Archive for August, 2013

CLICK ON THE IMAGE FOR A LARGER MORE DETAILED VIEW. FEEL FREE TO PRINT AND SHARE WIDELY USING COPYRIGHT HONOR SYSTEM-JUST SITE WHERE YA GOT IT FROM 🙂

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THANK YOU to DON BUNGER and the WA BATS! The common core flow chart is now available for high qaulity reproduction to share! Follow these steps:

Step one: Call or visit store near where you live and ask the graphics tech to email the address below which is my Office Depot store in Federal Way, WA.

which is south of Seattle. Your chart file is stored in their computer. My store’s number is 02515. (see map below for locations and phone numbers). Office Max was  bought out by Office Depot so both stores are merged.

ods02515cpc@officedepot.com 

Step two:  Office Depot and Office Max stores are in my home town of Federal Way have your  E.I.C. Chart saved as a PDF under the file name of “WA-BATS.” 

Step three: Ask your tech to request that the only PDF file under WA BATS be emailed to his or her graphics department.

Step four: (Optional) Ask your graphics tech to save the WA BATS file under your name so that your associates can find it at the place where it can be printed cheaply.

BATS can get a big discount nationwide on a printing and paper costs as if we were a school district!

So, when you are there ask to see the manager and get the form to fill out for UOO so you can set up flyers or posters that could be available for your group in 1800 stores too! The discount applies to Non Profits which I would assume UOO is. The manager may have to refer you to the manager who is in charge of printing for your state or region.

 

 

UOO2012 I am leaving for my annual summer vacation tomorrow. We go every year at this exact time. Two years ago at around this time, someone whom I only knew through email exchanges on a list serve (Peggy Robertson) asked me and four others to join her to form a group whose mission would be to fight high stakes testing and corporate destruction of public education. I said yes. So did Tim Slekar, Ceresta Smith, Shaun Johnson, and Laurie Murphie. And I’m so grateful they did. United Opt Out was started. This is our second year anniversary. During my annual summer vacation in 2011, when UOO was a mere week or so old, I remember sitting up until 2 am in the Outer Banks of NC putting out some Face Book “fire” and thinking “What the hell have I gotten myself into???” No  one warned me. No one warned me how such an investment in activism would change me. I am grateful to the organizers of the SOS march and rally (Bess Altwerger and Rick Meyer especially) who allowed me to be actively involved with that effort and the SOS organization. Without it I doubt that I would have ever have met Peggy, Ceresta, and Laurie (who were part of the SOS effort) –Shaun and I were working at the same institution at the time (which funny enough, Peggy didn’t realize when she asked each of us to join) and I knew Tim in name only and had yet to meet him in any way. I believe that the universe conspired to bring us all together. And now these five people are my family. And during SOS in 2011 I was becoming prepared for what was to come: Sleepless nights obsessing over who funds Common Core; an inability to attend ANY school function for my children without either making guffaw sounds, rolling my eyes, or watching friends avoid me as I pass out flyers or begin foaming at the mouth; littering my home office with giant crazy charts of who is connected with whom in education reform;  levels of patience and frustration expressed by my husband who has given up much of his time with me so that I could attend events, rallies and Skype meetings; two children who know more about Pearson, Common Core and school reform than any average elementary grade level child should ever have to know; and an unending…tireless….compulsory NEED to CHANGE things. Before I ever even met Peggy in person, I remember one early September night in 2011, sneaking out of a restaurant (my husband was getting pissed at the email/texting mania that had been going on) and hiding (claiming I had to go to the bathroom) so I could talk with Peggy about some major crisis involving our website. We, all six of us, have become somewhat “insane”–and my life has been all the better for working with them. Each of us over the last two years have had our family, friend, and professional relationships stretched and challenged. Activism exacts a price. Only a reasonable person might ask their inner most self at least once, “Is it worth it?” But I always arrive at the same answer. “Yes it is. What other choice is there?” No one warned me that this kind of commitment to activist work in education would allow me to experience the deep, profound, and unbreakable ties with five people whom I had barely met, or knew, before 2011. Each one of them has taught me lessons on how to be a better, stronger, wiser human being. And since that day I can think of so many more amazing people who have joined the efforts of United Opt Out, and too many sister-groups to even name, that have transformed my work life and my personal life in ways I never could have dreamed. So on this, our second year anniversary, I want to thank each of them: for teaching me what it means to be wise, trusting, courageous, tireless, brave, humble, and dedicated to something greater than just “me and mine.” I love all of you. And I will stand and fight with you and all the others who are joined with me by fellow groups, organizations, and our shared purpose. More than ideals, it’s our relationships that build our movement. In a mere two years, the Opt Out movement has exploded onto the scene across the country, led by courageous parents, students, and teachers. We have occupied the U.S. Department of Education and joined with many other events and efforts. Our website has received over a million hits. This past July we launched our state by state opt out guides and Declaration of Independence from corporate reform. This week we launch our “Back to School Protest Pack” We are growing. The tide is rising. So on this two year anniversary I am re-posting the very first thing I wrote as a founding member of United Opt Out, while up at 2 a.m. on the Outer Banks of NC. My first sleepless night writing. My first activist piece. Please share it widely. And to my UOO family: We’re just getting started! ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ LETTER TO PARENTS FROM A PARENT Aug 21st, 2011 Dear Parents, I write this letter as a parent myself, who also happens to be an educator for over twenty years (and counting…), which means I live by a double edged sword. Education, which has been an immensely political issue for me all these decades has also become a deeply personal one beginning six years ago with the birth of my son Conor, and two years after that with the birth of my daughter Molly. I also happen to be on vacation at the beach with my family at the moment I write this letter. I suppose while I focus on my family this week, the educator’s mind never turns off. So I begin this letter with a short story (a metaphor of sorts) about being at the beach, thinking about the school year which begins in less than 2 weeks, and the effects that high stakes testing has on me, my children, and our society. This morning I lugged our wheeled cart full of assorted items needed to keep children amused for hours to the beach. As we crested the dunes I saw that the sand castle and large tide pool (aka big hole) we had dug were still there from yesterday;  not washed away completely by the evenings tides but rather worn down at the edges, and filling in from wind and sea mist. Conor immediately grabbed a few sand toys jumped into the middle of the tide pool, now empty and dry. Looking at the water I could tell the tide was moving back in slowly. “Let’s dig it back out again” I chimed, “That way when the water moves up it will fill back in again.” He was eager to begin, but after a few moments his attention waned. “The water’s not coming in mommy” he noted. “It takes time buddy. If we start digging now by the time the tide rises we’ll be ready.” He was not convinced and promptly moved on to make friends with the two young boys at the next umbrella. But I kept digging. And I started thinking … about high stakes testing, and the costs of opting my children out of testing (when that time arrives) versus the costs of not opting them out. There is a lot at stake here. The term high stakes testing is aptly named indeed. I have heard stories of and know a few parents around the country who have been brave enough to opt their children out of testing. Where I live in Maryland testing is attached to a high school diploma. So in essence, if I opt my children out after 8th grade, they may risk not receiving their high school diplomas. That is a very high price to pay to prove a point. In the meantime, I have other fears. If I make a big issue out of this and fight the tests which will begin for them in3rd grade, what will other parents think? Will my children be treated differently by their teachers and school administration? I imagine the glares and whispers when I attend the PTA meetings. Indeed, change is difficult because change is frightening and it exacts a price. But as I continue digging the sandy tide pool, I realize that while I worry about the thought of throwing my child under the proverbial bus to resist high stakes testing, by not doing anything at all, I am throwing them and everyone else’s children under the bus for years to come. For all the very real and justified fears I have about facing “punishment” for resisting the testing  movement, I think about all the punishment my children are facing right now by not taking action. The problem is that we have become so used to the abuse that testing practices wage our children and teachers, it is like having been hit with a hammer so many times we don’t feel it any more. But the damage is there. High stakes testing is exacting its own price while we stand back and watch. And every time I cannot imagine the fear and intimidation tactics could possibly get worse, they do. Children are increasingly developing psychological and physical problems related directly and indirectly to the tests. As we reduce PE, lunch, and recess and other physical activity, to spend more time “practicing for the test” we increase rates of obesity among our children. Anxiety and depression are on the rise because of the pressure children sense in their classrooms, not to mention the rising numbers of students labeled ADHD because they are unable to sit still for hours like chickens in battery cages on a factory farm, being force fed worksheet after worksheet of skill, drill, and kill material. My mind wanders toward a broader historical perspective. During the Civil Rights movements of the 1950’s and 1960’s, activists who practiced non-violent forms of protest against discrimination of all types, were not met with open arms. When Ruby Bridges walked across her new all White school campus she was not met with a date to be on Oprah and a contract for her own reality TV show. No.  She was met, at all of six years of age, with violent epitaphs and objects being thrown at her. When the students from Birmingham Alabama led the non violent protest in Kelly Ingram Park in 1963, the red carpet was not rolled out for them. Few, if any, stood there cheering them on. They were met with fire hoses and police dogs. But, if you are like me, born too soon to remember this personally, we sometimes wish to romanticize these movements. We like to believe that had we been there, we never would have allowed such tragic and horrific events to occur. We want to believe that we would have been right there with them, standing in protest against the wrongs of society. The choices those brave individuals made were often at the cost of their jobs, social standing, and even their lives. How many of us really and truly are THAT brave?  They paved the way for many of the civil and social rights that we share today. If you want to believe you would have done the right thing back then, then do the right thing, right now. The decision to opt your child out of testing is both personal and political. It is an act of civil disobedience. Testing not only impacts the health and well-being of our own children. It also shapes the larger policies of equity, re-segregation, the school to prison pipeline, and the kinds of values that we are teaching the future stakeholders of this country. Critical and imaginative thinking are dying at the feet of discrete facts and passive thinking disguised as “education.” We will not be met with pats on the backs and a red carpet. The policy makers who insist on pushing their test driven agenda will use fear and intimidation of all kinds to keep people from speaking out and standing up. But as I look at myself in the broader scope of time and space, I ask myself, “When I look back on my life, on what side of history do I wish to be standing?”  Maybe you cannot opt my child out of testing. Some states make it more feasible than others.  Maybe you cannot be that brave soul who takes that giant leap. Maybe that’s not you. That’s ok. What is not ok is resignation … to say “There’s nothing I can do.”  Resignation is not an option. All of us can do something. Without the one there cannot be the many. And while it will take many to change things, we have to act individually as well. We can voice our concerns to boards of education. We can write letters to the editor. We can speak publicly in different forums about our demands to end this testing madness. It is destroying our schools and destroying our children’s rights to an education. It is child abuse. And who among us will allow that?  When we become brutally aware and honest about this fact, we must face the realization that all must act-somehow. Teachers cannot do it (alone at least). We pay taxes for public education. We vote. And we cannot be fired. And we cannot wait for policy makers to make a turn around. I promise you-they won’t. Not without massive pressure. Now in 2011 we are a consumer society. For the last 40 or 50 years we have been consuming the benefits of those civil rights activists from generations before us. We have begun to take for granted certain rights and we make erroneous assumptions about trusting too much in the decision making of those in power. During the economic downfall of 2008 and since then we all watched as CEO’s of banks and corporations who were largely responsible for this economic mess, rode off into the sunset with million dollar bonus packages. And these same corporate stake holders are now profiting at the expense of my children and yours. Exactly what is it that they have done to gain our trust?  Ben Clark at www.corpwatch.org published in 2004 cited that “Sales of printed materials related to standardized tests nearly tripled from 1992 to last year, jumping from $211 million to $592 million, according to the American Association of Publishers.” Meanwhile arts, music, and PE are getting slashed left and right from schools across the country. Class size goes up, resources goes down. The testing craze is not about making education better.  In fact research has shown it does the opposite. It is about lining the pockets of big business at the expense of our children’s education. If we do not change the course of educational policy, no one will do it for us. The tide pool that was dug for us by the change- agents of the Civil Rights movement is beginning to cave in. The opportunities and the changes in societal thinking that they forged at their own very personal expense are eroding again. The tides of free market capitalism and conservative big business agenda are rising to the steps of every school in America. If you think your school and your child are safe … just give ‘em time. Me?  I will not sit back and wait for the tides to come and swallow us up. So I keep digging.  So I beseech all parents: Jump in. Grab a shovel. It’s time. Sincerely, Morna McDermott McNulty Parent, Activist, Educator

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All multinational corporations use the same playbook to push privatizing a public good– whether it’s a human resource like clean drinking water or food; or a public service like education. The similarities between the various industrial giants aren’t coincidental. Each stage in their endeavors is part of their shared ideology, and their strategies, therefore, parallel one another.  While discussions about food, water, and energy might seem like diversions from discussion about education reform, it’s not. In fact, it helps answer the question: WHY? What this parallel reveals is how education DE-formers are forcing public education to fit like one piece of a bigger puzzle, in which all of our basic human needs, goods, and services are falling into the hands of a few corporate- owned interests. For example, in the agricultural industry, one corporate giant is Monsanto.  In energy it’s the fracking companies such as BP, Halliburton, and Exxon. In the water industry it’s Nestle, RWE/American Water, and Coca Cola. (Note: These are just a few examples! I could name other companies. I could reference other industries. This is merely a sampling to drive home a point.)

And in education our corporate parasites include Pearson, Bill Gates, and hedge fund-owned charter schools (to name but a few).

It’s no coincidence either that most of these major corporations for ALL of these different industries are members of ALEC, as are those leading the way toward education reform including the Common Core. This is not intended as a lesson in environmental awareness or health issues! I don’t care where you buy your food or what you eat. I don’t care what kind fuel you use, or where you get your water. Rather, it’s vital that we understand how deeply and profoundly all of these industries, and events taking place, are interconnected on systemic and ideological levels. To get to the dead cold heart of corporate reform in education, we must make note of the bigger picture in which all of this is occurring. It’s a necessary step to knowing exactly what we’re up against and how to fight back.

So what are the four steps in their (shared) playbook? Here’s a broad outline

1)    MAKING UP THE STORY

Create a “crisis”: Food crisis, energy crisis, education crisis. While we agree these issues are facing perilous times…corporations spend billions of dollars crafting faux research and white papers to tell a narrative defining the problems in their own self-serving terms, which in all instances evade the REAL causes of the problems (because the corporations themselves are usually at the root of it). From A Nation at Risk to the U.S. Education Reform and National Security report, reformers decry that our education “crisis” is a threat to national security. How “Post 9-11” of them.

2)   SELLING THE STORY

Spin a wide narrative to the public through mainstream media that promotes their agenda and limits ways for the truth to get out. It doesn’t matter if the claims even have a shred of truth. Money sells and tells. Truth be damned. Charter school promoters, and Common Core pushers, not unlike fracking companies, sell their ideas to communities promising “quality” services, and a means to solve the community’s problems. They use whatever sound bites will “sell.”

Fracking, as a means to obtain natural gas, genetically modified (GM) seed to produce food, and education reform “innovations” all share one thing: None of them were ever really tested for their viability or safety in small-level trials before being pushed through legislation to become the (inter)national dominators in their fields. The potential high risks, the lack of real knowledge about what the results might be, the negative repercussions of these initiatives are quickly buried. For example:

(T)he problem Monsanto faced was that GMOs are inherently unsafe. They can create dangerous side effects. That was the overwhelming consensus by FDA scientists, according to 44,000 agency documents made public from a lawsuit. But the most important document, FDA’s official policy, claimed that GMOs were not substantially different. They were granted the status “Generally Recognized as Safe,” even though they failed to meet the normal criteria. Thus, no safety testing is necessary. If Monsanto declares their GM products safe, the FDA has no further questions.

 Meanwhile, in 2012 charter schools with failing grades were still promoted at a Chicago school fair. According to Lutton: “One-third of schools featured at New Schools Expo 6.0, mostly charters, are low achievers.”

 Never mind that according to a national study, forty-six percent of charter schools offered a comparable education to similar public schools, 17 percent offered a superior education and 37 percent offered an inferior one.

Money trumps truth. Facts are silenced by power. Rationality and reality have little place in the world of corporate interest.

3)      PROFFER THE SOLUTION

Create think-tanks, “non profits”, and groups that can provide “solutions” to the problems they’ve outlined in #1. Naturally their solutions are a perfect “fit” for the problems

Eliminate opportunities for real alternatives: make it economically, politically or even legally viable to grow. Become the one and only resource available for the given “problem.”

“Poor performance of American children in schools!!!”  Solution? Test them more!!!  With “new and improved” tests.

One way such corporations corner the market to ensure the “solutions” they have to sell dominate all others is through extensive lobbying to change legislation which suits their own needs and interests.  Right now the majority of food/farming production in this country is owned by 3 or 4 major corporations.  Similarly, our drinking water is increasingly owned by a small handful of multinational billionaire private companies.

In education, our schools are increasingly “owned” by a handful of corporate interests as well. In energy, corporations push to de-fund alternative energy solutions that might become their competitors. In education, decreased funding leads to overcrowding in schools, loss of needed resources and programs, closing schools, and dis-empowering schools to make curricular and assessment decisions. But there’s millions of dollars in reserve for new tests, Common Core, and technology needed to push both.

4)    IGNORE YOUR FAILURE … AND REPEAT AS NECESSARY

The corporate dominated solutions not only do NOT solve the problems… THEY MAKE THEM WORSE. They deny responsibility for creating problems resulting from their actions. Whole neighborhoods whose drinking wells have been destroyed by fracking can probably relate to whole communities whose neighborhoods have been hollowed out by the destruction of their public education system. They too were sold a “false promises.” The “well of learning” has been poisoned by test mongers, millionaire-owned charters, privatizers, and profiteers.

Monsanto’s self proclaimed mission states they are focused on “empowering farmers-large and small …supporting their on-farm efficiency and reducing their on-farm costs.”  Yet, according to critics of Monsanto:  “From Iowa to Paraguay, from England to India, Monsanto is uprooting our food supply and replacing it with their patented genetically engineered creations. And along the way, farmers, communities, and nature become collateral damage” 

Replace Monsanto with Pearson, and food supply with education and you have some idea of where I’m going with this. 

This claim seems to overlook the hundreds of  claims that Monsanto has made against small farmers who they claim are “using” their patented trade seeds.  They also sue small farmers for exercising their right to advertise that their products contain no artificial hormones. Monsanto claimed that such advertising made other companies which use Monsanto brand chemicals “look bad.”

Genetically modified food products are subject to intellectual property laws (ownership) just as Common Core materials and the required “assessments” are privately owned and operated by Achieve and Pearson. Pearson has spent large sums of monies lobbying for control over intellectual property laws since 2008.

When Monsanto’s genetically modified (GM) crops hit American farm fields in 1996, virtually no safety studies had been published. While Common Core standards (and PARCC or SBAC tests) hit American schools, virtually no genuine study of their actual quality in real schools has been published.

But that’s not the only comparison. It’s as if replacing teachers with TFA grads, public school closures, and insertion of charter schools sucking dry the funding and resources of public schools, all of which is financed by state and federal monies, really took some notes from Nestle which in Michigan:

“(B)ought wilderness, began pumping water, which is causing stream to dry, flora and fauna to die. And the company got financial incentive 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.”

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. 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 strong educational research, the corporate-model, for-profit, brand of education reform contains: 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.

What Millions of Dollars Can Get You: New Laws and Being Above the Law

See John Stoeffel’s recent Chalkface piece which echoes some of the ideas put forward here. 

New legislation will remove the requirement of schools to report just how many of their teachers were hired from alternative certification programs like TFA. According to new legislation: “The Department of Education is seeking public comments on the Civil Rights Data Collection process for 2013-2016. The feds have decided that it is no longer necessary to keep track of the FTE of teachers meeting all state licensing/certification requirements.”

Likewise, Monsanto, with its billions of dollars of lobbying efforts prevented the Food and Drug Administration from requiring food packing be labeled if it contains genetically modified products in it (in CA called Prop 37). No labeling required. We don’t know need to know if our classroom teachers are really highly qualified any more than we are given the right to know if our food has been genetically modified.

Tony Bennett (I am sure among many others) doctor the test scores of charter schools to prevent them from looking bad, and perhaps doctor the numbers on test scores in public schools to ensure they do look bad. Michelle Rhee and a host of other reformers continue to evade any REAL punishments for their actions such as wide spread cheating. They continue to deny any culpability.

Tony Bennett notwithstanding, too many high level reformers still walk the streets untouched by their criminal negligence. Just like Michelle Rhee, when Monsanto’s transgressions are reported to authorities, somehow the company is magically let off the hook.

And …could inBloom and other data ownership companies courtesy of Bill Gate, now slipping their way into our schools to mine private student data with no promise of real accountability or security be taking its cue from Monsanto from which: “intentional contamination occurred in Paraguay, where illegal Roundup Ready seeds were smuggled in before GMOs were approved. Roberto Franco, Paraguay’s Deputy Agriculture Ministry, tactfully admits: ‘It is possible that [Monsanto], let’s say, promoted its varieties and its seeds’ before they were approved. ‘We had to authorize GMO seeds because they had already entered our country in an, let’s say, unorthodox way.’” 

But Monsanto’s negligence is not the only instance. In the energy industry, in the instance of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, “BP’s partners in the Macondo well have so far refused to pay any costs for the spill, claiming that BP’s gross negligence means it is 100% liable.”

85 percent of the people in the United States are served by public water companies, and multinational corporations see this as an opportunity to take control of this resource from cash-strapped municipalities in difficult financial times.  Charter schools investors see cash strapped school districts as their opportunity to turn education as a public good into an addition to their own personal stock portfolio. Just as water companies drain naturally occurring water from public aquifers, “own it,” and then re-bottle it at a profit- education reformers are draining away funds and resources from public education, and reselling it back to the public with their own private stamp and sticker price.

What Can We Do?

Fight back. Be informed. Work within the system by understanding current legislation. And work outside the system by acts of civil disobedience when necessary.

We are dealing with corporate colonization. Don’t let them buy the rights to our land, our water, our means of food production…. or our children.

Keep sharing the real solutions. We know what good teaching looks like. We know what sustainable schools really need. We know what enables all children to grow and flourish. Don’t let them silence us with the false claims that we have “no alternatives.” Yes… yes, we do. We must prevent reformers from continuing to erase them from our schools, from our memories, and from our state and local policies.

See the Parallels for Yourself

For more information on fracking see Gasland

For more information about water see Flow

For more information about the agriculture industry see The World According to Monsanto