Wednesday, June 29, 2016


By Turquoise LeJeune Parker and Donald Parker 

WIFE:  Whenever I realized the action we’d been talking about for months was going to take place on June 14th and June 15th, well honestly, I was actually kind of excited. Donald and I are always sharing our big and small moments with our kids. We aren’t stepping into something new. I mean, our students were guests at our wedding. So, we got up on that Tuesday morning, which was our 3 year wedding anniversary by the way, and set out to do what we always do, take care of our kids.  We marched those grueling, boiling HOT and long 23 miles to the capitol together.

HUSBAND:  And man was it LONG!  My feet still hurt actually but anything to support my wife and the children we teach. I was still kinda like,"DANG, why does this have to be on our anniversary though", lol. I carried that large tree branch, which was described by a writer as a small tree, from Durham to Raleigh not to just symbolize struggle but to show an even greater picture that if Jesus Christ can carry a cross for the sins of the world and defeat sin and death giving us access to eternal life, then I as an educator can carry some large tree branch for the burdens and struggles of our children to win over the governor giving them access to a better and more funded education.

WIFE: Yea, it wasn’t easy. At all. It was so hard, but WE MADE IT!  We really bonded with other educators those 23 miles. We grew to really love, respect and appreciate so many people who we’d never met before that 23 mile journey. Ever since those days, when we drive near any part of our trek, we reminisce.  As we turned the corner and the North Carolina Museum of History was on our right and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Science was on our left, we chanted and screamed our affirmations for the future of our public schools. After the "All In for Public Education" rally by the General Assembly, we turned around and set out to complete our mission.  This time the North Carolina Museum of History was on our left, and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Science was on our right.  I feel like I have walked through and protested loudly right in that same corridor a million times and boy does it get you hype.  It’s something about the buildings, the way sound works, being beside people fueled with passion and a strong desire to not quit until our babies get what they deserve!  We took that left onto Edenton St. screaming, then we took that right onto Wilmington St. shouting, “We' ready! We' coming!” (That one gets me hype too).  See just a few weeks before that, and a few days before that very moment, we held press conferences requesting a meeting with the governor.  We are teachers after all. All we know how to do is meet, so I was ready and prepared in my mind for what I would say in our meeting. Crystal Scales Rogers, Dawn Amy Wilson and Bryan Proffitt and I looked at each other and said, "It’s game time y'all."  When we turned onto Wilmington St., I saw the doors of the capitol still open because it wasn’t 5:00 pm yet.  When we turned facing that main entrance, the door was being shut.  We called the governor’s aide repeatedly, we went around the building and knocked on all four doors of the capitol hoping for the best.  At that last door, we decided that if our kids can’t get it….SHUT IT DOWN! 

HUSBAND:  To be completely honest, I sat myself down while they walked around the building knocking on the doors because my foot was killing me. Then I heard the police officers' walkie talkies going crazy saying,"They are moving to the street." Then I got up and started walking to the street which included the educators that marched and people that supported educators which totaled at least 100 people.

WIFE:  So, after the police told everyone to move to the sidewalk, 14 of us North Carolina Public School teachers unlawfully and willfully stood in the 100 block of E Morgan Street linked arms with signs in our hands that said "I’D RATHER BE TEACHING" and we SHUT IT DOWN! 

HUSBAND:  At that time, I didn’t really know what was going on when I walked up but all I knew was I saw my wife in the middle of the street locking arms with the other educators. I later found out that the teachers standing in the street already planned to do so and I wasn’t in those plans but basketball, participating in band, and two fraternities have taught me teamwork and brotherhood. I couldn’t have let my NOW teammates and brothers and sisters that I walked with for 23 miles from Durham to Raleigh for our children stand in the street without me. As a husband, there was also no way I was letting my wife get arrested without me either while I sat on the sidelines, clapped, pulled out my phone to record and wave her on. Man, "I’m 'bout that action boss" Marshawn Lynch style. "You know why I’m here." "I’m thankful." We doin’ this together.

WIFE:  Locking arms in the middle of a very busy street and refusing to move wasn’t an easy move we made.  It was scary actually. It was very scary until the interaction with the officer began, then it felt like we were definitely doing the right thing.  When the police arrested Donald that scared me because they put real handcuffs on him. They sat him in the police van alone and I had never imagined I would see him being taken away from me in handcuffs. 

HUSBAND:  See, they arrested me first. "You do know you are now under arrest?" says the officer in a very southern voice. I slowly raised my head and stared into his eyes with shades on. Behind those shades were eyes of a black man whose heart was torn between two dissonant choices. One, supporting his wife, educators locking arms, and the children of NC who are suffering at the hands of poor government calmly and two, rise up against the cops as a black man whose eyes are gouged and ears are punctured with hate from stories of innocent blacks interactions with law enforcement like Walter Scott, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, and many more. I hadn't answered his question after about 7 seconds of a silent stare so he asks,"Are you going to resist arrest?" I respond “Yes,” but it was to his first question and Alexa responds,”He means yes to your first question.” Once I answered that I am not resisting arrest, I give him my book-bag and he grabs my right arm to put behind my back. Let me just say that as peaceful protesters with a crowd of people watching, the force he used to put my arms behind my back wasn’t aggressive but it was still painful. I could only imagine the force and effort he would have used for someone who was not as peaceful or if they were alone with just officers. What made me feel isolated, segregated and discriminated against was the fact that out of 14 teachers, the one black male teacher was the only person they used real cuffs on to arrest. Everyone else had zip cuffs. Man, those things were tight. I hated the metal sound they made and I felt for the first time in my life I had no freedom. While walking to the police van, I had to remind myself that I wasn’t a criminal and that we just did something honorable and the policemen were not aggressive with us at all. So I walked with my head high with no shame. It’s crazy that as a black man, I go my entire life making sure I stay out of trouble that would involve the police and the one time I’m arrested, it displayed one of the highest forms of altruism.

WIFE:  In that moment, I began to squeeze Bryan and Leah’s hand even harder.  It hurt me in a place I don’t know how to explain.  Then everyone started screaming, "We love you Donald! We see you Donald!"  I could barely make those words out but I thank God for hearing those words.  As the police began picking the rest of us up, I cried even more.  I cried because I heard Sendolo on the bullhorn saying one of Assata Shakur’s famous quotes:

“It is our duty to fight for our freedom.

It is our duty to win.

We must love each other and support each other.

We have nothing to lose but our chains.”

HUSBAND:  It was hard for me as a black man and a husband to be in handcuffs and see another man, a white male police officer, grab my wife. I hated it. Putting those zip cuffs on her, standing her up, etc...(smh). It pissed me off really. And this isn’t hate for another race or anything, it’s hate for corruption and for many years policemen have systematically exhibited corrupt ways towards blacks. That viewpoint doesn’t change because the cause is for our students. It’s just placed to the rear and came to the forefront as I sat detained in that police van hearing the crowd chant,"We Love You Turq."

WIFE:  But I couldn’t hear them saying "We Love you Turq."  It was like the world turned off for a few seconds.  I could only hear the officer.  I do however, distinctly remember hearing Matt Hickson’s voice saying: “The Professors love you and are proud of you for this.”  That made me smile and feel like this was right.  Although extremely frightened about the care of my husband because of the horrible history of our men and women of color in police custody, I was so extremely proud of him.  I was so happy to be taking such huge steps for our kids together.  Weird, but I fell more in love with him that day, lol. The police didn’t know we were husband and wife.  But we got placed right beside each other in the police van only separated by the plexiglass.  I will never ever get the picture out of my mind looking at my husband through that glass in that police van.  All for our students, our babies.  They deserve more.

HUSBAND: Yea. I’ll never forget that either. The heat, the confinement, and seeing her without the freedom to touch was rough. Those real cuffs hurt too, man.

WIFE:  What we did that day was for the children.  What about the children?  What about the babies?  They were who I thought about the whole time. Who we all thought about.  Who we all did this for.  These children have dreams, emotions, needs and they are all being choked right now by poor elected leaders.  We walked in that street, formed that line, locked hands, and eventually sat down locking arms because our kids can’t take it anymore.  It’s easy to ignore this ridiculous and embarrassing situation that is happening in our state because its "grown-ups" making the decisions but really, the kids are at the center. If we reminisce for any quick moment, we didn’t get where we are as a country (even though we have so very far to go), by just standing on the sidelines and doing nothing about the basic needs and rights of our babies. We got where we are by brave men and women holding hands, singing, chanting, row by row, of what they believe was a possibility for our country and for our future. And look, we’re living in some of what they fought for. Their circumstances were not as gentle as ours. The police officers that dealt with us on June 15th, 2016 were kind and respectful. The police during demonstrations some time ago were disrespectful, disgraceful, and degrading to say the least. But those demonstrators didn’t care. They realized that drastic situations call for drastic demonstrations. I’ve been in the classroom for going on six years, and in that short time, I have seen some things. No one can make me believe that what the 14 of us did that day was wrong.  Nope, not at all.

I’ll tell you what’s wrong:
-What's wrong is the teachers having to set GoFundMe after DonorsChoose after GoFundMe after DonorsChoose just to get full sets of books, supplies, and other classroom and school necessities.
-What's wrong is the achievement school district bill.
-What's wrong is the attempt to silence educators.
-What’s wrong is elected officials taking personal deals that benefit themselves and throwing our kids under the bus.
-What's wrong is our kids not having enough!

On June 15th, 2016 I was ready for something beyond emails and sitting passively; I was over it.  I am beyond tired of hearing the negative rhetoric around my school and schools like mine all across this great state and nation.  The rhetoric says we're failing.  NO!  These elected officials are failing our public schools.  My beloved school is NOT an F school.  Mrs. Parker’s Professors classroom and the many beautiful habitats of learning like mine, ARE NOT FAILING!  We are doing the best we can for our babies with what we have. They deserve more. What about the children?  Remember when you were a child?  Remember how much ambition, drive, excitement you had?  Remember that someone invested in you?  Someone told you you could be anything you wanted to be?  If not for those who loved you and who cared enough to show us, where would we be today?  How can we just leave our kids out to dry like this?  Nope, I won’t do it.  Our babies deserve better.  I’ll fight for our babies.

HUSBAND: Can you imagine for a second how frustrating it would be to not have a textbook to take home or the ones you take home are 10 years old and older, ripped, missing pages and are falling apart? Now, in a different context, imagine how frustrating it would be to use a computer from 10 years ago or a phone from 10 years ago? Not the easiest task. Dr. William P. Foster, the late great band director of the Florida A&M University, once said,"Why should we provide 2nd class resources for students and expect 1st class results?" My eyes in my mugshot are saying,"I can't believe all of this has happened to educators that just want to do their job efficiently for our children and we are punished if we fail to do so." Don't you think if things were the way Pat McCrory and his team are trying to make them out to be, teachers wouldn’t have to lock arms in the street protesting. And what's most ironic, as someone said in the detention center, is that the people that are about following rules are the ones that are breaking them, not even for themselves but for students. Marching and protesting for the love of my wife and the many students in North Carolina was an honor and a privilege. Leading by example is something I would gladly do again because I can. As Jesse Williams said at the B.E.T. Awards,”A system built to divide, impoverish, and destroy us can not stand if we do.” Stand for something or you’ll float with or fall for anything. Stand for our children. Students deserve more.


The public response has been overwhelming with an outpouring of love and support. Our stories are being shared thousands and thousands of times over. People we don't know are donating to People are joining us.  Please share. Please join. Please donate.
Please tell Governor Pat McCrory: ‪#‎StudentsDeserveMore

Monday, June 27, 2016

Washington State BATs Press Release
June 27, 2016
Contact: Lucero Alegre, 206-651-4320

For Immediate Release

"We are Oaxaca"

Seattle - The Washington Badass Teachers Association (WA-BATS) strongly condemns the serious acts of repression by the Mexican government in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico, which has massacred 12 people and injured several dozens more members of the National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE). CNTE members were protesting the education reform of President Enrique Peña Nieto.
In 2013, Peña Nieto introduced an education reform as part of a set of 11 neoliberal reforms. “The controversial law imposes teacher evaluations in order to determine which applicants will be chosen to fill open posts in the public school system nationwide. Critics say the testing only justifies mass layoffs and does not effectively measure teaching skills, like the special knowledge and demeanor needed to teach in rural areas and Indigenous communities.” (teleSUR, 2016) This is not the first time the Mexican government under Peña Nieto has silenced the voices of educators through executions and violence. On September 26, 2014 student teachers from the Ayotzinapa Normal School were attacked by the government of Iguala, Guerrero. There they killed 43 student teachers and until this day their families have not received justice nor have they been able to provide them with a proper burial as the bodies were never found. We refuse to continue to do nothing as our educator sisters and brothers are executed a border away. WA-BATS are calling for action by condemnation in solidarity with Washington Education Association and the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, all other unions, the U.S. State Department, Secretary of State Kerry, Secretary of Education King, the U.S. Department of Education, President Obama, the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, the United Nations, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch. We stand in solidarity with CNTE in their demands for an end to violence, an open ongoing dialogue, Governor Cue’s immediate departure from office, the resignation and/or impeachments of Peña Nieto, Interior Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong and Education Secretary Aurelio Nuno and for the intervention of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. We are Oaxaca, we are Ayotzinapa. Todos Somos Oaxaca, Todos Somos Ayotzinapa. #TodosSomosOaxaca #TodosSomosAyotzinapa #Solidarity #AquiSeRespiraLucha #EstoyHartoDeEPN #CNTE

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Brave New World of Student Teacher High-Stakes Evaluation, an update...

By:  Dr. Mitchell Robinson, Member BATs Research and Blogging
Originally published on his blog

I read an excellent piece on the status of American education in The Atlantic recently, and would strongly recommend anyone interested in schools and schooling to click here and take a look at what Jack Schneider has to say about what's really happening in our schools.

On balance, Mr. Schneider offers a very fair and level-headed analysis of American public education, suggesting that the "crisis" in American education has been wildly exaggerated. But the real problem underlying this discussion can be seen in the first 2 paragraphs, in which only 3 persons are identified as “education experts”:

Sal Khan, Campbell Brown, and Michelle Rhee.

To be clear, none of these persons has attended a public school, has a degree in education, has had their children attend a public school, or has ever held teacher certification. And yet they possess the loudest and most strident voices in the education policy arena, dominating conversations on education policy through sheer volume, and absorbing much of the light and heat in the education policy sphere. Aided and abetted by "education publications" like the billionaire-funded Education Post, Brown has become the "moderator du jour" for education reform meetings, conferences, and made-for-TV edu-infomercials.

If the country desired a substantive discussion on health care policy, we wouldn’t turn to “Dr.” Laura, “Dr.” Phil and “Dr." J.

We would convene task forces of actual physicians and medical researchers, have meaningful discussions on health care policy and practices, and make reasoned, incremental changes in these policies and practices.

But in education, we have allowed edutourists like Rhee and Campbell to be elevated to positions of authority, and technocrats like Khan to be lauded as visionaries, even as the research conducted by actual education experts is ignored, scorned and even repudiated, and replaced with ideas designed to privatize schools, demonize teachers, and profitize children.

Now, even some of these education experts, tempted by the prospect of previously unimaginable wealth and power, have sold out their profession for a shot at cashing in on the corporate reform gravy train. Witness Dr. Deborah Ball’s stepping down as Dean of the School of Education at the University of Michigan to concentrate on her work on NOTE: National Observational Teaching Examination for ETS, the Educational Testing Service.

As I've written about previously here, and here, and others have written about here, NOTE is a high-stakes student teacher evaluation test that requires pre-service teachers to "instruct" avatars--yes, avatars! And if their "teaching" of these cartoon characters isn't deemed adequate, the student teacher is denied their certification or teaching license, in spite of the fact that the student teacher in question has just completed an accredited, rigorous 4 or 5 year teacher preparation program, regardless of the student teacher's earned GPA or demonstrated capability to teach real, live children in hundreds of hours of field experiences in local school classrooms, or the intern's exhibited knowledge, understanding or competence in their subject area.

(And, just to rub a little salt in the wound: the persons who are remotely-operating the avatars are not teachers themselves--they are unemployed actors who have been trained to manipulate the joy sticks and computer simulations that control the avatars' voices and movements. The designers of the avatar system found that teachers thought too much about their responses to the interns' teaching "moves"--the actors didn't concern themselves with matters like content correctness or developmentally-appropriate responses; they just followed the provided script, and efficiently completed the task at hand.)

As Jack Schneider points out in his article,

If the educational system had broken at some point, a look backward would reveal an end to progress—a point at which the system stopped working. Yet that isn’t at all the picture that emerges. Instead, one can see that across many generations, the schools have slowly and steadily improved.

The truth, unfortunately, is much less sexy, and doesn't sell nearly as many newspapers or generate as many "clicks".

It's not very exciting to suggest that our schools, even as they have been systematically defunded by federal and state governments, are doing a terrific job of educating the nation's children.

It doesn't create much "buzz" to point out that even in spite of constantly moving targets, fluctuating "cut scores" on standardized tests, and daily changes to state teacher evaluation systems, our teachers are better prepared than they have ever been, are being expected to do more with less, and--amazingly--are doing it.

America's educational system is not "broken", and our schools aren't "failing." Our teachers aren't "lazy," and no, Sec. Duncan: our kids aren't "dumb."

The truth is that the vast majority of American schools are excellent, and our teachers are doing heroic work under the most difficult working conditions we have seen in our lifetimes. Our education system isn't "failing": we have failed our schools.

The solution to getting out of the "manufactured crisis" we now find ourselves in starts with listening to the real education experts in our midst: the classroom teachers who have devoted their professional lives to teaching our children.

And politely telling Mr. Khan, Ms. Brown and Ms. Rhee to mind their own business, and let us do our jobs.

Killed for Being a Teacher – Mexico’s Corporate Education Reform

By:  Steven Singer, Director BATs Research/Blogging

In Mexico, you can be killed for being a teacher.
Correction: you can be killed for being a teacher who opens her mouth and speaks her mind.
You can be killed, kidnapped, imprisoned – disappeared.
That’s what happened to approximately six people a week ago at a protest conducted by a teachers union in the southern state of Oaxaca.
The six (some of whom were teachers) were gunned down by police and as many as 100 more people were injured near the town of Nochixtlan, about 50 miles northwest of Oaxaca City.
Conflict between teachers and governments has become commonplace across the globe as austerity and neoliberalism have become the policies du jour. Tax cuts for the rich lead to shrinking public services. And investment in the next generation through public education becomes a thing of the past.
Even here in the United States, educators are taking to the streets to protest a system that refuses to help students – especially poor and minority students – while blaming all deficiencies on one of the only groups that actually show up to help: teachers.
Though in America educators have been ignored, unjustly fired and even arrested for such protests, the Mexican government has resorted to all out murder.
How did it come to this? Follow the trail backwards to its source.
The activists in Oaxaca were protesting because several union officials had been kidnapped by the government and unjustly imprisoned the previous weekend.
Those union officials were asking questions about the 2014 disappearance and alleged murder of 43 protesting student teachers by agents of the government.
These student teachers, in turn, were fighting incoming President Enrique Peña Nieto’s education reforms.
Specifically, Nieto threatened to fire tens of thousands of teachers by using their impoverished, neglected and under-resourced students’ test scores against them.
The government provides next to nothing to educate these kids. And just like officials in the U.S., Nieto wants to blame a situation he created on the people who volunteered to help fix it. It’s like an arsonist blaming a blaze on the fire department.
Why’s he doing it? Power. Pure power.
Poverty in Mexico is more widespread than it is even in its northern neighbor. This is because the most populace Spanish-speaking country in the world also has one of the most corrupt governments on the face of the Earth: A government in bed with the drug cartels. A government that has no interest in serving the people whom it pretends are its constituents.
Since before the Mexican Revolution in 1810, teachers have been the center of communities in impoverished neighborhoods empowering citizens to fight for their rights. These teachers learned how to fight for social justice at national teacher training schools, which Nieto proposes to shut down and allow anyone with a college degree in any subject to be a teacher.
Not only would this drastically reduce the quality of the nation’s educators, it would effectively silence the single largest political force against the President.
In short, this has nothing to do with fixing Mexico’s defunct public education system. It’s all about destroying a political foe.
The government does not have the best interests of the citizens at heart – especially the poor. The teachers do.
Though more violent than the conflict in the United States, the battle in Mexico is emblematic of the same fight teachers face here.
It remains to be seen how this southern conflict will affect us up north.
People have died – literally died – fighting against standardized testing, value added measures, school privatization and the deprofessionalization of teaching. Will this make Bill Gates, John King, Campbell Brown and other U.S. corporate education reformers more squeamish about pushing their own education agenda? After all, they are trying to sell stratagems that look almost exactly alike to Nieto’s. How long can they advocate for clearly fascist practices without acknowledging the blood on their own hands, too?
For our part, U.S. teachers, parents, students, and activists see the similarities. We see them here, in Puerto Rico, in Britain, in much of Europe, in Africa andthroughout the world.
We see the violence in Mexico, and we stand with you. From sea to shinning sea, we’re calling for an end to the bloodshed.
The Network for Public Education has issued an urgent appeal to the Mexican government to stop the violence. Members of the Chicago Teachers Union have taken to the streets to protest in solidarity with their brothers and sisters south of the border.

We stand with you, Mexico.
We fight with you.
We bleed with you.
We are the same.
Peace and solidarity.

Friday, June 24, 2016

PA House: Online Courses for the Poor. Teachers for the Rich.

By:  Steven Singer, Director BATs Research and Blogging
Pennsylvania has a long history of under-resourcing its public schools.
State Rep. Jason Ortitay has a solution.
The Republican representing Washington and Allegheny Counties envisions a world where poor kids learn from computers and rich kids learn from flesh-and-blood teachers.
It’s all in his proposed legislation, H.B. 1915, passed by the state House on Monday. It now moves on to the Senate.
The legislation would assign the Department of Education the task of organizing a collection of online courses for use by students in grades 6-12. Some classes might be created by the state and others would be made by third parties with approval for state use. If anyone so desired, the courses could be utilized by anyone in public school, private school, homeschool and beyond. The online learning clearinghouse thus created would be called the “Supplemental Online Course Initiative.”
But what does this have to do with impoverished schools?
According to the bill, itself, state education officials would:
“Upon request, provide assistance to school districts which have been declared to be in financial recovery status or identified for financial watch status under Article VI-A by facilitating the school districts’ search for low-cost or no-cost online course options.”
In other words, this bill provides an alternative for schools where the local tax base isn’t enough to fund traditional classes presided over by living, breathing teachers.
In the distant past, the state used to made up some of the slack to level the playing field for students born into poverty. However, for the last five years, the legislature has forced the poor to make due with almost $1 billion less in annual state education funds. This has resulted in narrowing the curriculum, the loss of extra-curriculars, increased class size, and plummeting academic achievement.
While the majority of voters are crying out for the legislature to fix this blatant inequality and disregard for students’ civil rights, Ortitay’s proposed bill lets lawmakers off the hook. It allows legislators to provide a low quality alternative for the poor without necessitating any substantial influx of funds.
Here, Jaquan and Carlos. You can learn from this YouTube video. Billy and Betty will be in the classroom learning from a trained professional with an advanced degree in the subject.
None of this bodes well for state budget negotiations going on right now to finalize a Commonwealth spending plan by the end of June. Those expecting a proposal to heal the funding cuts most likely will be disappointed – AGAIN.
Nevertheless, the bill still needs to clear the Senate and a signature from Gov. Tom Wolf before it can become law.
In the House, the bill passed 128-66 with 8 abstentions. Though lawmakers on both sides of the aisle supported the measure, it was opposed only by Democrats.
If the clearinghouse becomes a reality, it would be implemented in two phases. In the 2017-18 school year, it would only offer courses on subjects tested by state Keystone Exams at no cost to local districts. Then in the following year, it would expand to include courses not tested on state mandated exams that can be purchased by local districts.
If the Keystone-aligned courses are free to local districts, who pays for them? Certainly these online classes aren’t being constructed, monitored and graded as a public charity.
According to the bill, the Department of Education should:
“Explore the possibility for Federal and private funding to support the clearinghouse.”
However, if the state can’t find someone else to foot the bill, the cost will be born by Pennsylvania taxpayers.
“There is hereby established a restricted revenue account in the General Fund to be known as the Online Course Clearinghouse Restricted Account…”
“The funds in the account are hereby appropriated to the department on a continuing basis for the purposes of paying expenses incurred by the department in carrying out its duties relating to the administration of the clearinghouse under this article.”
How much taxpayer money will be allocated to this initiative? It doesn’t say. Will this money come from an increase in education spending or will it cannibalize other education line items? Again, it doesn’t say. Apparently such decisions would be made while drafting the state budget – presumably not the one being hashed out now, but the 2017-18 spending plan.
“This initiative will give public schools, which might not otherwise be able to afford similar educational opportunities, the flexibility and ability to make use of online learning [for] the betterment of their students,” Ortitay said in a press release.
However, online courses have an infamous history throughout the Commonwealth, and, indeed, the nation.
All courses collected in the clearinghouse would be subject to approval by the state Department of Education. But cyber charter schools fall under the same jurisdiction often with disastrous results.
Internet-based classwork – like that which would be collected in the clearinghouse – makes up the curriculum at cyber charter schools. Moreover, these online schools have a proven track record of failure and fraud.
recent nationwide study found that cyber charters provide 180 days less of math instruction than traditional public schools and 72 days less of reading instruction.
In addition, researchers found that 88 percent of cyber charter schools have weaker academic growth than similar brick and mortar schools.
They have an “overwhelming negative impact” on students, according to researchers.
And THAT kind of curriculum is what the state House voted to increase using public money!
One of the biggest problem with online courses is the low quality of what’s being offered. Here’s how a cyber charter teacher describes the reading curriculum at his school:
“Most cyber schools get their curriculum from K12, a company started by William Bennett, a former federal Secretary of Education. My school gets the majority of its high school material from a mail order company called Aventa.
When Aventa creates a course it is fairly bare bones. They choose a textbook from one of the major textbook companies, and cut it up into lessons. The lesson will contain a few paragraphs introducing the topic, they will have the students read a section of a chapter, they will ask the student to do a few problems from the book, and lastly, there will be some form of graded assessment, taken from textbook review problems. That is all.”
This is like giving out nothing but worksheets and expecting high academic performance. Here. Read the book, answer the questions at the back, and call it a day.
Another problem is high turnover for students taking online classes. Though learning exclusively through the Internet seems novel at first, few students continue taking these courses more than a year or two.
This is especially true for younger students. It’s hard to imagine many 6th graders with the tenacity to persevere without anything but the most limited human interaction and adult supervision.
Advocates claim this is healthy experimentation. Students are trying out different means to accommodate their learning styles.
However, when students invariably fail at online education and return to their traditional public school hopelessly behind their peers, taxpayers bear the cost of remediating them. And their low academic performance becomes a reflection on the public school system where it is used as an excuse to denigrate teachers and close more brick and mortar buildings.
The online educational clearinghouse is supposed to be monitored and regulated by the state Department of Education – just as it does for state cyber schools.
Unfortunately, state budget cuts in K-12 education have left the department seriously understaffed and unable to do this job effectively.
Just look at the almost weekly news reports of fraud at state cyber schools.
For instance, PA Cyber Charter founder Nicholas Trombetta allegedly stole at least $8 million in public dollars only a few years ago. Federal investigators filed 11 fraud and tax conspiracy charges against him and indicted others in the case.
Another cyber charter founder, June Brown, was also indicted for theft of $6.5 million. Brown and her executives were indicted on 62 counts of wire fraud, obstruction of justice and witness tampering. She ran the Agora Cyber Charter School, which was part of the K12 Inc. empire of virtual charters.
Why would we want to increase the opportunities for such fraud by encouraging students to take more online classes?
This bill is at best a distraction.
It’s a Band Aid for the fiscal irresponsibility of our lawmakers toward our public schools. It’s an excuse so that we’ll let them continue short changing our children for at least another year with yet another budget lacking in education funding.
This does not compute.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

They Picked Me Up Last. #StudentsDeserveMore - from Anca Stefan

They picked me up last.

They tied my wrists together behind my back, and scooped me up by the elbows. 
When I was a child, I'd seen my grandmother pick up hens that way, gathering their wings into one hand, with speed and force, before she made them into soup for dinner.
There was no more space in the two vans they'd sent for us, so they pushed me into a separate police car by myself. My crime was that, along with 13 other educators from all across the state, I'd formed a human chain that, for 20 minutes at rush hour, cut diagonally through the intersection of Morgan and Fayetteville Streets, in front of Governor McCrory's office. 
When the governor, again, failed to prioritize my students' suffering, I blocked traffic in protest. 
When despite a well-publicized request, our governor disrespected our profession by refusing to meet with leading educators in a civil dialog about the wellbeing of our state's children, I stood in protest.
I stood in protest of the neglect Governor McCrory has continuously shown our children. Repeatedly refusing to address kids' most urgent needs and returning, unbothered, to campaigning for another term in office, was an unconscionable reality to me - so I refused to move.
(I didn't start in that intersection.)
Over the past 4 years, I'd spoken out many times about the alarming conditions my students have to fight their way through in order to learn. 
When I say our schools lack basic supplies, I mean paper - both printing paper and toilet paper -, whiteboard markers, working computers, science lab materials, equipment for art or gym class. 
We don't have textbooks in history class. 
We don't have textbooks in history class. 
We don't have textbooks in history class. 
I've taught World and U.S. history without a textbook for the past 4 years. 
My students can only receive medical care if they get injured Tuesday morning between 9 and 12 because we have a part time nurse. 
My students need school counselors and psychologists to teach them how to process their emotions in healthy ways during the overwhelming time of their adolescence; they don't need armed guards in uniform to throw them around and dehumanize them.
A week before the day Mr. McCrory had me arrested, I'd spoken to the press about the suffering of thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of our students. I'd listed conditions of abject poverty, and of continued loss of resources, stability and security in the daily lives of our youth. 
Alongside many other professional educators in my state, I'd asked for an hour of the Governor's time, and promised that we'd march on foot from our classrooms to his office to prove our dedication to meeting with him and working together in the interest of our students.
We did exactly as promised.
60-some people of all ages, from all over North Carolina, took to walking along highways, in the high heat of mid-June, to meet with our Governor. 
I walked next to incredible people - law-abiding, polite, compassionate educators and parents.
I walked beside a 23-year classroom veteran teacher. 
I walked with 14-year old former student.
I walked next to a dear colleague and her 12-year old son who marched every single mile his mother and his teachers marched and never once complained. 
I walked beside so many people who are so important in the lives of so many younger folks, and I carried with me the names and memories of so many of my students.
Along the way, cars stopped to thank us, churches opened their doors and blessed us with good food and beds overnight, friends called, emailed or texted us with words of support and gratitude. 
None of that support and none of the richness we carried with us mattered to Governor McCrory at 5 on Wednesday. He didn't come. He didn't invite us in for a glass of water the way Souther hospitality would have anyone treat people who've journeyed on foot for 23 miles in the summer heat. 
Instead, Mr. McCrory locked his doors before 5. We know because we knocked on every single one.)
When they put me in the arrest car, my body was shaking. 
I felt guilty for being nervous because, unlike so many others, I had a team. My child was cared for and safe, and they had not used force to subdue my body or spirit. 
But I could not stop shaking. I could not stop my handcuffs from cutting into my twisted wrists. I could not stop from feeling like my existence was only a subject of good fortune -- not a guarantee, not a right. 
I felt the way I do at takeoff on a plane - that no matter my accomplishments, my intentions, my talents, the only thing that matters is gravity: if we fall, we fall, and there's no defending against it, there's no argument to be made for my life. 
And yet, at my most vulnerable, I was safer than our kids.
Inside the jail I was first to go through fingerprinting and searches. 
The officer who processed me, said that what I'd done sounded like the noblest thing anyone's been arrested for. The one next to him said his mother and his sister were both teachers, and he thanked me in their name. I teach their kids. We love the same people. And here we were, forced to stand on opposing sides of a wall, all of us feeling none of this was just.
I sat down next to two girls. They were my students' age. At 16 and 17, they had just finished their sophomore and junior years in high school and they could've been my students. 
We talked and they thanked us for standing up for them. 
They were scared. They were alone. They'd been picked up for something stupid, they said, for something they were embarrassed to tell me about. They were humble and sweet, honest and young.
I asked them if they felt they had everything they needed to learn in their schools. One of them laughed at the question, the other hang her head, shaking it softly in resignation. 
They told me how they can't study at home because there are no textbooks, and they don't have wi-fi. They told me how their teachers point them to the public library, but how nobody seemed to understand they didn't have reliable transportation.
That's why I'd gotten arrested - because these kids didn't belong here. Because they were only here for being poor and Black in a state where their existence is only a subject of good fortune - not a guarantee, not a right. Their lives were being attacked, and they were being punished for believing what they'd been taught - that they didn't matter, that they didn't deserve. They had been given no chance to defend their lives, no chance to argue for the value of their lives. 
They had been scooped up by the tips of their wings, with haste and force, and they'd been thrown into this place, to be made into nothing.
I saw them again, on my way to the magistrate's office in the jail. They were sitting next to each other, more tired and colder now, alone in that freezing room with metal benches, hungry and scared of being abandoned, unable to reach anyone who could come free them. I felt so helpless and so angry at my helplessness. These were my students, my kids, and I would block 100 intersections to get them the warmth and food and books that they deserve.
Why, Governor McCrory - why is it so controversial to argue that‪#‎StudentsDeserveMore‬ ? Why do you paint us as dangerous when the only thing we want to do is teach our students so that they can learn?

Learn more about ORGANIZE 2020 at give if you can.

Anca Stefan

Please take to twitter and share this story and the story of all of the brave teachers in North Carolina 


Note: Anca Stefan and the 14 other teachers are very concerned about the status of their teaching licenses. Please read more at