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An Education Declaration to Rebuild America

Jim Horn has a big statement about this Potemkin Village facade of ed reform: Do We Need Another Edu-Proclamation, or Do We Need Resistance Strategies to End High Stakes Tests?

In an e-mail he summed it up: I think such rhetorical flourishes are dangerous because they offer the illusion that signing another declaration will do anything to alter the unlovely (Berliner's great word) reality of corps ed schools and more high stakes sorting. It also makes the real problems invisible with a whole set of mushy generalization that mean shit, which, I guess, is more than squat.

Also read P. L. Thomas' Solidarity and My Name: Some Thoughts. He signed the statement and he's right that I counted him among the "good people" who disappointed me with their signatures. I expressed that disappointment because Paul Thomas does an astounding amount of such good work.

Ohanian Comment: NOTE: The Network for Public Education is an enthusiastic endorser of this enterprise. So why won't I sign on? Let me count the ways. I find this statement dangerous as well as disappointing--right from the getgo. I'm very disappointed that some good people are consorting with people who have done schoolchildren great harm and are signing on to hot air at best and dangerous claims at worst.

Right from the title they are asserting the same bogus claim as made by the writers of A Nation at Risk: Saying that a new education policy will rebuild America certainly implies that the old one caused the country's decline. This statement amounts to saying that yes, the current schools are to blame for an economic crisis and if we get more money, we can "fix" students.

The late Gerald Bracey referred to Bob Wise as a propagandist and fear-monger. He, like Randi Weingarten, was on board supporting the Common Core from the getgo. Wise was also on the Shared Learning Collaborative board of directors. Recipients of $87,333,334 from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. You know Shared Learning. It morphed into inBloom Inc., the outfit that's collecting every bit of information about schoolkids and their families.

  • The 'grade level reading' assertion is a hoax as well as a real danger zone. First of all, grade level reading is a numbers game, and if what they mean is that under their system, all students will be average, then I'll refer them to a famous bridge for sale in Brooklyn.

  • The lip service for "better data" and "personalized plans" plays right into inBloom, even echoing their claim. Did any teacher ever say she needed more data? Did any teacher ever say that with more data she could teach better, that her students could learn better?

    In 2009, the Wall Street Journal ran a scary article on the use of obsessive data tracking in Jerry Weast's district. He's a leader here.

  • How is the teacher recruitment statement any different from the current mantra that teachers aren't good enough (and what's this 'provide extended learning time? A call for year-round schooling?)?

  • Better assessments? Oh, please. Spare me. Please. Please. Please.

    How is it that Linda Darling-Hammond, who sits on the Technical Advisory Committee for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is standing here calling for different assessments?

    I'd advocate for five years with no assessments.



    The first thing we should all call for is not better school funding, better teachers, better data, better tests . . . . The first thing we should all call for is

    A Living Wage.

    Without that, any pretense of school reform is doomed.

    Opportunity to Learn Board of Advisors

    Below are members of the Opportunity to Learn Campaign Advisory Board:

    Anthony Cody
    Co-Founder, Network for Public Education

    Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond
    Professor, Stanford University

    Nick Donohue
    President & CEO, Nellie Mae Education Foundation

    Dr. Peter Edelman
    Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center

    Senator Joyce Elliott
    Arkansas State Senate

    Commissioner Andrew Gillum
    Tallahassee, FL City Commission

    Fatima Goss Graves
    Vice President for Education and Employment, National Women's Law Center

    Dr. Kris Gutierrez
    Professor, University of Colorado

    Dr. Kenji Hakuta
    Professor, Stanford University

    Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig
    Professor, University of Texas

    Derrick Johnson
    President, Mississippi NAACP

    Jeff Johnson
    Author, Commentator

    John Kuhn
    Superintendent, Perrin-Whitt Independent School District

    Dr. Kevin Kumashiro
    Professor, University of Illinois -- Chicago

    Dr. Henry Levin
    Professor, Teachers College, Columbia University

    Dan Losen
    Director, Center for Civil Rights Remedies, UCLA, Civil Rights Project

    Dr. Charles Payne
    Professor, University of Chicago

    Jan Resseger
    Lay Minister for Public Education and Witness, United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries

    David Sciarra
    Executive Director, Education Law Center

    Rinku Sen
    President & Executive Director, Applied Research Center, Publisher, ColorLines.com

    Jerry Weast
    Former Superintendent, Montgomery County School District, MD

    Randi Weingarten
    President, American Federation of Teachers

    Dr. Kevin Welner
    Director, National Education Policy Center, National Education Policy Center, University of Colorado at Boulder

    Dr. Sherece West-Scantlebury
    President & CEO, Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation

    Gov. Bob Wise
    Former Governor, West Virginia

    Dr. Yong Zhao
    Professor, University of Oregon

    An Education Declaration to Rebuild America

    Americans have long looked to our public schools to provide opportunities for individual advancement, promote social mobility and share democratic values. We have built great universities, helped bring children out of factories and into classrooms, held open the college door for returning veterans, fought racial segregation and struggled to support and empower students with special needs. We believe good schools are essential to democracy and prosperity -- and that it is our collective responsibility to educate all children, not just a fortunate few.

    Over the past three decades, however, we have witnessed a betrayal of those ideals. Following the 1983 report, A Nation at Risk, policymakers on all sides have pursued an education agenda that imposes top-down standards and punitive high-stakes testing while ignoring the supports students need to thrive and achieve. This approach -- along with years of drastic financial cutbacks -- are turning public schools into uncreative, joyless institutions. Educators are being stripped of their dignity and autonomy, leading many to leave the profession. Neighborhood schools are being closed for arbitrary reasons. Parent and community voices are being shut out of the debate. And children, most importantly, are being systemically deprived of opportunities to learn.

    As a nation we have failed to rectify glaring inequities in access to educational opportunities and resources. By focusing solely on the achievement gap, we have neglected the opportunity gap that creates it, and have allowed the resegregation of our schools and communities by class and race. The inevitable result, highlighted in the Federal Equity and Excellence Commission's recent report, For Each and Every Child, is an inequitable system that hits disadvantaged students, families, and communities the hardest.

    A new approach is needed to improve our nation's economic trajectory, strengthen our democracy, and avoid an even more stratified and segregated society. To rebuild America, we need a vision for 21st-century education based on seven principles:

  • All students have a right to learn. Opportunities to learn should not depend on zip code or a parent's abilities to work the system. Our education system must address the needs of all children, regardless of how badly they are damaged by poverty and neglect in their early years. We must invest in research-proven interventions and supports that start before kindergarten and support every child's aspirations for college or career.

  • Public education is a public good. Public education should never be undermined by private control, deregulation and profiteering. Keeping our schools public is the only way we can ensure that each and every student receives a quality education. School systems must function as democratic institutions responsive to students, teachers, parents and communities.

  • Investments in education must be equitable and sufficient. Funding is necessary for all the things associated with an excellent education: safe buildings, quality teachers, reasonable class sizes, and early learning opportunities. Yet, as we've "raised the bar" for achievement, we've cut the resources children and schools need to reach it. We must reverse this trend and spend more money on education and distribute those funds more equitably.

  • Learning must be engaging and relevant. Learning should be a dynamic experience through connections to real world problems and to students' own life experiences and cultural backgrounds. High-stakes testing narrows the curriculum and hinders creativity.

  • Teachers are professionals. The working conditions of teachers are the learning conditions of students. When we judge teachers solely on a barrage of high-stakes standardized tests, we limit their ability to reach and connect with their students. We must elevate educators' autonomy and support their efforts to reach every student.

  • Discipline policies should keep students in schools. Students need to be in school in order to learn. We must cease ineffective and discriminatory discipline practices that push children down the school-to-prison pipeline. Schools must use fair discipline policies that keep classrooms safe and all students learning.

  • National responsibility should complement local control. Education is largely the domain of states and school districts, but in far too many states there are gross inequities in how funding is distributed to schools that serve low-income and minority students. In these cases, the federal government has a responsibility to ensure there is equitable funding and enforce the civil right to a quality education for all students.

  • Principles are only as good as the policies that put them into action. The current policy agenda dominated by standards-based, test-driven reform is clearly insufficient. What's needed is a supports-based reform agenda that provides every student with the opportunities and resources needed to achieve high standards and succeed, focused on these seven areas:

    1) Early Education and Grade Level Reading: Guaranteed access to high quality early education for all, including full-day kindergarten and universal access to pre-K services, to help ensure students can read at grade level.
    2) Equitable Funding and Resources: Fair and sufficient school funding freed from over-reliance on locally targeted property taxes, so those who face the toughest hurdles receive the greatest resources. Investments are also needed in out-of-school factors affecting students, such as supports for nutrition and health services, public libraries, after school and summer programs, and adult remedial education -- along with better data systems and technology.
    3) Student-Centered Supports: Personalized plans or approaches that provide students with the academic, social, and health supports they need for expanded and deeper learning time.
    4) Teaching Quality: Recruitment, training, and retention of well-prepared, well-resourced, and effective educators and school leaders, who can provide extended learning time and deeper learning approaches, and are empowered to collaborate with and learn from their colleagues.
    5) Better Assessments: High-quality diagnostic assessments that go beyond test-driven mandates and help teachers strengthen the classroom experience for each student.
    6) Effective Discipline: An end to ineffective and discriminatory discipline practices, including inappropriate out-of-school suspensions, replaced with policies and supports that keep all students in quality educational settings.
    7) Meaningful Engagement: Parent and community engagement in determining the policies of schools and the delivery of education services to students.

    As a nation, we're failing to provide the basics our children need for an opportunity to learn. Instead, we have substituted a punitive high-stakes testing regime that seeks to force progress on the cheap. But there is no shortcut to success. We must change course before we further undermine schools and drive away the teachers our children need.

    All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation's educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child's promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

    Greg Anrig
    The Century Foundation
    Kenneth J. Bernstein
    National Board Certified Social Studies Teacher
    Martin J. Blank
    Director, Coalition for Community Schools
    Jeff Bryant
    Education Opportunity Network
    Dr. Nancy Carlsson-Paige
    Co Founder, Defending Early Years Foundation
    Anthony Cody
    Teachers' Letters to Obama, Network for Public Education
    Linda Darling-Hammond
    Professor of Education, Stanford University
    Larry Deutsch, MD, MPH
    Minority Leader (Working Families Party), Hartford City Council
    Bertis Downs
    Parent, Lawyer and Advocate
    Dave Eggers
    Matt Farmer
    Chicago Public Schools parent
    Dr. Rosa Castro Feinberg, Ph.D.
    LULAC Florida State Education Commissioner;
    Associate Professor (Retired), Florida International University
    Nancy Flanagan
    Senior Fellow, Institute for Democratic Education in America (IDEA);
    Blogger, Education Week; Teacher
    Andrew Gillum
    City Commissioner of Tallahassee, Florida
    National Director of the Young Elected Officials Network
    Larry Groce
    Host and Artistic Director, Mountain Stage, Charleston, West Virginia
    William R. Hanauer
    Mayor, Village of Ossining;
    President, Westchester Municipal Officials Association
    Julian Vasquez Heilig
    The University of Texas at Austin
    Roger Hickey
    Institute for America's Future
    John Jackson
    Opportunity To Learn Campaign
    Jonathan Kozol
    Educator & Author
    John Kuhn
    Superintendent, Perrin-Whitt School District (Texas)
    Kevin Kumashiro, Ph.D.
    Incoming Dean, University of San Francisco School of Education;
    President, National Association for Multicultural Education
    Rev. Peter Laarman
    Progressive Christians Uniting
    Chuck Lesnick
    Yonkers City Council President
    Rev. Tim McDonald
    Co-Chair, African American Ministers In Action
    Lawrence Mischel
    Economic Policy Institute
    Kathleen Oropeza
    Co-Founder, Fund Education Now
    State Senator Nan Grogan Orrock
    Georgia Senate District 36
    Charles Payne
    University of Chicago
    Diane Ravitch
    New York University, Network for Public Education
    Robert B. Reich
    Chancellor's Professor, University of California at Berkeley;
    Former U.S. Secretary of Labor
    Jan Resseger
    United Church of Christ, Justice & Witness Ministries
    Nan Rich
    Florida State Senator
    Hans Riemer
    Montgomery County Council Member; Montgomery County, MD
    Maya Rockeymoore, Ph.D.
    Center for Global Policy Solutions
    David Sciarra
    Education Law Center
    Rinku Sen
    President and Executive Director, Applied Research Center
    Theda Skocpol
    Harvard University
    Director, Scholars Strategy Network
    Rita M. Solnet
    Co Founder, Parents Across America
    John Stocks
    Executive Director, National Education Association
    Steve Suitts
    Vice President, Southern Education Foundation
    Paul Thomas, EdD
    Furman University
    Dennis Van Roekel
    President, National Education Association
    Dr. Jerry D. Weast
    Former Superintendent, Montgomery County (MD) Public Schools;
    Founder and CEO, Partnership for Deliberate Excellence
    Randi Weingarten
    President, American Federation of Teachers
    Kevin Welner
    Professor, University of Colorado Boulder School of Education;
    Director, National Education Policy Center

    — statement, petition, and Ohanisn statement why she won't sign
    Education Opportunity Network




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