Who Will Carry This Torch?

I wrote this poem eleven years ago. I return to it today and just want to weep. What are we doing to our children? Who will save them? Who will carry the torch of knowledge for the next generation and for the generation behind us?

 

No one to close the windows
when the rain storm pellets their beds.
No one to lock the doors at night
and keep intruders from walking in.
No one to warm up dinner and
feed their craving little bodies.
No one to scare away the dragons
who star in their dreams at night.

Abandoned.
Forsaken.
Forgotten.
Alone.

The children are
thrown away –
labeled incorrigible –
impossible –
beyond our abilities to help.

The achievement gap widens.
The terrain becomes more barren.
The house falls into further decay.
The green in the landscape
slowly
silently
serenely
melds into
grey.

When will
no child
be left
behind?

Then, I came across this beautiful hand drawing today and it  gave me new hope. This is drawn by a 15 year old girl from the Philippines and brings hope for change. Let it start here in our own country and in our own hearts.

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How the NYC Department of Education Bullied and Drove Away an NBCT Pre-K Teacher

I am reblogging this from Diane Ravitch.

This is how bad our schools have become. They are children-unfriendly and teacher-unfriendly.

“I left not because I was in an under represented community and not because many children had challenging issues but rather because the lack of support and understanding about what it means to be a teacher was draining the life out of me.” ~ a NYC pre-K teacher who chooses to remain unnamed.

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Diane Ravitch's blog

This is a letter that I received:

I have been following you for the last 10 years and am in awe of your continued efforts to turn public education in the right direction.

I read your article this morning about a teacher who had had enough.

It could have been my story.

I am a retired NYC Department of Education pre-k teacher in an under represented community. I taught pre-k for 16 consecutive years in the same school. I was fortunate that I was able to introduce many innovative programs to support my students not just in academics but the more important social/emotional piece that schools often neglect.

I brought to my classroom American Sign Language, Yoga, Mindfulness, Cooking and Baking, Caterpillars into Butterflies and as much art and music as I could fit in a day.

My students thrived. Sadly, each year it became more and more difficult to…

View original post 418 more words

A Lone Teacher Talks Back: An Educator on the Impact of Teacher Evaluation

As far as Poetic Justice is concerned, all metrics need to be eliminated from the evaluation process. This may be a radical thought in this age of teaching reform, but it is not a radical idea to those who are pure educators.

This is what a valid teacher evaluation checklist would look like if I were in charge of my own building. This is what my own personal self-evaluation looks like:

1. Are the children safe?
2. Are the children the focus of the classroom?
3. Does the teacher recognize and respond to the individual needs, strengths, and giftings in the class?
4. Is the teacher helping, not harming her students?
5. Is each student regarded as more than a data point?
6. Is the teacher connecting content to the life experiences of his students and their collective situations?
7. Is the teacher sensitive to the backgrounds and cultures of her students?
8. Is the teacher striving for synthesis of content into her students’ learning schema?
9. Is the teacher doing much more than just delivering prescribed content to a prescribed time table?
10. Is the teacher using her own teacher created lessons and materials?
11. Is the teacher respecting and cherishing student voice?
12. Are writing and reading considered a joy by the teacher and by the students?
13. Is there present a pedagogy based on love, joy, and compassion?
14. Is the teacher actively growing in her own professional development?
15. Is the teacher sharing and contributing to her colleagues successful practice?
16. Is the teacher aware of her craft as an art as well as a science?
17. Are ALL assessments used to help the student and to inform instruction?
18. Is there a holistic dimension to assessment taking into account cognitive as well as affective domains of learning?
19. Is creativity regarded by both students and teacher as the highest form of learning?
20 Are the children safe?

This checklist is is direct opposition to the findings at this weekend’s Network for Public Education convention report and is in opposition to current evaluation systems. Poetic Justice is not saying all data is irrelevant; I am saying that data is only one small part of a teacher’s toolkit.

I left a career in the business sector expressly because I wanted to help children. I wanted to devote my life to the welfare of humanity not to some corporation’s bottom line. Today’s approach to teaching and learning is far more dehumanizing than even the approaches I experienced in business. At least in the business sector, the customer was always considered and any harm to that customer could result in litigation.

My plea is for those in educational power positions, to please consider the harm being done to children and teachers when only metrics are considered important.

 

Please join a FaceBook page I administer with the Walking Man – Dr. Jesse Turner Teachers Are More than Test Scores.

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#OptOut4Justice from Mark Naison

The Opt Out movement needs to become more than just a rebellion against high stakes testing. The Opt Out movement needs to fight the injustices of so-called education reforms that strip our children and our teachers of their humanity.

Please watch and share this video created by Michael Elliot and Shoot4Education if you are in agreement.

 

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Silent and Compliant

What we have in our schools today is not my idea of a healthy, holistic, nurturing education. We need to return to a paradigm where we cherish children, creativity, and the teacher-artist.

 

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Silent
Compliant
Nonviolent
Invisible

Do our students even really exist anymore?
Or have they each become
just a data point?

Dead
All dead
not one alive
willing to risk
willing to scream
for their lives.

We have hidden
them all
and thrown them away – the outliers.

All that is left
are the silent
compliant
nonviolent
invisible children.

Warning Connecticut – They are coming for your school and your democratic rights!

Reblogged from Wait What? by Jon Pelto. Please read and contact your legislators here in CT. Please email your testimony by 8 am tomorrow…… This is a stealth attack on our children.

WARNING Connecticut – They are coming for your schools and your democratic rights!

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A Breaking News Alert from Jonathan Pelto and Wendy Lecker

When it comes to public education in Connecticut, a new piece of legislation before the Connecticut General Assembly (H.B. 5551) would be the most far-reaching power grab in state history – a direct attack local control of schools, our democracy and Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers, local school officials and public school.

The legislation, would enable Malloy’s political appointees on the State Board of Education to takeover individual schools in a district, remove the control of the elected board of education, “suspend laws” and eliminate the role of school governance councils which are the parent’s voice in school “turnaround plans.

The bill is nothing short of an authoritarian maneuver by grossly expanding the Commissioner of Education’s powers under the Commissioner’s Network.  The bill destroy the fundamental role local control because it allows the state to indefinitely take over schools and even entire districts, without a vote of local voters.

The bill removes any time limit on Commissioner’s Network Schools. It removes the cap on how many Commissioner’s Network schools can be taken over by the state.  It removes the right of the local community to appoint their own turnaround committee.  It eliminates the requirement that local parents, through their school governance council are included in the process.

This plan contravenes all the evidence on state takeovers.

State takeovers of schools and districts have been an abject failure across the country.

In Newark and Paterson, New Jersey, where state takeover has been in effect for years, the districts are plagued by fiscal crises, lack of improvement in student outcomes and charges of mismanagement.

A recent report issued by the Center for Popular Democracy found that state takeovers in New Orleans, Michigan’s Education Achievement Authority, and Tennessee’s Achievement School District, have all been plagued by mismanagement, instability and high turnover and hiring of inexperienced teachers, and virtually no student improvement. https://populardemocracy.org/sites/default/files/National%20Takeover%20Ed%20Report.pdf

In fact, even the federal government has found that states do not have the expertise to successfully turn around low-performing schools.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/most-states-lacked-expertise-to-improve-worst-schools/2015/05/05/0eb82b98-f35f-11e4-bcc4-e8141e5eb0c9_story.html

Connecticut’s track record on taking over schools is anything but stellar. In fact, one of the first Commissioner’s Network school, handed over to Jumoke/FUSE failed miserably under the supposed watchful eye of the Commissioner and State Board of Education.  The charter network admitted it was “winging it,” hiring ex-convicts, mismanaging funds and allowing student test scores to drop precipitously.  Even the current principal, Karen Lott, admitted that the takeover was a failure, with only 13% of Milner’s students scoring proficient in Language Arts and a shocking 7% in Math.  Lott declared that what the school needed was experienced staff, additional resources and community support, particularly wrap-around social services. http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-Failure-as-a-model-for-Connecticut-6267220.php.

None of these inputs require state takeover. In fact takeovers have been characterized by hiring inexperienced teachers, and disenfranchising the local community.

Where would such an un-American, anti-democracy and anti-local control idea come from?

This bill is virtually a carbon copy of ConnCAN’s proposal for the Commissioner’s Network schools. http://webiva-downton.s3.amazonaws.com/696/7c/c/2766/255496644-ConnCAN-Turnaround-Report.pdf  ConnCAN cherry picked and misrepresented certain “case studies” and, as per usual, passed it off as “research.”

For an example of ConnCAN’s misrepresentation of its case studies, read the truth about Lawrence Massachusetts here. http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-The-collateral-damage-of-a-district-6295743.php

ConnCAN not only wrote a proposal shockingly identical to this bill , the charter lobby also sponsored a “forum” for legislators in 2015 where it invited Ms. Lott of the failed Milner school and others, such as the deputy superintendent of Lawrence to speak to legislators.

However the true examples of following  ConnCAN’s prescription can be found in places like Detroit, where the emergency manager left under a cloud and Detroit’s schools are on the brink of collapse, and in Tennessee where the superintendent, Chris Barbic, resigned, admitting turnaround was  “much harder”  than he thought.

Why would ConnCAN, the charter lobby, push this proposal?

Because state takeovers have been characterized by conversion of public schools into charter schools; schools unaccountable to elected boards, with little duty to report on its finances, yet who receive millions in public funds. Charters also tend to exclude a district’s neediest children, without any accountability for these practices.

This is the second recent example of the Malloy administration ceding governmental tasks to ConnCAN.  As was reported Friday, the Malloy administration allowed ConnCAN to choose at least one candidate for State Board of Education. (link)

Now, ConnCAN is writing legislation to determine the fate of our poorest schools.  ConnCAN is a lobby for charter schools.  The world outside Hartford recognizes ConnCAN as charlatan organization. It has received the Bunkum Award for shoddy research from the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado.

It is beyond troubling that our education policy is being set by this lobbying front group.

Without any evidence that destroying local control will help students (in fact with most evidence pointing the other way) why would we cede more power to the Commissioner?

Why do we think people who live and work in poor communities do not know what their children and schools need?  As longtime teacher, professor and writer Mike Rose has written,

“We have a long-standing shameful tendency in America to attribute all sorts of pathologies to the poor… We seem willing to accept remedies for the poor that we are not willing to accept for anyone else.”

Our neighbors in our poorest communities know what their children need.  Their teachers and principals and all the dedicated staff in their schools know, too.  In fact, since early February they have been testifying, along with real national experts, in front of Judge Moukawsher in the CCJEF case about what their schools need to improve: smaller classes, more teachers, social workers, prek, wraparound services for kids and families, adequate facilities and more.

As Milner’s principal stated, struggling schools need money, a stable staff and community support. State takeover will not accomplish these goals.

What will?

Providing schools the supports Ms. Lott mentions; supports that have been proven to improve schools. https://populardemocracy.org/sites/default/files/Community-Schools-Layout_e.pdf

How do we provide these resources?

Several recent longitudinal studies prove that school finance reform where states substantially increase funding for struggling schools raises achievement. http://eml.berkeley.edu/~jrothst/workingpapers/LRS_schoolfinance_feb2016.pdf; http://www.nber.org/papers/w20847.

The legislature can truly impact student performance by settling the CCJEF case and enacting real finance reform to fund Connecticut schools adequately.

What the legislature should NOT do is replicate failure. And that is what Raised Bill 5551 will do.

Governor Malloy and his administration are apparently doing the biding of ConnCAN and the rest of the charter industry.

It is the legislature’s duty to act on behalf of the children in this state on behalf of taxpayers, and on behalf of democracy.

Connecticut needs elected officials with integrity and clarity of vision to once and for all, to examine the evidence and protect the interests, not of high-priced lobbyists, but of those children most in need of protection.

For more about how ConnCAN, the charter school industry and the corporate education reformers are corrupting Connecticut politics and policy read – Malloy turns to charter school industry for names to appoint to the CT State Board of Education

The General Assembly’s Education Committee will be holding a public hearing on this outrageous proposed law on Monday, March 7, 2016 starting at 11am in the Legislative Office Building

House Bill 5551:

Testimony can be submitted online via edtestimony@cga.ct.gov

Citizens can also contact the leadership of the Education Committee;

Senate Chair Democrat Gayle Slossberg – http://www.senatedems.ct.gov/Slossberg-mailform.php

House Chair Democrat Andrew Fleischmann – Andrew.Fleischmann@cga.ct.gov

Senate Ranking Member Republican Toni Boucher – Toni.Boucher@cga.ct.gov

House Ranking Member Republican Gail Laveielle – gail.lavielle@housegop.ct.gov

Education Committee

Legislative Office Building, Room 3100

Hartford, CT 06106

(860) 240‑0420

To find contact information for your legislators go to: https://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/menu/cgafindleg.asp

save-our-schools

Tribute to the Warriors

This is a tribute poem for a great warrior in the fight to save our children – Dr. James Avington Miller Jr. – and to all his radio show listeners and Facebook followers. Today is the second anniversary of his show entitled The War Report on Public Education.

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Dark, deceitful, dreadful
The war continues.

Hidden from the public
Children succumb to oblivion.

Masses are found naked
In the valley of corporate reform.

Masses of children
Stripped of their humanity.

Masses of teachers
Rendered voiceless and faceless.

Masses of parents
Left with no option but to escape the dark night
And cover their children with a blanket of compassion
That heals hearts, minds, and little bodies.

And in all the darkness
In the dreadful abandon of humane concern
In the deceit and lies that spew from media and our elected officials

There is a light

There is a voice

There is hope.

Only love can chase away the hate.
Only the light of truth can fight off the darkness.

That little voice is in each one of us
That little voice and that tiny ray of light
Can fight off the usurpers of our future hope.

So today – on the second anniversary of
The War Report on Public Education –
I encourage all of us to keep on fighting the war
To keep on telling the truth
To keep on exposing the lies that warp our understanding

Because

We will find each other one day
And we will unite together
And parents, teachers, professors, politicians, community leaders, pastors, shop owners, even the media will unite

And together we shall bring down
The evil Machiavellian Agenda
And we will win
The war against public education.