Thursday, May 10, 2012

Deb Meier's latest

Deb Meier
In her latest post on her Bridging Differences blog, ("The Left Wing of the Possible") Deborah Meier poses the question to Diane Ravitch: "How best to fight back?"

There are many ways, says Deb. She gives two examples of vehicles for starting and re-framing the national discussion around education, a discussion that so far, both political parties have been trying to avoid. The Democrats appear caught between their DFER hedge-fund reform wing on one side and the two large teacher unions with their millions of voting members on the other. The Republicans seem to have only only two points in their platform, cut taxes and bust the unions.

Deb, who is an elected member of the Save Our Schools (SOS) national steering committee offers this as her first example:
SOS (Save Our Schools) is holding a "People's Convention" Aug. 3-5 at the Marriott Wardman Park hotel in Washington D.C. Our plan? To come together around a small list of actionable planks—ones we wish the two political party conventions would adopt. We're not pretending they will, but we are also not claiming they couldn't. Our purpose: To begin to outline what the "other way" might involve if we turned away from No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, our standardized testing obsession and, above all, the gradual privatization of the American public education experiment.
Her second example is a Manifesto drafted by members of the North Dakota Study Group. Writes Deb:
Started in 1972 by Vito Perrone, the NDSG has met every year since. Brenda Engel, a retired Lesley College faculty member, was there at the start. She volunteered to put together a draft manifesto representing our priorities. After lots of back and forth, it is now available for public comment:
In recent weeks several local organizations, including the Chicago-based group of academics and researchers called CReATE, a group of 1460 N.Y. principals, and the March 30th Open Letter to the New York State Regents from New York State Professors Against High Stakes Testing, have all issued similar statements critical of current education policies. Most focus on opposition to the misuse of testing in school and teacher evaluation. Others hit at corporate reform policies of privatization of public schools and the erosion of public decision making, exemplified by the attack on union rights, vouchers and charter schools, and the re-segregation of public schools.

As the lead paragraph of the NDSG Manifesto describes it:
 Many of our country's enduring dilemmas are the products of inequalities in power and wealth created by social class, race, culture, and sexism. Challenges exist inside and outside the education system. Although the society has made visible historic progress on many fronts, our nation's most pressing educational problem remains the opportunity gap between the children of the haves and those of the have-nots; this gap has grown with the mounting social inequality of the last 40 years. 
 With all that said and written, now comes the really difficult part. How can we begin to unite this locally-based and fragmented movement around some of these basic, common, democratic ideals and images of schooling? And how can we use whatever interest is generated by the upcoming national elections to create new possibilities for change?

More on this to come. 


  1. The far-flung nature of the SOS community cries out for a unified space for people to keep encouraging other. The ITNU space we've created here in Illinois actually seems like just the thing for SOS. I'm not sure ITNU is going to thrive; it might. But I think SOS will thrive--- make an online space for it.

  2. Over the past few years I have made several abortive attempts to develop a unified space for the many groups to come together to discuss issues, share resources, and develop strategies. None has really taken off because people seem to be entrenched in their own territory and fear losing control(?), prestige(?), or whatever or I just haven't hit on the right format yet. Two of my attempts are still alive, one on Facebook at Public Schools: Seeking Common Ground and the other is on the Forum at Dump Duncan The latter is the most active right now with several discussions taking place on CCSS, charter schools, high-stakes testing, and guerilla strategies. All are leaderless group format. We are planning a more secure discussion format for those who do not want their participation to be made public and for sensitive topics that should not be open to the general public. Bob Valiant

  3. Thanks for your heroic efforts, Tim and Bob. The SOS Convention this summer would be a great place for you to do workshops on media and the common ground. Hope to see both of you there. Let me know if you are interested.

  4. ReTiredbutMisstheKidsMay 12, 2012 at 6:02 PM

    You know, having taught for 35 years, I would have to say that the crux of the problem is standardized testing. NCLB devolved (yes, I DO mean devolved & not evolved) into RttT via more & more poorly designed (& scored) tests, all under the money monster Pearson. The billions of dollars Pearson is getting from the states for tests, test preps, scoring & now texts has drained all of that money from & thus dehydrated public schools. Not to mention the sad story of the loss of educational creativity for students. The entire scourge of school closings was predicated (&, of course, continues thus)upon high-stakes test scores. To put it simply, the many-headed monster here, is:

    1. Costs of tests & materials starving our schools
    monetarily leading to

    2. More poorly equipped/funded schools (& most likely
    those in low-income areas suffer the greatest losses)
    leading to

    3. Less programs--school libraries, staff cutbacks,etc,
    leading to

    4. Larger classes, less programs, less help for children,
    less I.D. of kids who need special ed., leading to

    5. Less effective teaching & poorer school environment
    leading to

    6. Poor (or decrease in) test scores leading to

    7. School closures, as based on test scores.

    I could go through a whole list about pressures (teacher)
    being passed on to students, but that would be an additional
    list! In any case, United OptOut has a great website & petition, & should definitely work with S.O.S. this summer to STOP THE TESTING! (Especially for special ed. kids--whether or not they should take these tests should not be blanket for the disability determined, but should be determined by the I.E.P. Team {which includes the parents!!})


Agree? Disagree? Let me hear from you.