"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be...nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe." – Thomas Jefferson

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Education Action-Jonathan Kozol

An Update, Bulletin, and Manifesto to the Education Activists who have asked me: Where do we go next?
June 16, 2006
Dear

This is to report that, at long last, the network of activists in education that I've been assembling from the thousands of teachers and advocates for children who turned out for massive rallies while I was on that grueling six-month book-tour for The Shame of the Nation as well as the many local groups of teachers organized to fight racism and inequality and the murderous impact of the NCLB legislation is now up and running.
We're using the name Education Action and will soon set up a website but, for now, I hope that you'll feel free to contact us at our e-mail, EducationActionInfo@gmail.com
By the start of August, we'll be operating out of a house we've purchased for this purpose (16 Lowell St, Cambridge, MA 02138) in which we hope to gather groups of teachers, activists, especially the leaders of these groups, for strategy sessions in which we can link our efforts with the goal of mobilizing educators to resist the testing mania and directly challenge Congress, possibly by a march on Washington, at the time when NCLB comes up for reauthorization in 2007.
We are already in contact with our close friends at Rethinking Schools, with dozens of local action groups like Teachers for Social Justice in San Francisco, with dynamic African-American religious groups that share our goals, with activist white denominations, and with some of the NEA and AFT affiliates in particular, the activist caucuses within both unions such as those in Oakland, Miami, and Los Angeles. But we want to extend these contacts rapidly in order to create what one of our friends who is the leader of a major union local calls a massive wave of noncompliance.
My close co-worker, Nayad Abrahamian, who is based in Cambridge, will be the contact person for this mobilizing effort, along with Rachel Becker, Erin Osborne, and a group of other activists and educators who are determined that we turn the growing, but too often muted and frustrated discontent with NCLB and the racist policies and privatizing forces that are threatening the very soul of public education into a series of national actions that are explicitly political in the same tradition as the civil rights upheavals of the early 1960s.
We want to pull in youth affiliates as well and are working with high school kids and countless college groups that are burning with a sense of shame and indignation at the stupid and destructive education policies of state and federal autocrats. We want the passionate voices of these young folks to be heard. College students tell us they are tired of so many feel-good conferences where everyone wrings their hands about injustice but offers them nothing more than risk-free service projects? that cannot affect the sources of injustice. They've asked us for a mobilizing focus that can unify their isolated efforts. We are writing to you now to ask for your suggestions as to how we ought to give a realistic answer to these students.
IMPORTANT: When I say we're 'up and running,' I mean that Education Action, as a framework and an organizing structure for our efforts, is in place. I do not mean that our goals and strategies are set in stone. We are still wide-open to proposals from you, and other organizational leaders we're in touch with, to rethink our plans according to your own experience and judgment. We'd also like to broaden our initial organizing structure by asking if you'll serve, to the degree that's possible for you, as part of our national board of organizers and advisors. We don't want to duplicate the efforts strong groups are already making. And the last thing on our minds is to compete with any group already in existence.? (Political struggles ever since the 1960s have been plagued with problems based on turf mentality. We want to be certain to avoid this.)
Tell us how you feel about our plans and how you think they ought to be expanded or improved. How closely can we link our efforts with your own? Do you believe that NCLB can be stopped, or at least dramatically contested, by the methods we propose?
Let us hear from you! We want to be in touch.

In the struggle,

Jonathan Kozol for Education Action

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Read the Declaration of Independence From High Stakes Testing


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No Child Left Behind is leaving thousands of children behind!
Dismantle NCLB!
Sign the petition by clicking on the link on the side.
More than 29,000 signatures so far...

Monday, May 7, 2007

JA

JA is one of my students.

He is the "poster-child" for ADHD at our school. He is completely incapable of controlling the speed of his movements, his impulses, the focus of his attention or his vocal output.

A typical session in my room includes JA doing the following types of things:

- falling off his chair
- standing up, sitting down, moving or more precisely, rolling his chair around with his legs, or hands
- grabbing things off my desk or table to look at them
- taking things and going somewhere else in the room (e.g. picking up a pencil which is not being used and going to sharpen it)
- tearing a book while reading it because of constant movement
- inability to write legibly because of the inability to stop moving long enough to write a legible letter
- constant chatter usually unrelated to what we were supposed to be doing
- frequent interruptions

The writing is the most interesting. When he writes he pauses before each letter, then moves at the paper like a frog's tongue shooting out to snatch a fly. When the tip of the pencil hits the paper the letter is formed virtually instantaneously, and then he pulls it back. Sometimes he can write a few letters or even a word before he pulls his hand away for another attack. The only way he can write slowly and relatively neatly is if he uses a pencil grip and holds the pencil with a grip strong enough to break a bone.

If I mention something in my room, he is up and at it before my sentence is ended. On Tuesday, for example, I mentioned that my book bag was heavy, since he had been talking about how heavy his was. Before I could stop him, he ran behind my desk, dragging my book bag out into the room and saying something like "You mean this book bag?"

His parents are of the "I'm not going to give my kids any drugs" type. Not that medications are the answer to every problem, but they can help him slow down enough to learn.

I can't really fathom how his classroom teacher survives the day with him, though I know I did it when I had kids like him in my class.

I must be getting old. By the time he goes back to his room I am exhausted.
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No Child Left Behind is leaving thousands of children behind!
Dismantle NCLB!
Sign the petition by clicking on the link on the side.
More than 29,000 signatures so far...

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Abusing Special Education Students

When NCLB passed in 2002 one of its provisions was supposed to prevent academically disabled children from "falling behind." Since that time about 90% of all special education students have been required to pass standardized high-stakes tests at the same rate that other students. Millions of special education students have suffered the humiliation of repeated failures over the last 5 years. Nothing in the law provides the help or strategies needed to make it possible for these students to pass "the test."

Recently, Margaret Spellings, the US DOE Secretary of Education, has finally acknowledged how insane this is by reducing the number of special education students who will have to pass the high-stakes tests to 70%.

So, instead of most of 90% of students who are enrolled in special education programs across the country failing once again, we will have most of 70% of students who are enrolled in special education programs across the country failing again.

What seems to be missing from the NCLB formula is that students are in special education for a reason. If a 6th grade child is reading at a 2nd grade level does it make sense to test him on a 6th grade reading test? If the child is a special education student the tests have already been done and the child has been placed in a program where he can achieve at his own level at his own pace. The standardized high-stakes tests will do nothing more than affirm that he is, indeed, learning disabled.

It's time to take back the IEPs. Instead of writing education plans which call for a futile attempt to get kids to pass a test, let's write IEPs which identify a student's weaknesses, instruct that child at a level at which he can learn, and measure his growth.

Screw the tests...