Posts Tagged ‘corporate reform propaganda’

Dear Meryl

Friday, August 10th, 2012

Ms. Meryl Streep

c/o Leslee Dart

Dart Group

sent by facsimile

212 277 7550


If you really appreciate teachers, please pull out of

phony “Teachers Rock” event promoting

the themes of the “Won’t Back Down” movie:

public school privatization and wholesale teacher firing


Dear Ms Streep:

I am writing to ask you to reconsider your participation in the “Teachers Rock” event next week. As parents, we are concerned that this event is part of a larger propaganda campaign to force privatization on public schools. The movie, “Won’t Back Down,” is just the latest and most intensive move in this effort.

While we have been unable to view the entire movie, we have seen the trailer and read promotional stories that are already being published. We also know that the producer, Walden Media and Philip Anschutz, were behind the “Waiting for Superman” documentary whose one-sided and often misleading content created a great deal of controversy among those of us who strongly support our nation’s teachers. Even Roger Ebert eventually rethought his positive “Superman” review.

“Won’t Back Down” is poised to be equally if not more controversial because it claims to be “based on real events” about the “parent trigger law” which allows parents to sign petitions to close their school and turn it into a charter school.

As an active and informed parent, I know that parent empowerment is not the real agenda behind this so-called parent trigger law. It was in fact written by the head of a charter management company which initiated the first parent trigger campaign. The law was taken up by ALEC and has been pushed in a number of other states with generous financial backing of the Walton Foundation (which is sponsoring “Teacher Rocks”) and other corporate school reform funders.

Our small Chicago organization and a larger network with which we are affiliated, Parents Across America, are working to get out the truth about “Won’t Back Down.” We can’t afford to put on a big show or produce a Hollywood movie to make our voices heard, but we do hope you will listen to us. You can find more information about this issue on our web sites, www.pureparents,org and

Thank you so much for your attention.

Best wishes,


Julie Woestehoff

Executive Director


Another scandal – charter propaganda on the test

Friday, May 25th, 2012

Today, with some help from me, Chicago Sun-Times education reporter Rosalind Rossi exposes yet another standardized testing scandal, this one on a Scantron test that was used several times in the Chicago Public Schools as part of an interim, or benchmark, reading assessment.

Scantron is a national standardized test that CPS has been using for a couple of years as a computerized replacement for the quarterly Learning First and Benchmark Assessment tests. These tests cover a narrow set of skills and are essentially practice tests for the annual Illinois Standards Assessment Tests (ISAT). This is the last year for Scantron; next year it will be replaced by the NWEA, the NorthWest Evaluation Association tests.

I acquired the screenshot of this reading passage, which makes about as much sense as a talking pineapple.

Click here for the full screenshot.

Is it supposed to be non-fiction? If so, then who the h&## is multimillionaire Charles Mendel? I’ll give a dollar to the first person who can find a real such guy on Google.

We know it’s not factual, anyway. Charter schools are NOT “open to all students.” They are NOT “showing improvement in student achievement” and they are NOT “playing an important role in reforming education across the country” unless by “reforming” you mean “destroying.”

I sent this letter to Scantron President John Lawler, which said in part:

Parents United for Responsible Education has learned that recent administrations of the Scantron Performance Series exams in the Chicago Public Schools included reading comprehension questions based on a passage titled “Reforming Education: Charter Schooling.”

This passage contains propagandistic, pro-charter school statements that are misleading and in some cases false. For such statements to be used on tests given to non-charter school students is irresponsible at best. Students taking a test should not be subjected to false claims about charter schools which could cause them to feel humiliated, second-class or dumb because they do not attend a “better” charter school. Standardized tests should not be used as an opportunity to brainwash students with propaganda about charter schools or any other strategy of the corporate school reform camp.

We demand that this passage be removed from any future Scantron tests and that an apology be issued to all Chicago Public school students whose tests included this passage.

I did not hear back from Mr. Lawler, but I received this response to a similar message I sent to Corporate Spokesperson Donna Hinkelman:

Dear Ms. Woestehoff,

Thank you for your email of May 9 (copy below). In response, I wanted to confirm that the passage you referenced was part of the Performance Series exam; its purpose was to test critical thinking skills of 7th grade level students. It was not intended to be a comprehensive statement about the state of charter schools in Chicago or the nation, nor a slight of public schools.

That said, we agree that the copy could be perceived as lacking sensitivity. We sincerely apologize for any upset it may have caused the Chicago Public Schools students who took this exam, their parents and your organization’s members. That particular copy passage is being deleted from the Performance Series bank of questions effective this date.


Donna Hinkelman
Vice President, Corporate Communications
Harland Clarke Holdings Corp.

I sent this response back:

Dear Ms. Hinkelman-

Thank you for your response.

The problem with your solution — simply removing this item from the
test — is that it is just one of many, many problematic passages and
questions that turn up on students’ tests. Because parents are generally
not allowed to review the questions after the tests, we are concerned
that there may be even more problems – that this is just the tip of the
iceberg and our children are being exposed to many other questionable
passages in testing situations which are already stressful enough.

Here are two things the Scantron Corporation can do that would actually

1) Publish all test questions so that we can see the basis on which our
children are being evaluated.

2) Publicly support our national movement to allow parents to opt their
children out of any standardized test. No test should be so important
that a child should be forced to take it against his or her parents’

I would appreciate a response to these suggestions.

Thank you for your attention.

Julie Woestehoff

I never heard back from anyone at Scantron. But I wonder if this new bad publicity was at least one reason why Scantron just pulled their membership from ALEC?


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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.