Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Top 10 "Why We Will Win" Stories of 2014 + VIDEO of Diane Ravitch (our @DianeRavitch) at Univ of Arizona #education

NPE's Top Ten "Why We Will Win" Stories of 2014

2014 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.

In that 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 movement.

These stories can carry us into the New Year with a sense of hope and purpose that together we will save our schools. 

Top Ten "Why We Will Win" Stories of 2014

Click 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.

Race to 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.

In a 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.

2014 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, April 25-26!

Education 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 NPE.

When 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.

Lois 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 Letterman.

Make 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 Herbert's Losing Our Way: An Intimate Portrait of a Troubled America
And don't miss the book by NPE 2015 conference keynote speaker Yong Zhao,  
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. 

Facing 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.

First 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."

Education 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.

Video of Diane Ravitch's Lecture at the University of Arizona College of Education

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
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 society.

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!

To Make a Donation, go to the NPE website and click the donate button. We accept donations using PayPal, the most trusted site used to make on-line payments.

The Network For Public Education
| P.O. Box 44200 | Tucson | AZ | 85733

Monday, December 29, 2014

Sanders for Senate (our @SenSanders)

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders


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 ways.

We must fight back.

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 it happened.

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.

Let’s continue working together for the progressive vision of America that we share.

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.

Yes. 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.

Yes. 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.

Yes. 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.

Yes. 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 decades.

Yes. 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 win.

Once again, thank you for your support. I wish you a happy and healthy new year.


U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders
United States Senator for Vermont


Paid for by Sanders for Senate

P.O. Box 391
Burlington, VT 05402