Saturday, February 28, 2015

A is for Apple B is for Badass 

What it means to Badassteachers in the Age of Corporate Education Reform

By: Dr. Yohuru Williams


One of the persistent questions BATS face centers on the name of our organization and what it means to be one of the Badassteachers. A recent interview with a French journalist reminded me of this fact and the necessity for us to revisit regularly the goals and aims of our collective. So what exactly does it mean to be Badass, she asked sheepishly toward the close of our conversation on the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement. What does the Badassteachers Association believe are the central threats to public education and what makes one a Badass?



It is a question most of us should become adept at answering if we mean to counter the corrosive effect of the narratives of failure that accompany the corporate education reform agenda. As one of the co-founders once observed, we are not trying to resurrect any group from the past. While the rich history of social justice activism informs us, we fully recognize how our situation today calls for organizations and solutions that speak to the unique challenges we face in the present moment.

The essence of what it means to be a Badassteacher can be found in each of the letters that make up our provocative name.

To be clear, the Badassteachers and their allies recognize that the problems we face are

B: Big. The agents of corporate education reform are active in every state of the Union and are financed by individuals like the Koch brothers whose anti-union, anti-teacher schemes have done immeasurable damage to public education. They also understand that corporate education reform is global and that what we fight is one facet of a global education reform movement (GERM) aimed at undermining public education and reducing students worldwide to data points. While we recognize the size and scope of the problem Badassteachers welcome the fight. As our motto states, for too long teachers were forced to suffer in silence as the condition of our public schools eroded and the failure of elected officials to take seriously calls for sober minded reforms such as reducing class sizes and tackling the crippling effects of poverty in our schools. The days of silence have passed. We answer the big challenge with an even bigger commitment to fighting for social justice for our kids and communities across the globe.

A: Action Oriented. What distinguished Badass teachers is their penchant for action. Whether on social media or boots on the ground, real Badassteachers seek to be at the center of the fray, challenging high stakes testing, standing up to politicians, and demanding equity for our students. This is because BATS recognize that the need for action is central to our fight against the corporate education reform industry. We recognize and appreciate the need to challenge the narrative of school failure whenever and wherever it presents itself. We are prepared to vote with our feet as the brave students and education activists have done in New York, Newark, Los Angles, Providence, Philadelphia, and Chicago to stamp out the vestiges of inequality that plague our communities and reclaim our schools.

D. Dedication. Being a Badass requires a level of dedication that transcends casual engagement and takes on an all or nothing mentality with regard to education activism. The state moderators who run this organization from the Bronx to Baton Rouge share a common resolve to get in this fight and stay in this fight until all public school students have the schools they deserve. They share the fundamental belief that schools are the nucleus of communities and that partnership between parents, students, and teachers holds the key to designing schools of the future that will develop our youth and preserve democracy. Badass Teachers and their allies will accept nothing less.

A: Assertive. Badass Teachers know that the only way to check the dangerous incursion of corporate education reform is to be clear and thoughtful in their approach. For this reason, Badassteachers read and study the issues. They read the Bat Blog and other independent sources of information such as Diane Ravitch’s blog that expose the true corporate education reform agenda. They are always ready to share in a fresh and accessible manner our core concerns over issues as high stakes testing, the expansion of charters at the expense of funding for public education, the school to prison pipeline and the need for the recruitment and retention of more teachers of color.

S. Serious. Badass teachers recognize the seriousness of this fight and our need to be steadfast in our approach to fighting for the schools our students deserve. This includes insuring that a full range of academic interventions remains available to our students as well as sustained funding for libraries, music and the arts and other non-negotiable necessities essential to the development of well-rounded students.

S. Surgical. Badass Teachers recognize global education reform as an infectious disease, which, if left unchecked threatens to corrupt the very fabric of our society at the same time it chokes the very life from our schools. We focus on building coalitions and working with other educational activist who recognize the need for us to move incisively but with surgical precision against those practices that would cause the greatest harm to students. Most importantly, however we recognize ourselves as the professionals with the knowledge and skills to perform the difficult procedures necessary not simply to patch up our schools but restore them to good health.

So, the next time someone asks you what it means to be one of the Badassteachers, considering sharing this blog with them, or better yet invite them to visit our Facebook page, website or Twitter feed. Explain to them why we feel it is necessary to stand up for public schools and how this fight is intimately connected to the preservation of American democracy. Tell them that there is plenty of room under this tent for all those willing and committed to really put students first and contest for the type of public schools that all youth regardless, of race, class, or test scores deserve. Finally, yet importantly remind them that when it comes to fighting for social justice in public education the surest place to be in the storm is with the legions of BATS as we start to swarm.



Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/BadAssTeachers/

Twitter @BadassTeachersA
Cuomo Fails the Children of New York State
By:  Marla Kilfoyle, General Manager BATs



Every day our children achieve despite having their public schools grossly underfunded by New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo and his education reform agenda.  From Albany to Roosevelt, from Wyandanch to Troy, children are receiving honors and accolades that show their schools are not failing but are indeed providing exemplary services to our children.  For the Governor of New York to go publicly on social media and call those students, their districts, and communities “failures” is a gross misrepresentation of what is really happening – Governor Cuomo has failed our children.

Last week Governor Cuomo released a report about  New York States failing schools.  Read here:   https://www.governor.ny.gov/sites/governor.ny.gov/files/atoms/files/NYSFailingSchoolsReport.pdf
If you go to page 10 you will see the list of those 17 “failing” school districts but here is a screen shot of that page so that you can peruse it quickly.





Cuomo blasted out a long series of tweets about the failing schools on February 26th.  Here is a sample of the torrent of tweets he sent calling the children , communities, and teachers who utilize these schools “failures.” 




Thankfully, well respected school finance researcher  Bruce Baker took to twitter and tweeted his report about the underfunding of NYS schools.  You can read it here https://schoolfinance101.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/50-biggest-aid-gaps-2013-14_15_final.pdf   Baker wrote up a magnificent report comparing Cuomo’s 17 failing schools and how significantly they have been underfunded over the years   https://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/2015/02/27/angry-andys-failing-schools-the-finger-of-blame/    

But......... this is not the reason for this write up.  Being a teacher in NYS, I want to highlight some amazing things these “failing” schools are doing for kids, and kids in these schools are doing, DESPITE Cuomo attempting to starve them out of funding.  Districts, every day, service children with less while the Governor calls them, in public,  “failing.”  Here is a sample of some of the amazing things kids do in these districts despite the Governor failing THEM.



Albany City School District is a diverse and active school district with many success stories.  Here are a few of their many achievements despite being called “failures” publicly by the Governor.




Student José Vega was one of seven Albany High students to be selected to the juried art show at Saint Rose.  Read about it here http://blog.timesunion.com/pinehills/local-students-to-be-featured-in-regional-art-show/8876/    

Three players on the Albany High School women's basketball team were named Scholar Athletes of the Week .  Look at the amazing footage here http://www.twcnews.com/nys/capital-region/scholar-athlete/2015/01/27/scholar-athlete-of-the-week-albany-high-womens-basketball-team.html

Which European city will Albany's marching band visit?  http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Eyes-are-smiling-over-Ireland-trip-5779112.php

Roosevelt School District, on Long Island, which ironically has been under STATE CONTROL since 2002, has many things to celebrate despite being called a “failure” by the Governor.





  The Roosevelt Chess Club wins their seventh first place finish in the Chessnuts Chess Tournament.  Read about it here  http://www.rooseveltufsd.org/site/default.aspx?PageType=3&DomainID=4&ModuleInstanceID=125&ViewID=047E6BE3-6D87-4130-8424-D8E4E9ED6C2A&RenderLoc=0&FlexDataID=731&PageID=1


Let’s take a look at one more district, the Syracuse School District, who Cuomo labeled “failures” in this public tweet. 



Look at what this amazing school district does for kids despite being short changed  $96,162,520, or $4,381 per child, by the Governor. 

Nottingham Senior Named 2015 Racial Justice Award Winner by InterFaith Works.   Read here http://www.syracusecityschools.com/districtpage.cfm?pageid=1669

Syracuse Students To Compete In Northern New York State VEX Robotics Championship.  Read here http://www.syracusecityschools.com/districtpage.cfm?pageid=1654

Syracuse students win art awards.  Read here http://www.syracusecityschools.com/districtpage.cfm?pageid=1644

I would like to invite the 17 district on this list to join me in presenting Cuomo with the real stories of success from your districts! Let everyone know kids are not failures they achieve success in our schools everyday


I am sure that I can go through all 17 on the list and provide a long list of examples of how these districts service children and how children elevate themselves despite having their education horrifically underfunded by this Governor.    Our children aren’t failing Governor Cuomo, YOU ARE FAILING, AND HAVE FAILED, OUR CHILDREN!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Do your best

Anonymous Middle School California Teacher




"Last year I gave the SBAC practice test to all of my students. I asked repeatedly if there would be any accommodations for my Special Education students and I was told that whatever they needed would be taken care of on the computerized test. There were no accommodations. I had been working with one particular Autistic child the entire year. We had discovered that he was, in fact, quite good at math. His confidence level had been boosted and his problems solving and basic skills had improved greatly throughout the school year. He was having a magical transformation in math and I was enjoying seeing all of the changes in him.
Then he took the SBAC practice test. He immediately became agitated upon beginning the test. He told me that he didn’t understand the words. I couldn’t do anything except say to him “do your best.” He began crying and I could feel all of the confidence we had built together beginning to crumble. He began hitting himself in the head repeatedly. Then he crawled under the desk, sat on the floor and refused to continue.
He was required to finish the test and the only way I could get him to do this was to convince him that the results didn’t mean anything (which was not a lie). Once he calmed down and returned to his seat, he began clicking through the test, marking anything his fingers happen to land on and finished in a couple of minutes. I told him to forget that he had to take that dumb test and remember all of the successes he has had this year. Unfortunately, this year he will have to take this test again, no accommodations, no help. He has made years worth of progress and yet he will never be able to demonstrate his progress on a test like this. " Thanks "
THE DEBT
BY: Andres Rodriguez, Jr.

Andres Rodriguez, Jr with his daughter BAT Leadership
Team Member Aixa Rodriguez



My family immigrated to the United States from Puerto Rico in the summer of 1960. I was an eight year old boy who, along with two younger sisters and his parents, arrived to start a new life in an urban setting that dwarfed the quiet and mostly rural lifestyle he left behind. The change in scenery was overwhelming. In the island we were part of an extended family living in a humble but spacious home. Life was joyful, noisy, carefree, simple and full of adventure. The thought that we were poor never crossed our minds. My daily childhood routine consisted of waking at sunrise, playing outside all day without adult supervision and coming home just before sundown. Boredom was an unfamiliar state.


Until I arrived in the United States, I had never experienced isolation. Suddenly I was in a different world. Everything was new or alien. The familiar warmth and security of our extended family disappeared. What family we had living in the states lived far away. I didn’t know a word of English. I had no friends. Concerned about my safety, my parents wouldn’t let me play outside unsupervised. I had to devise indoor games and grow accustomed to the confining and constraining forces of apartment living. But there was no turning back. As much as I hated my new surroundings, I knew we had arrived to stay. Still, traumatic as that introduction to life in the South Bronx was, the idea that things could get worse never occurred to me. But they did. It would take some years for me to understand why and to realize the profound impact that simple acts of kindness and compassion had on my life’s trajectory. One such act was performed by Ms. Bonilla in September of 1960 when my mother took me to P.S. 62 to register me for school.


It is noteworthy that to this day the island’s K-12 public school instruction includes European as well as American characteristics. It is: free and secular, compulsory and conducted entirely in Spanish, with English taught as a second language and compulsory at all levels. Hence, by the time they graduate high school students are fully bilingual and are quite competitive in America’s higher education system. Many decide to attend American colleges and universities.


Ms. Bonilla was the only Latina administrator in P.S. 62 and may very well have been the only one in NYC’s public school system at the time. She was also one of the few of color and as a woman, a rarity in NYC’s public education bureaucracy. She also lived in the community where she worked. Perhaps it was coincidence, but she was in the administrative office when my mother walked in with me in tow. With her limited English my mother spoke to a non-Spanish speaking administrative staff member explaining that she was there to register me for school. I had completed the first and second grade in Puerto Rico and by the time I finished second grade I could read and was already getting writing instruction. My mother provided that information fully expecting that I would be matriculated to the third grade. From the expression on her face I could tell that the conversation was not going well. It was then that Ms. Bonilla intervened and interviewed my mother in Spanish. Overhearing the conversation, I realized that the first administrator was getting ready to matriculate me to the second grade simply because I didn’t speak a word of English. Despite my young age the prospect of being left back a grade was crushing. It was then that Ms. Bonilla went into action.
After reassuring my mother, Ms. Bonilla took me aside, spoke to me directly and proceeded to assess my reading and arithmetic skills, all conducted in my native Spanish. When she was done, she said that I would be matriculated in the third grade. She immediately completed the necessary paperwork, gave a series of instructions to administrative staff and assigned me to the roster of class 3-8. She partnered me with a Spanish-speaking “peer tutor” to make sure there was someone available to provide support and “teach me the ropes”, including helping me with the English language. What was most astonishing about that decision was that the “peer tutor” happened to be her son, who happened to attend the same class!


I stayed in touch with Ms. Bonilla and even visited her and her son until I graduated and left P.S. 62 to attend the neighborhood junior high school. By the time I started high school in El Barrio in Manhattan, my family moved. I found out that Ms. Bonilla and her family also moved, so I lost track of that extraordinary woman. She didn’t need to be lectured on the meaning of cultural competency: she lived it. There was no need to inculcate in her the value of knowing your community: she lived in it. She instinctively understood the needs of ELL students before those services were widely available. She understood the need to engage not just students, but also their parents. She was keenly aware of the inherent bias of a system that to this day remains unresponsive to the needs of students that reflect a sea-change in the cultural, ethnic and linguistic composition of our communities. She was truly ahead of her time.


For years I tried unsuccessfully to reconnect with Ms. Bonilla. I regret not getting the opportunity to tell her how immeasurably important meeting her was for my educational trajectory and my life.

My name is Andres Rodriguez, Jr. The intervention of a kind and compassionate Latina educator inspired me to excel. I graduated from the top 6th grade class in Public School 62 and earned Salutatorian honors at Junior High School 52 in the South Bronx, graduated class Valedictorian of Benjamin Franklin High School in El Barrio, and earned a Bachelor of Arts cum laude at Harvard University.

Thank you to Valerie Strauss for publishing this on Washington Post Blog http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/03/05/how-one-teacher-changed-the-life-of-one-child/?postshare=8391425589548252


Forget Education Saviors – They Aren’t Coming

By:  Steven Singer, BAT Leadership Team

Originally posted on his blog - https://gadflyonthewallblog.wordpress.com/2015/02/28/forget-education-saviors-they-arent-coming/


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I feel so left out.
I get the emails just like you:


Run Warren Run!
Run Sanders Run!


Are You Ready for Hillary?
But I just can’t get excited about any of them as potential presidential candidates in 2016.
Sure I like Elizabeth Warren’s stance to hold Wall Street accountable. I like Bernie Sanders‘ New Deal rhetoric. I even like Hillary Clinton’s overwhelming confidence and competence.
But none of them pass the most important test.
None of them are really committed to supporting our public school system.
For education advocates like me, it’s a case of being once bitten, twice shy.
One of President Obama’s campaign promises was that he would reform our education system. And he did! If by “Reform” you mean “make things much worse!”
I remember watching him at a 2008 rally in my hometown as he spoke about standardized testing overload and how we needed to support teachers. He promised to improve No Child Left Behind, hold charter schools accountable, provide better resources for struggling schools instead of punishing them, etc.
I was so overwhelmed that a politician actually cared about the same things I did, as he was leaving the arena I reached over the barrier and shook his hand. (Personal Note: he moisturizes.)


I hung signs, I passed out “Hope” buttons, I took to the phones – things I had never before done for a political candidate. And the results are less than overwhelming.
Sure he’s done some good things. Obamacare’s not bad. It’s a good first step toward universal single-payer healthcare. Yes, it’s nice we finally got Osama bin Laden, federal stimulus, drawing down troops on foreign soil – it’s all a step up from his predecessor.
But when it comes to education, Obama is actually worse than George W. Bush.
It’s so liberating to say that out loud. Liberating and scary.
Standardized testing, national curriculum, privatization – all of these have become worse under Obama. While he and his laughably unqualified Education Secretary Arne Duncan still pay lip service sometimes to the problem of toxic testing, they make no move to reduce it. They just increase their support year-after-year.
Whenever you say this to a hardcore Democrat, they usually respond that it’s not his fault. He was blocked from initiating the policies he wanted by a Republican Congress, they say. And this is true on some issues, but education isn’t one of them. He’s chief executive. He controls the US Department of Education and thus national policy.
Race to the Top and all its failures belong squarely at his feet. It will be interesting to see him try to distance himself from these policies in his retirement years attempting to preserve a legacy as a liberal lion. Nice growl. Toothless bite.
So I hope I may be forgiven for looking toward the horizon. Is there anyone on the political scene who promises to change this situation in 2016?
The short answer: no.
There are Republican legislators who oppose Common Core, but their criticism often comes down to – Ooooh! Yuck! A black man touched it!


I fear that if a member of the GOP somehow gains our highest office, Common Core will suddenly be rebranded as something Saint Reagan thought of – or perhaps something Jesus told W. to bring to the people along with endless war and tax cuts for the rich.
Those few conservatives who actually do have a reasoned argument against Common Core lose me when they talk about what should replace it. Because it’s usually school choice.
I guess it makes sense. They hate any kind of national curriculum or standards but have no problem with leaving it all in the hands of big business privatizers. They take it too far like someone whose boots are too tight so he spends the rest of his life barefoot in all weather.
So I turn back to my Democrats – the party of my father. And I’ll admit it proudly – I’m a lifelong, FDR-loving, donkey riding, social policy supporting Dem. But when I look around at the current crop of democratic presidential hopefuls, there’s not much support for education.
Take Hillary Clinton – the clear frontrunner for the party nomination.
This is not her first rodeo. Her positions are no mystery. All you have to do is a little bit of research to see what she’s championed in her long career in public service.
And she’s been on the right side from time-to-time.
She’s pushed for universal pre-kindergarten, arts education, after-school tutoring, smaller class sizes and the rights of families.
As a college student in the 1960s, she even volunteered to teach reading to children in poor Boston neighborhoods. She fought to ensure voting access for African Americans and even worked at an alternative newspaper in the black community.
However, at core she’s a true political animal. Whatever her real feelings on the issues, she never lets that get in the way of an expedient compromise.
Sometimes that’s a good thing – but when it comes to education, that usually means someone’s losing big – and that someone’s usually a child.
For example, she opposes religious instruction in public schools – but sees no problem with school-led prayers.
She is against merit pay for individual teachers but champions it for entire schools.
She opposes using taxes to fund students attending private or parochial schools but thinks parents should be able to choose among public schools.
And she is a strong advocate for charter schools as a solution to the media-driven fallacy of “failing” public schools.
But perhaps worst of all is her support for Common Core. Both she and her husband backed national standards before they were even called Common Core.
One of President Bill Clinton’s central education policies (to which Hillary gave her full support) was a push for national voluntary education standards – something that Republicans in Congress vehemently opposed and squashed. Then George W. Bush became president and the Republicans suddenly loved the idea until Obama championed it, too.
As much as I admire Hillary Clinton, the person, I cannot trust Hillary Clinton, the politician. Even if she changed her stated views on all education issues and received the full support of the NEA and AFT, I could never trust that if the winds changed she wouldn’t change her positions right back.
That takes us to Elizabeth Warren – Clinton’s main challenger for the nomination.
Warren hasn’t announced that she’s running. In fact, she’s denied it many times. However, my buddies on the left are completely enamored of her.
Moveon.org is trying to generate support on the Left for Warren to challenge Clinton. And they have good reasons. There’s plenty to like about her.
She was an early advocate for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. She’s opposed big banks being labeled “too big to fail” and pushed to hold Wall Street accountable for the risky business practices that crashed our economy. She’s in favor of increasing the minimum wage and fighting against income inequality.
But for all that, she’s strangely quiet on education policy.
The only major education legislation she’s supported in her time in the Senate is reducing loan rates for college students.
Strange for someone who actually worked as a teacher!
For a year she taught children with disabilities in a public elementary school in New Jersey. Though she had originally aspired to be a teacher, she didn’t finish her degree. She used an emergency certification. Then she moved on to law school.
With a personal story like that, it’s not surprising the NEA supported her successful run for John Kerry’s Senate seat.
So what’s the problem?
She wrote a book – not a minor article, not an off-the-cuff remark – an entire book championing school choice.
It’s called The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Mothers and Fathers are Going Broke. In it, she makes a case for a universal school voucher program. She strongly supported giving parents taxpayer-funded vouchers they could use at any school – public, private or parochial. This would “relieve parents from the terrible choice of leaving their kids in lousy schools or bankrupting themselves to escape those schools.”
Not exactly the kind of policy you’d expect from a far left liberal – but she was a Republican then. As soon as she changed parties, her support for school choice was stashed in the closet.
When asked about it, she said she was misunderstood. Like Clinton, she said she never intended taxpayer money to go to private or parochial schools – only that parents could chose an adjacent public school for their children if they wished.
It’s a huge stain on an otherwise nearly blank book. Like Obama, she can rhapsodize on the importance of public schools as much as she wants at her stump speeches. I’d like to see her support some real education policies before backing her horse for president.
Could she convince me? Maybe. If I’m honest, I want to be convinced. But I need more than words. I need deeds.
Which brings me to the last populist champion for the Democratic Presidential nomination – Bernie Sanders.
The Vermont Senator is technically an Independent but he caucuses with the Democrats. In fact, unlike most on the left who cringe at the label “Socialist,” Sanders actually uses it to describe himself as a Democratic Socialist.
He’s been a leader calling for breaking up media monopolies, and a staunch supporter of universal healthcare. He was against the bank bailout and a warrior against income inequality.
Though education policy has never been his forte, his voting record is mostly positive. He voted to increase federal funding for public schools, in favor of grants to Black and Hispanic colleges, in favor of reducing class size in the early grades, against school prayer, and against school choice. In fact, he is one of the most aggressive enemies of school vouchers in Congress.
Most recently, when President Obama suggested making two years of community college free for everyone, Sanders championed going even further- free tuition at any public college or university!
It’s a pretty impressive record. However, it’s not perfect.
In 1998, he voted to expand funding for charter schools. Considering that his home state of Vermont had zero charters at one point – yes, zero – it’s unclear how knowledgeable he was on the issue. It certainly doesn’t sound like the kind of thing he’d be for now. That was 17 years ago. Has he learned more in the meantime? Is he now for or against charters? It’s unclear.
Even more damning, in May 2001, he voted for No Child Left Behind requiring states to conduct annual standardized testing. That’s hardly an unforgivable sin. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone in Congress fully against testing – especially back in 2001.
But that wasn’t his only misstep. Sanders also showed brief support for Common Core. As recently as 2011, he explicitly supported legislation to expand it in Vermont. However, lately he has refused to give an opinion either for or against it.
Could he be souring on corporate education reform? The most tantalizing answer lies in legislation he helped author in 2013.
In a bid to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, he developed legislation that would have allowed states to demonstrate student learning through innovative projects instead of standardized testing. The bill fizzled, however, with lack of Congressional will.
Is Sanders evolving away from the testocracy of Bush and Obama or is he just playing it close to the vest? I would like to know more. Sanders would need to do some work to convince me he is on the side of public schools, but he might be able to do it. If that’s what he really wanted.
Of the three candidates examined here, he is most likely to become a true education advocate. But he is also least likely to receive the party’s nomination or to win a general election.
So where does that leave us? Who can I support as a possible education savior in 2016?
The answer again: no one.
We have to face it, people. No one is coming to save us and our children. There never will be. Politicians aren’t made of that kind of self-sacrificing stuff. Not Democrats, Republicans or Independents.
Those of us who cherish public education will have to push 2016 hopefuls to move as far our way as possible. But when it comes to the actual election, we may have to face the distinct possibility that there will be no one in whom we can safely vote.
We may have to run our own independent candidate – someone with no chance of winning, but who might continue to push the mainstream candidates toward education. Because no matter who wins, chances are he or she won’t be as friendly toward public schools as they are toward the lobbying dollars of the privatizers and standardization movement.
We can’t elect our way to sound education policy. It will take a massive popular movement of parents, teachers, students and people of conscience. Demands will be made. Protests will be staged. Revolutions may be waged.
Because the only education savior we can count on is us.

ADIRONDACK CENTRAL SCHOOLS: IRRESPONSIBLE AND DISRESPECTFUL

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  February 27, 2015More information contact:
Jessica McNair 315-368-7550
Jamie McNair 315-368-5935
Opt Out CNY – www.optoutcny.wordpress.com
ADIRONDACK CENTRAL SCHOOL ENGAGES IN UNETHICAL PRACTICE TO GET KIDS TO TAKE CONTROVERSIAL TESTS
Parents of middle school students at Adirondack Central School recently received an announcement regarding a ‘Student Incentive Plan’ for the upcoming NYS ELA and Math exams.  According to the Incentive Plan students will be entered into drawings to win prizes for participation, improvement and performance on this year’s exams despite the well known fact that parents and students have a right to refuse to participate in the exams with no consequence to the student, teacher, or school.
Charlotte Witzigman, a West Leyden resident and parent of a 6th grader who received a copy of the incentive plan, is infuriated.  “I am beyond upset that school leaders, whose job it is to support and respect all students, are bribing 11 and 12 year olds to participate in a flawed exam that offers no meaningful data to the student or the teacher.  This type of coercion is unacceptable and calls to question the ethics of the leaders of our school.”
Parent advocate and co-founder of Opt Out CNY Jamie McNair states, “When I first saw the plan, I thought it was a joke.  Upon learning from parents in the Adirondack School District that this not only came home with their children but was distributed by the school principal, I was appalled.  In a time when communities across the state are rallying together to oppose Governor Cuomo’s flawed test and punish reform agenda, this sort of action just defies common sense and demonstrates an abuse of leadership.”
“My son was told he’d receive free breakfast and a candy bar if he participates in the test.  It can’t be any more clear that this is bribery,” said Coral Grenier, West Leyden resident and parent of a student at Adirondack Central Schools.  “Our public schools are places of inclusion, support and safety.  To have a school administrator create an environment that fosters competition for prizes around the controversial New York State Common Core Aligned high stakes tests is reprehensible and irresponsible.” added Grenier.
Pamela Howe, New Hartford resident and member of Opt Out CNY adds,  “I question if this practice is even legal.  Distributing prizes to those who participate and improve scores singles out those children who don’t participate or don’t improve scores.  School leaders have chosen to create a hostile school environment in which children don’t feel accepted or respected.”
“While this situation is certainly egregious, fortunately it is rare.  A good majority of schools in our region and across the state create a student-centered learning environment that emphasize determination and hard work while respecting the varied viewpoints of students, parents and the community,” noted McNair.
Last year an estimated 60,000 New York State students refused to participate in grade 3-8 Common Core Math and ELA tests and it’s expected that over 250,000 will refuse this spring.  Schools acting in the best interest of children and the community provide students who refuse tests the opportunity to read quietly or work in an alternate location.
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Originally press release can be found here https://optoutcny.wordpress.com/2015/02/27/adirondack-central-schools-irresponsible-and-disrespectful/

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Talking to your children about Refusing the Test



My husband and I are both teachers, and I co-moderate the Facebook group Opt Out Brevard. As a vocal advocate for refusing invalid high stakes tests, I regularly hear a this concern from many parents: “I want to opt my child out, but I know my little one will not be comfortable defying his teacher.” 
While I share a desire to raise well-behaved children; I also have a need to raise children who understand social justice, and the difference between right and wrong. I’ve never been a “because I said so” type of parent; instead I tend to approach my kids with logic and reason. I think that’s why I have (mostly) well-behaved children who do the right thing. For that reason, conversations about opting out were always natural for our family. If you need help starting a conversation with younger children about opting out, here’s a general idea of how we facilitated the discussion with our six and seven-year old kids:
“Mrs. TEACHER is a great teacher, isn’t she? She’s knows a lot about you. Isn't your teacher great at knowing what you're good at? She's also great at knowing the things you need to improve on, right? 
This test does not know you like MRS. TEACHER knows you, and lots of people think this test is more important than what MRS. TEACHER thinks about what you’ve learned. I want the teacher to be the one to tell you, me, and the school what you’re great at and where you need to improve because she knows YOU. 
I am not worried about how smart you are because I know that you're more than a test score. You could get an A or an F, a level 5 or a level 1 and that doesn't matter to me. What matters to me is that you always try your best. It also matters to me that as a family, we always do the things that we know are the right things to do. 
I don't think taking this test is right because it will make you a score. It says that everything you learned in MRS. TEACHER'S class doesn’t really matter. All that matters is what you earned on the test. So, if you don't want to take the test, you don't have to take it. Instead, we can continue to let MRS. TEACHER give you tests of what she has taught in class, and you can keep on learning without the "big test." 
You don’t have to worry about a “big scary test,” and you don’t have to worry about sitting for a super-long time and being afraid of a test. MRS. TEACHER teaches you well, and you are learning every day at school. Nothing about school – even tests – should be scary. 
Giving kids a sense of ownership of the decision to refuse, while respecting the teachers whom they likely adore, may help your family with the opt out process. 
In Solidarity, Darcey Addo Opt Out Brevard