Monday, May 21, 2012

Not Waiting for Superman--
The Inconvenient Truth About Waiting for Superman
The People's Answer to the Privateers' Antiteacher/AntiParent Union Busting Slick Documentary

Lisa Donlan, Parent and President CEC1:  917-848-5873
Julie Cavanagh, Teacher PS 15, GEM/CAPE: 917-836-6465
Brian Jones, Teacher PS 30, GEM: 646-554-8592 
One year ago, The Grassroots Education Movement premiered a new documentary, written and directed by New York City public school teachers and parents, created in response to Davis Guggenheim’s highly misleading film. Waiting for "Superman" would have audiences believe that free-market competition, standardized tests, destroying teacher unions, and the proliferation of charter schools are just what this country needs to create great public schools.
The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting For "Superman" highlights the real-life experiences of public school parents, students and educators to show how these so-called reforms are actually hurting public education. The film discusses the kinds of real reform – inside schools and in our society as a whole  – that we urgently need to genuinely transform education in this country.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Educating for Democracy: 

The People's Board of Education 

Joel Shatsky- Huffington Post

Seku Braithwaite starting the afternoon working groups session

Posted: 05/10/2012 

At an all-day meeting featuring panel discussions and break-out sessions, a group of parents, students, teachers and other educators met to propose an alternative to Mayoral control of the New York City public school system. Sponsored by the CPE (Coalition for Public Education) an education advocacy group, and held at the District 37 (AFSCME) building, the conference centered on strategies to establish a People's Board of Education as a way of giving parents of young learners in the public school system a decision-making voice in their children's education.

At the conference which featured a number of educational "true reform" activists such as Jitu Weusi, Benita Rivera, Sam Anderson, David Dubosz, and Brian Jones among many participants, several of them recalled the time in which community control of the schools was implemented in the 1960s and the controversies surrounding the Ocean Hill-Brownsville district in Brooklyn.
 Folk working hard in the People's Board of Education founding meeting.

Ms. Rivera recounted the disappointment she and her son had when he became enrolled in the Henry Street School of International Studies, with its promises of foreign travel for the students. She pointed out that most of these promises were unfulfilled, that only a tiny fraction of the students who entered the program as freshmen actually graduated and that the staffing included mostly inexperienced teachers, some without certification.

Sam Anderson emphasized the "corporate connection" between the public schools and corporate influence during the Bloomberg Administration's control of the schools. He underlined the importance of public education as a "human right" and that the way in which the schools were presently run, much of it for the benefit of corporations, was a violation of that right. As an alternative to Mayoral control, he proposed a People's Board of Education to be made up of "parents, grandparents, students, community members and educators who will be charged to serve only the interests of parents, students and their communities."

Among its guiding principles would be the right of parents, students and the community to:
  1. Participate in the governance of the educational system;
  2. Independently monitor the system;
  3. Receive adequate training and information that would ensure effective participation in the system;
  4. Employ effective and timely remedies when rights are being violated.
Other proposals involving the PBE would be community participation in developing a "new vision of free anti-racist public education in NYC," a way to "participate and monitor the results of future reorganization efforts," and thus "assure that federal, state and city laws provide independent public oversight of the public education system."
 Another Working Group Charting out Strategies & Tactics to help empower the NYC People's Board of Education.

The major emphasis of the PBE would enable community members of the neighborhoods in which the public schools are located who are knowledgeable in pedagogy, education law, community organizing, and training, and fundraising and media connections to participate in forming and directing its policies. Not, as is presently the case, being shut out of any input into the decision-making process of the PEP (Panel on Educational Policy), which is a rubber stamp for the Bloomberg Administration.

Brian Jones, a noted educator and producer of the documentary The Inconvenient Truth Behind 'Waiting for Superman,' a critical response to the hyped documentary about charter schools, Waiting for Superman, pointed out that the consequences of the Ocean Hill-Brownsville controversy divided teachers from parents and that now "connecting the dots" means that parents and teachers need to unite in the common cause.

The effects of the Bloomberg administration's handling of the schools can also be seen, according to another participant, in a significant decline in the number of African-American and Latino teachers recruited into the system since Mayoral control was implemented. The importance of having positive role models in a predominantly minority student population cannot be underestimated.

Other issues such as the negative influence on communities when "charter schools" are co-located in neighborhood schools, the more inclusive, multi-cultural teaching materials that were an integral part of the school curriculum in the 1960s, and the need for getting the police out of the schools were among the many other topics aired. The afternoon of the conference consisted of planning for future meetings and outreach strategies for the wider community.

Assemblywoman Inez Barron is presenting a bill to the New York State Assembly to establish a People's Board of Education as an alternative to Mayoral control. Given the recent critical report by the Schott Foundation that the present policies of the Bloomberg administration have contributed to "educational redlining" and its resultant failures to improve the public schools if not make them worse than when he took control, the alternative of a People's Board of Education seems worth serious consideration.

The People's Board Of Education will meet again on Saturday June 2 to continue to expand its base in all of New York City's neighborhoods.
 Some of the youth helping to form the People's Board of Education that will have Youth engaged in decision-making at every level of school governance.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Quick! Cut the Bloomberg Privatization Branches!
Loretta Prisco- Staten Island Education Activist
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results… or anyone who doesn't take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either. 
(Albert Einstein)

Several weeks ago we woke to the sound of loud banging at our vacation home.  Heating system?  New refrigerator?  A fox or coyote trying to get in?  No, a robin who seated himself on a branch near the bay window and continually, methodically, fiercely and unsuccessfully flew into the same window pane and then flew back to the same branch.  For several weekends, we woke to the same sound. Concerned for the bird, we’d walk over to the window, he’d fly away but return.  We knocked on the window, determined, he’d return.  We put my granddaughter’s doll in the window, fearlessly he seemed to stare her down, and come back.  Could we teach this robin with a bird brain, that this was dangerous? No.  So we cut the branch down as we left this morning. Will he come back? Made me think about education policy.
The DOE beats its head against the research that says low class size has a positive impact on learning and continues to raise class size.
The NYS legislature ignores the fact that there is not a city that has improved learning under Mayoral Control and yet approved its continuance.
Flying into the face of the window – oops, research - that clearly shows that holding over a child does nothing to help a child, and as a matter of fact, it is detrimental, the DOE instituted a mandatory holdover policy.
Charlotte Danielson, the reigning icon of teacher development and author of the Danielson rubric, stated the rubric is not to be used to evaluate and punish teachers, but rather used to develop teachers.  Yet, NYC schools use it to evaluate, punish, humiliate and reward teachers.
And the loudest bang of all…although we thought that the bird would never crack the window…the one that is successful at breaking the window…“High Stakes Testing: the Poster Child of Failure” (Peter Henry) and its facilitators: Arnie Duncan, Secretary of Education; John King, NYS Commissioner; and Walcott/Bloomberg, Chancellor/Mayor.
Diane Ravitch writes to Deborah Meirer,  
“Harvard's Eleanor Duckworth and I were invited to China to discuss promising educational reforms by officials who think that the Chinese exam-based tradition is stifling the kind of creativity and ingenuity that they believe has made America technologically and scientifically so outstanding. They are looking for ways to produce well-educated youth whose ambitions are focused on more than getting the right answers on exams.”
Donald Campbell, from Dartmouth, warns  

"The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor. Campbell’s Law has proven true for centuries, starting with ancient Chinese civil service exams based on Confucianism.”

David Berliner, Regents' Professor Emeritus in the College of Education at ASU is clear on high stakes testing. 

“far from producing “certainty” of educational excellence—(tests) are a set-up for schools to forego real learning in favor of the only thing the system truly values: producing an acceptable numerical appearance of learning. The higher the stakes are in testing, the less reliable they are.  Yet, we have moved them to a level never before realized.” 

The National Academy of Sciences asserts that  

“There are no large-scale, peer-reviewed academic studies that prove, or even suggest, that a high-stakes, standardized testing educational program improves learning, skill-development or achievement for students."

Peter Henry in the Minnesota Journal of English asks us to look at what we all know, “let’s return to the central premise: student effort will increase when there is  

“more” riding on a test’s outcome. Astoundingly, there is no research data showing that such “high-stakes” environments actually work to improve effort, achievement or scholarship. None.  Nor have long-standing college-entrance exams, like the SAT and ACT, shown any significant change in student achievement over the last decade.”  

The authors of standardized tests state that their tests are only one measure of a child’s learning and should not be the sole criteria for judging a child’s achievement, yet they are used in this way. 

The magnificent three (Duncan, King, and Walcott/Bloomberg) ignore the research, wisdom and warnings. They gave $32 million to Pearson for faulty tests, doubled the number of tests that children take,  use scores to rate and reward teachers; rate and holdover children; and use them as a criteria for admission to programs and placement in middle school.

Bird brains?  I think not. A move to destroy public schools and push the real agenda…the privatization of schools?  How long before the public cuts the branch of all that is really wrong with public education?