Posts Tagged ‘education reform’

Schooled by experts

Monday, November 19th, 2012

This morning I attended an excellent symposium on a variety of education issues presented by CReATE (Chicagoland Researchers and Advocates for Transformative Education), the nearly two-year-old group of 100 Chicago-area academic experts who have already created some excellent resources to help parents, community groups, students and others to better understand the truth about corporate school reform.

CReATE’s first effort was a paper called  “Chicago School Reform: Myths, Realities, and New Visions”, which clarified some of the education issues discussed during the 2011 mayoral election.

Despite the outcome of that election — or maybe because of it — CReATE continued its work with a position paper opposing tying Chicago teacher evaluation to student test scores. I spoke at CReATE’s press conference announcing the letter the professors sent to Mayor Emanuel on the subject.

Today, CReATE gave a small but avid audience of educators, parents and community organizers an overview of several new research-based fact sheets on topics such as charter schools, school funding, TIFs, mayoral control v democratic governance of schools, etc. We then brainstormed ideas for collective action to challenge some of these damaging policies and promote a quality education for every child. You can find some of these papers here.

Thanks to these volunteer educators, Chicago takes another big step ahead at the cutting edge of real school reform. All in all, it was a good day for public education.


PSAT for 10-9-12: Write a letter to President Obama

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

For Public Schools Action Tuesday today, I am passing along a request from Diane Ravitch who is working with teacher blogger Anthony Cody on what they are calling the Campaign for our Schools:

Please write your thoughts about what needs to change in federal education policy and send a letter to President Obama by that date.

You can write it now and follow instructions here.

Anthony Cody, experienced middle school science teacher and fabulous blogger, has offered to coordinate our campaign to write President Obama on October 17.

We call it the Campaign for Our Public Schools.

Our campaign is meant to include everyone who cares about public education: students, parents, teachers, principals, school board members, and concerned citizens. We want everyone to write the President and tell him what needs to change in his education policies.

Tell your friends about the Campaign. If you have a blog, write about it. Wherever you are, spread the news. Join us.

Here are the instructions:

1. Send your letter directly to the White House and/or copy and paste a copy at  .

All letters will be compiled into a single document, which will be sent to the White House on Oct. 18.

You can mail copies of your letters through US mail to The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, 20500

You can send them by email from this page:

If you choose to write or email the White House, please send us a copy so we can keep track of how many letters were sent to the President.

One more thought: when you write to the President, also write to your Senators and Congressman or -woman and to your state legislator and Governor. Send the same letter to them all.

Let’s raise our voices NOW against privatization, against high-stakes testing, against teacher bashing, against profiteering.

Let’s advocate for policies that are good for students, that truly improve education, that respect the education profession, and that strengthen our democratic system of public education.

Let’s act. Start here. Start now.

Join our campaign. Speak out. Enough is enough.


PSAT for 9-4-12: Be, see role models

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

For this “traditional” first day of school, some teachable moments courtesy of excellent role models:

Back in 1989, Chicago became a national model for school reform, thanks in part to the late Don Moore, PURE and many others who helped craft the Chicago School Reform law creating local school councils.

Then we became a model for what NOT to do in school reform when the mayor took control of the schools in 1995, hiring a non-educator as CEO of the schools.

Well, we’re back!

Public education supporters all over the world are watching Chicago’s courageous, unified teachers’ union and the strong parent, student and community support spearheaded by such groups as Parents 4 Teachers and KOCO.

They know that if we can do it, they can do it.

Here’s what Parents4Teachers has on tap for this week.

P4T Banner Day Friday Sept. 7

On the eve of a potential strike, we want to have a visible presence across the city showing the breadth of support for our teachers. We’ll be at key locations from 4 – 6 p.m., Friday, Sept. 7, with banners and leaflets–talking to Chicagoans about what’s at stake in the contract battle and urging them to support the teachers. We’re targeting 10 different, high visibility locations and will need 50 people to make this action a success. Please join us!

Email to get involved.

Call CPS every Thursday until teachers win a fair contract!

We flooded central office with calls last week–several people reported the number was “our of order” when they called. Let’s do it again this Thursday and every Thursday until the board offers a contract that benefits teachers and students. Call CPS CEO J.C. Brizard at 773-553-1500. Tell him you support the teachers’ contract demands for:

Smaller classes
1. A better, not just longer, day
2. More social services, counselors and nurses for our schools
3. Job security and fair compensation for teachers

Teachers’ needs and our children’s needs go hand in hand. With parents and teachers united, we can win the schools our children deserve!

Call 773-553-1500 and make your voice heard!

Host a parent/teacher meeting at your home or school

Parents have a lot of questions about the contract dispute and, if you just listened to the media, you’d think it’s only about money. In fact, it’s about so much more. The teachers–and the CTU–are fighting for the things that matter most in our schools. Good working conditions for teachers are good learning conditions for our kids.

Host a meeting at your home or school to help your friends, family and neighbors understand what’s really at stake and brainstorm ways we can all make a difference at this critical time.

Contact and we’ll help facilitate the meeting and make a presentation.

Parent pressure on the board is the key to avoiding a strike and winning a fair contract for our teachers and quality schools for our kids. We all need to stay informed and involved.

Please share this email with your friends!


And here’s an event you should plan to attend: a forum with another great role model, Jonathan Kozol.

S A V E     T H E      D A T E !

Author Jonathan Kozol to speak in Chicago September 27th. The event is free and open to the public but we recommend that you reserve a seat here.

Urban public schools and teachers who serve children in poverty are under attack. So argues activist author Jonathan Kozol. There is a profound connection, he insists, between urban poverty, racism and educational neglect. Kozol, author of a series of notable books about the conditions of children in urban America, will speak in Chicago on September 27.  He will address the current, unprecedented assault on public education and on public school teachers.

Jonathan Kozol’s new book is Fire in the Ashes: Twenty-Five Years Among the Poorest Children in America. In this volume, Kozol reconnects with some of the children his readers first met in  Rachel and Her Children (1988), Amazing Grace (1996), Savage Inequalities (1991) and Shame of the Nation (2006) and his other works documenting the social and educational conditions facing urban children. Kozol argues that as a society, we must judge ourselves by the way we treat our children–particularly our poorest children–and that public schools are a critical anchor in a democratic society. He describes vividly the resilient and curious spirits of children growing up in adversity; he asks that we examine the priorities of our society which has seized upon their public schools as a profit center, instead of a sheltering, supportive center of learning.

A book signing by the author will follow the talk. Mr. Kozol’s new book will be available for purchase at the event.


Date:  Thursday, September 27, 2012, at 6 pm. (Doors open at 5 pm).

Location: Thorne Auditorium of Northwestern University Law School, 375 East Chicago Avenue, Chicago, IL

Hosted by the Children and Family Justice Center of Northwestern University Law School.

Sponsored by the Chicago Teachers Union, CReATE, Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE), Raise Your Hand Coalition

Free registration here.

Tweet the President on class size

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

This week PURE and some other parent groups released a press statement thanking President Obama for recognizing the importance of class size in his weekly address, and for releasing a report that shows how the elimination of 60,000 teaching positions since 2009 is not only unprecedented in US postwar history, but has led to class size increases that are severely damaging the quality of our public schools.

Our press release pointed out that the Obama administration has proposed an education budget that would cut $650M from federal class size reduction funds, and that Education Secretary Arne Duncan has also told right wing groups over the last few years that he thinks that schools should respond to budget cuts with “smartly targeted increases in class size.”

PAA co-founder Leonie Haimson, founder of the NYC parent advocacy group Class Size Matters, reports that last night, the President made another speech about the importance of smaller classes in Nevada, and he tweeted the following message:

Use the hashtag #ClassSizeMatters to share why you think our kids need more teachers in the classroom.

Hmmm. Almost sounds like a personal invitation!

Leonie reports that there have been hundreds of tweets in response to the President’s message. She asks:

I hope that all you who are already on twitter might take a few seconds to send out a message about why you think #ClassSizeMatters and copy the president at @BarackObama and me at @leoniehaimson

For more ideas, please read PAA’s fact sheet, “Why Class Size Matters.” 

Pre-order! New book includes chapter on PURE work

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

The book is called “Educational Courage: Resisting the Ambush of Public Education” and includes a chapter I wrote, ” ‘Just parents’ challenge Mayor Daley, Arne Duncan and Renaissance 2010.” 

From the publisher:

A collection of empowering stories bringing together the voices of teachers, parents, and educational activists fighting market-driven educational policies

Lost amid the heated debate over educational policies are the stories of the educators, parents, and students who are most affected by policies such as No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. In Educational Courage, veteran education scholars Nancy Schniedewind and Mara Sapon-Shevin bring together the voices of those who are resisting market-driven initiatives such as high-stakes testing, charter schools, mayoral control, and merit pay. The diverse narrators who write in this volume confront the educational initiatives that undermine teachers’ judgment and knowledge, ignore the different backgrounds of students and parents, and debase the learning process. These voices offer stories of activism, hope, and possibility. Though these stories describe the negative effects of the corporate-driven educational initiatives of the past decade, they are primarily stories of resistance-of educators, parents, and education activists fighting mightily to uphold the ideals of democratic public education. In doing so, they inspire others to do the same.

Pre-order it from Amazon or the BN. It will be out on September 4. You’re gonna like it.

Lots of upcoming events in real school reform

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

Sunday, May 20, 5 to 7 pm @ Luther Memorial Church, 2500 W. Wilson.

PURE’s Wanda Hopkins will be featured on a panel, “Critically Thinking about Chicago Public Schools.” Also featured, members of the CTU, City Council, Raise Your Hand, Albany Park Neighborhood Council, and VOYCE; CPS Board members are also invited.

“The notion of education reform is not a contentious issue for the vast majority of Chicago voters, as 82% consider reform either extremely or very important. However, not all reform is viewed the same. What shape does that reform take? Hear from members of the community involved in reshaping education so it benefits all stakeholders.”

Wednesday, May 23, 3 pm @ the Auditorium Theater, 50 W Congress

“Parents 4 Teachers is organizing a parent rally to coincide with the CTU rally on May 23. We’re meeting at 3 p.m. outside the Auditorium Theater, 50 E. Congress. We want parents there when the teachers come in to the theater to show we are behind them. The union is expecting an overflow crowd and will be conducting an outdoor rally (at 4:30 pm) as well, which we’ll be participating in as well.”

Tuesday, May 29, 6:30 – 8:30 pm @ Talcott School, 1840 W. Ohio

I’ll be bringing home the Chicago connection to the great short documentary “The Inconvenient Truth behind Waiting for Superman” (here’s the flyer in English and Spanish). The program will offer Spanish translation; a Spanish-language transcript of the film will also be available. The event is co-sponsored by Parents 4 Teachers and Talcott School PTO.

Wednesday, May 30, 6 – 8 pm @ DePaul College of Education, 254 SAC (Schmitt Academic Center), 2320 N. Kenmore

“CReATE, along with the Chicago Teachers Union and the DePaul College of Education, is sponsoring an important program:  EVALUATING TEACHER EVALUATION with Dr. Jesse Rothstein from the University of California at Berkeley. CPS will be including Value Added Metrics (VAM) as part of teacher evaluation. VAM shows serious inconsistencies and inaccuracies when used for teacher evaluation. Learn more about VAM and its flaws from a nationally-recognized expert.

“This program is a follow-up to our press conference and the release of (CReATE’s) open letter on teacher evaluation. The letter can be downloaded here.

“Dr. Rothstein is a nationally known researcher and critic of the use of Value Added Metrics for teacher evaluation. The Chicago Public Schools will be using these metrics as part of the implementation of the new teacher evaluation system.

“Isabel Nuñez, a CReATE member from Concordia University, will discuss the letter as well as the CReATE testing brief.

Saturday, June 2, 10 am – 12:30 pm, UIC, Jane Addams College of Social Work, 1040 W. Harrison, 4th floor, room 4013

“Chicago activists, educators, students, academics and parents are coming together June 2 to talk about how we can use Free Minds, Free People, the powerful national gathering on education justice, to support the development of a national education movement. Be part of this critical discussion about how to connect the burgeoning, city-wide education movement in Chicago to education for liberation work across the country.

“Chicago is the birthplace of Free Minds, Free People, and one of the most important sites in the fight for education justice in this country. We expect Chicago to have a powerful voice in shaping the direction of this critical national gathering. Please join us! Please pre-register here.

“Breakfast and childcare will be provided. You must register your child in advance.
(Donations for food are appreciated)”

More great local education forums coming up

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

It’s spring and the education forums are in bloom!

Here are two more opportunities to join with other public school advocates, share the truth about our schools, and plan some action to support and protect public education.

Teachers for Social Justice

School closings. Attacks on teachers & the CTU. Unfunded longer school day. Too much testing. WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE??

TSJ forum with parents, students, teachers, and community folk from Beverly, to Bronzeville, to Pilsen, to Ravenswood in a dialogue about where we go from here. The time for city-wide unity is now!

Saturday, May 5, 5PM – 7 PM
Intuit Art Gallery
756 N. Milwaukee Ave (Chicago)
(Donations at the door appreciated)

Voices of Youth in Chicago Education

VOYCE is convening 400 students and parents on Monday, May 7, from 6-8 pm at the IBEW Union Hall (600 W Washington) on the issue of racial disparities in the administration of extreme school disciplinary practices.

We’ve invited our elected officials to join us, and John Simmons and Antwan WIlson, senior staff at Denver Public Schools, will also be there to speak about the results that they’ve seen in Denver as a result of their revisions to the discipline code and increased emphasis on transparency and reporting.

PURE has endorsed the Call to Action for this event:

May 7, 2012

This month marks the 58th anniversary of Brown v. Board, the historic Supreme Court decision that declared that racially segregated schools in the United States were “inherently unequal,” and abolished decades-old segregationist laws. Yet almost sixty years after this monumental decision, our schools continue to produce tragically unequal outcomes.

Nowhere are these disparities more stark—or hold more grave consequences—than in the administration of school discipline. Federal civil rights data released by the U.S. Department of Education this year has shown that Black and Latino students are suspended or expelled three times more often than white students, and arrested for non-violent offenses over three times more frequently than white students. The Black-white suspension ratio in Chicago is the third-highest in the entire country. And every day, an average of thirty-one students are arrested in Chicago schools—over six times more students than are arrested every day in New York City.

Brown v. Board was a landmark decision made possible by the courage and moral leadership of grassroots activists, parents and students on the ground as well as the Supreme Court justices who wrote the unanimous decision. Today we are calling on our judicial and legislative leaders to take another courageous stand in the face of the grave racial inequalities that have persisted through to our educational system today.

The undersigned organizations stand together today to call for an end to the extreme and ineffective school disciplinary practices that are putting more and more students of color on a path to prison. It’s time for our public leaders to invest in the policies and practices needed to put Black and Latino youth on a path to college, not a path to prison.

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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.