was a year filled with substantial stories, with more than a
few seismic shifts in the public education landscape.
At the 1st annual conference of the
Network for Public Education in Austin, Texas in March, NPE
President Diane Ravitch delivered a speech titled "Why We Will Win." She told the
crowd of over 400 public education activists from around the
country that everything the "faux reformers" are doing is
failing or has already failed, and that "students, teachers,
parents, and communities" are organizing to fight back.
spirit, here are the Top Ten stories of 2014 (in no particular
order) that highlight the pushback to the failed policies of the
faux reformers, and the crumbling foundation of the reform
stories can carry us into the New Year with a sense of hope and
purpose that together we
will save our schools.
on the link above for an informative map of where each state
currently stands on Common Core, and whether they are in or out of
the PARCC and Smarter Balanced consortiums. The interactive map
also includes an analysis of which states are contemplating
measures against the standards and the standardized tests that
accompany them. The smart money says 2015 will see more states dump
either or both.
the Top has been the signature education reform program of the
Obama administration and Education Secretary Arne Duncan. RTTT
began in 2010 with $4.35 billion dollars to distribute to state
that were still crippled by the recession. States were forced to
compete for federal education funds, with winners coerced into
adopting the reforms favored by the administration, such as the
Common Core standards and aligned PARCC and Smarter Balanced tests.
The complete defunding of the grant program is quite a blow to the
Obama education agenda.
true win for grassroots advocacy and student privacy rights, data
management behemoth inBloom was toppled in 2014. Fortified with 100
million dollars from Bill Gates, and toppled by parent activists in
New York City and beyond, the demise of inBloom is a righteous
example of parent power.
marked the first annual Network for Public Education Conference in
Austin, Texas. The powerful event brought together education
activists from around the nation to talk about the issues of the
day, with livestreamed panel discussions and keynote addresses from
education luminaries Karen Lewis, John Kuhn and NPE President Diane
Ravitch. You don't want to miss the 2015 conference in Chicago,
issues were the central focus of numerous high profile, big money
races around the country in 2014. The election of New York City
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Newark, NJ Mayor Ras Baraka focused not
only on the pro-public education views of the candidates, but on
the failed policies of their corporate reform predecessors Michael
Bloomberg and Cory Booker. Also critical was the California State Superintendent race,
where incumbent educator and legislator Tom Torlakson kept his seat
despite an onslaught of corporate reform money backing his
challenger, Marshall Tuck. Tuck, a Broad Residency graduate and
former Wall Street and charter school executive, was eager to
uphold the Vergara decision, which declared tenure unconstitutional
in California. Visit our website to learn more
about other successful pro public education candidates endorsed by
Michelle Rhee founded StudentsFirst in 2010 she boasted that she
would raise $1 billion to create a public school system that
conformed to the policies she favored. Not only did Rhee never
accomplish her fundraising goals, she fell far short on her policy
goals as well. StudentsFirst's National Report Card
became somewhat of a joke too. The Report Card gave high performing
states like Massachusetts and New Jersey D grades, and low
performing states like Florida and Louisiana B grades (the highest
score any state achieved on the report card) for their willingness
(or unwillingness) to submit to the StudentsFirst policy agenda.
CK, a New York City public school parent, took to twitter to
express his frustration with Common Core and how the increased
focus on standardized testing is impacting students and teachers
alike. His tweets led to articles about his criticism of Common
Core and standardized testing in Salon, Politico, and the Huffington
Post, and was even part of his appearance on the Late Show with David
sure to peruse the list of books written by pro public education
bloggers, teachers, administrators, professors, activists and NPE
Board Members. The list includes the book Diane Ravitch named "the most important book of the year," Bob
Our Way: An Intimate Portrait of a Troubled America.
don't miss the book by NPE 2015 conference keynote speaker Yong
Who's Afraid of the Big
Bad Dragon? Why China Has the Best (and Worst) Education System in
the World. In her review for the New York Review of Books,
Diane wrote that "Barack Obama, Arne Duncan, members of
Congress, and the nation's governors and legislators" need to
read Zhao's book.
declining recruitment in New York City, TFA will close the city's
only training site. The Executive Director of TFA in NYC attributed
the low recruitment numbers to "a contentious national dialogue around education and
teaching in general, and TFA in particular." TFA has been called out, both by critics and alumni,
for placing recruits with only 5 weeks of training into some of the
most challenging schools in the country, with a commitment of only
2 years, adding to high turnover and instability in the communities
that need the most support.
grade teachers Karen Hendren and Nikki
Jones wrote a poignant letter to the parents of their students
explaining why they would refuse to administer a mandated
standardized test know as the MAP (Measures of Academic Progress).
In their letter they point out that the increased focused on
testing has "gradually squelched the creativity and learning
from our classrooms."
Week reported that a draft bill reauthorizing the No Child Left
Behind Act would drop the federal requirement for annual
standardized testing. This would leave the decision to the states
to either continue with annual standardized testing or to return to
grade span testing, which would require testing once in elementary,
once in middle and once in high school.
Diane Ravitch's Lecture at the University of Arizona College of
On December 14th, NPE President Diane Ravitch gave a
lecture at the University of Arizona College of Education, titled
"Why Corporate Reform Isn't Working."
Watch the video and hear Diane talk about why the
corporate reform agenda, including Common Core, vouchers, charters,
TFA, teacher evaluation, school closings, and high stakes
standardized testing, isn't working for students and schools.
Diane Ravitch: Why Corporate Reform Isn't Working
Support The Network for Public Education
The Network for Public Education is an advocacy
group whose goal is to fight to protect, preserve and strengthen
our public school system, an essential institution in a democratic
Over the past year, donations to The Network for
Public Education helped us put on our first National Conference,
and the first PUBLIC Education Nation. In the coming year, we will
hold more events, webinars, and work on the issues that our members
and donors care about the most!
As this year comes to a close, let me take this opportunity to wish you
and yours a wonderful holiday season and a healthy and happy new year.
I also want to thank you for the ongoing help that you have given me,
and for your efforts in the many struggles that we have waged together.
Today, I ask for your continued support.
I am more than aware that, in the current political climate, many
people feel disillusioned about the future. That is completely
understandable. We have just had a midterm election in which 63 percent
of the people didn’t vote, some very reactionary candidates won
election and Republicans are taking control of the U.S. Senate. But, as
I have said many times, despair is not an option - not if you have kids
or grandchildren and want a decent future for them, not if you love
this country and understand its potential to lead the world in so many
The struggle for economic and social justice, for environmental sanity
and world peace must not be considered an option for
us, it is a necessity
that must be carried forward. It's what we must do.
The future of this country and, in fact, the future of our planet
depend upon that.
Please don't forget. Real change does not occur without struggle, and
real change does not happen overnight. As Martin Luther King, Jr.
reminded us; "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends
toward justice." Incredibly brave people, for centuries, have put
their lives on the line, died and suffered, for a more just economic
and political system - and their efforts resulted, over time, in huge
and almost unthinkable victories.
Fifty years ago, given the history of this country, very few people
would have believed that in 2008 an African American could have been
elected President of the United States, and then re-elected in 2012.
But it happened.
Forty years ago, when only a handful of women held important political
positions and most girls never considered the possibility of doing
"man's work," very few people would have believed that there
would be states in this country where all the major elected officials
would be women, and that millions of women would now be working at jobs
that women never held before. But it happened.
Thirty years ago, when children born with disabilities were hidden by
their parents or institutionalized, very few people would have believed
that kids with disabilities would be mainstreamed into public school
classrooms all across this country, and that there would be strong laws
prohibiting discrimination against disabled Americans. But it happened.
Twenty years ago, when right-wing candidates won elections by attacking
gay rights, very few people would have believed that by 2014 gay
marriage would be legal in conservative states, and that there would be
openly gay elected officials in almost every area of public life. But
My point is simple. Change happens. It happens in ways that we don’t
fully understand, and it happens in a timeline that few can predict.
But one thing we do understand is that when millions of people stand
together and demand it, positive and progressive change can and does
happen. We must never give up.
As I reflect upon this coming year, a number of thoughts come to mind:
First and foremost, against an enormous amount of corporate media noise
and distraction, it is imperative that we be loud and clear in continuing
the fight for our progressive vision. We have got to stay focused on
the most important issues facing the American people.
We make no apologies in stating that the great moral, economic and
political issue of our time is the growing level of income and wealth
inequality in our country. It is a disgrace to everything this country
is supposed to stand for when the top one-tenth of one percent own
almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent, and when one family
(the Waltons) owns more wealth than the bottom 40 percent. No. The
economy is not sustainable when the middle class continues to disappear
and when 95 percent of all new income generated since the Wall Street
crash goes to the top one percent.
We will continue the fight to have the United States join the rest of
the industrialized world in understanding that health care is a human
right of all people, and not a privilege. We will end the current
dysfunctional system in which 40 million Americans remain uninsured,
and tens of millions more are under-insured. No. Private insurance
companies and drug companies should not be making huge profits when we
spend almost twice as much per capita on health care as the people of
any other nation.
We will fight for a budget that ends corporate tax loopholes and
demands that the wealthy and special interests begin paying their fair
share of taxes. No. At a time when the middle class is disappearing and
when millions of families are struggling economically, we will not
support more austerity against the elderly, the children and working
families. We will not accept cuts to Social Security, Medicare,
Medicaid, nutrition or affordable housing.
We believe, in a highly competitive global economy, that quality
education should be available to all Americans who have the ability and
the desire, from birth through graduate school, regardless of their
incomes. We believe that we should be hiring more teachers and
qualified pre-school educators, not firing them. No. We do not believe
that it makes any sense that young people leave college and graduate
school with a very heavy debt burden which many of them carry for
We believe that the scientific community is right. Climate change is
real, is caused by human activity and is already creating devastating
problems in the United States and throughout the world. We believe that
the United States can and must lead the world in transforming our
energy system away from fossil fuels and into energy efficiency and
sustainable energy. No. We do not believe that it makes sense to build
the Keystone pipeline or other projects which make us more dependent on
oil and other fossil fuels.
Let me conclude by telling you what you already know. This is a very
tough moment in American history, and the Big Money interests and their
lobbyists in Washington have an unprecedented amount of power.
There is no question but that in the coming year and into the future we
will face some extremely difficult battles against them. I have no
doubt, however, that if we stand together as brothers and sisters, and
are effective in educating and organizing the American people, we will
Once again, thank you for your support. I wish you a happy and healthy