Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Help Build October 7th Rally and Concert to Defend Public Education!

Meeting to plan mobilization for Oct 7
 (National Day of Action to Defend Public Education)
SATURDAY, October 2nd
11am - 1pm

Midtown Global Market
(Lake St and Elliot Ave, a block from Chicago Ave)
Southeast corner inside market by quiet seats near Ay Caramba Restaurant
Joint Meeting of Public Education Justice Alliance of MN(PEJAM) and Education Action Coalition(EAC)
Help spread the word on facebook

PEJAM supporters,

Thank you all for coming last Saturday to the PEJAM forum on Minneapolis Public Education in Crisis at the Walker Library in Uptown. We had a great discussion on the education crisis from a national and local perspective, particularly on the danger of North High closing due to the two new charter schools set to open next year. We also highlighted the National Day of Action to Defend Public Education on October 7th.

There is a city-wide rally planned for 5pm at MCTC(Minneapolis Community Technical College) and a Concert in Loring Park from 6pm - 9pm. Concert line up includes Guante, Junkyard Empire, Fresh Squeeze, Poetic Assassins and others. Let's make October 7th an inspiring solidarity building event. Let's say no to the budget cuts, school closures, privatization and all the corporate "reform" model that is being pushed down our throats by every major politician and media figure.

To make that happen, WE NEED ALL HANDS ON DECK. The best place to start is to come to the Saturday meeting at 11am(details above) where we will put together a plan for final week blitz of leafletting, postering, facebook, email and other internet mobilization, word of mouth and more,

Building for October 7th is not just about Oct 7 alone but a useful tool to build allies and supporters for the long haul. Let's make it happen!

Suicide of LA teacher sparks renewed push against test-score ranking system for educators

By CHRISTINA HOAG , Associated Press  Last update: September 28, 2010 - 1:04 PM
(from Star Tribune)

SOUTH GATE, Calif. - The Los Angeles Times should remove teacher performance ratings from its website after the apparent suicide of a teacher despondent over his score, the union representing Los Angeles school teachers said.
United Teachers Los Angeles also has asked school administrators to join with them in the request to the newspaper, which published the ratings last month, union president AJ Duffy said.
The body of 39-year-old Rigoberto Ruelas Jr., a fifth-grade teacher at Miramonte Elementary School, was found Sunday at the foot of a remote forest bridge in what appears to be a suicide.

9th Circuit finds Calif calls interns `highly qualified' teachers, dumps them on poor schools

Last update: September 28, 2010 - 3:01 PM

SAN FRANCISCO - A federal appeals court has ruled that California illegally classified interns as "highly qualified" teachers and assigned them to schools in low-income and minority areas.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday in favor of poor families who claimed the state was dumping uncredentialed teachers on their schools.

A Bush administration policy adopted by a California commission held that interns on track to receive teaching certification could count as "highly qualified."

The court found that those policies violated the federal No Child Left Behind law, which requires teachers to have full state certification to teach core subjects.

Evidence cited by the court showed 62 percent of the interns teach in the poorest half of California schools.

New York education activists mount vigorous response to anti-teacher pro-privatization propaganda film "Waiting for Superman"

A collection of articles and blog posts from the Grassroots Education Movement(New York) on the new documentary "Waiting for Superman". This is a documentary that is being heralded by all the corporate education reformers who have an interest in dismantling public education using charter schools as the leading edge. GEM-NY is a similar group to PEJAM with similar goals. Hats of to GEM-NY for a vigorous response to this piece of corporate propaganda. The movie starts playing in Uptown Theater in Minneapolis this Friday, Oct 1st. We should take a page out of GEM-NY and plan a response soon!

Protesting teachers give 'Waiting for Superman' an 'F'

Last Updated: 4:32 PM, September 25, 2010
Posted: 2:12 AM, September 25, 2010

About 50 public-school teachers and parents of students -- some dressed in Superman costumes -- raged against "Waiting for 'Superman' " before a sold-out screening on the Upper West Side last night.
"This is a corporate movie backed by Bill Gates, and it's just complete nonsense," said Julie Woodward, 63, a public-school teacher for 23 years who is currently teaching health in a Bronx high school.
"There is no teacher voice in the film," she said outside Loews Lincoln Square. "The bottom line is that it's all about class size."

Organized under the Grassroots Education Movement, a group that advocates for student rights, the teachers had "RR," which stood for "Real Reformers," emblazoned on their capes.
They held signs that read, "Stop privatization of public education!" and "Waiting for Superman: Teacher-Bashing, Union-Busting Operation."
"We're dressed as Superman because the work of a public-school teacher in New York is superhuman," said Sam Coleman, 36, who teaches third grade.
The costume show was accompanied by mock lyrics to an Eminem beat: "'Cause we the reformers, yes the real reformers, all you other deformers are just speculating, so won't the real reformers please stand up!"
Aida Diaz, 35, a home-help aide, has a 6-year-old autistic child. She said PS 15 has gone "above and beyond" when helping her son, Daniel Castro.
"They match him with classes that he does well in," she said. "And the results are tangible. He would never be given a chance in charter schools because of his condition."
Organizers insisted that the United Federation of Teachers was not behind the rally.
"We have not asked them to be involved," said Norm Scott, a former union member and organizer of GEM.
"This is just a misleading movie. In the movie, they admit a small percentage of charters are doing well, and I can show you that the same or a higher percentage of public schools are doing well with no hedge-fund money and no private support."

Teachers Protest 'Waiting for Superman'

Updated: Friday, 24 Sep 2010, 10:17 PM EDT
Published : Friday, 24 Sep 2010, 10:17 PM EDT

MYFOXNY.COM - Along with the films being shown inside a movie theatre in Manhattan, another show unfolded outside: Public school teachers, parents of students, and others protested the film "Waiting for Superman."

The documentary has stirred up debate. The director follows five children -- four of whom attend unsuccessful public schools. They're hoping to get into a charter school, including ones in Harlem.
Geoffrey Canada, who runs Harlem Children's Zone, is featured in the documentary.
At the protest, critics of the film squared off with charter school supporters. More than 100 public school supporters gathered outside this theater on the Upper West Side.
In Harlem, Eva Moskowitz, CEO of Success Charter Network, was at the office, working on creating more charter schools.
If you go to see the film "Waiting for Superman," don't be surprised if you see a person or two or more outside handing out pamphlets and protesting the movie.

Still Waiting

by RR (Real Reformer)
Sept. 22, 2010
I had the opportunity to attend an advanced screening of “Waiting for Superman” tonight. I fully expected to be nauseated by what I perceived to be corporate-backed propaganda, with the predictable message of teacher unions as the villain and so-called reformers as heroes. The film’s premise and claims are uninformed and drastically miss the boat in terms of creating a narrative regarding the real issues our public school system faces. Further, the film completely neglects to engage in any meaningful discussion of the real reforms needed to improve educational opportunity for our children.
Some highlights (or lowlights if you will)…
Claims vs. Truth
Claim: “We know that it is possible to give every child a great education,” (based on the success of charter schools).
Truth: Charters in general, and in particular the ones featured in this film, sort and select students, serve far less ELL students, students receiving special education services, and students who qualify for reduced and free lunch compared with their neighboring public schools. The truth is, charters do not outperform public schools, even with every advantage, including smaller student to teacher ratios, the ability to discharge students at will, and increased autonomy.
Claim: “There is usually only one mainstream school in every school district in America that is above average.”
Truth: I do not presume to know the stats on this, but the claim is completely unsupported in the film and would venture to say untrue. As a perfect example, District 15 in Brooklyn has many schools that are above average.
Claim: “If you don’t go to college, you are screwed in America.”
Truth: One of the purveyors of this claim in the film is Bill Gates who says we cannot have American innovation without our kids going to college. This from one of the most significant innovators of our time, who, that’s right, didn’t get a college degree.
Claim: “KIPP schools are better schools because they won’t let kids fail.” “You can’t argue with KIPP’s data.”
Truth: KIPP students and parents sign a “Contract for Excellence” and if the contract is not followed, they can be dismissed from the school.
Claim: “Even progressive educators believed that the achievement gaps in our education system could not be closed.”
Truth: As a progressive educator, I am horrified by this claim made as a general and factual statement, and can personally attest that it is untrue.
Claim: “Kids that go to charter schools (featured in this film I believe is the context) do not just do better than poor kids, they do better than everyone.”
Truth: Some charter schools do better than public schools, some do worse, the majority, do the same.
Claim: “If we replace bad teachers with average teachers we can catch up to Finland in just a few years.” “Unions are a menace and an impediment to reform.” “Teacher union contracts say you can’t fire them.” “Good teachers teach 150% of curriculum in a year, bad teachers only teach 50% of curriculum in a year.” “Teachers get tenure if they just breathe.” “It should be simple, put teachers in a school house where they fill children’s heads with knowledge, but we have made it more complicated.”
Truth: The simple blame game, painting teachers and teacher unions as villains is a completely unsupported claim. Virginia, a right to work state, has some of the worst educational outcomes in the country. Finland, touted with some of the best educational outcomes in the film, is a pro-union system. Teachers do matter, but their tenure is not decided by them, it is decided by principals. Teachers do matter, but we do not write the standards, curriculum, and tests. Teachers do matter, but we live in a climate of extreme external pressure that prevents us from actually teaching.
Teachers do matter, but so do parents, principals, education officials, economic opportunity, school and community programs. The list goes on and on. The fact is, the vast majority of teachers are good teachers, who work hard, and whose ability to speak out with parents and advocate for children is protected only by their tenure. Imagine a system where teachers could not advocate with parents for children!
There are many more claims I could refute in the film, but this has already served as a spoiler for anyone who actually wants to see the film, and frankly, I’m tired.
I taught all day, met after school with parents and educators working on an initiative for our school, and then went and saw a film that basically said: ‘Teachers and their unions bad. Charters good.’ I’ve had enough for one day!
I will end this with one final note…
One of the children in the movie, the story I found to be most touching and compelling, lived with his grandparents, never really knew his mother, and his father died at a young age because of drugs. The tenderness of this child, the wisdom he shared well beyond his years, and the hopes he has for his time at SEED ( he dramatically finds out he has been accepted at the very end of the film after being on a waiting list), quite literally moved me to tears. One of the last scenes in the film is him on his bunk bed at SEED; he leans over, and tacks up a picture of him with his father from years ago.
I have known countless children who share his story, I have had the privilege to teach many, to love them all, and one of them, who I’ll call Junior (who is now nineteen), came to visit me last week. At first he talked about how he was looking for a college to go to. He clearly wanted me to be proud of him. But then put his head in his hands and said, “I can’t lie to you, you was my best teacher, I dropped out of school before I finished.”
My heart sank. All of the deformer attacks on teachers rushed through my mind. Does this make me a bad teacher? Through my tear filled eyes, I asked him why. He told me that his parents had been in and out of jail, on and off drugs, and in and out of shelters from the time he left me in fifth grade. He explained that it became too difficult to keep up. He said he had been waiting for a transfer from a high school in the Bronx. He waited for the DOE to take care of his paperwork for two months, and eventually he gave up. I checked with a few contacts, found him a program that will support him with getting his GED and job training, and reminded him, as I do with all of my students, that I am always here, whenever and if ever you need me.
I have worked in one of the neediest communities in Brooklyn for over ten years as a teacher of children with learning differences. I have students in jail. Students I have never heard from again. Students who come to see me regularly. Students who got scholarships to private schools. Students who scored high on tests. Students who scored low. Students who are tickled with their job pushing shopping carts at a local store. Students who shed their special education label and navigate or navigated their way through general education programs.
What is the measure of my success as an educator? Is my worth narrowly tied to student outcomes like test scores and graduation rates? Is an educator only successful, if his/her students are successful? What is the definition of successful? Junior may not be a success in the so-called reformers eyes, but given the insurmountable odds he has faced and the countless adults who have disappointed him in his life, the fact that he found me again after all of this years and felt safe enough to tell me the truth, to make himself vulnerable, and to ask for help to improve his life highlights the narrow lens with which this film, and we as a people, view education in our society.
It’s complicated. There are no easy answers. Charters are not a panacea. Teachers and their unions are not villains, nor are we superheroes. It is true Junior is a “drop-out”, but I do not consider him to be a failure, nor do I consider myself to be a failure. As a teacher, there are many factors I cannot control. While I cannot be superman, my students have shown me year after year that to the vast majority of them I am their hero, and they are mine. That is all the ‘data’ I need.
If we want to begin to have a real dialogue about real reform, we must address the economic benefits for some that come by excluding large portions of our population from economic access via equitable educational opportunities. If I believed for one second that the current reform agenda held the promise of equalizing educational opportunities for all, I would embrace it, and would be the first standing on the front lines fighting for it. Instead I find myself firmly planted on the other side; the side of real reform with the belief that we can have great community public schools for ALL children if only we stopped waiting and started taking authentic action. We allocate on average $33,000 a year per prison inmate while we allocate an average of $9,000 a year per pupil in our public schools. Something is gravely wrong with these numbers. If we can hold teachers accountable to data, shouldn’t we hold our policy makers to the same standard? It is time to take the long view. Will the Real Reformers please stand up?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Minneapolis Public Education in Crisis - Panel Discussion on privatization, budget cuts, school closures, and building a movement to reclaim our schools

Saturday, Sept. 25th, 3pm - 5pm
Walker Library Meeting Room

2880 Hennepin Ave. S, Minneapolis
--- spread the word --- facebook event here
* Robert Panning-Miller, Minneapolis Federation of Teachers Executive Board member, South High teacher, founding member of Public Education Justice Alliance of Minnesota (PEJAM)
* Kale Severson, President of North High Alumni Association, activist with campaign to save North High school
* Erin Dyke, organizer with Twin Cities Experimental College, facilitator of EXCO class: "School Choice, Charter Schools, and Minneapolis: Exploring the Privatization and Marketization of Schooling in Our City"
* Teddy Shibabaw, organizer with Socialist Alternative and Public Education Justice Alliance of Minnesota (PEJAM)

To students, parents, teachers and all who care about defending and transforming public education:

Public Education Justice Alliance of Minnesota (PEJAM) is hosting our first public forum. At the forefront of our focus right now is the threat of closure that North High is facing due to two new charter schools that the Board of Education already approved quietly with almost no input from the Twin Cities community. If no one fights to stop them, the first of the new charters will open in North Minneapolis in the fall of 2011. The new charters are expected to swallow up 10% of the public school population. North High has already dwindled in population with less than 300 students, due to years of underfunding and neglect. These new charters are not only a threat to North High, but will also seriously encroach on the South Minneapolis schools, taking the per student public funding.

Come to the meeting to help us build a campaign to draw a line in the sand against the dismantling and privatization of public education.

Our panel will explore the impact of budget cuts and the expansion of charters in Minneapolis and nationally on the quality of education. Obama’s aggressive program of education reform, including “Race to the Top” has been widely denounced by teachers unions, the NAACP, Urban League, and others. But how can teachers, students, and parents challenge the steady re-segregation and privatization of our public schools? We will finish the meeting with a discussion on ideas for action, including mobilizing for city-wide demonstrations and a concert in Loring Park on October 7th, a National Day of Action to Defend Public Education.

Join our Facebook event page - HELP SPREAD THE WORD!

For more information, check out our blog:

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Corporate-School Reform VS Democracy Is Still the Issue in DC's November Election

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
The mostly black District of Columbia has been run like a plantation, a colony for as long as anybody can recall. Habitual defiance of the democratic will of DC voters and residents is safe for Congress, where DC has neither a vote nor an effective voice. But DC' mayor was booted out after a single term for a series of sins, the biggest of which was his embrace of top-down, undemocratic corporate-style school reform. 

9/23/2010 Catalyst: Politics and Culture | KFAI Radio Without Boundaries

Listen to KFAI interview with PEJAM organizer Ty Moore on crisis and fightback in public education in Minneapolis and nationwide. The show Catalyst: Politics and Culture is hosted by longtime Twin Cities progressive activist Lydia Howell.

Click on link here: 9/23/2010 Catalyst: Politics and Culture | KFAI Radio Without Boundaries 

Monday, September 20, 2010

Merit pay study: Teacher bonuses don't raise student test scores

By Christopher Connell, The Hechinger Report, 9/21/10

NASHVILLE — Offering middle-school math teachers bonuses up to $15,000 did not produce gains in student test scores, Vanderbilt University researchers reported Tuesday in what they said was the first scientifically rigorous test of merit pay.

The results (pdf) could amount to a cautionary flag about paying teachers for the performance of their students, a reform strategy the Obama administration and many states and school districts have favored despite lukewarm support or outright opposition from teachers' unions.

Tuesday Pickets to Defend Public Education (and build for Oct 7th National Day of Action to Defend Public Education)

NORTHROP MALL @ the University of Minnesota

Join the Education Action Coalition of MN to picket and demonstrate in defense of public education at the U of M (and everywhere)! Our immediate demands:
- No budget cuts!
- Decrease tuition, cancel student debt!
- Stop layoffs and program cuts!
- Democratize the U! Elected students, faculty, and campus workers on all decision-making bodies!
...- Confront institutional racism! Defend affirmative action and ethnic studies!

This event will occur EVERY TUESDAY FROM 12 NOON TO 1 PM between now and the October 7th National Day of Action, and will also be used to hand out leaflets and build support for this important rallying point in the struggle to defend public education.

We will have picket signs and banners - just bring yourself and your friends.

"Global Wave of Action for Education"-Oct/Nov 2010


Students protest education in Argentine capital

The Associated Press
Thursday, September 16, 2010; 9:46 PM

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina -- Thousands of young Argentines marched to the presidential palace on Thursday to protest the quality of public education, joining a student rebellion that accuses politicians of neglecting schools and universities that were once the envy of Latin America.
High schoolers have occupied about 30 public schools in Buenos Aires to protest their deteriorating conditions. The takeovers later spread to public universities, with students occupying a half dozen, this week, teachers joined the rebellion, putting 700,000 students out of school.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Parents and Students Occupy Whittier School Fieldhouse in Chicago

Sat Sep 18 2010, by Yana Kunichoff

from Gapers Block - a Chicago publication

arms.jpg Several dozen parents and students completed the third night of an occupation of a Pilsen elementary field house Friday night, protesting the planned demolition of the allegedly dilapidated structure. The sit-in has withstood several visits by the police - at one point they threatened arrests then abruptly left after more than 100 students, parents and community members pushed past barricades to support the protesters - and scored the promise of an interview with Ron Huberman to discuss turning the field house into a library for the school.

Education Rediscovered

professor of urban education, sociology and cultural studies at the CUNY
Saturday, September 18, 2010

This piece by Professor Aronowitz offers a powerful vision for not just saving public education from the those who are zealously fighting to dismantle it, carting it off piece by piece to profiteers and privatizers. It lays out ways in which education could be transformed to prepare children to be critical thinkers and skilled contributors to society as opposed to the current model, which focuses more on churning out obedient and efficient workers to be exploited by the captains of finance and industry.

Educators Push Back Against Obama’s "Business Model" for School Reforms Education

Democracy Now Video

It’s back-to-school season. As millions of children around the country begin a new school year, the Obama administration is aggressively moving forward on a number of education initiatives, from expanding charter schools to implementing new national academic standards. Democracy Now talks to Karen Lewis, the president of the Chicago Teachers Union, and Lois Weiner, a professor of education at New Jersey City University

Charter School Lobby Buys Elections

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Failed Promises: Assessing Charter Schools in the Twin Cities go to this link to view longer full study on pdf file)

Failed Promises: Assessing Charter Schools in the Twin Cities - A study by the Institute on Race and Poverty at the University of MN

After two decades of experience, most charter schools in the Twin Cities still underperform comparable traditional public schools and intensify racial and economic segregation in the Twin Cities schools. This is the conclusion of a new report issued today by the Institute on Race and Poverty at the University of Minnesota Law School.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Youth Meeting to Defend Public Education

Join with other Twin Cities youth to build for actions on October 7th, a National Day of Action to Defend Public Education
Hosted by PEJAM (Public Education Justice Alliance of MN)
Sunday, Sept. 19, 3:00pm - 5:00pm 
Common Roots Café, in the "Common Room" meeting space 
(2558 Lyndale Ave S, on the corner of Lyndale Ave & 26th St in Minneapolis)  

Facebook event:

Monday, September 13, 2010

Governments owe Minnesota schools more than half a billion

from Twin Cities Daily Planet
By John Fitzgerald, Minnesota 2020
September 06, 2010

Minnesota schools will pay a total of $520 million this year filling unfunded federal and state special education mandates -- money St. Paul and Washington D.C. have promised but will not provide.

The Proving Grounds: School “Rheeform” in Washington, D.C.

Rethinking Schools, Fall 2010 issue
By Leigh Dingerson

Washington, D.C., is leading the transformation of urban public education across the country—at least according to Time magazine, which featured D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee on its cover, wearing black and holding a broom. Or perhaps you read it in Newsweek or heard it from Oprah, who named Rhee to her “power list” of “remarkable visionaries.”

But there’s nothing remarkably visionary going on in Washington. The model of school reform that’s being implemented here is popping up around the country, heavily promoted by the same network of conservative think tanks and philanthropists like Bill Gates, Eli Broad, and the Walton Family Foundation that has been driving the school reform debate for the past decade. It is reform based on the corporate practices of Wall Street, not on education research or theory. Indications so far are that, on top of the upheaval and distress Rhee leaves in her wake, the persistent racial gaps that plague D.C. student outcomes are only increasing.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

First, Bash the Teachers: Media find a scapegoat for educational failure by Peter Hart

Published on Friday, September 10, 2010 by Extra! Magazine (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting)

Writing on the Wall Street Journal editorial page (10/1/09) under the headline “How Teachers Unions Lost the Media,” two education writers praised the press for turning on teachers, showing a “new attitude” that is in sync with today’s politics:
Editorial pages of major papers nationwide have begun to demand accountability for schools, despite objections from vested interests. Since the Obama administration took an unexpectedly tough line on school reform, the elite media response has been overwhelmingly positive.

But it’s hard to imagine that many people who follow the media would consider this much of a surprise. In fact, one of the first prerequisites for being deemed an education “reformer” by corporate media has long been an eagerness to bash teachers’ unions—and it cuts across the usual liberal/ conservative lines.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

New School Year, New School - an article on the effects of last year's massive wave of school closures in the Twin Cities

By ALLIE SHAH, Star Tribune

Last update: September 6, 2010 - 9:03 PM

As the annual fall ritual takes place, thousands of students and teachers go back to school in a new place - the result of major closings in several districts. The aftershocks of Minnesota's largest wave of school closings in decades hit Tuesday as thousands of Twin Cities students and teachers begin the new school year in a different school. At least 20 schools were closed last school year, sparking a mass movement this fall as districts drew new attendance lines, added bus routes and rejiggered grade levels.