Union Leader and Public Education Champion Karen Lewis has Surgery for Brain Tumor

4 Comments

My heart goes out to my hero Karen Lewis and all who love and admire her.

Having seen, first hand, the impact of this awful disease I pray that the Spirits guard and protect her.

She is already one of the greatest leaders of our age and her work is far from done.

Karen, we send you healing thoughts and await your return to lead us forward in the great battle to take back our public education system and our government.

Karen Lewis, the truth teller, said during the recent effort to further destroy Chicago’s school system;

Closing 50 of our neighborhood schools is outrageous and no society that claims to care anything about its children can sit back and allow this to happen to them. There is no way people of conscious will stand by and allow these people to shut down nearly a third of our school district without putting up a fight. Most of these campuses are in the Black community. Since 2001 88% of students impacted by CPS School Actions are African-American. And this is by design.

Closing 50 schools is not grand or glorious. This is nothing to celebrate or marvel.”

To the Democrats and Republicans who support the Corporate Education Reform Industry, the Common Core and its unfair, inappropriate and expensive Common Core Testing Scheme and the ongoing effort to destroy teachers and the teaching profession – we have a threat and a warning… and we repeat it as a pledge to Karen Lewis.

Remember the words of Gandhi:

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

And know, Karen remains one of our great leaders, as does Diane Ravitch and others, and we will not be stopped.

Jonathan Pelto
Advocacy Journalist and Investigative Blogger
Wait, What? at www.jonathanpelto.com
Email:  [email protected]

More on this with developing story can be found on Diane Ravitch’s blog including “Karen Lewis Had Surgery for Brain Tumor.”

A glimmer of light in the darkness

14 Comments

If you were not at Quinnipiac University (in Connecticut) tonight to hear Diane Ravitch speak about our continuing battle to beat back the corporate education reform industry and re-take control of our nation’s public education system then you not only missed an extraordinary speech, but you also failed to experience the hope that comes with seeing the glimmer of light which serves to push back the shadows associated with these dark times.

One by one Diane successfully challenged the lies and hoaxes being perpetrated by those intent on destroying and privatizing America’s public education system.  Over the course of ninety minutes she left the forces promoting the corporate education reform industry with nowhere to hide.

Her remarks were nothing short of a stark reminder of the words of Rachel Carson, of Silent Spring fame, who once said,

“We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost’s familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road—the one “less traveled by”—offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth” [Or in this case the most fundamental values of our society].

But in challenging the so-called education reforms at each and every step, Diane left the audience, as individuals and as a collective, with a sense that all is not lost.

While it is true that the task ahead may seem insurmountable, Diane’s words of wisdom and courage and conviction were nothing short of a clarion call to return to the battle field with an enhanced sense of purpose and commitment.

We can and must retake control of public education in this country.  We can renew the appreciation for teachers and the teaching profession and ensure that all of our children are provided with the learning environment, resources, knowledge and skills that they need and deserve to live meaningful and fulfilling lives.

Watching Diane’s car drive out of the Quinnipiac parking lot and head back to New York, I was reminded of Margaret Mead’s profound observation…

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

The other equally profound fact was that none of our state’s leaders, Democrat or Republican, were in the audience tonight.

Thus, even now, that glimmer of light and hope waivers…

But we will not be turned away from our path and the battle will continue.

If you ever have another opportunity to hear Diane speak, don’t miss it.

Till then, read her blog at www.dianeravitch.net.  It is not only a vital source of information, but you’ll benefit from the hope and light that it provides.

Hartford Courant – Is Pelto A Spoiler In Race For Governor?

10 Comments

From the Hartford Courant comes their latest – a clear-cut, concise and to-the-point editorial;

Is Pelto A Spoiler In Race For Governor?

Former state representative and political consultant Jonathan Pelto has been a burr under the saddle of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy ever since the first Democratic governor in 20 years took office in 2011.

The governor’s loudest, most relentless critic on the left could cause Mr. Malloy even more misery if Mr. Pelto’s petition drive to get on the ballot as a third-party candidate for governor succeeds. Mr. Pelto claimed last week that he and Education and Democracy Party running mate Ebony Murphy have already collected the required 7,500 signatures they need by Aug. 6 and “will be on the ballot.”

If that happens, many Democrats fear Mr. Pelto will be a potential “spoiler,” that he could throw the gubernatorial election to the Republicans in a close race by siphoning off votes from disenchanted schoolteachers and state workers that otherwise might grudgingly go to Mr. Malloy.

But isn’t that scenario really about giving voters more choices? You don’t have to approve of Mr. Pelto’s independent sally or agree with his positions to admit he’s using the rules as they exist. The barriers to mounting a third-party or independent candidacy shouldn’t be raised too high.

Such candidacies can give a cathartic option to voters dissatisfied with nominees produced by the two major parties — as Ross Perot’s surprising presidential candidacy did in 1992, or the choice that Rep. John B. Anderson of Illinois gave some 5 million 1980 voters unhappy with the fecklessness of Democratic President Jimmy Carter or the polarizing campaign of conservative Republican Ronald Reagan.

Instead of demeaning so-called spoilers, supporters of the major party nominees should help their own favorites make the most persuasive case.

And here is what Diane Ravitch, the nation’s leading voice for public education said about the Hartford Courant editorial

It is funny to see the big-money corporate types behind Governor Dan Malloy criticizing Jonathan Pelto as a “spoiler.” These are the same people who love school choice. The just don’t like voter choice.

The Hartford Courant says quite rightly that Pelto is playing by the rules.

This is democracy, Governor Malloy and friends.

Jon Pelto is standing up for teachers and parents and everyone else who is not in the 1%.

Good for him!

You can find the complete editorial at:  http://www.courant.com/news/opinion/editorials/hc-ed-pelto-is-no-spoiler-20140707,0,1798206.story

And Diane Ravitch’s blog post can be found here: http://dianeravitch.net/2014/07/07/hartford-courant-pelto-is-no-spoiler/

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

Is the Charter Movement Imploding? (by Diane Ravitch)

30 Comments

Using Connecticut as an example and featuring a recent Hartford Courant column written by Colin McEnroe, Diane Ravitch, the nation’s leading public education advocate, has entitled her latest blog Is the Charter Movement Imploding?

Ravitch writes,

In state after state, charter schools are proving that it is downright risky to turn public money over to deregulated corporations and unqualified individuals to run schools. The Detroit Free Press series on the scams, frauds, and corruption in many Michigan charters was an eye-opener for all those who are not part of the charter movement. The exposé of similar frauds in Florida by the League of Women Voters in Florida was enlightening to anyone other than free market ideologues. The same level of corruption–actually, even worse–exists in Ohio’s charter sector, where a small number of charter founders have become multi-millionaires, run low-performing schools, and are never held accountable.

One of the most colorful charter scandals occurred when a Cleveland charter operator was tried for funneling over $1million to his church and other businesses. The charter founder was a pastor, not an educator. His attorney said ““his client had good intentions when opening the school on East 55th Street but then got greedy when he saw easy opportunities to make money….”

The leader of California’s most celebrated charter school, with outstanding test scores, stepped down when an audit revealed that nearly $4 million had been diverted to his other businesses.

In Arizona, the Arizona Republic exposed charters that were family businesses, giving contracts to family members and board members.

In Chicago, the head of the city’s largest charter chain resigned after the media reported large contracts given to family members of school leaders and other conflicts of interest and misuse of public funds.

Last week, one of Connecticut’s most celebrated charter organizations was at the center of the latest scandal. Its CEO was revealed to have a criminal past and a falsified résumé. Two top executives immediately resigned, and legislators and journalists began to ask questions. No background checks? Accountability? Transparency?

Colin McEnroe wrote in the Hartford Courant’s blog that hustlers were cashing in on the charter school craze. Not just in Connecticut, but in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, California, Ohio, Arizona, on and on.

McEnroe wrote:

“The message is always the same: The essential concept behind the charter school movement is that, freed from the three Rs — restraints, rules and regulations — these schools could innovate and get the kinds of results that calcified, logy public schools could only dream about. And they do … sometimes.

“But handing out uncountable millions to operators who would be given a free hand was also like putting a big sign out by the highway that says “Welcome Charlatans, Grifters, Credential-Fakers, Cherry-Pickers, Stat-Jukers, Cult of Personality Freaks and People Who Have No Business Running a Dairy Queen, Much Less a School.” And they’ve all showed up. This is the Promised Land: lots of cash and a mission statement that implicitly rejects the notion of oversight…..

“What else goes with those big bubbling pots of money? A new layer of lobbyists and donation-bundlers. The Free Press documented the way a lawmaker who dared to make a peep of protest against charter schools getting whatever they want suddenly found himself in a race against a challenger heavily funded by the Great Lakes Education Project, the “powerhouse lobby” of the Michigan charter movement. Jon Lender of The Courant recently showed how one family of charter school advocates had crammed $90,000 into Connecticut Democratic Party coffers.”

If there were more investigations, more charter scandals would be disclosed.

When will public officials call a halt to the scams, conflicts of interest, self-dealing, nepotism, and corruption?

There is one defensible role for charter schools and that is to do what public schools can’t do. There is no reason to create a dual school system, with one free to choose its students and to cherry pick the best students, while the other must take all students. There is no reason to give charters to non-educators. There is no reason to allow charter operators to pocket taxpayer dollars for their own enrichment while refusing to be fully accountable for how public money is spent. Where public money goes, public accountability must follow.

You can read Colin McEnroe complete commentary piece at: http://touch.courant.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-80715880/

Diane Ravtich’s blog is at: http://dianeravitch.net/2014/07/05/is-the-charter-movement-imploding/

Madison Public School Superintendent Thomas Scarice makes national waves – again.

7 Comments

Thomas Scarice, the superintendent of Madison Public Schools in Connecticut, has been identified as a “Public Education Hero” by Diane Ravitch, the nations’leading public education advocate.  Scarice has been a leading Connecticut voice against “high-stakes test-based school reform.”

A few months ago, Thomas Scarice received national attention for a letter he sent to Connecticut State Legislators explaining why these “reforms will not result in improved conditions since they are not grounded in research.”

His latest commentary piece, “The greatest ‘crime’ committed against the teaching profession” was featured on Valerie Strauss’ Washington Post’s education blog this week.

Thomas Scarice writes,

On May 25th, 2006, former Enron executives Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling were found guilty of fraud and conspiracy in perhaps the most high profile scandal of corruption as a consequence of high stakes measures.  Lay and Skilling fraudulently inflated the company’s stock price to meet the high stakes demands of Wall Street’s expectations.  Not only did Lay and Skilling conspire to inflate stock prices, but they also distorted standard accounting practices to solely meet targets.  The seeds of high stakes schemes yield corruption and distortion.

The Enron case does not stand alone in the history of corruption and distortion amidst high stakes indicators, such as stock prices.  As academic scholars Dr. David Berliner and Dr. Sharon Nichols demonstrate in their work, the annals of corporate history are tattered with similar cases of corruption and distortion driven by high stakes pressures.  High stakes accountability and incentive system failures, as well as blatant fraud, at Dun and Bradstreet, Qwest, the Heinz Company, and Sears auto repair shops, illustrate that such schemes inevitably bring unintended consequences.  As people, we are free to choose our actions, but we are not free to choose the intended or unintended consequences of such actions.  As author Steven Covey has written, “When you pick up one end of the stick, you pick up the other end.”

The ubiquity of this principle is evident in the fields of medicine, athletics, higher education, and politics.  Quite simply, as the stakes rise, so do the occurrences of corruption and distortion.  Sadly, education is not immune to this principle.  Over a decade of high stakes accountability schemes thrust upon students, teachers, and schools have yielded sordid tales of outright corruption and cheating scandals.  Although such acts of indignity garner ornate headlines and self-righteous accusations about the lack of moral character, to which there is truth, given the inescapable unintended consequences of high stakes schemes, such corrupt behaviors and distortions of a given professional practice are inevitable and of no surprise.  Yet, we march on in the high stakes test-based accountability era with the high probability that posterity will ask an indicting question of how a generation of educators could commit such offenses when they knew better.

Beneath the surface of these obvious problems lies a more insidious threat to the quality of public education for all children.  This threat begins with the redefinition of a quality education and ends with a decimating blow to the professional practice of education.  While frivolous topics related to the common core are debated in the open arena, e.g. whether or not the common core is a curriculum, a redefinition of quality education has destructively taken root.  This redefinition, one that feebly defines quality education as good high stakes test scores, and quality teaching as the efforts to produce good high stakes test scores, leaves well-intended educators consequentially conflating goals with measures.  Without question, measures, qualitative and quantitative, representing a variety of indicators that mark the values of an organization, are necessary fuel for the engine of continuous improvement.  High quality tests, specifically used for the purposes for which they were designed, can and should play a productive role in this process.  But, measures are not goals.  Regrettably, just as Lay and Skilling did in bringing a multibillion dollar corporation to its knees, in this era, the shallowest of thinkers have passively accepted the paradigm that measures are goals.

And finally, we are left with the greatest crime committed against the professional practice of education as a result of the corrosive effect of the high stakes testing era.  In an effort to thrive, and perhaps, just to survive, in a redefined world of quality education, a soft, though sometimes harsh, distortion of pedagogy, has perniciously spread to classrooms, just as the Enron executives distorted sound accounting practices to meet high stakes targets.  This will indeed be our greatest regret.

Corruption and distortion as a result of high stakes schemes sealed the fate of Enron and many other organizations like it.  History will tell the story about the future of the high stakes test-based accountability era and its unintended consequences.  And again, we march on in this era with the high probability that posterity will ask an indicting question of how a generation of educators could commit such offenses when they knew better.

You can read the piece on-line at the Washington Post by going to: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/06/20/superintendent-the-greatest-crime-committed-against-the-teaching-profession/

Ravitch on Pelto:  “Hope every governor who abandons public education faces a similar challenge”

7 Comments

The nation’s leading pro-public education advocate has used her blog to tell her 80,000 readers about our work here in Connecticut.

Diane Ravitch’s latest piece is entitled, “Jonathan Pelto Mulls Third Party Challenge to Governor Malloy in Connecticut.”

Diane Ravitch writes,

Jonathan Pelto, ex-state legislator and prolific blogger, is deciding whether to mount a challenge to Governor Dannel Malloy, based in large part on Malloy’s embrace of the agenda of the privatization movement in Connecticut.

Pelto here describes reactions from friends and foes. 

In my view, this would be an honorable challenge.

Teachers and parents should not vote for a governor–whether it is Malloy or Cuomo–who consistently sides with the billionaires who seek to undermine public education.

Most children in both states attend public schools. Those schools need to be improved and supported, not placed in competition with charter schools that are free to choose students they want and free to push out those they don’t want.

I wish Jon Pelto well and hope that every governor who abandons public education faces a similar challenge.

Needless to say I am honored by her good wishes.

Stay tuned.

News about how to donate to the exploratory campaign effort will be available later today.

How to access and/or help collect petition signatures see we can get on the November 2014 ballot for governor will be posted within the next 72 hours.

Diane Ravitch on Bill Moyers Show

2 Comments

As Diane Ravitch explains on her blog,

“Bill Moyers is one of my heroes. He is one of the few people in the media who is as concerned about the privatization and monetization of the public sector as I am. He has a long memory, and he has not forgotten that a good society needs both a strong public sector and a strong private sector. Nor has he forgotten that the real civil rights movement was about tearing down the walls of a segregated society and creating equal opportunity for all, not the current effort on the part of billionaires to promote school choice and decimate public education.”

Here is the full interview as it aired on PBS. 

Or by clicking here: http://billmoyers.com/episode/public-schools-for-sale/#disqus_thread

 

Diane Ravitch Speech at the Network of Public Education Conference

1 Comment

Here is a link to Diane Ravitch’s inspiring speech at last weekend’s Network of Public Education Conference in Austin Texas.

http://www.schoolhouselive.org/

I was particularly honored and appreciative that Diane would recognize my efforts and my blog in her speech.

As background,

The Network for Public Education is an advocacy group whose goal is to fight to protect, preserve and strengthen our public school system, an essential institution in a democratic society. Our mission is to protect, preserve, promote, and strengthen public schools and the education of current and future generations of students. We will accomplish this by networking groups and organizations focused on similar goals in states and districts throughout the nation, share information about what works and what doesn’t work in public education, and endorse and rate candidates for office based on our principles and goals. More specifically, we will support candidates who oppose high-stakes testing, mass school closures, the privatization of our public schools and the outsourcing of its core functions to for-profit corporations, and we will support candidates who work for evidence-based reforms that will improve our schools and the education of our nation’s children.

The Network for Public Education Conference ended with a press conference calling for Congressional hearings to investigate the over-emphasis, misapplication, costs, and poor implementation of high-stakes standardized testing in the nation’s K-12 public schools.

The press release stated,

In a Closing Keynote address to some 500 attendees, education historian and NYU professor Diane Ravitch, an NPE founder and Board President, accused current education policies mandated by the federal government, such as President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top, of making high-stakes standardized testing “the purpose of education, rather than a measure of education.”

The call for Congressional hearings – addressed to Senators Lamar Alexander and Tom Harkin of the Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee, and Representatives John Kline and George Miller of the House Education and Workforce Committee – states that high-stakes testing in public schools has led to multiple unintended consequences that warrant federal scrutiny. NPE asks Congressional leaders to pursue eleven potential inquiries, including, “Do the tests promote skills our children and our economy need?” and “Are tests being given to children who are too young?”

 

“We have learned some valuable lessons about the unintended costs of test-driven reform over the past decade. Unfortunately, many of our nation’s policies do not reflect this,” stated NPE Executive Director Robin Hiller. “We need Congress to investigate and take steps to correct the systematic overuse of testing in our schools.”

“Our system is being rendered less intelligent by the belief that ‘rigor’ equates to ever more difficult tests,” warned NPE Treasurer Anthony Cody. “True intelligence in the 21st century depends on creativity and problem-solving, and this cannot be packaged into a test. We need to invest in classrooms, in making sure teachers have the small class sizes, resources, and support they need to succeed. We need to stop wasting time and money in the pursuit of test scores.”

You can read more about NPE and join the organization at:  http://www.networkforpubliceducation.org/

You can also read about the call for hearings at:  http://www.networkforpubliceducation.org/2014/03/npe-calls-for-congressional-hearings-full-text/

Colin McEnroe’s commentary piece on Pryor getting national coverage

14 Comments

After reading Colin McEnroe’s recent commentary piece entitled,  Parsing The Unintelligible Stefan Pryor, Diane Ravitch, America’s leading public education advocate, cross posts the piece to her blog asking, “When Did Gibberish Replace Conventional English?

The two are MUST READ pieces.

Diane writes:

Colin McEnroe of NPR in Connecticut has discovered the root problem of corporate reformers: They have lost touch with common sense and the meaning of learning. To cover up their ignorance, they have invented rhetoric that sounds impressive but is no more than unintelligible verbiage.

He starts here, and gets better:

“I don’t know about you, but I remember the moment when, as a boy, I fell in love with learning. It was 1964, in the spring. My fourth-grade teacher, Miss Vick, sat down with me in the late afternoon and gently pried from my hands Hardy Boys book No. 42, “The Secret of the Mummy’s Strategically Dynamic New Paradigms.”

“Colin,” she said. “I know you’re a good boy with a bright mind. But your EAPE scores don’t point to project-based learning across the curriculum. You need to scaffold texts to other texts, and to that end I’m going to start interfacing with your developmental space.”

“Miss Vick,” I stammered, “can you disintermediate that for me in a way that unpacks the convergence in assessment-driven terms?”

We talked for hours as the sun sank toward the horizon. I believe both of us wept. My mind opened like a flower. That night, I chopped my Hardy Boys books into little pieces and fed them to the neighbor’s python. I read Emerson’s “The American Scholar” instead.

Wait. Maybe it didn’t happen that way, because in 1964, American education was not drowning in incomprehensible crap.”

Have we lost the ability to say what we mean and mean what we say?

You can read Colin McEnroe’s piece at: http://touch.courant.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-79199774/

Diane Ravitch features Madison Superintendent Tom Scarice’s powerful letter on “education reform”

8 Comments

Diane Ravitch, the nation’s leading pro-public education advocate, has used her blog to highlight the letter Madison Connecticut Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice sent to his legislators about the failed education reforms that are being pushed through in Connecticut. 

The letter is one of the most powerful statements to date about the failure of the corporate education reform industry agenda and the need to re-take control of our public schools and preserve local control, parental involvement and the values inherent in a true system of public education.

Diane Ravitch’s blog is the most read education blog in the country generating up to 70,000 or more hits a day.

In the piece entitled, “A Connecticut Superintendent Speaks Out Against Failed “Reforms”, Ravitch writes:

Tom Scarice, superintendent of schools in Madison, Connecticut, has already been named to the honor roll for his leadership and vision in bringing together his community to plan for the future of Madison public schools.

Now, he steps up and speaks out again to take issue with those, like Governor Dannel Malloy, who call for a “pause” in the implementation of misguided reforms.

In a letter to his state representatives, Scarice explains that education policy must be based on sound research and experience. What Connecticut is doing now, he writes, is merely complying with federal mandates that harm schools and demoralize teachers.

If every superintendent had Tom Scarice’s courage and understanding, this country would have a far, far better education system and could easily repel the intrusions of bad policies.

You can read Superintendent Scarice’s letter here on Wait, What?:  A CT superintendent speaks: Madison’s Thomas Scarice and the Power of truth  (http://jonathanpelto.com/2014/01/31/ct-superintendent-speaks-madisons-thomas-scarice-power-truth/)

The Washington Post has also covered Scarice’s letter, see:   CT Superintendent Thomas Scarice’s letter on “education reform” makes the Washington Post

Older Entries