Creole food and courage: come to the Parents4Teachers fundraiser 4-9-14

March 27th, 2014

honoranddefendPlease join Parents4 Teachers (I plan to!). You might consider paying for an extra ticket for one of the parents, students or teachers as well. Share the flyer, too!

Celebration to Honor and Defend the ISAT Boycott Teachers and Families

Join us for a dinner celebration to honor the brave teachers, families and students who boycotted, opted out and refused this year’s ISAT.

Teachers could face retaliation from the mayor’s hand-picked board of education, and families and their children were intimidated and lied to for their decision not to sit for the exam.

We need to make a strong stand in support of these courageous teachers and families. Boycotting teachers should face no disciplinary action.  Let our teachers teach! Let our kids learn!

Honor and Defend the ISAT Boycott
Wednesday, April 9, 2014
5:30 to 8:30pm

Wishbone Restaurant
3300 N. Lincoln Ave, Chicago IL

doors open 5:30 | dinner 6:00 | program 7:00
Live Latin Jazz by Maestroson
dinner | drinks| childcare

Hear from teachers and parents who boycotted the ISAT

General Admission: $25 (includes a free drink ticket)
Students:  $10
Children under 5 free

Purchase tickets on-line here.

Limited tickets available at the door.  No one will be turned away.

Any funds raised will be used to support Chicago’s anti-testing resistance movement.

Contact for paper tickets or more information.

Testimony on data privacy to Illinois Senate Education Committee

March 24th, 2014

PURE, MTAS, and PAA strongly believe that parents must have control over any use of their children’s school data outside of the school building and the district.

PURE and other parent groups are very concerned that the federal education department under Arne Duncan has made changes in federal FERPA laws that have opened the door to potentially massive sharing of student data without parental knowledge or consent. In late 2013, we became aware of a proposal in Illinois to share student data with the inBloom company and possibly other third parties in connection with the Illinois Shared Learning Environment (ISLE). PURE and More Than a Score joined with the ACLU of Illinois, Parents 4 Teachers, Raise Your Hand Illinois, the Chicago Teachers’ Union, the CReATE organization of university researchers, and the national group EPIC, to educate parents and others about this move, and to share our concerns with Chicago Public Schools and school board officials. I’m happy to report that CPS subsequently decided not to share student data with inBloom.

While we are pleased that District 299 has chosen to opt out of the inBloom program, we are concerned that there are still districts in our state that may soon begin to transmit confidential student information to the state database, data that may be shared with third party for-profit companies without parental notification or consent. In fact, few parents have any idea that this is about to happen, and soon. When PURE and MTAS first began to talk about this issue, it was clear that many state officials, school board members, and the media, among others, were only hearing about it from us here in Chicago and Illinois, and from Parents Across America and a handful of other groups nationally.

That is why we are so grateful to Senator William Delgado, sponsor of SB3092, and chief co-sponsors Senator Don Harmon and Senator Chapin Rose, for bringing forward this important bill. It is especially important considering what little information has been communicated to parents about the plans Illinois has for sharing their children's school information.

PURE supports SB3092 because, while state and local agencies claim that any data sharing will comply with applicable state and federal privacy laws, with FERPA recently weakened to omit parental oversight parents are not reassured. FERPA allows districts to decide what data is shared and with whom it will be shared.

PURE supports SB3092 because, while we are further told that “industry best practices” will be in place to ensure that the data is protected, none of this provides adequate assurance to parents who know that, despite the sincerest of efforts, data breaches will happen that may dramatically impact children’s futures.

PURE also supports SB3092 because the issue of student data privacy is deeply connected to the growing misuse and overuse of standardized testing, which I will just touch on here briefly.

You may have heard about a recent dust-up in Chicago when some parents opted their children out of the state test. Parents are sick of the way testing has taken over schooling. Opting their children out of one test was a reflection of that frustration. People may disagree with these parents about the value of giving dozens of standardized tests every year to children as young as 4 or 5. But the fact that the district met this opposition with harassment and disinformation, and even pulled children out of class later to interrogate them (their words) about opting out, shows a level of focus on testing that is only going to get worse. In fact, implementation of the Common Core state standards and the associated tests is about to usher in a feeding frenzy in the “education marketplace.” And student data will become one of the main currencies in that marketplace.

I will conclude by quoting Todd Farley, a recent guest essayist on the Washington Post Answer Sheet blog:

(T)he United States seems to be heading towards taking the decisions about American education out of the hands of American educators and instead placing that sacred trust in the welcoming arms of an industry run entirely without oversight and populated completely with for-profit companies chasing billions of dollars in business. When next some standardized test scores are found to be incorrect or fraudulent (because they will), or some standardized testing company commits or tries to cover up another egregious error (because they will), perhaps then we can admit large-scale assessment isn’t the panacea it’s often been touted to be. Perhaps then we can concede that an educational philosophy based on a system of national standardized tests isn’t any Brave New World of American education; it’s just a bad idea that even the Chinese are already turning away from as being too inefficient and antiquated.

SB3092 will provide a good start for refocusing education on learning and not testing.

PURE support from RESIST!

March 20th, 2014

RESISTlogoPURE is delighted to announce that we recently received a grant from RESIST, a grass roots foundation that supports social change.

According to their website, RESIST currently funds over 100 amazing grassroots organizations around the country a year. These groups use grants from RESIST to develop leadership, work on innovative grassroots campaigns, hire organizers, distribute literature and videos related to those campaigns and demand justice on a variety of issues. Most of our grantees reach across issues to connect communities and struggles. Their work spans anti-militarism, prisoners’ rights, community organizing, GLBTQ justice, environmental justice, antiracism, disability rights, youth organizing, Native Peoples’ rights and more. Since our founding in 1967, RESIST has awarded $5.5 million to nearly 5,200 dedicated progressive groups across the US. We rely 100% on the generosity of private individuals. RESIST began in 1967 with a “call to resist illegitimate authority” in support of draft resistance and in opposition to the Vietnam War. That history sustains us as our movement evolves and as our concerns broaden and deepen. We remember what it is like to move forward and beat the odds.

You might want to consider making a donation to RESIST to help groups like PURE continue to do our important work. Or, you might consider applying for RESIST funds for your own group! You can also call them at 617-623-5110 or contact them at 259 Elm Street, Somerville, MA 02144.


PSAT for yesterday: This is why we have elections

March 19th, 2014

psat_logoTuesday really got past me – though I did vote. And this is why we have elections, folks – so that once in a while there are legislative proposals like 6 out of 7 of the ones mentioned below, that actually address important issues in useful ways.

The wonderful Tim Furman at Rogers Park Neighbors for Public Schools has pulled together an excellent list of bills that need your support and deserve at least your filed witness slip (it’s easy!) and if possible your electronically submitted testimony for TOMORROW’s education committee hearing. That’s Thursday March 20.

I also submitted this testimony in support of three of the bills.

From Tim:

1. HB3937, Linda Chapa LaVia (HCA1) extends the moratorium on virtual charter schools. Be a Proponent; this is a good bill. Here’s the Witness Slip For This Bill . Go! Be a proponent for the Amendment.

2. HB4591, Martwick. Charter schools would have to return pro-rated funds for the kids they “counsel out.” Here’s the Witness Slip For This Bill. Go be a proponent! Look who’s opposed, natch.

3. HB5328, Hernandez. LSCs for charter schools, among other things. Here is the Witness Slip For The Bill. Go! Look who’s opposed:

4. HB5330, Chapa LaVia, Along with Amendment One sets up an intelligently formed and tasked committee to look at assessment. Here is the Witness Slip For The Bill.  Here is the Witness Slip For the Amendment.  Go be a proponent! (yes, you can be a proponent for the original bill, too.)

5. HB5887 Crespo, puts reasonable financial accountability on virtual charter schools. This one is interesting, I’m for it, and it looks like some people are weighing in for it. Here is the Witness Slip For This Bill. Go be a proponent. 

6. **HB6005, Chapa LaVia, Charter School Accountability. Excellent, Excellent bill. Deserves your written testimony. Here is the Witness Slip For The Bill. Go be a proponent! This bill in its entirety is reasonable, responsible, and fair, and it would start to eliminate a lot of the shenanigans, including some of what’s going on in the Gulen-affiliated operations.  This is the most important bill of my recommendations tonight. Here’s a CTU fact sheet on the bill. Get moving on this bill. You are a proponent!

Guess who doesn’t want this kind of accountability for charter schools?

7) More from Tim on a Heather Steans-introduced bill pending over in the Senate, SB3412. Tim’s take on Jim Broadway’s explanation of the bill:

This bill is Steans’s way of codifying into law the testing on the Common Core Standards without using the actual words “Common Core.” It appears to have the effect of approving the standards, as well, a process that people now recognize was a bit problematic.

I will say this much: that Heather Steans knows how to be a bit sneaky in a bill. The whole family does. It’s how this entire ed reform movement has operated nationally, sort of under the radar. If you feel that your voice was left out of the original Common Core discussion in Illinois, then in the future, they’re going to say that this new Steans bill was your chance to pipe up and yet you said nothing. So say something.

RPNPS doesn’t work on the Common Core Standards, so I haven’t filed a witness slip opposed yet. But I’m going to as an individual. I wish I could go back and be on the record against NCLB, but I can’t. This I can do. Here is the Witness Slip for the bill. I myself am an opponent, and that’s how I’ll fill out my slip. But I’m going to try to write my own testimony tonight. Submitting written testimony to the Senate hearings is a bit harder than in the House; more on that later.

Last call for LSC candidates! Fight top-down management – join the LSC!

March 13th, 2014



Tomorrow, Friday, March 14, at 3 pm is the final deadline for filing nomination papers for the local school council (LSC) election in April. You can file at any school where you are eligible, but there are many schools that do not have enough candidates to form an LSC as of last Friday, so those schools really need you to step up. Here’s a map showing where candidates are needed.

As I said last month, LSCs are still the strongest form of site-based management in the U.S. and probably the world. What better way to challenge top-down mayoral control than to use the power that you actually have in the form of LSC membership?

It’s a no-brainer, folks!



Teachers at Rahm’s kids’ private school support ISAT opt out

March 13th, 2014

ICEtheISATAnnounced on CTU web site:

by Maureen Schmidt – Faculty Association President, University of Chicago Laboratory Schools  |  03/11/2014

The members of the Executive Board of the Faculty Association of the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools stand in solidarity with our fellow  educators in the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois. We support the teachers who are currently boycotting the administration of the ISAT in several Chicago Public Schools, along with the parents who have decided to opt their children out of the test.

We believe that their firm stance demonstrates the need for a continued and participatory discussion about the role of standardized testing in schools today.

PSAT for 3-11-14: Keep up the ISAT pressure!

March 11th, 2014



The ice and snow are not letting up in Chicago and neither is the ICE the ISAT campaign!

Please read and share this letter to the editor in today’s Tribune, which I submitted on behalf of More Than a Score.

Then sign this petition to support the teachers who are teaching instead of testing this week. It has already received over 2300 signatures!

Support PURE!
About the PURE Thoughts blogger
Julie Woestehoff is PURE's executive director. Julie's work has earned her a Ford Foundation award and recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.