Friday, December 23, 2011


I don't recall pencil packaging being such a downer. Email them and tell them what you think at

Monday, December 19, 2011

Indianapolis: The New Feeding Ground for Corporate Education Reformers

Indianapolis, Indiana, home of the Hoosiers, is getting ready for the fight of a lifetime. The Crossroads of America will need us to rally and support them as a corporate education takeover makes its way into their public schools.

Mind Trust is preparing to overhaul the Indianapolis Public Schools using strategies similar to those used in New Orleans and New York.  Mind Trust proudly states, "We have invested over $5 million to bring Teach For America, College Summit, The New Teacher Project, Stand for Children, and Diploma Plus to Indianapolis."

Mind Trust CEO states in the Indy Star, “"If we're going to be serious about doing something transformational, we need an aggressive plan…"

The plan is to create a total choice system in which schools “compete for students and make their own decisions about how to allocate resources formerly managed by IPS.”

The red flags are numerous.  The word CHOICE really implies choice for some, not for all.  The word COMPETE means some children will be left behind, as not everyone can win a competition.  As schools compete, students who don't make the grade will be sent packing. Students with special needs  may be turned away at the door.  Schools will be shut down and communities will be destroyed.

Minority students account for 76% of the IPS student population;  will they have a voice in the decisions being made about their neighborhoods and their schools as the restructure of IPS takes place?

When we can allocate resources independent of the school district one can guarantee that resources will not be allocated equally and profit will take precedence.  We need only look to New York, Detroit and New Orleans to see how such a system is playing out.

A new office will be created to recruit teachers, administrators and charter school operators.  We know that the CEO of The New Teacher Project is on the board of directors for Mind Trust.  Teacher recruiting will focus largely on the enlistment of non-educators into the school system - teachers with minimal training who will work as cheap labor and be easily silenced should it be necessary.  Administrators will be recruited through groups such as the Broad Foundation where teaching or education experience is not required.

The school board will be replaced by a board that is handpicked by the mayor and the City-County Council, and it appears that the superintendent will be removed. So, now we have potential mayoral control and the picture is complete.

Harris, Mind Trust CEO, expresses the importance of getting elected officials in the community to support this plan.

And of course, they play their final card.  The student data just doesn’t cut it.  Harris shares how the district ISTEP scores fell short of their five-year goals.  They don’t mention that Indianapolis Public Schools currently have 83% of their students on free or reduced lunch, therefore, ignoring the concept of protecting children from poverty as the first step in improving student learning.  And as Diane Ravitch tells us, after nine years of market-based reform in New York, "the achievement gap between black and white students is unchanged."

In the four key points of the Mind Trust plan they fail to mention wrap around services to shelter children from the effects of poverty.  Where is the health care?  Nutrition?  Books?  I wonder if anyone at Mind Trust is hungry, cold, tired or sick for extended periods of time with no resources to alleviate the pain? I wonder if anyone working at Mind Trust lives in fear of their community being ripped out from under them?  I have a feeling that the 160 page reform proposal they wrote was created under roofs with healthy living conditions, unlike the living conditions of many Indianapolis students, who must go to school, take high stakes tests, and somehow pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

There is a glimmer of hope in Indianapolis and it is growing stronger daily.  There are parents who recognize that the ISTEP is destructive to their children’s education.  They recognize that the curriculum is being altered due to state testing and they see that the test is taking away from real learning.  They want to protect their children from the abusive effects of high stakes testing. They are opting out of the ISTEP.  They have created a Facebook site for Indiana community members who are interested in opting out of corporate education reform.  They refuse to give the privatizers their children’s test data. 

The parents have been told that they cannot opt out.  They have been lied to and they know it.  A child cannot be forced to take a state test.  While the Department of Education in Indiana chooses to protect their data, the parents choose to protect their children.  Without this data the corporate reformers will have great difficulty punishing students, teachers and communities through methodical privatization tactics that support the profits of the 1%. The executive summary of the Mind Trust proposal makes it very clear what they intend to do.  They state, "Excellent existing schools would become Opportunity Schools immediately following a planning year. Poor performing schools would be given support to improve and seek Opportunity status. And new leadership and new school models would replace persistently failing programs." It is clear who will fail. It is clear who will succeed.  Standardized test data tells us one thing - it tells us which students are living in poverty.  These are the students who will fail and lose their Opportunity to a whole and equitable education.

However, without the data, corporate education reform fails, and school communities - not corporations - can begin to focus on providing learners what they deserve - shelter from poverty and the same education the 1% receives.

Mind Trust beware.  The parents are coming.

Friday, December 16, 2011

A New Year's Resolution. Opt Out of State Testing. January 7th.

United Opt Out National has declared January 7th to be National Opt Out Day.  It is our goal that students, teachers and community members will express their dislike for corporate education reform and will use various means to demonstrate how they plan to OPT OUT.

There are many ways to opt out.  You can explore these ideas at our website.  Today I'm going to talk about the most powerful way to opt out: refuse to take the state test.  Educators across the country are supporting this concept.  You must peruse the Call for Action and see who has signed it.

It is time to raise our voices and be heard loudly. Corporate education reformers are attempting to work with educators and parents and create the appearance of respecting the opinions of the 99%.  Do not be fooled. We continue to compromise and they continue to chip away at our public schools.  I must ask, is there truly any room left for compromise?  What else are we willing to sacrifice?  As we compromise we are harming our children and we are losing our democracy. It is time for action.  I believe that civil disobedience is not only necessary, but vital if we intend to reclaim public schools for all of America's children - specifically the 99% who are suffering silently, while the children of the 1% live abundantly and thrive in private schools - where state tests don't exist. 

As an educator, parent and a community member, I have a moral responsibility to stand up for children who cannot speak for themselves.   

There are currently children attending schools where they receive nothing but test prep.  There are children with low test scores who are required to stay in for recess, miss PE/music/art in order to prepare for the state test.  Most children no longer have any access to fine arts, libraries or play.  Some children attend schools in which they are asked to come in on Saturdays to prep for a test. Some children are squeezed into basements in order to share a building with a new charter school. Kindergarten is all work and no play. Learners are not finding their passions; they are losing their childhood in the name of standardized testing. Learners are finding out how to fill in a bubble sheet. Children in low socioeconomic areas are not being sheltered from the effects of poverty.  The love for learning is disappearing, and with it goes the potential of an entire generation.

As corporate education reform continues, all students – rural, suburbs, urban – will receive a poor, or mediocre education due to the emphasis on a one size fits all set of national standards, scripted curriculum and high stakes tests.  Because everything is attached to the standardized test, learning will be shallow.  One simply cannot create a high level learning situation around a multiple-choice test with four right answers and formulaic responses for short answers. We will raise a generation of test-takers who have minimal skills to function in a world in which multiple-choice tests have no real life application.  We will no longer be the innovators of the world, leading with the most innovative patents.  We will become the puppets of America as the 1% continues to use us to create more profit.

Many of us are not awake yet and believe we are immune to all that has been listed above.  No one is immune. They have infiltrated all aspects of education – early childhood programs, elementary, middle, high school and higher ed.  Everyone is being asked to drink the Corp. Ed. Kool-Aid.  Those who chug it down need our support to see and understand what is truly happening.

ALEC continues to write legislation that takes away our rights to a free and equal education for all. They have taken two professions – that of student – that of teacher – and have completely reconfigured what these professions look like and have influenced what our society believes about our country’s education system.  Teachers are not bad.  Students are not robots who should sit straight in their chair at all times, hands folded, eyes tracking the speaker, and regurgitating information on tests.

It is a grim prediction for our future.  2012 will be here soon and with it comes the spring state testing window. We must shut that window.

On January 7th, OPT OUT of corporate education reform.  The slam dunk is opting out of the state test.  Without the test data, they cannot punish our students, educators and communities.  A mass opt out would create an education revolution.  6% opting out would be enough to make the test results null/void.  They would be required to listen to the 99%.  What if our society's New Year's Resolution was to reclaim public education for all children?

We are warriors who can think for ourselves.  We are much more than the results of a standardized test.  We are a think tank of multiple right answers that cannot be expressed by shading in a bubble.  

Begin by sending a letter or postcard to your school district on January 7th and tell them your plans to opt out.  Flood their mailboxes.  Drown out their test prep rally calls, their extrinsic rewards, their punishments, all based on a bubble sheet.  We are much more. Tell them. Create your own rally call and march to save public schools in your community. 

A mass opt out will shut them down.  A mass opt out will send a message and they will be required to listen.

National Opt Out Day.  January 7th.  OPT IN to real learning and real teaching.  Make a New Year's Resolution and commit to reclaiming public schools for all children.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Teach at Your Occupy Movement Today. End Wall Street Occupation of Public Schools.

I have never been so excited to teach a class in my life.  I head down to Occupy Denver tomorrow  - class starting at 1:30 p.m. – to begin to share information on how to end Wall Street Occupation of our public schools.

I don’t have to use a scripted text.

I don’t have to watch and see if someone walking by is monitoring me – you know – to see if I’m focusing on the test prep skills. 

And guess what??? I don’t have to feed the learners a test!!!  No bubble sheets!!!!! How lucky am I?

Better yet – members of Occupy Denver have been provided food, shelter and resources to allow them to thrive, grow and learn – unlike the children in our country – 23% living in poverty – who have only been fed tests.

And you ask…how will I know if they learned anything?  

I think what I’ll do is let everyone talk, ask questions and discuss.  I'm going to listen carefully and determine how to best support them in moving forward with their newly acquired learning.  I will also know what they learned based on the actions they take – you heard me right corporate ed. reformers – ACTIONS.  Occupy Denver knows how to organize, collaborate and act.  They are amazing people.  I found that out last Saturday when I had the honor to participate in the march and rally. They have a goal.  End corporate greed and reclaim democracy.  And they are motivated, smart, and crazy innovative.  I’m in awe of them.

As I teach every Wednesday, I will continually add to and revise my curriculum (that I pulled together myself – sorry Pearson - you aren’t needed) based on the needs of my learners.  I know they are interested in learning how to end corporate greed within the public school system in order to provide an equal educational opportunity for ALL children. I am pulling together my resources from parents and educators who have diligently gathered research over the years – information that has been IGNORED – and I will share it all.  I am grinning from ear to ear.  I love Occupy Denver.  And I am so happy to teach freely – with innovation – with passion – and with love for my fellow Americans – once again.  Power to the students. Power to the teachers.  Teach at your Occupy Movement today. Free yourself from the chains of corporate education reform.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

I Support Occupy Denver

This weekend I went to Occupy Denver and spoke at the rally and shared the truth about corporate education reform.  I was thanked by complete strangers and was asked by one of the organizers of Occupy Denver to please come back every Saturday and speak again.

A CBS reporter asked me why I was there.  I said I was there to demand an end to corporate education reform in our public schools.  She said somewhat condescendingly – But this is about Wall Street. What does that have to do with Occupy Wall Street?  I said, somewhat frustrated, EVERYTHING.  It’s the same thing, I said, as I explained the corporate ed. reform occurring in Denver.  Occupy Wall Street is indeed representative of the corporate takeover of our public schools.  Of course my clip was cut from the news broadcast.

I am tired of hearing people say, those at the Occupy movements need to get a cohesive message – they HAVE one.  End corporate greed and reclaim our right to a democracy through various means.  I am tired of hearing people complain about their demands – why complain?  Why not offer support in writing them?

Why not offer support in writing those demands before some corporate education reformer tries to add demands that are disguised as supporting public schools? You know what I mean – demands that talk about parent choice or parental rights – but really mean – support charter schools – support vouchers – THOSE demands.

We need to offer our support to the occupy movements.  Offer to teach a class on ending the privatization of our public schools – that’s what I’m doing for Occupy Denver.  Speak at the weekend rallies – share the best kept secret – opting out of the state test will put a screeching halt to corporate education reform - and then we can preserve and improve our public schools. Pass out flyers, brochures, post on Occupy Facebook pages and let it be known that WE have the power to make these changes. 

If an entire district, entire state opted out of the state test – we’d move mountains.  This is the message I shared at Occupy Denver, where I met the most amazing people who all stood together to reclaim Democracy.

And now I’m going to share more through the classes I teach.  I’m going to share everything – absolutely everything I know about how to end corporate education reform and preserve and improve our public schools. I will talk incessantly.  I will pass out flyers.  I will twitter. I will speak at rallies.  I will support Occupy Denver.

Corporate ed. reformers are scared.  They should be.

Because I am the crazy chick out there posting on Facebook, twittering, talking, writing, making signs and flyers……. like a mad woman….as I spread the word about how to end the privatization of our public schools.  There are many more like me. I have an agenda.  And I know what the corporate reform agenda is and I’m not going to let it happen. And damn it, I will see this through to the end.  Join me.  Support your Occupy movement today. Save public schools for our children.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

America's Got Talent? Not Under the Corporate Education Reform Model

This past week I watched Education Nation.  I continued to support action through our work at United Opt Out National.  I read articles about the supposed benefits of NCLB waivers.  I received notices about legislation being written which dictates what public universities do and forces schools of education to drink the corp. ed. Kool-Aid.  In the midst of all of this I read about an increase in the number of homeless children in New York.  And then there was Occupy Wall Street – underreported – but representative of an America - composed of independent thinkers - waking up.  As people begin to speak up, those with power tremble ever so slightly.

I tremble a bit as well…with an inner rage that I try to keep calm by swimming laps several mornings a week while thinking about how we might change the current narrative regarding this fabricated educational crisis that has allowed corporations to swoop in and profit at our children’s expense.  I watched a clip of MorningJoe on MSNBC in which they talked about how the arts have disappeared from the public schools.  They talked about China and how China is moving away from excessive testing in the hopes of allowing creative minds to develop, while our country adds tests, narrows the curriculum and shuts down any opportunity for innovative thinking.  A death sentence for our country; yet, it appears that many of us are the walking dead already.  We are allowing it to happen. 

Is it just me or is there something creepy about the pictures of children in charter schools in New York where they all sit straight in their chairs with hands folded on the desks?  What the hell is that?  My classroom was always an interesting mix of couches, desks, tables and groups gathered in the midst of projects, conversation and INNOVATION.   The children were everywhere – true movers and shakers!  I never gave a rat’s ass about the test scores (this was before the smack down started and forced teachers to teach to the test), which are currently upheld as the indicator of a school’s success.  I cared about their day-to-day learning, their ideas, goals, opinions and their confidence to move forward when they left my class and headed out into the world.  I hoped that the skills I taught them and the opportunity to imagine and create in my classroom would allow them to become inventive, passionate Americans who would help make our country and our world a better place.

Yet, under Race to the Top and the pathetic NCLB waivers now being offered, we are simply creating test takers who perform robotic actions that leave our children with no opportunity to even imagine what could be.  Their SAT scores have declined  - an indicator that years of having a test shoved down your throat does little to improve student achievement and actually harms and hampers our students' opportunities.

While China and other countries are attempting to end a test-oriented education and create a talent-oriented education (read Yong Zhao’s Catching Up or Leading the Way for more on this topic – all future references to Zhao are taken from his book), we are destroying a country that was at the top of innovative thinking.  Zhao talks about how China was looking to us as they searched for a model of innovative education.  He states, “As a country with the most Nobel laureates, most original patents, most scientific discoveries in the 20th century, and largest economy in the world, the United States of America seems a reasonable candidate (Zhao 2009).”

Why are we getting rid of what other countries want?

Zhao also states – and this is important so please listen up - “But most vexing is why Americans, who hold individual rights and liberty in the highest regard, would allow the government to dictate what their children should learn, when they should learn it, and how they are evaluated?”

When did we become doormats? We are all guilty of non-action. The infiltration of corporate control over our schools is beyond scope – beyond reason - in a country, which calls itself a democracy. 

Zhao shares a beautiful story about attending a talent show at his child’s school in his book Catching Up or Leading the Way.  He discusses how talent is encouraged, honored and praised in our country.  He talks about the guts and gumption it takes for a child to get up and perform – even when a talent may be lacking or imperfect.  It is this exact quality – valuing individuality - that allows our children to develop confidence, take risks and grow as individuals who can say – YES.  I am capable. I am confident. I am ready to interact in a world full of confusion, possibility and change.  I can make a positive difference and think, listen, share and improve my community.

I don’t see any standardized test helping to create a child like that.  I am heartbroken for the children who are abused by corporate education reform movements in a country that is not waking up fast enough to stop the madness.

Zhao states, “As a result of adopting national standards, schools will produce a homogenous group of individuals with the same abilities, skills, and knowledge.  Such a result will be disastrous to America and Americans because as globalization and technology continue to change the world, America needs a citizenry of creative individuals with a wide range of talents to sustain its tradition of innovation.”

On Education Nation this past week they talked about being fearful of China.  We don’t need to fear China.  We need to fear ourselves.  We are becoming what China is desperate to rid itself of – a test-oriented culture which is producing citizens that score well on tests, yet are not able to innovate and function in positions that require out-of-the-box thinking.

I cringe when schools share their successes with the community by referencing and applauding their test scores.  I cringe because I know that high test scores, in a culture of excessive testing and punitive consequences for low test scores, typically mean that schools are narrowing the curriculum, teaching to the test, taking away subjects which allow a child to find their inner spirit, innovative thoughts and talents.  I know that test scores are high at the expense of good teaching, fine arts, play, nap, recess – all important in allowing a child to develop and grow into a confident and independent thinker.

I cringe because as China knows, a high test score tells us nothing except that the child scored well on a few subjects and scored well using a form of testing that does not display any useful information regarding a child’s actual achievement as an individual learner.

The achievement gap in our test scores is a result of poverty.  Zhao calls it the resource gap.  The resources missing are clean, well-maintained facilities stocked with qualified teachers, nurses, librarians, books and more.

As the richest country in the world with the highest percentage of children living in poverty in an industrialized nation – one must look at what is going on in our current education system and wonder why the focus on the test?  Isn’t it fascinating that the current reform movement doesn’t focus on sheltering children from the effects of poverty, but rather focuses on pouring money into tests to determine if these children who lack food, shelter, sleep, clothing, health care and access to books can get a good score on a test?

We are spending billions on the test and denying America’s children the right to think creatively through various subjects – whether it is art, music, PE, history, science, imaginative play and more.  Our children will become adults who haven’t had the experiences necessary to interact successfully in our world.  And like China, they will not be able to keep a job if creative and independent thinking is necessary.  We could lose our status as the country with the most innovative ideas.

I appeal to Americans everywhere – in rural areas – in the suburbs – in the cities.  I appeal to your hopes for America’s children.  Please recognize that a good test score does not equal a good education.  It does not equal a healthy, well fed child.  A good education can be found in a rich and diverse curriculum taught by educators with teaching degrees where student work  - written, verbal, or through performance, projects, portfolios and interactions with others – is used to assess, evaluate and plan for quality instruction – and where children are SHELTERED from the effects of poverty so that they can reach their greatest potential.

Please recognize that these tests, which are costing our country billions of dollars and result in punitive consequences for schools, will be the death of our democracy and our current status as a leader of innovation.  We will become what China is attempting to end – a culture permeated by the “high score low ability” syndrome (see Zhao for more information) – a culture filled with good test scores but the inability to develop skills that are needed in an innovative and global economy. China, South Korea, Singapore and Japan are all attempting to create an education system in which creative thinking is emphasized and standardized testing is de-emphasized.  They move forward, using our education model; we move backwards, using their model.

While corporate reformers and politicians would like us to believe that good test scores are allowing our country to race to the top, we should be fearful that good test scores combined with excessive testing and punitive consequences for low scores, will leave our children and therefore our country behind.  A country which prizes the individual – prizes innovative thinking – should be very leery of testing tied to top down standards and curriculum - which prizes nothing but a score and results in unequal educational opportunities for children and corporate profit for a few. 

Does America have talent?  Not for long.  I can no longer even see the child in our public school system.  Civil disobedience is needed to bring our children back to the forefront. The vision of the eager child who smiles on the first day of school is buried under mandated tests, curriculum, standards and corporations who are tearing down our democracy and destroying our children’s opportunity to determine and explore their purpose, their talents and their chance to be productive individuals in our communities.  And sadly, our children are increasingly taught by educators who are poorly trained, hired as cheap labor and who believe the test is the indicator of success. Superintendents and administrators without any teaching credentials increasingly lead the way.

Who do I fear?  Not China.  I fear us.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Changing the Narrative. Ending the Fear. Saving our Public Schools.

September is almost over.  Teaching to the test is in full swing. When talking to people in your community, it's a great time to pop the question,  "What do you think about students opting out of the state test?”

Often, the "opt out" question elicits a look of fear.  There is concern that schools, students or communities will be punished by opting out.  Many are fearful of letting people down.  Some tell me we need accountability. Parents in suburbs are afraid that opting out will cause their schools to receive less funding. Parents in low socioeconomic areas want to raise their children's test scores in the hopes of avoiding school closure and corporate takeover. Teachers are afraid they may lose their job or get punished in other ways.  Many of these fears are founded on fact; many are founded on fiction.

We are ruled by fear in our current education system.

One of the first things I learned as a teacher was the importance of helping children feel safe in the classroom.  It was important to ask children questions in a way that allowed them time to think, converse or research before responding.  If they were fearful, they would not engage.  Also, if they weren’t equipped with tools to support engagement, they could not engage to their full potential. 

Some fears are based on fact.  We know teachers who have been transferred or “let go” after speaking up about the negative effects of corporate education reform. We know children who have been punished after the parent opted the child out of the state test.  We know some parents are benefiting from the state test because their children are good at taking tests, and the test scores are helping their children get in to the best magnet schools.  Sometimes we are in survival mode, and fear based on fact requires us to make decisions to protect our jobs and our children’s well-being.

Some fear is based on fiction.  Some states say that you cannot opt out of the test, when actually you can.  Some schools say that you will lose funding, when in actuality you won’t.  Some teachers remain silent, when in reality, they can speak up, given the appropriate tools and support to do so. 

It is difficult to make decisions when the narrative we are told is full of untruths and fear is used to keep us silent.

We are told that the accountability system is raising up our schools, when in reality, it is this exact accountability that is destroying our schools.  How do we change the narrative? 

Last week Arne and Karen Duncan wrote a letter to their children as they headed back to public school.  It told me a narrative – better yet – a fantasy for many - about Claire and Ryan’s school.

They said, “We also want you to enjoy so many other enriching experiences that are so important to a complete education. We know you have great music, art, and physical education teachers at your school, and we believe that these subjects are essential for a well-rounded curriculum. And so is recess. We want you to have fun!”

The story I know, that permeates our nation’s schools goes like this – the test is important, more important than anything in the classroom including the teachers or students.  PE, fine arts, science and other enriching activities will be cut if necessary in order to find money and time to prepare for the test.  There is no time for recess.  There is no time for fun.  And, if you are a child in a charter school, understand quite clearly that you have a dollar sign on your head – and this dollar sign is more essential than a well-rounded curriculum.

Arne and Karen say, “Our hope for you this year is that you will be challenged academically. You have some terrific teachers to support you.”

The conversation I hear from Washington is that the main challenge is increasing scores on the test so that we can Race to the Top. This challenge is even greater in the low socioeconomic areas where school closure is looming in the event that scores remain low.  I haven’t heard anything about good teachers; I hear that young college graduates with no teaching degrees will save the day, but actual credentialed teachers with master’s degrees are typically bad and do nothing to improve student achievement.

Arne and Karen's story and my story do not match.  When I read their letter for the first time, I thought it was a joke – I thought that someone had created it in an effort to demonstrate what Arne ought to be doing for our public schools.

Will he let us eat cake too?

How can two narratives co-exist?  They will co-exist as long as fear continues to exert power by creating silence and thwarting our ability to make effective decisions in order to change the narrative. 

Does it feel like Arne is rubbing salt in our wound by publicly displaying this letter to his children, while other parents are observing their children squeezed into co-locations (public school and charter school existing in same building)? 

Is he unaware of the schools in which test rally calls permeate the buildings and test prep started the second week of school, with four days of pretests to determine how to plan to teach to the test all year long?

As Arne’s children head out to explore (he states, “we will continue to explore the natural world at nature centers, museums, and many of the other great resources in the Washington area”) does he not recognize that almost 1 in 4 children live in poverty here, and that the concept of exploring is a fantasy for many? 

Does he not recognize that many children do not even have transportation to get to the charter schools he currently promotes?

Arne’s narrative is insulated from the fear, poverty and the punitive consequences which are arriving top-down to schools in our country.  Schools in suburbia are also relatively insulated from the drastic consequences of NCLB and RTTT.  Those who are not insulated, typically schools in low socioeconomic areas, are attempting to fight back, yet many have not yet found their voices or their tools to do so.

How do we change the mantra: high stakes testing is necessary to improve student achievement in our schools?  How do we make Arne’s story about his own children’s school, the narrative for all schools?  Do we wait until high stakes testing affects our children, our neighborhood, and our community in drastic ways, such as shutting down schools or co-locating schools?  Do we wait until PE and fine arts finally disappear from the schools in the suburbs?  Do we wait until our child’s teacher is required to sweep and clean at the end of the day (due to custodian cuts) rather than be available to children for extra academic support? When do we say ENOUGH?  We have choices which can halt the destruction of our public schools and our democracy. Are we willing to help America's children who are already suffering today, under corporate education reform mandates?

We can step up now, together, and organize and share our resources and make our demands  heard.

Or, we can sit back, watch, and wait, until they come for us. 

They are coming.  Whether you are living in the city, the country or the suburbs.  They are coming to take our schools.  This fear is real.  It is founded on fact and the narrative is true. Public schools are disappearing all over our country as schools are privatized methodically and strategically. Corporate education reformers are anxious to make money and profit from your neighborhood school. We are the Big Enchilada

The narrative they are telling us, high stakes testing is necessary in order to improve achievement in our schools and allow our children to Race to the Top, is not true.  The test is set up to fail our schools. The corporate education reformers have put a dollar sign on every child’s head in America and they are waiting for their chance to take it. If we understand this, we can fight back with our own narrative and protect America’s children.

We must fill our tool belts.

Question Arne and Karen’s letter to their children and the hypocrisy of his top-down policies.  Beware of Rhee’s belief that mayoral control will save your schools.  Examine RTTT waivers for NCLB – which is worse?  Beware of Teach for America, The New Teacher Project and any other newfangled teacher program that comes your way and does not involve teachers with actual teaching degrees. Don’t take charter schools at face value – dig deep – they are typically filled with  unqualified and overworked teachers. Beware of test pep rallies and candy dangled in front of your child in order to encourage your child to do well on the state test. Look up the definition of child abuse.

Determine your story.  Determine your method for opting out of the current narrative.  Has your school lost funding for art?  PE?  Is your child having severe anxiety over the test?  Has your child’s class size increased?  Is your child bringing home test prep samples?  Are you being asked to participate in a school fundraiser to raise money for teacher’s salaries, while your state spends millions on the state test?  Does your child get adequate recess and lunch time? Does your charter school have  teachers with teaching degrees? Why do you think the charter school allowed your child entry and turned your neighbor’s child away? Who is your superintendent and where did s/he come from? Why are teacher bonuses and teacher evaluation tied to state testing and how does this affect teachers' interactions with their students? Is your school unable to purchase basic supplies

Get empowered. Begin to question.  Talk to your neighbors, educators and your community.  Create your narrative based on what you have questioned, researched and know to be true.

We are at the tipping point.  If the narrative changes, the big bad wolf will become less powerful.  We are many.  They are few.  Fill your tool belt, join hands with your neighbors and act now.

Monday, September 12, 2011

United Opt Out: Action for Week of September 11th - Sharing Parent Flyer

Our action at United Opt Out for the week of September 11th is to become familiar with the parent flyer listed here, at our website and on our Facebook group page – and then share it with ten or more people (Facebook, email and/or print out). We need to be able to articulate the reasons for opting out as people begin to ask us WHY? The current narrative MUST be changed. High stakes testing destroys childhood, destroys public schools, and violates our constitutional rights. In order to change the narrative, we must understand it and articulate it with conviction. Share the flyer. Spread the word. And do not forget our long term goal for September – we need petitions on opting out for EVERY STATE. We can not sit back and watch as America’s children suffer. See parent flyer attached here. Thanks everyone!
Parent Flyer

Sunday, September 4, 2011

United Opt Out National: Action for week of Sept 4, 2011 - Petition Writing

Good morning everyone! Our action for this week is petition writing. We would like a petition for each state which allows the people in your state to declare that they will opt out of high stakes testing. Remember that there are multiple ways to opt out.

Of course, the slam dunk is opting out of the state test. However, we can also opt out by changing the narrative as we talk to neighbors, politicians, and civic organizations. We can opt out by making our opinion know in creative ways – bumper stickers, t-shirts, community art projects. We can opt out by breaking the cycle – questioning, challenging and meeting with groups. We can opt out by sharing alternatives – sharing research showing what works (,, collaborating with public school classrooms that support our beliefs successfully, and more.

Please use the resources here at our website ( to assist you in writing your petition – a quick petition can be written by looking at the link for the parent flyer and the link called “what does it mean to opt out.” And of course you can include specific information for your state to support parents who are directly planning to opt out of the state test. We will post sample petitions here on our facebook page docs asap. Let us know if you need help!

There are multiple ways to opt out. Declare that we are doing it. Start your petition today and post the link here once it is written. It’s possible that we might get doubles or triples for states, so claim your petition now by letting us know you plan to write one at our facebook group site OPT OUT OF THE STATE TEST:  The National Movement.  Thanks everyone!!! Share your petition – spread the word – opt out!!!!

Here is the link for beginning your petition.
Your title should be very brief, like a newspaper headline, but it should also communicate as specifically as possible what your petition is about.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Why Opt Out of the State Test? A Better Question Might Be...Why Opt In?

How are public school children benefiting from the state test? I don't believe they are.  The corporate reformers currently running our public education system would like us to think the test is benefiting our children.  They’d like us to think like capitalists and race our way to the top, yet, in a system of public education – which is designed to provide a whole and equitable education to ALL children – when you begin racing, the economically disadvantaged children and those with special needs get left behind, and our democracy ceases to exist.

This year Colorado is planning to spend 49.5 million dollars on state testing according to the Assessment Solutions Group.  Standardized testing does not improve student achievement.  

With high stakes testing in place across our state, it becomes necessary for teachers to teach to the test.  If we want Colorado’s kids to be good test takers, rather than creative and critical thinkers who have been exposed to art, music, PE, and more, well then, our children should take the test. Students living in areas of poverty and high need will receive a larger dose of teaching to the test than the kids in suburbia.  Why?  Simple.  Teachers and administrators dealing with high stakes attached to testing (teacher evaluation and potential school closure) are going to focus on the test in order to salvage a school or a profession. A child’s test score becomes tied to the monetary funds the school and teacher receive – so in essence, the child is working for the school and the teacher – which is a definite violation of child labor laws. 

Remember recess?  Even in suburbia it is on the decline.  Why?  There’s simply no time for it, because we are Racing to the Top – and that includes five year olds.  Recently my neighbor informed me that her kindergartener did not get recess because there was simply too much curriculum to cover. Why are kindergarteners (and other grades) missing recess?  In order to get a jump-start on that state test of course.  As a former kindergarten teacher, I can promise you that back in the day, five-year-olds spent their days in kindergarten learning to socialize and stretch their limbs and their imaginations - that was the main curriculum.  Reading, writing and math all occurred as was developmentally appropriate.  Ask Alliance for Childhood about the state test - check and see just how developmentally appropriate our common core standards (which are tied to the state test) actually are - the quick answer - not so much.  

Why are we Racing to the Top?  Did any of us ever stop to wonder?  Is it really true that our nation's test scores are in the gutter?  Sure, if you look at the scores and account for poverty.  The United States has the second highest percentage of children living in poverty in industrialized nations.  If we take the poverty card out (free and reduced lunch), and look at our international NAEP scores, suddenly, our scores are quite good.  Poverty needs to be addressed. 

So, what’s wrong with taking a test?  We all had tests growing up, right?  Yes, we did, but we did not have as many tests growing up as we do today and the stakes were not as high.  Under Race to the Top, the testing regime will include more tests. 

The CDE states, “The attributes of the new system include: statewide summative assessment for grades 3-11 to measure math and reading and writing; statewide summative assessments in science and social studies at least once in elementary, middle and high school; school readiness measurements for grades preschool through grade 2; formative instructional supports and interim assessments; the Individual Career and Academic Plan (ICAP); an 11th-grade nationally recognized college placement assessment; and that the assessments are capable of being administered online where applicable and fiscally practicable.”  Note the words “fiscally practicable.”  Based on the financial cuts our schools have taken, what is “fiscally practicable?” 

I would also question the declaration, “If it’s a good test then teaching to the test is okay.”  I can’t imagine any standardized test being “good enough” to allow all curriculum and all class time to go towards teaching to the test.  A test that is distributed state-wide, by nature, must be somewhat easy to score – therefore, multiple choice and short responses, and ultimately tests online seem to be a good fit – at the expense of real thinking, real problem solving and exploration of all concepts and ideas outside the realm of the test.  No test is good enough to use as the sole indicator of student or school success – other indicators must be included to get a true picture of a child’s needs and strengths.  Indicators should include the teacher’s evaluation of the child.  Today’s teachers can tell us more about the children in their classrooms than any state test.  

What do the CSAP scores tell us?  They tell us which children are living in poverty.  Standardized state testing is a great indicator for determining poverty areas.  However, we already know where the poverty lies and we also know just how bad it is. 

Kids Count Colorado states, “For Colorado’s kids, the effects of the Great Recession have been both immediate and far-reaching. From 2008 to 2009, the number of children living in poverty in Colorado rose by 31,000, a jump from 15 to 17 percent. Forty-seven thousand more children were living in families where no parent had regular, full-time employment.1 Median annual income for families with children dropped from $65,800 to $64,000.2 More children were likely to commit suicide or be victims of abuse or neglect. Fewer teenagers graduated high school or found jobs. Since 2008, the number of unemployed teens increased by 14,000, rising from 60 percent to 65 percent in Colorado.3 More children were likely to experience homelessness, hunger, food insecurity and obesity. These are the realities for many Colorado children of the Great Recession.”  

The state test also tells us if students are getting better at taking the test.  The test is not a one shot, here it is – poof - now it’s gone - sort of gypsy show traveling through town.  Oh no – make no mistake - it’s a David Copperfield show.  It is practiced and practiced and practiced so that it will succeed if at all possible.  CSAP rally calls fill the schools. Students are given treats to encourage and entice them to do well on the test. Unfortunately, we are not magicians.  Colorado’s children come with varying experience, ethnicities, economic levels and talents. We can practice for the test every single day of the year – but if our children have minimal access to books, food and healthcare, as well as language barriers, it is doubtful that they will perform well on the test.  

Poverty is the problem, yet no one is willing to tackle it, let alone acknowledge it.

However, we have an abundance of money to throw at tests.  Interesting isn’t it?  In a state where between 2000 and 2009, our child poverty rate was the fastest growing in the nation, we are able to feed them more tests, but unfortunately they still lack food, shelter and more.  And school budgets are cut everywhere – staff is let go, schools are closed, class sizes increase, yet…we have 49.5 million for the test???

I’m also asked, but…if our kids don’t take these tests – how will they ever perform well on the ACT or SAT?  First off, many colleges no longer require those tests.  Secondly, I believe I took the ACT and SAT, without having tests rammed down my throat my entire educational career and guess what?  I survived, and I am not a good test taker.  I think what prepared me for the test was a public education full of diverse thinking, creativity and the freedom to explore past the test.  Seriously – do we have such little faith in our children and our teachers who teach them?  

The clincher question is this one…Won’t my school lose funding if I opt my child out of the test?  

The answer is no.   Find me a school in Colorado that lost funding due to children not taking the test.  It’s important to know that not only can you opt out, but when you do, it does not count as a “zero” for the school. It counts as nonparticipatory and nothing more.  Therefore, it cannot effect the funding of your school.  It can effect the accreditation of your school, but again, find me a school in the nation that lost its accreditation due to students not participating in the test.  They don’t exist.

What you will find, nationwide, is schools that have been shut down due to low test scores.  These schools are notoriously in high need, high poverty areas.  These schools are then taken over by the private sector; charter schools move in and corporate reformers move in and fill these schools with new teachers (many without actual teaching degrees).  These schools have very loose regulations – charter folks actually move to Colorado due to our loose regulations.  For many of these schools anything goes, at the expense of children’s education – and they can exclude or include – their choice.  Charter schools are not required to allow all children entry.

I’m not okay with Colorado’s kids being reduced to a test score.  I consider the current deprivation occurring in our public schools to be abusive.  I am not okay with children being denied recess and fine arts.  I am not okay with test prep taking priority over creative and critical thinking.  

What has happened to us?  Have we become complacent?  Brainwashed?  Exhausted?  All of the above?  Are we going to just sit back and say, yes to the test?  TAKE our children.  FEED them the test and nothing more.  FEED them short answers, multiple choice and test rally calls.  Forget child development – forget that five year olds need to move, jump, run and play. Should we accept more cuts to education while hanging on to the test - at the cost of 49.5 million?

Finland, one of the top education systems in the world, would say, NO.  

 Just ask a teacher in Finland
·        where children aren’t expected to show up at school until the age of seven. 
·        where teachers are held in high esteem and respected and trusted. 
·        where teachers actually assess and evaluate students, teachers and schools. 
·        where teachers are required to have bachelor’s degrees and master’s degrees. 
·        where there are no mandated standardized tests except for one at the end of a student’s senior year in high school

Ask President Obama about his daughters’ school, where there is no mandated state standardized testing, and where, quite honestly, school sounds a lot like Finland.  

And then, think hard about what’s important, and opt out.  Quit racing to the top with the corporate reformers.  Their pockets are filling up faster and faster. They are racing and they are WINNING – not our children.  We will never get to the top because our children are dragging a boulder tied to their feet - it’s called the standardized state test. Let it go, and let our children create and grow again.  Opt out. Join us at United Opt Out National to find out how. All children have a right to a whole and equitable education in our democracy.  Let’s bring it back to them.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

United Opt Out National: Our First Action

Our first action has been posted at our Facebook group page OPT OUT OF THE STATE TEST:  The National Movement.  Join us there for support in completing the action - we have fellow writers available and support docs to boot!  While we will continue to gather information per state on opting out, make no mistake - we are not just a depository for information - we are a launch pad for action - weekly consistent action that will make it clear that we are DONE.  We are done with corporate ed. reform eating our schools alive.  We WILL spread the word. We WILL make OPTING OUT the name of the game.  Our new website is in the works UNITED OPT OUT NATIONAL

Here is our first action posted on our Facebook group page.  A new action will be posted every Saturday. 
Good morning everyone! Is your coffee in hand? Your fingers nimble and ready to type? I hope so – because today we launch our first action. Our first action will be to write op-ed pieces on WHY someone should opt out of the state test.

An op-ed is an opinion piece offering an alternate view. As we know, the current view on testing is push the test….love the test…hooray for the test…we need the test.

We represent a different view – we want to opt out of the test in order to return a whole and equitable public education to America’s children.

Check out our Op-Ed supports document. Morna has created a flyer which offers key points to discuss why someone would opt out. I have also listed Shaun's op-ed - if there are more good examples post them on the comments in this strand of conversation. Morna has also created a template for anyone who would like a jumpstart.

We would like to submit these op-eds to our local newspapers no later than September 1st at 9 p.m. eastern time. Be sure to mention our website in your piece.

If your piece is not accepted, then post it online or send it to us and we will post if for you! Alright everybody - take action!!!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Opting out of the State Test: You Can Do It.

Earlier this week I shared an opt-out letter from Ceresta Smith, a mother and National Board Certified Educator in the state of Florida, who chose to opt her child out of the state test.  I was particularly interested in learning more about Ceresta’s story because I had been told, and believed, that it was not possible to opt out of the state test in Florida.  Her story is a wake up call for all of us who have felt defeated by the current testing system or believed that our children had no choice, but, to take the test.

After reading my interview with Ceresta, please join our Facebook group:  OPT OUT OF THE STATE TEST:  The National Movement.  We plan to change the current narratives about the importance and necessity of high stakes testing. We are providing support, state by state, to help organize parents and students as they opt out of the state test and develop understandings of alternatives to high stakes testing. 

And now, please read my interview with Ceresta and share it…again and again.

What events and information led you to make the decision to opt your child out of the state test?

My initial wake-up call was when Jeb Bush's A+ Plan and NCLB introduced high stakes testing to Florida.  It was harmful in my opinion to label schools with letter grades.  They became institutions of chronic anxiety instead of institutions for genuine learning.  It worsened when I began working in an African-American low-performing school.   I realized that a great racial divide that resulted in separate and unequal schools had emerged over the years.  African-American students and educators suffered extreme forms of abuse inside their school buildings on a daily basis as they were held under "sanction." By the time RttT and Rick Scott's Students' Success Ac became a reality, my husband and my moral values could not allow for our daughter's participation in what we perceive as a manipulative tool that had very little to do with improving the quality of education. 

How did you opt your child out, and how did the school and/or community respond to this?

We submitted a letter stating that she would not participate in FCAT testing.  We listed the reasons why. We were told by an administrator that there was no such thing as opting out.  We were told that our daughter would have to sit in the testing area for more than four hours while the other children were taking the test.  She would not be able to do anything other than sit there.  I told the administrator that sounds like abuse.  Once I said that, our daughter was able to remain in a non-testing area. 

Some parents worry about the social ramifications for the child when opting out - what was you child's experience?

Our daughter was grilled by on-site administrators that encouraged her to take the test.  When she said she would not because in her opinion it was racist, they agreed to offering her the opportunity and accepting her response without further questioning or prompting.

Florida is considered a "no opt out" state by many people, yet you were able to do it.  Do you feel this could be easily accomplished in other states where parents are told they cannot opt out? If so, how?

Yes, because ultimately, they are protected, as parents, by the 1st and the 14th Amendments of the Federal Constitution.  School administrators will try to intimidate parents due to the federal and state requirements for school site participation in order to receive funding. To date, no school has had to close for lack of test participation.  In contrast, schools that don't meet the letter grade have closed due to their participation.

Many people feel that the consequences of opting out are too punitive to the schools and communities.  How would you respond to this?

Organize and take action - They have to organize and take action on policy makers and the laws that serve to do a community damage as opposed to community building.  We pay taxes, and we have to stake our claim on how that money is appropriated.  We have to file suits, file civil rights complaints, organize town halls, educate the community, push out anti-public education legislators, and most important, protect our children from participating in damaging testing.  I referenced African-Americans and the abuse factor, but I have come to realize that all of America's children are suffering under these abusive and damaging policies.  We literally have to save our children before we lose too many to chronic anxiety, depression, anorexia, dropping-out, massive cheating, and the dumbed-down syndrome.

Finally, if we do indeed drop the state standardized test, what form of testing should we use to best support teachers in assessing the needs of their students?

We need to use national testing in 4th, 8th, and once in high school to inform as to trends and to show a student's performance in relationship to his/her peers.  We have to get back to using the information to design creative and innovative ways to work with all the diversity that comes with students. Never should one assessment be expected to judge the quality of a school, the total capabilities of a student, or the effectiveness of a teacher.  Nor should they be used as a mechanism to destroy public education for the ultimate gain of monetary profit for a few. Instead, we have to accept that the classroom formal and informal assessments that come in a variety of forms are the best indicators for mastery of concepts, processes, and social growth. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

OPT OUT of State Testing (letter courtesy of Ceresta Smith)

Please use this letter..modify as needed!!!
To Whom It May Concern:
Please be advised that our child will not be participating in state standardized testing during the current school year. Furthermore, we ask that no record of this testing be part of our child's permanent file, as we do not wish our child to participate in standardized achievement testing for promotion, graduation, or school/state report cards.

We believe the following of forced, high stakes testing:
•Is not scientifically-based and fails to follow the U.S. Government’s own data on learning
•Fosters test driven education that is not meeting the individual/intellectual needs of students
•Presents a racial and economic bias that is beneficial to white middle/upper class students and detrimental to second language students, impoverished students, and students of color
•Violates the United States Constitution’s ESEA Fiscal Fairness Act
•Supports complicity of corporate interests rather than democracy based on public concerns
•Fosters coercion over cooperation with regards to federal funding for public education
•Promotes a culture of lying, cheating, and exploitation within the school community
•Has used the achievement gap to foster a “de facto” segregation that has resulted in separate and unequal education for minorities

We understand that federal law provides the parent or guardian the right of choice regarding standardized testing when such testing violates spiritual beliefs. In contrast to our spiritual beliefs, which are firmly rooted in a moral code that embraces equity and fairness, we believe such testing is not in the best interests of our child since it fosters competition instead of cooperation, contributes to separate and unequal education for minorities, and belies our child’s intellectual, creative, and problem-solving abilities, while presenting a fictitious picture as to the impact of the pedagogy provided by our child’s individual educators.
Ultimately, our state is required to provide our child with an education in a least restrictive environment that does not force us to go against our spiritual beliefs. My child should proceed to learn and develop at an individual pace following education standards that are imparted under the guidance of education professionals, not market-based reformers, who are able to provide quality pedagogy without fear of reprisal if students - who mature at vastly different levels and come from diverse backgrounds that may or may not be supportive of intellectual pursuit - do not hit the bulls’ eye of a constantly moving achievement target.

Therefore, we request that the school provide appropriate learning activities during the testing window and utilize an alternative assessment portfolio or concordant college testing score to fulfill promotion and or graduation requirements, as our child opts out of standardized testing.

Child’s Name ____________________________________________ ID#_________________________

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Fairy Tale of Fascism

I have struggled with this piece for a week.  I have struggled because my ability to be academic (provide research), follow the rules of word count (preferably 500), and rely on my expert knowledge (I took Political Science 101) to prove that fascism exists in the United States - ha - simply isn't going to happen.  I hear stories of fascism daily, yet no one calls it by name.  I don't need to prove it exists; yet, it seems as though I do.  Perhaps it simply needs an introduction.

Meet Fascism : “a governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.” 

What I do know, and rely on quite frequently, is the continued images of fairy tales I see within my life and the lives of others. If you have read my piece “Which is More Important, Wisconsin or Charlie Sheen?” you will see my fascination with fairy tales and real life – the two are inseparable.  Wisconsin is its own fairy tale, filled with conflict, heroes, villains, songs, rhymes and horrors, where we expect – and desperately hope - to see good conquer the evil of fascism.  I am still waiting for the ending and I am still cheering for the heroes in Wisconsin.

I believe that fairy tales allow us to cope, grapple and grasp the events that are occurring in the world. Bruno Bettelheim agrees. I have been observing our country mainly through written stories all year.  It is all I have access to because mainstream media offers me few visual images to further understand the reality of our country. 

Yet, the stories of  fascism abound.  I am going to share a few today and simply throw away my 500-word count, well-researched article.  I’ve defined fascism and the stories will speak for themselves.  The question that remains is the ending.  We have our setting and our characters, who are deeply immersed in the details of the conflict at hand.  We should be fearful of the villains and we should find our fortitude with grace, brilliance and passion, in order to fight what we see.  We should be strategic, smart, agile and eloquent as we move forward together.  We should ultimately regain our freedom as Americans.  I do not mean to downplay the seriousness of fascism in our country.  It is real.  It is alive.  And it is growing. 

If you are in the woods and the big bad wolf is tracking you, slowly, methodically, while you quietly gather herbs - now more quickly - as you hear the distant crack of dead tree limbs on the forest floor behind you, do not run, but slowly look back.  Regain your senses, determine your plan of action and wade across that creek ever so quietly and head home without leaving a scent.  Do not ignore, as this is why the big bad wolf currently grins.  Pay heed.  Return with the strength of your friends, family and community and send the big bad wolf packing.  I would like a happy ending and I would like to go home to America.

These fascist dictators exist in different forms: national standards, politicians, superintendents, chancellors, mayoral control, emergency financial managers, education corporate reformers, and laws used and abused, thanks to think tanks like ALEC.  Misuse of money has allowed fascism to grow by leaps and bounds in our country.

Here are a few stories I have heard in the last few months, which create images of fascism in our country. 

There is the fascist manager, also know as the Emergency Financial Manager. This character has ultimate power. Michigan Messenger states, “Those powers include the ability to nullify collective bargained agreements, imposition of new agreements for those bargaining units which will have effect for as much as five years after the EMF leaves office and the ability for the manager to dissolve local governing bodies of schools and cities. The EMF would also have the power to eliminate any local ordinance or law he or she decides to eliminate.”   

Robert Bobb is the Emergency Financial Manager of Detroit.  He says, ever so powerfully, “If you have the club, you don't have to use it, but you know the time when to use it."  Four cities in Michigan currently have Emergency Financial Managers.

There is Senator Summerville from Tennessee who has plans for education reform.  While standing on the Senate floor he spews venom into the air as he says, “We will bend public education to our awe, or break it all to pieces.

There is the professor in Wisconsin, William Cronon, who was able to reveal, quite successfully, how the G.O.P. and dictators, such as Walker, are able to write bill after bill after bill, using think tanks such as ALEC to support them in figuring out ways to decrease the power of the middle class and take away services for the needy and the poor.  These bills also keep us busy and often distracted, as we build our house with wood, only to see it get blown down.  We can no longer be distracted.  After Cronon revealed the inner workings of the G.O.P., the republicans held up their mighty sword and requested all of Cronon’s emails under the open record law.

Cronon says in regard to the open records request by Stephan Thompson of the Wisconsin Republican Party, “his open records request seems designed to give him what he hopes will be ammunition he can use to embarrass, undermine, and ultimately silence me.”

We have the common core standards, which were passed practically in the dead of night, while many Americans slept, blissful and unaware of the immense, all encompassing power that these standards could inflict upon our children and our country.  States were softly stroked and offered money, under Race to the Top, in return for accepting the standards, which many did.  Some states accepted the standards in hopes of receiving money, and were instead rejected, left penniless and caged with Hansel.  

Joanne Weiss states, “…the adoption of common standards and shared assessments means that education entrepreneurs will enjoy national markets where the best products can be taken to scale.”  There is money to be made in the land of public education. Education corporate reformers are not here to save the day; they are here to gather gold. This is corporate fascism at its best, devouring the land of equal educational opportunity for all; widening the divide between the rich and the poor. This tale has no ending and the greed grows like The Fisherman and His Wife.

The parents of Seattle recently said something that caught my breath.  They have gathered together to oppose the hiring of 50 Teach for America recruits.  They want their children to be taught by experienced, certified teachers, not teachers with five weeks training who work for cheap.

The parents say, “These are our children. They can’t protect themselves from the whims of the extraordinarily wealthy. They depend on us for that.”  They end with,  “So, we are saying to Bill Gates, Eli Broad, and the rest of the Billionaire Boys. You can’t have our children, and you’ve had just about enough of our money.”

You cannot have our children.  Yet, Rumpelstiltskin is still dancing around the fire.

The gold overflows within the TFA program.  The parents of Seattle are questioning what TFA does “with the hundreds of millions of dollars it collects from donors and taxpayers.”  They say, “We do know that not one cent of TFA money reaches the classroom in the form of equipment, supplies, programs, or projects for kids.”

There is the evil witch, Rhee, who sweeps the broom with such glee and says, “I think if there is one thing I have learned over the last 15 months, it’s that cooperation, collaboration and consensus-building are way overrated.”

We also have heroes and we must pay close attention to their strategies and their noble actions. We must follow their positive lead in order to defeat the fascism that is devouring our Democracy.

I will end with my favorite image of the Democrats in Wisconsin, who moved their desks out windows and onto the Capitol lawn because Dictator Walker illegally blocked access to the Capitol.  Promise me you will click on the link to see the picture of the Democratic Representative from Wisconsin leaning forward, ever so earnestly,  across his desk, as he speaks to a fellow American. The heavy wooden desk sits on the front lawn of the Capitol with the American flag on one side and the Wisconsin flag on the other. If you look in the top right hand corner of the picture you will see the sun, shining down, ever so brightly, on these heroes.  But please don’t smile, close the book and go to sleep, as tempting as it might be.  Please turn to your neighbors, your schools and your communities and get organized to create positive change in our country. And ask yourself, why wasn't this fairy tale shared on every TV channel in our country?

This story is far from over and we will all create the ending, whether we sit and ignore or whether we stand up and take positive action.  Fortitude is a characteristic needed to be a hero.  Fortitude is “mental and emotional strength in facing difficulty, adversity, danger, or temptation courageously.”  Our voices have a right to be heard; this is America.

Advocates of America’s children are organizing the Save our Schools March this summer in Washington D.C., July 28-30; everyone is welcome – students, teachers, parents, community members – please come and stand with us to Save our Schools in D.C. or in your local community. 

The future of America’s children is in jeopardy, and we demand a happy ending.  With fortitude, we demand a Democracy.