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.