"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

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Teachers try to Educate Duncan

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Annual Meeting took place earlier this month in Seattle. And it just happened that Secretary of Education Duncan was also in Seattle at the same time.

Some of the AFT teachers, along with teachers from Seattle, went to the location of Duncan's speech in order to picket the Secretary with signs such as "Race to the Top: First place business, last place students."

The speech organizers convinced the picketers to meet with Duncan in exchange for good behavior during the speech. Jesse Hagopian, a laid-off Seattle Public Schools teacher wrote about the meeting. His article was printed and reprinted. I caught up with it at Schools Matter.

Clueless in Seattle

The Secretary and the teachers met and exchanged comments...
A study by the University of Chicago's Consortium on Chicago School Research released in October 2009 examined the academic effects of the closings on students at 18 elementary schools shut down between 2001 and 2006. The study concluded that the vast majority of students went from one low-performing school to another, with no achievement gains--and in fact, even saw temporary decreases in test scores during the stressful period when the announcement of their school being slated for closing was made.
Moreover, a massive study by Stanford University, looking at data covering some 70 percent of all charter school students nationally, found that bad charter schools outnumber good ones by a ratio of roughly 2 to 1--and an astonishing 83 percent of charter schools were either no better, or worse than, traditional public schools.
ONE TEACHER from Detroit opened our meeting with Arne by summarizing the results of our "pre-assessment," saying, "What you are doing is stepping up privatization, charterization, and segregation and inequality...and you know that."
Secretary Duncan tried to respond but he was unprepared. My question -- how much does he really know about the public schools in the United States? We know that he has never taught in a public school classroom -- has never even attended a public school.

Some of his comments:
There is nothing inherently good or bad about charters...
To be clear, we [the Department of Education] want curriculum to be driven by the local level, pushing that. We are by law prohibited from directing curriculum. We don't have a curriculum department.
No one is mandating merit pay (but he admitted he supported merit pay).
Mr Hagopian summarized...
While Arne's performance during our lesson was disappointing, none of us educators were surprised, given his chronic absenteeism from the realm of pedagogy. As a spokesperson for Arne recently admitted to the media, his only instructional experience came as a youngster when "his mother ran an after-school program for underprivileged kids in a church basement, and he was both a student there and a tutor."
Parents: Don't let Arne close your child's school. If the federal government can bail out the banks and find the money to bomb children in Afghanistan, then we know there is enough money to build a world-class education system in your neighborhood. Demonstrate and speak out for the funding your school deserves rather than let it be shut down or privatized.
Students: You are not a number generated by a Scantron machine. You are a passionate, creative young person who can change the world. Refuse to be categorized solely by a test score and demand an education that speaks to who you are and what is important to your community.
Teachers: Unions brought us the weekend. They are indispensable, don't let Arne bust your union. Fight to make your union stronger. Replicate the success of the Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators in Chicago--the reform caucus newly elected to run the Chicago Teachers Union--with its vision of social justice education and social movement unionism in unflinching opposition to those who would seek to profit off of the public schools.
Click here...it's worth reading the whole thing.

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