Archive for May, 2012

Are You Being Served?

This was the title I used when I originally posted about a year ago in my column at The Examiner. However, it seems fitting to repost it here, again, a year later as the heat on higher education is being turned up. I share this post in honor of Barbara Madeloni, a lecturer at UMass, whose has courageously been fighting the corporate takeover of teacher preparation at her institution.  According to EdRadio (one of the few real shows out there, At The Chalk Face notwithstanding, left that speaks truth to power):

“The attempt to impose a corporate sponsored standard assessment on pre-service teachers is one more example of the corporatization of public education and the surveillance, silencing and demands for obedience that accompany it.”

The development of a national Teacher Performance Assessment (TPA), driven by the testing giant, Pearson, Inc. is being used to drive the National Common Core Standards into higher education and will perpetuate fear and test driven instruction that will be required of all teacher educators.  While I saw this tidal wave off in the horizon just a year ago when i wrote the original post, its now looming right over our heads like the sword of Damacles.  University of Massachusetts Amherst student teachers and instructors  are refusing to take part in the field test of a Teacher Performance Assessment being implemented by Pearson, Inc., a private company and the largest assessment and testing provider in the United States.

But it seems her institution doesn’t want saving.  They denied her a renewed contract for next fall 2013, as a thanks for her efforts (though she has some union protection under discussion).

Coincidence? If you think I am exaggerating, I guess you’ll have to wait until they come for you and me to be sure.  We are all being “served” now-our pink slips that is.

TPA is becoming the surveillance technique du jour, where Pearson will collect data and evaluate educator effectiveness. Corporations will hold the keys to curriculum and pedagogy kingdoms. And criticisms over the Common Core and its unholy alliance with TPA are being silenced.

But all of us, like Barbara and others at UMass and all over the country, can serve their shit right back. Not only can we speak up and say noImage

–we must.

ARE YOU BEING SERVED?

McDonald’s is famous for its large signs bragging “8 millions served daily.”  While the numbers may be accurate, the question has loomed ever since Super Size Me as to exactly WHAT it is that is being served.

Public education in the United States similarly has been serving millions of children each year for generations- sometimes performing this task well, and other times not.  And historically there have been complex and heated debates as to what knowledge is best to be “served” to students, and how that knowledge might be best served.  We, in the United States,  have never arrived at a singular concrete answer to this debate, yet the one positive is that debate has been at least possible.  Higher education is one place where research conducted by scores of educational scholars (both quantitative and qualitative) has for decades offered up a variety of perspectives on the issue.   If the most recent policy proposals now on the table are passed successfully (see article In Education Week by Alyson Klein), then the debates might finally be silenced.  The bill which is called “Growing Excellent Achievement Training Academies for Teachers and Principals Act” was introduced June 22nd  by Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Barbara Mikulski, D-Md. Apparently the Department of Education will decide for all of us in the academie how to define and measure student achievement.

Colleges of Education across the country are intended to be places where research and practice can be collected as data, analyzed, or summarized;  ideally offering a wide variety of new alternative ways to conceive of and practice public education.  But this newest policy, following on tail of Michelle Rhee’s mastermind plan ironically entitled Students First to hold K-12 teachers accountable for students test scores by attaching testing to salary and even job retention, has now reached its claws into the halls of higher education.  In essence the dominos of disaster are falling “upward.”   In the bill proposed June 22nd 2011, student-teachers (often called interns or pre service teachers) will be required even before graduating to demonstrate improved test scores in their internship classrooms in order to graduate with an education degree and teaching certificate.  So connect the dots:

In order for K-12 classroom teachers to improve test scores, they are more than likely required to follow the mandated and tightly scripted curriculum guides (written by text book and testing companies, and policy makers-rarely classroom teachers themselves). Regardless of what students needs or interests are, regardless of funding provided to these teachers to accomplish this goal, regardless of the socio-economic conditions of their students (see the volumes of research proving that poverty affects learning more than any other factor), and most importantly, regardless of whether or not the knowledge in these curriculum guides and tests are even the knowledge that students REALLY NEED, teachers will, out of fear for their very jobs, teach to the test.  

In order for student-teachers to successfully graduate and receive their diploma they too (out of fear) follow suit.  Now, in order for teacher educators to assist their student teachers toward this goal, their classrooms will now be required to teach not rich democratic approaches to pedagogy, not multiple learning styles, not differentiation, not creative learning that motivates and reaches students; they will  teach their student teachers how to teach to the test.  While at minimum this will become an infringement of academic freedom which includes and rich and diverse perspectives, supposedly one of the valued tenets of higher education,  college professors with PhD’s and generations of experience will kowtow to text book companies for how to teach their classes.   According to Klein “States that choose to participate in the program would have to designate state ‘authorizers’ who would approve and oversee the academies.” The State will oversee the academie?  Or should we just send our thank you notes straight to Pearson?

 Look up the definition of facism in Wikpedia to see the parallels.

Teacher educators and colleges of education who are opposed to this bill are not opposed to the importance of being accountable for producing effective educators.  Yet, without examining the volumes of diverse data, research and experiences around what defines an “effective educator” and how we might assess their effectiveness, the decision has been made for all of us. “Good” education will be defined by what is in the Core Curriculum and assessment of a “good education” will defined by test scores.

And “good teachers” will be defined by student achievement (read student test scores.)  Despite the findings that show  teaching to the test actually decreases student performance  no significant challenge by the general public (parents sadly included) have been made to examine whether or not the knowledge in the Core Curriculum and the methods dictated by the curriculum guides and the tests are even the best education for our students.  

And in one fell swoop of  policies beginning at the k-12 levels and now moving up into higher education, the possibility of educating educators themselves to even know how to challenge these “reforms” will be eliminated.

Children are no longer being served by public education.  Saying that these new reforms are “education” is like calling a McDonald’s Big Mac “food.”  Both are only so in the broadest definition of the word.  And we don’t examine the contents critically enough.  Where there should be substance we inject fillers because it’s cheaper and more efficient. The economic profits of fast food companies like McDonald’s have come at the expense of the health of our nation, and likewise, the profits to textbook companies, testing companies, and business owners turned school “innovators” will come at the expense of the educational health of our nation’s children.

Worse yet, children are soon no longer even going to be the consumers (8 million served every day) of  this  educational “bad food.” They are becoming the products, the cogs in the wheels to be” produced” in order to make profits for the latest in the privatized for- profit educational industry led,  not by educators,  but the business world in the shape of the business model (the same folks who brought us ENRON, AIG, FANNY MAY AND FREDDY MAC.)

I wrote a previous post entitled The Curriculum of Fear in which I described how teachers are afraid to teach in meaningful and complex ways because of the latest reform movement.  I admit now that I too am deeply afraid for public education and the future of our society, as we allow for the erasure of diverse perspectives, freedom of ideas and critical thinking for generations of students, who will graduate to become educational “fast food” citizens; leaving them only with fear and a bubble dot test to ponder.

The National Common Core Standards (NCCS) are coming to a school near you.  While the name might sound familiar, what do parents (and often even teachers) really know about the Common Core. Who wrote it? Where did it originate? Who owns it? What’s in it?

Most parents concerned with their child’s nutrition read beyond the labels, and look carefully at the actual ingredients. For example, the front of the Trix cereal box announces it is “vitamin fortified with a daily allowance of calcium.”  But look at the ingredients.  Second ingredient is sugar.  Similarly, many fruit snacks proclaim to be made with “real fruit.”  That may be so, but look carefully-what else are they made of?  I’m not saying that parents are right or wrong for allowing their children to eat such food items, but at least we should all know what’s really in the food we feed our kids and make informed choices.  So why would we not make an informed decision about the quality of education our children are receiving?  When you hear the phrase Common Core, know the front of the box advertises all sorts of promises.  But be careful-read the ingredients on the side of the box so that you are fully informed about what’s being thrust into our classrooms and ingested by our children.

I work with teachers.  Lots of teachers.  I listen.  Many teachers have told me that there are facets of the common core standards that they like- That it promotes critical thinking for example.  Fair enough.  But why would we need to spend millions of dollars to teach teachers how to do something that any really well- prepared educator is doing anyway? That’s the trick that turns educators from being creative developers of meaningful curriculum into consumers of curriculum.  The state of MD received millions of dollars of Race to the Top funds in exchange for adopting new instructional methods, assessments, teacher evaluations, and training resources.  So where does this money go?  To pay for the new instructional materials, the assessments, the teacher evaluations, and the teacher training to go with it all. In one door and right out the other.  Yet, there’s nothing actually in this Common Core that effective educators and schools aren’t doing already.  And there’s nothing in it, nor the high stakes testing, that will eliminate bad teachers.  Bad teachers can blindly follow directions and teach to a test much better than a good educator can.

Common Core and the testing requirements to which they are tethered are like the pair of jeans that some company manufactured in a factory to appear faded and distressed, and selling them at Nordstroms for $200.00.  They’re fake. And they won’t last.

In fact, while the Common Core may have some redeeming values, it also comes with many not so redeeming values.  For example, in reading content, students will have reduced exposure to fiction.  Currently the ratio of fiction to non fiction is 80-20 but it will shift to 40-60%. Why? Because, as David Coleman (one of the lead authors of the Common Core), and now newly appointed the College Board stated in a speech told his audience, “As you grow up in this world,” Coleman said at a conference last year, “you realize people really don’t give a sh&* about what you feel or what you think.”  He added that in the working world, for someone to say, “Johnson, I need a market analysis by Friday, but before that I need a compelling account of your childhood.”

Yeah, let’s rid those first graders of that nasty imagination of theirs.  Lest they envision a world NOT devised by people like David Coleman and inspire real change for themselves.  Imagination is DANGEROUS, and Mr Coleman knows this.

On the front of the metaphorical box, the Common Core promotes its ability to promote “consistent standards” which apparently will solve all our educational ills.  But as emeritus education professor Stephen Krashen at the University of Southern California says:

The rationale for the standards and national tests is the belief that our schools are broken. The only evidence for this is our mediocre scores on international tests. But middle-class children who go to well-funded schools do very well on international tests, scoring at the top of the world. Our overall scores are unimpressive because we have so many children living in poverty, about 22%, the highest percentage of all industrialized countries …This shows that the problem in American education is poverty, not a lack of standards and tests and not teaching quality. Poverty means food deprivation, lack of health care, and little access to books. The best tests and the most inspiring teachers will have little impact when children are hungry, sick, and have little access to books.”

Think: “includes 100% real fruit juice,” but the first ingredient on the list is high fructose corn syrup.  Why not just give the kid a 50 cent apple instead of an overpriced pre packaged fruit-like snack?  And why do we NEED the over-priced Common Core and the host of standardized tests that go with it?  Why not prepare great educators and evaluate them and their students in meaningful authentic ways that don’t necessarily come in a box?

And who owns the Common Core?

The National Governors Association (NGA) and Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), the central Common Core developers have the copyright. They play shell games with billions of dollars, using education and our children’s lives as poker chips.  According to one source:

Dr. Tony Bennett, the Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction, presented the pro-Common Core case to the board of ALEC.   Dr. Bennett is also on the Board of Directors of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), one of the two trade associations managing the Common Core Standards (along with the National Governors Association).  Additionally, he is the Chairman of Chiefs for Change, an initiative of Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education.  The Foundation for Excellence in Education and CCSSO have received $1,000,000 and $70,000,000, respectively, from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the primary force financing and pushing the Common Core. 

Are the Common Core Standards even any good? No one knows yet. Quite a bank roll for something yet unproven.  According to Tienken:

The standards have not been validated empirically and no metric has been set to monitor the intended and unintended consequences they will have on the education system and children (Mathis, 2010). Yet most of the nation’s governors, state education leaders, and many education organizations remain committed to the initiative.

But we know for sure they are quite profitable. Here’s another example:

General Electric (A MEMBER OF ALEC) is so certain that the Common Core standards are the best way to boost student achievement that it recently made the largest corporate grant in history to further their implementation, $18 million. The money will go to a non-profit group Student Achievement Partners to help teachers implement the standards. David Coleman, one of the non-profit’s founders (and also a major contributor to the Common Core standards), said the GE-funded tools that his group will provide are “elegant” and will help teachers make sense of standards that arguably are more arduous than basic reading and math.

According to Hartmann:

From the website of the Institute for Policy Studies (“IPS”) GE is the largest contributor to ALEC including ALEC’s Union Busting ways.”  So how much is ALEC really in opposition to the Common Core. Ya gotta wonder.

Notice how deftly the 18 million dollars changes hands- not a dime actually staying in the schools or going toward the student’s development? What about more art programs? Hiring teachers or teaching assistants? What about clean school facilities? What about equitable funding for materials? Nope. $18 million to the “non profit” founded by the man who designed the Common Core to help train teachers in using a product that good teachers don’t need in the first place.

Maybe David Coleman can say it best in his own words:

The Common Core State Standards aim to change everything—and for innovators and entrepreneurs, they may. With the simultaneous implementation of the Common Core State Standards in 46 states and DC, there is the potential for a truly national market. But how will the Common Core actually affect the classroom?

The members of ALEC and free market educational entrepreneurs see Common Core as a financial opportunity.  So what we’re seeing in our schools now directly reflects ALEC’s model legislation, placing billions of dollars into the pockets of corporations as the expense of childrens education. The 2011 ALEC Annual Conference Substantive Agenda on Education shows their current interests:

“…the Task Force voted on several proposed bills and resolutions, with topics including: digital learning, the Common Core State Standards, charter schools, curriculum on free enterprise, taxpayers’ savings grants, amendments to the existing model legislation on higher education accountability, and a comprehensive bill that incorporates many components of the landmark school reforms Indiana passed this legislative session. Attendees will hear a presentation on the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards’ initiative to grow great schools, as well as one on innovations in higher education.”

Don’t be fooled. Lately ALEC has been hemming and hawing about supporting the Common Core, but that is because of its ties between federal mandates pressed upon on state and local policies. It’s not Common Core they reject, just its delivery boy.

The resolution was approved by the ALEC Education Task Force overwhelmingly last December, and ALEC has discussed it at three of its national meetings.  The well-financed private entities and the federal government are moving forward with their implementation of the Common Core, and Americans have been cut out of the process.”

David Coleman is leading the charge to shift the sands beneath our feet via Common Core.  This is a man who once served as the Treasurer for Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst.  Take a stab at which side of the reform debate he is on.  Coleman told statesnot buy mediocre materials with a ‘Common Core’ stamp.  Wait for the good stuff to be available.”  Hmm.  “Waiting for Superman” to bring them maybe?

Conversely, Joanne Weiss, Chief of Staff to US Secretary of Education states:

“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”

The fighting between ALEC’s agenda and the federal government isn’t about whether or not Common Core is even good for children. This is a gun fight at sundown over who will win the rights to profit, economically, politically and ideologically from it.

rotten to the core

And it won’t be children.

On Thursday May 17th I was a participant in two media events. The first was a teleconference sponsored by Margaret Spellings, adviser to the US Chamber of Commerce in tandem with The Institute for a Competitive Workforce   and the National Chamber Foundation, affiliates of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The goal was to roll out their latest initiative based on their report that:

“Demonstrates that political interests and widespread complacency can trump student interests at the school board level …schools succeed when they are accountable to the community, and we believe the business community can help provide that accountability.” (translation? Corporate takeover of educational policies, content, and pedagogy)

The second was a live chat hosted by Sara Arnold at The Nation on testing and education reform.  . Leading the event was Dana Goldstein, education reporter based in New York and writes for The Nation and Slate. This live chat was also led by Mark Anderson, a New York City public school special-education teacher and contributor to the blog Schools as Ecosystems, and by Tara Brancato, a member of Educators 4 Excellence and a New York City public school International Baccaluareate teacher—Knowledge and Power Preparatory Academy (KAPPA) International.

I am not sure which of these two media events disturbed me the most.  I expected the “greeting card” avoidance-type responses from Margaret Spellings and company.  There’s nothing worth reporting here that you wouldn’t expect, including how they deftly avoided my question about their associations with ALEC and the agenda to privatize public education. Or, how Laurie Murphy tangled them in their own words illustrating the hypocrisy of the business world which one speaker stated “didn’t believe tests were a good measure of a good employee” but advocated for more testing for schools out of the other side of his mouth

I was more disconcerted by the avoidance of any real challenge to the corporate takeover of public education via high stakes testing and the Common Core Standards presented at The Nation’s chat.  I was hoping for some real hard hitting dialogue.  But what transpired was little more than an hour-long discussion of concerns parents and teachers have over the disconnect between the Common Core and standardized testing.  Countless minutes were devoted to detailed accounts of how teachers align testing with non- tested subject areas.  While some of the questions and concerns were valid like Mark’s, who pointed out “In regards to the pressure to ‘teach to the test,’ the conundrum of tests are that they determine what is taught, yet we pretend they are isolated from curriculum” most of it was like sitting in the back of a professional development session hosted by someone from the Common Core.

And if we are going to challenge high stakes testing why did Dana not invite people on to the show who have long term experience and knowledge challenging these reform measures? The show avoided the pink elephant in the room: that not everyone agrees that the Common Core is even a good initiative for education! This issue was never raised … once.

Or, that one of her guest panelists Ms Brancato works for a charter school (KAPPA) and an organization Educators 4 Excellence which supports “reform” policies and research by EdTrust, The New Teacher Project (Chair of the Board of Directors  Kati Haycock is Director of EdTrust), and The Brookings Institute .

When I typed in the question asking how her panel could address the fact that testing companies like Pearson are behind the scenes forming legislation that forces schools to use their products, and that testing has been used as a primary vehicle to eliminate public schools in favor of privately managed charter schools Dana replied:

Morna, it is true that the testing industry is highly involved in education policy-making, including in creating the Common Core and the tests that will go along with it. We need to make sure that politically, we are advocating for the idea that test scores alone do not define whether a school or teacher is a success or failure. School closings are a VERY tough issue. Polls of low income parents show they would rather their local schools were “turned around” rather than re-opened as charters. But charters are also a very popular, over-subscribed option among parents.

What polls is she speaking of? Is she living in the same New York City where thousands of students, teachers and parents are holding rallies and protests AGAINST the closing of their community schools?

Laurie Murphy of United Opt Out National also posed a similar question:

In speaking with people during the Save our Schools March, at United Opt Out, and at school board meetings, the main question I am asked is how can local teachers fight against the spoken and unspoken requirement to focus total attention on test scores and not be in danger of losing their jobs. This is changing what they teach and how they teach, and causing them to question their profession. How can local teachers fight against what is often seen as higher, corporate funded forces that represent policies that are contrary to what they (teachers) know to be right for students and learning?

Mark Anderson replied:

Laurie, that’s a tough one. One is to get involved in policy. I work with a great organization, the VIVA Project, that works to get teacher voice involved directly in the process of policy making. But at a school level, it’s a tough thing to stand up for when you’re job is on the line. We need real leadership

Mark is right. We need real leadership at schools to support teachers who are fighting this.  Mark did express some real truths about the ugly face of the testing craze:

I have students that read at 1st and 2nd grade reading levels due to disability taking 5th grade reading exams. It’s inhumane. They break down, they cry, they whisper “I can’t do this.” It’s terrible, and it’s unfair to simply give them tests based on proficiency.

So why wasn’t even one person invited to help lead this panel that might actually say: End this madness….now!

No, they politely skirted the issue with bland statements like one from Tara:  It takes the entire community to combat the feeling of pressure.

Wow. That’s deep. I’m sure that bit of advice will really help Mark’s kids.

What we need leaders who refuse to negotiate with children’s lives.  The endless debates about how to tinker with the tests to make them “better” or to tinker with the Common Core to meet students needs or align with testing “better” are over.  They avoid the fact that ALL these measures are directly tied to corporate interests, profits, and efforts to privatize public education. Such debates are little more than re arranging the furniture on the Titanic.

And if the Titanic is public education, then it is the corporate reformers such as Pearson, Bill Gates, Eli Broad, David Coleman, Michelle Rhee and others who are steering it toward an ice berg and that are now selling life rafts to children and communities for a huge profit. (By the way, the life rafts sink too). When will the endless useless debates about how to make the tests (which are used as the weapon of mass destruction) “better” stop? And when will the media grow a spine and speak to the real issues? Maybe is it because magazines like The Nation are trying, with an election coming up, to soften the blow that Common Core will bring -being promoted by a Democratic president and his muppet Arne Duncan, and trying to sell it to voters? Does it matter that in spite of claims by right wing free market wonks like some members of ALEC to reject the Common Core,  that ALEC itself and a host of its central players in ALEC have direct connections to its development and implementation? I know this in part because of research provided by articles published at The Nation (so what gives?)

NATIONAL COMMON CORE CURRICULUM WAS DEVELOPED AND FUNDED BY THE FOLLOWING:

1)       NCEE (Natl Center for Education and the Economy)- which is funded by WALTON FOUNDATION, BROAD FOUNDATION, GATES FOUNDATION. NCEE is funded by the New Schools Venture connected to America’s Choice. New Schools Venture supports business model charter schools like KIPP and EDISON.  NCEE is a program of America’s Choice which is funded by GATES and WALTON FOUNDATION. America’s Choice was acquired by Pearson

2)       ACT  is a billion dollar international testing company. ACT designed Common Core. Dixely Axley on the Board of Directors for ACT works for STATE FARM. Theodore Sanders on the Board of Directors for ACT serves on the Education Commission of the States part of the BUSINESS ROUND TABLE.

3)       ACHIEVE  is Another testing and training center. ACHIEVE also designed Common Core. ACHIEVE is funded by LUMINA. ACHIEVE is funded by STATE FARM. STATE FARM also funded ALLIANCE FOR EXCELLENCE IN EDUCATION (AEE). BOB WISE is the Chairman for AEE. ACHIEVE is funded by GATES FOUNDATION. The co-chair for ACHIEVE is LOU GERSTNER JR (Former CEO of IBM-also identified as one of the Ten Most Wanted Enemies of Public Education)

4)       COLLEGE BOARD (CEEB) is a membership association that sells tests and is comprised of schools, colleges and universities. CEEB is funded by GATES FOUNDATION. Consumer rights organization Americans for Educational Testing Reform (AETR) has criticized College Board for violating its non-profit status through excessive profits and exorbitant executive compensation

Common Core has received DIRECT funding from STATE FARM which is an active member of ALEC.

So, the fight for the Common Core between both political parties isn’t whether or not it’s even good for children (despite all the rhetoric, its success is unproven and its genuine critics many). The unspoken (at least in public) issue I think is who will get to “own” it?

And where is the media that we expect to be on our side fighting this when we need them?

Like Water for Education

Posted: May 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

Medieval scientists sought to turn base metals into gold, creating wealth for themselves and their rulers. Likewise, modern science, harnessed by capitalists, seeks to turn fresh water into gold. While the former failed in their explicit goals, they set out a path leading to the field of chemistry. The latter group, led by transnational corporations in the water industry, doubly succeeded. (the Alchemy of Water, Krystal Kyer)

About a month back I was watching a documentary entitled Flow  about the corporate takeover of water as a global resource.  Within minutes I could see the frightening parallels between what the documentary was illustrating about corporations who destroy and wrest control over our most precious resource, water, and how corporations are now wresting control over another precious commodity, public education; and how learning, as a free flowing natural “commodity,” is being bottled and re-sold to us at a profit.  The blueprint for a corporate dominated, private-for-profit takeover of all of our human or material resources and services, is the same regardless of the arena. Education is simply one piece of the pie-or should I say, one drop of water in their bucket?

In this free-market death match arena of today’s economy, education is a commodity like … water.  Water, as naturally occurring resource which has been around since well, when earth was formed, is now a commodity for sale to profit the richest 1%. Looking back at history, Native American peoples and other indigenous cultures saw the greed of the Western Europeans to “own” what the earth brought forth freely as absurd- but conquer and own the Europeans did.  Fast forward a couple hundred years, and water all around the world is now largely owned by a handful of multinational corporations.  While schools, and formal education are neither “naturally” occurring, nor universal human rights yet (though they should be…), the natural, innate capacity to inquire, to seek meaning … to learn, is.  Like water, it is our in our human capacity to learn things.  And it is our right in his country to have free PUBLIC access to equitable, creative, sustainable, meaningful, and quality education for all children.

In Flow, the filmmakers illustrate how deftly corporations pollute (with their factories) clean water sources in economically challenged communities, swoop in and buy the land rights to any viable drinking water left within that community, then bottle (or process in their own facilities) that water and sell it back to the community at a cost-a cost often too high for most people to afford.

According to the Flow website:

Salina builds a case against the growing privatization of the world’s dwindling fresh water supply with an unflinching focus on politics, pollution, human rights, and the emergence of a domineering world water cartel. Interviews with scientists and activists intelligently reveal the rapidly building crisis, at both the global and human scale, and the film introduces many of the governmental and corporate culprits behind the water grab, while begging the question “CAN ANYONE REALLY OWN WATER?”

Is any of this sounding eerily familiar to you?  It should.  In education, public education is starved to the point of dysfunction.  Without viable resources many good educators find it nearly impossible to deliver what they believe to be a meaningful and rich education to the children they serve. They are deemed “failing.”  Then corporations with billions of dollars swoop in with their business models and take over the curriculum, the assessments, professional development, teacher training, and school facilities (via new charter school replacements). I could go on with this list ad infinitum. They sell this all back to school communities in “bottled form” for a huge profit.

The film  concentrates on the big business of privatization of water infrastructure which prioritizes profits over the availability of clean water for people and the environment.  Major businesses depicted in the film are Nestle, The Coca-Cola Company, Suez, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Like water, which takes gas, liquid, or solid forms, learning takes many forms.  And like water, corporations are gathering their wagons to take ownership over what is a naturally occurring phenomena.  So, like water, can anyone, even the all mighty and powerful Bill Gates, Walton Foundation, Eli Broad or Pearson, own learning? They’re sure as hell trying.

Public education has never been given the opportunity to fully realize its true potential as the foundation for a flourishing free and democratic society.  Rather than allowing it to flourish, in spite of volumes of inquiry and evidence for decades (centuries if you want to give a nod to Dewey) to show us how it might be possible, we have instead polluted public education.  If we can send a man to the moon, and split both the atom and the human genome, why for heaven’s sake can we not provide meaningful services or opportunities to ALL school communities? Why can’t we provide resources like ample arts, music and PE programs, widely available pre-natal health care programs, substantive nutritional programs, community wrap around services, clean drinking water, safe and humane building conditions,  public libraries, and community centers to all children, especially those with the greatest needs? It ain’t rocket science. But in times of economic uncertainty these programs are first ones on the chopping block. We have never fully realized these efforts, so how can we say that public education does not work? We have never really tried it.

It’s more profitable to “own” it.

According to Merin:

If you need convincing, check the film’s next location: Michigan–where Nestle, the Swiss owner of Perrier, Arrowhead and other water brands, bought wilderness, began pumping water, which is causing streams to dry, flora and fauna to die.  And, the company got financial incentives from the state, didn’t pay taxes and sold bottled water to citizens who did/should/would have the water from their own faucets, for free or minimal delivery costs.

Gosh, that sounds like something right of the playbook for StudentsFirst, Education for Excellence, Carpe Diem Schools, Kahn Academies, Connections Academy, and KIPP.  In Ohio, “since 2001 charter schools have seen an increase in funding of 1285% while traditional public schools have received a measly 25% increase during the same period.”

Once they’ve completed their “manifest desitiny,” how long before they start charging people directly, not just through education related taxes, in order for their children the right to access an education? They’ll have cornered the market after all.

Or here’s another example from the reformer (as water cartel) playbook–the National Common Core Standards.  Any teacher worth her wit looked at Common Core as it was being rolled out, and saw that whatever positive qualities it may have (I concede this is still under much debate), such as promoting critical thinking, recognized that these are the same skill sets that good teachers have been teaching all along.  Like water, how does critical thinking (as a skill to be taught) get captured under the ownership of Common Core? Why does a teacher, or a school, need to pay Pearson millions of dollars for the right to teach something that used to be free and abundant? And not unlike the water ownership policies of corporations that have captured natural sources of water and redistributed them worldwide to people as a commodity to be paid for, this Common Core like the bottled water, is tainted.  Read the ingredients on the label carefully.  The Common Core was written by “real teachers” as much as Nestle water really comes from a natural geyser in some magical fairy land with unicorns.

Research shows that many bottled water companies falsely advertise, claiming that water supposedly from springs in the Swiss Alps was actually culled from a drainage ditch in New Jersey. According to the National Resources Defense Council, in a scientific study in which more than 1,000 bottles of 103 brands of water were tested, about one-third of the bottles contained synthetic organic chemicals, bacteria, and arsenic..

Like many brands of bottled water, this new brand of corporate education is likely to be tainted. According to sound educational research, corporate-model, for profit, brands of education reform contain: school re-segregation (arsenic), mind numbing and meaningless curriculum (synthetic organic materials), a reduction in critical thinking skills (bacteria), and an increase in failing but still profitable charter school chains (bacteria). That’s just naming the top few forms of poison among many.

Why would they do this, you ask? A sane person might query: Isn’t it more profitable in the long run to have a well- educated, healthy, fully-functioning generation of children who will avoid the school to prison pipe line or welfare services? Yes, yes of course it is. Yet, one could also wonder: why it is that corporations choose immediate profit at the expense of clean air and drinking water for an entire planet?  So, should we really be shocked at the lengths to which they’ll go? Why should using children for profit surprise us? After all, it’s not their children going to the schools that are being closed down and being replaced with McDonald’s-like educational services where they choke on high stakes testing and a one-size-fits-all curriculum. Their kids attend the “Whole Foods” schools where all the learning is organic and “free range.”

Merin states that:

At present, several multinationals–Nestle, Thames, Vivendi, Suez, Coca Cola and Pepsi are named in FLOW–own and control most of Earth’s fresh water. The film’s experts suggest that since water’s essential to life, these companies are positioned as Earth’s ultimate power brokers. Unless their influence is checked, they’ll be able to blackmail governments to do their bidding.

At present, Pearson along with a few other textbook companies, and powerful corporations with their high paid ALEC lobbyists, own or directly influence nearly all aspects of public education.  The billionaire boys club, as Diane Ravitch coined it,  in bed with the US State Department of Education work diligently to market their reform as “necessary,” and private sponsorship/ownership of our children’s learning as “good.”

I echo Merin here: Unless the corporate education reform takeover is checked, they’ll be able to blackmail our children, families, and communities to do their bidding.

Don’t drink the water.

THIS IS NOT A TEST

Posted: May 11, 2012 in Uncategorized

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE EXAMINER  March 21st–Image

You know how the television station always post those emergency broadcast system alerts saying “this is only a test?” Well, for our democratic rights and the future our public education and all children—this is not a test. Or, more aptly-it’s ALL a test. This is going down, and it’s going down …now.

A new report has gone viral-and like all things viral (such as the bird flu), it reminds us whether we need reminding or not of the “threats to our national security and personal safety.”  It’s called Schools Report: Failing to Prepare Students Hurts National Security, Prosperity

In clever language, this report deems poor educational performance of our schools as a national threat to security. The magic bullet? Why reform of course! Somehow this study deduces that corporate-model charter schools, a national Common Core, high stakes testing, school vouchers, and choice, merit pay, and elimination of collective bargaining rights of public educators (among the largest themes) as the solutions to our security woes. Do any of these themes sound familiar to you? Seems convenient to me. Naturally the central players in this scheme include: 

Joel Klein, Chancellor of NYC schools, former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, ACT, Common Core author David Coleman and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Teach For America’s Wendy Kopp, the American Enterprise Institute’s Rick Hess and Stand for Children’s Jonah Edelman, and Pearson (the last one should surprise no one). Bill Gates must have been home sick with a case of the bird flu when this one was developed.

And why Joel Klein? Klein bragged that New York City Mayor Bloomberg has opened 100 new charter schools. Klein, in the Fox News report stated “You need to bring in entrepreneurial people” as he cites KIPP, Teach For America, adding that “education is a very homogenous field.”  By the way, Joel Klein is also on the Educational Division of News Corp.

Additionally, according to Susan Ohanian  who covers this topic extensively:

“He closed schools, pushed the expansion of charter schools and launched other initiatives before resigning in 2010 after it was revealed that the standardized test scores that he kept pointing to as proof of the success of his reforms were based on exams that got increasingly easy for students to take. Now he works for Rupert Murdoch.”

The report offers three basic solutions: expanding the Common Core, a uniform set of curricular standards, to include science, foreign languages and technology; an expansion of school choice that allows more students to enroll in voucher programs and charter schools; and a “national security readiness audit” that governors assemble as a uniform school performance benchmark.

The report’s recommendations are already in play: The Common Core standards are being implemented in most states, charter schools are proliferating and the federal audit expands on the data collected under No Child Left Behind. This audit is prepared by the states, in conjunction with the federal government, of what the report calls a “national security readiness audit.” This would measure how schools are doing at teaching “the skills and knowledge necessary to safeguard America’s future security and prosperity.”

According to the Huffington Post report, “There are good reasons to improve K-12 education,” Mr. Walt writes in his dissent, “but an imminent threat to our national security is not high among them.” I applaud the dissenting opinions on the report (which can be read in their entirety on the actual report) by Linda Darling-Hammond and Randi Weingarten among others. For a full listing of who was on the panel see Susan Ohanian’s coverage of the story.

Condi Rice, under George Bush praised NCLB during his administration. She shared in the Fox News interview how national standards, “real” choices, and a national audit of “what schools are doing well” are central to this reform. “It certainly is a national security issue” said the Fox interviewer.  Noting that the “dominant power of the 21st century will depend on human capital,” the report concludes that “the failure to produce that capital will undermine American security.”

The report cites a series of indicators of America’s educational weaknesses – from US students’ disappointing placement on international rankings of math and science competencies, to recent reports out of the Defense Department that three-fourths of young Americans are not qualified to join the armed forces (although physical conditions such as obesity, and not just educational shortcomings, play a role in that number).  The lack of preparedness poses threats on five national security fronts: economic growth and competitiveness, physical safety, intellectual property, U.S. global awareness, and U.S. unity and cohesion, says the report. Too many young people are not employable in an increasingly high-skilled and global economy, and too many are not qualified to join the military because they are physically unfit, have criminal records, or have an inadequate level of education. Oh, and by the way apparently the US is not producing enough foreign-language speakers to fill key positions in the Foreign Service, in intelligence agencies, and in America’s increasingly global companies.

I’m going to shift gears here for a moment to cover a parallel story. CNN on March 22nd ran coverage of the GradNation Summit, an effort sponsored by the America’s Promise Alliance. This movement goes back several years but is now conveniently resurfacing with a zeal right on the heels of the announcement that education is now a matter of “national security.” Perfect timing is it not? And who are The key players? President Barack Obama, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Gen. Colin Powell (yes that’s right-the former Secretary of Defense…are you with me on this boys and girls?) and America’s Promise Alliance Chair Alma Powell– who gathered together at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce with hundreds of partners from every sector including John Bridgeland, President & CEO of Civic Enterprises and the first Director of the USA Freedom Corp.

From their own website GradNation states:

In consultation with the U.S. Department of Education, we will track ten measures that research has proven predict student success. We also encourage communities to measure other factors. For instance, tracking school attendance, behavior indicators and course grades in math and English at the local level serve as a valuable early warning signal, even though reliable sources of data do not yet exist on the national level.

Presenting sponsors for GradNation include: State FarmInsurance Company. Other major sponsors include the Simon Foundation for Education and Housing, ING Foundation, Walmart Foundation, AT&T, The Boeing Company, the Pearson Foundation, Jim and Donna Barksdale, DeVry, The Packard Foundation, Target Corporation, Philip Morris USA, an Altria Company, Fidelity Investments, Ritz-Carlton, Annie E. Casey Foundation, and Rockefeller Foundation, and Wellspring.

Anyone familiar with the American Legislative Exchange Commission or ALEC Exposed will recognize many of these names listed above.

Speakers during this session included John Bridgeland, CEO, Civic Enterprises (moderator); Jim Balfanz, President, City Year; Robert Balfanz, Co-Director, The Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University; Peter Beard, Senior Vice President of Community Impact, United Way Worldwide; Dan Cardinali, President, Communities In Schools; Claire Lyons, Architecture & Management of Global Grant Portfolios, CSR, PepsiCo; and Governor Bob Wise, President, Alliance for Excellent Education

Bob Wise is president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. He currently co-chairs the Digital Learning Council with Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida. Governor Wise also chairs the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. According to ALEC Exposed:

“From 1983 to 2001, Wise was a U.S. Representative for the 2nd District of West Virginia. He was a member of the Democratic Party Leadership team as a regional whip and as a whip-at-large. Committee assignments included Transportation and Infrastructure, Government Reform and Organization, and Budget. On August 4th, 2011, Wise spoke at a plenary session of the 38th Annual Meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in New Orleans, Louisiana.”

GradNation wishes to roll out the following plan: The Civic Marshall Plan which involves government, non-profit and community agencies to promote quality education in their communities. According to Jean Grossman (2011)” …  In Texas, the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation and the SEA funded development of Early Warning Signs (EWS) tools using data ‘they are already entering in their local student information systems,’ said Kathleen Barfield, executive vice president and chief information officer at Edvance Research, which serves as ED’s Regional Education Laboratory Southwest.”

Sounds good to the mainstream ear, does it not? They’ve left out mention of military and defense involvement. But they’ve got Colin Powell, right?

Looking over GradNation brings us back to the national security report. While there are scores of it being (re) reported in summary fashion across almost every news media outlet in the last 12 hours, most reports leave out some of the most telling information in the report itself.

 Here are a few selected statements I have chosen to include:

But I recommend everyone check out full report: (note-since this article was first published in The Examiner, I noticed that much of the language that refers to the involvement of the Dept of Defense has been carefully deleted from their summary available on their webpage-I cannot find the original document online anymore-but I have it saved….)

It states (these are all exact quotes below) among other things (I have highlighted words I think are worth our deepest consideration):

The Task Force believes that though revamping expectations for students should be a state-led

effort, a broader coalition—including the defense community, businesses leaders, the U.S. Department of Education, and others—also has a meaningful role to play in monitoring and supporting implementation and creating incentives to motivate states to adopt high expectations.

The Defense Policy Board, which advises the secretary of defense, and other leaders from the public and private sectors should evaluate the learning standards of education in America and periodically assess whether what and how students are learning is sufficiently rigorous to protect the country’s national security interests.

For the audit, states would collect school-level information on factors important to national security, including (subgroup disaggregated) answers to the following questions:

–– How many students are passing their (expanded) Common Core courses?

–– How well are students performing on end-of-year summative assessments?

–– How many students are mastering important “national security”

skills, such as learning foreign languages and computer programming?

–– Are students graduating from high school within four years (or within five or more years)?

–– What percentage of students are “college-ready”? Career-ready?

–– What are the characteristics of each school? For example, what is a school’s budget and average per pupil allocation? How many teachers are there? What is a school’s attendance rate?

The Task Force believes the annual audit should be aggressively publicized to help all members of society understand educational challenges and opportunities facing the country. This public awareness campaign should be managed by a coalition of government, business, and military leaders. It should aim to keep everyone in the country focused on the national goal of improving education to safeguard America’s security today and in the future.

Astute use of media and communications have a proven ability to effect changes in mindsets and actions, and the group believes that a targeted, annual campaign, led by the Department of Education in collaboration with the U.S. states, the Departments of Defense and State and the intelligence agencies, could have this impact.

Now … one more item for your consideration here. Above and beyond the military’s interest in tracking children for “security” purposes (whatever is beneath that agenda is anyone’s guess).  Beyond the consideration that the State and Federal intelligence agencies are intending to have a direct influence on shaping public opinion. Beyond the concerns you may have that testing and the Common Core will have for every child now under the advisory “gaze” of Homeland Security, examine the recent pieces of legislation that have quietly gone unnoticed by the mainstream media:

1) Georgia state legislators are getting ready this week to attempt to criminalize our constitutional right to protest via the passage of Senate Bill 469. If approved by the Georgia House and signed by the Governor, SB 469 would criminalize peaceful acts of protest, including public picketing related to labor disputes outside of any privately owned buildings. Individuals or union members or any individual employees who participate in such protests could be fined up to $1,000 a day, and organizations, which support such actions, could face penalties of up to $10,000 a day. Moreover, the bill adds a category of “conspiracy to commit criminal trespass,” which would make it a high and aggravated misdemeanor to plan acts of peaceful civil protest. This bill is part of a national strategy; similar legislation could be coming to your state soon.

2) U.S. Congress swiftly and almost unanimously passed legislation that essentially tramples on Americans’ First Amendment right to assemble. However, while HR 347, officially known as the Federal Restricted Building and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011, U.S. Congress swiftly and almost unanimously passed legislation that essentially tramples on Americans’ First Amendment right to assemble.

3) The U.S. Senate voted Tuesday to maintain provisions in a bill that would allow the military to apprehend U.S. citizens, including those on U.S. soil, without charge, and hold them indefinitely if they are labeled as terrorists. He goes on to note “the administration has broad authority to decide who is covered by this provision and how and when such a decision is made.” allows the US military to imprison civilians with no formal charges and hold them with no trial. As Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said:”The enemy is all over the world. Here at home… They should not be read their Miranda Rights. They should not be given a lawyer…”

So my questions are these –ones which I hope all my readers will give their most thorough consideration.

  1. If implementing educational expectations and assessments in subjects is vital to protecting “national security” then someone opting their child out of high stakes testing in public schools could be deemed a threat to national security?  Is being a threat to national security mean that a parent who fights back with their 14th Amendment Right to opt their child out of these tests could be “disappeared” to some detainee center without a trace?  Sounds crazy-and probably unlikely-but if read to the letter of the law-it’s apparently a theoretical possibility just hanging out there.
  1. Launch a “national security readiness audit” to hold schools and policy makers accountable for results and to raise public awareness. Public awareness and public scrutiny, for all teachers and for us.  The recent legislation HR 347 tells us that in our right to assemble, we are subject to arrest if deemed a threat to national security. So what does that mean in terms of our right to protest current educational reform efforts now that they’ve been given the official stamp of protection under the guise of national security?
  1. What, if any, connections might become apparent between tracking student data/test scores, especially in low income, minority-majority districts and the heightened interest lately with illegal immigrants, as well as a possible resurgence of a national military draft?

All of these are just hypothetical of course, but I think at this juncture, what appears most absurd in the landscape of our rapidly eroding democratic society are quickly becoming the newest realities.  So nothing, in my opinion, should be beyond our capacity to question and consider.

Other references (but not limited to) on this topic:

http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2012/03/20/26security.h31.html

http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Education/2012/0320/Education-report-Shortcomings-of-US-schools-pose-national-security-threat

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505263_162-57400620/rice-failing-schools-a-national-security-threat/

http://www.king5.com/community/blogs/education/State-of-education-poses-threat-to–national-security-143549616.html

http://reportergary.com/2012/03/cfr-ailing-education-system-threat-to-pu…

I felt an urgency to write this post before Friday in order to coincide with Teacher Appreciation Week because this quasi “event of recognition” must remain close on our radar well past this Friday.  Never mind that this gesture is being erased by the first annual…gag…National Charter School week … gag again.

On Monday Mark Naison shared a post that reads:

“Having Teacher Appreciation Week in the United States of America, at this historic moment, is like having Deer Appreciation Week during hunting season.”

After reading this I laughed out loud for a while, and then quietly chuckled to myself for days after that. Why? Because what is happening to public education and to public teachers is so not funny that sometimes I have to laugh to stave the tears and massive waves of despair. And although the deer population may not be considerably reduced during hunting season (no offense to my animal rights activists friends intended), I worry that teachers, real live teachers, are becoming an endangered species.

If you haven’t already shown your appreciation somehow for the public teachers in your life, past or present, do it now. Why? Because chances are, sooner than any of us anticipate, we won’t be sending our flowers, cards, candy, or well-wishes to teachers anymore.  We will have to send them directly to education profiteers like Pearson, Carpe Diem Schools, Connections Academy, and Bill Gates, all of whom are advocating to replace public school teachers with online learning and other in-school online technologies.

Just this week I smiled as my son walked gleefully through his school, passing out homemade muffins to his teachers  for teacher Appreciation. Soon he’ll have to be screaming “thank you” to a computer screen.

The lobbying power behind this movement is astounding because so are the profits to be made. Profitable for corporations, not children of course.  Michelle Rhee through her (Rosemary’s) baby StudentsFirst,  “pledged to spend more than $1 billion to bring for-profit schools, including virtual education, to the entire country by electing reform-friendly candidates and hiring top-notch state lobbyists.”

And pretty soon every child in Philadelphia can sit in front of a computer and succumb to online “learning” since their community schools have been shut down. Why is this? According to City Paper:

The pro-voucher funding stream appears unstoppable, with sources like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation. So it goes: The same political forces that have bled Philly schools for decades now decry their poor performance. The solution, of course, is the private sector.”

Conveniently, the billion-dollar-online-learning companies are touting rhetoric that “all children deserve a great teacher.” Duh. How much did they spend to find that out? However, they claim is that in order to deliver on this proclamation, we need to infuse technologies such as online charter schools, and billions of dollars of technology to public schools to make it happen. They claim that we must free up the “best” teachers by using technology more. Convenient. According to the Washington Post, Gates recommends:

“Lift(ing) caps on class sizes and get(ting) more students in front of the very best teachers. Those teachers would get paid more with the savings generated from having fewer personnel overall.”

Those of us who have been in education for more than a few decades already know how to maximize the strengths of “great teachers!” It’s called: resources, reduced class size, having more teaching assistants per classroom, and NOT demanding endless batteries of high stakes testing, test preparation, and data keeping of those tests all of which waste meaningful instructional time.

Duh. But … there’s no profit in those solutions.

No.  What Gates and company recommend (in their infinite pedagogical experience and scholarly wisdom on child development) is to:

“Eliminate or reduce “seat time” requirements for students to be with licensed staff, focusing on student outcomes (read: tests) instead. This will allow, for example, unlicensed staff to monitor digital labs, freeing funds to pay more—within budget—to the excellent teachers in charge.”

They call this “seizing opportunity.” Seizing opportunity indeed.

Speaking of seizing opportunity, let’s look at Carpe Diem (or “seize the day”),  a “blended learning” model school spreading like a bad case of herpes across the country, and Indiana in particular. As Peg Robertson  writes:

“Six Carpe Diem schools are indeed headed to Indiana. ALEC loves them. See chapter five of their latest report card.  Six schools will soon arrive, focused on ALEC’s love of technology and lack of teachers. This isn’t innovation – this is mind-numbing education delivered via computer with a few teachers (4) left to fill in the regimented gaps.”

How do these new online learning communities get so much political favoritism? Go ask ALEC.

Connections Academy is a national for-profit online learning corporation, and whose co-founder and executive VP is Mickey Revenaugh, who is also the co-chair of the ALEC Education Task Force.

It’s no coincidence that Pearson acquired Connections (Academy) Education, establishing a leading position in the fast-growing virtual school segment and the opportunity to apply Connections Education’s skills and technologies in new segments and geographic markets. 

And even if your community has not yet been sucked into the vacuum of a corporate charter model, even if you still walk your child everyday to a public school, your Teacher Appreciation tokens might as well go straight to Pearson. Why? Because Pearson has also acquired partnerships with companies to deliver PARCC, SAT testing, GED testing, and was the central player (through Achieve) in the design of the National Common Core Standards. Pearson can now micromanage the Common Core, as well as all teacher-related materials needed to teach the Common Core, and all required testing materials to test the Common Core.  And more of Common Core will be going online, via courtesy of Pearson. Convenient.

Need I go on? The teacher has become an inconvenient and costly middleman who needs to be removed from the equation, because they get in the way of corporate profit.

More and more classes, k through 12, are being held online in schools across America. And the numbers of online delivery are increasing. From an article by Trip Gabriel, I offer a few highlights:

* “More than one million in the United States, by one estimate are taking online courses. Nationwide, an estimated 1.03 million students at the K-12 level took an online course in 2007-8, up 47 percent from two years earlier.”

* “In Memphis, where 7,000 high school students were assigned to study online in computer labs this year because there were not enough teachers to comply with state class-size caps, every student must take an online course to graduate, beginning with current sophomores.”

* “In Idaho, the state superintendent of education plans to push a requirement that high school students take four or more online courses, following a bill that passed the Legislature last week to provide every student with a laptop, paid for from a state fund for educators’ salaries.”

But this last statement really drives the issue home for me:

“K-12 online learning is championed by conservative-leaning policy groups that favor broadening school choice, including Jeb Bushs’ Foundation for Excellence in Education which has called on states to provide all students with “Internet access devices” and remove bans on for-profit virtual schools.”

So I want to take a moment to thank the teachers in my life who have influenced me.  And none of them worked for a textbook company or were presented to me via a computer portal.

Mrs. Belafatto from 5th grade. Thank you for inspiring my creative writing. I remember the great free-writing time we had, and the smiley face feedback that encouraged me to write. I do what I do today in large part because of you.

Mr Dever from 4th grade. Thank you for allowing us as a class to build a real reading loft out of wood and nails in our classroom. We collaborated together, measured, problem-solved, and created. You remind me that teaching and learning are embodied and hands-on experiences that cannot be measured on a standardized test.

Mr. Barlow from 9th grade. Sure, you were categorically insane. Rumor had it you lived in your car. You made me cry at the blackboard. But you taught me to believe in myself, never to back down, and to face challenges head-on. I take my memory of you with me today into this battle for education.

Dr. Ball from my graduate school statistics class. Thank you for staying on the phone with me that Sunday afternoon during the football play offs, when you took over an hour of your time away from the game to walk me through the computer-based exam, while I sobbed hysterically in a panic. You taught me that the qualities that matter most in being a teacher are patience, empathy, and dedication. I don’t remember what was on that exam -but I remember what you did for me.

So, thank a teacher. Unless we appreciate them enough to fight for them, they will become an endangered species. And since no one with any real policy making power in education seems to be doing much about this, maybe we need to get the Wildlife Federation on the case. Anyone got their number?

quote for the day

Posted: May 8, 2012 in Uncategorized

“Creative solidarity is the necessary act of forward motion, in a collective movement.  At this precise moment in our history it demands of us that we search for new and emerging structures of feeling, for languages and ideas for doing our work, for new ways of being with each other, for ways of forging new trails, leaving new footprints, new ripples in our wake.”


Gatzambide-Fernandez, R. (2010). Toward creative solidarity in the next “moment” of

curriculum work.  In E. Malewski (Ed.) Curriculum studies handbook: The next moment, (pp. 78-93).  Taylor and Francis.