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Monday, April 15, 2013

GOING . . . GOING . . .



To find out what is gone, listen to this recording -- worth the 7 or so minutes  to find out what happens to education once it has been "reformed."

Letter from Washington – Part III   What SHOULD we be doing?

So here is the historical perspective.  For decades the “reformers” have been pushing this concept that our schools are broken and need fixing.  The truth is that our schools are among the best in the world* when we take out those in high poverty areas.    The problem, of course, is poverty, not “bad teachers" or "broken schools."

Regardless, the so-called reformers came up with a bunch of ideas to “help”:

·        Fire all the teachers and hire new ones (which leaves us with few experienced teachers in the neediest schools, and broken trust)

·        Test, test and test again.

·        State take-overs, which unempowers citizens

·        Schools of choice (as the best students leave, they take their money with them, so the neediest schools, then, are under-funded)

·        Because  schools are under-funded, there are severe cuts to art, music, P.E., school nurses, school librarians.

·        Vouchers

When people who understand education don’t go along with these ridiculous measures the so-called reformers say it is to defend the status quo because we only care about the adults in the situation, not the students.  (Unbelievalby, the world buys this stuff.)

"What is your solution?"  They ask.

So here are some actual solutions suggested by Dr. Diane Ravitch:

·        Full, rich curriculum with arts, history, music, P.E.

·        Certified, qualified teachers in every classroom

·        Superior and principled educators (teachers, principals and superintendents).

·        Local control

·        Counselors, librarians, social workers, psychologists, school nurses.

·        Real assessments for students, rather than high-stakes testing

·        Genuine teacher evaluations rather than basing evaluations on testing , which was never the purpose of the tests in the first place.

·        Professional autonomy


Thanks for your interest in this topic.  Next up:  we heard from the students raised on No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

Mary Valentine

If you have a chance, "like" or "friend" the facebook page of Citizens to Preserve Public Education.

Friday, April 12, 2013


At the Occupy DOE (Department of Education) event last week, we marched to the White House on Saturday, after listening to speakers most of the day, which made for a very long day for this old lady:)  There were about 300 of us stretched along the road; our presence was huge. Our police escorts were fantastic – the cleared the road for us and took us right into the touristy area where there were thousands of people.  We marched right down the street, into the heart of the tourists, during cherry blossom week no less, chanting, singing, playing tambourines.  A man behind me talked to the crowd about education with his bullhorn. Bystanders stopped and watched, honked their horns, gave us thumbs up.  Some even joined us.  

I hope they will go home with questions about what in the world is happening to our public education system.

At the White House we did a “mic check”.  People poured their hearts out, the rest repeated their words for all to hear.  Again – bystanders stood and listened to us.  We drowned out all the other protesters at the White House that day.  I never thought I would find myself at the White House protesting for the right to have a neighborhood school – took them so for granted. People talked about many things, including how the extreme testing regime is sucking the joy out of education and wasting money that should be spent on our students.

The news continues to be bad – but hopeful because the grassroots are organizing.  The more we test, the more severe and ridiculous the tests become.  The testing companies, of course,  are making a fortune – taking it right straight out of the already-thin public schools funding.  They are now working to get bubble tests in pre-schools!  This is so the opposite of everything we ever learned in any college class, any training we ever went to as educators. High stakes testing only breeds more high stakes testing.  It will never stop until we just stand up and take this into our own hands and simply stop.

Bully Michigan state rep Tom McMillan and his cohort Lisa Lyons suggest that those who don’t want to corporatize our schools don’t care about the kids and only want to defend the status quo.  Well, guess what?  Over and over again studies show the methods they are promoting are ineffective.  Solutions such as school libraries with credentialed librarians lead to school success, not a “turn-around” school, in which all the teachers are fired.  A good library can nearly balance the impact of poverty.  Throw the tests out and bring back school librarians!

The federal government brought us No Child Left Behind and Race to the top.  The result of those policies?   Every child was left behind and our children are exhausted from racing to the top.

Dr. Diane Ravitch is a true hero of this movement.  Pearls of wisdom poured out of her mouth.  

  • Schools with low test scores have children with high needS
  •  Vouchers don’t work!   Wherever they have been tried, they have failed.
  •  Merit pay is a proven failure.
  •  The notion that we can fix schools by closing them is a ridiculous  notion that only hurts the kids.  
  •  This is not a “reform” strategy; it is a “destruction” strategy.

Next installment:  what DOES work?

Mary Valentine

P.S.  This link will take you to a speaker who shared his experiences teaching in Rhode Island.  Please repost and send out wherever you can.  The population needs to hear these stories.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


Dear Friends,

Internet access was spotty and the mile-long walk to the occupy site left me too exhausted to cope with Mailchimp while I was in Washington, which is why I did not send more updates. Now that I am home, though, I’ll send you updates I wrote while I was there. 

My first report from Washington. It is lovely here: steeped in history and cherry blossoms. There is an image of Frederick Douglas etched into the sidewalk right outside the front door of my hotel with this quote: “I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence.” 

Now to Occupy the Department of Education (DOE). There is so much information I’d like to share, so in order not to bore you to death I will keep you informed in a series of short letters. If anyone is interested in a meeting of some sort where I can share and we can discuss, let me know. I would love to do that. 

The news from what is happening in the education systems out east is not good. I have heard these stories but did not realize they were already happening. The beauty of coming together is that the stories are so much more real when you talk to the people experiencing them. 

I met a man who talked about the scripted teaching in his Rhode Island classroom. His schedule is posted in 12 different locations. If he is not doing exactly what he is “supposed” to be doing at the exact time, he is written up. Good-bye to everything we ever learned about teaching. Good-bye teachable moment. Good-bye to answering questions from curious minds. Good-bye to consoling a child for loss of a loved one. Good- bye to recess, art and music. They are not on the test, so don’t teach them. It was so bad, he quit – on YouTube. You can find it at Rhode Island Teacher Resigns. 

Teachers are fired and schools are closed, based on the test scores of young children. The stress causes the most vulnerable students to have melt-downs and hospitalizations. Katie Osgood is a social worker at an in-patient mental health treatment center in Chicago. She told us that during the week of high-stakes testing, referrals increase. If they do poorly on these high-stakes testing, not only do the children feel terrible about themselves, but their teacher could be fired or their school closed. The stress does nothing to improve education but weighs heavily on them. School closings are causing an increase in violence, even leading to children dying because those closing the schools know nothing about the neighborhoods they are dealing with. As a result, they have kids crossing through gang territories to get to school. 

The good news is that parents are opting their children out of testing. Young people themselves are opting out. I even heard of a wise, brave superintendent opting out his entire school district. 

Troy Grant, a dynamic young teacher from St. George’s County told us a story about opting his students out of a test. He was instructed to give three tests in one week, but by Friday, the kids were exhausted. He realized that testing the children would be educational malpractice, so he simply did not give the test. Nothing even happened, which led him to wonder if anybody was even reading those tests. 

Next installment, the march on the White House . . . . 

Mary V.