Court's ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, Talmadge proposed an amendment to the Georgia Constitution to empower the general assembly to privatize the state's public education system. "We can maintain separate schools regardless of the US Supreme Court," Talmadge advised his colleagues, "by reverting to a private system, subsidizing the child rather than the political subdivision." The plan was simple. If the Supreme Court decided, as it eventually did in Brown, to mandate desegregation, the state would close the schools and issue vouchers to allowing students to enroll in segregated private schools.
What we are seeing in the name of "reform" today is the same plan with slight modifications: brand schools as low-performing factories of failure, encourage privatization, and leave the vast majority of students in underfunded, highly stigmatized public schools.

This effort will create an America that looks more like the 1967 Kerner Commission's forecast, two societies separate and unequal, than Martin Luther King's Beloved Community.

For King, the Beloved Community was a global vision of human cooperation and understanding where all peoples could share in the abundant resources of the planet. He believed that universal standards of human decency could be used to challenge the existence of poverty, famine, and economic displacement in all of its forms. A celebration of achievement and an appreciation of fraternity would blot out racism, discrimination, and distinctions of any kind that sought to divide rather than elevate people-no matter what race, religion, or test score. The Beloved Community promoted international cooperation over competition. The goal of education should be not to measure our progress against the world but to harness our combined intelligence to triumph over the great social, scientific, humanistic, and environmental issues of our time.

While it seeks to claim the mantle of the movement and Dr. King's legacy, corporate education reform is rooted in fear, fired by competition and driven by division. It seeks to undermine community rather than build it and, for this reason, it is the ultimate betrayal of the goals and values of the movement.

Real triumph over educational inequalities can only come from a deeper investment in our schools and communities and a true commitment to tackling poverty, segregation, and issues affecting students with special needs and bilingual education. The Beloved Community is to be found not in the segregated citadels of private schools but in a well-funded system of public education, free and open to all-affirming our commitment to democracy and justice and our commitment to the dignity and worth of our greatest resource, our youth.
Yohuru Williams is an education activist and professor of history at Fairfield University in Fairfield, Connecticut. He is the author, editor, or co-editor of several books, including Black Politics/White Power: Civil Rights Black Power and Black Panthers in New Haven(Blackwell, 2006), Teaching Beyond the Textbook: Six Investigative Strategies (Corwin Press, 2008), and Liberated Territory: Toward a Local History of the Black Panther Party (Duke, 2008). He also served as general editor for the Association for the Study of African American Life and History's 2002 and 2003 Black History Month publications, The Color Line Revisited (Tapestry Press, 2002) and The Souls of Black Folks: Centennial Reflections (Africa World Press, 2003).

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Please Comment On This Brooklyn Charter School

Professional Prep Charter School- Brooklyn, NY
 As we know, the Charter School Movement in NY City and State is driven by the large corporate privateers. They make it very difficult for small and independent charters to get a foothold. And if they are anywhere near being African or Latino Centered, they are driven out of existence- often even before they open!

Hence, Professional Prep seems to -so far- have fallen thru the cracks. Maybe it's because those who have created it are young and don't have a history of decades of fighting the Giuliani-Bloomberg racist education machine. Maybe there is no political baggage conjured up from the UFT and the corporate media... Maybe it's because they call it "Professional Prep".

One thing is clear: we should take a closer look at Professional Prep. Pay a visit, talk with the educators, students and parents.

Please comment: What do you think?

Hype? Or the Real Deal?

Can it survive? How can we replicate it, if it is doing the right educational thing?



Post by Rafiq Jeffries Kalam Id-Din.

Monday, December 15, 2014

North Carolina Gets Koch-Distorted History... Look Out New York!

 Inside The Koch-Backed History Lessons North Carolina Wants To Teach High School Students

Public high school students in North Carolina will be taught from a lesson plans and worksheets prepared by a organization closely tied to the billionaire Koch brothers, if the state’s Department of Public Instruction gets its way. According to the Raleigh News and Observer, the Virginia-based Bill of Rights Institute received a “$100,000, sole-source contract with [North Carolina] to help develop materials for teachers to use in a course on founding principles that the state requires students to take.” 

The N&O also notes that the organization receives funding directly from David Koch and from two Koch family foundations, although, if anything, this description understates the Institute’s ties to the conservative billionaires. Two of the Institutes four board members are employed by Koch entities — one is a senior vice president at Koch Industries and another is director of higher education programs at the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation — and many of the Institute’s other top leaders also appear likely to push a political agenda in line with the Koch brothers’ anti-government views. Board member Todd Zywicki, is a George Mason law professor and a leading opponent of Wall Street reforms such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The Institute’s president, David J. Bobb, founded two centers at Hillsdale College, a conservative institution of higher education that proclaims its opposition to “the dehumanizing, discriminatory trend of so called ‘social justice’ and ‘multicultural diversity.’

A Teacher’s Best Friend

The Department of Public Instruction “highly recommend[s]” that North Carolina school districts use the Institute’s instruction materials to teach the state’s students about America’s founding principles and the Constitution itself — and, on the surface, the materials look quite impressive. They consist of 391 pages of lesson plans, worksheets, student activities and answer keys for teachers, organized into “ten instructional modules” and a “final project” designed to cover and entire semester of coursework. The lesson plans tie each module to particular objectives laid out in the state’s curriculum. And many of the lessons taught by the materials are unobjectionable, or even quite important. A unit on the rights of the accused, for example, emphasizes the principle that “it was better for guilty people to go free than for the judicial system to condemn even one innocent person.”

The Bill of Rights Institute staffer in charge of developing its “curriculum resources” is a former schoolteacher who taught in North Carolina schools. It shows. The Institute was clearly aware of the demands teachers face to submit lesson plans that comply with state standards, to break lessons down into manageable chunks, and to teach higher level reasoning skills beyond memorization and basic comprehension. Many teachers, confronted with the task of planning to teach a new subject matter, will no doubt be grateful that the Institute’s materials exist.

Yet the materials also push a very clear agenda in subtle — and often not-so-subtle — ways. “One might say the Founders were not only concerned with property rights,” a unit on that subject proclaims, “they were passionate about them.” Students are taught that “property rights secure freedom” and that James Madison “criticized excessive taxes.” Much of the materials focus on matters of particular concern to well-moneyed groups such as land developers. The Supreme Court case upholding Obamacare is painted as the culmination of a grand expansion of federal power, even though it actually reduced Congress’ ability to legislate.

The Constitution as Climate Change

Parts of the Institute’s materials rely on a tactic that will be familiar to anyone who has debated a climate change denier, teaching students that a controversy exists over a question that has largely been resolved. The Seventeenth Amendment, for example, is put up for debate. 

The Seventeenth Amendment provides that U.S. senators will be selected by voters and not by state lawmakers. Prior to its enactment, state legislatures were frequently deadlocked over who to send to the Senate, and corruption was widespread as moneyed interests sought to influence who would become a senator. Today, this amendment is almost entirely uncontroversial. A 2013 poll found that only 16 percent of American adults believe that it should be repealed. 

One member of the 16 percent, however, is Professor Zywicki, the Bill of Rights Institute board member. The materials make a point of presenting Zywicki’s argument that the amendment “resulted in more federal laws that infringe on the powers of states or that carry mandates with no funding attached.”

Similarly, the materials present another important constitutional change that has largely been accepted by liberals and conservatives alike as a catalyst for federal encroachment. In the early days of the Republic, the Bill of Rights was understood to place limits on the federal government, but states remained free to ignore these rights so long as they complied with their own constitution. After the Civil War, however, the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified, and it fundamentally shifted the balance of power between people and the states. 

According to Ohio Congressman John Bingham, the primary author of this amendment, one of its purposes was to require states to comply with “the first eight amendments to the Constitution of the United States.” States would be free to ignore the Bill of Rights no longer.

Yet the Supreme Court initially read the Fourteenth Amendment very differently, and they did so for many years. It wasn’t until the mid-to-late twentieth century that the justices began systematically applying most of the Bill of Rights against the states through a process known as “incorporation.” Though justices and scholars still disagree on the margins about how far incorporation should go — the Supreme Court split 5-4 in 2010 on whether the Second Amendment applies to the states — the view that the bulk of the Bill of Rights apply to the states and the federal government alike is now largely uncontroversial.

The Institute’s materials argue that “[i]ncorporation increased the role of the federal government in citizens’ lives” and that “[m]any people now expect that the federal government—not the states—will be the main protector of individual rights.” Though they acknowledge that “[s]ome legal scholars support incorporation,” they warn that “[o]ther scholars” believe that, by subjecting states to constitutional suits in federal court, incorporation gives the federal government a “veto power over state law.” The materials, in other words, present an increased federal role as a cost that must be weighed against the benefits of incorporation. It is unlikely, however, that many students would consider this cost to be very significant at all if the materials presented them with a more comprehensive history of the debate over incorporation.

The materials’ claim that incorporation would lead to the federal government and not the states becoming “the main protector of individual rights” closely maps the Supreme Court’s holding in United States v. Cruikshank that “the people must look to the States” to vindicate many of their rights. Yet, as I explain in my book Injustices, the Cruikshank decision and its aftermath do far more to discredit this view of federal and state power than it does to support it.

In 1872, less than a decade after General Robert E. Lee surrendered his army at Appomattox Courthouse, Louisiana’s Republican Governor Henry Warmoth struck a Faustian bargain with white supremacist Democrats: Warmoth agreed to throw his full support behind the Democratic candidate to succeed him as governor, if Democratic lawmakers agreed to send him to the United States Senate (this was, after all, before the Seventeenth Amendment was ratified). As it turned out, Warmoth’s support included installing Democrats as voter registrars who engaged in widespread voter suppression. Elderly former slaves were denied the right to vote because they had no birth certificate proving they were over the age of 21. 

Voter registration sites were relocated, but only white voters were informed of the new location. The result was a contested election where Democratic and Republican candidates both claimed they were legitimately elected to various offices.

In Colfax, Louisiana, black Republicans occupied a courthouse in an effort to cement their control over the local government. Less than three weeks later, a white supremacist mob armed with rifles and a small cannon marched on the courthouse. A monument that now marks the site of this massacre claims that “three white men and 150 negroes were slain” in the ensuing slaughter.

The Cruikshank case was a federal prosecution charging several of the white supremacists who participated in this act of mass murder with criminal violations of their black victims’ civil rights. So when the Supreme Court held that freed slaves must “look to the States” to vindicate many of their civil rights, it effectively denied the federal government its power to halt massacres such as what happened in Colfax, and it left black civil rights almost entirely in the hands of state governments that were quickly captured by white supremacists. The justices who decided Cruikshank and similar cases may not have been the fathers of Jim Crow, but they were at the very least its midwives. And that is the history that the Institute’s materials leave out when they ask high school students to weigh the costs of an increased federal role against its benefits.

In a separate module, the materials acknowledge that “[o]ne major criticism of strong state power comes from the legacy of slavery,” but the materials do not tie this criticism to incorporation. This separate module also presents the argument that “[t]he federal government did not effectively protect citizens’ rights over centuries of slavery and segregation” as part of the case against a robust federal government. Yet while this argument is superficially true it ignores the fact that the federal government was hobbled in its ability to act in large part due to Supreme Court decisions such as Cruikshank (as well as the fact that Southern senators were empowered to block civil rights legislation through tactics such as the filibuster).

Selective History

Elsewhere, the materials selectively emphasize historical events that paint liberals in a poor light or that imply that important shifts in constitutional doctrine occurred for illegitimate reasons — and this tactic is also deployed in a way that is likely to foster skepticism of the federal government’s power to enact progressive legislation. A unit on the Constitution’s Commerce Clause (the provision enabling Congress to “regulate commerce . . . among the several states”), for example, emphasizes President Franklin Roosevelt’s plan to pack the Supreme Court with additional justices as part of a “political plan” to rescue legislation that a conservative majority on the Court was inclined to strike down. After this plan was unveiled, the materials explain, “[s]ome of the political conflict eased when one justice began voting to support the New Deal,” and, as a result, “[f]ederal power expanded dramatically for the next fifty years.”

While it is true that Roosevelt did announce a Court packing plan, and it is also true that Justice Owen Roberts became the key fifth vote to uphold New Deal programs shortly thereafter, it is unlikely, at best, that the plan actually caused Roberts to change his votes. 

After the White House dispatched a messenger to liberal Justice Louis Brandeis to warn the justice about Roosevelt’s plan, Brandeis told the messenger to “tell your president he has made a great mistake. All he had to do was wait a little while.” Roberts had already decided in one of the justices’ secret conferences to break with the Court’s conservative bloc weeks before Roosevelt announced his plan, though the Court did not announce the decision where Roberts broke with his conservative brethren until several weeks later.

More than simply presenting a selective history of Roosevelt’s struggle with the Supreme Court, however, materials’ essay on the Commerce Clause does not even present the view, now widely accepted by most judges and legal scholars, that the Depression-era justices who tried to strike down much of the New Deal were simply wrong about the Constitution. 

Indeed, the essay strongly suggests that the opposite is true, claiming that “[m]idway through the twentieth century, Congress started using the Commerce Clause as the grounds for the enactment of many new types of laws to regulate not merely commerce, but the conditions of economic and social life.” 

In 1941, however, in a unanimous opinion joined by Justice Roberts, the Supreme Court explained that the interpretation of the Commerce Clause that conservative justices used to thwart liberal legislation in the early-to-mid twentieth century rested on “a distinction which was novel when made and unsupported by any provision of the Constitution.” They added that it also conflicted with the very first Supreme Court decision interpreting that clause.

Elsewhere in the module on the Commerce Clause, the Institute’s materials hide a subtle inaccuracy in an answer key that presumably will only be read by teachers. A worksheet asks students to chart several Supreme Court decisions based on whether they embraced a broad or narrow vision of federal power, one of which is the NFIB v. Sebelius decision upholding most of the Affordable Care Act. In the process of upholding Obamacare, the Supreme Court actually rolled back the scope of federal power and transformed the law’s Medicaid expansion into something that conservative states could more easily opt out of. 

Yet the answer key depicts NFIB as the high water mark of federal power over the last century. This interpretation of NFIB closely maps the conservative view that the Affordable Care Act was somehow “unprecedented” and any court decision upholding was necessarily expanding federal power beyond its previous bounds.
A segment from the materials' answer key presenting the Supreme Court's decision striking down part of the Affordable Care Act (#8 on the chart) as a high water mark of federal power
A segment from the materials’ answer key presenting the Supreme Court’s decision striking down part of the Affordable Care Act (#8 on the chart) as a high water mark of federal power.

The answer key also instructs teachers to “accept reasoned answers” from students who interpret NFIB differently, even if those students’ answers depart from the key’s suggested answer. Few teachers are lawyers, however, and even fewer of them are likely to be familiar with the nuances of the last three generations of Commerce Clause jurisprudence. Many teachers are likely to teach the viewpoint advanced by this answer key without critically examining whether it actually comports with the Court’s decisions, potentially implying that Obamacare is a stretch beyond Congress’ legitimate authority in the process.

A Question of Emphasis

There are, of course, some areas of the law where the Koch brothers’ libertarian outlook is more popular with the public at large than established constitutional doctrines, and at least one of these areas receives a surprising amount of attention in the Institute’s materials. The materials do not just devote an entire module to property rights generally — this is the module which teaches that the framers were “passionate about” property rights — it then devotes a separate module to the subject of takings and eminent domain (the power to require individuals to sell their property to the government at its fair market value). This later module is probably the least subtle portion of the materials, and it frequently crosses the line from subtle suggestion into explicit advocacy.

The politically unpopular case Kelo v. New London plays a starring role in this module. Kelo applied the Supreme Court’s longstanding practice of deferring to elected officials regarding what constitutes a legitimate “public use” of the eminent domain power. Yet it also involved a land development plan that, at least according to Fox News, never materialized after the town of New London, Connecticut required the plaintiff in this case to sell her home. Kelo is an application of the proposition that it is better to leave certain decisions to elected officials who can be held accountable by the public rather than placing them in the hands of unelected judges, but it can also be fairly cited as evidence that elected officials sometimes make poor decisions.

The Institute’s materials, however, present none of this nuance. Students are told that the Court’s application of a longstanding legal rule to what turned out to be an unwise use of eminent domain was actually a “landmark case surrounding the government’s ability to exercise eminent domain” that “changed the concept of public use versus private use forever.” Kelo is not a beloved case, to say the least, but the materials’ decision to devote an entire module to this subject is revealing, given that there are only but so many topics in the rich and diverse field of constitutional law that could be covered in a semester-long course for high school students. Notably, other important constitutional topics, such as the rights of women and gay people to equal treatment under the law, are mostly unmentioned. 

The materials’ overall discussion of the Constitution’s promise of equality is equally revealing. Not only does the module on the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause largely ignore the rights of women, it devotes at least as much time to the subject of affirmative action as it does to Brown v. Board of Education. Students are assigned a major project focusing on affirmative action, and, as part of this project, they are asked to perform such tasks as explaining why a speech by President Lyndon Johnson warning that offering formal equality to African Americans is not enough to cure centuries of racial oppression is inconsistent with the principles established by the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964:
LBJ Koch
The Bill of Rights Institute’s materials, in other words, often rely on subtle persuasion. They present a selective view of history, exaggerate conflicts that have largely been resolved, emphasize subjects congenial to a conservative worldview and ignore entirely major threads of constitutional law and history. The students who learn from these materials are likely to emerge more skeptical of federal power and more sympathetic to a libertarian view of property rights. They are likely, in other words, to emerge more like Charles and David Koch.

In the end, however, the fact that the materials are so tinged with ideology is a damn shame. For all of their flaws, they introduce students important areas of American history that are often ignored by high schools. They ask students to consider difficult questions about society’s fundamental values. And, at least on the surface, they treat those students respectfully as people who are capable of evaluating constitutional questions that perplex lawyers and justices alike. North Carolina’s students have much to gain from these activities, if only they were presented without such a clear agenda.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Philly Hi School Students Take The Lead!!

Philly Hi School Students Take The Lead!!

VIDEO: SRC's Simms Screams at Students, We Demand Local Control

Written by The Philadelphia Student Union

Wednesday, 12 November 2014 
“Nobody in the world, nobody in history, has ever gotten their freedom by appealing to the moral sense of the people who were oppressing them.” -Assata Shakur

To those who have called our action on October 15th “disrespectful”, we invoke this wisdom of Ms. Shakur. As we peacefully protested at the School District of Philadelphia’s screening of Won’t Back Down, part of their “Family Appreciation Month”, we were not trying to appeal to their moral senses. Rather we were bringing to light the many ways that the SRC has failed the students of Philadelphia, explained here. The screening was largely organized by SRC member Sylvia Simms, the Women’s Christian Alliance, and Comcast (Simms’ current employer) a company that took in over $64 billion without paying taxes to Philadelphia in 2013 while our schools continue to go extremely under-funded.

As the media has well publicized, Simms (whose twitter handle photo is ironically an image of Angela Davis), screamed at the students, inches from their faces that they “probably go to failing schools” and “belong in jail.” Meanwhile her supporters chanted “Lock them up.”
An article published by the Philadelphia Inquirer on October 17th reads:

In a telephone interview, Simms said she raised her voice to the students because they were chanting loudly and she wanted to communicate. Simms, 53, a North Philadelphia grandmother, parent organizer and mayoral appointee, said she asked them what schools they attended and talked about failing schools.
She denied stating that the students probably attend failing schools. 

"It wasn't like that," she said. "I've noticed we have a lot of failing schools. It's my job to try to fix as many schools as I can." 

She said she couldn't remember exactly what she said. 

She said that she didn't say that students "probably go to failing schools", but here is clear evidence that Simms lied to the press and to the public. At the SRC meeting the following day, there were several calls from allies for Simms to apologize to students, as both an adult and as a decision-maker for the School District of Philadelphia. However, she stayed silent. She didn't apologize, nor did she acknowledge that her supporters chanted "Lock them up".

In this same meeting, SRC Chair, Bill Green addressed the individuals at the meeting who demanded that Simms apologize defensively, claiming that Simms is a champion of students’ causes.
kgraham green simms tweet
If Simms can violently scream at young people for "failing" while at the same time be hailed as a "supporter of students", then we can only imagine what the other SRC members are saying behind closed doors. However, the worst part is that we don't really need to imagine. Besides not publicly condemning the actions of their fellow commissioner, we can plainly see how the SRC as a whole feels about community input. SRC meetings are no more than political theater with decisions made ahead of time and with little to no real discussion about the impacts of policies and changes on which they vote.

The SRC members regularly sit before an audience of parents, teachers and students, with stone cold faces, and give little response to the pleas from the community, creating a mockery of community engagement. Recognizing the ineffectiveness and the folly of such a charade, we decided that the best way to have our voices heard was to engage in civil disobedience. Students were acting in the political forum that was available to them, a public event at the School District.

There is the pervading notion that SRC meetings are the only real and respectable place for the community to have its voice heard. However, it is overwhelmingly apparent that the SRC has no respect for our schools or our communities. As the SRC pretends to act with concern for the community, in reality, they want to dictate how the young people who are impacted by their decisions engage with them, largely relegating them to the sidelines and ignoring their voices.

We are expected to behave in a manner deemed “acceptable” to those who do not agree with our demands just so we can stare at a decision-making table where we are not allowed to sit.

Given the conditions in a school district already starved by budget cuts and school closings there absolutely needs to be a raucous outcry of dissent on behalf of students from as Simms would put it, “failing schools” that she and the body she is a part of has played a role in destroying. By telling students that they are “failing”, it is de-legitimizing the voices of all students, who are placed in a not-so-secret hierarchy.

In fact, the students at the Won’t Back Down action are student athletes, musicians, and performers, actively involved in peer mediation in their schools. Some have been pushed out of schools, others have not. The students who participated in the action were from both neighborhood and magnet schools, students who are usually pitted against one another for resources. Students of all types had to take their action to the only place it would be heard.

The police were called during this action. The police were called, not to monitor the situation, as there is already security staff in the building, but rather to make arrests. For any member of the SRC to call the cops on students is not only unacceptable but an eerie reminder of how systems of power are used to control and violently oppress young black people in the United States.

The SRC is an unaccountable body that is abusing its power. We see this abuse as both institutional, and now, with respect to Simms’ comments, as interpersonal as well. SRC members can scream at students, cancel teachers’ contracts, and close schools, with no repercussions.

There has been a deafening silence by Mayor Nutter, who appointed Simms, in regards to her actions. Lorri Shorr, the city's chief education officer, told Newsworks, that this was “democracy in action”.

We disagree with City Hall. Democracy is when you get to choose your leaders who make decisions on your behalf. Democracy is when students’ right to assemble is protected, not threatened by arrest.

Democracy would be an elected school board, not the SRC. We demand that the SRC be abolished and that Philadelphians be given local control over their schools.

We demand an end to the attacks on teachers, students, and our public schools.


Wednesday, November 5, 2014


Reading Material To Help You Join Our Fight for a People's Board of Education Instead of Mayoral Control (i.e. Racist Corporate Control)


Saturday, October 18, 2014

STUDY: Are iPads for the Whole School a Good Idea?

1:1 iPad Four Year Study
WAKE FOREST, NC-- The Franklin Academy High School implemented a 1:1 iPad deployment a the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year. Over the course of the next two school years, the pilot was expanded to include all grades 9-12 in the high school. This deployment has reached 475 high school students and all teaching staff. Our K-8 program deployed iPads across the grade levels in the form of class sets and mobile carts.

This study targeted our 1:1 deployment at the high school to investigate the impact the device has had on teaching and learning. The survey used to gather the student data was administered in April of 2014. Students included in the survey used the device anywhere from 1 to 4 years. The students use the iPad while at school and home.

Results of the survey hope to shed light on the impact the use of the iPad has had on academic gains as well as the development of the most important non-cognitive skills our program is founded upon.