Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Scientific American takes an unscientific approach to science education



Science Education: The Problem is Poverty, not Lack of High Standards

Sent to Scientific American, July 31, 2012

Scientific American thinks that high science standards are the reason some states do better than others on science tests (Can the US get an ‘A’ in Science? August 2012). There is no evidence this is so. The two top states, in science, as mentioned by Scientific American, are Massachusetts and Minnesota. They also rank near the bottom of the country in percentage of children living in poverty.

Study after study has shown that children who come from high-poverty families do poorly on standardized tests, and the factors related to poverty, insufficient food quality and quantity, lack of health care, and lack of access to books, have been shown to be strongly related to student achievement.

American children from middle class families who attend well-funded schools score at the top of the world on standardized tests, including math and science. Our mediocre overall scores are because of our unacceptably high level of poverty: 23% of our children live in poverty, which ranks us 34th out of 35 economically advanced countries.

The problem is poverty, not lack of high standards.


Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California





Notes and sources:

Massachusetts has only 14% child poverty, Minnesota, 15%.

Child poverty in the US, individual states: National Kids Count Program: http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/acrossstates/Rankings.aspx?ind=43


Children from high poverty families:

Berliner, D.C. (2006). Our impoverished view of educational reform. Teachers College Record, 108(6), 949–995.

Berliner, D. 2009. Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success. Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. http://epicpolicy.org/publication/poverty-and-potential;

Payne, K. and Biddle, B. 1999. Poor school funding, child poverty, and mathematics
achievement. Educational Researcher 28 (6): 4-13.

Krashen, S., Lee, SY., and McQuillan, J. 2012. Is the library important? Multivariate studies at the national and international level. Journal of Language and Literacy Education, 8(1)? 26-36.

American children from well-funded schools: Berliner, op cit.

23% in poverty: UNICEF. Innocenti Report Card 10






Monday, July 30, 2012

Instead of worrying about applying the standards, we should be resisting them. To do this, we have to work together.



The Common Core Standards is a tsunami that will destroy all of us unless it is stopped. It is going to cost billions, bleeding money from where it is badly needed and it will soon impose what can only be described as an astonishing amount of testing. All this is happening under false pretenses. There is no evidence that our schools require these harsh measures, and plenty of evidence that they will not improve student achievement. There is plenty of evidence that the Common Core will further enrich the .01%, those whose only concern is profit:

Let me repeat: This will destroy all of us.

Professional groups, with the exception of NABE, have not opposed the standards. They have only been concerned about making sure their group is included, and that the standards and tests are right for their students. School librarians want to make sure the standards include information skills. Bilingual educators want to be sure that tests will be administered in the students’ first language. ESL specialists want to be sure that the standards and tests are sensitive to the needs of the English learner, etc etc.

All of these kinds of objections assume that the Common Core is a good idea. It isn’t. Instead of worrying about applying the standards, we should be resisting them. To do this, we have to work together.

The Common Core train has left the station, but it hasn’t arrived at its destination.

Colleagues, please please please inform yourselves. The case against the standards is overwhelming and backed up by a great deal of evidence. It has been presented by well-respected and honored members of the profession. The leaders of the standards movement have simply ignored this counterevidence, but I hope you won’t.

If you do nothing else, get on Susan Ohanian’s mailing list.: susanohanian.org Ohanian’s blog is the center of gravity of the resistance.

Read Diane Ravtich’s blog (dianeravtich.net).

Read David Berliner’s analyses. Start with http://dianeravitch.net/2012/07/23/your-homework-berliner-on-education-and-inequality/

Follow Alfie Kohn on twitter and check out his website: alfiekohn.org

Follow Paul Thomas on twitter.

Follow Sudan Dufresne1 (@GetUpStandUP2) on twitter. She retweets nearly all tweets of interest and helps you get to the central issues quickly.


Here are my recent efforts:

The New York Times Sunday dialog: http://www.susanohanian.org/core.php?id=305
I presented the arguments against the common core in a letter, critics and supporters responded, and then I responded.

How much testing?
Posted on Diane Ravitch’s blog: http://dianeravitch.net/2012/07/25/stephen-krashen-how-much-testing/ AND
Posted on The Answer Sheet, Valerie Strauss’ Washington Post blog: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/
I presented evidence that we soon will have more testing than ever seen on planet Earth.

And an older attempt:
The National Standards Discussion: A Weapon of Mass Distraction. http://www.schoolsmatter.info/2011/08/national-standards-discussion-weapon-of.html
We are invited to comment on the details of the standards but not whether we need standards in the first place. Some excerpts from my short paper:
Those who accept the invitation to discuss the content of the standards will have the impression they have a seat at the table. In reality, invitations to discuss the standards are a means of control, diverting attention from the real issues.
“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum … That gives people the sense that there's free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate" (N. Chomsky, The Common Good, p. 42, 2002).

The Common Core: The wants of the selfish few are outweighing the needs, desires, hopes, dreams and even the lives of the many. (modified from Star Trek II, The Wrath of Khan, and Robert J. Sawyer 2012. Triggers, p 285 Ace: New York).



















Pearson and the Crumbling Foundation of Standardized Testing


In 2006, a math pilot program for middle school students in a Dallas-area district returned surprising results.
The students’ improved grasp of mathematical concepts stunned Walter Stroup, the University of Texas at Austin professor behind the program. But at the end of the year, students’ scores had increased only marginally on state standardized TAKS tests, unlike what Mr. Stroup had seen in the classroom. 

A similar dynamic showed up in a comparison of the students’ scores on midyear benchmark tests and what they received on their end-of-year exams. Standardized test scores the previous year were better predictors of their scores the next year than the benchmark test they had taken a few months earlier. 

Now, in studies that threaten to shake the foundation of high-stakes test-based accountability, Mr. Stroup and two other researchers said they believe they have found the reason: a glitch embedded in the DNA of the state exams that, as a result of a statistical method used to assemble them, suggests they are virtually useless at measuring the effects of classroom instruction. 

Pearson, which has a five-year, $468 million contract to create the state’s tests through 2015, uses “item response theory” to devise standardized exams, as other testing companies do. Using I.R.T., developers select questions based on a model that correlates students’ ability with the probability that they will get a question right. 

That produces a test that Mr. Stroup said is more sensitive to how it ranks students than to measuring what they have learned. That design flaw also explains why Richardson students’ scores on the previous year’s TAKS test were a better predictor of performance on the next year’s TAKS test than the benchmark exams were, he said. The benchmark exams were developed by the district, the TAKS by the testing company. 

Mr. Stroup, who is preparing to submit the findings to multiple research journals, presented them in June at a meeting of the Texas House Public Education Committee. He said he was aware of their implications for a widely used and accepted method of developing tests, and for how the state evaluates public schools. 

“I’ve thought about being wrong,” Mr. Stroup said. “I’d love if everyone could say, ‘You are wrong, everything’s fine,’ ” he said. “But these are hundreds and hundreds of numbers that we’ve run now.” 

Gloria Zyskowski, the deputy associate commissioner who handles assessments at the Texas Education Agency, said in a statement that the agency needed more time to review the findings. But she said that Mr. Stroup’s comments in June reflected “fundamental misunderstandings” about test development and that there was no evidence of a flaw in the test. 

After a lengthy back and forth at the meeting, the committee’s chairman, Rob Eissler, suggested a “battle of the bands” — a hearing where the test vendors and researchers traded questions. Mr. Eissler, Republican of The Woodlands, said recently that he found Mr. Stroup’s research “very interesting” and that he was weighing another hearing. 

Mr. Stroup’s research comes as opposition to high-stakes standardized testing in Texas is creating an alliance between parents, educators and school leaders who wonder how the tests affect classroom instruction and small-government conservatives who question the expense and bureaucracy they impose. 

This is not first time the use of standardized test scores in Texas has been questioned. In 2009, the state implemented the Texas Projection Measure, a formula that critics said allowed schools to count students as passing who did not. After outcry from lawmakers, the state dropped the measure in 2011. 

State Representative Scott Hochberg, Democrat of Houston, led the charge against the measure and has since proposed legislation aimed at reforming the role of standardized testing because of data showing that a student’s test score on the first year highly predicted it for the next. 

“I have for a long time said that the accountability system doesn’t give us all the information that the numbers are used to generate,” Mr. Hochberg said, adding that basing accountability “more on the kid’s history than the specifics of what happened in the classroom that year may make us feel good but it doesn’t give us any true information.”
msmith@texastribune.org

Friday, July 27, 2012

Joel Klein, News Corp. and ALEC

Looks like Parents Across America have a solid press operation. Nice work.

Schooling in the Ownership Society
Media Matters 


The Wall Street Journal Covers Up ALEC Link To Anti-Union School Privatization Law

BLOG ››› ››› MELODY JOHNSON
The Wall Street Journal this morning failed to report ties between the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and controversial "parent-trigger" legislation that would allow parents to take over and convert public schools to charter schools. They also failed to report that the Journal's parent company, News Corp, is a member of ALEC. The Journal's treatment of the legislation also cited no criticism of the proposal, which has been described as an effort "to manipulate parents into letting [the charter school lobby] privatize more public schools.
In the July 23 article, the Wall Street Journal reported on legislation that, according to the article, "empowers parents to take control of a school if enough of them sign petitions" and convert it into a charter school. But the article failed to mention that the proposal is based heavily on model legislation developed by ALEC, a controversial right-wing group that was recently exposed as a significant influence in the pro-charter movement in Georgia.
ALEC has also been behind such controversial legislation as voter ID laws and "Stand Your Ground" legislation. After the group's involvement in these efforts were made public, several of their corporate membersleft the organization. One of the corporations who remains a member of ALEC, however, is News Corp, the parent company of the Wall Street Journal. The article did not disclose the paper's relationship with ALEC and similarly did not disclose their relationship even while shielding ALEC from critics.
In addition to not disclosing their conflict of interest, the Journal reported on the claims of "advocates" of the legislation, but made no mention of opposition by several parent organizations, including parents who wanted their initial petition signatures in favor of that legislation revoked, because "many parents said that they had been misled about what the petitions called for" as well as "harassment by some signature gatherers." In addition, the nonprofit group Parents Across America pointed out:
According to Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters and a public school parent in NYC, "The Parent Trigger was devised as an underhanded trick by the charter lobby to manipulate parents into letting them privatize more public schools.  The fact that it has aroused huge controversy and has so far failed to achieve any results in California is one more reason legislators should be wary of passing it here in New York State. Parents want to be involved from the ground up in devising positive reforms to improve their children's schools, like class size reduction or offering a more well-rounded curriculum.  They do not want their schools either closed, converted into charters or half their staff fired."http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/07/27-5

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Why All the Khan-troversy?

At The Answer Sheet, Valerie Strauss has spurred a debate over the definition of slope—not exactly the sort of detailed intellectual stuff we might expect in a newspaper.

The discussion of the finer points of mathematics is more akin to the nuanced conversations you may find in a university math department or a scholarly journal. But the source of this controversy is Sal Khan and his Khan Academy—which leads us to our need to pull back from the slope debate and address just why is there a controversy about Khan?

I don't know Sal Khan, and I recognize the inherent danger in making claims about anyone's intent. On the surface, Khan's drive to make educational videos accessible to more people has some elements of equity and social justice that I share, but those stated goals are deeply marred by the fact that the equity gap embedded in all technology appears likely to wipe out any access advantage Khan claims his academy offers.

This leads to one very important point about the Khan Academy: The problems with the Khan Academy are primarily couched in the many distorted and corrosive messages and assumptions that the Khan Academy perpetuates as well as how political, popular, and media responses to the Khan Academy deform the education reform debate. Here are the reasons for the controversy:

• Sal Khan directly and indirectly (through media messages about him and his videos) perpetuates a popular and flawed assumption that effective teaching is a direct and singular extension of content expertise. Khan's allure is in part built on the misguided view in the U.S. that anyone who can do, can also teach. Khan has neither the expertise or experience as a teacher to justify the praise and claims made about him or his academy. Khan is a celebrity entrepreneur, not an educator. [If Khan had created a series of free videos showing people how to do surgery, I suspect the response would be different, although the essence of the venture is little different.]

• The videos themselves are nothing more than textbooks, static containers of fixed content. Learning, then, is reduced to the acquisition of static knowledge. The videos reinforce that content is value-neutral (it isn't), and the videos allow teaching and learning to remain within a transmissional paradigm that is neither new nor what is best for the purposes of universal public education in a free society. Whether a video, a textbook, or a set of standards, fixed content removes the agency from the teacher and the learner about what content matters. While the videos are offered as substitutes for lectures, Khan and those who support the academy appear unaware that even lectures in classrooms are reinforced by discussions—content is presented and then negotiated among teachers and students.

• Inherent in the allure of the Khan Academy is the naive faith that technology is somehow offering teaching and learning something new, something revolutionary. The blunt truth, however, is that technology has been heralded for that quality for a century now, and it simply isn't all it is cracked up to be. Khan's videos are no more revolutionary than the radio, TV, VHS player, or the laser disc. Technology is often, as with the Khan Academy, a tragic waste of time and energy that misleads us away from the very human endeavors of teaching and learning. Technology at its worst is when it further isolates the learner and learning—already a central problem with traditional classroom practices.

• Sal Khan as a celebrity and self-proclaimed educator feeds into and perpetuates the cultural belief that education is somehow not a scholarly field and that education is a failure because of the entrenched nature of the "education establishment." Khan as an outsider hasn't thought of anything that hasn't already been considered by the many and varied scholars and practitioners in education. Does any field benefit from ideas and practices outside that field? Yes, that is not the issue. But Khan is but one of many of the leading voices heralded as educational revolutionaries (think Gates ad Rhee) who have either no or very little experience or expertise in education. The ugly truth is that if education is failing, that failure is likely because the scholars and practitioners in education have never had the primary voice in how education should be implemented. The great irony is that education scholars and practitioners (notably critical ones) are the true outsiders of the "education establishment." If you want to know something about math and how to teach it, talk with my high school math teacher, Karen Neal, first, and then you may be able to decide how valuable Khan's work is.

• The Khan Academy reinforces the misguided faith we have in a silver-bullet answer to complex educational problems. Education in the U.S. is not suffering from a lack of packaged content (in fact, our commitment to textbooks is one of the major problems in public education); education is burdened by social and education inequities that are far more complex than substituting classroom lectures with videos anyone can access (if that person has internet access and the hardware to view the videos). It is easier and less painful to praise the essentially empty solution Khan is offering than to confront the serious failures of U.S. society and universal public education.

Without the fanfare and hyperbole, Khan's quest to make content accessible online may have some real value—if Khan is willing to bring into that plan the expertise of education scholars and practitioners. Khan's plan would certainly benefit from a strong dose of humility; a first step to real learning is to acknowledge what one does not know.

But Khan and his academy are likely doomed because of the feeding frenzy around him. The public and media have an unquenchable thirst for rugged individualism, a thirst that is blind, deaf, and ultimately corrosive; and Khan appears to present a simplistic message about how to save a very important but complicated public institution.

The controversy about Khan isn't about the definition of slope, but the slippery slope of believing the hype because that is easier to swallow than the truth.

Note: See the critique by Christopher Danielson and Michael Paul Goldenberg for a more detailed explanation of problems I have identified above.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Reduce spelling, grammar, phonics, increase free voluntary reading: Research supports Rosen et al


Research: Rosen’s writers are right about reading and writing

Sent to the Guardian, July 24, 2012

Research supports Michael Rosen and 90 other writers and artists who urged a reduction in spelling, grammar and phonics teaching and testing, and an increased emphasis on reading for enjoyment (“Children must be free to read for fun,” July 24, 2012).
Studies done over the last 100 years show that spelling instruction has very little effect on spelling accuracy.
Studies done over the last 100 years show that the formal study of grammar does not improve students’ reading and writing.
Studies done over the last 25 years show that heavy phonics study (termed “systematic intensive phonics”) only helps children do better on tests in which they pronounce lists of words out-loud. It has no significant effect on tests in which children have to understand what they read.
Decades of research also confirm that those who read more are better readers, better writers, spell better, have larger vocabularies, and have better control of complex grammar rules.
The best way to make sure students develop a strong command of written and spoken English is to encourage wide, self-selected reading.

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

Some sources:
Spelling: Research reviewed in Krashen, S. 2004. The Power of Reading: Heinemann, Libraries Unlimited. Earliest study: Rice, J. 1897. The futility of the spelling grind. Forum 23: 163-172, 409-419.
Grammar: Research reviewed in Krashen, S. (op. cit.)., Hillocks, G. (1986). Research on Written Composition. New Directions for Teaching. Urbana, IL: ERIC.
Phonics: Garen, E. 2002. Resisting Reading Mandates. Heinemann. Krashen, S. 2009. Does intensive decoding instruction contribute to reading comprehension? Knowledge Quest 37 (4): 72-74.

Those who read more …. Krashen, S. 2004. The Power of Reading. Heinemann and Libraries Unlimited.



Children must be free to read for fun
July 24, 2012
Letter published in The Guardian
We are writers and artists who produce books for children. In our view, the proposed draft primary English curriculum, the phonics screening check at the end of year 1, and the new spelling, punctuation and grammar test at the end of year 6 pose a threat to reading for pleasure in primary schools.
The recent Ofsted report Moving English Forward made a specific recommendation to the government that it call on all schools to develop policies on reading for enjoyment. To date, there has been no such move by government. On the other hand, millions are being spent on systematic synthetic phonics programmes and training, subsidised by the government, although there is no evidence that such programmes help children understand what they are reading.
As a result, more school time will be devoted to reading as an academic, test-driven exercise; less time will be available for reading and writing for enjoyment. We deplore this state of affairs and consider that the quality of children's school lives is about to be altered for the worse.
We call on the government to implement the Ofsted recommendation on reading for pleasure, to withdraw the phonics screening check and the spelling, punctuation and grammar test, and to reinstate mixed methods of initial reading methods (which include "basic phonics" and real books).

Michael Rosen
Ed Wicke
Anne Rooney
Alan Gibbons
Jeremy Strong
Philip Reeve
Bernard Ashley
Sue Purkiss
Anne Cassidy
Eileen Browne
Denis Bond
Dennis Hamley
Tanya Landman
Bali Rai
Nick Arnold
Anna Perera
Bernard Ashley
Sue Purkiss
Eugenie Summerfield
Malachy Doyle
Philip Gross
Vivian French
Andrew Taylor
Angela Topping
Linda Newbery
Tommy Donbavand
Miriam Moss
Damian Harvey
Dawn Finch
John Dougherty
Harriet Castor
David Sinden
John Shelley
Tony Mitton
Meg Rosoff
Joe Friedman
Jamila Gavin
Lynne Benton
Jenny Vaughan
Bob and Brenda Swindells
Andy Seed
Ann Bryant
Philip Ardagh
Harriet Goodwin
Steve Weatherill
Antony Lishak
Pauline Fisk
Cathy Brett
Catherine Johnson
Dr Jenny Sullivan
Dr Lydia Syson
John Masson
Chris Connaughton
Jay Humphrey
AF Harrold
Seamus Gibbons
Ian McLaughlin
Oisin McGann
Liz Monahan
Si Smith
Daniel Blythe
Charlotte Guillain
Adam Guillain
Steve Bowkett
Tamsyn Murray
Gwen Grant
Heather Dyer
Mary Hoffman
Caroline Pitcher
Katherine Langrish
Ann Jungman
Chris Chivers
Matthew Morgan
Kelly McCain
Anthony McGowan
Moira Butterfield
Sara Sheridan
Chris De Cordova
Cathy Butler
Nick Ward
Steve Lowe
Theresa Tomlinson
Alison Leonard
Steve Skidmore
Katy Maryon
Steve Feasey
Maeve Friel
Helen Bromley
Brian Redsea
Simon Packham
Jo Cotterill
Brian Moses

Obscuring history and human agency through NCLB, RTTT and CCSS

"Prior research, then, strongly suggests that charter programs have not lived up to their initial promise of transcending the segregating effects of traditional district boundary lines. In fact, these studies indicate charters exacerbate already rampant school segregation, particularly for Black students." — Erica Frankenberg, Genevieve Siegel-Hawley, Jia Wang

The Smith and Carlos Statue at San José State University
The Smith and Carlos Statue
at San José State University
I was reading Dave Zirin's latest piece, Fists of Freedom: An Olympic Story Not Taught in School, this morning and several things stood out and had me thinking in terms of how Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and its related high-stakes testing regimes not only distort curriculum, but how they are intended to distort students' consciousness of their reality.

It was probably Zirin's mention of the testing-industrial-complex conglomerates Pearson and Prentice Hall in his first paragraph that had me thinking of the article from a perspective of the damage Corporate Core Standards are poised to inflict on working class children. Zirin points out that entire history and context that are associated with the iconic image of Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising their fists at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City is completely lost in the corporate account of the photo and the period. Also absent from the curriculum published by the profitable firm best known for Pineapplegate is an explanation of white supremacist Avery Brundage's kowtowing to Hitler in 1936.

Zirin proceeds to fill in all the details and context missing from Pearson's corporate account in a way that will frighten StudentsFirst's David Coleman since it exposes power inequalities and racism at every level of society. As in the case of Texas textbooks, this is the kind of history that Corporate Core Standards is trying to obscure, distort, and deny at every turn.

The essay ends with:

The story of Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics deserves more than a visual sound bite in a quickie textbook section on "Black Power." As the Zinn Education Project points out in its "If We Knew Our History" series, this is one of many examples of the missing and distorted history in school, which turns the curriculum into a checklist of famous names and dates. When we introduce students to the story of Smith and Carlos' defiant gesture, we can offer a rich context of activism, courage, and solidarity that breathes life into the study of history—and the long struggle for racial equality.

Several very important points here. First Zirin cites "many examples of the missing and distorted history in school," which of course, is by design. Our oppressors not only don't want young people to learn specific ideas and examples of struggle, they especially don't want students to draw the conclusion that they can actually change their reality through struggle. Instead students should become depositories for what Bill Gates, Arne Duncan, and David Coleman feel prepares them "college and career" (read low paying service sector jobs). Never let students begin to engage in critical thinking since that might allow them draw their own conclusions of society, or worse, try to address systemic problems. Confer:

It is not surprising that the banking concept of education regards men as adaptable, manageable beings. The more students work at storing the deposits entrusted to them, the less they develop the critical consciousness which would result from their intervention in the world as transformers of that world. The more completely they accept the passive role imposed on them, the more they tend simply to adapt to the world as it is and to the fragmented view of reality deposited in them. — Paulo Freire (Pedagogy of the Oppressed)

Keeping the history of struggle away from the most oppressed in society is of paramount importance to the billionaires, profiteers, and racist politicians pushing school privatization via charters and vouchers. We see examples of this everywhere. From the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) Corporate Charter chain denying African American students their history and culture, to Michael Hicks, Tom Horne, or John Huppenthal's book burnings banning in Arizona, to the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools (PLAS) removing access to ethnic studies and heritage language programs for impoverished students of color, there's a deliberate effort on the part of the corporate education reform junta to prevent teaching critical thinking in lieu of memorization of material for standardized tests.

Zirin then mentions that shrinking curriculums, epitomized by CCSS, "turns the curriculum into a checklist of famous names and dates." Putting aside the glaring fact that this again speaks precisely to the banking concept of education aforementioned, CCSS and its attendant testing regime have all but enshrined the "Great Man Theory" of history. This isn't surprising given the extremely high opinion Eli Broad, Bill Gates, Reed Hastings, and all the other corporate education reform billionaires hold of themselves. Much of corporate education reform, including the idea that market concepts like competition will improve education, are a reflection of its proponents' extreme narcissism.

Common Core State Standards, like all the other components of corporate education reform, are an antithesis of social justice. Reducing students to repositories of information deemed important by David Coleman is part and parcel the banking system of education. Instead of teaching students what they need to liberate themselves, Corporate Core Standards were designed to insure passivity and compliance. We must resist the real "status quo" of arbitrary standards and high-stakes standardized tests by every means possible. We must use Smith and Carlos' example of resistance not as something to regurgitate on a Scantron form, but as something we must do ourselves.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Paul Toner and the TURNcoats


The other day one of my colleagues here in Massachusetts asked me if I knew that out in Ohio, where they have a Republican governor and legislature, teachers are about to be evaluated based on test scores.  When I responded that that was already a reality here in Massachusetts, she said flatly: When did that happen?

And so now are many teachers waking up and wondering, when did that happen, especially in the bluest of states, right?  This is the kind of stuff we expect where ALEC handles the legislative agenda, but Massachusetts, really?  Really.  The dirty deal was accomplished through close coordination between Stand on for Children and president of the state NEA affiliate, Paul Toner.  A movement to oust Toner is now underway, with a group of Massachusetts teachers angry as hornets that their lawyering union president has sold them down the river with a deal much like Ohio, Tennessee, Florida and other states where Republican governors reign.

One of those teachers, Tim Scott, sent me links to an organization within NEA and AFT that helps us understand Toner’s agenda.  It is called Teacher Union Reform Network (TURN), and Toner is an up and comer in this group, which is now aimed at undermining the values and rights of teachers for the benefit of the corporate overlords they serve.

TURN was started in 1996 by AFT President, Helen Bernstein, with a grant from the PEW Charitable Trust.  Kicked off in April, it was one of Bernstein’s last official projects (retirement bonus?).  From the LA Times:
The former teacher, who will conclude a six-year stint as UTLA president in June, said she decided to take the job because she views organized labor's role in school reform as being as crucial to the success of the changes as it is to the unions' survival.
"Unless the unions engaged in the process are seen as a real leader, nothing's going to happen," Bernstein said.
Buzz Wilms, a professor at UCLA's graduate school of education, compared the organization to similar movements in industrial labor unions, where adversarial relationships with management have become more cooperative in a common drive for improving product quality.
"It's always a delicate balance [to avoid] claims that they have cozied up to management too far," Wilms said. "If TURN succeeds, their members will still have their bread-and-butter issues close at heart, but they will expand their charter to include the quality of education and student achievement."

Cozied, indeed.  By 1999, TURN-coats were led by Adam Urbanski, who is now a VP for AFT and still a leader of TURN :

May 06, 1999|RICHARD LEE COLVIN | TIMES EDUCATION WRITER
                


Huddled around a conference table in a fancy Seattle hotel, America's most reform-minded teachers union bosses sounded more like crusading politicians than advocates for the rank and file.
Why not tie teachers' raises to their ability to pass demanding tests? Even better, fire slackers who can't cut it. Or, most radical of all, pay teachers based on how much their students learn.
Until recently, union leaders had been loath to even whisper such ideas.
"In the past, being a union boss was like being a defense attorney. If you molested kids or were incompetent, my job was to get you off the hook," said Adam Urbanski, director of the Teacher Union Reform Network, a group of progressive union locals that held one of its regular meetings last fall in Seattle. "That's not flying anymore."
Indeed, unions nationwide are negotiating contracts with provisions that link teachers' skills to their pay. They are developing training programs to improve the skills of veteran teachers. In New York, Cincinnati and elsewhere they are helping administrators shut down failing schools and evaluating colleagues who are not making the grade.
Selling such ideas, however, can be a challenge. Teachers worry that their economic interests are being downplayed to serve a political agenda designed to improve the union image, while administrators often regard union reforms as encroachments on management powers. Many administrators also doubt that the types of reforms supported by unions--which sometimes carry a hefty price tag--will lead to gains in student achievement.
There is reason for skepticism. The results of union reform efforts have been difficult to document. Even members of the reform network say they are frustrated by the slow pace of change. . .
By 2001, Urbanski and the TURNcoats were collecting cash from none other than Eli Broad, to the tune of $10,000,000, for their work to undercut teachers:
April 05, 2001|DOUG SMITH | TIMES EDUCATION WRITER
Billionaire financier Eli Broad announced Wednesday that his educational foundation is making a $10-million commitment to school reform efforts in Los Angeles.
Speaking at the Town Hall forum downtown, Broad said the Education Venture Fund is already funding programs to train principals, give private school scholarships to children in overcrowded schools, support new charter schools and train volunteers.
"We are going to seek out, identify and fund action-oriented and promising initiatives," the financial services tycoon said after introductory comments by Mayor Richard Riordan.
Broad, chairman and chief executive of SunAmerica, donated $100 million in 1999 to a foundation for programs that are not being tried because they are considered too risky by superintendents and large foundations. The grants focus on large urban districts in three areas: management (down to the principal level), governance and labor relations.
In an interview, Broad said the foundation is concentrating its efforts in school districts such as Chicago, Seattle and San Diego, where the superintendents are known as innovators. But he said that he felt an obligation to work with the Los Angeles Unified School District because he is based in this city.
Among the foundation's efforts is a project with the Teachers Union Reform Network to develop a model collective bargaining agreement oriented toward quality teaching rather than work rules and grievances, he said. . . .

By June of 2001, Rod Paige was signed on as a supporter, as was NEA President, Bob Chase, who viewed it all as very positive development.

June 02, 2001|DUKE HELFAND | TIMES EDUCATION WRITER
                




Los Angeles financier Eli Broad and leading teachers union reformers on Friday unveiled a nationwide pilot effort to improve student achievement by rethinking the way unions and management conduct business.
Union officials and school district leaders in four urban systems, including San Francisco Unified, will tackle some of organized labor's sacrosanct issues that usually prove divisive at the bargaining table.
In each district, labor and management might negotiate such items as the length of school days, incentive pay for teachers or peer reviews.
Traditionally, teachers unions have resisted making concessions on these issues, arguing that they would mean extra unpaid work, curb employee rights or have a divisive effect on rank-and-file solidarity. However, unions are under increasing pressure from state legislatures and parents to play productive roles in raising academic achievement. That pressure is expected to increase if President Bush's proposal to require standardized testing in all states wins congressional approval.
In each of the pilot districts, the sides will attempt to refocus contract negotiations on accountability, teacher quality and achievement instead of focusing exclusively on salaries, work rules, grievance procedures and other points that usually dominate labor talks.
"[Unions] have to be willing to try things that they weren't willing to try a decade ago," said Broad, who introduced the initiative in Washington alongside Education Secretary Rod Paige.
"One of the ways to make progress is to start with a collective bargaining agreement that makes student achievement the most important issue," Broad added.
The new approach is certain to test the fortitude of labor leaders. But the head of the Teacher Union Reform Network, a collection of progressive union locals that will oversee the project, expressed optimism.
Adam Urbanski, the head of the teachers union in Rochester, N.Y., predicted that better relationships between labor and management will allow the school systems to focus on classroom instruction and education itself--two issues that often land on the back burner during contract negotiations.
"This is not just about goodwill," Urbanski said. "This is about turning goodwill into results."
In addition to San Francisco and Rochester, the pilot effort involves school systems in Toledo, Ohio, and Montgomery County, Md. An education foundation established by Broad will spend $1.7 million on the four-year endeavor, the latest expenditure by the billionaire chairman of financial services institution SunAmerica Inc. into education reform.
Some teachers worry that altering the traditional posture of their unions could threaten the many rights they have won in collective bargaining. But others said they believe that better relationships will help reduce rancor and allow both sides to take risks.
"It's a very positive step," said Bob Chase, president of the country's largest teachers union, the National Education Assn. "We'll see what happens down the line. The important thing is that people are willing to do things that might make a difference in the lives of teachers and students."

Fast forward to 2010, and we find the network continuing to be funded by corporate foundations that have public school teachers in their crosshairs.  Coordination now is handled through another non-profit, Consortium for Educational Change, which is funneling Gates money to both AFT and NEA players who want to get in on the action.  Enter, Paul Toner.  Here is part of an announcement from April, 2012, that offers the expansion plans for TURN, so that the cancer is widely introduced throughout the NEA and AFT.

Expansion of the Regional TURN Satellites
Labor-Management Collaborative Partnerships to Improve Teaching and Learning
       
The Consortium for Educational Change (CEC), an Illinois-based network of teacher unions, school districts, and professional organizations that work to make school systems more collaborative, high-performing organizations, was awarded $2 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to support the expansion of the Teacher Union Reform Network (TURN), a national network of American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association union locals.   With this funding, the five TURN regional networks will expand efforts to help educators and unions to lead the education reform movement on policies, programs, and practices that impact schools, teaching, and learning. The effort will be managed by CEC.

Organization and Mission: CEC is a 501(c)3 organization, affiliated with the IEA-NEA, whose mission is to improve student achievement by working with districts and schools in becoming collaborative, high-performing organizations.  CEC helps schools and districts accelerate student learning by bringing together teachers, educational support personnel, school administrators, school board members, and parents to stimulate and promote change in school structures and systems.  TURN is a nationwide network of more than 100 union locals from the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association that work together to promote progressive reform in education and teacher unions. TURN’s five regional networks:
·       Promote progressive teacher unionism.
·       Build relationships between TURN and key community leaders and allies.
·       Cultivate the next generation of teacher leaders to influence education policymaking.
Description of Project: CEC will provide the staffing and curriculum to work with the TURN network to build capacity for education reform at the grassroots level.   Dr. W. Patrick Dolan, author of Restructuring Our Schools:  A Primer on Systemic Change and Mary McDonald, Consortium for Educational Change assist the leadership of the TURN regions in building capacity to organize union-management teams to collaboratively address the challenging issues that often impede successful education reform efforts.  The TURN regions will leverage successes in these reforms in order to inspire a cultural shift within national and state union organizations to inspire education reforms that impact teaching and learning.   These regions include:
·      CalTURN                        
·      Great Lakes TURN               
·      Mid-Atlantic/Southeast TURN        
·      Northeast TURN                        
·      Southwest TURN                
Expected Outcomes: CEC is working with the TURN Regions to:
·       Recruit new teacher leaders to advocate for progressive causes.
·       Provide organizational learning, support and engagement through regional TURN meeting structures and communication vehicles.
·       Provide ongoing support for labor-management teams to jointly address policies, programs, and practices that impact teaching and learning.
·       Communicate successes by sharing learning with other TURN locals and regions.
·       Influence teaching and learning policies and programs at the local, state and national levels.

Useful Links:                www.turnexchange.net
                                        www.cecillinois.org
                                        www.wpdolan.com

Meanwhile, Toner continues to market himself as the logical successor to Dennis Van Roekel, who should have been sent packing last year, when he signed off on the Gates/Broad plan to base teacher evaluation on test scores.

Here are details on the TURN Northeast Satellite, with Toner listed prominently:

Are you looking for a place where progressive unions can discuss authentic education reform and the union’s role in it?  Where you can network with your union colleagues and learn from each other?  TURN is the place for you.

More than a decade ago, Adam Urbanski, President of the Rochester Teachers Association, Helen Bernstein, President of the United Teachers of Los Angeles and a group of progressive union leaders, founded the Teacher Union Reform Network (TURN).  Their vision was of an independent, union-led effort to strengthen the nation’s teacher unions’ capacity to promote reforms that would lead to better learning and higher achievement for our nation’s children.  Peer assistance and review, alternative compensation and transforming low performing schools are topics being addressed by many of the 50 member locals who are affiliates of both the NEA and AFT.  More information about TURN can be found on its website, www.turnexchange.net.

The high level of participation in TURN has resulted in an effort to expand the opportunity for unions across the country to engage in these reform conversations and has led to the creation of regional TURNs in the Northeast, Great Lakes, Southwest, California and Southeast/Mid-Atlantic. Participating locals are those that either are currently engage in specific reform efforts or have expressed an interest in exploring such efforts in the future.  

The national satellite effort is being financially supported by the Ford Foundation which believes that teachers have the answers to the problems that confront public education and are most productive when they are able to interact with their colleagues.

More information will be forthcoming.  Please feel free to contact one of the organizing committee listed below for more information.

Kathleen Casasa, Co-Director Northeast TURN; President Portland Education Association

Maureen Logan, Co-director, Northeast TURN, Retired Prof. Dev. Coor. Westerly, RI Teachers Association

Paul Toner, President Massachusetts Teachers Association

Christine Colbath-Hess, President Cambridge Teachers Association

Kathleen Skinner, Director of Center for Education Policy and Practice, Massachusetts Teachers Association

Adam Urbanski, TURN co-director; President Rochester Teachers Association

And here is a link to the February meeting in Boston, where GE’s man, Pat Dolan, drew his charts to demonstrate how CEOs plan to use union insiders to corporatize the schools.  Stay tuned. Story continues to develop.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Talking with the Gates Foundation, or Seeking the Light and Buying the Hype

Some weeks back I prompted a series of liberal conniption fits among the SOS upper ranks (are there any other ranks among attendees of the upcoming "People's Convention"?), when I had the gall to point out that some may be reading a conflict of interest in the SOS Board's composition.  Specifically, I was referring to Steering Committee member, Bob George, Executive VP of an edu-corporation called Catapult Learning, which makes its dough in part from preying on poor and desperate schools that have been labeled failures by test designed to do just that.

The record of mass apoplexy to my post is presented below with my response to each comment that deserved one.  When I talked on the phone with one Board member about what might be done to stem the likelihood that some activists may wonder why SOS has not taken a position on Common Core, even as the guy who writes their checks is selling Common Core PD to poor schools, she responded that everyone is complicit, even teachers who work for schools that use high stakes testing to sort, segregate, and punish.

When I responded that, even so, teachers do not make their living by selling products that would not exist were it not for the tests that same teachers would rather burn if they had their way, it did not seem to make an impression.  And so Bob George continues to work his behind-the-scenes magic in putting together a line-up for the upcoming SOS March to Happy Hour at the Marriot Wardman, where 3 days will be devoted to creating a platform (it's the season of the Platform) that will be handed to both the DNC and the RNC this Fall.  Yeah, right?

Me? I thought the platform was clear and the rationale was pretty well developed by the past 15 years or so of research and commentary by Bracey, Berliner, Ohanian, Emery, Anyon, Saltman, Substance News, Ravitch (post 2005), Giroux, Karp, etc. and by dozens of others who have published on what needs to done to end corporate interference and control of public schools.  But what do I know--I thought a VP of an edu-corp on the Board of an outfit aimed to end corporate control of ED was a big deal.

Anyway, one of the first to respond to my sleazy suggestion that Bob George might be no more pure than Margaret Spellings' booking agent was Anthony Cody, who has one of the many blogs for Ed Week.  So now I see that Anthony, upon his return from a pilgrimage to Gates Central in Seattle, is urging us all to tone it down, as Anthony and his readers enter a new phase of "dialogue" with Gates' lawyers and economists.
We plan a process where we will take turns posting our perspective on a given theme, followed by a response from the other party. All posts will be carried here, and at the Gates Foundation's [name eliminated to protect the innocent]. We will ask everyone to join in a lively discussion. The education reform debate has deteriorated at times—our goal is to engage in a constructive conversation, to turn down the heat, and to seek a bit more light.
In a bow to post-partisan discourse, in fact, Anthony has even opened his blog up to posts from inside the inner sanctum, where the Gates war plan is spread out in hi-def virtuality across two walls (or so I imagine).  I think Anthony is making a big mistake, for reasons that should be obvious to someone of Anthony's experience:

The Gates Foundation does not care what Anthony or the rest of you rabble-rousers feel or think. They are on a mission from Bill, and there is only one master who will be served.  Pretending to care provides them a semblance of openness, while it provides them with a major (well, maybe not major) venue for countering anything that Anthony or you or I might post there between classes or before work.  Gates has an army of Ivy-Leaguers to dissect, slice, and dice any suggestion by anyone foolish to enough to think they are interested in listening, rather than issuing communiques in the form of phony dialogue provided by a good man naive to enough to believe what they say over lattes.

The only way to end corporate control of education is through non-violent civil disobedience and relentless puncturing of the bad policy ideas and actions that the Gates and Broad and Walton non-educators float up into the edusphere.  By Anthony opening his blog up to the Borg, he stands to make the "debate" about his ideas, rather than the self-serving positivized neo-eugenics of the corporate Rat Pack.  Speaking truth to power is not an option when power doesn't give a shit about what you say.  Action is the only way to alter the power dynamic, and the sooner the conventioneers realize that, the sooner we can begin to expand the action.

Speaking of a lot of useless talk, here is the whole thing below, based on this post that asked a simple question:  Does Corporate VP Bob George's carrying the checkbook for SOS represent the appearance of conflict of interest:

90 comments:

  1. in a quandary7:01 PM
    Thank you for posting this, it certainly makes me rethink my support of SOS.
    ReplyDelete
  2. I worked closely with Bob George last year in organizing the SOS March in DC. Then, as this year, he worked hundreds of long hours as a volunteer, for no personal gain and at considerable professional risk. This is very shoddy thanks for that service.

    I have been as critical of the Common Core as anyone, but I do not think it serves us to make allies into enemies at a time when we need all hands on deck to fight the high stakes testing that is destroying our schools. We need to build the strongest coalition possible -- just as we did in organizing for the SOS March. I wrote a post about this that went up this morning. http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2012/05/common_core_challenges_our_uni.html

    Please, let us hang together, or we will surely all hang separately.

    Anthony Cody
    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anthony,

      I respect your opinion, I, too am critical of the Rotten Core. I fail to see, however, how privateering while purportedly supporting the end of privateering does not constititute a conflict of interest. Perhaps you can that explain to me. I'm listening.

      I am sorry you consider posting the facts as shoddy.
      Delete
  3. I am glad you posted this. Hopefully, there are enough people involved in the resistance movement who can smell a rat if necessary. We do need solidarity, but we also know the corporate side has no scruples. Just look at what happened to Stand for Children. I'll cautiously stick with SOS and the march until their message changes. We need more people like UOO Administrators. No conflict of interest there. Please keep us posted.
    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. March? What march? This year seems the agenda is a bit different. No direct action, no occupation, unless you count occupying the lounge at the Marriott at Wardman Park. Here is what Bob's new website says:

      Unlike last year’s event, the convention won’t be a March/Rally, but rather a working meeting, including a series of speakers, intended to shape and approve SOS Principles. In this effort we view educators and those believe [sic] in public education as a primary allies [sic]. We are aware that without support of the public, no change is possible. Together let us plan to March wherever potential and current policymakers meet.

      Got that? Lots of comfortable speeches and endless arguments where everyone gets to talk. More talk and crafting of planks of platforms that will mean as much at the end of the day as the one being crafted in Charlotte this summer. More talk when what is need is direct action with demands, rather than wish lists.
      Delete
  4. There may indeed be some conflicts of interest. Are you entirely free of such conflicts? If so you are a lucky man. I have all sorts of conflicts of interest. I did while I was a classroom teacher and was obliged to administer assessments that I felt were not being used in legitimate ways. I won't catalog all my personal conflicts at this time, but I am not without them. Should I prepare a public accounting so that a tribunal can judge me? Should I send in my tax return?

    I do not know the degree of conflict between Bob George's work with Catapult, and his stance as a core volunteer working to advance the cause of Save our Schools. But even if such a conflict exists, and it certainly exists for many besides him whom I would like to consider potential allies, I do not think this renders him an enemy of the cause. I do not demand that everyone in my life resolve all conflicts of interest, and if that is going to be the basis of our movement, we are going to find ourselves very few, even if very pure.
    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is not about me, Anthony, or about you. It's about Bob's conflict of interest, as I see it. I have thought about what you said about giving Bob his due for the hours he put in last summer for a good cause. I would be a small man if I did not say thank you. So thank you, Bob.

      Reminds me of when Myles Horton was asked about accepting financial help from the big philanthropists, who back in those days, did not demand you sell your soul to get the money. Giving was giving then, rather than investing as it is with today's vulture philanthropists. So Myles was asked if it wasn't hypocritical on his part to accept money from Ford or Carnegie, and if, indeed, it wasn't a case of him biting the hand that was feeding him and the Highlander Center.

      Myles replied that he didn't mind biting the hand and that, in fact, he would chew it off up to the shoulder. But that did not mean he would not put the foundation boys in charge of Highlander. So thank you, Bob, for your contribution and hard work. Now get the hell out of your position of power.
      Delete
  5. This deserves a response. The days of blind loyalty are gone; it's what has gotten us here in the first place. I want to hear some answers to this. I think Betsy Angert could answer what she understands as well. I've posted this on the Parents Across America Facebook group to hear what she says.

    Andrea Merida
    Founding Member
    Parents Across America
    ReplyDelete
  6. Bess Altwerger11:00 PM
    I worked with Bob George all last year on the Executive Committee of Save Our Schools. I found him to be a hard-working and dedicated member who never proposed any initiatives or positions that would have compromised our work or damaged the movement in any way. He has always been up-front about his work for Catapult, and even included it openly in his candidate material. If there was concern about a possible conflict of interest, people did not have to vote for him. Yet he still won a seat on the Steering Committee this year.

    Perhaps SOS should identify a set of standards for Steering Committee candidates that would prevent persons with genuine and serious conflicts of interest from serving in leadership positions. I would actually not be against that. But until then, we cannot start doing background checks on every individual who volunteers to run for the Steering Committee. A witch hunt that fuels suspicion and mistrust is not good for SOS and not good for our movement.

    Jim, if you really wanted to protect SOS from possible conflicts of interest, you could have gone directly to the Steering Committee with the information about Catapult and asked for a discussion regarding Bob's possible conflict of interest. They could have given Bob a chance to respond to your allegations and decide how to proceed. But instead, you went public in a way that is potentially damaging to the image of SOS and to the unity of this growing movemement. I need to understand why you would conduct a public lynching of one Steering Committee member instead of taking your concerns to the entire leadership and membership for consideration. I hope this was just a case of poor judgement rather than an intentional attempt to discredit SOS. This organization is our best hope for galvanizing a national movement, and with all the power and money backing our opposition, the last thing we need is for our own supporters to attack and weaken us.

    Bess Altwerger, Co-organizer and former Executive Committee Member of Save Our Schools March and National Call to Action.
    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bess,

      Public lynching, indeed. If Bob George has been as open with Steered Committee as he claims in regards to his Senior Vice President's position at Catapult, then who has neglected this apparent conflict of interest besides Bob George, and who has refused to care enough to investigate the matter? I am pointing up the facts as they exist and asking the question that your have failed to ask, and if you consider that a lynching, then so be it.

      It never occurred to me to discuss with the Steering Committee of SOS or any other organization which stories that I post at SM. When it was brought to my attention recently that the guy carrying the checkbook at SOS and controlling the website and the database was a senior vice president of a company that represents everything that I thought that SOS was opposed to, I thought it worth posting a question on the SOS website, along with the company profile of Catapult Learning.

      A day or two later Bob sent me an email, wanting to have a private conversation about the problem that he said that he recognized. I replied that our conversation should be a public one, and that it could start by his posting my question at SOS that asked him about his apparent conflict of interest. He did not reply. And so we are having our public airing here, but I can see that I am the one to answer for asking the serious question that Bob George and his circling wagons continue to ignore.

      You are not going to galvanize anything as long as waste your time trying to marginalize Jim Horn for asking the questions that you have ignored. How long did you think it was going to take before someone asked why you have a major privateer running driving your vehicle?
      Delete
  7. Mike Klonsky11:00 PM
    I have always been a fan of Schools Matter so it was with great sadness and dismay that I read your personal attack on two volunteer activists in the Save Our Schools movement. I'm not sure what motivated you to launch these attacks on Bob and Betsy at this time, but I know they aren't helpful in uniting the movement or pushing things forward.

    SOS "hijacked"? How? Bob was democratically elected to leadership by his fellow SOS members. That was probably because of his unselfish commitment and leadership last year in building the SOS March/Conference, which, in your own words, "exhibited the best in grassroots traditions and brought together a movement from within to challenge the many decades of failed accountability measures..."

    Are you saying that last year, Bob was working in the "best grassroots tradition" abut that he's now switched sides, only to fool us all into voting for him so he could hijack the movement? Incredible!

    And what about Betsy, who has volunteered hundreds of hours of her time to work on restoring the SOS website, only to be attacked for being Bob's "significant friend." This rings of chauvinism to me.

    As for your opposition to the upcoming SOS Peoples Platform Convention, Aug. 3-5 in D.C.? Now that's a more interesting discussion. Let's have at it. You seem to think that marches are the only tactic or that a march is somehow a higher form of struggle than a conference. I'd like to hear you make your case on this, but without getting into attacks on anyone's integrity who may disagree with you.

    All I can say as a member of the Steering Committee, is that we all voted unanimously to hold this convention in August, right or wrong, with the best of intentions. When it's all over, we can go back and sum it up and see how we can improve our work or adjust our tactics.

    The idea behind it was nothing less than to give voice to teachers around policy issues in the face of the upcoming elections. We felt once we had the platform issues in place, we could move on and hold actions at the party conventions.

    SOS members also supported and helped organize in recent weeks, Occupy the DOE and the civil rights march in Selma, Alabama. So we are all for marching. But marches are not the only or necessarily best tactic all the time. We need to be flexible in tactics and firm in principle.

    As for the Common Core, neither Bob nor Betsy, as far as I know support the CC. But even if they did, it would be no crime. I oppose it but some of the best people in our movement, including Pedro Noguera and Linda Darling-Hammond support it or are working in coalitions trying to shape it. (See my blog post on this at http://bit.ly/Jb1nmw).

    The best way to resolve issues like this is through debate and discussion, minus the personal attacks. A great model was established by Deb Meier and Diane Ravitch and their Bridging Differences blog.

    As for conflicts of interest, Anthony is right. Many of us work for universities or school systems or companies that are complicit with corporate reforms. But the best idea is to judge leaders and ourselves on what they (we) do. No one in SOS is being paid for their work (unfortunately). We are all volunteers.

    I think you owe Bob and Betsy an apology.

    Mike Klonsky
    ReplyDelete
  8. I have got to say, Mike, that I am just as surprised as you that you would consider my question about this apparent conflict of interest as a personal attack in Bob and Betsy. I suspect you know better, but you also know something about managing an audience.

    In regards to the SOS Peoples Platform Convention and its agenda, yes, I do think it’s a big of waste of time to spend three days arguing about a document that will be entirely ignored once it is completed and hand delivered to wherever you are delivering it. And no, I don’t think marches “are the only tactic.” In fact, I think there are many other direct actions, acts of civil disobedience and non-violent resistance that pay much bigger dividends. The people we are dealing with don’t give a damn about what you or I say, but they will pay attention to what we do, if we do them as smartly as we are capable of doing them.

    This organization needs to engage young people in this struggle, rather than continue to recycle a bunch of geezers like you and me. In the youngsters is where we will find the creative ideas and strategies and energy that we can help them realize to realize if we are lucky and work hard enough at it.

    If you want to make excuses for Bob George’s occupational choices and the embarrassment he has brought to your organization, that, of course, is your choice to make. His carrying the water, however, for an outfit like Catapult that represents the worst kind of education privateering, cannot, cannot be equated, even by someone of your rhetorical gifts, with a teacher who is forced to administer a test that is being forced on their kids by other privateers with the same motives as Catapult. Or is it just all business.

    If you and the other Steering Committee members want to continue to defend Bob while he remains in the shadows playing the victim, that is your choice. From over here, it looks bad. And don’t expect me to apologize for how bad.
    ReplyDelete
  9. I have a question. Has SOS ever come out with a statement opposing the common core standards and national tests?
    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Steve,

      Good question. Last year, the previous SOS March/Rally Organizing Committee came out with a statement of "guiding principles" which included "AN END TO HIGH STAKES TESTING USED FOR THE PURPOSE OF STUDENT, TEACHER, AND SCHOOL EVALUATION" and "CURRICULUM DEVELOPED FOR AND BY LOCAL SCHOOL COMMUNITIES" (which I suppose can be interpreted as being at variance with Common Core).

      You can find these and other statements of principles on our website at: http://www.saveourschoolsmarch.org/

      I hope to see you at our Peoples Platform Convention, Aug. 3-5 in D.C. where these and other issues can be discussed in a more appropriate setting.
      Delete
    2. As a former member of the SOS Steering Committee and Electronic Media Coordinator of the original, 2011 Exec Committee, I can answer Stephen Krashen's question: No.

      While the original SOS "Four Demands" railed against high-stakes testing, and promoted locally developed curriculum, the white paper on curriculum (which I assume has now been taken down by those willing volunteers) was very specifically and explicitly agnostic on the Common Core and (not insignificantly) on NCLB itself.

      How did that happen? Well, certain members of the Executive Committee did not want to come out against the Common Core and the tests aligned with the Common Core. Others did. So there was a kind of fudging--saying we were for "locally developed curriculum" (whatever that is) and not getting specific about things in NCLB (such as profits from private, after-school tutoring mandated under NCLB).

      Thanks for asking the question. There was dissent from the get-go on last year's Exec Committee about what we were for and what we were against. And this year's Steering Committee didn't want to deal with clear policy recommendations. It's one of the reasons why I resigned.
      Delete
  10. I judge people by their actions Jim. Bob gave thousands of hours to plan last years conference, rally, and marched. We marched together side-by-side sharing the bullhorn chanting “what does democracy look like…this is what democracy looks like” last year in DC. He continues to give thousands of hours of free service to the cause of debunking the defrauders of school reform whose mission it is to destroy public schools. I work for a school of education my activism does not fit well within the hallow halls of most schools of education. They prefer their academics to be complacent and quiet on policy matters. They prefer their faculty to write papers rather than draw the attention of policy makers and politicians. I ask people to judge me by my actions not by my place of employment. My actions led me to walk, to march, to occupy, to speak up, to write, and to help organize opposition to this madness that reduces our children, parents, teachers, our local schools, and diverse communities to test scores. I am not defined by my place of employment, but by my actions.
    Bob actions have been to join us at every step on this journey of resistance. You can judge people by their employment, but I judge them by their actions.
    As for marches and conventions I go where ever there is a fight against this madness that seeks to destroy public education. Nearly three years ago on my 400 mile walk to DC to protest NCLB/RTTT policies I felt all alone on that walk until I read Valerie Strauss’s Article ‘The Partial List” where Diane Ravitch told Secretary Duncan he had a problem with teachers in Florida. He told her that he did not know any teachers opposed to his policies. > http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/education-secretary-duncan/arne-duncans-opposition-a-part.html< Her article highlighted the growing opposition to Secretary Duncan’s policies. It was a slap in Arne Duncan’s face. On that list was “Children Are More Than Test Scores” the Facebook group I created to fight the notion that the best measure of a child is a test score. I was proud to be walking, and to be on her list. Now that opposition has becomes a ground well, and SOS hopes to gather it in DC. We are calling all resisters to come discuss, debate, and to create a unified declaration of independence from top down mandates that are destroying our public schools. We are not asking people to become SOSers on the contrary we want groups to remain who they are, to be true to their own principles, to share resistance stories, and to come write a common narrative of resistance.
    We had hope that our SOS congress last year would have completed that task, but organizing a conference, rally, and the march left us little energy to accomplish that task. We also needed to understand that tis is not about SOS, but about what is happening to America’s children and teachers. We never lost cite of that mission to create a declaration demanding that education reform be reframed around policies that respect children, parents, teachers, local schools, and diverse communities. A declaration of indolence from top down mandates that will be thrown in the face of both political parties at their conventions.
    In the faces of 50 governors.
    In the faces of every school board member, and
    To be plastered on the walls of every Department of Education in America.
    Perhaps that is trivia to some, but to me it speaks of an action that sparks a million other actions.
    We are inspire by the actions of abolitionists at the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848, that first national women’s rights convention that became the pivotal event that gave birth to the women’s suffrage movement in America. Sometimes a convention gives rise to a movement. Bob like hundreds of other SOSers works by day to pay the bills, and spends all of his free time fighting the good fight with a bunch of others seeking to topple that deformer policy house of cards that reduces children to data. In my book Bob George’s thousands of hours of free service count
    Sincerely,
    Jesse The Walking Man Turner
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    1. I also think Bob's hours of free service count, as I noted in my second reply to Anthony's testy testimonial for Bob George. That does not answer the question, however, that I raised about conflict of interest, even though turning Bob into a martyr and me into a one man lynch mob for pointing out the elephant in the room leads me to a much clearer understanding of what Shooting the Messenger means.

      In refusing to address the question of conflict of interest while continuing to paint Bob as a tortured hero who must hawk test prep to 8 year olds by day while he marches for the cause of social justice on the weekends points to an incapacity or refusal to address the question, which asked another way: Does SOS want senior vice presidents for privateering and exploitative corporations steering its vehicle?
      Delete
  11. I asked this Common Core question MONTHS ago. . . I asked it several times, of several people in leadership positions. When there was no answer, I took off my SOS ribbon on twitter.
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    1. It seems a no brainer to me that mandating common core curriculum will automatically keep standardized tests alive and well. It can even be argued that the common core was developed with that in mind!

      Common core is a nice way of saying national/centralized curriculum. How is that going to serve a diverse nation as this?
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  12. When will the SOS leadership team choose to make a statement about the Common Core? Why is there this delay?
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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.
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    2. It could be that discussing such "divisive" issues as the the RCC could expose disagreement within the ranks, which could, in turn, force a decision on where the organization stands on all of these important issues, thus marginalizing certain constituencies whose continuing support is necessary to carry out the mission, even though the mission remains unclarified as a result of not wanting to offend important constituencies. And thus, we are back to your very good question.

      Leads me to recall what my grampa always said: You've got to stand for something or you'll fall for anything.
      Delete
  13. Anonymous9:50 AM
    Can Bob just speak for himself and respond to these allegations so that we can all put this issue to rest?
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    1. Good question, and one that I second, although I would not expect Bob's contribution to the conversation to be the final word.

      Please identify yourself by name in order to get past the moderator of the thread.
      Delete
  14. Susan,

    The SOS Convention is the time and place to propose a plank on the Common Core. I'd be happy to work with you on writing one and putting it forward to the members of SOS and push for them to adopt it. I have made my own views in opposition to Common Core clear many times. The SOS National Steering Committee is not a group that issues proclamations or the party line on various issues. That's exactly why we need a Peoples Platform Convention. SOS has a few general principals that we have and continue to fight for. I look forward to your statement on CC to bring before the membership.

    Mike Klonsky
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  15. Bess Altwerger11:28 AM
    Susan and Stephen,
    If you look at the original demands of SOS pasted below, it should be obvious to all that this organization has always been squarely in opposition to mandated top-down curriculum and high stakes testing. Since the DC rally and march last summer, the facts surrounding the Common Core Initiative and its connection to the testing agenda has become much more prominent in the national consciousness. I agree that it must now be addressed by SOS and included in the "People's Education Platform" that SOS intends to finalize at the convention next summer. I invite both of you to volunteer to help out in the development of this platform and contribute your knowledge and insights.

    There are those in positions of power who would like to see SOS and this movement devolve into in-fighting, accusations and mistrust. That is how the powers that be have historically kept us from building mass movements that can bring about real change in this country. We cannot allow that to happen this time. If we have issues and concerns or differences in viewpoints concerning SOS, let's deal with them in a spirit of solidarity rather than through public attacks and insinuations. Either SOS can grow stronger by engaging in honest dialogue and debate amongst comrads in struggle, or we can feed right into the hands of those who would like to see us disappear.
    Bess

    Original Main SOS Demands:
    -Equitable funding for all public school communities
    -End to high stakes testing for student, teacher, and school evaluation
    -Teacher, family and community leadership in forming public education policies
    -Curriculum developed for and by local school communities
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    1. Thanks Bess. Yes, I know that SOS has always been against mandated top-down curriculum and excessive and high-stakes testing, which are precisely the principles of the common core standards and tests. So I am surprised that there has been no explicit opposition to the common core standards/tests. I hope SOS can focus on this, and not get side-tracked.
      Delete
    2. Bess,

      I've written and spoken on the issues the SOS march addressed for more than a decade, often at great professional risk. That is why I flew from Los Angeles to D.C. at considerable expense to bake in the hot sun last year to protect children and teachers from destructive nonsense like Common Core.

      I spoke at the National School Boards Association Conference a couple of weeks ago. I asked the several hundred Board members in my session, "How many of you voted for Common Core?" "How many politicians in your state ran for office promising national curriculum (I mean Common Core)?" Not a single hand was raised. Common Core may have some educators as supporters, perhaps even some of our friends, but it the latest looting of the public schools by the Pearson/Gates Foundation cabal.

      Common Core is a threat to democracy. It is of a piece with testing, teacher-shamming, mayoral control and the erosion of public confidence on public education. The assumptions upon which Common Core was created are ridiculous. At best, they homogenize curriculum and cast it in amber. At worst, they destroy teacher agency, deskill and de-professionalize. There are many who believe that when Common Core is in place, teachers can be replaced by YouTube videos.

      If I return to D.C. this summer, I hope my old friend Susan Ohanian will be there to join me in expanding the fight to those who are destroying public education, while transferring public treasure to private hands.

      However, it is preposterous for you to assert that asking questions about the SOS movement is: 1) a form of disloyalty or 2) that there are "powers that be" who are attempting to thwart our efforts. I only wish that the Obama Administration, Pearson, Gates Foundation, Eli Broad, ALEC, McGraw-Hill, etc... were even aware of SOS' existence.

      It is absurd to suggest that a person's employment is unrelated to their service to a cause.

      Only educators would hold a protest rally during their vacation on the hottest day of the year while the government was in recess. I sure wish we would start being a less polite and engage in actions that will wake up "the people."

      The "People's Education Platform" should be reconsidered. It sounds a tad bit Bolshevik. Why not create the "Professional Educator's Platform." Parents and citizens can contribute to that statement and support it, but the advice contained within should (IMHO) assert that educators are reclaiming their workplace and working conditions.
      Delete
    3. Bess Altwerger10:07 AM
      Gary,
      In case you don't know much about me, let me assure you that we are in total agreement about the Common Core. I have worked vigorously to expose it's corporate underbelly through presentations, webinars and other means. I have offered evidence that the National Council on Education and the Economy (NCEE) and it's subsidiary America's Choice (now owned by Pearson), Achieve and all of it's corporate sponsors, and ultimately Lumina, ALEC, Gates, etc. lie at the heart of the Common Core Initiative. Achieve and America's Choice senior executives even chaired and sat on the CCSS Language Arts and Math Standards Committees! Pearson, McGraw-Hill and Wireless Generation will ultimately be the beneficiaries of all thing Common Core. Students, parents, teachers and public education will be the losers.

      I also believe we that cannot allow the discussion of the Common Core to be limited to debate over the content of the standards themselves. This misses the most important point: the Common Core is the next step in the corporate takeover of public education, from curriculum to assessment to teacher evaluation to school and system closings to private ownership.

      Gary, I invite...no urge... you, Susan, Stephen and others to work with the folks in SOS who will be hammering together an education platform this summer(hell, you can even help name it). Last year, when SOS issued its demands (which I was involved in writing), people kept saying that we needed to clearly spell out "our" vision for public education--what we were for, not just what we were against. They wanted an alternative "program" that they could use as an organizing tool in the battle to save our schools and communities from over a decade of bipartisan assault. I hope organizations and individuals from within the movement will work with SOS to accomplish this goal- to help formulate the program and attend the convention to finalize and ratify it.

      It is also my view that we need to mobilize teachers, parents, students and all education activists for mass actions in regional cities on Labor Day. Pograms have no teeth without mass mobilization.

      Finally, in case you think otherwise, I look forward to vigorous debate about the issues we face as a movement. However, in order for this debate to be constructive rather than destructive, it must be done in a spirit of solidarity. Asking questions about conflicts of interest is important and hopefully productive, but using scare tactics about "hijacking" is clearly not.
      Bess
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    4. Bess and Mike,

      I have not attacked SOS.

      I suggest this platform item:

      Save Our Schools is opposed to the Common Core State Standards funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and forced on the states by Race to the Top bribes administered by the office of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

      I would be satisfied that the item stop after the word 'Standards,' but offer the rest for clarity.
      Delete
  16. Katherine Cox had trouble posting this, so she sent it to via email:

    I too worked with Bob, Bess, and Anthony on the original SOS Executive Committee and worked on the transitional committee to get a new Steering Committee elected. Some facts in your blog are not correct. Bob does not know how to access the SOS database.I maintained that database in Constant Contact before the march and continue to do so. New members’ names go directly to Constant Contact from the website and their contact info is not available to Bob or to Betsy.

    Bess, Anthony, and Mike have addressed the points that need to be made. I don’t need to restate them. I know that people of integrity can and do find a way to walk a narrow line between competing interests. If I had taken a tutoring position with Catapult or another tutoring company or opened a franchise when I retired, I would have continued to be very vocal about my support of public education and also railed against NCLB. Regardless of where Bob works, he understands the damage that NCLB has done to public education --- and to our students and our democracy. It’s very clear to me that Bob’s heart and passion are centered around what is best for kids. I am sure that he would have made more money for himself and Catapult if he had not been immersed in SOS the last two years.

    We are told we can tell a person’s values by where he spends his time, energy, and money. Bob is a tireless worker. SOS would have fallen apart if Bob had not stayed on during the transitional time after the march. And it would have fallen apart again if Bob had not been elected to the new Steering Committee. His dedication to our movement is exceptional and because I have worked with him closely, I have no doubts about his values whatever.

    Jim, I have heard so many good things about you and often read your blog. Your questions are legitimate – except that you cite suspicions, not specific actions. Yes, we all suspect people who are in a position like Bob’s because we understand human nature. Such people quite often put themselves first and are users, nothing more. However, as you can see, people who have worked with Bob from the inception of the SOS movement are standing up for him -- and they speak highly of him.

    Not all of the members of the SOS Steering Committee were aware yesterday of your post. Bob will notify them today. I suggest that you send Bob a list of your questions and allow him to reply. Your post is somewhat akin to “When did you stop beating your wife?” If I haven’t done anything wrong, how do I respond unless the questioner gives specific examples of actual misdeeds that I can refute, not just suspicions.

    As for Betsy,she has done very little work for SOS except to create graphics and volunteer every time we lose a webmaster. She steps in and works tirelessly to keep things going during interim times and emergencies. Right now, she shares webmaster duties with someone else. She and Bob do not control content. Betsy sends content, much of it written by others, to the Steering Committee for approval.I just got a cc of the email asking the Steering Committee to approve the latest post about Teacher Appreciation Week, which was written by Rosalie Friend. I can forward it to you if you'd like to see it.

    If Bob has control of the checkbook, it has been a recent event that occurred once the new Steering Committee began meeting – which was not that long ago. Bess Altwerger was the treasurer for SOS and although she chose not to run for the Steering Committee, she remained the treasurer throughout the transitional period. The bills for Constant Contact continue to go to her address. If Bob is the treasurer, it’s probably because no one else on the new Steering Committee volunteered to do so. Ask him.

    So in answer to your question in the last paragraph of your post: Yes, what you assert is definitely possible. It COULD have happened – if it had been someone else. But knowing Bob George as I do, I don’t believe it.


    Katherine Cox
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    1. Katherine,
      What you call "suspicions" that I cite, I call facts. Bob George is a Senior Vice President of Catapult Learning, one of the prime privateering enterprises that prey on poor Title I schools, collecting millions for their executives in federal taxpayer dollars. Bob is not picking up a part-time tutoring job in his retirement, while he devotes himself to upending the business plan of the corporation that pays his salary.

      Which brings me back to the question, the only question I have for Bob or the SC of SOS: Does it or does it not present the appearance of a conflict of interest to have a Senior Vice President for Catapult Learning behind the steering wheel of an organization that shows every other indication of representing values antithetical to those of Catapult Learning?

      Again, you may blame me for presenting the facts or asking the question that the Steering Committee has chosen to ignore, but that doesn't make it right. The Steering Committee may, indeed, decide that keeping a VP for Catapult on the Board, er, Steering Committee, is an effective way to attract people to their cause. From where I sit, that conclusion looks like a real thought disorder.
      Delete
  17. Good questions have been asked SOS positions about high stakes assessment and the Common Core. We have a set of guiding principles that guide our actions right on our webpage for the public to see.
    SOS Guiding Principles
    For the future of our children, we demand:

    * EQUITABLE FUNDING FOR ALL PUBLIC SCHOOL COMMUNITIES
    Equitable funding across all public schools and school systems
    Full public funding of family and community support services
    Full funding for 21st century school and neighborhood libraries
    An end to economically and racially re-segregated schools

    * AN END TO HIGH STAKES TESTING USED FOR THE PURPOSE OF STUDENT, TEACHER, AND SCHOOL EVALUATION
    The use of multiple and varied assessments to evaluate students, teachers, and schools
    An end to pay per test performance for teachers and administrators
    An end to public school closures based upon test performance

    *TEACHER, FAMILY AND COMMUNITY LEADERSHIP IN FORMING PUBLIC EDUCATION POLICIES
    Educator and civic community leadership in drafting new ESEA legislation
    Federal support for local school programs free of punitive and competitive funding
    An end to political and corporate control of curriculum, instruction and assessment decisions for teachers and administrators

    *CURRICULUM DEVELOPED FOR AND BY LOCAL SCHOOL COMMUNITIES
    Support for teacher and student access to a wide-range of instructional programs and technologies
    Well-rounded education that develops every student’s intellectual, creative, and physical potential
    Opportunities for multicultural/multilingual curriculum for all students
    Small class sizes that foster caring, democratic learning communities

    Finally we were early signers of the National resolution against high-stakes tests , >http://timeoutfromtesting.org/nationalresolution<

    As for Marching:
    We certainly aren't done marching either Jim. SOSers were at the Selma Jubilee in Alabama last March, we endorsed Occupy the DOE, and sent speakers as well. I'll be at occupy New Haven this Mother's Day with Mark Nielsen speaking out against what is happening in our schools, and to every member of the 99%. You can't even imagine how speaking for SOS on Mother's day is sitting with my wife. You have my speech up on your blog from Occupy as well. You was there when I called the US DOE a den of thieves. Get ready for part two this Sunday.
    We are also not done with protesting, we'll not done with marching, SOSers be marching again on Labor Day, speaking up, occupying, and fighting for children, parents, teachers, local schools, and diverse communities. It is not by chance we used the wording of demands either in our principles.
    Respectfully,
    Jesse Turner National SOS Steering Committee Member
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    1. Sounds good, Jesse. Let me know what I can do, whenever, wherever, even if it to talk to your wife about your working on Mother's Day :-).
      Delete
    2. Jesse,
      I respectfully ask, as I've asked a number of times already, what is the SOS position on the Common core State [sic] Standards?
      Delete
  18. Deborah Meier1:57 PM
    SOS colleagues and friends.

    I have a simple solution: everyone should reread an article that was published as a sort-a book by Beacon Press some years ago called Will Standards Save Public Education. There are responses from some allies (and non-allies) that are short and sweet. Then we can all agree, with me!!!

    But honestly, folks, being the "leftwing of the possible" requires enlarging our tent not finding reasons for pushing folks out the door.

    We have a crisis: the ending of even a fairly crummy system of public education--and its privatization which will be hard to reverse. Imagine the debate on health care in ten years time about school care!!!

    Yes things can be worse. And the strategic differences between us are hardly a reason to sabotage the best we can do--at this moment in time. Many of those favoring the common core, for example, have good points to make. Is it the tests that follow such "cores" that is the real danger or the core itself. I'm against both, but the real danger is the implications for testing, ranking and incentives. I think we have a wide tent on the latter and should focus on that. Sampling is something we could be pushing about which there might be far wider agreement, etc, etc.

    But name calling should be out! I hesitate even for true enemies to get into that game. But toward are 90% allies? It's true, those may seem like good targets because they actually say "ouch"--while the real "enemies" could care less what we say. Unless we represent a real force--numbers (as someone in a recent blog, I forget who, said).

    Investigative reporting on the weaknesses of our enemies may be useful, but looking to score points against each other by digging up so-called "dirt"--which is hardly dirt at all, sometimes even untrue and at best just how we survive in the real world.

    We have a great opportunity to come together - in large numbers (or speaking for large numbers) this summer and presenting a few trenchantly stated points about what the next President ought to do. We don't need a laundry list, and we don't need to avoid debate (civil), but in the end we want to highlight those that thee is least disagreement about among the broader education "left".

    In fact I advocate our not adopting any policy on which there is not an "almost" consensus.

    There's plenty of time and plenty of places to speak our piece - IF we can concentrate on where we agree.
    In short, we're not writing chapter for a Beacon book, but developing a pithy set of issues to stop or even slow down the well-financed onslaught against everything and anything public.

    Diane and I didn't start off speaking so politely to each other--but we learned many years ago that if we treated each other like interesting opponents we'd learn something, even if we didn't change our minds.

    It's exactly the same principle so many of us bring into our classrooms as we listen to our students: they may have something to teach me if I listen with care. There may be a sense in which rocks are living things, and maybe living/nonliving is a foolish dichotomy. Thanks, 5 year old Darryl. Etc etc.

    Let's stick together even if it occasionally means we have to suppress a really funny retort.

    Deb
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    1. I agree with much of what you say. Allow me to reinterpret using some military-tainted terms.
      While addressing these subjects (CC and the Testing Initiative) we need to be clear whether we are discussing Strategy (appropriate for discussing complex objectives) or Tactics (which need to be very specific so as to promote more cohesive action).
      •CC issues are more complex; opposing the testing initiative is a simpler concept;
      • Someone who opposes CC may be easier to convince to stand with you against the testing initiative but one can have mixed thoughts about CC and still be resolutely opposed to the testing initiative;
      • Convincing someone to join with you in your stand against the testing initiative does not require that you first convince them to agree with you regarding all or most CC issues.
      • Numerous School Boards (like around 40 in Texas) and others are already on record as opposing the testing initiative; its time to join in and route the enemy with a single tactical action

      At this point, we should be concerned with stopping or seriously delaying the testing initiative because that objective is clear and has unanimous consensus. Tactics, almost by definition can’t have overly complex objectives. However, a successfully carried out tactic can have implications for more complex objectives. For example, if we stop or delay implementation of the testing-evaluation program, there will be more time to define and build up consensus regarding CC-issues; on the other hand, compounding our tactics by requiring agreement regarding less clearly identified CC-issues can confound interpretation of the success of the action as well as reduce the likelihood of success. In general, if strategic objectives are not broken down first any tactics can produce chaotic results.
      Delete
  19. Anonymous6:34 PM
    Jesus H Christ, what a mess. While Jim Horn has some valid points backed by some proof, and transparency is important to any organization or movement, so many of us have worked with Bob that it comes as a bit of a shock. But I'm also very unhappy with Jim's damaging comments about the convention and "marching," (having just come back from a People's Mic on SOS at Occupy, NYC with tens of thousands). But based on the dedication Bob has shown for SOS and the people who stand up for Bob (and I include myself), we need to hear from Bob. He has been constantly supportive of the work of the Information Coordinators across the country, been to both IC meetings and then SC calls at night and has been instrumental in helping give us a voice at the SC.
    I remember a very influential academic who once supported the NCLB and worked for a conservative president only to make an 180 turn and write one of the more influential books on progressive education in this country. It was through dialogue, an openness to other voices and research that change came about. I'm going to a benefit where Diane Ravitch is lecturing on Thursday.
    I know that this is sort of an inappropriate comparison to the situation, but I will continue to support and listen to Springsteen when his most recent work stands up for the working people even though he's far from being one. His heart's in the right place and he's an activist/philanthropist though full of conflicts of interest.Let's see where Bob's heart is, where it's going and what he has to say. We certainly owe him that much.

    Terry Moore
    NJ Information Coordinator
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    1. Thanks for your thoughtful remarks. It's worth remembering that Springsteen is not getting paid by the Koch Brothers.
      Delete
  20. Remember: No Anonymous Comments Are Accepted. If you have a comment, sign it.
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  21. Thanks to Nancy for answering my question. SOS has not come out against common core. I think we should do this NOW. I am stunned that this has not happened already. Common Core Standards/Tests are what this is all about.
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    1. I could not agree more, Stephen. The vehicle to move the impossible tests forward, and thus assure the movement of privatization into the leafy suburbs (now that the urban schools are easy pickings), is CC and the "more challenging assessments" that go with them.

      David Coleman, the McKinsey-trained bully who does not "give a shit" about what children think, has a lineup of readings for middle schoolers that I read as an undergraduate. This is all part of the movement to excise the hearts and bodies of children and leave them with their disembodied and alienated logic units intact. God Save the Global Economy!

      Those who shrug and accept one end of the false dichotomy that the Common Core is at least better than just reading and math should have a look at what these scary clowns are putting together. As Susan Ohanian has documented.

      And, of course, the other more practical consideration is what happens to the power of diversity when there is none--when we have been assimilated by the Common Core. There is clear empirical evidence now from researchers like Scott Page that diversity trumps expertise in any kind of problem solving.

      So if your only concern is competing in the global economy, the same adult stupidity that David Coleman would impose on all our children is counterproductive to that end that Coleman's patrons are seeking.

      It is truly time to stop giving a shit about what Gates and Broad think, but to protect our children's childhoods, and thus our futures. And we don't need a three-day faculty meeting to make that call!
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    2. Rosemarie Jensen6:06 PM
      Here's my two cents having attended the march last summer and Occupy in March/April and been involved in this fight since, I believe, the attack started here in Florida since the late 90s. An apparent conflict of interest is evident. Period. And we have watched others worm their way into our Federal DOE and State DOEs under the cover of wanting to do what is best for children. And they have worked long and patiently to meet their ends. I don't know Bob but it would behoove him to answer the question. Period. I am not an influencial member, just a small voice, and I would NOT approve of my husband consulting with Charter USA when asked because I would not want anyone to question my intent if I should ever play a bigger role or have a larger audience. And it was a huge loss of revenue for our little consulting business.
      Second, It seems a no brainer that SOS should be public in it's stance against Common Core. We know what the ultimate goal of that is and it goes against all the previously stated planks.The fact that there are people who are reticent about that concerns me. We aren't here to make friends...we are here to change the course of education policy and history.

      Everyone here who has posted I respect and am appreciative of your perspective, but everyone must realize we don't have YOUR experience with Bob and sometimes when something walks like a duck, quack likes a duck, ...it's a duck. He needs to answer the question and there is nothing wrong with asking the question. Instead of getting feathers ruffled, if there is no conflict, it should be an easy question to answer and Bob should understand that. It was very easy for my husband to understand my perspective that his work my jeapardize my legitmacy in a movement I feel so strongly about. There's my two cents for what it's worth.
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  22. Well, I can honestly see both sides of this mess. Jim is right to ask if this is a conflict of interest and those who know Bob are right to defend him. And Bob needs to answer to this. He owes an answer to the thousands of teachers like me who spent hard earned money to go to DC last summer and participate in the SOS conference and march. I honestly don’t have an opinion as to who is correct here. I’m not sure I really care either because we have much bigger battles to fight. But I’m curious.

    Meanwhile, as this debate takes up way too much time, Students First has moved into my state. They opened up an office across the street from the capitol, hired SIX lobbyists and are handing out money to legislators like candy. They are also having parent meetings all over the state where the message that teachers are bad and your children are suffering is being spread. And they’re winning. Last week, the House in MO passed the nastiest anti-teacher bill I’ve ever seen. Democrats who were endorsed by our union just 18 months ago and promised to vote in our best interests took money from Students First and voted to destroy teachers’ careers.

    They also have a plan to dissolve my district and bring in outside contractors to run the schools. Fortunately it looks like that bill won’t pass this session but we have been told it will be brought back next year and the year after that and every year until it passes. We’ve been assured that unless test scores go up a lot, our district will be dissolved. And I know I don’t need to tell anyone reading this how likely it is that test scores will skyrocket.

    I had such high hopes for SOS last July. A network of teachers across the country facing similar struggles, organizing, helping each other, planning regional and national events. What a great idea! And now, 9 months later, where are we? There was an Occupy the DOE event that was poorly attended and a conference is planned in August when many teachers will already be back at school and unable to attend. (Did the organizers not realize that many school districts start in early August now?)

    So SOS is going to have to give me a reason to want to continue my involvement. As an IC, I need to know what to tell the SOS members in my state. Last August I was willing to pay dues to SOS to keep it going. Now, after reading all of these replies, seeing too many people we worked hard to elect quit only a few months after that election, after they planned an event I won’t even be able to attend, I have to wonder what’s the point. And I’m glad I didn’t pay any dues.

    Someone upthread made a comment about the value of work, and the credibility it provides. I think it’s a good time for SOS to consider that. How about actually doing something that counts as work.

    Anne Pritchett
    Kansas City
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    1. It is easy for the opposition to malign teachers because most parents, at least in places where I have been involved(NV, and especially CO), have never really acquainted themselves with their child's teacher(s) or school(s), so they have no clue how good or bad a school is until somebody tells them through test scores, movies and mainstream media.

      Because the masses themselves did not have a quality education in which they were taught and encouraged to question authority, most who are now parents are naive and believe any and all information about how to improve education that comes from "authority"! So, of course NCLB/RttT and testing is good. They all buy into the propaganda and want their kids to have a good score. They do not know what really good education should look like as no one "schools" them in this matter!

      Schools bear blame for this because the few really interested parents are usually kept at bay and invited to bring cupcakes or run copies for a teacher. The few parents who think they have input while serving on school and district committees, are really ignored, so the school system stays as is. Average for most.

      I have seen truly bad teachers during my children's school years and administrators have always protected those teachers. So, "We the People" DO believe that tenure for teachers makes it impossible to get rid of those who are unfit to teach, and even damage kids in the process.

      If SOS is going the win the battle against standardized testing it will need many, many parents, and students too, on its side. So far, most SOS supporters are teachers.
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    2. Does anyone think it would be feasible to get representatives from different states to put together a 20-30 page publication (coordinated by SOS) that we can hand out at School Board Meetings, Malls, Occupy Events, etc., that would cover the subjects like:
      1. The truth about how US students compare with other countries and the degree to which this has really changed over the past 20-years. I have seen some articles report that SAT scores have not really declined that much and that the statistics used to turn the country against teachers were based on biases between the samples that were used by other countries (when compared to the USA) and that most differences could be explained by the growth in those in poverty in the US,
      2. Spending per child (your state vs National avg)current and 25-year trends;
      3. Dropout and graduation rates (your state vs avg) and increased prison populations
      4. What Science has discovered about learning and the brain and how it converts to the need for small class-sizes especially in the early years;
      5. How increases in community college and on-line courses have been used to keep the employed managers up to date with increases in knowledge compared to what we have spent upgrading Teachers' knowledge base.
      6. Explain Federal, state and local funding; Formula grant program and NCLB and Obama’s discretionary RttT.
      7. Growth of Charter and Voucher schools – the story of New Orleans post Katrina
      8. Distribution of power and control: School Boards, Districts, types of schools and State and Federal laws re fulfilling the education of normal and special-needs children; number of districts and schools of different types in your state.
      9. The Homeschooling alternative.
      10. Privatization of schools and testing. How are expenditures for Charter schools and testing justified especially when the money comes from savings realized by replacing experienced teachers by TFA's (explain what a TFA is and how they are subsidized by your federal tax dollars).
      11. Materials to debunk the 'bad teacher' myth.
      There is so much good material on the internet but most parents don't browse the same sites we do or have the time to learn the good sites much less read the material. I am sure there are many out there who can refine this outline better than me (I am only a concerned citizen and not a professional educator).
      We need to fight back beyond demonstrating to ask for support from people who don't understand the problem. Could SOS pick up coordinating an initiative like this? It seems like we have a little analysis paralysis going on here.
      Delete
  23. I spent more almost 20 years as a librarian and teacher, so I know of the mindset and heartset of the teacher who is there to teach, without time or focus for the political arguments that swirl. It used to be possible to close your door and teach, to maintain that sacred space where you and the children ruled the world and determined what would be.

    As if you did not know already, Anne, that day is gone, for good, perhaps, but for now for sure. Teachers can no longer afford to close the door or to not have an opinion.

    If you do not have an opinion, someone will have one for you, and in today's Gilded Age II, it is most often the reps from the corporatocracy. They are on a roll, and they depend upon a dedicated profession of teachers focused in and not out, doing what was their job, once upon a time.

    All of us owe ourselves and the children we teach our best informed opinions and an organized willingness to act, on any issue that may affect these children. Anything less denies the future we may inherit by no other means than that of our persistent making.
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  24. I am not an education scholar nor am I am expert on teaching and instruction. My inclination would be to oppose The Common Core standards, but I do not have the standing to weigh in on their implementation and contribute anything of significance to the debate. I am, however, an experienced political organizer and a participate in several Occupy movements in the Northeast and from that standpoint I support Jesse Turner's comments. When you are facing an enemy that commands such concentrated wealth and power, you need to nurture opposition from multiple directions and make strategic alliances with people you may disagree with. Save Our Schools is a critically important oppositional movement. It's existence encourages people to speak and stand up in localities localities throughout the nation because they now know they are not alone. It is a resource that should not be squandered. I don't give a rat's ass about where Bob George works as long as he contributes precious energies to maintaining an oppositional voice we cannot afford to,lose. Does that mean I trust him? No! But if he helps an organizational vehicle that has been incredibly useful to me and other activists stay afloat, more power to him. Damn! I work at Fordham University whose institutional position on gender issues is one almost every person in this movement would abhor. Does that mean I should not be allowed to play a role in this movement. Honest discussion is important; frank dialogue is important- but taking a holier than thou stance that will undermine one of the few voices of resistance we have in the face of Gates, Walton Broad, Stand for Children , Children First, Teach for America and all the rest rubs me the wrong way. Let's make this Convention work and keep the pressure on. Anything which brings us together in person is important for our morale. Peace, Mark "notorious Phd Naison
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    1. If I may add, it doesn't take an education scholar or an expert to become knowledgeable about the Common Core. It just takes a little reading and some thinking, which is more than most of the adventurers on this Fools' Journey have done. And, of course, a desire to know.
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  25. I'm am not advocating a "holier-than-thou" position in regards to Bob George. I am advocating the same pragmatic position the Myles Horton adopted when he accepted money to support the work of Highlander from the philanthropic foundations. As an unrelenting advocate for union rights, he was criticized for taking money and then biting the hand that was feeding him.

    Horton responded that he didn't mind biting the hand, and that, in fact, he would chew it off up the shoulder. So while he accepted their donations (they were donations then, rather than investment by vultures today), he did not put the foundation boys on his steering committee. He said, thank you, now go away and let us get our business done.

    So thanks, Bob, for your help. 3rd time I have said that. Your status, however, as a senior VP for a company that preys on poor public schools with your privateering product line, and your position on the Steering Committee of SOS would seem to create a conflict of interest in the minds of most people who do give a rat's ass about attracting more people who can believe in the integrity of this organization.

    Now if the agenda of SOS is not to dump the corporate ed reform agenda and all the corruption and abuse that go with it, then there would not be a conflict of interest at all. You might even invite in the Gates people to sit on the Steering Committee. This has nothing to do with being holier-than-thou, but it does have something to do, I hope, with distinguishing this organization's values from those of predatory capitalism that most of us abhor, I think.
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  26. Get the facts straight.

    I was the acting secretary of the SOS 2011 Organizing Committee when we began with eight of us. We grew to 14. There was no vying for positions at that time, it was a scramble to find people to do the work that needed doing.

    I reviewed and researched Bob's bio before it went public. There was always transparency concerning his work but there was never any questioning of his integrity, as there was my own. Ironically, I was constantly standing guard over this group, trying my best to keep them together and moving forward. So I do hope some of you will hear what I have to say, from my lessons learned working for SOS.

    You so-called education activists out there need to quit eating your own and change the law you claim has done you so much harm. AND, upgrade the education profession while you are at it so the public will quit looking for quick fixes and get sold these "corporate" solutions - what they see as their only promise of hope.

    It's never a good idea to chase away the worker bees --- it kills the colony!

    Blind faith in people? Oh, hell. Even you activists can't tell with certainty the good guys from the bad guys. The sabotage for the PR for the SOS March came from an entirely different corner of the ring. Bob's efforts to raise money made last years events possible, along with the collective efforts of many others. Actions do always speak louder than words...you want to protect the movement and move it forward, you need to know the players...the facts.

    Nancy did not get the chronological development of the demands correct. The members that came into the planning late or missed too many meetings, missed out on a few crucial discussions that the secretary (me) was unable to catch every word of. You had to be there.

    Jim, you made a good point about "the stand." I pushed hard to get clarity on that; I never got it (and I was taking notes)!

    You all keep talking about what you fight against, now, what do you fight for? Quality and equality, to strengthen and improve a public education system to serve the public's children. FOCUS**the children.

    Convention or march? Organization or movement?

    Anyone needing facts about SOS is welcome to contact me. I have no dog in this fight. I was excluded from the group long ago but I forgive them their ignorance. My own cause has always been to educate to improve education. victoriayoung@clearwire.net
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  27. I respectfully submit that you do have a dog in this fight if you are an educator or a citizen. It seems you are both.
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    1. I believe we are talking about two different fights. True school improvement and true national education reform encompass local, state, and national issues of which we should all have responsibility for and therefore a voice in - a dog in that fight, for sure.

      That isn't the fight going on here or in many other places. The "adult" fight is happening because we slap labels on each other, apparently justifying exclusion, so we never find the common ground upon which we can walk together...and peacefully find our solutions. Too many are fighting the wrong education war.

      The fight for quality and equality is one we should fight together, to win.
      Delete
    2. Some get their labels the old-fashioned way--they earn them.
      Delete
  28. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
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    1. No unsigned comments will be posted.
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  29. The Save Out Schools Convention should go forward with all those who feel they can support it. In the meantime, we all have numerous local battles to fight against school closings, charter school co-locations, expansion of testing, union busting. We aren't strong enough yet to have any influence at the national level, but we are building movements locally which may in time have the power to push back effectively against Corporate interests. My gut instinct tells me that the Save Our Schools movement is far more of an asset than a liability in that fight, even with what I now know about Bob George's professional affiliations.
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    1. And so is Obama more of an asset than Mitt Romney, even if he keeps Arne Duncan on his steering committee. I think most of us would agree that confidence would be raised among the "people" if the White House put someone in charge of ed policy who wasn't a pawn of the ed industry.
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  30. One more thing. I don't know your background Jim Horn, but I come out of a pretty hard school having cut my teeth in some of the toughest neighborhoods in Brooklyn and the Bronx, and I can smell a hustle a mile a way. And I don't feel Bob George is hustling me/us. I might be wrong, but that's my honest opinion.
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    1. I give you this one on street cred, Mark. I grew up in Tennessee, where we had to drive thirty miles to buy school clothes, the ones we did not order from the Sears Roebuck catalog. But we came to understand something, too, about sanctimonious bible salesmen driving shiny new cars and talking about the meek inheriting the Earth.

      You may be entirely correct in your read on Bob George, and if SOS Steering Committee's own Senior VP for Catapult Learning, LLC were truly guided by the best intentions and the deepest commitment to making SOS stronger, why does he continue to allow his apparent conflict of interest be placed above everything else? Why does he allow the question of his integrity, which will never be settled because we do NOT know his heart, to cast a shadow on the organization that he wants to grow? Why does he sit in shadows continuing to play the tortured victim as the question of conflict of interest remains entirely unanswered?
      Delete
  31. i am one of the authors of the "Dump Duncan" petition (http://dumpduncan.org/) and am fully aware of the power of corporate influence to shape education policy. But you are not even close to convincing me that the Save Our Schools Movement is turning into an something which willreinforce, rather than subvert, corporate control of public education. Co-optation is a real danger, but the bigger danger is inaction. I stand with Jesse Turner, and with those in the Occupy Movement who insist that social justice activism must be a "big tent" which includes people who sharply disagree with one another on some issues. So it's on to Washington for me
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    1. All these false dichotomies, or what Dewey called either-or choices that end up in phrases like, "you are with us or against us." Do we really have really have only two choices, to keep our mouths shut and forge ahead, or stand still and ask legitimate questions?

      Before you can have a big tent, you have to have a tent, and one with real boundaries where people know they can get out the rain. From where I sit, this is a real defining moment for SOS in making its tent. And yes, the bigger danger is inaction. Totally agreed.
      Delete
  32. Good point Jim. The conflict of interest issue should be addressed by the person in question.
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  33. For most of you reading these comments as they appear at the bottom, you may have missed this comment last night, which showed up earlier in the thread a response to Bess. I post it here, then:

    Gary Stager11:21 PM
    Bess,

    I've written and spoken on the issues the SOS march addressed for more than a decade, often at great professional risk. That is why I flew from Los Angeles to D.C. at considerable expense to bake in the hot sun last year to protect children and teachers from destructive nonsense like Common Core.

    I spoke at the National School Boards Association Conference a couple of weeks ago. I asked the several hundred Board members in my session, "How many of you voted for Common Core?" "How many politicians in your state ran for office promising national curriculum (I mean Common Core)?" Not a single hand was raised. Common Core may have some educators as supporters, perhaps even some of our friends, but it the latest looting of the public schools by the Pearson/Gates Foundation cabal.

    Common Core is a threat to democracy. It is of a piece with testing, teacher-shamming, mayoral control and the erosion of public confidence on public education. The assumptions upon which Common Core was created are ridiculous. At best, they homogenize curriculum and cast it in amber. At worst, they destroy teacher agency, deskill and de-professionalize. There are many who believe that when Common Core is in place, teachers can be replaced by YouTube videos.

    If I return to D.C. this summer, I hope my old friend Susan Ohanian will be there to join me in expanding the fight to those who are destroying public education, while transferring public treasure to private hands.

    However, it is preposterous for you to assert that asking questions about the SOS movement is: 1) a form of disloyalty or 2) that there are "powers that be" who are attempting to thwart our efforts. I only wish that the Obama Administration, Pearson, Gates Foundation, Eli Broad, ALEC, McGraw-Hill, etc... were even aware of SOS' existence.

    It is absurd to suggest that a person's employment is unrelated to their service to a cause.

    Only educators would hold a protest rally during their vacation on the hottest day of the year while the government was in recess. I sure wish we would start being a less polite and engage in actions that will wake up "the people."

    The "People's Education Platform" should be reconsidered. It sounds a tad bit Bolshevik. Why not create the "Professional Educator's Platform." Parents and citizens can contribute to that statement and support it, but the advice contained within should (IMHO) assert that educators are reclaiming their workplace and working conditions.
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    1. Hey, Gary,

      I do not know HOW I missed you in D. C. last time. (You're usually pretty hard to miss.)

      I continue to rail against Common Core with every breath I have. See the new section on my website.

      But I'm not spending $$ and soul to go to SOS meetings at the Marriott.

      I'm with you on less polite actions. And local. A couple of years ago I made it my mission to attend meetings of the Vermont State Board of Education--only an hour's drive but an hour in sleet & snow can be hairy. Most of the time at these excruciating meetings I'm the only "public" there. And I make a very short statement against the Common Core. This is too little and too lame but it's difficult to have a one-person demonstration. . . although last August I wore a sandwich board every Friday in Burlington, handing out anti-Common Core pamphlets. Common Core is barely on the radar in VT. NCLB didn't hurt us all that much and teachers still think they're independent.

      Now that our governor--who carries a progressive label and who mouths ed policy straight from the mouths of IBM executives and the National Governors Association--has persuaded the legislature to gut the board of ed and give him policy-making power, I don't know what my 'local' tactic will be.

      I don't see what's so complicated about a platform. I repeat what I posted above.

      Platform Item:
      Save Our Schools is opposed to the Common Core State Standards funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and forced on the states by Race to the Top bribes administered by the office of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

      I would be satisfied that the item stop after the word 'Standards,' but offer the rest for clarity.
      Delete
  34. Bess Atwater's response to Gary (please post the rest down here, please):

    Gary,
    In case you don't know much about me, let me assure you that we are in total agreement about the Common Core. I have worked vigorously to expose it's corporate underbelly through presentations, webinars and other means. I have offered evidence that the National Council on Education and the Economy (NCEE) and it's subsidiary America's Choice (now owned by Pearson), Achieve and all of it's corporate sponsors, and ultimately Lumina, ALEC, Gates, etc. lie at the heart of the Common Core Initiative. Achieve and America's Choice senior executives even chaired and sat on the CCSS Language Arts and Math Standards Committees! Pearson, McGraw-Hill and Wireless Generation will ultimately be the beneficiaries of all thing Common Core. Students, parents, teachers and public education will be the losers.

    I also believe we that cannot allow the discussion of the Common Core to be limited to debate over the content of the standards themselves. This misses the most important point: the Common Core is the next step in the corporate takeover of public education, from curriculum to assessment to teacher evaluation to school and system closings to private ownership.

    Gary, I invite...no urge... you, Susan, Stephen and others to work with the folks in SOS who will be hammering together an education platform this summer(hell, you can even help name it). Last year, when SOS issued its demands (which I was involved in writing), people kept saying that we needed to clearly spell out "our" vision for public education--what we were for, not just what we were against. They wanted an alternative "program" that they could use as an organizing tool in the battle to save our schools and communities from over a decade of bipartisan assault. I hope organizations and individuals from within the movement will work with SOS to accomplish this goal- to help formulate the program and attend the convention to finalize and ratify it.

    It is also my view that we need to mobilize teachers, parents, students and all education activists for mass actions in regional cities on Labor Day. Pograms have no teeth without mass mobilization.

    Finally, in case you think otherwise, I look forward to vigorous debate about the issues we face as a movement. However, in order for this debate to be constructive rather than destructive, it must be done in a spirit of solidarity. Asking questions about conflicts of interest is important and hopefully productive, but using scare tactics about "hijacking" is clearly not.

    Bess
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    1. I asked the question, "Is SOS being hijacked by corporate education reform?"

      And it must have been a scary question to bring this response from you: "I need to understand why you would conduct a public lynching of one Steering Committee member. . ."

      I know which is scarier to me.
      Delete
  35. I think we can settle all this and get back to work if SOS simply moves as quickly as possible and votes on opposing the common core standards/tests.
    Let's not wait. While we are waiting, the common core continues to grow and gain strength.
    Here's my vote: Oppose common core standards/tests. Can we simply adopt the resolution we presented (actually tried to present) at NCTE?
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  36. In response to Bess Atwater's rationale for dedicating this second coming of SOS to DC for "platform building," I remain skeptical. When the Occupy movement gained international attention, it was not for a 5 year plan to bring accountability to Wall Street. It was for a determined, unrelenting, and reality-based hammering of the corrupt oligarchs and the self-serving casino capitalists of Wall Street.

    And to the credit of the Occupiers, they have not been diverted from that prophetic work by criticism from those who want that glaring spotlight to be aimed back at the Occupiers? Step forward with your own agenda, cry the corporate overlords. The Occupiers haven't bought it.

    I suggest that in stopping the momentum barely begun last year in calling out the crooks and thieves, as I love to hear Walking Man call the Foundation hacks in the Dept. of Education, SOS risks putting the focus back on themselves, and on why any new platform will not work. You can bet there are a dozen conservative sludge tanks who are already crafting arguments to beat down those points that they know are on the way if the task this coming summer at the Marriott Wardman Park reaches fruition.

    The Civil Rights movement did not need a platform, for God's sakes, to wage the battle that would finally bring into the sharpest focus the reality of the injustices and the inhumanity that the American people could no longer ignore, once a concerted and well-conceived series of actions put in their faces every day what they would have preferred to continue to ignore.

    Those heroes did not get into a rhetorical pissing match with the George Wallaces of the world. They studied their history, they connected, they exposed the perpetrators through their actions, and they hoped. Not some wishful thinking nonsense, but real hope based on a faith in their own capacities working together against an inhumane and unjust system.

    There are a dozen very good blueprints for what sane education looks like. We don't need another one at this juncture to be shot down by the same bad billionaire actors who are out to extend the power of consumer capitalism over children and to block real education.

    Occupy's unflinching stand against the corruption and manipulation within the corporate state represents a great example of Cornel West's call for "prophetic thinkers" to discern, connect, track hypocrisy, and to hope. The Occupiers were making known "the gap between principles and practice, between promise and performance, between rhetoric and reality."

    The fire hoses are on our children, but it is happening behind the walls where the public cannot see. We are going to have to make such a case that the public will no longer be able to ignore the crimes against children. Will we have to put our asses on the line to do that? You bet.
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  38. REMINDER: The Common Core Standards and Tests march on - this is today's news -

    NYC schools to expand use of Common Core State Standards
    Education officials in New York City on Tuesday directed school principals to step up efforts to integrate the Common Core State Standards into next year's instruction. A pilot program this year has some schools using the new standards in math and English classes. Under the guidance for next year, the standards will be further expanded in those subjects and used for some science and social studies as well. The New York Times
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    1. And the GE Foundation is sending 16 Milwaukee teachers to sit at the feet of Common Core entrepreneur David Coleman, who will "align" them.

      We are already so late for this train. . . . The notion of waiting for a summer platform baffles me and makes me realize that corporate power wins because they know how to steamroll ahead.

      I wouldn't even make it as complicated as our NCTE Resolution. Using the methods of the echo chamber U. S. Department of Education/National Governors Association/Bill Gates team, that if you repeat something 63 times, it must be true, I'll just say it again:

      Platform Item:
      Save Our Schools is opposed to the Common Core State Standards funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and forced on the states by Race to the Top bribes administered by the office of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

      I would be satisfied that the item stop after the word 'Standards,' but offer the rest for clarity.
      Delete
  39. I agree with Jim Horn; what are the boundaries of this big tent? Are there any?

    Either we are sure about the damage reform is doing or we're not.

    Some of us are sure. SOS seems to be unsure.

    Perhaps a purity test should be applied to committee members? No corporate folks; no charter folks; only educators. Seems reasonable.

    Or you all can continue to send out mixed signals.

    I am "this close" to disassociating myself from the "large" SOS tent out of pure frustration (imagine that!).
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  40. REMINDER: The Common Core Standards and Tests march on

    A partnership between universities, community colleges and K-12 school districts in 30 states is aimed at aligning teacher-preparation programs in secondary mathematics with the new Common Core State Standards. The so-called Mathematics Teacher Education Partnership was announced this week, and already has received a $200,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. Education Week
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  41. "SOS" was hijacked well before the march even took place. It became a hollow shell of what it was intended to be. Egos, advanced degrees, and people with supposed "connections" pushed their way to the forefront, leaving those who truly matter in all of this, those who have the ambition and the fire to do whatever it takes to produce positive change (as opposed to doing whatever it takes to gain name recognition)to be not much more than cheerleaders. The problem is, people may be starting to realize that this version of "SOS" hasn't given them much to cheer about.
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  42. Is there anything stopping SOS from opposing the common core standards and tests now?
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  43. I am a retired PH.D. Management Systems Analyst (not an Education professional) who spent 30-years working on efficiency-effectiveness evaluation methodologies for government projects inside and outside the federal government and who, at age 75, recently settled in this large Southwest city. On arriving, I immediately sought involvement with Occupy (after years of non-involvement following the demise of the New Left in the early 70’s and subsequent attempts to raise a family and have a career). I spent the last 5 to 6-months trying to educate myself enough about the problems being experienced in public k-12 arena to be able to convince the local Occupy movement to start some sort of anti NCLB/RTTT reform actions. We managed to have one teach-in kind of event but then couldn’t come together on what else to do. I kept at it.
    I was surprised recently when I attended the monthly meeting of a local group that advocates for the rights of teachers, students and parents which, because of their location and the anti immigrant stance of the state government, seems to be more into the plight of Mexican Americans wanting and not getting a quality education for their children. That's fine with me, Mexican American children sure need people to stand up for their education rights in this state. At any rate, I attempted to engage one of the leaders -- who was identified to me as one of the more active k-12 teachers -- in conversation regarding the CCSS and the RTTT testing and teacher-evaluation program. The testing subject did not seem to resonate with her at all -- I got the feeling that she saw so many other real everyday problems (like those having to do with the struggles of ESL students and the combined effect of ESL and poverty) that she classified it as an academic problem, relatively speaking -- but CC was unequivocally a good thing. She saw CC as something that helped her and the newer teachers in developing their day-to-day teaching plans and definitely an improvement of what they had before. It was evident that I was not going to get anywhere generating resistance to testing if I was going to package my arguments with a need to resist CC.
    I have spent several hours reading and rereading the exchange regarding SOS and the need to make a definitive rejection of CC. At first, I was convinced that it would be tactically most prudent to come together in opposition to the plan to bubble-test kids’ minds into states where they had totally lost interest in learning and then somehow use test results to evaluate teachers. I figured, stopping or stalling the test-and-evaluate plan had top priority because it is so insidious and that doing so would buy more time for refining problems we had with the CC. I now see understand the depth of your resistance to these standards but I am nowhere near being able to go back to that group of inner-city teachers and make a case for opposing the CC. Telling them that the National Council on Education and the Economy (NCEE) and it's subsidiary America's Choice (now owned by Pearson), Achieve and all of it's corporate sponsors, and ultimately Lumina, ALEC, Gates, etc. were instrumental in developing these standards would not help me. If I am to convince others I have to have the sources to read to obtain a more comprehensive understanding. I would appreciate if someone could give me some references.
    Thanks
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    1. One of the most poignant and beautifully written books on the alienating effects of the imposed, single curriculum is Richard Rodriguez's book, "Hunger of Memory." Now almost 30 years old, the book offers a terrific place to begin to understand, especially, one Hispanic man's experiences, which ended in a doctorate in English lit and a deep sense of alienation. Shouldn't be missed. (Don't order from Amazon, please.) CC promises to provide the kind of cultural alienation that Rodriguez experienced on a universal scale.

      Another very good introduction to some of the issues around the single imposed curriculum can be found in this web piece by Nel Noddings, (http://edweb.sdsu.edu/people/Dkitchen/TE652/noddings.htm) who includes some good references, especially the Michael Apple reference. Noddings makes a compelling case that the one best curriculum for all is the best curriculum for no one.

      Here is another from Noddings, which does a nice job going back to summarize the debate between Dewey and Hutchins from the early 20th Century. This is very good at getting to the root differences in philosophy. Just a taste:

      Consider the Dewey/Hutchins debates. Both men were avowedly strong advocates of democracy, but Dewey saw conjoint living (speaking, listening, working together) as a way of creating common values and understandings, whereas Hutchins saw common values and understandings as necessary precursors of cooperative (or democratic) life. Hutchins deplored ignorance of the “Graeco-Hebraic tradition,” knowledge of which he claimed was necessary for participation in democratic life." (http://ojs.ed.uiuc.edu/index.php/pes/article/viewFile/1706/423)

      David Coleman, nor the oligarchs that hired him to put together big chunks of the CC, even acknowledge these basic differences in values and philosophies. The current effort represents an ahistorical and anti-intellectual jamming down of a technocratic process whose advocates do not even understand the implications for people and our educational system, or even the implications for the economy. As diversity is minimized by uni-cultualism, our real abilities to solve real problems is reduced.

      I hope other will chip in here with some more recent materials. As you will see, however, this bad idea has been around for a long time. Best to start near the beginning. It will be assurance for you, too, that you understand more on the subject than anyone at the U. S. Department of Education/Gates Foundation.
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    2. I have posted 253 articles about the Common Core on my website, many with hotlinks to research. So it's hard for me to be brief, but I will try. You can start with these facts:

      1. The Common Core is a product of private enterprise calling on very little educator knowledge. Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, much of the development was handled by Achieve, an organization founded by governors and business leaders to further corporate goals in education.

      2. David Coleman and Susan Pimentel are credited as 'chief architects' of the Common Core in literacy. She's a lawyer with a long history in consulting. Coleman set up an organization to disseminate his views. He has never taught and has a radical view of teaching not backed by any research or practice. For starters, he says teachers must indoctrinate students with the realization "No one gives a shit what you think." (because this is the way it is in the business world.) This is not a paraphrase. You can go to the NY State Department of Education website and watch his 2-hour presentation.
      http://usny.nysed.gov/rttt/resources/bringing-the-common-core-to-life.html
      You can read a transcript here, but you'll have to put up with my introductory polemics:
      http://susanohanian.org/show_research.php?id=437

      The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has given the Coleman enterprise millions. They gave the Hunt Institute more millions to distribute films of Coleman & Pimentel showing teachers how to teach the Common Core way. The G. E. Foundation has just given Coleman enterprises $18 million to align teachers to the Coleman way.

      I happen to feel it's very dangerous stuff to pour all this money into forcing everybody into this one way of looking at text. I don't say 'literature' because Coleman insists most of the school day should be spent with nonfiction. . . because nonfiction is where kids learn about the world.

      3. The highly regarded Brookings Institute recently issued a report concluding, "Despite all the money and effort devoted to developing the Common Core State Standards--not to mention the simmering controversy over their adoption in several states--the study foresees little to no impact on student learning."

      http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/Files/rc/reports/2012/0216_brown_education_loveless/0216_brown_education_loveless.pdf

      4. The purpose of the Common Core curriculum is to serve as a vehicle for the national test. We don't yet know what this test will look like but the two testing consortia keep leaking info that it will be continuous online testing, totally driving the curriculum.

      5. Finally, and most important, the Common Core is a deliberate diversionary tactic, getting the public to believe that a standardized curriculum is the key to student success. The truth of the matter is that POVERTY trumps everything. The research on the effects of poverty is plentiful. If we want to solve school problems, we must solve poverty. This is not an excuse; it is a fact. I would suggest reading Richard Rothstein at the Economic Policy Institute on this topic. He has books well worth reading. I'd start with "Class And Schools: Using Social, Economic, And Educational Reform To Close The Black-white Achievement Gap."

      Here are a couple of Rothstein articles.

      http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/apr08/vol65/num07/Whose-Problem-Is-Poverty%C2%A2.aspx

      http://www.epi.org/publication/ib286/

      Also read Rothstein on the fact that schools AREN'T failing:
      http://www.epi.org/blog/reformers-playbook-failing-schools-facts/
      Delete
    3. Thanks to you and Jim -- I am off to the library to absorb some of these refs. I had thought that the biggest objection to CC would be derived from knowledge of how the brain functions to help us produce order from disorder as per the following:
      "The essential task of brain function is to construct orderly patterns of neural activity from disorderly sensory inputs, so that effective actions can be mounted by the brain, a finite state system, to deal with the world's infinite complexity." Walter J Freeman Department of Molecular & Cell Biology University of California ....
      That is, by training the brain to memorize standard approaches to problem solving you are not helping it learn to do what it is designed to do; that is, exclusively teaching standard approaches essentially atrophies the brain.
      Is this an important part of what you (we) are saying?
      Delete
  44. Can SOS support the resolution we presented two years in a row at NCTE?
    Why can't SOS oppose the standards/tests? The individual principles that SOS officially supports.
    Can somebody answer this in a few sentences?
    ReplyDelete
  45. Wow..what a title for this post. It's more like a public lynching of a good man. If Mr. Horn had met with Bob George and interviewed him or at the very least talked with him before he wrote this screed, he would have known more about his subject and realized that Bob George is an ethical man who has balanced his role with Catapult and SOS in an honorable and honest manner.
    The big question I have is why didn't Mr. Horn talk to Bob George before writing this article and posting it?
    The importance of that old adage" know and understand your subject before you write about it" certainly flew out the window in this post. It's something that all good writers have followed, once upon a time.
    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The conversation that I think all the supporters of SOS deserve, rather than just the Steerers of SOS, is a public answer to my question that Bob would not post at the SOS website: Do you think, Bob, that there could be a perceived conflict of interest resulting between a senior VP who works a company that preys on the poorest public schools by day, while "steering" an org that stands in opposition to these practices on weekends?

      With Bob's refusal to address the question on the SOS site, he guaranteed that it would appear here. Bob George has been invited to respond here, to engage in a public dialogue, but he has refused.

      Bob owes no explanation to me, personally, but he does owe one to ALL the folks who have supported SOS in the past, and the ones who want to support it in the future. I thought I would let him speak for himself. But maybe he is not interested in that, as long as exec buddies continue to carry water for him.
      Delete
    2. When you wrote "Bob owes no explanation to me, personally...", you seem to have forgotten who wrote this article. Your protestations only belie the very dark nature of your attack on a man who has given his heart, time, energy and soul to SOS.
      Delete
    3. Bob George's company, Catapult Learning LLC sells a line of professional development services aimed at getting school staffs up to speed on the Common Core, which Catapult and the rest of the testing industrial complex is salivating to get ushered in nationwide.

      As SOS considers its position on Common Core, do you think there could be an appearance of a conflict of interest by having a Senior VP for Catapult on the Steering Committee that is making that decision?

      As I have said before, if Bob George was as concerned about the public perception of SOS as he is about his own agenda, he would have already addressed the issue, rather than parading forward his surrogates to open fire on the messenger.
      Delete
  46. Nobody has responded DIRECTLY to the repeated requests from me and Susan Ohanian that SOS oppose the common core standards and tests,except to say that we will take it later.
    This is a simple action. If you vote to oppose the common core, it does not mean that you have to go on strike, you don't have to refuse to do anything, you can still work to make life better if the common core is implemented in your school.
    The NCTE did not allow our resolution to be voted on by the members of NCTE.
    Can we vote on this, by mail, before the meeting? Not everybody will be able to attend the meeting. Not everybody can afford it and people have other pressing obligations.
    ReplyDelete
  47. Posted to an earlier response, but deserves attention here.

    Rosemarie Jensen 6:06 PM

    Here's my two cents having attended the march last summer and Occupy in March/April and been involved in this fight since, I believe, the attack started here in Florida since the late 90s. An apparent conflict of interest is evident. Period. And we have watched others worm their way into our Federal DOE and State DOEs under the cover of wanting to do what is best for children. And they have worked long and patiently to meet their ends. I don't know Bob but it would behoove him to answer the question. Period. I am not an influencial member, just a small voice, and I would NOT approve of my husband consulting with Charter USA when asked because I would not want anyone to question my intent if I should ever play a bigger role or have a larger audience. And it was a huge loss of revenue for our little consulting business.
    Second, It seems a no brainer that SOS should be public in it's stance against Common Core. We know what the ultimate goal of that is and it goes against all the previously stated planks.The fact that there are people who are reticent about that concerns me. We aren't here to make friends...we are here to change the course of education policy and history.

    Everyone here who has posted I respect and am appreciative of your perspective, but everyone must realize we don't have YOUR experience with Bob and sometimes when something walks like a duck, quack likes a duck, ...it's a duck. He needs to answer the question and there is nothing wrong with asking the question. Instead of getting feathers ruffled, if there is no conflict, it should be an easy question to answer and Bob should understand that. It was very easy for my husband to understand my perspective that his work my jeapardize my legitmacy in a movement I feel so strongly about. There's my two cents for what it's worth.
    ReplyDelete
  48. I am new to SOS and appreciate the chance to get some answers to questions that have been bugging me: like, 'if the CC are so bad and all this started to accelerate in the 90's, what has taken so long to build consensus to resist?' Oh yeh, I get it, good people got bought out one-at-a-time and piece by piece. And then there came to be privatization and ALEC and ....
    I think now about all the hours we at Occupy Phoenix have spent discussing issues surrounding whom we should link up with (and still remain true to what we believe) and how we can include everyone (even our online members, some of whom might not be known to all) in our GA deliberations and I can tell you this type of conflict of interest would get 'hands-down' all the way round. It can't be tolerated especially because the reason we all have our backs to the wall like this is because we all accepted lies and deceptions over and over. I speak for myself but I believe that the people at Occupy know that getting the process right and keeping it pure of compromises is most essential. A social movement cannot take such risks of being co-opted.
    ReplyDelete
  49. Anonymous4:54 PM
    I thought the SOS platform was to push back against harmful school reforms which I would think includes fighting Common Core Standards.

    I thought the original problem had to do with an individual who fights harmful school reform while being employed by a questionable corporation. It seems like this individual is serving two masters. And it is a concern no matter how likable this person is or how hard he works. I have sat in on too many meetings where organizations like Stand for Children preach murky messages to the general public when they have bold intentions to go after public schools. So I can’t help but wonder if this person has ulterior motives. Perhaps he should explain. Why doesn’t he on this blog?

    One thing is for sure, SOS will lose members if the message is murky.

    A good organization needs a strong platform so the general public understands what it is about and who it is up against. The general public doesn’t always check into these blogs like educators and some parents. The clearer the message the better to reach the general public.

    THEN act on the message with action!

    Unfortunately, if the message isn’t clear and the platform wishy-washy, which seems to be the case right now, the organization is probably in danger of falling by the wayside. Especially with inside arguing.

    Steering board, GET WITH IT! Decide what SOS is about so I know whether or not I want to support you!