Friday, January 31, 2014


My Core's not common,
Neither's my brain,
These tests they're giving
Drive me insane
My parents hate them,
My teachers too,
Someone was looking
For students to screw
To make them helpless
To make them fail
To get them ready
For Walmart or jail
But I'm not ready
To give up this soon
My parents taught me
To shoot for the moon
So I won't settle
For second best
It's time to remove
All Common Core tests

By:  Dr. Mark Naison
"School Choice" Is Not only About Charters and Vouchers
By:  Dr. Mark Naison, Co-Founder of BATs

Where are all the advocates of "school choice" when inner city parents and students organize in defense of their neighborhood schools threatened with closing, as they have done in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and now Newark? Somehow, they only mobilize when inner parents want charters or vouchers. They have no problem with Mayors and Governors shutting down public schools that have been community institutions for decades over the protests of principals, teachers, and parents, and even suspending principals for speaking out as Chris Christie's hand picked Superintendent Cami Anderson has done in Newark.

This is rank hypocrisy

If you are going to support "school choice" you should also support the right of parents to attend well funded local public schools which have had a historic relationship to the neighborhoods they are located in. But when your funding comes from hedge fund billionaires, the Waltons or Bill Gates, you are going to only support the kind of "choice" that fits their agenda of privatization and competition.

It is your right to be selective about which community voices you choose to promote.

But standing silent when equally legitimate community voices are suppressed, or even encouraging and participating in their suppression, as Michelle Rhee or New York State Education Commissioner John King have done, give the lie to your pretension to be exponents of the nation's great Civil Rights traditions.

Thursday, January 30, 2014


By:  Melissa Tomlinson, Asst. General Manager BATs

A Shot to the Heart
Every time I hear of another school shooting my heart seizes as another child is harmed.  ”Was it someone I know?” as I hear the news.  ”Was it in my state? “Was it in my town?”  ”Was it in my child’s school?”
I sit here in tears at that last thought.  The stark reality these days is that, well, it really could be in my child’s school.  It could be in my school, your school, your own children’s schools.
When are we going to stop and take a look to see what we are doing to these babies??? These children that should grow up laughing, feeling the joy of learning, wanting to explore the unknown.
Instead, we are forcing them to learn a mandated curriculum with mandated questions, and mandated answers.  there is no room for exploration.  there is no room for creativity.  there is no room for joy.
Is it any wonder that the greatest increase that we see in public shootings is happening within our public schools???
Where else would a troubled youth go to express the emotional turmoil that is being felt, with such a violent response, except to the one place that is causing so much hurt.
I hurt at the thought that our schools are causing this much pain.  This is not what education was ever supposed to be about.
Where is the nurturing, the support, the understanding and the help?  Where is the love?
Teachers don’t have time for that anymore.  Teachers are pushed to rush through an almost impossible curriculum that reaches and stretches a child beyond the the very cognitive limits that the brain can handle.  Adults barely have the emotional tools to handle such stress.  How can we expect our children to handle it?
There will be no surprises when the data is analyzed and the facts are checked.  The ever increasing exposure to inappropriate and incorrectly valued learning will be what destroys our children in the end.
A shot to the heart…and who’s to blame????
Please, I beg of you, stop the tears.  Stop the hurt.  Allow our children to have a chance to learn in an environment with a little less fear.  Allow our children to  the chance to grow up, to raise children of their own, to live without the fear that someday their child may fall victim to these acts of violence.
Please, I beg of you, just let us
Formal Response to the Chief State School Officers’ Letter on Student Data Privacy

 Karen R. Effrem, MD President of Education Liberty Watch and Co-Founder of the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition

On January 23rd, 2014, thirty-four chief state school officers sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan trying to reassure the public that individual student test data will not be given to the federal government and that that data is safe as the Common Core national standards and federally funded and supervised national tests are put into place.
Here are the important quotes from that letter:
 “We are writing today to confirm that the consortia will not share any personally identifiable information about K– 12 students with USED or any federal agency.”  (Emphasis in original)  “Our states have not submitted student-level assessment data in the past; the transition to the new assessments should not cause anyone to worry that federal reporting requirements will change when, in fact, the federal government is prohibited from establishing a student-level database that would contain assessment data for every student.”   “As we have historically done, our states will continue to provide USED with school-level data from our state assessments as required under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as amended in 2002. Our states and local education agencies will continue to retain control over student assessment data and will continue to comply with all state and federal laws and regulations with regard to the protection of student privacy.”  “We are confirming that our states will not provide such information to USED and that everything we have said here is consistent with our understanding of the cooperative agreement between the consortia and USED.”
These statements are problematic on a multitude of levels for the following reasons:
 The testing consortia are under obligation to the U.S. Department of Education to provide individual student test data via the cooperative agreements that they signed: “Comply with and where applicable coordinate with the ED staff to fulfill the program requirements established in the RTTA Notice Inviting Applications and the conditions on the grant award, as well as to this agreement, including, but not limited to working with the Department to develop a strategy to make student - level data that results from the assessment system available on an ongoing basis for research, including for prospective linking, validity, and program improvement studies; subject to applicable privacy laws” (Emphasis added)  The most applicable privacy law, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), has been so weakened via regulation that there is no real protection of individual student data.   o There is a whole section of current federal FERPA regulations allowing the disclosure of individual student data without consent (All quotes in this next section are from §99.31 of the FERPA regulations) :  §99.31   Under what conditions is prior consent not required to disclose information? o Individual student data may be released without consent to organizations and entities that have “legitimate educational interests,” which basically means for any reason that a state or the federal governments or researchers or corporations want to use the data in conjunction with any state or federal program.  

(a) An educational agency or institution may disclose personally identifiable information from an education record of a student without the consent required by §99.30 if the disclosure meets one or more of the following conditions: (1)(i)(A) The disclosure is to other school officials, including teachers, within the agency or institution whom the agency or institution has determined to have legitimate educational interests.   o The regulations give private corporations, foundations, and researchers or even volunteers access to our children’s data without parental consent. (B) A contractor, consultant, volunteer, or other party to whom an agency or institution has outsourced institutional services or functions may be considered a school official under this paragraph provided that the outside party—  (Emphasis added) (1) Performs an institutional service or function for which the agency or institution would otherwise use employees; (2) Is under the direct control of the agency or institution with respect to the use and maintenance of education records; and (3) Is subject to the requirements of §99.33(a) governing the use and redisclosure of personally identifiable information from education records. o FERPA currently allows data to be given without consent to authorized representatives of the following entities including the US Department of Education, which combined with the cooperative agreement quoted above make the state chiefs letter MEANINGLESS.  The authorized representatives include the “contractor, consultant or volunteer” entities quoted above : (3) The disclosure is, subject to the requirements of §99.35, to authorized representatives of— (i) The Comptroller General of the United States; (ii) The Attorney General of the United States; (iii) The Secretary [of Education]; or (Emphasis added)  (iv) State and local educational authorities. o The regulations  give the states and the consortia carte blanche to “legally” give individual student test and other data to the federal government without consent to continue to develop and evaluate the national tests and “improve instruction” meaning the NCLB waivers that require the Common Core standards.  (6)(i) The disclosure is to organizations conducting studies for, or on behalf of, educational agencies or institutions to: (A) Develop, validate, or administer predictive tests; (Emphasis added). (B) Administer student aid programs; or (C) Improve instruction. o So, even though the letter says the states will comply with current federal law and regulations, nothing is stopping the states entering into an agreement with the consortia and the consortia from “redisclosing” this data to the feds. (ii) Nothing in the Act or this part prevents a State or local educational authority or agency headed by an official listed in paragraph (a)(3) of this section from entering into agreements with organizations conducting studies under paragraph (a)(6)(i) of this section and redisclosing personally identifiable information from education records on behalf of educational agencies and institutions that disclosed the information to the State or local educational authority or agency headed by an official listed in paragraph (a)(3) of this section in accordance with the requirements of §99.33(b).  (Emphasis added.) o The data is supposed to be protected but may be given to any entity with a “legitimate interest” in the information, which as has been explained is defined very broadly.
 Although there is a prohibition against a national student database in one sections of federal  law called the Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA) that says, “Nothing in this title may be construed to authorize the establishment of a nationwide database of individually identifiable information on individuals involved in studies or other collections of data under this title; (Section 182)” that language appears to be negated by this language in Section 157: “The Statistics Center [meaning the National Center for Education Statistics] may establish 1 or more national cooperative education statistics systems for the purpose of producing and maintaining, with the cooperation of the States, comparable and uniform information and data on early childhood education, elementary and secondary education, postsecondary education, adult education, and libraries, that are useful for policymaking at the Federal, State, and local levels.” (Emphasis added). That language is even more worrisome in light of the grants to fund and promote state longitudinal databases in section 208 of ESRA, in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and even more heavily promoted in the Race to the Top K-12 and Early Learning Challenge programs.  Although the federal government will not be developing a national database, the SLDS and other regulatory language allow it to happen in a de facto manner.  (Here is a  full analysis of the federal issues).  This loss of data privacy when the federal government is both funding and supervising the development of the national tests is extremely worrisome, especially, as shown below, because the standards and assessments are meant to teach and test psychological parameters. "The [federal] review will focus on two broad areas of assessment development: the consortium's research confirming the validity of the assessment results and the consortium's approach to developing items and tasks."   (Emphasis added)  Given that the federal government admits that the Common Core standards will be teaching and the aligned national tests will be assessing psychological or “non-cognitive” traits, parents should not be reassured by this letter: o “In national policy, there is increasing attention on 21st-century competencies (which encompass a range of noncognitive factors, including grit), and persistence is now part of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics.”  (Emphasis added.) o “[A]s new assessment systems are developed to reflect the new standards in English language arts, mathematics, and science, significant attention will need to be given to the design of tasks and situations that call on students to apply a range of 21st century competencies that are relevant to each discipline. A sustained program of research and development will be required to create assessments that are capable of measuring cognitive, intrapersonal, and interpersonal skills.” (Emphasis added). 
The only way to truly protect our children's data is to dismantle the federal department of education. Until that ultimate goal is reached, we will work to remove each of our states from the state longitudinal data systems and demand truly state developed standards and assessments, instead of name changes, cosmetic adjustments to the Common Core standards, and deceptive reassurances about state control of test data.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Wages only part of poverty problem
By:  Dr. Yohuru Williams

A few weeks ago, the media was abuzz with news of celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty.
On Jan. 8, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson used his State of the Union address to proclaim "an unconditional war on poverty." The marking of this anniversary has understandably led some to reflect on the state of poverty in America in general and here in Connecticut in particular. Part of that discussion, here and elsewhere has centered on raising the minimum wage as a means of helping to boost the income and financial stability of those currently living at or below the poverty line.
Significantly, Connecticut is one of more than a dozen states that has either introduced or passed legislation to raise the minimum wage. While these efforts are in a broad sense admirable, given their narrow focus on wages they will likely prove inadequate to meet the needs of those struggling to stay above the poverty line.
Politicians certainly have the incentive and backing to experiment boldly. A recent Quinnipiac University study, for instance, found that 71 percent of Americans across party lines favored raising the minimum wage.
Nevertheless, the issue has become a political football. Opponents of the increase note that it may lead employers to suspend hiring. Economists, however, remain divided. While several recent studies have noted little to no impact from wage increases, others point to hiring dips after such hikes.
While experts debate the potential impact, the number of people in Connecticut struggling below the poverty threshold continues to rise. According to the United States Census Bureau, for instance, between 2008 and 2012, 10 percent of Connecticut residents were living below the poverty line. Those numbers increased dramatically however in the state's deindustrialized cities. In 2012, the Census Bureau noted that nearly a quarter of the city of Bridgeport's residents -- 23.6 percent -- were living below the poverty line. The numbers were similar for Waterbury, at 21.9 percent, and New Haven, 26.9 percent.
Most shocking, however, was the state capital of Hartford that reported a staggering 33.9 percent of residents living in poverty.
As the state braces for another week of bitter cold, these statistics are their own chilling reminder of the harsh reality of poverty both nationally and locally.
The proposed modest increase in the minimum wage would barely scratch the surface in addressing the needs of those below the threshold. While lawmakers take self-congratulatory bows for pressing for an increase, heating costs, gas prices, and the growing cost of basic foodstuffs largely negate any real change in buying power or saving capacity.
The $7.25 federal minimum wage, currently works out to roughly $15,000 a year, not nearly enough to survive in most states and especially in the state of Connecticut with its exceptionally high taxes and transportation costs. In 2012, the poverty line for unmarried and married wage earners (family of four) was $11,945 and $22,283 respectively.
Last year Connecticut ranked a lowly 37th on a list of places to live. Criteria that determined ranking included average wage and unemployment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and cost-of-living data. A study conducted last July found that Connecticut residents paid the fourth highest prices for gas in the country averaging, at that time, around $3.90. With taxes and fuel costs, the minimum wage increase will be barely noticeable to most families. A move toward the numbers proposed by the Obama administration of $9 dollars would be closer to the mark -but in reality still not enough.
While the Democrats have historically led the charge on this issue, the discussions must go beyond politics to address some of the critical issues at the core of poverty in American society, even beyond the programs waged by the Johnson Administration back in 1964. The discussion must involve switching the dialogue from the notion of a minimum wage to the concept of a living wage, a true barometer of what it means to be living above poverty with all the factors that would entail including rising childcare costs, historic fuel prices, groceries and health care.
Significantly, the move toward the adoption of a true living wage might also reduce crime. Researchers have been able to show a significant statistical correlation among wages, income disparity and criminality. Numerous studies have linked low wages to increases in violent crime. A move toward establishing a living wage might help us construct fewer prisons and rebuild communities.
Of course, the cornerstone of all this is the need for an increase in jobs. Unfortunately, Connecticut has lagged behind in this department as well. This does not mean, however, that we cannot start a dialogue about a more holistic approach to dealing with the issue of poverty in the 21st century.
Clearly, models of past engagement have been flawed- perhaps because they preferred a band-aid approach to the hard research discussions and debate necessary to arrive at viable model for real change.
While the efforts of the legislature to raise the minimum wage can be appreciated in this regard, we should be clear: Raising the minimum wage is just a band-aid. Much more needs to be done in order to alleviate the burdens of Connecticut's and the nation's working poor.
Dr. Yohuru Williams is chairman and professor of history at
Fairfield University.
Twitter: @yohuruwilliams
Where Predatory School Reform Reveals its Ugliest Face- School Closings and the Common Core Standards
By:  Dr. Mark Naison

If you want to see the ugly authoritarian impulse that lies at the heart of Predatory School Reform, and the total disrespect for teachers, school administrators, parents, students it embodies- take a look at two phenomena- the closing of allegedly "failing" schools in urban centers throughout the nation, and the sudden, stealth like imposition of the Common Core Standards in 45 states. Most journalists, and even education scholars have not connected these two policies, because the opposition to the first has come largely from Black and Latino parents, teachers and students in large cities, and the opposition to the second has come from predominantly white parents, teachers and students in small towns and suburbs, but in each instance, you have top down policies created by national elites that have been imposed with shocking and brutal suddenness. Worse yet, the voices of people at the local level who questions these policies have not only been disregarded, they have been treated with paternalistic contempt by those imposing the policies as well key figures responsible for creating them such as Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Vulture Philanthropist Blll Gates.

Three remarks by Secretary of Education embody the smug elitism at the hear of the Predatory School Reform world view - his comment that "Hurricane Katrina was the best thing that happened to the schools of New Orleans," his suggestion that opposition to Common Core was coming from "white suburban mothers who discovered that their kids aren't that smart" and his most recent comment that "most teachers come from the bottom of the academic barrel."

These remarks, and comparable comments from the likes of Michelle Rhee, Michael Bloomberg and Bill Gates, translate right down to policy implementation. Just get a hold of videos of the Common Core hearings in New York State and look at the smug faces of School Commissioner John King and Regents Chair Merryl Tisch in the face of the most eloquent testimony from parents, teachers and students on the damage done by the Core. Or look at video's of Chicago or Philadelphia School Board hearings on school closings and see the same contempt and indifference on the faces of public officials there. 

And finally look at yesterday's suspension of 4 Newark Principals and one PTA President by Newark School Czar Cami Anderson for speaking out against school closings in that city.

The people fighting School Closings, and the people fighting Common Core may not always look like on another, live in the same areas, or have the same past political affiliations, but they they are fighting the same battle against the same enemies- Predatory Reformers who making a mockery of local control of public schools and our best democratic traditions..

Public Education Going the Way of Netscape Navigator? Common Core, Bill Gates and BATs

The following post was published originally on along with a podcast interview with BAT's leaders, Marla Kilfoyle and Melissa Tomlinson.

"If you could have three wishes, what would you wish for?"
It was a typical 10th grade essay question. I can still see the red ink circling my first wish on my returned paper; I had written "health."

"Good health or bad health?"
"Well, duh?" I remember my brilliant 16-year-old sarcasm so clearly. "Who would wish for bad health?"
And as my revenge on this injustice, I used the same technique grading papers for 25 years. I lectured that it was a lesson in being specific. Students need to pay attention to those details where the devil hangs out. The kids loved me for that one, you can imagine.
I've had some of those same students, neighbors and a few friends ask me my opinion about the Common Core Standards. Do I like them? Do I agree with their mission?
Well, let's go to the source and examine the mission statement from the website (link). There's not much to dislike. Mission statements are always so beautifully vague and silly that when I pass them, even by the coffee stand at a 7-11, I can't help but want to pull out my red pen. For example...
  • The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. (If you're clear aren't you probably already consistent? Can you document an understanding; for example, how many objectives are in an understanding?)
  • The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. (They may be designed to be robust, but are they actually robust? What does robust mean? Lots of alliteration with all of those "r" words. Also, on the flipside, is it instead possible to provide robust and relevant standards to a non-real world?)

  • With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy. (By "American" do you mean legal citizens of the United States or anyone living in our boundaries? Also, Mexicans and Chileans are also "Americans." Can a community compete in a global economy? "Next week, be sure to join us as Akron takes on Beijing at Soldier Field!" )

State of the Union Vagaries
It's what only gets me four minutes into watching a State of the Union speech before I look for a rerun of The Andy Griffith Show -- I need something more real -- and Deputy Barney Fife of Mayberry seems like Walter Cronkite, in comparison. Those speeches are buzzwords-on-parade. (And if you are in the audience, forget your American flag lapel pin and don't stand up and applaud for two minutes for each of the following vagaries you deserve to be trounced at the next PTA election.)
  • Affordable health care (conception-to-casket)
  • A world-class education (K through Ph.D.)
  • Care for the elderly (Defined as 50 or 85, yet to be determined)
  • Improved public safety (in the home, abroad, at Wal-Mart on Black Friday)
  • A sound infrastructure (for planes, trains, automobiles, bike trails, hang-gliding routes)
  • Lower taxes (or better yet, no taxes)
In May 2013, the American Federation of Teachers revealed that 75 percent of its members supported Common Core Standards (link). That's good -- right? In fact, given the altruistic and foggy mission statement above, I wonder who those grouchy 25 percent are? They probably hate dogs and babies, too. The same survey also revealed that only "27 percent said their school district has provided them with all or most of the resources and tools they need to successfully teach the standards."
Oh... Well, that kind of goes against that "lower taxes" item, I suppose.
Anyway, let's take a look at the authors of the robust, globally-competitive, chicken-in-every-pot plan -- probably some teachers, right? John McCain got a lot of traction with Joe the Plumber as an everyman. I hope they asked a few classroom instructors and a parent or two their opinions.
No Room at the "In" -- The Common Core Think-Tank
A recent Washington Post reprint of an article from Stan Karp, a 30-year New Jersey educator and editor of Rethinking Schools magazine offers an outstanding history of Common Core and its formation.
"Because federal law prohibits the federal government from creating national standards and tests, the Common Core project was ostensibly designed as a state effort led by the National Governors Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and Achieve, a private consulting firm. The Gates Foundation provided more than $160 million in funding, without which Common Core would not exist... "In all, there were 135 people on the review panels for the Common Core. Not a single one of them was a K-3 classroom teacher or early childhood professional." Parents were entirely missing. K-12 educators were mostly brought in after the fact to tweak and endorse the standards--and lend legitimacy to the results."

Chicago and Mayor Emanuel: If it is Broke Don't Fix It
Diane Ravitch, author of The Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools points out in her January 21 blog that Chicago's charter schools are under-enrolled, yet the mayor and former Obama chief-of-staff, Rahm Emanuel, plans to open more of them.
"...that 47 percent of CPS charter and contract schools had student populations below the CPS threshold for ideal enrollment. This equates to 50 schools with nearly 11,000 seats sitting empty...Despite this drop, the Chicago Board of Education could approve as many as 31 new charters over the next two years." (link)
Throughout my 25 years teaching, many of them spent in initiatives with companies, grants and vocationally based education, I have heard from business leaders that schools are working in a vacuum, that the same rules don't apply because you "can't fire teachers" and you've got "public funding."
Yet in Chicago, as the charter experiment shows direct evidence of failure in a business report, the solution from Mr. Emanuel is to grow the status quo. I can't see Microsoft living too long with that business plan for its own company.
Greasing the Rails: Pay off everyone and nobody who can afford to object will object
In The Lockport Union Sun and Journal, Bob Confer reported on January 20 that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has covered its bases:
  • Eight National Education Associations - $23.2 million
  • Parent Teacher Association -$2.7 million
  • National Governors Association (NGA) -$25.7 million
  • The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) -$79 million
  • Achieve, Inc. (authors of the Common Core Standards) --$46 million

The Badass Teachers Association Is Born
In a break from the dubiously funded unions, Priscilla Sanstead and Mark Naison created the Badass Teachers Association (or BAT) in June of 2013 -- a grassroots movement of educators, parents, college students in education , retirees who dare to question not only the corporate interests but also the educational unions. In just over six months, the group now has close to 36,000 members. While some have questioned this "not-for-school" name and seen it as too aggressive for teachers, it begs the question, "Wouldn't you rather have a bad-ass attorney for your lawsuit, a bad-ass reporter investigating your corrupt mayor or bad-ass linebacker for your football team?"
So why wouldn't you want a bad-ass advocate for your student's education?
The group has systematically refuted the tenets of the Common Core standards but soberly looked at the "real world" even without Mr. Gates:
"That being said, BATs and other warriors who fight the corporate takeover of our public schools need to think what will happen when we do defeat corporate "reform." What will schools that educate our most vulnerable children - those in poverty - look like? Child poverty will not magically end with the defeat of Common Core, charters, vouchers or TFA, so BATs will commit their voices to making sure the government be held accountable for not addressing this main reason for children's not succeeding in school..."

The Pittsburgh Stealers: "Put national interests and politics aside and work for kids.""
Nothing can knock a teacher off the picket line faster, get them to skip their lunch or stay after-hours longer than playing the guilt-card. It's the same card they themselves played to get into teaching -- altruism. "But if you really cared about the kids you'd do this."
No teacher went into the profession for the money. So if they object to cuts in their pay or funding for their classes they are particularly vulnerable. Nobody brow-beats doctors, lawyers or plumbers for wanting payment that is in line with their skills. But for some reason, teachers don't think that what they do is really that special -- that "anybody can do it."
Forty million dollars are on the line right now in Pittsburgh. The Gates Foundation, which promised grant money to the city's school is dissatisfied with the progress of the administration and teachers' definition of what a "quality teacher" is (link):
But the disagreement has taken on national implications. The National American Federation of Teachers has put people and resources in Pittsburgh and has called striking down these new standards a "crucial fight."
Harris says this issue should be settled locally.
"They need to get back to the table and work for kids and focus on the kids," Harris said. "Put national interests and politics aside and work for kids."

So Pittsburgh's got a $40 million "toe-the-line" order from Bill Gates. And if all goes well for Mr. Gates, public schools will go the way of Netscape Navigator, when Microsoft bullied it off your PCs, was found guilty of antitrust violation but the patient was already dead.
Common Core may become the next Internet Explorer -- and don't even try removing that program from your computer.
I suppose that Bill Gates is one of those folks who doesn't have to wonder about wishing for three wishes. But I do wonder if he's chosen the bad health over the good.


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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

An Economic Argument for Public Education in the Public Interest

By:  Brian Crowell and Marla Kilfoyle, The Badass Teachers Association


Public Education exists for the good of public interest.  Teachers are the first line of defense in protection of the public interest and advocacy for the middle class and poor.  The economic systems that protect the public interest and secure democracy are currently under attack by the corporate takeover of public education.  This argument discusses the essence of the economic need to protect our public schools which protect the public.

The United States was the first country in the world to express "Monetary Sovereignty" in its constitution. In our constitution congress was given the power to initiate "credit" and "money" to conduct the countries business. Alexander Hamilton established this theme in his First Report On Public Credit. He followed up with his Second Report on Public Credit and later his report on manufacturers. Democracy, according to Hamilton, was the power of elected citizens to create credit and not private central bankers. This is the policy that echoes in the Presidencies of Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, John Quincy Adams, Abraham Lincoln (Greenback), Eisenhower (NASA and The National Highway Act) and of course FDR and JFK. Most of the major public projects in the United States could be funded by debt free credit, for example JFK's E.O. 11110 could be used to finance major projects.
Since Nixon destroyed the United States Notes policy,  America has been on a net decline in infrastructure spending per capita, middle class salary per capita, and we have seen our debt balloon mostly because we are no longer able to pay our sovereign debts with debt free currency. The "solution" in having a monetary democracy is rooted in our founding fathers and our constitution. Unfortunately the European Monetary Oligarchy has upset the balance of sovereign vs. non sovereign hence the trouble we are in now. Interestingly enough the last President to call for a "New Bretton Woods" cooperative economic system was Bill Clinton in his speech to the Council on Foreign Relations.

Public Credit is a necessity for a functioning society. For example Roads, Bridges, Public Transportation, SCHOOLS, and hospitals enable societies to function. These economic building blocks create the conditions for a successful and prosperous society. With most of these being privatized, we are destroying society as a whole. The issue is that America was created with its own economic system called The American System of Economics. This system is a hybrid of Socialism and Market Capitalism. The fundamental issue is that our Economic System was taken away from us in 1963.

John F. Kennedy was the biggest advocate for Public Credit in modern history. NAWAPA was a huge water project with Canada, approved by Kennedy, but abandoned after his death. NASA and the moon mission created Laser Technology. Privatization destroys society because by definition there is no longer a question of "The Public Interest". Therefore, the concept of all players being at the table goes away. Is this why Bill Gates so easily bought off the AFT and NEA via Common Core?

Teachers historically are the building blocks of society and "The Public Interest." An attack on teachers is by definition an attack on the Public Interest. Gates and the media give a false symbolic narrative. All of the benefits of productivity including "teaching" go to the top 1%. What we Badass teachers want is the "benefits of labor, hard work and productivity to go to the poor and middle class in the PUBLIC INTEREST. Gates is saying the benefits of productivity "meaning public education" should go to the 1%, which means he has to "buy" public education. The elite are good at using language to manipulate the narrative.  This isn't about welfare or victimization it is about what, not who, defines the public interest. Bill Gates DOES NOT define the Public Interest. Public School Teachers do, which is why Common Core must go.

School district policies need to protect the public interest and need to be directed toward creating a school environment in kindergarten, and grades 1 to 12, inclusive, that are free from discriminatory attitudes and practices.  The top down forced Common Core standards and Corporate Education reform deny the public of public education vested in the public interest, they are indeed discriminatory because they deny labor, hard work, and productivity to go to the poor and middle class.  Common Core are not standards that impress moral and civic education to include human relations education, with the aim of fostering an appreciation of the diversity of this nation.  The Common Core Standards do not promote understanding, awareness, and appreciation of the contributions of people with diverse backgrounds and of harmonious relations in a diverse society. Common Core does not allow each teacher to endeavor to impress upon the minds of their students the principles of morality, truth, justice, patriotism, and a true comprehension of the rights, duties, and dignity of American citizenship, and the meaning of equality and human dignity, including the promotion of harmonious relations, kindness toward others, the humane treatment of living creatures, and to instruct them in manners and morals and the principles of a free government. Common Core does not allow each teacher to encourage, create and foster an environment where students can realize their full potential.


  Our children are not for sale, they are not products. It is the job of every teacher and parent  in this nation to rise up to protect the Public Interest.  This is what we have been charged to do since the signing of our Constitution.  Common Core, which has been sold to the American Education system, is not in the best interest of the public, it is not about children and equity, it will not magically lift children out of poverty,  it is about the destruction of our public education system for profit.  Public education protects the public interest, which in turn creates a strong democratic society. 
       Mass Public School Closings: Good Fiscal Policy or Racist Austerity Measures?
        By: Dr. Denisha Jones

On Wednesday April 24, more than 100 hundred Chicago high school students boycotted the second day of their state standardized test to protest a plan that will close 54 schools in their city. Fed up with too much emphasis on standardized testing, students used their protest to fight back against the misuse of testing and to voice their concerns on the negative impact of school closings. Chicago is not the only city to push a mass public school closing initiative, Washington DC has announced plans to close 15 schools this year, and New York City has plans to close 17, in addition to the schools that have already been closed in the past 10 years. So what’s behind mass public school closings? Some argue that school closings are needed to save money as states are forced to deal with huge budget shortfalls. Opponents argue that school closings are another tool to dismantle public education by turning public schools over to private charter corporations and are especially harmful to African American students since most of the schools that are targeted for closing are in predominantly low-income and minority communities. So which is it: good fiscal policy or racist austerity measures?
School closings are not new, although the increase in the amount of schools being slated for closure in one year does appear to be alarming. An issue brief by Research for Action on school closings found the following trends in mass school closings: Washington DC closed 23 schools in 2008, New York has closed over 140 schools since 2002, and Chicago has closed more than 40 schools since 2000. Philadelphia has made an unprecedented move to close 39 schools that is now down to 29 because parents and community members were able to remove 10 schools from the list. Since 1997 Pittsburgh has gone from 97 schools to 54, with 22 schools being closed in 2006, the most by any other district. According to the brief, this trend shows no sign of slowing.
Research for Action identified the following criteria used to determine which buildings should be closed in five cities: low-utilization, building condition, and academic performance. Using one or more of these reasons, some states have decided that closing schools is good fiscal policy because it will save the state money. Federal policies have encouraged states to shut down low-performing schools as an accountability measure while state budgets have found less money to spend on education. Combined with declining enrollments due to changing demographics and the increase in charter schools, mass public schools closings are seen as common sense reform to the changing public education market.
The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) argues that these reasons are actually falsehoods being used to further the privatization of public education. In their report, The Black and White of Education in Chicago’s Public Schools: Class, Charters, and Chaos, they present counter arguments to the claims of underutilization and budget shortfalls. The report states, “Underutilization” is CPS’s (Chicago Public Schools) excuse to close and/or consolidate neighborhood schools in black communities and hand over facilities to unaccountable private operators.” It goes on to ask how underutilization can be an issue when CPS has plans to open 60 additional charter schools. Additionally the report argued that the way building and classroom utilization are measured is flawed, failing to take into account space for community organizations and educational programming that takes place in the buildings. They also argue that CPS creates underutilization in schools by changing the attendance boundaries to assign fewer students in the school and then use the fact that there are fewer students in the school to justify closing it. A graphic in their report shows the connection between charter schools and public school closings, as charter schools open public schools are closed. If there are enough students to justify the granting of new charters why are there not enough students to attend public schools? Some would argue that charter schools have more students because they are doing a better job at educating students than their public school counterparts, but the research does not support this. The same report by CTU found that CPS schools outrank charter schools on reading tests, even though the public schools serve more low-income, minority, and special needs children. But charters are still being pushed as the solution to “crisis in public education”, which  makes some people wonder why charter schools are being pushed onto other people’s children if the research shows that they are not any better at educating children than a public school?
Budget shortfalls are the other reason why many districts decided to engage in mass public school closings. Since the recession in 2008 many state budgets have decreased the amount of per pupil spending, leaving schools with less money to educate more children. Closing schools has been touted as a solution to the fiscal problems. According to Action for Research, school closings only save money if they are accompanied by massive layoffs of school personnel but not all districts include layoffs in their plans to close schools. Other potential savings are offset by expenses for maintaining properties and shifting students and teachers to new schools. Authors of the issue offer the following example, “D.C. officials initially reported approximately $10 million in implementation expenses associated with its 2008 closings. Yet a 2012 report by the District of Columbia Auditor reported costs exceeding $40 million due to higher outlays for transportation, moving and relocation, demolition, and the significant devaluation of several closed buildings.” This unexpected rise in costs associated with school closings takes away from the promise of more money in the budget that is supposed to occur as a result of closing schools.
The CTU views the rise in charter schools as the real cause of the budget shortfall. They claim that between 2004 and 2012 spending on charter schools has gone up 624% while spending on teacher’s salary grew by 10.6%. What you need to remember is that charter schools are funded using tax payer dollars but are run increasingly by private corporations and to a lesser extent by nonprofit organizations. CTU argues that these private equity companies are attempting to transfer public dollars into to private hands that are not held accountable and are able to reap in huge profits at the expense of our children.
One of the major criticisms of mass public school closings is the disproportionate effect it has on students of color. This graphic shows that in Chicago, New York and Philadelphia, school closings disproportionately affect black and low-income children. In Chicago, some of the school closings would force children to travel to new schools through dangerous gang inflicted neighborhoods causing many parents and students to be concerned. Schools are needed in many low-income communities as a space for community development but often they are the first to be targeted for closure. This trend has led many to claim that mass school closing plans are indeed racist. Could you imagine the outrage, if CPS decided to close even one school in a wealthy suburban district?
Budget deficits are a real concern for schools and other entities that rely on taxpayer funding. Decline in funding for public education is a problem, but massive school closings will not necessarily solve this problem. States are in need of more revenue to ensure that public schools receive enough funding to provide a high quality education to students. Closing schools does not generate enough revenue to solve the budget shortfall but it does create a host of additional problems. If you are troubled by mass public school closings in your area there are things you can do to help. Michelle Strater Gunderson a veteran Chicago Public School teacher suggests that parents and teachers “Use their voice. Call, write, petition, and march. We have to look to our elders for vision on resistance.” She also encourages teachers to take back their unions. CTU is the only teachers union that has publicly challenged school reform policies. Although they lost their right to bargain, Michelle notes they can still take part in protecting public education. As a member of the CTU she describes why they decided to strike last year and why they are vigorously opposed to school closings: “Our biggest issues are an evaluation system that attaches teachers’ worth to student test scores. This, in effect, destroys our relationships with our children. They could become part of a business transaction rather than our students. We need to resist the narrowing of the curriculum throughout our city to “teaching to the test.” We are the first large teachers union to stand up against this, and we know that if we prevail it will affect classrooms throughout our country.”
Teaches need to use their unions to fight back against policies that they know are harmful to students and detrimental to education. The fight to save public education will require the support of everyone including the unions, to make sure the voices of teachers, parents, and students are heard.
The  Perils of Top-Down School Reform
By: Dr. Yohuru Williams

The latest debacle involving Bridgeport Superintendent of Schools Paul Vallas is a not-so-subtle reminder of what is truly at stake in Bridgeport and around the nation with regard to so-called school reform -- American democracy.
One of the primary criticisms of the Bush-Obama model of market-driven educational reform is the dictatorial style in which many of its so-called champions operate and the chilling effect this has had on local control of schools. In most cases, administrators like Vallas parachute into communities to which they have no real ties with an "I've got all the answers" approach that seeks to limit rather than encourage community participation. In the race to receive federal funds, the voice of "the people" is diminished as administrators pursue a scorched earth policy aimed not only at teacher unions but school boards and local PTAs.
There is no room for a diversity of voices in the corporate hierarchy. Many of the so-called reformers want to run schools like mini- corporations, with administrators beholden not to communities, but appointed boards of directors -- a far cry from the days of the popularly elected school board. It is not only this model of corporate management but also its language that has seeped into the structure of public education. In Maryland, for instance, school superintendents are now called CEOs.
Disregarding the voluminous data in educational research that discounts the changes they seek to implement, they nevertheless assume more power in the dismantling of public education. When their haphazard model of action is exposed, as it was last week with the dismissal of Principal Byron Williams, of the newly formed military academy, less than three months into the job, the real dangers are revealed.
Responding to criticism over the dismissal of Williams, whom he praised just two months earlier as "outstanding," Vallas highlighted the school's poor performance, complaining that "discipline is weak," and "instruction needs to be stronger." But how exactly could he make such determinations in just nine weeks? Is this merely another example of the duck and cover language often employed to shield the rhetoric of top-down reform, where incompetence parades as progress and the staples of democracy, transparency, due process and democratic decision-making are the first casualties?
Although never enamored with the idea of a boot camp dressed up as "military academy" as the solution to Bridgeport's problems, I nevertheless have to ask the question: What was the real reason for Williams' dismissal? If we don't have reasonable expectations for principals, how can we ever expect to have them for teachers or even students? We are not managing a McDonald's or stocking the shelves at Walmart. Schools are not assembly lines.
Let's be clear. The Common Core, a military academy, and a sprinter superintendent won't fix Bridgeport's public schools. I borrow the term "sprinter superintendent" from Stanford Professor Emeritus Larry Cuban. In an Aug. 4 blog post, he outlined the formula employed by "reformers" such as Vallas who swing into crisis cities with a cookie-cutter program for change. They scurry about in their haste to bolster student achievement, measured by test scores, while introducing changes that often leave stakeholders disappointed and their communities in shambles. Like Cervantes' fictional hero Don Quixote -- an appropriate analogy since their narratives are also the stuff of fiction -- they charge at windmills, dragons of their own making, including teacher unions, underperforming district administrators and, in some cases, such as in Bridgeport, democratically elected school boards, all in the name of the fixing the "crisis" in American education.
They often seem more interested in how their actions play in the media, never missing the opportunity to lambaste teachers, parents and apparently even the persons they appoint. Their impatience with change is equally quixotic. Firing a principal after nine weeks is extreme even by corporate standards. Most companies offer three months' probation.
The real issue in this case was Williams's alleged failure to secure the proper certification to head the school, ironically the same issue that should have already assured Vallas' ouster as superintendent. Unfortunately, as we have seen time and time again, the rules operate on a sliding scale. Rule-breaking at the highest levels is celebrated as take-charge innovation rather than the worst kind of malfeasance -- that which threatens the future of our children.
Vallas, like his colleagues in other states, has instituted faux community involvement through community conversations. In reality, these events have proved to be little more than public relations ploys, giving the specter of community engagement while blocking any meaningful dialogue. Mostly dominated by the superintendent with a brief and tightly regulated period for questions and answers, they mock real engagement.
The question for us all is: is this the model we want to present to young people of democracy in action? In communities already short on patience and long on frustration with the failure of the democratic process, it is not unreasonable to think of the chilling effect not only on the parents but the students, whose first glimpses of democracy in action have been skewed by market-driven educational reform.

Dr. Yohuru Williams is chair and professor of history at Fairfield University. Follow him on Twitter @yohuruwilliams

Monday, January 27, 2014

Melissa Tomlinson - BATs Letters to Obama

Dear President Obama,
I decided to undertake this project of collecting letters to you as an experiment. I wanted to see how many dedicated people I could gather together towards one goal in a short amount of time. I gave myself five days.... On a Monday the call to letters was posted. By Friday, I only had a dozen letters. Up until then, I had been ambiguous about who was directly responsible for collecting these letters and trying to get them to you. Friday came and I let it all out. I told everyone that it was me that was collecting the letters, and that I was really sad over the fact that I had received so few. Within the next twenty-four hours, I received a number that is close to two hundred letters. This all during a time when people are trying to forget about their work lives and enjoy time with their family and friends.

Understand this, I have become an embodiment of what teachers all around the country are experiencing, are feeling, and are living. I have become the voice that will orate all of their fears, their anger, their questions. I take this responsibility very seriously. There are days where I feel like I have the weight of our whole world upon my shoulders. I can only imagine what you must feel like sometimes, knowing that you indeed do have the weight of our whole country on yours.

But given this opportunity that karma put in my path to try to get these letters to you, well, I could not let that opportunity pass by. I knew that it would weigh heavily on my mind if I did. Every sentence I voice, every teacher, parent, administrator and child that I speak for, deserves a chance to be heard.

I don't really know what I was expecting when I asked for these letters. I guess I imagined some quickly typed email messages in my inbox that I would copy and paste into a document. Instead, what I received was a piece of many people's hearts. Some letters are well thought out essays of research, some letters are emotional outpourings of descriptions of the life that is now being forced upon teachers all over the country. As president, I could say that it is your country, but it's not. It is our country and we want to be given back the rights to it. At least in our own little corner, the educational world.

I compare the education of a child to a family unit. We all know that a child has a better chance to be successful if they have cooperating parental units that act in unison and accordance with what is best for the child. That is not what we are currently experiencing in our school system. Instead, we are looking towards what is best for the corporations, for the global race. When did the starting gun ever go off? Who declared it a race? Will there ever be a winner? Does there even need to be a winner?

instead, shouldn't we strengthen our greatest resource, our future generations, by building a solid foundation underneath their feet, by providing them with what they need now, instead of what they may or may not need at some future point in their lives? We all know that poverty is the number one indicator for the future success of a child and that child's education. I also know that poverty is virtually impossible to eradicate. But creating a "corporate" educational system, such as the monstrosity that has been developed, this will do nothing toward reaching that goal. Instead, it will only widen the gap between our lowest and highest income levels along with increasing the number of families that will comprise the lower income population.
As standards become adopted, districts feel the pressure to reach that unattainable notion that a mandated percentage of students can pass the test. Teachers are laid off as districts invest in new technology and new curriculums that they feel may be the solution. Class sizes become larger, teachers feel more pressure to rely upon scripted curriculums and "teach to the test" instead of having the freedom to teach to the individual child. Wasn't that the purpose of doing away with NCLB in the first place, to allow teachers more freedom to teach? To allow them a chance to create their own set of best practices within their own classrooms based upon the needs of their individual students? Instead, teachers are being forced to standardize learning based upon the needs of our corporate world.

Many days I am in tears, not because I hate my job, but instead, because I love it. I feel the love that many other teachers feel for their jobs and I feel the heartbreak of many as they start to feel that love being stripped from them.
Two hundred letters may not seem like a lot. To me, they were heart-wrenching emotions a dozen times over. Thirty-four thousand members of the BadAss Teachers Association may not seem like a lot. But we are growing, every day. And every day more and more within our group are finding our voices, finding the courage to stand proud and to speak out for our profession.

We are just a drop in the bucket that represents the number of teachers and parents that are out there that feel just as we do. One day, they will find the courage to join us, or to join any of the various other groups that are out there forming to fight for and save our public educational system. One day they will find their voices.

The question is, one day, will you?

Melissa Tomlinson “One little teacher”


Megan West - BATs Letters to Obama

Dear Mr President,
I am writing this letter out of desperation. I have been a part of this group since its inception. I have followed every post, read personal stories and stayed very familiar with what is going on around the whole country regarding Common Core and education reform. Each day, these stories of what is happening to public education bring me to tears.
We, the teachers are the ones y...ou really need to listen to. We are the experts who are at the coal face each day. To see a child crumble over taking a meaningless test is gut-wrenching and heartbreaking. I am lucky to see this only twice a year. Some of my colleagues have informed me that some schools are testing children more than 20 times each year. And I thought I had it bad! The United States has hit crisis point and you have left education in the hands of someone like Arne Duncan. Seriously???
I am a passionate advocate for public education. I am a teacher with 18 years experience. I have watched the erosion of education because there are some who should not have their finger in the pie. I have thought many times about quitting but I cannot. I believe in our children too much. So I will fight alongside my fellow BATs for the restoration of my profession.
However, I will do this from across the pacific because I am in Australia. This is where I live and the state of play in your country serves as a serious warning on a GLOBAL level. I have never taught in America and sadly I would never consider it.
My country is only a step behind yours with this stupid reform. I will fight it at every opportunity. We have an idiot in govt with his idiot cronies. They will copy you. Because they cannot think for themselves.
Please Mr Obama, now is the time for you to take a deep breath, be brave and take a real risk. One that you know in your heart is the right thing to do. I urge you to do this now. The fate of not just your country's children is in your hands, but countless millions around the world. What do you want your legacy to be??
Kind regards,
Megan West
Teacher- Australia.
Ps. Arne Duncan / Dianne Ravitch. That choice would be a no-brainer methinks....

Why Alabama Doesn’t Need Michelle Rhee
     by BATs – Marla Kilfoyle and Terri Michal
The corporate reform agenda Michelle Rhee represents is NOT about Civil Rights!
Michele Rhee does not promote educational equality for the African American community. She and her StudentsFirst organization profits while schools in predominantly urban minority communities are being closed around the nation. It is beyond comprehension that Rhee would speak during any celebration of the Civil Rights movement and that she be considered to speak at the 16th Street Baptist Church where 4 young girls were murdered in a bombing spurred by hate and prejudice. Let’s consider what Rhee has done to further civil rights – nothing. In fact, Rhee along with Rep. Jay Love and Charlotte Meadows (a former StudentsFirst Lobbyist) helped to push for passage of the Alabama Accountability Act which opened the door for Charters in the state. The problem is that these charters are not designed to elevate the poor and/or minority.  In fact the Southern Poverty Law Center is currently challenging the law because it contends that transfers are inaccessible to Alabama’s poor families.  Low income parents can’t afford private school tuition even with the new tax credit but to make matters even worse, it siphons off money that should be spent on resourcing and assisting failing schools in these communities and transfers it to the private sector.
Let’s look at the effects Michelle Rhee and her Corporate Reform agenda has had in other urban communities around the United States:
The most disturbing effect of Ms. Rhee’s reform effort is the widening gap in academic performance between low-income and upper-income students, a meaningful statistic in Washington, where race and income are highly correlated. On the most recent NAEP test (2011), only about 10% of low-income students in grades 4 and 8 scored ‘proficient’ in reading and math. Since 2007, the performance gap has increased by 29 percentile points in 8th grade reading, by 44 in 4th grade reading, by 45 in 8th grade math, and by 72 in 4th grade math. Although these numbers are also influenced by changes in high- and low-income populations, the gaps are so extreme that it seems clear that low-income students, most of them African-American, generally did not fare well during Ms. Rhee’s time in Washington. Washington’s high school graduation rate is the lowest in the nation. Rhee closed more than 2 dozen schools.*
March 2011 USA Today reported on a rash of ‘wrong-to-right’ erasures on standardized tests and the Chancellor’s reluctance to investigate. With subsequent tightened test security, Rhee’s dramatic test scores gains have all but disappeared. Consider Aiton Elementary: The year before Ms. Rhee arrived, 18% of Aiton students scored proficient in math and 31% in reading. Scores soared to nearly 60% on her watch, but by 2012 both reading and math scores had plunged more than 40 percentile points.*
One of the first things that happened during Rhee’s time in D.C. was that she announced that there was a multi-million dollar shortfall in the education budget. Shortly thereafter, she fired 241 D.C.P.S teachers, citing the need to make huge budget cuts. After the firings, the monies were suddenly found. Rhee and her CFO, Noah Webman, said that the problem with the missing millions was “accounting mistake.” Once the lost money was restored to the education coffer’s books, Rhee went on a hiring spree, filling many vacancies with….you guessed it!…Teach for America teachers. Later, Webman said, under oath, in a hearing with the DC city council, that he and Rhee had devised the “accounting error.” Currently, one of the teachers fired is pursuing a fraud charge against Rhee. This past April, a DC judge has said that there is evidence enough for the case to move forward.*  Furthermore, Rhee’s history as Chancellor of D.C. has left children, predominantly children of color, in a school district that has the lowest graduation rate in the country. 
Ms. Rhee appointed 91 principals in her three years as chancellor, 39 of whom no longer held those jobs in August 2010. Some chose to leave; others, on one-year contracts, were fired for not producing results quickly enough. Several schools are reported to have had three principals in three years.*  Child psychiatrists have long known that, to succeed, children need stability. Because many of the District’s children face multiple stresses at home and in their neighborhoods, schools are often that rock. However, in Ms. Rhee’s tumultuous reign, thousands of students attended schools where teachers and principals were essentially interchangeable parts, a situation that must have contributed to the instability rather than alleviating it.*
Rhee flies around the country donating money to politicians. She does not promote educational equality for the African American community. She and her StudentsFirst organization supports charters and voucher systems. This educational agenda has supported the closing of urban schools, predominantly in African American communities (Chicago, Philadelphia), instead of providing resources to keep these community schools open as Beacons of Light for kids that live in these neighborhoods. 
John Merrow – “A Story About Michelle Rhee That No One Will Print”
The bottom line, our urban communities CANNOT be improved by closing our schools, firing our teachers, and diverting funds to private organizations.  They also CANNOT be improved by hiring Teach For America teachers, who are usually underqualified and unprepared to teach to the whole child, or through increased testing. (Testing IS NOT teaching!)  What can help? Programs like The Leader In Me* that debuted at A.B. Combs Elementary School in North Carolina and is now being implemented worldwide or Alabama’s own Better Basics* program that is currently implemented in only 43 schools in central AL despite its successes. We invest more than 8 million dollars a year in Alabama on testing alone…Isn’t it time we invest in our STUDENTS?
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Schools:,8599,1861074,00.html
Better Basics:
The 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, was thrust into the public eye when, in 1963, a bomb exploded killing four innocent black girls.  The members of the black congregation were targeted because of the color of their skin.  This was a turning point in the civil rights movement.
Now, 50 years later, Michelle Rhee wants to be a part of a panel discussing civil rights and education that is taking place in the church .  Michelle Rhee knows nothing of civil rights. This must be stopped.  Please contact Rep. Terri Sewell at (205) 254-1960 Twitter @RepTerriSewell and Mayor William Bell at (205)254-2283
His Executive Secretary’s email is It seems they have no twitter account.  There is NO direct way to get in touch with the mayor.  Governor Bentley may be contacted by twitter @GovernorBentley  and by phone  (334) 242-7100
Marla Kilfoyle  is a teacher, an activist, and one of the founders of the Badass Teachers Association. She lives in Long Island, New York.
Terri Michal is an activist, the founder of SOS Support our Students and an Administrator at Badass Teachers Association. She lives in Huntsville, AL. You can contact her at

As a kid I was raised in poverty and hoods
Played in the streets where fiends and gang members stood
My step father was a drunk intoxicated with hatred and rage
It hurts to remember this book of my life and its page
But I must endure the tears and the pain
If I wish that something from this can be gained
See for us school was at first an escape
A world of teaching and learning, music and paint
As I got older I struggled thro tears of frustration
Problems and issues at home attacked my own education
The same can be said for many students of life
Trying to focus and smile but it just felt like a lie
But we made it and learned and its only because
Our teachers were kind, trustworthy and held firm to their cause
To teach and to show that despite our issues we could succeed
We were more than just data and numbers on paper of green
We were students blessed to have teachers that connected to teach
Cant read? Cant spell? Cant count? There was no defeat!
They took us by hand, with a smile of love and taught us wit patience
They smiled as we learned, they cheered us and waited
The joy could be felt when the student looked and said
Thank you my teacher my mind you have fed
Every student is different, different problems and pain
You cant teach us unless u understand the tears and the stains
To fail us because we don't reach the scores that they want
And not give the teachers the chance to teach as they want
Is stupid and cruel, foolish idiotic
Last time that I checked Arne didn't have these lessons, how ironic
I wonder if Arne is really as smart as he feels
I mean that's what he says about our kids in this field
Rigorous testing to pass or fail our children?
Lets just take our time as our teachers did, find their dreams and lets build them.... Jose G ^O^

Jose Gonzalez