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Report from People's Education Convention in Washington, D.C.

Report from People's Education Convention in Washington, D.C., keynotes and workshops

8/8/12

The Tsunami of Education

I rode back to New Jersey on a wave of energy prepared for the tsunami of education with a purposeful plan of action formed at The Save Our Schools People’s Education Convention in Washington, D.C last weekend, Aug. 3-5.

THURSDAY

The tsunami of education is what Nancy Carlsson-Paige, Professor of Education at Lesley University and author of Taking  Back Childhood, deemed as the wave of attacks on public education.

Asked to shout out those various assaults, the replies included high stakes testing, budget cuts, demonizing teachers, school segregation and iniquity for the poor, educational reformers for profit, charter schools, vouchers, No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top (RTT), Educational Commissioner Arne Duncan, various governors including Chris Christie and Scott Walker, school closings, and on and on for the next five minutes.

Paige then noted the this wave of insanity is reaching early childhood education in the form of ridiculous multiple choice tests for kindergarteners and preschoolers. She emphasized that research abounds for the need for children to play, experiment and engage in self-discovery.

Save Our Schools March, a nationwide organization formed to protect our public schools, convened in DC to hold workshops, forums and keynotes on the imperiled state of public education in the U.S.

By endangered I mean the attempt, successful already, to convince the public of the failure of public schools, trump up a “reform” movement, misinform, close down or takeover the schools, privatize them and then reap the awards for the education entrepreneurs.

Rather than blog after each workshop, this is more of a report on some of the ones that I attended, above being one of the keynotes.

FRIDAY 

At the workshop on Ways to Overhaul Testing and Accountability, Monty Neil, the Executive Director of Fair Test: National Center for Fair and Open Testing, talked about the fallibility of the tests, the chanting scandals that have ensued, how students are spending less time learning, more time prepping and stressing out. 

Schools and teachers are being penalized for poor tests results, schools are being closed or privatized, and teachers are losing their increments or jobs. Tests should be used as just one of many instruments to assess improvement, not to slander and punish.

Parents and educators are fighting back. A Nationwide Petition, signed by morte than 10,000 individuals and 400 organizations is available at:

http://timeoutfromtesting.org/nationalresolution/

Another workshop was Opt Out Dangerous Pedagogy: Teacher Evaluation, Challenging HST, VAM’s Common Core.Opt Out is a movement around the country addressing the dangers of various high stakes testing.

Common Core, one of the more controversial, assumes to create a common set of standards for curricula across the country. While seemingly a good idea, it can strip local schools and communities of autonomy, bend certain vested interests in  content area and connect damaging standardized tests to academic success.

The United Opt Out Movement asks that parents request to pull their children out of these tests. There are many legal protections for such an action and the more parents that opt out, the more the nation understands the problem.

SATURDAY

Let me use this opportunity to reiterate the dangerous sequence of events if we don’t stop the high risk standardized test reiterated in many workshops yesterday.

It will start with many failing students in all schools but especially ones with large populations of new English language learners and special education students as well as the ones in underprivileged schools.

Failing students diminish funds for the very population that needs them, shut down schools, punish teachers and take away incentives for new teachers. The NJ schools are rated number three in the nation (yes, three, despite lies and disinformation from your governor and education commissioner). That won’t last longer under this system.

On Saturday  Stan Karp and Helen Gym, both editors at Rethinking Schools encouraged social justice through curriculum and parent, teacher and community activism during their workshop, Rethinking Schools: Social Justice in Education.Rethinking Schools is a nationwide magazine that features articles, curricula, letters, poetry, and book reviews in service of true educational  reform, i.e. for the public and educators wishing to challenge the norm. Many such organizations were present at the workshop.

I could not attend nor would report on all the workshops since I was responsible for many other duties at the convention and there were many. But it’s worth noting that several of the workshops were devoted to writing and forming and in some cases, adding to the Save Our Schools Guiding Principles. 

There were writing workshops on Civil Rights, Student Voices, Education Policy, Labor and Professional Organizations, and Parent and Community Involvement.

Months and months prior to the convention, those very same workshop/committees met to gather thoughts collected from people all around the country. In fact that was the other crucial goal of the convention. In what may be one of the only examples that I can recall, this is a true indication of what a people’s convention should be, where everyone had a voice. During every workshop a recorder was present to write down attendees’ thoughts, ideas, criticisms, etc.

These were then delivered on Sunday to a large gathering of a Steering Committee to be subsumed into the principles of the organization and what we hope to be considered as a part of the guiding principles of education in this nation. Debates were conducted twice a day during the conference to work on or add to these principles.

Sunday all ideas would be compiled to form a working document, always a working document, to be disseminated around the country. We hope to deliver these to The Democratic Convention and Republican Conventions as well as The White House and Department of Education. YOU can still be a part of it at:www.saveourschoolsmarch.org.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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