Thursday, August 22, 2013

NPE: News on Diane's Book, CPS Bulldozes La Casita in the Night, More States Starting to Question Common Core

Volume 1, Issue: #21

August 22, 2013
Inside NPE News
Diane's New Book Opens Heated Dialogue
CPS Destroys La Casita Under Cover of Night
Philly Gets Grant for Schools to Start On Time
States Line Up to Question the Common Core
Tennessee Ties Teacher Licensing to Evaluations
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Welcome to the twenty-first edition of our newsletter. This week's newsletter is overflowing with news from across the country, including the CPS demolition of La Casita in Chicago, dire budget cuts and what they'll mean for Philly's schools, and states that are starting to question whether implementing a Common Core curriculum is really a good idea. Plus, Diane's new book is coming soon, and already it is beginning to stir up heated criticism and ardent support. Read it all here!  And like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and JOIN US at our website.
Diane's New Book Opens Heated Dialogue
Diane's new book draws pre-publication criticism, but why are Diane and others being monitored and ignored?
Diane's new book will not be released for another month, but already we are seeing a glimpse of the dialogue it may open up. After Peter Cunningam (Assistant Secretary for Communications and Outreach in the U.S. Department of Education) published 'Ravitch Redux' online, many of Diane and NPE's supporters popped up immediately to decry Cunningham's piece in blog posts and other social media (we have a list of links to particularly great pieces below). 

More importantly than being "shoddy and unsubstantiated," Cunningham's piece points to a significant truth: Diane and other members of the fight to save our schools are being systematically monitored and ignored by education officials. Cunningham and others are clearly hearing the critiques posed by Diane and other members of the genuine education reform community. However, instead of listening to any opposing opinions, Cunningham and others are choosing to monitor dissenters and attack any criticisms of their corporately backed policies.

In his piece 'Monitored and Ignored--Ravitch and the Rest of Us,' Anthony Cody suggests one way that we can fight this phenomenon: preorder Diane's book now, and when you do so, order an extra copy and send it to your Congress person or state legislator. We must raise our voices and change the status quo, go from from being 'monitored and ignored' to watched and listened to. 

Here are some more well-written and provocative pieces we encourage you to read about the attack on Diane's book:
CPS Destroys La Casita Under Cover of Night
Pilsen community woke up on Saturday to find out its community center will be replaced with a private school's soccer field
A dad holds a moving bulldozer away from La Casita at Whittier Elementary School. (Photo courtesy of Tracy Barrientos via Xian Barrett.)
On Saturday morning, Chicagoans woke up to the sound of bulldozers approaching La Casita, the field house belonging to Whittier Elementary School in Pilsen. The demolition of the field house by the CPS caused uproar among members of the school community. Twitter and Instagram were bombarded by the tags #Whittier and #LaCasita. The Internet was quickly ablaze with pictures of parents and students protesting the demolition crews and security guards holding them back.

Whittier Elementary School is not any ordinary school-it is a school with an incredibly strong community and history of intensely engaged parents.  In 2010, parents staged a 43-day sit-in to save the school's field house, which was also used as a makeshift library for the students and a volunteer-run community center. At the time, the community won and the CPS agreed to keep the field house in place.

Anger over the demolition increased as new information came to light. Members of the community were outraged when they discovered that Mayor Emmanuel plans to replace the community center with a soccer field that will serve a neighboring private school, Cristo Rey. 

Parents from the previous sit-in still have a letter in hand from the CPS in which it promises to renovate, not demolish, the field house. Not only did the CPS break this promise, but Mayor Rahm Emanuel ordered the demolition without even acquiring a legally required permit to do so. The CPS claims that it was within its rights to tear down the building, but many are questioning the legality of the action, pointing to the fact that the CPS felt the need to hide the demolition by holding it overnight.

Despite legal concerns and previous promises, the CPS ultimately did demolish La Casita, after which members of the Pilsen community held a vigil for their beloved community center. Without a doubt, this demolition will only increase the already extremely high tensions between Chicago school communities and the CPS. 
Philly Gets Grant for Schools to Start On Time
Philadelphia's schools will open on time, but at what cost?
The Philadelphia Student Union is one of many groups protesting major cuts in funding and staffing for Philly's public schools.
This week brought with it more news on how dire the financial crisis for Philadelphia's public schools really are. Faced with a $304 million budget shortfall for the district, the city managed to receive a $50 million grant that will allow it to continue functioning. The first day of school will not be delayed, but at what cost?

Parents protest that while the $50 million grant may allow schools to open, it is not nearly enough to allow schools to continue holding classes and extracurricular programs that students need. "Nobody is talking about what it takes to get a child educated. It's just about what the lowest number is needed to get the bare minimum," says Helen Gym, who has 3 children in the city's public schools. "That's what we're talking about here: the deliberate starvation of one of the nation's biggest school districts."

Many agree with Grey's assessment of the situation, including Philly's public school students, who have begun to unionize and protest the district. The students argue that the city is looking for how it can spend as little as possible on public school students, regardless of whether the amount will suffice to provide the students with a good education. 

To follow this story further, please visit our website, where you can also read the story 'Why America Should Care About Philadelphia's Children.'
States Line Up to Question the Common Core
NY, Florida, Maine newest states to hesitate on implementation
FACCE is one of several groups that are protesting planned Common Core implementation in Florida.
According to a recent PDK-Gallup poll, a well-regarded annual poll, most parents dislike high-stakes testing, a practice that has become increasingly implemented in recent years. This poll comes at a time when states are beginning to implement harsher standards for high-stakes testing, based on the Common Core curriculum. There have been many critiques of the Common Core curriculum, including fears that it replaces ELA curriculum substance with test prep and that its test implementation is almost exclusively in the hands of mega-publisher Pearson, a company that has committed quite a few mistakes in its testing practices and score reporting. 

Up until now, higher-up officials and politicians have been largely dismissive of Common Core critiques. However, some states that have announced that they will implement the Common Core are beginning to have doubts. 

In New York, critics of both the Common Core and high-stakes testing have been protesting both practices after a statewide test based on Common Core standards caused New York's test scores to drop 30% from last year. On Saturday, 1,500 people gathered in Long Island to denounce the Common Core. Now, the New York legislature is holding hearings in September to review testing practices and revisit whether the Common Core is worth implementing. 

In Maine, two groups announced this week that they are looking to hold a statewide vote to repeal the implementation of the Common Core standards, a move that is the first of its kind in the country. The Maine Equal Rights Center and No Common Core Maine plan to submit a ballot measure proposal to the state to repeal the standards.

In Florida, the Common Core standards have invited criticism from school communities, and a group called Florida Parents Against Common Core is urging Floridians to call state officials and protest the implementation of Common Core Standards. Furthermore, Common Core standards have caused political turmoil within the state's Republican party. Conservatives and Tea Party groups are outraged by the standards, claiming that implementing national standards is a mistake because curricular decisions should be made by state governments and local elected school boards.
Tennessee Ties Licensing to Evaluations
Photo by Ron Cogswell, Creative Commons license.
Many states have begun to tie teacher evaluations to teacher salary and tenure, a practice that is critiqued by teachers and school communities as unfair. These evaluations are poor measurements of ability, they say, as they are based on arbitrary evidence such as students'  test scores and do not take classroom practices into consideration. 

While many are arguing that teacher evaluations should play a less significant role in serving teachers consequences such as decreased salary and lost tenure opportunities, some states are actually making the stakes higher in teacher evaluations. Most noticeably, this week Tennessee announced that it plans to tie teacher evaluations to certification, taking away teaching licenses from teachers whose students perform poorly on standardized tests--a practice that has been found to be unjust. The Tennessee Education Association strongly opposed the move, and protested at hearings and forums held to discuss the plan. 

The plan was approved earlier this week, but critics insist that they will continue to fight the decision.
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