A Teachable Moment

Former local teacher union pesident Morty Rosenfeld periodically attempts to make sense of the increasingly senseless world of public education.

The High Tech Swindle

The November 3rd New York Times carried a front page article entitled “How Silicon Valley Plans to Conquer the Classroom.” The article, while focused on the Baltimore County schools, exposes the massive sales campaign of America’s high tech companies to infiltrate the public school market, using marketing ploys similar to those used by the drug companies on physicians on public school decision makers. Trips, meals and other ethically challenged ploys are used to convince school leaders of the necessity of massive investments in computers and software despite the fact that there is almost no hard evidence that these technology expenditures have any positive effect on student learning.

The publication of this article is a sign of the growing awareness of the abject stupidity of contemporary education policy that has witnessed massive expenditures of public funds on the fool’s errand of attempting to keep our schools equipped with the latest technological devices in the belief that we are preparing students for the jobs of the future. Once hooked on being technologically current, school districts effectively surrender significant portions of their tight budgets to high tech peddlers. Even more significantly and essentially unappreciated, they surrender control of what and how children are taught to corporate decision makers rather than knowledgeable and experienced educators.

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Network for Public Education

In many ways the person best giving voice to the problems of public school teachers is Diane Ravitch. I have little doubt that if she were on a ballot for president of either of our two national unions to be voted on by all of the members, she would win hands down. Her efforts to push back against the corporate privatizing agenda for our public schools has been more clear, consistent and cogent than any of the work of our union leaders.

On Sunday, the Network for Public Education, an organization she founded, launched the first in a series of videos alerting the public to the dangers posed by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to public education. For the first time in the history of the office, we have a secretary who does not believe in public education yet whose job is to oversee our nation’s public schools. As I write this, the video has been viewed 350,000 times, the result of skillful organizing of supporters of the Network to share the video on their social media sites, blogs and what have you. This blog post is part of my commitment to share these videos as they are published and thus promote information to arouse the public of the threat to the vital institution of public education in our country. I urge my readers to sign up to lend their support to this important effort.

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Exposing the Techno-Hoax

Anyone reading my work over the years knows of my deep suspicion of the motives of the private sectors interest in public education. In recent times, I’ve been sounding the alarm about the unexamined influence of our nation’s high tech entrepreneurs and their companies and their influence on public schools and the employees charged with educating America’s youth. At best, education decision makers have allowed the voices of people like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg to be amplified by their billions, creating the illusion that they know more about public education than experienced professionals do. I have characterized their philanthropy as giving to get, in that our public schools have spent billions of dollars on their high tech products without any demonstrable improvement in educational outcomes. One would think that if the efficacy of tech assisted education were as claimed, our public schools would be paragons of academic excellence by now, having spent billions over the last twenty years infusing technology throughout our schools.

It was therefore very encouraging to read Natasha Singer’s article in this morning’s New York Times questioning the influence of our high tech billionaires on our schools. The very existence of such a piece on the front page of the Grey Lady suggests an awakening to the fleecing of the public’s schools. Perhaps the techno-hoax is at last being exposed.

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Scott Walker’s War on Wisconsin’s Public Schools

Most teachers are at least vaguely aware of what Governor Scott Walker did to the public employee unions in Wisconsin. Ending collective bargaining, ending agency fee and requiring local unions to be recertified each year by a majority in the unit are generally understood to be inimical to the welfare of teachers and public employees. There is also a general sense in our ranks that the Trump administration has very similar goals nationally. What hasn’t received much attention is what Walker’s war on public employee unions has actually done to public education in Wisconsin and what his approach could mean for school districts throughout the United State in the era of Trumpism. Patrick Caldwell, writing in Mother Jones, gives us an unvarnished view of the consequences of Walker’s assault on Wisconsin’s schools. Thos who value public schools and appreciate their centrality to a democratic society would be wise to think about Caldwell’s analysis.

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Trump Junior

While it may be for naught, I will continue to try to reason with those teacher union members considering voting for Donald Trump or the Libertarian or Green Party candidates. Thos e familiar with my political positions know that I’m not a great fan of Hillary’s, but if we are interested in public education, we have to put our energy into stopping Donald Trump from becoming President of the United States. That means voting for Hillary.

If you watched Donald Junior’s speech last night you hear enough to frighten you into the reality of what we must do. If you missed it, be sure you watch it here. After you do, think about the anti-intellectual theme running throughout – the suggestion that educated, credentialed people somehow know nothing about the world. Listen to the appeal to the uneducated. More importantly, at 16 minutes and 48 seconds into the speech, listen to the indictment of public education, its teachers and administrators and the due process protections of tenure. Although plagiarized in part, the speech echoes those who have wages a well-financed, coordinated campaign to discredit the public schools of our nation in order to privatize them.

Why would any public school employee vote for a candidate who obviously places no value on the work that we do and who poses an existential threat to the institution we cherish – public schools?

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John King Strikes Again

Did anybody expect good things from John King, when on the verge of being run out of New York, the Obama administration selected him to replace Arne Duncan, himself a beleaguered education policy maker on the national level? So, it’s no surprise that Kings draft of the regulations implementing the recently passed Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) proposes that 95 percent of students in a public school district must participate in the state’s high stakes tests or the district may suffer a penalty in the form of a cut in Title I funding.

That these regulations violate the spirit of not the letter of the recent legislation is clear. The whole focus of the bi-partisan ESSA was to return authority to the states to determine issues of standards and testing. But that doesn’t seem to matter to John King. A tool of the corporate education reform movement, King looks at the country and sees a growing national opt out movement threatening that movement. He remembers the power and fury of the opt-out movement in New York and how it made his position there untenable. He appears determined to use his brief time in Washington to try to use the economic power of the federal government stifle the voices of parents and educators who with increasing militancy are demanding an end to corporate reform movement’s rape of our nation’s public schools.

Our national union leaders ought to be questioning Hillary very carefully about her thoughts on this move by King to defeat the opt-out movement. Here in New York we have a right to know what our would-be majority leader Chuck Schumer thinks about this issue. Wouldn’t it be hopeful if he had one of his almost daily media events to demand end to this threat to a parent’s right to determine whether her child will participate in the state’s regime of high stakes tests?

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It’s Just Business

Those who doubt that the Common Core State Standards and the high stake tests aligned to them are part of a corporate business plan rather than thoughtful educational proposals aimed at improving student performance need to read Jonathan Pelto’s current article in The Progressive. Pelto chronicles PARCC’s legal efforts to stifle any serious criticism of their Common Core tests. If their tests are as good as they claim, why all the threats against critics?

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A Harbinger of Fall Possibilities

As I write this, the news media are reporting that Todd Kaminsky has won a very narrow victory over Chris McGrath, his Republican opponent. Kaminsky’s election is a victory for the coalition of parents and teacher union activists who have banded together to save public education from the corporate privatizers who seek to discredit our public schools to profit from owning them later on. This victory should be the harbinger of even greater victories in the fall. I have been arguing in union circles for some time that we need to look at districts with high rates of opting out of high stakes tests and union density. Our campaign to have our members be education voters needs the energy that comes from victories like Kaminsky’s. It’s my understanding that Ryan Cronin is running again against Kemp Hannon, a very beatable incumbent in the 6th Senate District who has done nothing to help us stop the testocracy from destroying our public schools. Cronin as a completely unknown made a very respectable showing when he ran against Hannon two cycles ago. In the current political environment we could elect him. But we need to make the kind of effort that was made in the 9th! We are already late.

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Hope is Alive in New York

It’s not very often that one gets to see meteoric change in the direction of an institution. However, that’s what we witnessed the other day after the installation of Chancellor Dr. Betty Rosa who asked by a reporter whether if she had school age children she would opt them out, she replied with a resounding YES. That monosyllabic sound bite said that the process of reversing the catastrophic corporate sponsored test and punish school reform movement championed by outgoing chancellor Merryl Tisch is beginning without pause. It will no doubt take time to undo the serious damage Tisch and her agent John King wrought, but we have gotten an immediate sense from our new leader that there is reason to hope that we can find more reasonable and meaningful ways to assess students and provide for teacher accountability.

Some school leaders were put off by Rosa’s remarks, the superintendent of my own district for one. These critics confuse standardized testing with high standards of academic achievement. They do not see them for what they are – essentially instruments that measure the ability to pass standardized tests and artificial sorters of students into categories from which they often find it impossible to escape and progress. These critics ignore what growing numbers of parents and teachers have seen – a test driven transformation from educating children for adult citizenship to training them to be docile cogs in the corporate workforce. They are on the wrong side of history, having seriously underestimated the public’s willingness to swallow the crap they have offered up in the name of reform.

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Who’s Accountable?

I’m onto my system of school accountability again. It enraged me to read of the introduction by some of the nitwits leading our nation’s school systems of virtual school days. You’ve got it. Virtual school days have kids staying at home and doing their school work in one way or another through the internet. One has to laugh at the rationale offered by some for this cheap knockoff of education. Since more and more employers have their employees working from home, public schools offering virtual school days are preparing students for the workplace of their futures. The schmucks selling this snake-oil are the pawns of the corporate school reformers who would love nothing better that a complete system of virtual schools. No need for school buildings, school buses, no student cafeterias. No need to manage the behavior of hundreds of children. No teachers getting together to engage each other professionally. Much harder for unions to organize people who never come to one workplace. The perfect system for the faceless cogs so desperately sought after by the titans of our rapidly emerging dystopia. Where is our system of accountability to check these charlatans who would cheat children of their right to a real education?

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Ready for Kindergarten?

The corporate education reform movement is spawning every conceivable kind of exploitation of children and their anxious parents. This morning, a friend pointed me to a community Facebook page on which person shilling an outfit called the Homework Hub the anxiety provoking question, “Is your son or daughter ready for the demands of kindergarten?” It goes on, “The Kindergarten curriculum moves quickly and being prepared for the challenges ahead will give your child a running start from the get go.”

Once upon a better time, children who were toilet trained had all of the qualifications necessary for kindergarten. Parents could comfortable assume that they could send their kids to school without any academic preparation. Now, education hucksters lead parents to feel that unless they have reading readiness skills and other abilities that five year-olds often don’t as yet have, their educations may be permanently sidetracked, their futures dimmed, and their earning potential curtailed. The road to economic success begins in kindergarten.

There seems to be no end to what education con-merchants can sell to a public all too willing to pay any price to be relieved of the gnawing feeling that they may not be doing all they can for their children, that they may be found to be wanting as parents. Thus we see more and more children with calendars of activities ranging from tutoring, to sports, to volunteer work to lessons of all kinds, all assembled by parents seeking build their children’s resumes to get them into a prestigious college, not for the education offered there but for what it will mean for their future earning power. The race to nowhere starts earlier and earlier.

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The Cost of Test Driven Schools

We used to laugh at students in many Asian school systems who attended their public schools during the day only to enroll in tutoring schools in the evening to cram for the high stakes tests the results on which in many countries determine a young person’s educational and economic future. American students were allowed to be children, with time for recreational activities, friends and families. There was a balance in their lives between school and home. Without challenging the endurance of our children, without tying their self-worth exclusively to their academic prowess but with a much more determined effort to develop their ties to their communities and nation and with a very conscious effort to provide they with opportunities to find out who they were, the United States managed to maintain the world’s premier economy with a highly productive workforce. We knew that “the child is father of the man” and acted accordingly, trying to cultivate the development good people, good citizens and a good society.

Now we don’t laugh at the drone children of our Asian competitors. We emulate them. More and more we teach to high stakes tests, increasingly blurring the distinction between education and training in the process. Our communities are awash in after-school tutoring services that promise higher grades on everything from basic reading comprehension to the Graduate Record Exams. There are three such places just in the office building in which our union office is located. Our public schools are increasingly urged by ever more anxious parents to provide before and after school extra help to our youngest elementary students to ensure that they have every competitive edge they can get in the race to nowhere. At a recent meeting of our board of education, parents implored the board to provide Saturday and or evening high school math classes in trigonometry for fear that their children might miss a question or two on the ACT examination.

The United States will be no safer if our children do are doing school work during most of their waking hours. Kids fighting with their parents over homework that parents only half understand will not ensure the economic supremacy of the nation. Suppressing what we have learned about the psycho-social development of children will surely not produce happier, better adjusted children with a strong sense of responsibility to others. We can’t test, tutor or academically bludgeon our way to a better, more equal, more wholesome society. We can educate ourselves to a better place, if we choose to.

More and more people are choosing to do so. The rapidly growing opt-out movement is effectively challenging the use of high stakes tests. In more and more communities parents are questioning why their children are doing homework to the exclusion of a real home-life. I meet more and more parents who tell their children, “That’s enough homework for one day.” We need to demand that teaching be done in such a way as to devote the time necessary to meet students’ needs rather that slavishly following test driven pacing charts. Kids shouldn’t need extra help because teachers are forced to move on even though they know that their students haven’t mastered their lesson. We need to remind ourselves that really good schools are about the education of human beings, not the training of economic units. We need to understand that the cost of what we are doing today will be far greater than the reformers would lead us to believe.

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Behind The Common Core Taskforce

Talking to an long-time colleague the other day about the Governor Cuomo’s Common Core Taskforce and what to expect from it. While it’s clear that the Governor created the taskforce in response to the mounting criticism of the implementation of the Common Core in New York and the high stakes tests aligned with the standards, what is not so apparent is what Cuomo is looking to achieve. My friend and I agreed that it would be totally unlike him to retreat, having very publically and stridently paced himself on the side of the school reformers and their demands for data driven student and teacher accountability. So, what’s he up to with the taskforce?

My friend advanced the thesis that the task force will probably recommend some sort of do-over in the implementation of the Common Core. During that reboot, a term Cuomo has used, there would be a moratorium on counting the results of the grade three through eight tests for both students and teachers, a moratorium that will last at least through the legislative elections next year. NYSUT can be expected to declare the moratorium a big union victory. More importantly, leadership in the opt-out movement while they will be more wary of Cuomo’s ultimate intentions, will nevertheless find it more difficult to grow their movement in an environment of a moratorium that leads the public to expect a significant roll-back of the testing regime. With the public’s focus off testing and the Common Core, Cuomo advances a new iteration of test driven accountability, claiming it corrects the deficiencies of the original roll-out of the Common Core and the testing regime but which really entails cosmetic changes. In this way, the thesis goes, the opposition to Cuomo’s reforms is weakened and our politically savvy governor gets what he always wanted, the test driven accountability systems demanded by his corporate reformer friends.

While we can’t know for sure that this is Cuomo’s plan, we must act as though it is. Once the movement of parents and teachers stops growing, it will inevitably lose its drive and intensity. Once that happens, it’s much harder to re-energize it than it was to begin it. We need a strategy to prevent our wily governor from out-foxing us again.

More on this next time.

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The Latest Common Core Scam

One of the key points in the marketing of the Common Core State Standards has been the desirability of some to compare the accomplishments of students across state lines. How do New York students compare to those in Colorado or Utah? Universal standards for what children should be able to do grade by grade in theory make such comparisons possible. It is only theory, however, a theory that omits the reality that public education exists in a roiling political environment, one in which elected officials subordinate educational idealism to electoral realities. A front page story in the New York Times this morning makes this point exactly. It turns out that states define and report student accomplishment on the Common Core exams variously, making meaningful comparisons just about impossible. A student who is proficient in one state could be failing in another, even though both have been taught to the same standard. Every so slowly, the American people are learning that they have had their pockets picked once again.

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Let’s Get Ethically Conspicuous

Both on the phone and through social media, many parents of elementary students in our district contact me complaining about the Common Core State Standards, particularly the math standards. It’s been in part through these exchanges that I have formed the opinion that the writers of the Common Core State Standards knew little to nothing about the intellectual development of children.

Last evening at a regular meeting of our board of education, a very poised and articulate young woman got up and began to talk about the response of her third grader to the math instruction. A teacher in a neighboring district, she was careful not to blame any staff in the school her daughter attends, focusing instead on her experiences as a parent with a child for whom math homework is an almost automatic trigger of emotional meltdowns. So much is expected of the children that teachers have little time to pause and reteach when children don’t get it, the rhythm of their work dictated by pacing charts aimed at getting them to cover everything before the state assessments in the spring, assessments that are tied to their annual professional performance review or APPR. Skill work in math or any other subject for that matter requires time for students to practice, practice that pacing charts do not adequately allow for.

I hear stories like this almost every day, from parents and teachers who often tell me that what they are forcing young children to do is tantamount to child abuse. Reports to the public in our district suggest that not only is all well but our children are doing outstandingly, learning concepts that only much older children used to learn. And, in fact, some are. But left unaddressed is an unknown number of children, anecdotally a very significant number of children, who are being asked to learn things they are not ready to learn to satisfy policy makers who subordinate the intellectual and emotional welfare of our children to half-baked economic ideas about international competitiveness, as though if we don’t jam as much material down children’s throats as fast as we can, the economy of the United States is going to come tumbling down, leaving us at the mercy of those evil Chinese who are training their children to economically vanquish us. Doesn’t anyone wonder how teaching children to hate learning is probably not a ticket to success, economic or otherwise?

Sadly, I think most of our board of education knows that there is something seriously wrong. Whether they have the courage to admit it publicly is another matter. If I’m correct that they know something is seriously wrong, then it seems to me they, no we, have an ethical responsibility to do whatever is necessary to treat our children caringly. Like many other Long island districts we’re into conspicuous achievement. We love awards and contests and all sorts of competitions that have little to do with the quality of our schools. How wonderful it would be if we decided to conspicuously modify the standards so that they comport with age appropriate abilities of our children – lead the way to serious reform. While we’re at it, what if our leaders all got behind the opt-out movement, strengthening this movement that will ultimately defeat the corporate reform agenda. Stop the damage here. Help to stop it throughout our state. Get on the ethical high road. Fear of state reprisals is no excuse for not doing what’s right for kids.

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Big Surprise: There’s a Teacher Shortage

The top domestic story in this morning’s New York Times concerns the teacher shortage in many areas of the country. Imagine that! In is few short years, we have gone from a glut of teachers to a shortage. It’s not hard at all to understand how that has happened. Neither is it hard to figure out how to fix the problem.

The financial crisis hit states very hard, causing huge drops in revenue which in turn caused them to cut state aid to local school districts that solved their budget crises by laying off teachers. Across the country, thousands of teachers were excessed, many never to return to the profession, if they were lucky having found new careers. Those teachers who survived the layoffs found their wages frozen or stagnating and their working conditions deteriorating, both as a result of scarce financial resources and the acceleration of the corporate school reform movement’s drive to discredit public education with the goal of privatizing it. Key to discrediting the institution was a growing cult of accountability that has sought to tie student performance on standardized test to teacher evaluations, even though no reputable statisticians support the validity of this process. In many places, governors, often backed by the same forces pushing the so-called reform movement, launched attacks on education unions that ran the gamut from seeking an end to tenure to withdrawing or curtailing collective bargaining and pension rights. In short, that which made teaching attractive to many, job security, union wages, defined benefit pensions, the opportunity to do interesting, rewarding work and the certainty of a decent retirement began to evaporate.

With thousands laid off, with working teachers increasingly disgruntled, with much of the media reinforcing the lie that public education is failing America’s children, with teaching increasingly becoming test preparation, with all kinds of senseless barriers being created to qualify as a teacher being erected, is it any wonder that fewer young people are going into education. Why would a young person seek a career in which practitioners are increasingly presumed to be ineffective no matter what they do, where they are over scrutinized and under supervised, where they must hold multiple jobs to support their families and where their work is increasingly routinized? What is it that our society believes is going to attract them in sufficient numbers?

The attacks on teachers will either cease or the trend towards a growing shortage will continue. Young people seek careers that provide some dignity and status. Those are increasingly hard to come by working in public education today. Sadly, I find myself discouraging young people I meet from seeking to become teachers. I feel ethically obliged to do so.

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The Offer of a Hand in Our Own Destruction

Word yesterday that the New York State Education department has dumped Pearson as its test maker for the grades 3 through 8 assessments in favor of Questar, a rival company. We are also told that the contract with the new company, worth some 44 million dollars, will oblige the test makers to increase the number of versions of the test that will permit the validity of trial questions to be tested while shortening the length of the test itself. We are led to understand that through a process yet to be made clear teachers will be involved in the crafting of these exams and the data derived from them shared in a more pedagogically useful manner that heretofore. This announcement, the first under new Commissioner Mary-Ellen Elia, is being hailed by some, including NYSUT leadership, as a victory in the battle against high stakes testing. Why a shift in companies is seen as some kind of victory is beyond me.

While the length of the 3 through 8 tests is a significant issue, it is of much less importance to educators and parents than the fact that students are tested yearly and that their academic progress in English and math is measured by one test, No competent teacher would evaluate a student’s performance on such a limited basis. Add to that absurdity the fact that such limited information is then used to evaluate teachers and we have a system that has predictably corrupted public education. By defining success for both students and teachers by high stakes test scores, we have created a system where the curriculum is increasingly devoid of anything not covered by the tests and the very pace of the instruction is determined by the need to cover the tested material by the time of the test, weeks before the actual end of the school year. We have made school less joyous for students and promoted dishonesty among too many teachers and administrators who have come to see themselves in a struggle for survival. None of these existential issues for public education are address by the state changing the test maker. The whole thing appears to be a public relations move to get out from under the bad press that has been heaped on a discredited Pearson.

Questar may be able to make tests that are more error free than some produced by Pearson, but that should not cool the passion of those of us who see high stake testing as a potent tool of those who seek to delegitimize public education so as to privatize it and profit from it. It will do nothing to boost the morale of teachers who see their profession being stolen out from under them. It won’t curb the pressure we are putting on young children as we narrow their education to the point where it is becoming training rather than preparation for informed adulthood and citizenship. Inviting teachers to participate is quite simply luring them into participating in their own destruction.

The answer to the scourge of high stakes testing is not a new test maker. The answer is to return testing to the hand of educators who know how to harness it to sound pedagogical practices. The best way to make that happen is for parents and teachers to reject and resist the current testing regime. Over 200,000 students refused the state tests this year, up from 60,000 last year. Our goal has to be to boost that number to at least 400,000 next spring by starting now!

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OPT-OUT OR ACQUIESCE

Tomorrow the New York State 3 through 8 assessments begin. While Governor Cuomo and the legislature effectively more than doubled down on high stakes testing, there is a good chance that, in the best American tradition, citizens will cast their own vote on the testing epidemic by opting their children out of the exams. Exams that children don’t take cannot be used against them and their teachers.

Last year, over sixty thousand New York children were withheld by their parents from the assessments, over twenty thousand on Long Island. This year the numbers are bound to be significantly higher. The only question is how much higher.

It is not hyperbole to suggest that either parents will rise up and voice a resounding NO to what the testocracy is doing to public education, or they will acquiesce to the corporate powers behind the testing movement and thereby move the process of dismantling public education forward significantly.

Coincidentally, I just sent in the second half of my school taxes for the year. For the first time in my adult, I felt a pang of resentment for having to pay to support what to my mind is the daily debasing of education in our schools, as testing drives more and more of the curriculum and the notion of what it means to be educated evaporates in favor of what at best is job training.

My generation took to civil disobedience to promote the rights of all Americans to participate in our democracy. We took to the streets to stop a stupid war in Viet Nam in which thousands of my peers died for no discernible reason. Those were moral crusades, and I believe the movement to prevent the corporate takeover of public education is every bit as much of a moral issue. If we care about educating our children to be thoughtful, analytical participants of our democracy, people with a broad understanding of all that makes us human, then it seems to me we will thwart this latest attack on public education by refusing to have our children participate in the main weapon intended to destroy it – high stakes testing.
Should the opt-out movement fail, it will signal to those who lust to turn our schools into profit centers that they are on the right course and that the public doesn’t care enough to protest its schools.

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No Serious Reform Without Teacher Voices

At Plainview’s Board of Education meeting this past Monday night, I was reminded of a disturbing irony that is often observable at these events. The opinions of those derived from the least firsthand experience and knowledge are valued the most. So we had members of our board most of whom know only what they have gathered from their children, their memories of being in school themselves and what they are told by a central office administration which itself manifests few signs that they understand what is happening in our classrooms responding to points made by parents most of whom are laypeople, together writing a narrative of our schools that is seen as a contrived fiction by the people actually in our classrooms.

That’s just a local version of what happens at the state and national level. Does anyone seriously think that Andrew Cuomo knows the first damn thing about education or that he is being advised by people who know or care about the welfare of our public schools? Had Merryl Tisch taught for more than a couple of years in a parochial school, perhaps logged seven or eight years in one of the schools she is quick to deem a failure, her thoughts on education would be completely different, less focused on standardized test scores, more sympathetic to the daily tragedy of children growing up in poverty. Have we not had ample evidence that Arne Duncan’s talents were better aligned with a career in basketball that with overseeing national education policy.

In a system of public education in which the voice of the people teaching the children is barely audible, why would anyone expect good outcomes? If we are to have serious reform of our public schools, and I certainly believe there are many things that need to change, those changes will have to be driven by teachers. Former New York Education Commissioner Tom Sobol had a line he often used to talk about the process of change in our schools. He spoke about, “Top down support for bottom up reform.” To my mind he was the last commissioner in our state to have a serious understanding of teaching and learning. Those who have followed have been at best pretenders – at worst the tools of economic and political elite bent on destroying public education for their [personal gain.

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It’s Testing Season

Today’s post is addressed specifically to readers in my community of Plainview-Old Bethpage. It’s part of our effort to end the scourge of high stakes testing in New York by citizens clearly know where we stand on parents refusing to let their children take the state’s assessments. Here’s where we stand.

The members of the Plainview-Old Bethpage Congress of Teachers have been at the forefront in the battle to end the destructive consequences of high stakes testing in New York State. We have opted our own children out of the state assessments and vigorously defended the rights of all parents to do the same. We were instrumental in ending our district’s “sit and stare” policy, having gotten our board of education to provide students not taking the exams a comfortable alternative school setting. We deeply believe that the growing number of parents refusing to submit their children to testing exploitation is our most powerful weapon in the battle with powerful economic and political forces that are bent destroying public education as we have known it and making huge profits in the process.

We want the parents of our community to know that whether they opt their children out of the state tests or not, we will treat their decision respectfully, seeing to it that their children are comfortable during the examination periods in either the testing or alternative setting.

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