"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Sleeping Giant is Awakening As Parents Across America Unite

Ravitch Says The Sleeping Giant is Awakening
As Parents Across America Unite

by Judy Rabin
Hailed as a “hero” by supporters who came to hear her give the keynote address, Diane Ravitch took the stage for almost an hour as she spoke to parents, teachers, and activists from across the country Monday night at PS/IS 89 in New York City. They came from Seattle, Florida, Rochester, New York City, New Jersey, New Orleans, Chicago, and elsewhere, for the kickoff of the nationwide organization Parents Across America (PAA) and a call to action to take back public education.
PAA is a grassroots effort and political campaign spearheaded by parent activists and local organizations joining forces nationally against corporate interests who have hijacked public education and against the politicians who have turned their backs on the voices of parents and professional educators. “Since the top-down forces that are imposing their will on our schools have become national in scope, we need to be as well,” according to the PAA website.

Ravitch told the audience at this auspicious gathering, there is a perfect storm brewing in which those who have delegitimized public education are taking advantage of a bad economy and deep budget cuts to implement their own ideological agenda. She criticized President Obama’s Race to the Top by saying “education is not a race – education is not a competition. Good schools depend on collaboration, not on teachers competing for dollars. ” She said the punishments and remedies instituted under No Child Left Behind have escalated under the current administration and closing of schools destroys the social capital which consists of the relationships in the community essential for good, strong schools and a quality education.

The passion, excitement, determination and anger in the room were palpable as speaker after speaker got up to discuss how the current education reform is damaging their own communities, their schools and any chance of real learning opportunities for their children. They spoke of communities being torn apart in New York City and other urban areas where parents and teachers are pitted against each other. Members of the national board of PAA urged the audience to contact their local legislators and work to educate parents in their local communities by providing them with the tools and research-based evidence that illustrates why merit pay, charter schools and testing are failed policies that have not improved education or closed the achievement gap. In fact, with 20 percent of children living in poverty, Ravitch says poverty is the elephant in the room and it is an issue.

Up until now, parents have had very little say as the corporate reformers “move children around like checkers on a checkerboard” in their mindless pursuit of test scores, explained Ravitch. That’s why PAA hopes to galvanize parents and empower them to channel their frustration by working together with teachers and lobbying state legislatures and Congress to enact real, genuine education reform that will improve public schools, not close them. Some of the alternatives and ideas advocated by PAA include common sense solutions such as: high quality early childhood programs; parent education programs; reasonable limits on class size: medical clinics in schools: more professionalism in teaching: and more support and better working conditions for teachers; and acknowledging what every teacher and educator already knows -- test scores have been and still are closely correlated with the socioeconomic status of a school’s population.
Ravitch ended on a note of optimism. “There is hope even though all the power and all the money is on one side, and on the other side there is no one standing up for teachers. Parents are the sleeping giants of this debate. If the sleeping giant awakens you can take back American education and the time to start is today.”

For more information on Parents Across America go to: www.parentsacrossamerica.org and join -- today.


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