Posts Tagged ‘education reform’

CTU vision for a quality education for all children

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

This morning the Chicago Teachers’ Union presented a comprehensive set of research-based proposals to strengthen the Chicago Public Schools, called “The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve.”

I was pleased to be asked to say a few words on behalf of PURE. This is what I said:

I’m very glad to be here. First of all, as a parent group, PURE wants to take this opportunity to reaffirm that we stand strong with our children’s teachers in the fight for a high quality education for every child. Parents trust teachers more than politicians, mayors, former basketball players, education hobbyists, (here I added “Tribune editorial writers” to be timely) or wealthy philanthropists to know how to educate children. We know that teachers care about our children’s education the way we do, and we trust teachers to know and do what’s best for them in the classroom.

These days parents are being bombarded with million-dollar advertising – some of it trying to pass as news and some as movies and documentaries – promoting the privatization of public education. Every day we hear about how terrible the schools are and how terrible the teachers are. We’re supposed to feel afraid, and that’s supposed to make us run scared to the hyped up charter or turnaround schools.

It’s easy to know that this strategy isn’t working because now the privatizers are funding fake parent groups to create the appearance of parents wanting what corporate school reformers want – you know, more testing, more charters, fewer union teachers.

This leads me to the second reason why it’s so good to be here on this occasion. I want to take the opportunity to thank the Chicago Teachers Union for putting together such a well-researched report about the kind of education our children need to succeed, and to thank them for bringing attention to what we should all really be talking about, starting with the fact that children who live in poverty need smaller class sizes, better prepared, experienced, and compensated teachers, more resources, less teaching to the test, and parents who are welcome partners in the school improvement process.

We look forward to sharing this excellent resource with parents in Chicago and across the nation as we move the conversation forward about what children really need.

More on rent-a-protesters from WGN; parents’ real choice

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

Jackie Leavy has sent around another powerful post. We sure miss her and Neighborhood Capital Budget Group, which she ran for years, but what a gift that she is still speaking out so effectively. Please note her spot-on comment about today’s Tribune editorial: “The Tribune criticizes protesters who are questioning CPS’ School Actions and Turn-Arounds for disrupting the CPS Board meeting last month. However the Editorial is silent on the phenomenon of folks being recruited by organizations that have contracts with CPS and paid to say they support CPS at the recent public hearings.”


From Jackie:

Dear Supporters of Great Public Schools for All Students: 

Tuesday, Jan. 24th (during the President’s State of the Union address) –  WGN broadcast a report on the CPS School Action Hearings. Since many of us likely didn’t get a chance to see it, here is the link – this is a report you don’t want to miss:–20120124,0,340019.story

WGN reports that the Chicago Teachers Union plans to call on CPS’ Inspector General to investigate. WBEZ is also continuing to cover the story, with a promise to “follow the money” by reporter Linda Lutton on air this morning (01/26). 

West Humboldt Park Parents Vote Overwhelmingly to Reject Proposed AUSL Turn-Arounds:

On Jan. 24th, CASALS and PICCOLO schools parents held their own VOTE to see what parents really want for their schools. Latrice Watkins, Piccolo Parent and LSC Chair explained, “We knew that the reality of or schools was being ignored, so to show the support for what’s happening in our schools, we organized this election. . . . What’s happening at Piccolo already is a turn-around. . . . CPS did not take into consideration the great momentum at the school.”  Ms. Watkins said, “We got together and began calling parents and talking to parents. . . . We want to send a message that there is a big mistake being made here.”  Only parents/guardians could vote, and there was one vote per household. Casals joined in as well to take a vote at their own school. ELECTION RESULTS:

  •  At Pablo Casals:  93% of the 171 parents/guardians who voted yesterday resoundingly rejected CPS’ Plan to have AUSL take over their school.
  •  At Piccolo:  89% of the more than 100 parent/guardians voting said “NO” to the proposed AUSL take-over.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE:  SOTO “WANTS TO STOP SCHOOL REFORM COLD”. . . “DON’T PROTECT FAILING SCHOOLS”. . . “LEGISLATORS . . . RESIST THE URGE TO MEDDLE:  Today the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board published the attached editorial. It says State Rep. Soto is trying to “stop school reform cold.”  The Tribune focuses on how terrible Guggenheim, Crane HS, and Dyett HS are. The editorial states “lawmakers in Springfield don’t know best about which Chicago schools should be closed or spared. That’s rightly a local decision.” The Tribune criticizes protestors who are questioning CPS’ School Actions and Turn-Arounds for disrupting the CPS Board meeting last month.  However the Editorial is silent on the phenomenon of folks being recruited by organizations that have contracts with CPS and paid to say they support CPS at the recent public hearings.

What’s Next?

—  Proposed School Actions:  Hearings again tonight and tomorrow night at 125 S. Clark: THURSDAY, 01/26:  5:30 PM – Doolittle East Elementary; 8 PM Guggenheim Elementary.  Friday, Jan. 27th:  5:30 PM Dyett HS; 8 PM:  Lathrop Elementary.  THEN . . . Watch for the Independent Hearing Officers’ Reports to be posted online at CPS’ website – between next week and February 7th.  BOARD VOTES on FEB. 22nd.

—  DOCUMENT & CIRCULATE YOUR ALTERNATIVE PLAN FOR YOUR SCHOOLto the media and your elected officials; send to CPS’ CEO Jean Claude Brizard and to the CEFTF:  Be as specific as you can be: What you want to do, what you need to do it.

—  CPS Hearings on Proposed Turn-Arounds next week! Schedule here. Ask your elected officials to consider YOUR ALTERNATIVE proposals.

— Invite a CPS Board member to your next CAC meeting, LSC meeting, or your school/community, or to a meeting, to learn about your ALTERNATIVE PLAN for YOUR School.

—  Read the Tribune Editorial.  You may decide you want to “weigh in” and respond.  If you do, here is the link to submit a Letter to the Editor:,0,3578487.customform.


Update on SFC phone blitz

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

We were using the phone last night sometime after 7 pm when our SFC call came in. The voice mail message that “Jackie” left for us said she was sorry she missed us but that she was with Stand for Children and that if we, like them, want better education for children, we should look at their web site.

While local SFC leaders are claiming that they “just want to have an open conversation” about ways to improve schools, they seem pretty fixated on the turnaround model. It’s certainly front and center on their web site, and they make it sound so reasonable:

“We need to create quality neighborhood schools where we can continue to keep our students in the same classroom while improving the conditions around them, from better facilities to specially trained principals and teachers to updated curriculum.  This is where public turnaround schools come into play.

“The idea of a ‘turnaround’ school has a lot of misconceptions, but has seen success in many Chicago public schools and has firm roots on what is in the best interest of children. A public turnaround school keeps children in their neighborhood school but changes the culture in the school to create high expectations and proven best practices for learning.

“Staying in his or her neighborhood school and investing in the neighborhood school is good for the child and good for the neighborhood. Do you agree? Join us as we fight for quality public school options. We need parents and community members coming together to say, “YES! My child deserves a great school!”

Here’s what they don’t mention about turnarounds in this pitch:

Oh, and they don’t mention that ALL THE SCHOOL STAFF gets fired when a turnaround comes in.

That kind of takes the fuzz off of their warm and fuzzy vision, doesn’t it?

We trust parents to see wade through the hype, but with all the money that’s being thrown at this project, we’re going to have to pull on our hip boots.

PSAT for 1-17-12: Time to put pressure where it hurts

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

For the past few years I’ve been trying pretty much single-handedly to goad people into a boycott of Microsoft, WalMart, and other corporations behind the attack on public education. Three years ago, I publicly vowed to stop using the Microsoft operating system, and I did. The bottom point under Take Action on the right hand side of this site urging the boycott has been there for at least a year.

So far, Microsoft and WalMart seem to be doing pretty well without me.

Boycotts are tough. Maybe impossible on this scale.

So, more recently, I’ve been zeroing in on a related idea that may be a more effective, easier way to challenge the power of what Diane Ravitch calls the Billionaire Boys Club.

Sticking those school reform vultures right in their corporate image. It’s their Achilles heel. 

A business’s corporate image  is its overall reputation, the way its activities, products or services are perceived by their customers, shareholders, the financial community, and the general public. Corporations want the public to believe that they are good citizens. The resources companies budget for charitable activities are considered a good and even necessary investment. They know that consumers often consider the environmental and social image of firms in making their purchasing decisions. So, one of the key components of any marketing strategy is controlling the corporation’s image, its message and the fragile corporate personality that keeps its ideal customers choosing you.

The key word here is fragile, as in this warning from a marketing blogger:

Corporate image can be quite fragile. It requires constant maintenance, and any threat against it should be dealt with as swiftly as possible. Because people have a tendency to remember the bad more vividly than the good, destroying a reputation is far easier than repairing it.

Fragile. Yes, I like the sound of that.

Another expert writes:

In the past, marketing departments and corporate communication departments kept these messages very controlled. Now, blogging, tweeting and wikipedia entries and independent review sites can derail your positioning before you’ve had the first cup of coffee.

Going back to the quote from Paul D’Amato about speaking truth to power in my blog yesterday – “The problem is that power already knows the truth, they just don’t care because they’re power” – yes, they have power, and no, they don’t care about the truth, but they do care about their FRAGILE corporate image.

That’s where we have to attack them.

Of course, we can choose a target and picket, like PURE did years ago with Walgreen’s when they spent money to defeat the Fair School Funding amendment in Illinois. We complained that Walgreen’s wanted us to buy our children’s school supplies from them but didn’t want to pay their fair share for education. We actually got the schools open with that action. The old GEM coalition went after Walgreen’s and McDonald’s in 2009 to protest their support for Renaissance 2010, and got some good publicity.

But even without picketing, we can begin to chip away at that fragile corporate image. We can blog and tweet about the people and corporations behind the attack on public education. Groups like PURE and PAA can also coordinate letters to various corporations implicated in the attack, and collect and disseminate the reality behind the corporate image – and the personal image – of those who are hurting public education and our children. I’m talking about Bill Gates’ image as a great, big-hearted do-gooder. I’m talking about Penny Pritzker’s image as a pillar of the community and Friend of Barack. I’m talking about the others behind the attack – United Way. Eli Broad. Robin Steans. BP. Ford. Hewlett. Philip Anschutz. The Koch brothers. Searle Freedom Trust. It goes on and on.

So, for Public Schools Action Tuesday for today, why not go to the I Hate Microsoft Facebook page and post something you know about Bill Gates’ attack on public education (I just did).

More to come.

ESEA begins another year’s journey

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

Experts are predicting (also here) that the No Child Left Behind Act will not be revised in 2012. Meanwhile, Republican House education committee leaders are planning to change strategy and write a more comprehensive ESEA bill, dropping their efforts to come to agreement with Democrats on a set of issue-specific pieces and preparing a larger bill like the one passed out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee last October.

The House committee has already passed individual bills on expanding charter schools, program consolidation, and funding flexibility. Only their charter school bill passed the full House. The Senate HELP committee bill has not moved to the full Senate.

The House ed committee is apparently now working on “accountability” (read testing) and “teacher quality” (read more testing) provisions to combine with the three bills already passed in the committee. While a final decision may not be near, this is the time when legislative language is being written. Once written, it becomes more difficult to change. That means that we should continue to contact our legislators to inform them of our concerns and ideas for the future of our children’s education. Parents Across America has a comprehensive position statement here.

Here’s a new comment on ESEA from FairTest’s Monty Neill (advertisement – don’t miss Monty here in Chicago Feb 15th!) 

Monty Neill on ESEA reauthorization posted today on National Journal education blog

The key question is, What’s the content?

The most pressing issue is not whether a NCLB reauthorization bill is partisan or not, but whether it helps improve teaching and learning.

NCLB has seriously damaged U.S. educational quality and equity. FairTest explains why in our just-released report, NCLB’s Lost Decade for Educational Progress: What Can We Learn from this Policy Failure? The combination of high-stakes testing overuse and unsound sanctions has undermined good schools, hindered and misdirected reform efforts in weaker ones, and perpetuated the dangerous illusion that schools alone can solve the problems of poverty and segregation.

Secretary Duncan’s waiver scheme does remove the boot of “adequate yearly progress” (AYP) from the necks of schools in states that accept the bad deal of judging teachers “in significant part” on the basis of student test scores. Despite rhetoric from President Obama and his education secretary about the low quality of standardized exams and the harm of teaching to them, they are intensifying the pressure on school people to narrow the curriculum and teach to the tests.

The Senate HELP bill likewise scuttles AYP. It at least limits the requirement to judge teachers by student test scores only to states that choose to use some ESEA discretionary funds to construct a teacher evaluation system. It also takes a more reasonable approach to school improvement in calling for a tailored plan based on a review of the particular school. Unfortunately, it undermines this sensible approach (strongly recommended by the Forum on Educational Accountability, FEA) by also insisting that districts pick from a menu of rigid options that closely resemble NCLB’s sanctions.

So what should the House do, hopefully as bipartisan legislation but even if Republican only? It should also drop AYP. It should not require any state to use student test scores to judge educators. And it should entirely scrap any remnants of the misguided NCLB sanctions structure.

But it should go well beyond these steps and follow the recommendations outlined in FairTest’s report (which in turn overlap with both FEA and the Broader, Bolder Approach). These include:

–          Reduce the amount of mandated testing to once each in elementary, middle and high school. No other advanced nation tests more than this. For example, top-performing Finland does not test at all for school evaluation. Over-testing in the U.S. has simply produced state test score inflation, not real gains in learning, as demonstrated by stagnant NAEP scores for almost all groups.

–          Provide serious support to enable states to work with districts to construct assessment systems rooted in ongoing student schoolwork. There are ways to do this that are unobtrusive, avoid teaching to the test and narrowing the curriculum, produce adequately reliable and strongly valid evidence of student learning, and support strengthening the capacity of the teaching force.

–          Provide serious support to states willing to build a school quality review system.

Taken together, these systems of assessment and evaluation can produce rich information to use in school improvement, as I’ve explained in an Education Week Commentary. By building on the school improvement ideas in the Senate HELP bill but jettisoning the continuing link to NCLB sanctions, the rich evidence of student learning and school strengths and weaknesses can be used to foster systemic school reform.

To succeed, these reforms will require additional funds for schools serving our most impoverished children. Even then, Congress should not perpetuate the falsehood that schools can overcome the consequences of poverty. Solving that vast problem goes well beyond an education bill, though ensuring high quality pre-school and wrap-around services are steps that Congress can take in reauthorizing ESEA.


PSAT for 12-27-11: Test your Ed Reform IQ!

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

Washington Post education blogger Valerie Strauss has a quick end-of-year quiz for us school reform aficionados.

For Public Schools Action Tuesday today, take the quiz, print it out for your New Year’s Eve party, share with friends!

I scored 100%. Resolution for 2012 – develop some new interests…

Start the new year off right with a gift to Parents Across America!

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

Dear Friends:

It’s nearly impossible for parents to ignore what’s being done to our public schools these days. It’s become even harder for parents to have a say about decisions that affect our children’s lives on a daily basis. In fact, politicians and those running our school systems often seem to think that the only voices that matter in education are those that come with big dollar signs!

Fortunately, Parents Across America was formed nearly a year ago to give parents a powerful new voice in the national public education debate. PAA has already become a major player in the fight for a high quality education for every child in the U.S. In a few short months, we have gained prominence and established ourselves as a credible voice for parents through articles in Education Week, the Washington Post’s Answer Sheet, on radio and TV, and in the newspapers.

The 1% wants to control public education in this country – and they do not want parents to have a say in our own children’s education. That’s why we are coming to you today for support.

If you think it’s important that parents have a strong, informed and independent voice in our children’s education, please consider making a tax-deductible donation so that PAA can ramp up our efforts.  Some of our activities in the past year: 

  • We held our kickoff national educational forum in NYC on February 7, 2011, with keynote speaker Diane Ravitch.
  • Our electronic newsletter has more than 4,000 subscribers, and our Facebook page and group have more than 1,500 members.
  • We have 15 chapters and affiliates in 10 states, with more forming every week.
  • We played a prominent role in this summer’s Save Our Schools march on Washington DC, and PAA members spoke at the rally and provided workshops at the conference.
  • Our proposal to reform NCLB/ESEA was featured in the Washington Post and was endorsed by the SOS March.
  • Armed with our fact sheets and other information, our members helped beat back the forces of corporate reform in states from North Carolina to the state of Washington.

But we have still a long way to go to overcome the forces of big money that are intent on privatizing our public schools, and imposing policies, including school closings,  more high stakes testing, and the rapid expansion of online learning, that threaten to further damage our children and are unsupported by research.

If you care about public education and you think that an organization like PAA is needed to push for better public schools for every single child, and to give stakeholders a national voice in progressive education reform, please make a generous donation now.

You may use ourDonate button or mail a tax-deductible check or money order to PAA/Class Size Matters at 124 Waverly Place, New York, NY 10011

Thank you and have a happy holiday season from  Parents Across America!


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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.