Posts Tagged ‘corporate school reform’

PSAT for 7-3-12: Call for equality (especially in the schools)

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

For our nation’s birthday – let’s give some thought to what it really means to be a great nation.

(I’m trying to take a little work break in honor of July 4th so I’m just going to share the most recent Action of the Week from the Parents Across America June 28 newsletter.)

The Supreme Court has upheld the federal healthcare reform law. My long-time friend and PURE colleague Johnny Ho;mes said to me that by next year, people will simply be calling Obamacare “healthcare.”

Can we really turn the corner and become a nation that offers its people medical care regardless of status or situation? If we can do that, can we also turn off the message from the “reformers” that it’s OK to offer children different educational opportunities based on their status and situation?

The so-called education “debate” is really just a one-sided propaganda campaign waged by privatizers who see public education as an investment opportunity, not a service that a great nation provides to all its people. Our “side” of the debate has mainly consisted of exposing the lies behind the propaganda and reacting to its ham-fisted attempts to turn public opinion in favor of privatization and school closure.

It’s time to turn the discussion back to what we expect of ourselves as a great nation when it comes to educating our children. The discussion should start with the promise of equal opportunity and end with ways to assure that every child is prepared to live a rich, engaged civic life.

What can you do? 

Send a birthday card like this (or a paper card!) to at least one of your elected officials. Start a new conversation about what we really want for our children, and the equal educational opportunity that a great nation must provide.

The power of parent participation

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

Dr. Joyce Epstein, who heads the National Network of Partnership Schools at Johns Hopkins University, created the gold standard for parent involvement programs – a comprehensive set of practices that encourage good parenting, strong home-school communication, volunteer opportunities, support for learning at home, a parent voice in school decision making, and community collaboration.

Last night’s parent forum at DePaul really made that package come to life.

On the panel were (right to left in photo) Monica Espinoza and Joanna Brown from Logan Square Neighborhood Association, Lynn Morton from Community Organizing and Family Issues, yours truly, Wendy Kattan from Raise Your Hand, and Latrice Watkins, LSC chair of Piccolo Elementary, who led the Occupy Piccolo protest earlier this year (Cecile Carrol from Blocks Together arrived after this pic was taken).

Together, we represented that full package of parent involvement activity, and, as I pointed out to the audience of about 100 teachers and students studying to be teachers, you get the whole package with parents. We want to be involved in all those areas and woe to the school principal, school CEO, or US Education Secretary who tries to relegate us to cookie baking, science projects, or cover for a school privatization and union-busting agenda.

I talked about the importance of the parent voice in the context of the critical need at this time for parents and teachers to have a united front. PURE was founded by parents and teachers together during the last Chicago teachers’ strike in 1987, to help parents and teachers speak with one voice about who was failing our children: not the greedy teachers or the lazy parents, but the politicians and bureaucrats whose neglect and poor management was forcing failure on our schools.

Things are much worse today. Now, in addition to lazy, greedy politicians and bureaucrats, we also have to deal with the multi-million dollar attack campaign against teachers and public schools coming from the corporate sector, and from both the right- and left wing. Propaganda against public schools and teachers is turning up everywhere – on fashion designers’ billboards, in major Hollywood movies, etc. So the truth has got to be told more loudly. PURE has a long track record of speaking the truth and sharing it in the media, in workshops, and in clear fact and tip sheets so that the public is better educated about education issues. Students and teachers need to help spread the word – your reach is vast and we all need to be on message together.

I assigned homework, too, starting with asking everyone to sign and share the National Resolution against High-Stakes Testing.

My colleagues all had amazing stories to tell. All in all, it was a very inspiring evening.


Tribune: “Off with their heads!” Fire school board for saying no to charter school

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

Today’s Chicago Tribune editorial board fronts an attack on corporate reform’s next target: elected school boards.

Yep. The privatizers have decided that democratically-elected school boards just get in the way of “real reform” like privatization, expanding charter schools, and replacing experienced teachers with deer-in-the-headlights Teach for America kids.

PAA co-founder Leonie Haimson wrote about this in a recent Parents Across America blog post, referencing an article by Matt Miller called “First Kill All the School Boards” that argued that “local control has become a disaster for our schools.”

The Tribune calls for a “game change” in North Chicago, and wants the Illinois State Board of Education to “fire” the elected school board for refusing to hire the Chicago-based LEARN charter school network to open a new school.

The school board voted down the proposal, citing a concern about the loss of funding for the rest of the district’s schools.

Seems legitimate, given the tough economy and the cutbacks in state funding for schools.

If I were a North Chicago school board member, I would also ask about the rate of teacher turnover at LEARN, which has a 7.5 hour day and a 200 day school year. I’d review the personnel budget for the extra time as well as the lower class size the network boasts, to see if it could be supported.

Yes, LEARN’s test scores are impressive, but I might want to know more about numbers like these enrollment figures, from LEARN’s Interactive School Report Card.

2006: 60 students in 3rd grade

2007: 59 in 4th grade

2008: 41 in 5th grade

2009: 43 in 6th grade

2010: 36 in 7th grade

2011: 32 in 8th grade

LEARN had only one school between 2002 and 2008, when it opened a second school beginning in the primary grades, so that would not have affected the number of 5th graders and older at that point. So, apparently the original LEARN school had an elementary “dropout rate “of about 50%, from 60 to 32 students. What happened? Did LEARN “lose” some less-wanted students as is so common in charter schools?

But the Tribune demands that State Superintendent Chris Koch overrule the school board and approve the charter (yes, he can do that!). And, since the Trib considers it a capital crime to oppose any charter school, they also demand that Koch remove the school board and install a “new authority” (I guess he can do that, too).

Maybe the Red Queen is available. That would be a real “game” changer, for folks of a similar temperament who think education is just another game.

First Parents Across America open call in tonight 2-20

Monday, February 20th, 2012

Tonight, Monday Feb. 20 at 8 PM, Parents Across America will be sponsoring a conference call, open to all, to brief you on strategies you can use to fight back against the damaging tide of privatization wreaking havoc our public schools.

When: Monday, Feb. 20 at 8 PM EST.

Conference Dial-in Number: (424) 203-8075

Participant Access Code: 1037540#

First, Karran Harper Royal, a PAA founding member, will talk about what’s happening in New Orleans, where nearly 75% of the schools are charters and before too long, they may all be privatized.  Rather than the idealized picture portrayed by Sec. Duncan and the corporate reform crowd, this has led to nightmarish experiences for many children, who no longer have the right to attend their neighborhood school, and are often forced to travel hours each day on buses which their parents have to pay for. Hear what Karran and other NOLA parents are doing to fight back, and about the lawsuit they have filed with the help of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Dora Taylor and Sue Peters, founders of PAA- Seattle, will describe how they are experiencing the fourth push in 15 years to authorize charter schools in Washington, one of only about ten states in which charter schools are still not legal.  Parents are also facing a barrage of potentially damaging “teacher evaluation” bills in the legislature. Sue and Dora will talk about how they are organizing other parents throughout the state, working with other stakeholder groups, and helping to disseminate the truth about charters and teacher evaluation to prevent these bills from being passed – in Bill Gates’ own backyard.

When: Monday, Feb. 20 at 8 PM EST.

Conference Dial-in Number: (424) 203-8075

Participant Access Code: 1037540#

If you have a question in advance, please send it to

Events this week: No Testing Week, book signing, school closing events

Monday, November 28th, 2011

This week, Nov, 28-Dec. 2, has been declared No Testing Week by at least one school. Here’s what the principal, Peter DeWitt, had to say about the school’s plans:

During the week of November 28th through December 2nd our school is not doing any testing of any kind. We are participating in our very own “No Testing Week.” Teachers are not going to give science tests, social studies tests, math quizzes and spelling tests. They will not be able to progress monitor. Our students are going to have a week where they do not have to worry about the pre-test at the beginning of the week or the looming exam at the end of the week.

Instead, we are focusing on doing projects and other creative activities. Our school participates in two Scholastic Book Fairs and the week that brings November and December together is one of the weeks Scholastic will be at our school. Our students will be able to buy books all week long. They will be surrounded by books all week long. They will have extra time to get lost in the wonder of their favorite book all week long. On Friday evening, December 2nd we are having a local children’s author Matt McElligott come to present and read to children and families.

Opposition to testing madness is growing across the nation. There’s a Facebook page for people who are opting out of state tests, and recently 658 principals in New York State signed a letter protesting the use of student test scores in teacher and principal evaluation, according to an article by Michael Winerip in yesterday’s New York Times:

Mario Fernandez, principal of Stillwater High School near Saratoga, called the evaluation process a product of “ludicrous, shallow thinking…. My gosh, it seems to be slapped together,” he said. “They’re expecting a tornado to go through a junkyard and have a brand new Mercedes pop up.”

Winerip reports that “The trainers at these sessions, which are paid for by state and federal grants, have explained that they’re figuring out the new evaluation system as they go. To make the point, they’ve been showing a YouTube video with a fictional crew of mechanics who are having the time of their lives building an airplane in midair.”

Sounds a lot like the US Dept of Education session on testing technology I attended a few months ago.


CPS must announce the list of proposed school closings this week. Here’s how you can get involved:

1) Plan to attend the free CTU-sponsored session on school closings this Saturday, Dec. 3, from 10 am to noon, at King College Prep High School, 4445 S. Drexel Blvd. This annual event draws together hundreds of people from schools on the closing list and supportive parents, teachers and community members to strategize on ways to stop CPS’s failed program of school closings. In its critique of CPS’s revised school closing policy proposal, the CTU found that

  • Closing schools for academic reasons is rarely  a good idea.
  • Schools on probation are supposed to get assistance from CPS – what proof will the public get that the assistance was in fact provided, with a detailed explanation of what that assistance entailed, and an evaluation of why the assistance wasn’t successful in improving the school?
  • The social and academic supports that the RECEIVING schools will get should have been provided to the school that closed

2) Call in to the WBEZ radio show this Thursday to share your reaction to the school closing list with guest CEO J. C.Brizard:

  • Call the studio line (312-923-9239) from 6:45-8:00p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 1st to talk with Jean-Claude Brizard live on-air.
  • Head to, to participate in our live chat moderated by WBEZ education reporter Linda Lutton.
  • Submit your questions electronically before December 1st by emailing or sending a tweet to @AskBrizard.
  • Leave a recorded message for Mr. Brizard before Dec. 1st by calling 312-948-4886.

3) Come to our book party Friday, Dec. 2!! (Flyer to share)

CORE member and Professor William Watkins brings together some of the nation’s leading scholars and activists, including Pauline Lipman, Ken Saltman, and Alfie Kohn, to explore and critique the effects of market-based policy on public-school reform in his new book, The Assault on Public Education: Confronting the Politics of Corporate School Reform. PURE is proud to co-sponsor a Book Party where you will have an opportunity to hear from Dr. Watkins and, if you desire, to buy signed copies of his book. The book is intended to serve as an organizing tool for supporters of genuine public education. It features an extensive critique of how corporations influence universal public education, an explanation of how wealth forges public policy, and a case study of the public school system in New Orleans.

Friday, December 2; 7 pm – 9 pm  5305 S. Cornell, 3rd floor (ring top bell)

Appetizers, wine, camaraderie, knowledge

Sponsored by Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE) and Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE)

It’s about the profit, stupid

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

Please take a few minutes to read this sharp analysis of why the Penny Pritzkers of America suddenly seem to care about our children’s education, by David Sirota in Salon.

Here’s a taste:

On one side are self-interested teachers unions who supposedly oppose fundamental changes to schools, not because they care about students, but because they fear for their own job security and wages, irrespective of kids. In this mythology, they are pitted against an alliance of extraordinarily wealthy corporate elites who, unlike the allegedly greedy unions, are said to act solely out of the goodness of their hearts. We are told that this “reform” alliance of everyone from Rupert Murdoch to the Walton family to leading hedge fundersspends huge amounts of money pushing for radical changes to public schools because they suddenly decided that they care about destitute children, and now want to see all kids get a great education.

The dominant narrative, in other words, explains the fight for the future of education as a battle between the evil forces of myopic selfishness (teachers) and the altruistic benevolence of noblesse oblige (Wall Street). Such subjective framing has resulted in reporters, pundits and politicians typically casting the “reformers'” arguments as free of self-interest, and therefore more objective and credible than teachers’ counterarguments….

As Brill and most other education correspondents tell it, those most aggressively trying to privatize public schools and focus education around standardized tests just “happen to be” Wall Streeters — as if that’s merely a random, inconsequential coincidence. Somehow, we are to assume that these same Wall Streeters who make millions off of “parasitic” investment schemes to leech public institutions for private profit couldn’t have ulterior motives when it comes to public schools.

No, in the standard fairy tale sold as education journalism, these “reformers” are presented as having had an honest, entirely altruistic “epiphany” that led them to discover that “the reforms that are necessary” (ie., only the policies Wall Street deems acceptable) comprise “the civil rights issue of this era.”

In this framing, millionaires and billionaires trying to eviscerate traditional public education from their Manhattan office suites are the new Martin Luther Kings — even though the  empirical data tell us that their schemes to charter-ize and privatize schools have been a systemic failure, often further disadvantaging the most economically challenged students of all (one example: see Stanford’s landmark study showing more than a third of kids whom reformers ushered into charter schools were educationally harmed by the move).

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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.