Sunday, August 12, 2012

August 12, 2012: Question of the Day

Even though figures vary, between 20 and 50 billion dollars is spent per annum on failed educational strategies.

Do you realize that fifty billion dollars would help pay for almost half of the cost to repair the crumbling infrastructure of public schools (U.S. Department of Labor 1995)?

Fifty billion dollars would pay the salaries and benefits of an additional one million teachers.

Fifty billion dollars would furnish each student in American public schools with a laptop computer and unlimited Internet access.

Fifty billion dollars would provide every child in North America with three meals a day.


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Saturday, August 11, 2012

A Challenge

reposted from A Teacher's Fight.
We Need to Talk...

Now. Let me be more specific. We, the parents, educators, and concerned citizens, need to have a conversation via social media or in person about education in our communities. We will listen to each other and have a civil debate. No personal attacks. Put your personal agendas aside and any allegiances you may have to particular organizations. But we have to start talking. We all have to start asking questions and seeking the truth. We need to look at the research for ourselves. Then we need to look at who is doing the research and examine the context.

Beware. I'm purposely going to ruffle some feathers to get the conversation started.

Let's look at charter schools. If you are an educator in a charter school and your school does not meet the needs of children by providing the resources and opportunities that, as professionals, we know are important for addressing the academic, social, emotional, and physical needs of children, WHY ARE YOU STILL TEACHING THERE OR WHY ARE YOU NOT CHALLENGING THE INEQUALITY?

Listen, it's one thing to be teaching in a traditional public school that has been forced to make incredible cuts to important programs and opportunities for children, and another to be teaching in a charter school that just doesn't provide what students need. I'm just going to say are enabling educational inequality and possibly racial inequality as well. You need to speak up for children and families. Go to the school board meetings. If your CMO or EMO is for-profit, demand that that they take less profits in order to fund what students need. Of course, be prepared to be fired.

There are some big questions that we need to answer. Look at the local statistics below. What questions arise from this data?

Fort Wayne Charter School ISTEP Percentages of Students Passing Both Math and English/Language Arts for Each Year Since Opening

Imagine MASTer Academy - 50.8% 53.6% 54.7% 53.6% 60.3% 51.7%
Imagine Schools on Broadway - 23.4% 29.8% 31.1% 36.6% 36.8%
Timothy L. Johnson - 25.8% 20.3% 35.9% 25.6% 37.8% 28.2% 41.3%

I have more important stats to share, but we'll just start out with this. Please respond or ask questions. Post a comment anonymously if you need to or e-mail me for a private conversation. (

Friday, August 10, 2012

Oppose Parent Trigger Propaganda

This is from Parents Across America. Click here for the full article.
Oppose parent trigger propaganda:

Tweet, Facebook, e-mail, call, write celebs, media, friends, family to protest phony "Teachers Rock" show and "Won't Back Down" movie

The propaganda campaign for the parent trigger law created by charter school operators and promoted by ALEC is in full swing.

The big kick-off event is a concert called "Teachers Rock." Like the "parent tricker" itself, this concert pretends to honor teachers while promoting a movie, "Won't Back Down," that is designed to get a lot of them fired and replaced by Teach for America newbies.

The concert will take place this Tuesday, Aug, 14th, at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles. CBS will air a one-hour special using footage from the concert and the WBD movie, tributes to teachers from stars, etc. on Friday, Aug. 17th, at 8 pm EDT.

We know that most of the performers, like the actors in the movie, don't have a clue how they are being used to promote school privatization in the guise of parent empowerment, but this concert and WBD movie are going to put the issue front and center and we need to make sure that our voices are heard.

Here's what you can do:

We've written about the Won't Back Down movie in our newsletters before, but if you don't remember details, take a few moments to read PAA's review of the WBD movie trailer (which is all we have been able to see so far - we are requesting a screening) and fact sheet on the WBD movie.

Then reach out to everyone you can about this movie and concert. This movie is designed to be even more powerful than Waiting for Superman, and we need to counter it with every thing we have. How do you fight Hollywood? Make the movie controversial, not feel-good. Take it to the stars who mean well but need to open their eyes to what they are doing. Everyone needs to write to CBS, too.

Everyone wants to write to a star, right? A list of contact info for a few of those involved in the Teachers Rock concert follows (gleaned from posters on Diane Ravitch's blog here). The easiest thing to do is to facebook and tweet them, keeping on mind that they are not the enemy. Post your thoughts on their facebook pages, twitter feeds, use their e-mails, write to their publicist! This is the big one and we need all hands on board!

Here are a few message points:

The Won't Back Down movie and the 8/17 Teacher Rocks concert are propaganda for the parent trigger law created by charter school operators and promoted by ALEC.

Won''t Back Down is a "feel-bad" movie for parents and teachers who support public education.

The controversial WBD movie promotes charter takeovers of schools, yet charter schools are no better than our regular schools.

No real teacher was depicted in the filming of the WBD movie.

Parents won't be fooled by the "Parent Tricker" or the Won't Back Down movie.

Teachers Rock performers:

1. Dave Grohl: Manager-Gabby at 323-856-8222
2. Adam Levine: Receptionist will take message at 310-776-7640
3. Jack Black: email to
4. Meryl Streep: publicist's voice mail at 212-277-7555
5. Viola Davis: email to
6. Morgan Freeman: email to

1. Dave Grohl - Foo Fighters - Agent: Don Muller - WME 1325 Avenue Of The Americas, New York, NY 10019 T.212.586.5100 F.212.246.3583
2. Adam Levine - Maroon 5 singer - Manger: Career Artist Management - 1100 Glendon Avenue, Suite 1100 | Los Angeles, CA 90024 | 310.776.7640 (p) | 310.776.7659 (f)
3. Jack Black - Agent: WME 1325 Avenue Of The Americas, New York, NY 10019 T.212.586.5100 F.212.246.3583
4. Meryl Streep - Publicist: Leslee Dart. Dart Group. 90 Park Avenue. 19th Floor. New York, NY 10016. Phone: 212-277-7555.
5. Viola Davis - Agent: Agency for the Performing Arts (APA) 45 West 45th St. 4th floor, New York, NY 10036 T. 212.687.0092 F. 212.245.5062
6. Morgan Freeman - Publicist: Stan Rosenfield and Associates, Inc., 2029 Century Park E., Suite 1190, Los Angeles, CA 90067, USA. Phone: (310) 286-7474, Fax: (310) 286-2255.
7. Josh Groban
8. Maggie Gyllenhaal (last, but not least)

Friday, August 3, 2012

August 3, 2012: Question of the Day

How could the approximate $46 million spent on testing in Indiana be better spent?
If we divide $46 million by $50,000 per teacher, that could equal 920 additional teachers.
Since there are 152 school districts in Indiana, that could mean that there could be about 6 additional teachers per district who could be targeted towards early childhood education (or wherever the districts might need them).


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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Desire to Learn or Need to Achieve?

...from Live Long and Prosper
Desire to Learn or Need to Achieve?

When I was growing up my parents assured me that it didn't matter what career I chose, as long as it was something I wanted to do. In high school I focused on music and was convinced that I was destined for a musical career. I entered college as a music major, and quickly learned the difference between talent and ability (I had the latter, but not the former). I needed a change of direction.

After floundering in the College of Arts and Sciences for a while I graduated with a bachelors degree in Religious Studies which, like a degree in Philosophy, Sociology, History or any one of a dozen other "Liberal Arts" degrees, didn't prepare me for any "job" or career. So after graduation I gravitated back to music, something I knew and loved, and began working at retail music stores.

When my oldest child was born I became interested in child development. I returned to school and got my teaching certificate and a Masters degree in elementary education.

After teaching primary grades for 17 of my first 19 years as an educator I had the opportunity to work with students who were having difficulty learning. Like most teachers I spent extra hours focused on the students who were having difficulty in my class. When I had the opportunity to work with those students in a pull out program I took it. During the last 16 years of my career I worked with students who needed help in (mostly) reading and for 7 of those years I was a Reading Recovery teacher.

Throughout my own childhood and even into college I had difficulty with reading, so when I began teaching I worked hard to analyze where students were having difficulty. I became a passionate supporter of struggling students. It's clear that the interest I showed for those students was, at least in part, because of my own difficulties.

At each step in my adult life I focused on my interests -- music, religious studies, child development, elementary education, and finally teaching struggling readers. I didn't direct my attention towards a high paying career. I didn't consider what the "lifelong earnings" would be. I didn't spend time analyzing the future prospects for advancement in the job paths I chose. I followed my interests and my passions.

I felt no competition as an educator other than with myself. I compared myself to others only for the purpose of self-evaluation and deciding whether or not I was doing well. Perhaps because I had never been a high achiever I valued passion over practicality. I favored understanding over achievement -- interest over monetary gain. As an educator I was competing with the problems I faced, not other professionals. I focused on what I could do to be a better teacher and how I could reach students who were hard to reach.

Are today's students given the same opportunity to follow their interests?

High stakes assessments direct a child's attention to facts, details, and quick responses. There's little time for the higher level thinking skills of Bloom's Taxonomy -- creativity, evaluation, analysis.

In some places parents are very competitive -- often because the system forces them into it -- and push their children into a single minded quest for high achievement, high status schools and high paying careers.

The competitive, data driven madness of the current "race to the top" mentality of education, is robbing today's students of the joy of learning. Children are born with the desire to learn. They are natural wonderers...explorers...analysts. Our society's obsessive focus on "data" crushes the wonder and destroys the internal thirst for understanding. The desire to learn is replaced with the need to achieve.

The competition for grades, schools and achievement is often pursued at the expense of personal development. We're educating students to achieve but not to be well rounded human beings...and then we wonder why cheating is such a problem -- in education and in financial circles. Walt Gardner writes that Students Pay a Price For 'Success'.
We see this disconnect in Wall Street and in the legal profession, where elite credentials have failed to instill a modicum of integrity in so many. Their actions have hurt the country in a way not seen since the Gilded Age. Yet the obscene wealth they've amassed is glorified. Little is said about their achievements as human beings. Is self-service the only thing that matters? "For the super-elite, a sense of meritocratic achievement can inspire high self-regard, and that self-regard - especially when compounded by their isolation among like-minded peers - can lead to obliviousness and indifference to the suffering of others".

That's why I question the direction of the reform movement in the U.S. If schools are judged solely on data that are easily quantifiable, values are overlooked. Don't these count as much or more than test scores? The cheating exposés that took place at Stuyvesant High School in New York City and at Great Neck North High School on Long Island serve as evidence. It's well to remember what Oscar Wilde wrote in 1891 in The Picture of Dorian Gray: "Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing." It's too bad that students are not taught this lesson.