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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#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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My Criteria for a Model School by Mark Naison

1. Children are loved and walk around the school with smiles on their faces.
2. Teachers are respected and stay in their jobs for a long time.
3. Parents are welcome in the school and are made to feel an integral part of the culture of the school.
4. The culture and history of the community the school is located is honored in displays and in what is taught in classes.
5. Arts, physical education, recess and sports are NEVER sacrificed for higher test scores.
6. ELL and Special Needs students are treated with respect and are given the counseling and special attention they need to thrive.
7. Students have such a positive experience at the school that they return on a regular basis after they have graduated.

If you think that these features are only found in private schools or schools in affluent middle schools, you need to visit the CASA Middle School in the Bronx where Jamaal Bowman is the principal.

This is not only something that CAN be done in all communities, it is something that MUST be done so that ALL our children can grow up with confidence in their abilities.

And Poetic Justice would add to the list the following:
8. All children will be encouraged to find and use their voices in academic subjects and particularly in creative writing and POETRY classes.

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Why Is United Opt Out Being “Frozen Out” of Narratives of Test Resistance? – by Mark Naison

Poetic Justice supports the brave and powerful work done by United Opt Out led by Peggy Robertson, Morna McDermott, and the other brave UOO administrators and question why Fair Test would not include them in their narratives.

The following is Mark Naison’s blog post:

“It has come to my attention that the Monty Neill, the head of Fair Test, in issuing a statement about the Opt- Out Movement’s tremendous progress refused to list any leaders of United Opt Out as local contacts for the movement despite repeated requests by UOO leaders to do so. This comes several months after a leader of Network for Public Education produced a brief history of the Opt Out movement that tolally left out the contributions of United Opt Out and its leaders. I find this exclusion of United Opt Out from narratives of a movement they did so much to start and which they play a leading role in deeply troubling. Whatever the reasons for this “freeze out,” it is unconscionable and unacceptable. The uncompromising militancy of United Opt Out and the fierce integrity of its leaders is a tremendous asset to students, teachers and families facing well financed efforts to privatize the nation’s schools. I support them 100 percent. They are among the best fighters we have.

It is our hope that Fair Test will remedy this obvious omission.

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Who Are “The Disposables”? – from Dr. Mark Naison

Here is a “must-read” blog post from my friend Dr. Mark Naison. We are losing millions of lives. They are just disappearing. They are “The Disposables”.

Who Are “The Disposables”?

My friend Jo Lieb just called for a “Revolution of the Disposables”.

Who are the Disposables?

– They are the more than 90 million Americans of working age who are not in the labor force and do not have regular jobs.
– They are the millions of teenagers who dropped out or were pushed out of school in cities like Detroit and Memphis and New Orleans and Los Angeles and Chicago and have disappeared from view because the divisions between charter schools and public schools have made it impossible to develop a coherent strategy to make sure no child is lost.
– They are all the people who graduated from college with huge debt and can’t find a job with benefits so they package together three or four jobs to make ends meet whether they are living with their parents or living with groups of friends
– They are the rural heroin addicts that no one knows how to explain and no one knows what to do with because they don’t neatly fit in anybody’s idea of what kind of country this is.
Will all these folks ever find common cause with one another and demand that some form of economic security and decent schooling be available to all?

Or will we continue to sink deeper into poverty and stagnation?

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And here is Poetic Justice’s response:

Recipe for Educational Malpractice and National Catastrophe:

BEGIN WITH:

Forcing children to read texts that are 6 grade levels and more above their instructional reading level.

THEN ADD:

Forcing children to write in a formulaic and robotic manner disallowing any personal connections or life application.

STIR IN:

Pressure to achieve high scores on invalid and unreliable assessments.

COVER WITH:

Stressed out, paranoid, and targeted teachers only thinking about their own evaluations.

This is the perfect recipe to create a nation of disposable children who will just disappear from the data by the time they are 21.

Choose to #DoNoHarm

Defending Gus Morales – Please Stand with a Great Teacher and Leader

Poetic Justice is standing strong in support of MA teacher Gus Morales who has, once again, not had his contract renewed.

I am re-blogging a message in support of Gus from Dr. Mark Naison. Please share far and wide.

Gus Morales Firing Epitomizes Everything Wrong With School Reform
by Dr. Mark Naison

You are leading a high poverty school district in Massachusetts with a majority Latino population. You have a teacher who grew up in the district. He is male, Latino, brilliant, and charismatic. He always dreamed of teaching in the community he grew up in. But he is also a veteran who is proud and outspoken. When he sees something wrong, he says so. Evern though he is a new teacher, his colleagues, who are mostly white, look to him for leadership, especially when he speaks out against excessive testing and the way tests and data walls are used to humiliate students. They elect him, as an untenured teacher, president of the local teachers unions.

So what do you do? Do you focus on what this teacher- Gus Morales- brings to his students, to the families in the district, to the entire community. Or do you decide to get rid of him to crush the opposition to the new testing policies and have a teaching staff that accepts the new “reforms” passively?

You decide to do the latter. You fire him once, and then in the face of national protest, hire him back. And then, after a year, you decide to fire him again.

This shows something we see happening all over the country. For all the comments that Arne Duncan makes about diversifying the nation’s teaching force, there is nothing more threatening to the current generation of school reformers- Duncan included- than people with real roots in the communities they teach in who can connect with the students and parents in those districts. That is why they fire people like Gus Morales and try to bring in Teach for American temps who will be in those classrooms for only a few years and then leave.

And that is why we- the people who really care about children and schools and teaching- have to fight to get Gus Morales back in the classroom.
He represents exactly what we need in our high poverty schools and indeed all our public schools- teachers for life who live in the communities they teach in and love the children they work with.

Note: The School District is Holyoke, Massachusetts.

Gus represents the Good Teacher – the teacher who will lay down his life for his students – the teacher who will devote his whole life to helping just one student. We need to do everything we can to keep him where he belongs – in the classroom.

 11006374_10206173776249583_813847477456396822_nTo see Gus Morales in action, see this video of his testimony in support of Opting Out before the Education Committee of the Philadelphia City Council on November 19, 2014.

#‎GusIsUs‬

“Thugs” Are Nothing But Children in Transition – A Repost and Reflection

by Mark Naison

Whenever there is urban unrest following a death of a young man at the hands of law enforcement, especially a young Black man, the word “thug” is brought forth, not only to dismiss outpourings of rage and violence the death might inspire, but to imply that the person dying some how deserved their fate and would not be missed.

I cannot stand silent when the term is used that way. It was the same term applied to many of the young people I coached and mentored during the 15 years I was coaching and running sports leagues in Brooklyn from the early 80’s to the late 90’s.

There were many young men in our youth program, which was based in Park Slope, but drew from Red Hook, Boerum Hill, Bedford Stuyvesant, and occasionally as far away as Bushwick, who were feared by other coaches and parents, and occasionally by teachers and school officials. Some of them were the most talented athletes we had; others were merely angry, troubled young people looking for a physical outlet for their emotions.

I refused to give up on them. Working with other coaches and league directors, some of whom were police officers, who believed no child was a prisoner of their fate, we created spaces where these young men could express their emotions without destroying the atmosphere required to maintain a team or a league; where they could find an outlet for their energy and athletic talents, where their leadership skills could be recognized, and where they could find love and support and mentoring when they were desperate.

Sometimes that meant more than sports- it meant taking them into our homes, getting them tutors, organizing them into reading groups, finding the right schools for them.And lo and behold, many of these “thugs,” over time, underwent profound personal transformations, becoming star athletes at their high schools, attending community colleges and four year schools, entering the work force and becoming parents themselves. None ended up in prison.

The faces and names of these young people, and the fear they once inspired, are etched in my memory as a reminder that no child- and teenagers are still children- should be written off because they are angry and rebellious, much less defined for life through their actions in such a way as their deaths can be justified.

That was my philosophy as a teacher and a coach.

It is also my mantra as I survey the current political landscape.

Click here for the original post on Dr.  Naison’s blog With a Brooklyn Accent.

Poetic Justice Reflects:

A long time ago, I stopped using the term “thug” to describe the young people I teach and counsel every day. There was a “check” in my spirit. It felt like my words were perpetuating the inequality and injustice I was seeing done daily to my students. I stopped using that word. It broke my heart to hear our president use it this week to describe the young people in Baltimore.

As Dr. Naison expresses in his blog post, “Every child is precious. Every child has potential. Every child in trouble should be viewed as someone in transition to a better place, not someone who deserves a life of misery.”

The message we need to give our young people is – we love you – without conditions – we love you because we see you as you will be when you grow up – we love you and we have faith in you.

My job as a public school teacher should not be to call the cops on my students. That the “school to prison pipeline” exists is bad enough. I refuse to be part of this pipeline that channels children into a second class citizenship. I refuse to look at my students as “less than” and “not good enough” and as “those kids” and as “thugs”.

Sometimes I feel like I am a lone voice crying out to save the children. We need more educators decrying the injustice, and the inequity, and the disparate treatment in our public schools.

My students are precious.
I refuse to allow them to be called thugs
.

And I choose to believe in them.
I choose to protect them.
I choose to love them.hands