Tuesday, March 27, 2012

South Carolina: Parent Opposition and Resistance on Ed Reform Initiatives

For Immediate Release
March 27, 2012

Contact Person: Sarah Johnson
Phone: (803) 920-4058, (843) 819-8933
Email: CVedu20@gmail.com

Local Parent/Teacher Advocacy Group Welcomes US Secretary of Education to Town

Charleston, SC – Charleston Area Community Voice for Education, an affiliate of Parents Across America, extends a welcome to US Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, who will be participating in a local round-table discussion on educational reform and touring James Simons Elementary School on Friday. The advocacy group is excited that local leaders and educators will be participating in the event.

Sarah Shad Johnson, a parent of children in Charleston County Schools and co-founder of Community Voice, says, “The timing of Secretary Duncan’s visit comes at a critical time when our state legislators are discussing whether or not to support the adversarial Common Core State Standards, as well as bills regarding school choice, charter school expansion, and tax credits for private schools; our State Superintendent of Education seems to be embracing a controversial stand on the teaching profession; and the focus here in Charleston County appears to be only on experimental, questionable, and expensive initiatives, as opposed to goals of increased learning opportunities.”

Peter Smyth, a retired educator and administrator, and also a co-founder of Community Voice, says, “After a career in education and research into educational reform, I have come to these conclusions: while South Carolina Superintendent Zais has applied for a waiver to No Child Left Behind, his proposals reflect those of Secretary Duncan and the current and previous administrations, policies which have not achieved their goals and have made raising test scores and graduation rates, rather than meaningful learning, the default goals of American education. These are policies that are not found in any other high performing countries. To paraphrase another leader, the Duncan/Zais reforms are not the solution to the problems; they are the problem. I believe that teachers’ and parents’ seats at the table have been replaced by philanthropists, corporations, highly paid consultants, and politically-driven think tanks. Most importantly, I do not believe the current reforms bode well for my granddaughter, about to enter public school in Charleston.”

Secretary Duncan’s visit also coincides with an organized national demonstration at the US Department of Education in Washington, D.C., opposing Duncan’s educational reforms. Currently, there is significant national concern over the direction of Secretary Duncan’s leadership. With thousands of parents, educators, state legislators, school districts, and superintendents across the country protesting U.S. Department of Education policies, Community Voice is concerned about the pressure Duncan has placed on South Carolina, including a verbal lashing of state leaders who have considered dumping the Common Core State Standards.

Community Voice supports:

  • effective reforms, such as reduced class size

  • experienced teachers

  • increased time for teacher professional development and planning

  • relevant content supporting critical thinking

  • sufficient and equitable funding

  • diversity in schools

  • appropriate use of technology

  • meaningful parent involvement

Community Voice opposes:

  • privatization of public schools

  • punitive high-stakes standardized testing

  • school closings

  • ignoring the influence of poverty

Community Voice is committed to moving education forward rather than maintaining the status quo policies of the last ten years. For more information about Community Voice, contact (843) 819-8933 or CVedu20@gmail.com. For more information on Parents Across America, please visit www.parentsacrossamerica.org .

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Illinois Parents: "No good reasons for this excessive testing."

"Since I found out two years ago how much experimental testing was happening, I’ve opted him out of dozens of tests. He has skipped the CPS Learning First Benchmark Assessments, the Scantron Performance Series tests, and the pilot Common Core. CPS administered each of these standardized tests in several subjects, several times a year. But there are no good reasons for this excessive testing."

No good reasons indeed and no good reason for parents to get the runaround, be threatened, intimidated, punished, or misinformed, a disturbing and familiar trend nationwide as parents attempt to exercise their parental rights.

Chicago parent, Sharon Schmidt, chronicles how much effort it took to once again this year to exercise those rights and opt out her son of standardized testing. The Schmidt family has been exercising their rights in accordance to the law and provides the requisite information so that other parents have access to the facts. The lack of clear policy guidelines leads to unnecessary confusion. No parent should have to work so hard and write so many emails to clarify. This year, their son will not take the tests, but the school requires that he be kept at home on the testing days and be marked absent versus previous years when he stayed in school and did independent reading.

In a U.S. Supreme Court determination, Troxel v. Granville, the justices relied on the 14th Amendment:

(a) The Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause has a substantive component that “provides heightened protection against government interference with certain fundamental rights and liberty interests,” Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U.S. 702, 720, including parents’ fundamental right to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children, see, e.g., Stanley v. Illinois, 405 U.S. 645, 651. Pp. 5—8.

Related articles:
In order to skip the ISAT, parents need to keep children at home during testing

Some family reasons for skipping the ISAT

Monday, March 12, 2012

National Parent Opposition and Resistance Continues to Grow

Let the testing begin! States have heightened attention on standardized testing as many states approach their scheduled testing dates.

Parents, community members, and taxpayers increase resistance and opposition:

Colorado parents are threatened with truancy if they decide to keep their students home on testing days. As of March 8, 2012, the news outlet was waiting for a school district response. Standing by on this development.

Illinois parent opts out yet again this year in a long drawn out process. Related article here. This is a very interesting story.

parent resistance mounts.

North Carolina parents, community members, and taxpayers find that "people stood up for the kind of education they believe in" and averted a repeat of 52 new standardized tests given last spring. The interim superintendent declared the 52-testing idea scrapped. (The previous superintendent who ordered the tests resigned at the end of the 2011 school year to work for Rupert Murdoch's new education company.) Related article here.

New York city parents call for boycotting standardized tests.

A national law suit affirming parent rights to opt out of standardized tests emerges.

How long will education reformers pretend legitimate concerns do not exist?

Bring parent opposition and resistance out of the shadows.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Florida Parent Trigger: Too many holes

Parents, community members, and taxpayers pushed back on the Florida "Parent Empowerment" bill and those efforts were successful. The bill died on the last day of the legislative session in a tie vote, 20 to 20. The Miami Herald reported last minute arm twisting by former Governor Jeb Bush to influence a change of position by one Senator to ensure its passage in case the bill came up for a re-vote in the final hours of the legislative session. That did not happen and the bill can be declared officially dead and buried for this year.

Much has been reported regarding the way the process of the bill unfolded including the testimony provided by non-Florida parents and residents and lobbying by non-Florida non-profits to the exclusion of Florida parent groups such as, the Florida PTA and Florida League of Women Voters. The pressure injected all the way to the end is an indicator of how much money was riding on its passage.

Analysis of the bill itself received less attention. The Thursday night Senate debate included discussion of over 20 amendments, which exposed the bill as something far other than a thoughtfully crafted piece of legislation. The amendments were intended to close serious gaps, but instead made clear the bill was more akin to a piece of Swiss cheese than a movement toward parent empowerment, local control, and fiscal responsibility.

On its merits, this bill is little more than changing the deck chairs. As long as classrooms are test-centric and standardized environments for test preparation instead of student-centered environments of learning, there is no real reform.

The Florida legislature has a penchant for "pass it now, fix it later" legislating.
Proponents of this bill used the familiar and worn-out education reformer narrative that answers valid questions with disdain and insults. Why not answer the question with facts? Opponents were characterized as "conspiracy theorists" and concerns dismissed and ignored.

Undoubtedly, the bill will return next year. However, Florida parents, community members, and taxpayers learned much this year; and as others with legitimate concerns about education reform initiatives nationally, becoming more visible and active in federal and state-level shaping of education. The push back is real and growing.

Related article: Parent Trigger: "Scholastic Snake Oil with Deliciously Deceptive Spin on Parent Involvement."

Sunday, March 4, 2012

No Unnecessary Tests (NUT) Report: Parent Right to Opt Out Lawsuit Emerges

Big News!!! (March 2012)
The ACLU is interested in supporting any parents whose children received a penalty/threats for opting out of testing.
If you want to participate in the complaint please share the following:
  • your story
  • permission to join in on the ACLU complaint
  • your return address
  • a signature on a hard copy

Submit to: Nina Bishop, 3065 Windward Way, Colorado Springs, CO 80917
Questions: 719-233-1508

If you want your story published on The Innovative Educator blog, email lnielsen.professional@gmail.com

In a U.S. Supreme Court determination, Troxel v. Granville, the justices relied on the 14th Amendment:

(a) The Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause has a substantive component that “provides heightened protection against government interference with certain fundamental rights and liberty interests,” Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U.S. 702, 720, including parents’ fundamental right to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children, see, e.g., Stanley v. Illinois, 405 U.S. 645, 651. Pp. 5—8.

Opt Out resources and information can be accessed here: http://optoutofstandardizedtests.wikispaces.com/

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Parent Trigger: "Scholastic snake oil with a deliciously deceptive spin on parental engagement"

This Saturday morning, Florida State Senators attended a special budget meeting that included consideration of SB1718, the so-called Parent Trigger. The committee meeting was hastily called and hit several procedural speed bumps and political posturing by bill proponents. However, efforts to short-circuit the process and fast track it were denied by committee members.

Passing this bill is a priority for former Governor Jeb Bush, who issued a statement urging its passage, as well as funding speakers at today's hearing. Hailed by bill proponents as "giving parents that voice they need to make sure their children are receiving the best education possible," journalist Darryl Owens asked where the parents had been all along. In his piece published in the Orlando Sentinel, Owens precisely and perfectly describes the bill this way:
Scholastic snake oil with a deliciously deceptive spin on parental engagement.

Shirley Ford, a Democrat from the California-based pro-trigger Parent Revolution organization used the "the children cannot wait" as the importance of this bill. Florida Senator Evelyn Lynn informed her of all ways, including vouchers, in place today and that Florida is not California. Ford asked if Florida had ways that parents had impact on school decisions, not just a place at the table. Senator Lynn explained how community schools exist that offer just that.

Ms. Ford raises an important issue that is left unanswered. Does a Parent Trigger give the voice parents need? Grumpy Educators says categorically no. The Parent Trigger that allows a charter to move in is simply moving around the deck chairs. For real change to occur at chronically failing schools, the last ten years of test-centric instruction must end. Common core standards, increased testing, and a narrowing of curriculum does not address the specific barriers and impacts at the school level. Until parents have the right to opt-out of standardized testing regimes, they have no voice to impact the education their children receive. Schools must cease to be centers of test preparation and be true centers of learning. Rational accountability measures must replace excessive standardized testing.

Scathing Purple Musings reports additional significant insights from today's hearing. Here are a few that should not be missed:

Parent Revolution representative Michael Trujillo, mentioned “reams and reams” of positive results but didn’t bring any with him. When pressed by Sen, Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, who’s also a school superintendent, evaded testifying as he was “just there to provide technical background on the legislation.”

Sen. Steve Wise, D-Jacksonville, who remarkably voted for an amendment to clarify who was eligible to join a petition, had another meltdown moment. Wise irrationally bemoaned opposition by parent groups to parent trigger in a way which failed to even consider the technical points they emphasize. It was predictably visceral and vintage Steve Wise demagoguery. Wise asked “whether or not the parent groups were psychotic” and that “he needs prozac and xanax” to deal with them.

A young intern of Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Florida’s Future attempted to present himself as a former teacher and was outed by Sen.Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood. Now a law student, he was naturally for the bill.

Notably, bill proponents filled the time, ran the clock, leaving opponents, real Florida parents, waiting and excluded from participation. The committee voted on a firm vote time and with five minutes left, Senator Alexander invited any parent in the room to speak. The Miami Herald reports "a mom from Gainesville came forward against the proposal. But she was cut off at 9:59 a.m. so the secretary could call the roll. There was no time for debate among lawmakers."

Grumpy Educators finds there is no priority for this bill. The legislative analysis for the Senate bill indicates there will be fiscal impact at state and local levels. Money trees are not in bloom anywhere in Florida. The only way this unfunded, unfundable mandate will get funds is through increased property taxes. In the end, parents, students, community members, and taxpayers are further UNempowered by Tallahassee's persistent fiscal and legislative irresponsiblity.

The bill will move quickly to the Senate floor for a vote. Take a moment to call your State Senator, tell them that a NO vote is a demonstration of who exactly they are accountable to.