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

Friday, August 31, 2012

Investors Seek to Profit from Privatization of Public Schools

From Real News Network

Jane Watson: "Doublethink" is alive and well

Sent to Yakima Herald-Republic (WA) for "Saturday Soapbox"
By Jane Watson
August 31, 2012

“Doublethink” is alive and well.

In 1948, George Orwell wrote 1984. “Big Brother is Watching You” was born. So was “doublethink,” the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously and accepting both of them. TVs watch YOU. Language is paradoxical. Less is more. War is Peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.

The organization Stand For Children endorses gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna and Charter Schools. Who doesn’t want to Stand For Children? Who wants Children Left Behind? Who doesn’t want Students First?

The fallacies and failures of NCLB (No Child Left Behind – aka No CORPORATION Left Behind) are well documented. ‘Nuff said.

The CEO of Stand For Children is Geoffrey Canada, a well financed man who opened Harlem’s Children’s Zone, a school which was able to provide many benefits to students who otherwise would have been left to the resources of public schools. Canada was able to spend $14,000 per student to help mitigate the effects of poverty. [Wish public schools could do that!]

When students did not get acceptable test scores, Canada kicked an entire class out of school to maintain Harlem Children Zone’s high test scores. http://susanohanian.org/show_atrocities.php?id=9289. Presumably, these students went to public schools, which don’t turn away anybody – kind of like the Statue of Liberty.

Charter schools take money from public education. They do not do better than public schools. http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/charter-schools/about-the-brill-story-on-chart.html
Most national research shows that on average public schools perform as well as charter schools or better.

Michelle Rhee heads Students First. She was chancellor of DC public schools, (2007 – 2010) which had low test scores. When she was chancellor, test scores rose. Ms. Rhee’s reputation rests on those test scores, which soared while she was chancellor. Last March, USA Today published the results (http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2011-03-28-1Aschooltesting28_CV_N.htm) of a yearlong investigation of the Washington schools that found a high rate of erasures on tests as well as suspiciously large gains at 41 schools — one-third of the elementary and middle schools in the district. Michelle Rhee is now under investigation for fixing test scores. Michelle Rhee taught third grade for one year, but couldn’t control her class, said the stress gave her hives, and taped children’s mouths to keep them quiet. Rhee’s first year test scores showed a precipitous drop in her class: Average math percentile dropped from 64% to 17%. Average reading percentile dropped from 37% to 21%

In straight talk, Students First does not put students first. Stand For Children does not stand for children. No Child Left Behind (NCLB) leaves children behind.

Where does one get the truth? Talk to teachers. They’re the ones on the front line. They know students are more than test scores. They know children are being robbed of music, art, and many other things by the narrowing of the curriculum as a result of excessive testing.

Go to Parents Across America website. http://parentsacrossamerica.org/ Sign up for their newsletter.

Go to the Save Our schools website. Help them keep the “public” in public ed. http://www.saveourschoolsmarch.org/ Attend their webinars and tweets with educational professionals. (499)


CITATIONS

Charter Schools
http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/charter-schools/about-the-brill-story-on-chart.html

Charters vs. public schools: Behind the numbers
http://www.educationjustice.org/newsletters/nlej_iss21_art5_detail_CharterSchoolAchievement.htm

CHARTER SCHOOL ACHIEVEMENT: HYPE VS. EVIDENCE
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/27/education/duncan-and-rhee-on-panel-amid-dc-schools-inquiry.html?_r=1

Gerald Coles: KIPP Schools: Power Over Evidence
http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2012/08/gerald_coles_kipp_schools_powe.html

"Who else would title it?": Scripting Students to Death

While it may seem to be little more than semantics to argue about whether teachers are the most important factor in student learning or teachers are the most important in-school factor in student learning, there is now little room to debate that how teachers are being mandated to treat students is inexcusable.

The rise of "no excuses" assumptions and practices are creating charter and public schools that provide for "other people's children" a culture of shame, but we often fail to recognize as well that the last thirty years of accountability have created schooling as an endless series of scripts for children to follow.

Consider this scenario shared with me just yesterday by email from a teacher in an urban charter school:
Favorite student story of the day: 
I assigned their first writing project today -- a personal literacy narrative because we just finished reading the narrative of Frederick Douglass (our class mantra is “literacy is liberating”). On my rubric/guidelines I wrote,  "Don't forget to give your narrative a unique title -- this is the first thing a reader will see!"
This is the conversation that followed:

An honors student: You mean we have to title the paper ourselves?

Me (with a snarky tone): Yes. who else would title it?

All students in unison: The teacher!

Me: Are you serious?

All students: Yes

Me (took a deep breath): If I catch anyone titling their paper "My Literacy Narrative," you will lose points, and I will make you wear a name tag that says, "Hi, my name is boring."

Multiple students began frantically erasing the top of their papers.

Apparently, every paper their freshman year was titled for them. [emphasis added]
 This mindlessness is what the accountability era has wrought.

If the teacher is the most important factor (or in-school factor) in a student's learning, then the scripted classroom bent on test-prep is guaranteed to produce only one thing: Mindlessly obedient and incapable young people.

That may benefit our two major political parties filled with Clowns and offering us endless Circuses, that may benefit Corporate America seeking a cheap and inter-changeable workforce, but that doesn't serve our hopes of Democracy and Equity...

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Chicago Teachers Fight for Our Lives


As New Orleans is once again under water, as the Republican lie machine works overtime in Tampa, and real journalism or reporting is MIA in the corporate media owned airwaves, a social studies teacher is using email to spread the word about what's happening in Chicago and to teachers and public education all across the country. 


"Friends and Family across the United States-

As most of you know Chicago Teachers Union has been in a fight to win a contract that requests not only fair compensation, but also great teaching and learning conditions in the face of mass privatization and charterization.  Our mayor has promised 250 more charter schools in place of traditional public schools.  Our mayor has promised more testing for our kids, and rating teachers based on those tests.  Our mayor has promised merit pay, and a longer day.  This is also a mayor who has seen a 70% increase in the murder rate in Chicago in only one years' time, and an increase in public dollars to private corporations.

We are fighting for experienced teachers over expendable ones; fair pay for longer days; for the arts, P.E., foreign languages, and vocational studies.  We are fighting for social services in our schools.  We are fighting for dignity in the workplace and classroom, and the whole world is watching.  A strike is looming, and the Board has yet to come to the table with respect for our members and the teaching and learning process.

I spent my summer traveling the US from east coat to west coast spreading the message of what we are trying to do, and listening to the similar concerns of educators everywhere.  BOTH major teachers unions recognized that this is a fight in which everyone must throw in their hat, and passed support resolutions encouraging their locals to follow suit.  I have attached a sample resolution, and ask that if you can, to pass one among your congregations, whether that body be composed of teachers, parents, faculty, nurses, school board members, principals, doctors, steel-workers, coal-miners, and anyone in between.  Everyone has a civic stake in public education.  We need your voice on this. 

I ask you to watch and share this video detailing the what we are fighting for.  
I implore you to send us letters of support. 
I invite you to donate to the CTU Solidarity Fund. 

I entreat you to join the nationwide fight for better public schools."

Thank you,
Adam Heenan
High School Social Studies
Chicago  

*Follow updates on Twitter; #FairContractNow

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A lousy way to evaluate teachers

Letter: Remove the requirement
(original title: Not the way to evaluate teachers)
http://www.smdp.com/letter-remove-the-requirement/111188

Published in the Santa Monica Daily Press, August 28, 2012

State Assembly Bill 5 removes the requirement that increases in student test scores be included in teacher evaluations (“10th graders sail through exit exam,” Aug. 23). Good idea.

A number of studies have shown that rating teachers using student test score gains does not give consistent results. Different tests produce different ratings, and the same teacher’s ratings can vary from year to year, sometimes quite a bit.

In addition, using test score gains for evaluation encourages gaming the system, trying to produce increases in scores by teaching test-taking strategies, not by encouraging real learning. This is like putting a match under the thermometer and claiming you have raised the temperature of the room.

There is another problem. Studies show that children of poverty typically lose reading proficiency during the summer, while more advantaged children improve. This means that we would need pre-tests in the fall to measure the effect of school from fall to spring, without the effect of summer. This would double the already excessive amount of testing now required.
We are all interested in finding the best ways of evaluating teachers, but using student test-score gains is a lousy way to do it.

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus, University of Southern California



Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Bob George Lies Again About Corporate Connections

Just before I posted last week on the continued crumbling of SOS under the non-leadership of the Catatpult Learning Vice President, Bob George, I talked with a former Board member who told me there was a rumor afloat that Bob George was retiring from Catapult.  Could Corporate Bob's intentional mismanaging and steering of SOS into the ditch be so important as to end his day job with a company that gets fat on federal cash intended for poor kids?  

Two days ago I emailed another current Board member who had recently spoken out against the patronizing chauvinism of NEA's man onBoard at SOS, Mike Klonsky, who obviously provides the man muscle during meetings to keep the group away from adopting a position against the next high-stakes test delivery system, Common Core.  The real work at SOS has always been done by women, primarily, whose field organizing was responsible for bring thousands of teachers to DC in 2011.

The Board member told me that Bob George had, indeed, retired from Catapult.  Knowing Bob to lie with impunity, as he did with Steven Sawchuck two weeks ago, I checked with Catapult Learning, whose home office is in Camden, New Jersey.  I talked with a receptionist there who gave me Bob's company number in Chicago.  I talked with another at the 800 number in Philadelphia, who gave me the same information.  If Bob George is not employed by Catapult Learning, he has only shared that information with those he seeks to deceive, rather than the front desk at Catapult. 

When I shared this information with the SOS Board member, she wrote back she had clarified that 
"he  [Bob] is acting as a consultant to transition replacement - will be for the next few months, but he is officially on retirement."  
So Corporate Bob will obviously have his cake it, too, acting as paid consultant with Catapult as they roll out their new Common Core product lines, while at the same time corralling and containing SOS so as to keep the organization from challenging corporate ed's gravy train worth billions.

There are a number of organizations that you may join to fight the good fight against corporate ed reform.  SOS is not one of them, and it not be one of them as long as the corporate bosses, union bosses, and "communications consultants" have the organization making bulletin boards, rather than fighting in the trenches for real education, real learning, real children, real schools.  


Monday, August 27, 2012

MEASURE THIS!

Talk Poverty, from The Nation

Mariana Chilton of Children's Health Watch, testified before Congress in 2007 about childhood hunger and poverty. She said of the Congressmen, "Their eyes glazed over."  Five years later things have only gotten worse and the 600 pound gorilla in the room then is now at least 2 tons.

Meanwhile, the steady drumbeat of accountability for teachers, test scores and competition is deafening. Yet, the silence on increasing poverty, growing numbers of working poor, underemployed and unemployed, is just plain horrifying. 

Those who should be held accountable have successfully shifted the focus and the conversation to the teachers and education, with a promise that education is the way out of poverty and teachers and public schools are the problem. 

The smoke and mirrors are everywhere as a failed, leaderless, spineless government beholden to its corporate bosses can no longer provide its citizens with basic protections like safe streets and the necessities of life such as health care and education for its most vulnerable children.

Instead, both parties have joined together to pressure teachers to raise test scores of these tired, hungry, fearful and anxiety ridden kids, so they will have a successful life and be a productive member of society with a beautiful future - perhaps in prison. Prison is even more lucrative than education.


1) One quarter of America’s young children under age 6 are living in homes that are food insecure—meaning their families report that they do not have money to buy enough food for an active and healthy life. Food insecurity negatively affects the cognitive, social and emotional development of young children. This cripples their readiness for school and future school performance. 
2) Before the recession, 70 percent of households with food-insecure children had at least one parent that was employed full-time. Such a high percentage of “working hungry” American families suggests that US corporations and businesses are not paying adequate wages for American families to keep food on the table. 
3) Currently, one in seven Americans (about 45 million people—half of whom are children) are receiving help from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. SNAP is the single most important program to prevent hunger and promote healthy eating. In addition, healthcare research shows that SNAP prevents hospitalizations, promotes child development and improves school performance. The recent Farm Bill negotiations and proposed federal budget from the House recommended major cuts to the SNAP program. (There were significant cuts in the Senate version too.) These cuts will increase hunger and its associated costs that Americans will see in our schools, hospitals and pediatric clinics.
4) Economists demonstrate that 40 percent of the people who are born into poverty will stay in poverty, suggesting very low mobility for poor Americans, and especially women. Low mobility disproportionately affects African-American and Latina women. If one looks at their wealth—the total value of one’s assets minus debts—single African-American and single Latina women have a median wealth of about $100, while the median for single white women is $41,500. (This despite the fact that there were more white women in poverty in 2010 than African-American and Latina women combined; and white, African-American and Latina women participate in the cash assistance (TANF) program inequal proportions.) Around the world, leaders have recognized that investing in women and girls—through group microfinance programs and access to banking services, for example—helps not only to improve their lives but lift an entire nation and boost GDP. 

Bracey: "… the impending shortage of scientists and engineers is one of the longest running hoaxes in the country"

Posted at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/no-algebra-isnt-necessary--and-yes-stem-is-overrated/2012/08/26/edc47552-ed2d-11e1-b09d-07d971dee30a_blog.html#comments

Roger Schank: “ …we hear argument after argument about the need for more STEM education (pretending we don't have lots of unemployed science PhDs).”

Roger Schank’s observation is supported by reports that conclude that there is a surplus of STEM-trained professionals (Teitelbaum, 2007; Toppo and Vergano, 2009; Bracey, 2009; Berliner, 2011).

In fact, Gerald Bracey has stated that "… the impending shortage of scientists and engineers is one of the longest running hoaxes in the country" (Bracey, 2009).

In addition, the US ranks at or near the top of the world on all categories related to STEM education and availability of expertise: According to the World Economic Federation, the US ranks 5th out of 133 countries in "availability of scientists & engineers," second in "quality of scientific research institutions" and first in "university-industry research collaboration."

Berliner, D. 2011. The Context for Interpreting PISA Results in the USA: Negativism, Chauvinism, Misunderstanding, and the Potential to Distort the Educational Systems of Nations. In Pereyra, M., Kottoff, H-G. & Cowan, R. (Eds.). PISA under examination: Changing knowledge, changing tests, and changing schools. Amsterdam: Sense Publishers.
Bracey, G. 2009. Education Hell: Rhetoric Vs. Reality. Alexandra, VA: Educational Research Service.
Teitelbaum, M. 2007. Testimony before the Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation. Committee on Science and Technology, U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC, November 6, 2007
Toppo, G. and Vergano, D. 2009. Scientist shortage? Maybe not. USA Today, August 9, 2009

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Defending the Indefensible: KIPP

Advocacy that remains blind to evidence is a dangerous thing—especially in the pursuit of equity and democracy.

Recently, Diane Ravitch addressed the misleading charter movement by challenging Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) charters:
If that is the lesson they want to teach, then I reiterate my challenge of two years ago: KIPP should find an impoverished district that is so desperate that it is willing to put all its students into KIPP’s care. Take them all: the children with disabilities, the children who don’t speak English, the children who are homeless, the children just released from the juvenile justice system, the children who are angry and apathetic, and everyone else. No dumping. No selection. No cherry picking.
I have also questioned the motives and genuine support for KIPP and Teach for America (TFA) by offering my own challenge:
I suggest that we test the new reformers’ commitment to TFA and KIPP. How?
Let’s fully fund TFA and KIPP initiatives, but only if TFA and KIPP serve top students, releasing the most experienced and well-qualified teachers to teach students living in poverty, students of color, and students speaking home languages other than English.
So far, no one at KIPP (or TFA) has accepted either challenge, of course. But that doesn't stop advocates for charters, school choice, and KIPP/TFA specifically to maintain their talking points.

As expected, then, Jonathan Schorr has replied directly to Ravitch's latest blog, prompting a counter-response from Katie Osgood, in which she expresses her exasperation: "I am sick of hearing the same old KIPP talking points."

Bruce Baker also offers detailed evidence responding to KIPP's responses
, leading him to wonder:
I actually hesitate to write about KIPP and perhaps that’s just what they want. Apparently no one should write about them that hasn’t been paid by them to write about them. Those who do should be forewarned that you’ll have to waste inordinate time responding to their complaints – excuses – about what you wrote. As of this post, I hope to be done with this topic.
As it stands, KIPP advocates remain mired in talking points and hollow advocacy, refusing to address the evidence and refusing to stop defending the indefensible [1].

Schorr's defense of KIPP is typical of nearly fanatical KIPP advocacy narrowly and the problem with advocacy broadly. First, Schorr's post spends an inordinate amount of time attacking Ravitch directly and indirectly, suggesting that his argument fails to hold water if he simply were to address evidence on KIPP (and research on all charters—all of which paints no clear picture of any form of schooling outperforming any other because its type [charter, public, private]).

Simply put, any claims of "miracle" schools, as Ravitch has correctly explained, are either unmasked as inaccurate (most of those claims) or outliers, thus not representative of possible reform solutions for all of public education.

Next, the technical arguments leveled by Ravitch (but refuted by Schorr) against KIPP are important and accurate:

• KIPP results are powerfully impacted by selection, even when lotteries are involved because parents self-select by entering the lotteries. This dynamic is absent in public schools; thus, comparisons are distortions.

• KIPP does reap benefits of attrition. Students and their parents must sign highly restrictive agreements, and once those agreements are broken, KIPP can send a child packing. Public school cannot (and should not) have this option.

KIPP, and many charter movements across the U.S., are segregating schools by race and class. KIPP schools are isolating children by race and class in ways that do not address how public schools are in need of reform (public schools are too often highly segregated also due to the community-based inequity that public schools reflect and perpetuate).

• KIPP schools work in conjunction with TFA and other alternatives to staffing that also perpetuate the ways in which public schools need reform—assigning poor children and children of color inexperienced and un-/under-certified teachers. (See my challenge above for more on this indefensible process.)

• KIPP schools, and many charters, underserve bi/multi-lingual learners (commonly called "English language learners") and special needs students—populations that tend to negatively impact test scores and overburden schools in terms of funding and staffing.

• KIPP, and other "miracle" charter schools, often have funding advantages, and combined with all of the above, are thus not scalable—making KIPP advocacy a distraction in the public school reform argument.

All of these evidence-based concerns are well documented and thus show that making comparisons between KIPP outcomes and public school outcomes is an agenda-driven campaign of misinformation that benefits primarily KIPP advocates.

Finally, however, these are not my primary reasons for rejecting KIPP, and I regret that the main reason KIPP defense is indefensible remains mostly unspoken.

KIPP's "no excuses" ideology is racist and classist.

KIPP is primarily a mechanism for isolating "other people's children" and "fixing" them, creating a compliant class of children unlike the middle-class and affluent children who have experienced and certified teachers and rich academic programs while sitting in low student/teacher ratio classrooms.

KIPP's primary focus on authoritarian discipline creates a police state in schools; KIPP's test-prep focus reduces the learning opportunities for some children.

So I stand with Ravitch in my challenge and hers: I reiterate, If KIPP is so wonderful, when will we see schools treating middle-class and affluent children like KIPP treats their students?

Defending KIPP is indefensible, unless you ignore the evidence.

[1] Search "KIPP" here on Schools Matter for a powerful collection of commentaries and evidence by Jim Horn addressing KIPP.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Future of SOS Hinges on Repudiation of Common Core

Today Stephen Krashen posted a letter at EPATA by Bess Altwerger, co-founder of Save Our Schools.  In it she makes a strong case for SOS voting to put its full weight forward in opposing, blocking, and dismantling the next high-stakes testing deliver system, the Common Core State [sic] Standards.  Will this letter make a difference?  Who knows.

Meanwhile, Corporate Bob and his loyal Webmistress over at SOS continue to churn out more talking points to distribute to the GOP and the DNC.  Can anything be more sadly pathetic and entirely enraging at the same time?!

Try this from the SOS website:
In August 2012, the People met to compose the Education Platforms. For month’s [sic] prior, in preparation, many gathered throughout the nation. Drafts were created. Topics were discussed in depth and detail. . . .
Did an 8th grader write this and post it while someone was taking a nap?!  Or does this truly represent the intentional incompetence that the Friends of Corporate Bob continue to allow to be published online in the name of teachers, while making a mockery of the thousands of teachers who paid good money to come to Washington in 2011 hoping that there was an organization that would listen to them and DO SOMETHING to represent the interests of saving public education.  

After all, teachers who care about their kids and public schools cannot depend upon the union bosses, who have sold their membership down the river in order to protect their own swollen hierarchies of power with their six-figure salaries.  

In checking to see how the SOS plank-writing (or is it plank-walking) is going over at SOS, I found two out of eight planks ready to be read, even though it's been almost a month since the "People" met to write all eight. 

One of the two planks (how sad) has 11 splinters that, taken together with Corporate Bob's position to protect his company's planned Common Core bonanza, demonstrate why SOS still has not come out against Common Core, just as the NEA and AFT have not come out against the Common Core.  First, try Spinter # 3:
3. SOS opposes the unlimited expansion of privately-managed charter schools which [sic] bar their teachers from holding union membership so as to actively and illegally resist union affiliation.
What does this mean, that SOS supports the limited expansion of charters?  Illegal resistance?  In most states with charter laws, charter operators may hire and fire at will.  

But the real interesting splinter is #8:
8. SOS supports a union position strongly opposing merit pay and value-added teacher evaluation based on high stakes standardized test scores.
Which union position is that, the one in place before Randi Weingarten and Dennis Van Roekel both gave their blessing to teacher evaluations based on value-added test scores AND to merit pay plans that are "negotiated"!! Which one of the Klonsky Boys wrote this piece of dissembling babble, or did they consult with the paid SOS volunteer, Bob Schaeffer, to make it sound just right to naive teachers who never come up for air from unceasing test preparation.

And what does this have to do with the Common Core?  Everything, because Randi, Dennis, and their lawyers have embraced the Common Core, too, and in so doing have assured their continued place at the corporate and federal feeding troughs, while public schools, beginning with the poorest and lowest scoring, are put up for sale to the highest corporate bidder.


Friday, August 24, 2012

A Note from the Principal's Office at AERA: Make Your Service "Academic"

Our language has a common phrase to measure irrelevancy, and when a situation gets really irrelevant, we may hear that "it's academic."   The phrase is derived, perhaps, from the cloistering of knowledge and expertise within a discipline so much so that it has no bearing on worldly events or no potential for human understanding outside the guild that created it.  

Much of the scholarship produced within the disciplines, and particularly in subjects wishing to be disciplines, e. g., education, meets the criteria for irrelevancy, that is, it is "academic."  And much of it never gets beyond its own inner circle who don't read much of it, anyway, except to make decisions on who gets to stay in the guild once the probationary term of service is over.  

 And so earlier this week when AERA members received a weird email from AERA urging all of us toward "academic service," it came as a real surprise.  According to AERA President, Bill Tierney, who should know better, "Service never seems to count for promotion, tenure, or prestige."  

Really?  

Even though service does, indeed, lag behind scholarship and teaching when weighing the tonnage of tenure dossiers, it remains one of three criteria ostensibly used when making tenure decisions.  

So what would Bill Tierney have us do?  Obviously, he would like for those engaged in public service, whether pricking the corporate gas bags who wish to control public education, or circulating petitions to replace corporatist, Arne Duncan, or doing any of the other public intellectual work that so desperately needs our informed hands and minds, to do our work with the same kind of deliberatation, caution, and timidity that characterizes the best of "academic" work. 
A common criticism of academics is that our decision making is not “nimble”: We are too deliberative when we need speedy resolution. I am certainly in favor of more focused decision making, but the reflective culture of academe has an important contribution to make in a world where political and civic discourse has become corrosive, and tweeting and TV shouting matches dominate. As academics we have the opportunity—the responsibility—to temper the divisive, thoughtless, destructive exchanges of the public arena. Our experience with academic service is not just a source of personal inspiration. It is a model for public service.
So yes, let us, indeed, "temper our divisive, thoughtless, and destructive exchanges" when such practices do nothing to promote humane schools, democratic education practices, social justice actions, and corporate-free education zones.  Otherwise, all is fair game, Bill.  Whether you know it not, these corporate socialists who are taking over the universities where you and the AERA elite feel so safely ensconced don't play by Robert's Rules, and you cannot exercise power by simply being polite, deliberative, or "academic.  

I remember someone saying "power concedes nothing without a demand."  Oh yes, that was Frederick Douglass.

Letter from NY Administrator, Carol Burris

Dear friends,

Exciting things are beginning to happen. Parents realize that their children's test scores should not be used for reasons other than guiding  learning.  They also realize that because of other purposes, like APPR, their sons and daughters are sitting for more tests which are becoming longer and longer.  The costs are enormous at a time of shrinking budgets, and student data is being collected at very detailed levels. Tax dollars and learning time are being wasted.  I wrote about what is going on here:

Would you take the time to forward the link to the above article to friends?  Ask them to hit 'favorite'  at the end so that it appears on their Facebook page and their friends can read about it too. Some courageous PTAs up north are working on a resolution.  More to come! Together we can make a difference  and move our schools to emotionally safe places that put learning in the forefront. 
Read how a judge in Florida rejected how the state intended to use VAM scores after two teachers stood up http://dianeravitch.net/2012/08/24/judge-invalidates-florida-evaluations/

Please be sure to ask others to sign onto the principals' letter in opposition to the evaluation of teachers by test scores. http://www.newyorkprincipals.org/support-the-paper When they do, we are able to reach out to more New Yorkers with our updates. Thank you for taking the time to read this.  

Carol

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Bob George Lies to Ed Week

Yesterday Ed Week published a sad gloss on Save Our Schools, which has gone from a fire-breathing operation in 2011 to a small band of conventional conventioneers working under the non-coordination of corporate VP, Bob George.

And as may be expected, Bob George is mentioned prominently in the Ed Week piece, even though the term "conflict of interest" does not appear beside his name.  For those who have not been following the controversy surrounding Corporate Bob's role in SOS, Bob George is the Senior VP for Catapult Learning who has carried the checkbook for SOS and "coordinated" the online meetings with other bedazzled members of the SOS Steering Committee, most of whom still view Bob George's protection as more important than the organization they, otherwise, pour out their blood, sweat, and tears to protect.

Stephen Sawchuck, who wrote the piece for Ed Week, tiptoes around the issue of having a head of a leading edu-corp, Catapult Learning, making decisions about the direction of a group ostensibly aimed to stem corporate control of public education. And to Bob George's credit, he does finally break the silence on his corporate role with this:
Another point of contention appears to be who should be permitted to help lead the group. Mr. George, a vice president of Catapult Learning, a private tutoring company, came under fire for that affiliation given SOS' criticism of the influence of for-profit corporations in education.
Mr. George said that he was upfront about that connection with his SOS colleagues and has worked only with private, not public, schools in his position.
It's just too bad that George's statement is completely false, if we are to believe the Bob George resume that appears in a 58-page application for some of that sweet, sweet federal money approved under Section 1003 (g) School Improvement Grants to assist in the corporatization of public schools.  In fact, George is listed as "Responsible for all Catapult Learning and Education Station NCLB, Traditional In School Programs" before his duties in the non-public school realm (see p. 49):



Mr. Sawchuck at Ed Week would be well advised to do a little fact checking before he goes to press next time.  Indeed, Sawchuck characterizes Catapult Learning as a tutoring company, when, in fact, they have emerged as one of the central players of the ed industry, having gobbled up Literacy First in 2011 and more recently partnered with Teachscape on RTTT school "turnarounds."  And Catapult is gearing up to be a leader in the professional development bonanza that will accompany the planned Common Core rollout if Bill Gates gets his way.  
If Bob George did not know there was a conflict of interest involved with his running SOS, why would he make up such an outrageous lie about his non-involvement in his company's predation of the public coffers to support his corporation?  From p. 26 of the Catapult's Michigan SIG Application:



Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Walmart Soon Selling Monsanto's Poison Corn

When bugs eat Monsanto's genetically-engineered corn, they die, and when Roundup is sprayed on Monsanto's Roundup resistant corn, the weeds around the corn die.  And yet Monsanto's and Walmart's paid scientists say the corn is entirely safe for humans.  

When the same corn was marketed in Europe with the mandated labels for genetically-modified food, no one bought it, just like no one would here if they knew.  Since labeling became mandatory in Europe, these products are not even marketed in stores anymore. 

Walmart, however, refuses to label its poison corn in the US, and Monsanto has launched a multi-million dollar campaign in California to block the labeling of its poison products in California supermarkets.  They know that when consumers know, their gig is up.  From RT:

America’s largest bio-agriculture company and the biggest retailer in the country are joining forces, but a happy ending isn’t necessarily in sight. Walmart will soon be stocking their shelves with GMO corn made by Monsanto.
Millions of Americans shop at Walmart, but that doesn’t mean that they all know what they’re getting as they check out in shopping centers across the country. The retail giant says they won't advertise which of their products are made with genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, which could become a big problem very soon. Zack Kaldveer explains in an editorial published by the California Progress Report this month that Walmart will soon sell a special factory-made corn manufactured by Monsanto, which while it will allow most of Americans more easy access to affordable food, will also fill them with unknown insecticides: the very GMO crop Walmart will be selling has been genetically engineered to include chemicals right inside the corn.
Voters in California will decide later this year if retailers on the West Coast will be legally bound to correctly label all foodstuffs sold in shopping centers that are made from lab-alerted, genetically modified foods. Notwithstanding that ruling, one of the largest retailers in the world says that they won’t worry about advertising their GMO foods as the product of scientists in the meantime because, simply, they don’t see enough of a reason to do as such.
"After closely looking at both sides of the debate and collaborating with a number of respected food safety experts, we see no scientifically validated safety reasons to implement restrictions on this product," company representative Dianna Gee tells the Chicago Tribune. . . .


You can fight back, however.  Join the effort to make labeling mandatory.  From AZGREEN:



Nation of Change appeals to its supporters to help them combat environmental destruction caused by Monsanto’s genetically modified organisms – seeds. The campaign endeavors to raise funds to erect a billboard ad in Monsanto’s home town, St. Louis, Missouri.
Dear Friends,
Over the last year, you have stood with us as we Occupied at Zuccotti ParkWashington DCSan Franciscoand other cities across the nation. We fought for economic equality and social justice for all and you joined your voices with ours as we took a stand against war, environmental destruction and most recently against oil baron billionaires the Koch Brothers.
Now we turn our attention to an entity that has been poisoning our people, strangling the agriculture industry, and damaging our biosphere all while paying off our politicians and regulatory organizations.
The multinational biotech giant MONSANTO is the world’s leading producer of genetically modified seeds and crops, responsible for 90 percent of the genetically engineered seed on the United States market.
Monsanto, the company that brought the world Agent Orange, is also the creator of the best-selling herbicide Roundup, which has spawned over 120 million hectacres of herbicide-resistant superweeds while damaging massive amounts of soil.
Monsanto has created several varieties of “superbugs”. Monsanto engineered genetically modified crops containing Bt, a toxin incorporated in GMO crops which has spawned insect populations which are resistant to the biopesticide. Insect populations have and are mutating to resist the biopesticide. So far at least 8 insect populations have developed resistance, with 2 populations resistant to Bt sprays and at least 6 species resistant to Bt crops as a whole. Farmers are therefore forced to use even more pesticides to combat the resistant bugs.
Monsanto may be destroying the planet’s soil. Certain bacteria essential as “food-starters,” such as L cremoris, used in raw and fermented dairy products have begun to disappear in certain geographic regions. The cause has been found to be an element of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, glyphosate which is destroying and/or altering the microbial biodiversity of the soil, jeopardizing the fertility of the entire biosphere.
Monsanto has been caught running “slave-like” rings, holding off pay and forcing undocumented workers to buy their food only from the Monsanto company store. The company not only ‘hired’ all of the workers illegally, but prevented them from leaving the farm premises and withheld their salaries.
Monsanto effectively owns most US diplomats, and is currently using this political capital to start “Trade Wars” against Nations Opposed to Monsanto’s destructive policies. France, Hungary, and Peru are a few of the countries that have decided stand up to Monsanto with Hungary going as far as destroying 1000 acres of maize found to have been grown with GMOs. Peru has passed a monumental 10 year ban on modified foods and French legislatures are planning to launch new restrictions regarding the use of Monsanto’s 810 maize on French soil.
Monsanto poses one of the greatest threats on the planet to human health and the environment.
NationofChange is teaming up with activists across the country for an ongoing campaign to fight backagainst one of the worst corporations in the world.
The first step: raise awareness about Monsanto’s crimes against human health and the environment.
Please click here to make a secure tax-deductible donation or call in your donation at 1-800-803-6045. You can also mail a check to: 6319 Dante Ln NW, Albuquerque, NM 87114
Thank you for all that you do.
Respectfully Yours,
Donna Luca, Board President,

 and the Nation of Change Team


State of Georgia Dodges Financial Responsibilities While Pushing for More State Control


The piece below is by Jay Bookman, writing for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Note: This post contains material published here earlier. It is posted here as the electronic version of my Sunday AJC column.
“The provision of an adequate public education for the citizens shall be a primary obligation of the State of Georgia. Public education for the citizens prior to the college or post-secondary level shall be free and shall be provided for by taxation.”
— Article VIII, Section I of the Georgia Constitution
As the Georgia Constitution makes clear, public education is supposed to be a primary obligation of state government. Yet in the 2009-1010 school year, legislators financed just 37.8 percent of the cost of educating Georgia students, leaving local government to cover most of the remainder.
It wasn’t always this way. In fact, 20 years ago, the state financed 51.2 percent of the cost of educating Georgia students, leaving local governments to pick up 37.8 percent. (The remainder is covered by federal dollars.) As recently as 10 years ago, the state still honored its constitutional obligation by picking up considerably more of the cost than local governments. But that changed rather quickly beginning in 2003-2004. That year — the first year in which Republicans controlled the state budgeting process — the state share of financing education fell significantly, and it has continued to fall ever since. The trend has allowed state elected leaders to portray themselves as fiscal conservatives while also chastising “free-spending” officials at the local level who have to raise school property taxes to compensate.
But here’s the galling part: As state leaders shirk the primary obligation assigned them under the constitution, they continue to take an ever-more-intrusive approach on non-financial aspects of education. The most obvious current example is the constitutional amendment that will appear on the November ballot. If approved by voters, the amendment will give state officials full legal authority to create local charter schools even over the protest of locally elected school officials, and to finance those schools with hundreds of millions of dollars in additional state money.
Noting that additional cost and the state’s existing failure to adequately fund public schools, state schools superintendent John Barge, a Republican, came out this week against the proposal. “Until all of our public school students are in school for a full 180-day school year, until essential services like student transportation and student support can return to effective levels, and until teachers regain jobs with full pay for a full school year, we should not redirect one more dollar away from Georgia’s local school districts — much less an additional $430 million in state funds, which is what it would cost to add seven new state charter schools per year over the next five years,” Barge explained.
Local school boards already are creating charter schools around the state as they deem fit, with local voters paying close attention. In Cherokee County, for example, charter-school advocates complained bitterly when the county school board blocked creation of a charter school. They targeted the school board chairman for defeat, hoping to replace her with a charter-school advocate, but they failed. Last month Cherokee voters re-elected that chairman by a large margin, in effect endorsing her cautious approach to charters.
The proposed amendment is intended to strip local officials — and local voters — of the right to make such decisions, placing that power instead in the hands of state officials who are already failing to meet their minimal constitutional obligation to education.

– Jay Bookman

Monday, August 20, 2012

What Did SOS Get Nailed Down at This Year's Platform-Building Event?

For Dennis van Roekel apologists who advertised this year's three-day SOS speechifying event at a DC Marriot as a platform-building opportunity for the enemies of corporate ed reform, I will ask the simple question:  Where's the Platform?  After all, if you are going to find a bunch of naive recruits to distribute another impassioned "position statement" to the DNC and RNC conventioneers, there had better be a platform, yes?  Who is steering this effort, anyway?

Oh, yes, I almost forgot--it is the poster boy of corporate education bottom feeding, and the Janus-faced anti-corporate ed advocate, Bob George.  In one year, thanks to Bob's steering, Save Our Schools has been reduced from a band of 7,500 madder-than-hell parents and educators in 2011 to a well-behaved and totally-contained mutual admiration society of 150 souls in 2012, with nothing to show for this sad and utter diminution other than an incredible shrinkage accompanied by the creepy, continuing presence of Bob George and his interminable online steering committee meetings, where his opinion or that of his small cadre of insider henchmen always prevails on issues that eventually get watered down so as not to upset the status quo that has been cemented by philanthro-capitalists and the ed industry to which George remains is a dependable unit.

How long will SOS continue to protect the guy who has choked off the organization?  Will they, indeed, kill SOS to save Bob George?  If I am wrong on this, tell me how.  In the meantime, here is a link to a piece I did for Substance News sort of recently, and below is the original post that brought out the loyal founders of the Prop Up Bob Society.


Monday, May 07, 2012

Is SOS Being Hijacked by Corporate Education Insiders?

When the status quo of any of our social institutions is prodded or challenged to change, those who benefit from the status quo will rise up to protect their interests.  And when the status quo is worth billions, as in the case of the testing industrial complex and the corporate choke hold on public schooling, you can bet the effort to protect the status quo will be deeply embedded, unrelenting, and stubbornly persistent.

Last summer when Save Our Schools exhibited the best in grassroots traditions and brought together a movement from within to challenge the many decades of failed accountability measures that now represent a multi-billion dollar status quo complex of testing and privatization efforts, the corporate foundation plutocrats, the ed industry bottom feeders, and the multinational testing corporations like Pearson and McGraw-Hill sat up and took notice.

Now after a long winter of online meetings and discussion among old and new steering committee members of SOS, it would seem that the status quo may have pushed itself into the driver's seat of SOS, even before the second year celebration can happen.

Now carrying the checkbook and controlling the website and managing the SOS database (via his significant friend, Betsy Angert) is Bob George.  And who is Bob George?  This is from his lengthy auto-bio posted last November, when he was vying for a position on the Steering Committee of SOS:
. . . .CURRENTLY, I SERVE AS THE SENIOR VICE-PRESIDENT OF OPERATIONS FOR CATAPULT LEARNING, LLC. IN THIS ROLE, AS IN OTHER AREAS OF MY LIFE, I WORK TO ENSURE THAT HIGH QUALITY INSTRUCTIONAL SERVICES ARE PROVIDED. “PROFESSIONALLY” MY FOCUS IS TO SERVE 4500 STUDENTS ACROSS SIX STATES.

And what is Catapult Learning, LLC, pray tell?  And why is that when I see the word "serve" and Catapult Learning together, that I think of old Twilight Zone episode, "To Serve Man?" Run--it's a cookbook!!

Could it be that Kanimits of Catapult have been feasting on Title I schools since before NCLB came to town, back in the day it was called Sylvan Education Solutions.  With the 2002 introduction of NCLB's Supplemental Services and the unmonitored, unregulated billions in free money to ed industry insiders, tutoring mills and phonics farms like Catapult have cashed in like no other time in their history.  From Education Next:  

. . . .Jeffrey Cohen, president of Catapult Learning (the tutoring firm formerly known as Sylvan Education Solutions), says that he has seen letters sent out by the district that automatically sign children up for the district’s program unless the parent affirmatively decides to go with a different provider. “There’s not a level playing field,” he says.
To overcome these obstacles, most large providers are going around the districts by beefing up their own marketing efforts. Some providers, like Catapult Learning, are running ads and touting their programs with leaflets or promoters who go door-to-door, to shopping malls, and, when allowed, to the school.
Before No Child Left Behind, about $2 billion was spent each year in the retail tutoring market, according to Educate Inc., a national tutoring company formerly known as Sylvan Learning Systems and Catapult Learning’s parent company. Half of the tutoring providers were small local companies and individuals, while the other half were regional or national firms. In addition to the retail tutoring market, a few companies, such as Catapult Learning, made an effort to promote public-private partnerships in tutoring, but the marketplace was not well defined. . . .

Here is news of just one of the federal contracts worth millions that Catapult has enjoyed over the past decade.  Test and punish has been very, very good for Catapult and Bob George, and it beats me why he would want to mess with a good thing.  Why would he be leading an effort to bring down corporate education reform, when he makes his living from the continuation of the corporate education reform agenda?

After all, Catapult is moving up in the world, having in recent years become a partialproperty of the Carlyle Group, no less.  Now that is some rarefied corporate air to be breathing!  But, then, Carlyle knows that Catapult is an expanding company, now moving into Professional Development Services, such as providing PD to get your school up to speed on Common Core Adoption or Literacy First.  Or how about those turnarounds!  Recently Catapult was a major player for Georgia's big Turnaround Vendor Fair this past February.  Catapult your way to privatization!!

And then there is the lucrative Specialized Services market.  For instance, if you run a charter school and need to hire a school counselor for that Back to School Parents Night or that fifth year visit from the State, Catapult can handle it.  After all,
It’s a balancing act!Striving to focus on core academic issues—and at the same time, provide for the social, emotional, behavioral and other support services struggling students need. It’s enough to stretch the resources of most schools. 
Catapult Learning can help. We provide expert support to schools struggling to meet growing demands for services. There’s no need for you to hire and manage full-time specialists. We handle all the details, communication, and coordination. You get seamless support that extends the resources available to your students and families.
School CounselingRead more »Speech/Language ServicesRead more »School NursingRead more »Physical and Occupational TherapyRead more »EarlyLearners ProgramRead more »Child Find AssistanceRead more »
For its old mainstay, tutoring Title I children, Catapult likes to use the Achieve line of parrot-learning products for these intensive remedial sessions, both online and in person.

And then there is Catapult's reputation for delivering the kind of sub-standard services and products that we have come to expect when corporations prey on the poor and on the taxpayer.  What does the research say about this most lucrative waste of taxpayer money.  From a 2007 study:

The MPS studies found that students receiving SES did not perform as well as the matched samples. Further, no significant difference appeared among SES providers as determined by NALT annual reading gains. No provider serving 10 or more students produced achievement gains averaging close to 100 percent of expected academic growth indicated by national norms. For example, 561 students receiving Education Station services averaged 71 percent of a year’s growth, while 92 students receiving Newton Learning services averaged only 67 percent of a year’s growth. Overall, the average growth for SES students was only 66 percent of the national norm. 
Efforts to distinguish among providers yielded little additional information. For all SES providers combined, the number of service hours did not significantly correlate with reading score gains. For students enrolled in Newton Learning and Kids Reading for Success programs, however, total service hours did correlate significantly with NALT gains. Interestingly, students in grades 3 and 7 who received services from Catapult Learning did less well than their matched sample, which outscored them by 19 points and 6 points respectively; conversely, grade 5 students enrolled in Catapult outscored the matched sample by 4 scale points. These differences, however, were not statistically significant.
So I'll ask again the question that remains un-posted on the SOS site and remains unanswered by Bob George: Do you think there could a conflict of interest here between the goals of Save Our Schools and Bob George's agenda of building his corporate client list based on more corporate education reform?   Post your comments.



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.
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  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.
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  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.
      Delete
    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.
    ReplyDelete
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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/
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    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?
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  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?
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  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.
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    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.
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    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.
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  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.
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  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.
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  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.
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  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!