The Genius of Luis Torres: How PS 55 Responded to the Charter Challenge by Mark Naison

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One of the most brilliant and important achievements of PS 55’s visionary Principal, Luis E Torres, is that through innovative programming and a relentless public relations campaign, he has totally overshadowed the Success Academy Charter School co-located in his building! Normally, Success Academy tries to humiliate and stigmatize the public schools it is co-located by pointing out how much better it’s performance is! Not at PS 55! Here, the action, innovation and excitement is all with the public school, whether it is the scientific and pedagogical innovations of the Green Bronx Machine, the school based agriculture program housed at the School; the full service Medical clinic Principal Torres has created; or the school’s championship step team and basketball team! People from all over the city and the nation come to see what Principal Torres has done; while Success Academy stays in the background.

This is what should happen all over!! Principals and teachers should not just roll over when a charter comes into their building; they should show everyone what public education at its Best can do, which is draw on the resources of entire communities! And what I mean by community resources is not only the cultural capital of the neighborhood  the school is located, but the skills and resources of everyone in the city and the country who supports public education. Principal Torres has done this brilliantly

Everyone seeking to defend public education against the relentless charter attack needs to visit his school and draw upon his innovative and inspiring strategies not only in programming, but in public relations!

(Reblogged from With a Brooklyn Accent)

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Co-Opted Language: Decoding Ed Reform’s New Sales Pitch from Wrench in the Gears

The biggest battle we have in preserving our public schools is to recapture our profession lexicon. When you hear and read these terms, closely examine the source. This list defines the terms the way they are defined by the corporate reformers profiting from the destruction of true education. But the real meanings behind most of these terms are still good and valid.

Together let us determine to take back these terms and show the world that educators love, cherish, and truly care about the well being of the nation’s children.

Thank you.

Wrench in the Gears

The words used to promote “future ready” public education do not mean to reformers what they mean to you. This post is intended to pull back the curtain and expose the truth behind venture capital’s shiny promises of “personalized” tech-centered, data-driven learning. The list below features vocabulary that should be on everyone’s radar. Short definitions link to more detailed descriptions written from the point of view of the reformers-if they had to tell the truth about their plans to swap neighborhood schools for learning ecosystems. Complete list of long form definitions available here. One-page PDF handout for sharing available here.

1:1 Devices: A program where each child has their own data-gathering device for “anywhere learning.” More

Anytime, Anywhere Learning: A push to disconnect education from “constraints” of buildings and teachers. More

Assessment Reform / Computer Adaptive Testing: Punitive end of year tests exchanged for perpetual monitoring of online…

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Educate Before You Medicate – Please Read and Share

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I haven’t been around much lately and I have a pretty good excuse. On Thursday, September 21st, I woke up not feeling well. I thought I might be coming down with a sore throat or a sinus infection. I had a sore throat and a fever. Surprisingly the fever was 102 but I didn’t feel like I had that high of a fever. That should have been my first warning something was not right. When I woke up the next morning, my eyes were all red, my fever still 102, my throat and mouth really sore, and I had a rash all over my chest, arm, neck and face. It took until the following Monday for me to insist on going to the ER. By then my fever was 103, the rash was all over my body, my eyes were inflamed and I could hardly see, I couldn’t walk because of the burns on my feet, and my mouth was full of sores and bleeding.

When I got to the ER, the ICU doctor was ready to admit me but the ER doctor did not want me to stay in the hospital. He insisted I be ambulanced to the only Burn Unit in CT. My husband and I were shocked. I thought I had an infectious disease.

What I had were chemical burns all over my body. I was in mortal danger. I had SJS – Stevens Johnson Syndrome – precipitated from being on the gout medicine Allopurinal for only 14 days before first symptoms.

It’s been a long six weeks. I spent nine days in the burn unit and had the best of care. The awful burn symptoms finally stopped trying to kill me on the following Friday, September 29th. Up until that point, my life was in the hands of the doctors and nurses as my body was doing all it could to literally burn me to death from the inside out. Once my body started fighting, I started to get better. The burns started to scab over instead of fester and ooze. That was when I knew I was going to survive.

I had surgery on my eyes to try to restore and regrow my tear ducts and membranes. That was on October 1. They discharged me on the following day and I have been home healing ever since.  I can see but have severe photosensitivity. My mouth is healing. The burns all over my body are fading. My recovery is slow but steady.

One of my new purposes in writing is going to be to make my readers aware of the dangers inherent in the drugs we put into our bodies. Please ask why you are being given a medicine and if there are other alternatives. Please research the drugs you are prescribed before you ingest them. Please search the Internet for stories. I know you cannot believe all you read on the Internet, but many, like me, are posting our stories to try to help people and prevent pain and suffering.

The really terrifying thing about SJS, besides the fact few doctors and fewer laypeople even know of the syndrome, is that it can be initiated by many different drugs.

My message to my readers is to be careful and thoughtful and intelligent about what drugs you are taking. Ask questions and do not always believe what you are told.

I should have taken tart cherry juice for the pain in my toe. Or at least tried it before taking the Allopurinal. I should have insisted on an X-ray. I should have prayed.

I am one of the lucky ones. I am one of the blessed. Many die from this syndrome, Many more go blind. I know that the prayers of those who knew what I was going through were heard and helped usher me from death to healing. I thank all of you who knew and cared and prayed and sent messages. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I am a SJS survivor and I want the world to know about this syndrome.

Here is a link to the Stevens Johnson Syndrome Foundation for more information.

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Something Is Rotten In The State Of Connecticut by Ann Cronin

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It is time for CT to move against the infiltration of charter schools. Thanks to Ann Cronin for this post.

Real Learning CT

On July 19, 2017, the unelected, governor-appointed Connecticut State Board of Education approved 504 additional seats in state charter schools for next year, with 154 of those seats going to Capital Preparatory Harbor School in Bridgeport.

GO FIGURE:

Connecticut is in a budget crisis with every expense being monitored, yet new charter school seats, which cost the state $11,000 each, are being initiated. The cost will be more than $5.5 million.

PLUS

The new seats will cost the beleaguered and impoverished Bridgeport Public Schools money it cannot afford and will strip them of much needed resources. The Bridgeport Board of Education unanimously voted against the expansion plan because the cost of adding grades to Capital Prep Harbor School requires the Bridgeport Public Schools to pay additional costs for transportation and other services at an additional location.

PLUS

The expansion plan for Capital Prep Harbor School, approved by the State Board of…

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The Real Reason Your Child is Being Psychologically Profiled at School

It is all happening so fast – how do we keep up with this “high stakes character assessment” scheme to take our children away from us and hand them over to the gods of the holy dollar?

Many thanks to Emily for keeping up with this madness.

Save Maine Schools

In an article from May in the Wall Street Journal, Dr. Aida Cerundolo warned parents that public schools may be psychologically assessing their children without consent.

“The mental-health information teachers are now obtaining, storing and tracking…is equally as sensitive as that which is collected in a pediatrician’s office,” Cerundolo says.

And she’s right.

Tests like the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment, which ask teachers to rate students on how often a child “carr[ies] himself with confidence” or  “cope[s] well with insults and mean comments” are being used with increasing frequency in public schools across the country, without parental consent or adequate privacy protections.

But where did this sudden interest in assessing children’s “social and emotional” skills come from?  Is it really nothing more than a “noble” endeavor, meant to identify students in need of intervention, as Cerundolo claims?

Or is there more to it?

As with most education fads that…

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Another Brick in the Wall – a 21st Century Howl

We don’t need no ed reformers
We don’t need no tests no more
The lack of knowledge in the classroom
We don’t need no data wall

Hey Reformers
Just go and leave our school

All in all we’re just another
soul searching light

We don’t need no politicians
We don’t need no laws at all
The noose of power is so ugly
We don’t need your voice no more

Hey Politicians
Just get out of our classroom

All in all we’re just another
soul searching light

We don’t need no corporate types
We don’t need their callous cash
Their money buys our very thoughts
Go take your big bucks out the door

Hey Big Business
Just leave our schools alone

All in all we’re just another
soul searching light

All in all we’re just another
soul left in fright

All in all we’re just another
brick in the wall

Based on the classic Pink Floyd –

A Student Hero – Coral Ortiz – “Today is About the Truth”

It has been a while since Poetic Justice featured a student hero but Coral Ortiz deserves the title. As published in The New Haven Independent,  and with Coral’s permission, here is the text of her graduation speech from James Hillhouse High School in New Haven, CT.

Not only does Coral speak with a powerful voice for her fellow classmates, she speaks also for each of my own students, and, I believe for multitudes of students in the United States.

Coral also served on the New Haven Board of Education as well as the State Board of Education.

Speak on Coral – Write on – and we wish you the best of all possible things as you begin the next phase in your education at Yale University.

BRAVO

Here is her speech:

I would like to start by first and foremost thanking God and every person who helped us get where we are today. In particular, thank you to our friends and families who supported us as we worked towards this moment, and who are here supporting us as we graduate. I would like to personally thank my teachers, mentors, counselors and all of my peers and friends. Lastly and most importantly, my family: I could not thank my parents enough for the support they gave me.

I’ve thought a lot about this day; about what I want to say, and what message I want to send. I thought about preparing something different, but as I thought, I decided it was best to share the truth. The truth about what this day actually means. The truth about what we as a class represent.

When we were young, we were taught that we were “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Our country taught us that no matter our income or race, we would all have the same chance to achieve our dreams. We were taught that there would never be a bias against a certain group of people, and that society believes in each and every one of us. These lessons of equality were taught as self-evident. These lessons of equality have and continue to be a lie.

The reality is that despite the fact that we recite the words “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,” it has been 50 years since the civil rights movement that our country has never been equal. We—a class mostly made up of minority, low income, and first generation students—have had the odds stacked against us, but here we are standing at this graduation with 3 state championships, college acceptances, and one of largest increases in graduation rates in the State, because we didn’t let the inherent inequality stop us from achieving our goals.

I would be lying if I said today is like any other day, because today is not like any other day. Most importantly, Today is not your typical high school graduation; it is more than that. Today is the day when we walk across a stage and take our diplomas, as an act of defiance to those who said we could not. We have had many students, administrators, and teachers come and go. We have had heart break; we have had our nation turn its backs on us, through supporting those who support hate. So, to those that believed my classmates and I were incapable, I have decided to leave a message for you:

To the teacher who said my classmates and I would fail and that the taxpayers wasted resources on our education -– Today, we teach you that you were wrong.

To the counselor who told me students at this school never get into prestigious colleges – we didn’t let your perception of us define who we are.

To the people who assume we are robbing their stores because of the color of our skin – don’t judge a book by its cover.

To the people who told us that only boys were good at math – Girls are more than just pretty faces.

To the people who violated our bodies – no means no.

To the people who questioned our dedication to the things we were involved in – you didn’t see our sleepless nights and three championship trophies.

To the person who believed that our socio-economic status would define us – you do not need to be a millionaire to succeed.

To the lady on the bus who told me my peers and I would go to jail because of the high school we attended – we are still free.

To the politicians and corporations that refuse to address gun violence because it might cost them money- life has no price.

To the people who assume that our names are too ghetto to be qualified – our names have taken us farther than you could have imagined.

To the leaders who thought it was okay to make decisions that forced us to go to classes without textbooks – it is far from okay.

To the person who told us we only got into college because we were minorities – the color of one’s skin does not determine intelligence.

To the people that talked poorly about us in the newspaper – you taught us how to be fearless.

To the people who thought it was okay to experiment with our education – the math of 5 principals in 4 years just doesn’t add up.

To the people who want to privatize education – public education is the reason we succeeded.

To the politicians who choose unqualified people to affect our lives because you feel loyal to your party – you did not take a vow to serve a party. You
took a vow to serve the people.

To the person who believes my classmates and I are dangerous – we are human.

To the people who told me my friends and I are not beautiful – black is beautiful.

To those who believed that my peers and I would drop out – looks like you were wrong.

To everyone who voted for hate – love wins.

I could go on for hours talking about the people who defined us as something other than successful. But today is not solely about the obstacles that were placed in front of us. Today is about the truth. The fact that there were several times people underestimated us and we were able to prove them wrong. We stand here and take our diplomas not only as an act of defiance, but also as an act of gratitude. Thankful for the adults that cared, thankful for the teacher that spent hours educating us, thankful for the parents, family members, counselors, friends, politicians, and mentors that believed we could make it to this moment.

We could not have done this without you because it takes a village to raise a child.  Despite the fact that our education was treated like an experiment, lacked in resources, and was marked by the presence of people who stopped believing we were capable, we did it. In 6 years we were capable of going from a 51 percent graduation rate to a 91 percent graduation rate. Today we acknowledge the fact that our country is not equal and that we have it harder than many other people. We acknowledge that, despite this inequality, we beat the odds. We did it, and now we have the chance to not only reach our own dreams, but also to help others reach theirs.

If we were able to overcome all of these obstacles, then there is nothing that can stop us. No one that can stop us, no dream that we can’t reach, and no adversity that we cannot overcome, because in the end, they said we couldn’t, so we did, and when they say we won’t, we will. Thank you and congratulations to the class of 2017.