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Saturday, February 7, 2015

Teachers: A Call to Conscience | Teachers' Letters of Professional Conscience

Teachers: A Call to Conscience | Teachers' Letters of Professional Conscience:

Teachers: A Call to Conscience

“My conscience leaves me no other choice.”
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
On April 4th, 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his “Beyond Vietnam”speech, declaring “My conscience leaves me no other choice.”  Dr. King went on and “insisted that it was morally imperative for the U.S. to take radical steps to halt the war through nonviolent means (King, ‘‘Beyond Vietnam,’’ 139).  In a Q & A following his speech, Dr. King said:
As I said earlier in the speech, I think the time has come for those of us feel that this war is immoral and unjust to advise young men of the alternative to the draft, which is to serve as conscientious objector. I think this will do a great deal to arouse the conscience of the nation on this whole situation, and certainly if the war is continually escalated I think this will be absolutely necessary. – Dr. King
In a letter to a Navy friend written in 1965, John F. Kennedy wrote on the topic of conscientious objection:
War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector
enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today.  
 ~ John F. Kennedy, Letter to a Navy friend, quoted in Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1965), p. 88.
Through No Child Left Behind, through Common Core and its subsequent tests; our own Congress, the US Department of Education, the National Governor’s Association, and the Council for State School Officers have joined corporate education reformers declaring war on America’s public schools. (This war is actually global.)
As a result of this declaration of war – aligned with the passions ofconscientious objectors of previous wars, a spark was lit in the hearts and minds of teachers. As teachers, we passionately object to the way testing dominates and distorts instruction and learning for children, preventing teachers from teaching in ways we know are good for children.
A new movement has risen in the Teachers’ Letters of Professional Conscience.  We believe it is morally imperative to take radical steps to halt toxic high stakes testing around the globe.  We write these letters to arouse the conscience of each nation and believe our actions are absolutely necessary.
A re-write of JFK’s quote is meant to inspire our movement:
Governmental and corporate-led war on public schools will exist until that distant day when the Teacher of Professional Conscience enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the corporate reformer does today.
Susan DuFresne
On January 28th, 6th grade teacher, Becca Ritchie delivered her letter of professional conscience to our local school board, re-writing and speaking her words echoing Dr. King’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech, as found here.
“Remember that fear is natural, but there is greater fear in knowing what will happen if we don’t take a stand.”  
- Jia Lee 
Taking this step is a serious matter, and as you can see by the expression on our faces, we knew the seriousness of putting our objections into words, and Teachers: A Call to Conscience | Teachers' Letters of Professional Conscience:

Laura Ingalls Wilder Meets Common Core

Laura Ingalls Wilder Meets Common Core:

little house

Laura Ingalls Wilder Meets Common Core

When I was a child, in 3rd grade, I fell in love with Little House in the Big Woods. I distinctly remember locating it in the little classroom library. I am not sure if I read it before or after Caddie Woodlawn, another fine chapter book about strong pioneer girls. There were no benchmarks—I don’t recall even doing a book report.
Now, if you Google Little House in the Big Woods you will find a gazillion ways to address the Common Core. The books are considered a must read, and it appears that if you aren’t exposed to reading them, early on, you will not go far in life. There are even picture books to pave the way for the chapter books to make sure teachers and their students don’t flub up and miss out.
Those books were not made to appear like I would be a failure if I didn’t read them when I was young. No one warned me that I wouldn’t be able to get into Harvard if I didn’t read them. I, quite frankly, never heard of Harvard or any other college in third grade.
When I first read Little House in the Big Woods, I wasn’t made to learn about Laura Ingalls Wilder the author, or given a whole long list of vocabulary words out of the book to define. I didn’t have to locate descriptive words—no one graded me down if I didn’t know what quinine meant.
I didn’t have to identify alliteration and the syllables in the words. I didn’t need to prove I could identify singular and plural nouns or the parts of speech. I wasn’t made to go back and describe the cliffhangers, although I probably did tell my little friends about some of them. I didn’t even have to write about the story using graphic organizers.
I only remember yearning for time after school and on the weekend to be able to immerse myself in the story. And, much to my delight, when I finished Little House in the Big Woods, I discovered On the Banks of Plum Creek!
I am not saying that it isn’t nice to learn additional things surrounding a novel. I think Laura Ingalls Wilder Meets Common Core:

School Superintendents! Stop harassing parents for opting their children out of the Common Core SBAC Test | EduBloggers

School Superintendents! Stop harassing parents for opting their children out of the Common Core SBAC Test | EduBloggers:

School Superintendents! Stop harassing parents for opting their children out of the Common Core SBAC Test

Jonathan Pelto is an education blogger and founder and manager of the Education Bloggers Network.  HIs blog, What, What? can be found at:
School Superintendents! Stop harassing parents for opting their children out of the Common Core SBAC Test
With the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) Testing beginning in less than a month, more and more parents are informing their local school districts that they have decided that their children will not be taking the unfair, discriminatory and inappropriate Common Core SBAC tests this year.
Parents who understand the issues associated with the Common Core SBAC Testing Scam are opting their children out.
Despite repeated posts here at Wait, What? and the work of a number of state-wide efforts to inform state and local officials that they must respect a parent’s fundamental right to opt their children out of the Common Core SBAC Test, a significant number of local school superintendents, and their staff, continue to mislead parents, throw up barriers or harass parents into believing that they have lost their right to protect their children from an unfair test that is rigged to ensure that as many as 7 in 10 children fail.
So once again, let us be clear!
  • There is no federal or state law, regulation or policy that prohibits a parent or guardian from opting their children out of these inappropriate, unfair and discriminatory tests.
  • There is no federal or state law, regulation or policy that allows the government or local school districts to punish parents or their children if the parent refuses to allow their child or children to participate in the Common Core SBAC testing scam.
Not only is there no law, regulation or policy that prohibits parents from opting their children out of the Common Core 

Jonathan Pelto


The Education Bloggers Network is an informal confederation of more than 200 education reporters, advocacy journalists, investigative bloggers, and commentators.  Members of the Education Bloggers Network are dedicated to providing parents, teachers, public education advocates and the public with the truth about public education in the United States and the efforts of the corporate education reform industry.
Many members of the Education Bloggers Network have their own blogs, some write news analysis and commentary pieces for local, regional and national newspapers and media outlets.  Still others use their Facebook or other social media platforms to write about public education issues.
Like the Committees of Correspondence leading up to America’s War for Independence, education bloggers work alone, in groups and has a broader force to educate, persuade and mobilize parents, teachers, education advocates and citizens to stand up and speak out about the critical issues facing public education today.
The Education Bloggers Network was developed in conjunction with the publication and roll-out of Diane Ravitch’s best-selling book on education reform entitled, “Reign of Error.”
Today, the Education Bloggers Network is a vibrant community working to share information and provide accurate, reliable and timely information about public education issues at the local, state and federal level.
The Education Bloggers Network works closely with the nationally renowned Progressive Magazine and a number of Network members have their articles and commentary pieces cross-posted to Public School Shakedown a website hosted by the Progressive.
The Education Bloggers Network also works closely with the Network for Public Education, the nation’s leading public education advocacy group, founded my Diane Ravitch and other pro-public education leaders.  The NPE’s mission is to “protect, preserve, promote, and strengthen public schools and the education of current and future generations of students.”
In addition, a number of leading voices in public education host platforms that provide readers with access to articles and blogs written by a variety of different education writers.  These platforms include websites such as Diane Ravitch’s blogNetwork for Public EducationLiving in Dialogue, the BAT blogK12News NetworkBig Education Ape, and the list goes on.
As Diane Ravitch noted in a post about the Education Bloggers Network, “If you blog and if you support public education as a pillar of our democracy, consider joining the Education Bloggers Network.”
To become part of the Education Bloggers Network contact Jonathan Pelto, founder and manager of the Network

Let’s Meet up in Boston @CamForum to Discuss The Health of Democracy and Privatizing Education | Cloaking Inequity

Let’s Meet up in Boston @CamForum to Discuss The Health of Democracy and Privatizing Education | Cloaking Inequity:

Let’s Meet up in Boston @CamForum to Discuss The Health of Democracy and Privatizing Education

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From Cambridge Forum:
“The Massachusetts School Law of 1642 laid out the rationale for public education: “Forasmuch as the good education of children is of singular behoof and benefit to any Common-wealth.” How do contemporary efforts to privatize public education square with the civic role that education has played in American democracy? Internationally recognized leader in education policy Julian Vasquez Heilig examines the variety of ways in which public education is being privatized in the name of “reform” and suggests ways for citizens to respond that both improve educational experience and strengthen the societal and civic role that education plays.cambridgeforum-200x200
Cambridge Forum programs are held in the historic First Parish (Unitarian Universalist) at 3 Church Street (Harvard Square), in Cambridge. The format includes a relatively brief introductory statement (20 minutes) from the speaker, with a 10 minute response, followed by a moderated discussion with our live audience that would last approximately 60 minutes. Cambridge Forum is also inviting a teacher with experience in a broad range of Boston-area schools to serve as respondent and moderator.privatization
This forum is part of Cambridge Forum’s 2015 series on “The Health of Democracy.” During the winter, our programs will focus on the relationship between a healthy democracy and a robust social contract, with particular speakers examining the role that social immobility, wealthy inequality, privatization, polarization, the corporate media, and disenfranchisement play in our society today. After the speaker has described the threat posed by each of these factors, moderators will discuss ways that citizens can take action to respond to these challenges.cfonion
Questions that were key in conceptualizing this forum include: How do contemporary efforts to privatize public education square with the civic role that education has played in American democracy? What are the various ways in which public education is being privatized in the name of “reform”? How can citizens respond with efforts that both improve the educational experience and strengthen the societal and civic role that education plays?
In fall of 2014, Cambridge Forum began its 48th year of presenting free, public lectures with guest speakers in Harvard Square. Featuring prominent scholars, writers, scientists and artists, Cambridge Forum is dedicated to presenting ideas and topics of public interest and concern from a variety of fields and points of view. Our roster of speakers has included Buckminster Fuller, Kevin Phillips, Lani Guinier, Robert Reich, Paul Krugman, Lester Brown, Naomi Klein, Howard Gardner, Jonathan Kozol, Lawrence Lessig, Garrison Keillor, Marian Wright Edelman, Let’s Meet up in Boston @CamForum to Discuss The Health of Democracy and Privatizing Education | Cloaking Inequity:

The secret behind those ‘Highly Performing’ charter schools | Politics Uncuffed by Julie Erfle

The secret behind those ‘Highly Performing’ charter schools | Politics Uncuffed by Julie Erfle:

The secret behind those ‘Highly Performing’ charter schools

Feb 4th, 2015 | By  | Category: educationFeatured ArticlesMain Article

school crossing signLet me start by making a confession. My oldest son attends a BASIS school. BASIS schools are some of those “highly performing charters” that reformers love to use an example of everything that’s right with charter schools, while traditional school advocates use as an example of everything that’s wrong. I suspect the majority of folks who pan or extol the virtues of BASIS schools have never had a child attend one, so let me give you an insider’s look.
I pulled my oldest son from a traditional public school and enrolled him in BASIS when he was in sixth grade. His former school wasn’t a bad school. I liked his teachers. I spent a lot of time getting to know the administration.
But my son wasn’t thriving at his school. He received A’s in his honors classes but C’s and D’s in his regular classes. He was distracted in class and became increasingly disruptive (which is how I came to know the school’s administration).
He needed a change. He needed to be challenged.
I went to Parent Night at BASIS and was blown away by what I heard. An Arizona school ranked as one of the top high schools in the nation? In Arizona?? Teachers with degrees from Harvard and Yale and Stanford, with PhD’s and real-world experience. A curriculum that entails AP coursework as early as 7th grade, and the ability to finish high school with every AP class completed by 11th grade. Wow. What’s not to love?
My oldest son wasn’t happy with my decision to move him. He promised me he’d never, ever, ever like the school. But within a couple months, he was back to his old self, thriving both academically and socially.
It was the right decision, and I don’t regret it. But, like all good stories, there’s more to this than meets the eye.
Governor Ducey wants to “fund the wait lists” at schools such as BASIS. He’s fond of using the school as the poster child for reform. But those wait lists are a mirage.
It’s true that hundreds of students are turned away from BASIS and other top-rated charter schools in 5th and 6thgrade. But it’s also true that the turnover rate at these charter schools is astronomical, with hundreds of students opting out of the schools after a short period of time, and schools graduating as few as 20-30 students.
Many of the critics will say it’s because BASIS filters out undesirable students, such as those with learning or attention differences, while keeping the “cream of the crop.” And they’re correct.
The curriculum at BASIS isn’t advanced. It’s highly advanced, as in 2 or 3 years ahead of most schools, similar to the curriculum for highly gifted students. Remember when I said AP classes start in 7th grade? That’s not normal. And it’s not something that just any student can handle.
Starting in 6th grade, students take midterms and finals, and the final is a significant portion of the student’s overall class grade. It’s high-stakes testing at its highest. If a student fails even one class (with a small exception for some math classes), that student must retake the entire grade.
The vast majority of students, when faced with retaking an entire grade or moving on to a different school, will move on. So will the vast majority of students who struggle with such an advanced load and who find themselves spending 4-5 hours on homework every night. And the same with many students who are involved in extracurricular activities such as club sports, which requires time for evening practices and weekend tournaments.
This is why BASIS schools start out with hundreds of students and long waiting lists in 5th and 6th grade but end The secret behind those ‘Highly Performing’ charter schools | Politics Uncuffed by Julie Erfle:

Privatizing the Public (On Steroids) | educarenow

Privatizing the Public (On Steroids) | educarenow:

Privatizing the Public (On Steroids)

In one of the scariest articles on education ever written, States Weigh Turning Education Funds Over to Parents,” you will find that many states are creating policy that will allow parents to create “Educational Savings Accounts,” paid for by funds that were previously used to cover public education, that will give them“the freedom to design a custom education for their children — at taxpayer expense.”
It’s the ultimate in privatizing the public.
I shouldn’t be surprised.  My own governor of the state of Michigan once developed a secret plan for the same idea.  And that was 2 years ago. Of course, when exposed it disappeared, only to surface again in a different form.  I guess I just hoped that such stupidity would be so abundantly obvious that no one else would ever attempt the same.
I was wrong.
So, to say the least, this idea is a threat to our most basic form of democracy, your local school district.
But then again, local democracy has also been disappearing for years.
And what has been the narrative that has allowed for such ideas?
The notion that our public schools are failing.
The article succinctly essentializes this point of view in quoting Tennessee’s state representative John DeBerry Jr.:
“Tennessee state Rep. John DeBerry Jr., a Democrat, couldn’t agree more: ‘We created public education. It didn’t fall from the sky. It wasn’t divinely given to us. We created it, so we can reform it,’ he said. ‘If the status quo  isn’t working, it needs to be changed.'”
Unfortunately for John DeBerry, the status quo he’s referring to, the common good of public schools and the traditional idea of local democracy, has been Privatizing the Public (On Steroids) | educarenow:

With A Brooklyn Accent: Time to Chuck the Small Schools Movement- A Commentary by Bronx Teacher Aixa Rodriguez

With A Brooklyn Accent: Time to Chuck the Small Schools Movement- A Commentary by Bronx Teacher Aixa Rodriguez:

Time to Chuck the Small Schools Movement- A Commentary by Bronx Teacher Aixa Rodriguez

#WeneedaRestorationMvt: Time to Chuck the Small Schools Movement

By Aixa B. Rodriguez

The small schools movement in NYCDOE high schools has got to go. It has run its course and enough students have been experimented on, enough veteran teachers have been pushed out via institutional ageism and the UFT high school divisions have been broken. It is time for this lie to end. We need a restoration movement. These boutique schools based on half-baked themes, were really “charter lite” and allowed for many a despotic principal to burn their small faculty out. I could go on and on on about how these “small” schools have impacted the teaching profession, but I first, let us focus on what this 99cents bargain store attempt at education reform has done to the students of the Bronx. They have suffered under the lie of “school choice” and endured a narrowed curriculum, less services and supports, less electives and less variety of sports and after school extra-curricular activities. The very existence of small schools has impacted the remaining large comprehensive schools and the education of those students in those schools.

The students at the small schools have been sold the illusion of “choice”. Once committed to one of the many schools that have all types of colors, logos, themes, designs, uniforms etc., it becomes painfully evident that your choices end there. Hoodwinked and bamboozled: the kids soon learn they were sold an idea in a glossy brochure that was not fully developed.  Students are subject to taking courses based on what the school offers, and if your schedule permits it. Small schools do not have the funding to have a variety of languages, electives, or even levels of classes. Small schools do not have the ability to have flexibility in which teacher a student can choose to learn from. Have a personality conflict? Too bad, you won’t have options to choose from. Small schools most often don’t have “departments” larger than four teachers and they are usually committed to one grade. If you have an IEP that is an entire other set of problems, because you will be limited to the classes that fit your needs, ICT and SETTS, your therapies etc. It complicates your schedule, and you might find yourself having to take SETTS during lunch, or come to gym 0 period. Not exactly an attractive choice for a teen with a commute since local schools have died the slow death. No choice in classes. No choice in teachers. No wonder credit accumulation is a problem for many of these vulnerable students.

Let’s face it small schools do not, and will never have the supports that a large comprehensive school does. Even at year 4, small schools will not have the arts, music and drama faculty, With A Brooklyn Accent: Time to Chuck the Small Schools Movement- A Commentary by Bronx Teacher Aixa Rodriguez:

In Defense of Annual School Testing -

In Defense of Annual School Testing -

In Defense of Annual School Testing

Parents Can Opt Out United Opt Out National

Click Here to go to United Opt Out National: 

Click Here to go to the Website- United Opt Out Team

WASHINGTON — DURING a recent hearing by the Senate Education Committee, its Republican chair, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, questioned whether the federal government’s annual standardized testing requirement, embodied in the No Child Left Behind law of 2001, may be too much. He pointed out that students now spend 1 to 3 percent of their school year taking federal, state and local tests in reading and math.
The concerns about standardized tests are bipartisan. Last fall former President Bill Clinton said, “I think doing one in elementary school, one in the end of middle school and one before the end of high school is quite enough.” This was the policy his administration championed in the law that predated No Child Left Behind. And recently teachers’ unions and the liberal Center for American Progress backed this type of “grade-span” approach for school accountability purposes.
The idea of less testing with the same benefits is alluring. Yet in practice it would actually roll back progress for America’s students.
Yes, test quality must be better than it is today. And, yes, teachers and parents have a right to be alarmed when unnecessary tests designed only for school benchmarking or teacher evaluations cut into instructional time. But annual testing has tremendous value. It lets schools follow students’ progress closely, and it allows for measurement of how much students learn and grow over time, not just where they are in a single moment.
It also allows for a much more nuanced look at student performance. For example, rather than simply looking at average overall school performance, where high performers frequently mask what’s happening to low achievers, No Child Left Behind focuses attention on the progress that groups of students are making within schools — a level of analysis that is possible only with annual data. To be confident that the test results aren’t pulled up or down by a few students and to minimize year-to-year variability, states usually consider only groups of at least 30 or 40 students. States are also able to average results over multiple years or across grades.
So, for instance, a school with 10 Hispanic students in each of grades three, four, five and six adds up to a group of 40, providing some accountability for what is happening to those students.
The grade-span approach would eviscerate the ability to look at particular groups of students within schools. Instead of having multiple grades over which schools could compile results, each school would be held responsible only for the performance of students in a single grade. Not only would this lower the quality of the data, but it would also raise the stakes of the tests: If you think the stakes are too high now, imagine being a fifth grader in a school where your score determines the results of the entire school.
Worst of all, under this approach, far fewer schools would be on the hook for paying attention to historically disadvantaged groups of students. A school with 10 Hispanic students in each grade would no longer be held accountable for whether those students were making sufficient progress, because the 10 fifth graders wouldn’t be enough to count as a meaningful population size.
To get a sense of how many students could become newly “invisible,” consider public elementary schools in Washington, D.C. Applying the same minimum group size currently used for entire schools to the fifth grade only, about half of the city’s 119 elementary schools with fifth graders taking math tests would not be held accountable for the progress of low-income or African-American students, because there aren’t enough of them in that grade to constitute a reliable sample size. For that same reason, less than 10 percent of schools would be responsible for Hispanic students or English language learners, and not a single elementary school would be accountable In Defense of Annual School Testing -