Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Educator Brian Jones Breaks Down Racist Corporatized Public Education

Brian Jones Breaks Down Racist Corporatized Public Education
His talk at the James Connolly Forum in Troy,NY, 
on Feb 20, 2015

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


A Perfect Storm: The Takeover of New Orleans Public Schools

A Perfect Storm: The Takeover of New Orleans Public Schools

A Perfect Storm: The Takeover of New Orleans Public Schools is the first in series of short videos, that reveals the real story behind the creation of the nation's first all charter school district. 

For the past seven years, state education officials and corporate school reformers have touted the dramatic turnaround of New Orleans public schools. National media outlets have published numerous articles and TV news stories of the miracle in New Orleans citing unprecedented academic achievement where parents finally had School Choice. However, according to the Louisiana Department of Education, more than 80% of the Recovery School District schools in New Orleans are performing below the state average.

This first 5 minute video focuses on the illegal takeover and the academic failure of The Recovery School District.

The first Perfect Storm video focuses on the illegal takeover and the academic failure of the Recovery School District. Part 2 explores the reality of an all charter district where parents no longer have neighborhood schools.

The film features interviews with leaders in the New Orleans education community who were faced with the daunting task of reopening schools immediately following Hurricane Katrina.

We are looking to fund more short videos, followed by an hour long documentary which will chronologically tell the story from 2005 - 2015 and will end at the tenth anniversary of the storm.

Directed by
Phoebe Ferguson
Dr. Raynard Sanders

Produced by
Phoebe Ferguson
Dr. Raynard Sanders

Cinematography by
Phoebe Ferguson
Tobias Arturi
Lily Keber

Tobias Arturi

Graphic Designers
Noël Anderson
Tobias Arturi

Production Assistants
Kelsey Noble
Kendrick Royal
Charles Hatfield
Barbara Ferguson
Karran Harper Royal
Kari Harden
Adrienne Dixon
Kristen Buras
Raynard Sanders


In order of appearance
Louella Givens
Rev. Torin Sanders
Dr. Barbara Ferguson
Karran Harper Royal

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Chicago Teacher's Union Head- Karen Lewis -Back & Fired Up!

Karen Lewis and CTU Lays Out "Just Chicago" Plan

Before a sold-out audience at the City Club of Chicago, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis on Feb 2, 2015 unveiled a new plan to level the playing field for thousands of students and their families as the city inches closer to the municipal election. “A Just Chicago: Fighting for the City Our Students Deserve” serves as a challenge to the status quo—Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, and others—to do what is morally just and protect the interests of working families while fostering policies that eradicate poverty, inequality and racial injustice in our city and state.

A Just Chicago: Fighting for the City Our Students Deserve
 New Report from CTU

by CTU Communications  |  02/02/2015

Institutional racism, poverty, systematic underfunding of education and their effects lie at the heart of problems in education. Yet, there is a complete lack of political will to even discuss, much less begin to solve, these fundamental issues. Instead, city leaders continue to privilege a small select group while ignoring community voice and needs. The results are an aggressive downsizing of city assets and services, major giveaways to connected bankers and corporate leaders, and implementation of destructive school policies that will take years to reverse.

A Just Chicago: Fighting for the City Our Students Deserve details the intimate connection of health, housing, jobs, segregation and funding to education. This report describes city policies that negatively impact CPS students, their families, and communities. Contrary to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s destructive narrative and approach to education policies, the Chicago Teachers Union demonstrates that challenges in housing, employment, justice and healthcare relate directly to education; solutions require a narrowing of the opportunity gap brought on by poverty, racism and segregation.



Sunday, February 1, 2015

VIDEO: Opt Out Is Growing In NYC!

Opt Out of Hi Stakes Testing in NYC is Growing!

Sam Anderson, a retired professor of mathematics and black history, 
discusses the effect demographics have had on the opt-out movement so far.
Watch other video shorts at:
Activists Share Strategies for 'Opting Out' of Tests

Kathleen Jasper, left, former educator and school 
administrator, and Cindy Hamilton, a parent 
and the co-founder of Orlando Opt Out, lead a session at United Opt Out's national conference in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
 Anti-testing advocates meeting here to advance their cause tossed around a list of protest strategies: Twitter campaigns, parent test-taking parties, quiet conversations in the teachers' lounge, organized walkouts.

The 75 or so parents, educators, union leaders, and self-titled "agitators" at the United Opt Out National: Standing Up for Action conference, which took place over a weekend earlier this month, strategized on getting more people involved in the growing practice of "test refusal"-in the hope of ultimately ending what they consider punitive and overly burdensome testing practices in K-12 schools.

"You have to know this is an act of civil disobedience," Cindy Hamilton, a parent and the co-founder of Orlando Opt Out, told a group of attendees. "This is not for the faint of heart."

The convening offered a small window on an anti-testing movement that is heating up at both the grassroots and national levels. As Congress works to update the Elementary and Secondary Education Act-better known in its current version as No Child Left Behind-many lawmakers have expressed interest in cutting back the number of tests required by the law.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the new chairman of the Senate education committee, introduced a draft bill this month with two proposed paths for testing, one of which would give states leeway to test students just once in particular grade spans rather than yearly. Now, most students take state standardized tests each year in grades 3-8 and once in high school.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, while remaining steadfast in his commitment to keeping the annual testing in place, has said he'd like to help schools and districts weed out unnecessary tests. And in October, state schools chiefs and a national group representing big-city districts announced a plan to review district testing policies and help schools shed duplicative exams.

That momentum, combined with the rollout this spring of tests aligned with the Common Core State Standards-which are expected to be more onerous than previous state tests-has critics of current testing policies saying the time is ripe for mobilization.

Test Confusion

Here in Fort Lauderdale, attendees at the Jan. 16-18 conference targeted not just state tests, but all standardized tests. In addition to the summative state standardized tests required under federal law, many districts require benchmark tests to track student progress throughout the year. Students might also take unit tests tied to published curricula, end-of-course exams, Advanced Placement tests, the SAT or ACT, and nationally representative tests such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Rosemarie Jensen, a Parkland, Fla., parent activist, and a leader of United Opt Out, said: "We're talking about all of it. Especially those of us who have kids in school and see how much time is lost."

"The testing crowds out anything meaningful," said Ms. Jensen, who is also a former teacher.

How much test-taking is going on around the country is hard to say. A report by the Washington-based Center for American Progress, released in August, found that students take more district-level than state-level assessments, but that the state tests tend to take up more time. Some students take as many as 20 standardized assessments per year, it concluded.

Sonja Brookins Santelises, the vice president for K-12 policy and practice at the Washington-based Education Trust, who was not in attendance here, said that while overtesting is a problem in some places, pushing to end annual state tests is not the solution. Such tests are a "vital tool" for comparing student-achievement "results across school districts, across zip codes," said Ms. Santelises, a parent and a former chief academic officer of the Baltimore public schools.

"It wasn't too long ago that as a nation we didn't even chart how certain kids learned," she said. "Nobody tracked when my father went to school-Nobody tracked how black kids in rural Mississippi did. Nobody cared."

She said it's critical for those who are worried about overtesting "to pinpoint your advocacy."

United Opt Out was started through social media four years ago by Peggy Robertson, an instructional coach at an elementary school in Aurora, Colo. It now has seven official administrators and a Facebook page with nearly 14,000 members. Regional groups have cropped up in more than 40 states. Florida now has regional Opt Out groups in Orlando, in Miami-Dade, and in Lee and Broward counties.

While conference participants agreed that standardized testing is hurting schools, their reasons varied for getting involved.

For instance, school counselor Leena Hasbini said that while working in a large Tampa public school, "all it felt like I was doing was proctoring. ... Whatever test was on the menu that week. It got to the point where I couldn't take it anymore."

Ms. Jensen, one of the event's organizers, said she was fighting for children with learning disabilities, like her son, who she said are "totally getting trashed by the system."

'Diffuse Movement'

Barbara Madeloni, the president of the 110,000-member Massachusetts Teachers Association, talked about her goal of increasing "solidarity and power" among union members, who have struggled under current testing policies. (The National Education Association, of which the MTA is an affiliate, supports policies that would reduce standardized testing in schools.)

And Roseanne Eckert, a Fort Lauderdale lawyer who represents people on death row, said she's concerned that overtesting has led to less recess and fewer electives in schools serving low-income students-a situation that she said "is feeding the school-to-prison pipeline."

The event also attracted members from like-minded advocacy groups, including the Network for Public Education, Save Our Schools, the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, and the Badass Teachers Association.

Several of those groups, which have some leaders in common, share viewpoints on more than just testing: Their members also tend to object to the common-core standards, the significant role of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in education grantmaking, widespread school closings in urban districts, efforts to increase the number of charter schools and private management of other public schools, and the impact of companies such as Pearson that develop tests and curricula. (Education Week is among the recipients of Gates grants.)

"This is a diffuse movement driven by grassroots activists in local communities," said Robert A. Shaeffer, the public education director at the Jamaica Plain, Mass.-based National Center for Fair & Open Testing, or FairTest. "That's part of its strength."

In a session on the logistics of test refusal, Ms. Hamilton of Orlando Opt Out explained that there are two ways to refuse to participate in a test in Florida.

First, parents can keep their children home during testing. There's a 20-day testing window, and students would have to stay out for makeups as well. "That's a giant chunk of time to keep your kid home," Ms. Hamilton said, and that tactic could lead to truancy charges.

The second way, which she recommends, is to have the student sit for the test-to log in if it's on a computer or break the plastic seal if it's paper-and-pencil-but not answer any questions. "The state statute says schools must administer the test and students must participate, leaving participation undefined," Ms. Hamilton said. "My personal opinion is seven months of test prep is participation."

In the second approach, the student will receive a code of "non-attemptiveness" rather than a score, which "does not impact the school grade, teacher evaluation, or the student because it is no data," she said.

And while lamenting the burden that tactic puts on students, she added in an interview that "we have plenty of 8-year-olds who do this. We've had great success."

After Ms. Hamilton's explanation, the conversation quickly turned hyperlocal-exemplifying one of the many reasons the anti-testing movement is so hard to pin down. Parents began asking questions about the tests given in their districts and schools. Their experiences and the policies in their schools and districts were quite different, leading to some confusion about when and what to refuse.

National Numbers

Keeping track nationally of the numbers of students who actually opt out of tests-a potential indicator of United Opt Out's effectiveness-is all but impossible. Districts often don't know why a student didn't take a test-whether he or she was sick, absent, refusing, or the test sheet was mishandled.

Perhaps the best-known numbers are from New York state, said Mr. Schaeffer. Parent Jeanette Deutermann, the founder of Long Island Opt Out, has tracked 3rd- 8th grade opt-outs in the state in a spreadsheet of more than 500 districts. Her data show about 40,000 opt-outs each in math and reading-roughly 3 percent of the state's public school students across those grades.

A spokeswoman for the New York state education department said the state does not collect test-refusal data.

Among other notable opt-out events:

• Thousands of high school seniors in Colorado skipped state-mandated science and social studies tests in November. The Denver Post reports that many of those students came from wealthy, high-achieving districts such as Boulder Valley and Douglas County.

• In March of last year, dozens of Chicago parents and teachers boycotted the Illinois Standards Achievement Test, which is being phased out and carried no consequences.

• Two years ago in Seattle, teachers at Garfield High School boycotted the Measures of Academic Progress test, a computer-adaptive tool that teachers said was misaligned with their instruction. The district said it would stop requiring the test.

Florida took the anti-testing spotlight in August when the 85,000-student Lee County district became the first in the nation to decide not to administer federally mandated state standardized tests. That refusal didn't last long: The school board reversed its decision a few days later.

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).