Monday, December 21, 2015

High Stakes Testing and the Black Community: Just Say No!

Standardized tests? Principal Jamaal Bowman says 'Know your rights'. 

President Obama recently spoke out against excessive standardized testing. The POTUS claimed that this issue, "takes the joy out of teaching and learning, both for them (teachers) and for the students". Long before Obama's declaration, Jamaal Bowman, Founding Principal of CASA (Cornerstone Academy for Social Action) in Bronx, NY, has been advocate for student and parent rights and the movement to opt out of standardized tests to promote more holistic approaches to assessment of student learning. Bowman speaks with YBE about the impact of standardized tests on Black and Brown students and offers his advice to their parents.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

You Can Have Educational Excellence In Spite of Black Poverty

We Are Not Only Changing the Education Discourse, We Are Also Changing Its Course!
It is the beliefs of teachers, administrators and school boards, NOT poverty that is responsible for poor student achievements.

When recent convert Diane Ravitch and other so-called liberal educators contend that poverty, not the beliefs of teachers, administrators and school boards, is responsible for poor student achievement, they are dead wrong.

If Ravitch and cohorts were right then the achievement of the Robert L. Vann Elementary School in Pittsburgh was a hoax. But it was not a hoax. Up until 1996-97, the Vann School was a top achiever in the entire city of Pittsburgh. The children were Black, raised in poverty, many by single parent mothers. There was crime in the neighborhood, as in many economically deprived communities of any color or nationality.

Dr. Barbara A. Sizemore in her research “An Abashing Anomaly: Hardly Anybody Wants Something All Black To Be Excellent” verified the success of the Vann School as one of the highest achieving in the entire city. The school was located in the Hill District, written about in many of August Wilson’s plays, one of the city’s poorest districts.

Dr. Asa G. Hilliard III also verified the high achievement of the Vann School in his DVD “The Vann School: A History of Success in Pittsburgh”. What accounted for the success of the Vann School? Basically, the Principal, African American Doris Brevard, believed and convinced her teachers, Black and white, that the children were capable of excellence and that they, the teachers, were capable of excellent instruction. Doris Brevard was that rare principal who was willing to commit her career and her allegiance to the achievement of the children and their community, not to the superintendent or the school board.
Dr Donald Smith
Ms. Brevard was willing to be punished for her philosophy.  Another example that defies popular theory on education and poverty is the Crispus Attucks School in Brooklyn, NY whose principal was the brilliant Adelaide Sanford, later Vice Chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents.

The Attucks School was the highest achieving inner city school in New York City. Yes, the children were Black and mostly poor, and Dr. Sanford and her teachers were proud of their children. Under her strong leadership Dr. Sanford’s teachers believed that the children were capable of excellence and, like the Vann teachers, that they were capable of providing excellent instruction. Dr. Sanford was punished for her deviance from the expected norm of low achievement for Black students, some of whom have gone on to extraordinary careers.

I grew up in poverty on the very poor Black Southside of Chicago. My mother, who gave birth to me at age 19, and I survived on welfare and food stamps. We lived in a single room in wretched tenements. Television, refrigeration and air conditioning were non-existent. But at my all-Black Wendell Phillips Elementary School whose children were as poor as I was we had some loving Black teachers who taught at a high level of expectation and who encouraged all of us, and we achieved.

No, Dr. Ravitch, it is not poverty that produces poor achievement. It is the belief of teachers and administrators of any ancestry who have grown up and been educated in a racist educational environment and have low expectations for poor Black or Brown children that fulfills the prophecy. We are now at that very moment when communities of color have no choice but to seize control of the education of their children and demand academic and cultural excellence for all of their children.

All righteous minded educators, parents, youth, administrators, elected officials, civic minded business and community people should join us in this power-filled moment of changing the course of public education everywhere!

Donald H. Smith, Ph.D.
Former Chair of Education, Baruch College, CUNY
Former Chair of the New York City Board of Education’s Commission on
Students of African Descent

June 23, 2014

Friday, November 20, 2015

NY State's Bogus Common Core Survey Legitimizes Deliberate MisEducation

New York State's Bogus Common Core Survey
  Social studies educator, Hofstra University, my opinions, of course, are my own

According to the Council of Chief State School Officers, at least 18 states are in the process of revising the Common Core Standards adopted in 2010. That includes New York where Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia is involved in a mandated review of math and reading curriculum. 

Governor Andrew Cuomo, who supported Common Core as "state of the art" from the start, has called its implementation in New York State "flawed." He blamed blunders in the rollout for causing "frustration, anxiety, and confusion for children and parents." But Cuomo has never questioned the validity of Common Core, which suggests the mandated review will largely be for show.

Commissioner Elia claims the review procedure will allow "everyone to have a voice, particularly the practitioners who are implementing standards in our schools." However, the first public meeting of the Common Core Task Force held in New Rochelle on October 29 did not include time for public comments. My friend Henry Dircks, a high school social studies teacher on Long Island and the parent of two public school children, does not agree with Elia that the review will allow for all "voices" to be heard. He calls Commissioner Elia's online Common Core Survey incomprehensible and a pretense of public involvement.

Elia has already leaked that more than 70% of responses to the online survey are "positive," although it is not clear what she is counting as a positive response. She claims that this shows surprising strong support for Common Core, however only 1.5% of New York State teachers have responded so far. Submissions continue until November 30.
On the survey, respondents vote on each individual Common Core Standard. The choices are:
I agree with the Standard as written.
The Standard should be discarded.
The Standard should be in a different grade level. Grade selection is required
The Standard should be broken up into several, more specific Standards. Suggested rewrite is required

The Standard should be rewritten. Suggested rewrite is required
Comments about your feedback. Optional
But the problem with this bogus survey is not each individual standard. No one is going to vote that we should not teach children to read, write, and think. However, nowhere can you vote that Common Core Standards aligned with high-stakes testing have undermined education in New York State, stressed out students and teachers, turned curriculum development over to test design companies, and transformed schools into test prep academies. These are the real reasons parents and teachers oppose the Common Core.

As Henry tried to complete the survey, it confirmed his belief that NYSED "cannot see the forest for the trees." He eventually gave up and wrote a letter to Commissioner Elia with his Common Core complaints. Henry sent it to me and we agreed it is worth sharing with a broader audience.
Dear Commissioner Elia,
Now that the first quarter's grades are in, and I've guided my high school students through submitting final work and making up for absences, I finally had a chance to breathe and catch up on my own work. So today, I attempted to take the AIM High NY survey on the Common Core Standards. I use the word attempted purposefully; the survey limits the opportunity for personal and professional feedback by leading participants into a mire of boxes to check and comment about for individual standards.
Although I have devoted nearly four years to fighting the Common Core, I will not waste my time navigating this incomprehensible survey, just so that NYSED can say that it's listening to the public.
My concerns about and activism against the Common Core are not centered on the over-testing that students of NY are being subjected to, on the over-reach of the USDOE in forcing the standards upon New York with the promise of Race-To-The-Top funding, or on the massive amount of money being gained by corporate entities such as Pearson Publishing (though I share all of these concerns). Instead, I just think the standards lack any sort of recognition of the students that my colleagues and I teach.
On the elementary level, I believe that the ELA and Math Standards inappropriately introduce topics that are developmentally beyond the capabilities of students. I believe that the math standards confuse students with an over-reliance on word problems, and by focusing their attention on explaining how they arrived at an answer. In these early grades, students need to build confidence in mathematics by getting the "right" answer, not being forced to explain in tedious detail their "work". In ELA, the Common Core's insistence on non-fiction works against children's curiosity and appreciation for reading.
The focus on lexile scores in my daughter's 7th grade ELA class underscores my point.
My daughter has always been an avid reader and has a high lexile score. In line with the standards that call for an ever-growing lexile score, she was restricted from reading books that she was interested in for class reports because the books were below her score. The only books her teachers would allow were obviously meant for adult readers in content and difficulty. Just today, my fifth-grade son told me a story about learning rhyme scheme in his ELA class. He said that the state's method of teaching rhyme scheme was overly complicated, and that his teacher accomplished the same goal in a matter of minutes.
I have been a high school social studies teacher for 23 years. Although the standards have yet to have such a negative impact on my teaching, I have had negative experiences with my own classes in adopting teaching methods advocated by the standards. For instance, there is nothing duller and curiosity-reducing to my eleventh-graders than a "close-read" of whatever 200 year old document I introduce in class. It seems obvious to me that the advocates who want to build literacy and research techniques among my students never considered whether my students would want to learn in this manner. Also, as a social studies veteran, I find the new focus on literacy devalues the purpose of history and civics education. Under the standards, I will be charged with preparing my students to read text rather that learn and apply concepts as a citizen of the U.S.
I find it hard to write all of my objections to the Common Core Standards because there are so many. Added to this is that fact that your predecessor and our governor have ignored these concerns for so long that my list of concerns just keeps growing and growing. My only recommendation is to scrap the Common Core in its entirety, and either return to the completely satisfactory standards that NY State had before this debacle or ask teachers of the "loyal opposition" to sit down and create new NYS standards. Until NYSED gives up this hopeless charade of the standards having value to NY students and teachers, I will keep fighting.
Henry J. Dircks
Bethpage, New York

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Common Core: Working for Big Business- Not For Public Education and Its Students

The Real Rationale for Common Core, and Why It is Failing

When Arne Duncan was made Secretary of Education, he brought in a group of advisors, largely from the Gates Foundation and the Broad Foundation, to help him design what eventually became the Race to the Top, which was funded by Congress with $5 billion in discretionary money, to reform American education. Duncan asked Joanne Weiss to take charge of Race to the Top.
At the time, Joanne Weiss was CEO of NewSchools Venture Fund, a California-based organization dedicated to spurring for-profit entrepreneurs and investing in charter schools, both start-ups and chains. Her previous experience was in educational technology. I can't find any evidence that she ever worked in a school. She was an entrepreneur. She and her advisers came to the conclusion that the biggest problem in American education was its extreme decentralization (local control). They decided that if there were a national system of standards and assessments, then the businesses making textbooks, technology, and everything else would have a national market and the quality of their products would be far better. It was a rational decision for someone from the business world. She wrote on the blog of the Harvard Business Review, a brief essay that should be required reading for anyone trying to understand the philosophy behind the education policies of the Obama administration:
Technological innovation in education need not stay forever young. And one important change in the market for education technology is likely to accelerate its maturation markedly within the next several years. For the first time, 42 states and the District of Columbia have adopted rigorous common standards, and 44 states are working together in two consortia to create a new generation of assessments that will genuinely assess college and career-readiness.
The development of common standards and shared assessments radically alters the market for innovation in curriculum development, professional development, and formative assessments. Previously, these markets operated on a state-by-state basis, and often on a district-by-district basis. But the adoption of common standards and shared assessments means that education entrepreneurs will enjoy national markets where the best products can be taken to scale.
In this new market, it will make sense for teachers in different regions to share curriculum materials and formative assessments. It will make sense for researchers to mine data to learn which materials and teaching strategies are effective for which students – and then feed that information back to students, teachers, and parents.
If we can match highly-effective educators with great entrepreneurs and if we can direct smart capital toward these projects, the market for technological innovation might just spurt from infancy into adolescence. That maturation would finally bring millions of America’s students the much-touted yet much-delayed benefits of the technology revolution in education.
The reason to standardize education across the nation is to create an attractive business climate for entrepreneurs. National standards and tests will encourage them to develop products for this new national market.
This is certainly the first time in American education that the U.S. Department of Education took on the role of creating a national market for entrepreneurs. This was the Obama administration's idea of "reform."
It was a risky bet. No effort was made to pilot the Common Core standards, to find out how they would really work in real classrooms with real students and real teachers. The rush to implementation created a backlash. Weiss was correct in assuming that every textbook publisher would revised their texts and online programs to align with the Common Core or claim to have done so. But, some states have dropped the Common Core. Some are reviewing them with the intention of tailoring them to the needs of their states. About half the states that agreed to join one of the two testing consortia have withdrawn, either because of political controversy or because of online testing.
The effort to establish a unified national system, for the benefit of entrepreneurs, was illegal, in my view. The federal law says very clearly that no officer of the federal government may seek to influence, direct, or control curriculum or instruction. Arne Duncan likes to say that he stayed far away from curriculum and instruction. That may explain why he insists that the Common Core is "only" standards, not a curriculum. Of course, he has been a vocal advocate for Common Core, and of course, states were not eligible for any of the Race to the Top funding unless they adopted "college-and-career standards" (aka Common Core). But, please, it is "only standards," not curriculum. Note that the U.S. Department of Education, as part of its grand plan to re-arrange American education into a standardized national system, funded two testing consortia with $360 million. Is it possible to say with a straight face that the U.S. Department of Education is making no effort to "influence, direct or control" curriculum and instruction when it funds the tests and advocates for a common set of standards? Does anyone believe that tests have no immediate impact on curriculum and instruction?
What lessons are to be drawn from the rocky experience of the Common Core? First, those in charge of the U.S. Department of Education during the Obama administration did not understand the meaning of federalism and the limits of the federal role; second, programs speedily devised and imposed by bribery tend not to last; third, haste makes waste; fourth, if new programs are devised without the engagement of experienced educators, they are unlikely to meet the needs of practitioners or the classroom. Last, the federal government should not substitute its best ideas for those who know more than they do at the state and local level. Coercion just doesn't work very well in a democratic society.
dianeravitch | November 17, 2015

Saturday, October 24, 2015

New Charter School Black Hole Report Exposes National Fraud & Waste

Charter School Fraud & Waste Are a National Problem

Landmark Look at US Charter System Reveals Waste, Fraud, 'Ghost Schools'

'The bottom-line is taxpayers know far too little about how much their federal tax dollars are being used to fund charters,' says Center for Media and Democracy

Here is the Report:

Friday, October 2, 2015

Charter Schools Are Unconstitutional In One State- Can We Make It True In New York State?

Washington State Supreme Court: Charter schools are unconstitutional

After nearly a year of deliberation, the state Supreme Court ruled late Friday afternoon that charter schools are not constitutional.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Disastrous State of Black & Latino Teachers In Public Education

A Diminishing Number of Black & Latino Educators in US Public Schools
This past school year was the first time in history that racial and ethnic minority students outnumbered their white counterparts. The U.S. Department of Education has projected that by 2022, non-white students will make up 54.7 percent of the public-school student population, largely due to the national increases in U.S.-born Hispanic and Asian populations.
Despite the fact that more students of color will be filling classrooms at increasing increments every school year, it’s a well reported fact that almost 80 percent of their teachers are white—and it doesn’t appear that that will change any time soon.

According to a recent study from the Albert Shanker Institute, a think tank funded by the American Federation of Teachers, the number of black teachers dropped from 2002 to 2012.

The Disastrous State of Teacher Diversity

Friday, September 18, 2015

Black Chicago Parents Go On a Hunger Strike for Progressive Education & Power

Dyett Hunger Strike for a Progressive School Vision

Dyett GlobalAndGreen Tech HSProposal


Parents’ Hunger Strike Reveals Flaws in Chicago’s Education Reforms

Parents’ Hunger Strike Reveals Flaws in Chicago’s Education Reforms
Parents’ Hunger Strike Reveals Flaws in Chicago’s Education Reforms
It’s a drastic, painful, potentially fatal tactic associated with third-world political movements calling attention to brutal regimes, or history lessons about legendary protest leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi and Cesar Chavez.

Yet activists on Chicago’s hardscrabble South Side are entering their second month of a hunger strike, launched to draw attention to the plight of a storied but downtrodden neighborhood school scheduled to close next year.

The activists say they launched the strike because city leaders, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel, have repeatedly turned a deaf ear to their complaints about the fate of Walter H. Dyett High School in the historic majority-black Bronzeville neighborhood. Emanuel’s administration, they say, has also ignored their demand for a say in what happens to their community’s school—including their suggestions to junk plans to turn Dyett into a music and arts school and instead create an academy for kids who want careers in the future-facing high-tech, green-energy field.

“The community said they wanted Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School,” Jitu Brown, one of the hunger strikers, told Chicago’s WTTW-TV on Wednesday, the 31st day of the protest. “It’s really frustrating that taxpayers have to go to this length when you realize that you’ve been rendered voiceless.”

Hunger-strikers Irene Robinson and Jitu Brown at Dyett High School on Wednesday.
While the “Fight for Dyett” movement has adopted desperate measures for what it sees as a desperate time, the standoff between the protesters and the powers that be is a microcosm of similar conflicts playing out nationwide.

Across the U.S. a combination of shrinking education budgets, gentrification of poor neighborhoods, and the meteoric rise of charter schools has put underperforming majority-minority schools like Dyett on the chopping block—and spurred charges of educational racism.

Several studies have shown that when urban school districts from Washington, D.C., to Oakland, California, have had to balance the books by closing low-enrollment, poorly-performing schools, black communities are hit the hardest. But city and school officials say the enrollment numbers don’t lie; In Chicago, Dyett High’s class of 2015 had just 15 students.

But analysts say families displaced by gentrification, as well as the appeal of charter schools, is artificially driving down enrollment, undermining schools like Dyett, named for an esteemed African American music teacher whose pupils included jazz legends Nat King Cole and Dinah Washington.

“People have gotten to a level of desperation,” said Richard Gray, director of community organizing and engagement at Brown University’s Annenberg Institute for School Reform. The decision to close Dyett without their input, said Gray, felt to Bronzeville community leaders “like an attack on their schools and their teachers” and proof that Rahm Emanuel “disdains their community.”

Gentrification is “definitely” a factor in the standoff in Chicago, according to Gray. For several decades, “massive real-estate speculation” has forced the displacement of a substantial portion of residents, he said. To make affordable communities more attractive, city education administrators bypassed plans to revive traditional public schools and joined the parade toward publicly funded charter schools.

Officials “are building these charter schools and boutique [magnet] schools for affluent whites,” Gray said. “These things accumulate.”
Hunger strikers at Dyett High School at the start of a press conference.
Gary Orfield, an education and city planning professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and codirector of the school’s Civil Rights Project, agreed with Gray’s assessment of the situation at Dyett. A former Chicago resident, Orfield said the breakdown in communication reflects “negative racial change” in the city, and he wouldn’t be surprised if protesters in other cities mirrored the hunger-strike strategy.

“I hope that reason takes hold, and they negotiate a settlement, and these people don’t die,” Orfield said. “None of these things have been handled well.”

Ultimately, however, he said, the hunger strike could prove to be an opportunity for Emanuel, who as a congressman and chief of staff for President Barack Obama purportedly advised his staff to never let a crisis go to waste.

“This is the kind of crisis that could change things,” Orfield said.

Saturday, September 5, 2015


VIDEO: Philly Parents Rally to Opt Out!
Are we New Yorkers Doing the Same?

Philly is speaking out about the damage that high stakes testing is doing to
our children. Please share this courageous video widely.
Thank you.
Eileen Duffey-

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Black Educator "Teacher Nikky" Speaks at Cambridge Mass BlackLivesMatter Rally

A State of Emergency for Black Education and Black Educator!!
 Black Educator "Teacher Nikky" Speaks at Cambridge Mass BlackLivesMatter Rally
August 9, 2015 Cambridge (Mass) #BlackLivesMatter Rally

As school is opening and the numbers of Black teachers continue to decline. Most students entering schools this September will not  have a teacher of color. Please take some time to read this and think make this silent phenomenon known.
The following is a slightly edited speech by an unjustly displaced tenured Black educator who taught for over 25 years in a Metro Boston sub/urban district. That educator is asking President Obama and Governor Baker to issue an Executive Order to overturn all subjective, questionable dismissals or displacements and put these 80, 000 to 100,000 tenured, veteran Black teachers nation wide back in the Community where they belong. A generation ago when we had more teachers of African descent from the community teaching in public schools, there were less Black men and women dealing with the justice system, or less Blacks killed by police officers.
Thank you BLMCambridge for inviting me to speak. I appreciate the diversity of topics today. We are talking about jobs, economy, Education, LGBT- issues that directly affect people of color in Massachusetts and around the country. Though, I am a very international/ cross cultural, multilingual person, for the next four minutes I am going to use the word Black. Are you with me?

The Education of Black folks is in a state of despair, disarray and disgrace.  Many of you are familiar with phrases such as “school to prison pipeline”, “Achievement Gap”, “Education is the civil rights issues of the era”, “high stake standardized assessments that adversely impact Black and Latinos.” However there is a nation-wide 60 year old issue that, except for Chicago and New Orleans hardly any one is addressing.  It’s the issue of removing Black teachers in the Education arena through pseudo evaluations, downsizing, “school turn abounds”, charter schools, demotions, or forced retirements. 

That phenomenon of removing Black teachers in the classrooms started in the South at the onset of 1954 -55 Brown vs. Board of Education ruling.  In a USA Today April 2004, entitled Thousands of black teachers lost jobs, Greg Toppo gave a historical perspective on the declining of Black teachers in the South. By 2015, the process of “structuring out” teachers of African descent has spread all over the country.  In almost every state, one will find a number of tenured veteran black teachers who have been displaced, via demotions, dismissals or forced retirements or phony negative evaluations. Tenured Latino teachers are demoted, but they are not dismissed. WE NEED TO STOP THE REMOVAL OF BLACK TEACHERS FROM THE EDUCATION ARENA.

I don’t want to sound like a lecturer, but like the previous speaker, we have to provide some references.

On September 2012 around the time of the Chicago Teachers’ strike Reuters published an article by Stephanie Simon and James B. Kelleher that says “Today, just 19 percent of the teaching force in Chicago is African American, down from 45 percent in 1995, the union says; organizers fear that shift means fewer teachers have deep roots in and passion for the communities where they work. In other words as it is around the country many Black teachers who are close or part of the Black community are forced out.  A former Chicago teacher and union activist posted in her Facebook page that Chicago lost about 6,000 Black teachers’ jobs in 3 years. There were 8,-9,000 Black teachers in 2010, in 2013 about 2,500.

On September 2014,  The Root featured an article by Melinda Anderson called  America’s Unspoken Education Issue: Black Kids Need Black Teachers, A new historical account is just the latest reminder that relying on white teachers to save black students has never been enough.   

A lot had been published about the need for more teachers of color in the schools.  However, the historical, the unjust context of educators of African descent,  such as 7,000 Black teachers who lost their jobs in New Orleans after Katrina had not received enough coverage. Not too many had given a voice to this blatant injustice that a group of professionals had sustained. 

According to Huff post May 2015 article by Eric Cooper and Philip Jackson, “An estimated 100,000 Black teachers were retired, fired, removed from or "structured out" of education in America since 1990.” 

Now let’s talk about Massachusetts. Based on the Department of Ed’s (MADESE) website, in 13-14, there were 59,232.9 full time teachers in Massachusetts. Out of those 59,232 teachers, 1,488.0 were/are Black and 730.1 of them teach in Boston; 754.3 Asian teachers (199.1 teach in Boston); 1,421.2 Latino teachers- (325.3 Latinos) teach in Boston.  If almost half of Black teachers teach in Boston, what are the chances of students from the other 350 cities in the Commonwealth to have a Black or a nonwhite teacher? We are sitting - in near MIT. You know the probabilities for a student to have a Black teacher if there are 757.9 Black educators to teach in 350 cities.

What have the bargaining units done to represent and protect these tenured professionals who have paid union dues for years ( 10, 15, 20, 25 years)? The sad part is -  No one, even the Black leadership is saying anything about students not seeing a Black teacher in their school buildings, not alone in their classrooms. There are many school buildings in Massachusetts with school population of 50%, 70%, 80% students of color, or linguistics minority /majority students that have no Black teachers.

Analyzing these numbers, Is there a future for Black teachers in Massachusetts or in the Education field? One needs to envision the long term perception and impact of any student Black, White, or Asian, growing up not ever having a Black teacher, or any professional of African descent, during their formation years, i.e a Black nurse, a Black physician or any non-European professional.  So if children and youth are not exposed to a diverse group of professionals, society will continue to produce more brutal and violent police officers and more Dylann Roofs.  As children they were subconsciously raised to perceive nonwhite people as “not equal”, “less than”, “irrelevant” “ nothing”, therefore like black people, they can be killed.  
Given such blatant injustice, please repeat after me:

We cheer! We lead! We know there is a need for Black teachers!

I believe that we will win, I believe we will win Educational freedom!

Back up, back up we want to Diversify Education!
The people united, will never be defeated!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Black History Ammo for 2015-16 School Year: Know Your History-Ferguson Anniversary

As many of us return to school either as parents, students or teachers, we need to be armed with myth breaking intellectual ammunition. It is especially needed now more than ever because of the complete take over of the public education curriculum by racist megacorporations like Pearson or McGraw Hill or Prentice Hall. They dictate what is not going to be found in the history of this nation and in world history. They are already glossing over and prettifying slavery in the Americas as "incidental", "accidental", and an aberration. That somehow, even enslaved Africans and Native Americans were part of the Great Migration of people to America! That slavery was not as bad as those "radical" historians try to tell us.

Well, here is a good essay to help build a case for the TRUE History of the Americas. It is written by
Ms A'Lelia Bundles -- the great-granddaughter of Madame C J Walker (a Black inventor-businesswoman-activist-millionaire)

Ms Bundles says: Students [educators and parents, too] can download the free app for Al Jazeera magazine to access the August 2015 issue devoted to the Ferguson anniversary. There also may be other articles of interest to them.

They can go to the app stores via their phones or pads. Here are the links:

iPad/iPhone app

Monday, August 17, 2015

NYC Principal, Jamaal A. Bowman, Breaks Down Some Serious Education Analysis & Action

Restorative Practices & Community Building & Restorative Justice Conference #1

Jamaal A. Bowman Keynote Address at the first annual Restorative Justice conference at Lehman College on May 8th 2015 in the Bronx New York.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Common Core IS Part of the Testing Industrial Complex

Can We Rescue the Common Core Standards from the Testing Machine?

By Peter Greene-
Ethan Heitner

I hear this a lot these days: The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are, in and of themselves, fine. If we could just uncouple them from the testing and implementation regimens, all would be well. The standards themselves are an improvement, so let’s build on that opportunity, and not stand in the way just because their ugly testing step-cousin is trying to sneak through the door with them. We just need to get rid of the high-stakes tests.

I can remember thinking like that. I can remember looking at the standards and thinking, “Many of these are actually fine.” In fact, one of my earliest complaints about the CCSS was that they were one more example of folks telling us to do things that we already did. And I don’t think there are teachers alive who don’t relish the promise of freedom to pursue standards in any way they deem most effective.

“You know,” I thought at one point. “If it were possible to just use these standards as a rough guide to follow as we thought best, and we got the government to stop testing, I could live with this.”
That was the same moment when I realized that, no, the CCSS were not pure of heart, and I would never learn to love them.

Because what would decoupling look like? What incantation would exorcise the testing demons? Could teachers go to the government and say: “Thank you for these guidelines. Trust us—we will use our best professional judgment and produce the best-educated generation of students ever. Just step back and watch us work.” No, that would never work, and it would never work because the CCSS are not for us. They never were.

Teachers who like the standards look at them as a guide, as that helpful assurance that we are on the right page. We think of standards as a tool to help us find our way. To us standards say: “Here’s a map. We trust you to find your way.”

Not the Common Core. The primary purpose of the CCSS is to call teachers out. It says: “Here’s what you are supposed to be doing, or else. And we’ll be checking up on you every step of the way.” It is not a tool to be used by teachers; it’s a tool to be used on them.

The CCSS say: “Here’s what you must prove you’re accomplishing.” If you tell your students that you expect them to study and learn the chapter about Torquemada and 15th-century Spain, they know there’s a test coming. Everyone expects the Spanish Inquisition. The CCSS are not about helping us teach; they are about holding us accountable, so they are meaningless without testing (and some parts are meaningless with it).

Since they were designed to hold teachers accountable, they were designed to be tested. Let’s look at the Reading Literature Strand for 11–12 grade: RL.11–12.1, 2, and 3 deal with key ideas and details, and all three standards have one thing in common—they focus always and only on the text. For example, RL.11–12.3 tells us to analyze the impact of the author’s choices, but not the intent or context of them. So a CCSS-style study of The Sun Also Rises would not include the impact of the Great War on Hemingway’s generation, Hemingway’s own background, the rise of postmodernism, or the emerging literary techniques of the period. Nor would we look at how prevalent themes of the generation find expression in the novel.

We would study The Awakening without applying an understanding of women’s roles in the fin de siècle American South. We would study the impact of sarcasm on “A Modest Proposal” without studying what prompted Swift to write it. Animal Farm would be a curious fairy tale about talking animals. I cannot even imagine how to unlock the riches of “Dream Deferred” or “I, Too, Sing America” without noting that Langston Hughes was Black, or considering what it meant then to be African American.
Why would we strip all this literature of its richness, depth, and complexity, the very human qualities that make it worth reading in the first place? Because measuring students’ grasp of such ideas would be hard. Because the test could not be standardized, because we could not control for the depth and breadth of background information that individual students brought to the table. Because the only serious answers to the only important questions would have to be in the form of essays instead of bubbles. And real essays (not the standardized faux essays) are not cost effective to score.

A standardized test cannot measure how a student understands Hemingway’s novel as an expression of a generation’s confusion and alienation after World War I. But a standardized test can ask a student to read a paragraph from the novel and pick the most important sentence.

These are not standards designed to foster a richer and deeper understanding of literature. They are designed to produce easily testable results.

You may reply: “You can teach all that other nifty stuff if you want. Go ahead and enrich your lessons above and beyond the CCSS.”

Well, if I am enriching above and beyond the CCSS, what do I need the CCSS for? If the CCSS is not laying out a path for a full, quality education, what path is it marking?

It’s laying out the path to the test. The CCSS are just the largest scale test-prep guide ever created. The CCSS tell us what we need to cover for the test, and the test tells us how well we covered it. If there were no test, the CCSS would not matter.

The CCSS are also, of course, about making money. No Child Left Behind (NCLB) also wanted to bust into the big piggy bank that is public school funding, but NCLB was a big, blunt hammer; CCSS is a more sophisticated machine with many interlocking parts.

In fact, the biggest reason that CCSS cannot be rescued is directly related to the difficulties those of us who write about education have had in explaining the problems with CCSS. And it is probably the biggest lesson that the powers that be learned from NCLB.

The mistake those powers that be made with NCLB is that they gave the whole thing a name. The testing, the state standards, the punishing evaluations, the funding pressures—everything was gathered under the No Child Left Behind banner. Oh, how we loathed it. We called it funny, mocking names. Even when we couldn’t see the full picture, we knew its name. We knew its name.

This thing that’s happening now? The contempt for teachers, the drive to privatize, the evaluation-based punishment, the dismantling of our profession, the destruction of public education, the redirection of billions of tax dollars, the secrecy, the ill-conceived standards—we can see all its pieces, but the great, chewing mechanism does not have a name. The lack of a shorthand title for the galumphing monstrosity allows its creators, our so-called leaders, to pretend that all these are separate elements, when, in fact, they are all one well-coordinated machine.

If these were all separate and discrete pieces, they could not be parts of a giant machine chewing apart the entire U.S. institution of schooling. And that leads to the belief that some of these separate pieces can be rescued—that we can accept some and leave the rest behind.

But the CCSS are part of a coordinated, interlocking machine, and its creators will never let you take only a piece of it home. The testing regimen is not its own separate thing that can be just thrown out, any more than it was its own thing when it was the engine of NCLB. If you want only one cog, you can’t extract it from the machine.  


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

End Mayoral Control Coalition Supports NYC Education Reconstruction Commission Bill

The End Mayoral Control Coalition supports Barron’s education bill
The End Mayoral Control Coalition fully and enthusiastically endorses Assembly Bill A.7924, introduced by Assemblyman Charles Barron, to establish a ...
The End Mayoral Control Coalition fully and enthusiastically endorses Assembly Bill A.7924 (see below), introduced by Assemblyman Charles Barron, to establish a commission to thoroughly study the ineffectiveness of the New York City mayoral control of education state law. It authorized an entirely undemocratic system of school governance in 2002, when Mayor Michael Bloomberg was given dictatorial control of education in New York City. The current mayor has said he wants permanent undemocratic control.

This bill is an essential first step toward transparently investigating why a 13-year policy of mayoral control has failed to improve the quality of New York City public school education for all students. The commission will show that mayoral control has produced gross racial and class inequities among our public schools in shockingly gross proportions. Also, the commission will recommend the abolition of the current undemocratic mayoral control law and authorize an open exploration for a law that mandates a democratic parent-student-teacher system of school governance.

From our experience, we charge that exclusive mayoral control through a personally handpicked chancellor must be fully exposed for the incompetency it has continually demonstrated. It has mis-educated millions of our students, especially children of color, ELL, immigrant and special-needs students.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has mobilized 45 nonprofit “community” and social service organizations to support his efforts to bring permanent mayoral control to our 1.2 million school-age children. These organizations are desperate for funding and naively hope their endorsement of the mayor’s plan will bring in the needed funds to keep them afloat. They have misread de Blasio as a liberal progressive because of slick PR work. But the real de Blasio is continuing the Bloomberg-Giuliani policies of giving the Wall Streeters and luxury condo developers what they want: a direct political say in defining public education while at the same time syphoning off tens of billions of public school monies in the name of “charter” schools and no-bid contracts.

We understand that mayoral control is (1) undermining the quality of the future of our children by eliminating the child-centered institutions of learning and promoting the racist-fueled and profit-centered privatized policies and structures of “education” institutions; (2) stripping decision-making power from parents, educators, students and community and giving power over to the mayor’s office, his corporate allies, state legislators and the governor; and (3) infringing on the human rights of the students and parents of New York City public schools.

David Dobosz, a retired teacher from Brownsville’s District 23 and a member of the Independent Commission for Public Education, notes, “Public schools in heavily ‘charter schooled’ neighborhoods have become seriously under-resourced buildings that concentrate ever-increasing numbers of high-needs children in over-crowded classes that simply cannot be serviced effectively by a downsized staff and developmentally inappropriate standardized tests. The mayor owns problems like these because only he, not the parents nor the students, teachers or the community, has any real decision-making power to substantially change the numerous adverse in-school circumstances that negatively affect children. These adverse circumstances have only worsened over the years, and we refuse to allow this any longer.”

Brooklyn parent activist and co-chair of the Coalition for Public Education Muba Yarofulani asserts, “The sun setting of mayoral control is this month. As a parent of a child attending a New York City public school, I will fight to see a commission put into place to investigate this 13-year-old failed educational system, which has squandered tens of billions of dollars, and instead, transform it into a democratic people’s Board of Education.”

Instead of continuing mayoral control for any length of time, we must advocate for and fight for the creation of an education system based on human rights that includes democratic participation, equity, nondiscrimination and the full rich human development of us all—a democratic people’s Board of Education. The commission bill Barron has submitted can definitely help us start this democratic process in which parents, teachers, students and community are engaged in creating educational excellence for our children and adults desiring to further their education.

The End Mayoral Control Coalition is supported by many grassroots organizations, chiefly the Coalition for Public Education, the Independent Commission on Public Education, Black New Yorkers for Educational Excellence, S.E.E.D.S.( and others. Each of these organizations advocates for a democratic governance of public education at the community level to provide equal educational opportunity for all students.

For more information, visit and

A07924 Summary:

BILL NO    A07924 

SAME AS    No same as 

SPONSOR    Barron

COSPNSR    Walker


Establishes a task force on school governance to research and propose a new
structure for school governance in a city with a population of one million or
more; requires the task force's proposal go into effect on September 1, 2016
ending mayoral control.

A07924 Text:

                           S T A T E   O F   N E W   Y O R K


                              2015-2016 Regular Sessions

                                 I N  A S S E M B L Y

                                     June 1, 2015

       Introduced by M. of A. BARRON -- read once and referred to the Committee
         on Education

       AN  ACT  to  establish a task force on school governance to research and
         propose a new system for school governance in a city with a population
         of one million or more;  and  providing  for  the  repeal  of  certain
         provisions upon expiration thereof


    1    Section 1. 1. A task force on school governance is hereby  established
    2  to  research  and  propose  a new system for school governance in a city
    3  with a population of one million or more.   Such  task  force  shall  be
    4  composed of sixteen members of whom one member shall be appointed by the
    5  governor,  one  member  shall be appointed by the temporary president of
    6  the senate, one member shall be appointed by the minority leader of  the
    7  senate,  one  member  shall be appointed by the speaker of the assembly,
    8  one member shall be appointed by the minority leader  of  the  assembly,
    9  one  member  shall  be  appointed by New York State United Teachers, one
   10  member shall be appointed by the  United  Federation  of  Teachers,  one
   11  member  shall  be  appointed by District Council 37, one member shall be
   12  appointed by the council of school supervisors and administrators,  five
   13  members  shall  be appointed by the Chancellor's Parent Advisory Council
   14  and two members shall be appointed by the state department of education.
   15  Of the members appointed by the department of education, both  shall  be
   16  student  representatives  from Student Leadership Teams; one such member
   17  shall be appointed from a high-performing  school  and  the  other  such
   18  member shall be appointed from a low-performing school. The chair of the
   19  task  force  shall  be  elected  by  a  majority  vote of the task force
   20  members.  The members of the task force  shall  each  have  demonstrated
   21  experience  or  expertise  in school governance and/or have an impact on
   22  their schools and communities.

        EXPLANATION--Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets
                             [ ] is old law to be omitted.
       A. 7924                             2

    1    2. The task force  shall  research,  examine  and  evaluate  potential
    2  school  governance  models  and  shall  propose  a new system for school
    3  governance in a city with a population of one  million  or  more.    The
    4  commission is charged with the following tasks: assess the strengths and
    5  weaknesses  of  the  current educational system; create a strategic plan
    6  and develop a mission, goals and policies to redesign the system and its
    7  governance structure to guarantee every child's human  right  to  educa-
    8  tion;  include  the  public  in  a democratic process to reach consensus
    9  about a redesigned system that the legislature enacts into law.
   10    S 2. The members of the task force shall receive no  compensation  for
   11  their services, but shall be allowed their actual and necessary expenses
   12  incurred  in  the  performance  of  their  duties  pursuant to this act,
   13  provided that the task force shall be authorized to conduct meetings  in
   14  a manner that minimizes travel and costs.
   15    S  3.  The task force shall submit, within twelve months of the effec-
   16  tive date of this act, a final report of its proposal for a  new  system
   17  for school governance in a city with a population of one million or more
   18  to  the  governor, the temporary president of the senate, the speaker of
   19  the assembly and the chairs of the education committees in the  assembly
   20  and  senate.  The report shall include such legislative proposals as the
   21  task force deems necessary to implement its new system for school gover-
   22  nance. Such proposal for a new system for school governance  in  a  city
   23  with a population of one million or more shall go into effect on Septem-
   24  ber  1,  2016. Mayoral control pursuant to article 52-A of the education
   25  law shall expire on September 1, 2016.
   26    S 4. This act shall take effect immediately;  provided  that  sections
   27  one and two of this act shall expire and be deemed repealed September 1,
   28  2016.