Please watch this important video: Why education reforms don't work and what we can do to dignify our children and their education:
Doug Christensen, former commissioner, Nebraska Department of Education (1994 - 2008) discusses the harm that high-stakes testing is doing to education in America. This is a segment from an online teach-in, moderated by Nancy Flanagan and Anthony Cody, of the national advocacy group Teachers' Letters to Obama.
Don Perl, featured education leader:
The Mouse that Roars
Don Perl had begun another career in 1982 as an English teacher at John Evans Junior High where he taught for nineteen years until 2001. Before then he had had a wide variety of experiences. He had practiced law, studied and taught in Guadalajara, Mexico during the nineteen seventies, worked as a bilingual census taker, bar manager, and teacher and vice-president of a community corrections program in Denver for ex-offenders in the late nineteen seventies and early eighties. Little by little, from that first school year 1982- 1983, he watched the demographics of his school, John Evans Junior High School, change from a predominantly middle class Anglo population to an inner city school with a growing Latino contingent. By the late nineties, half of the students in Don's classes were from Spanish speaking homes. Still his reading list included: Night, Romeo and Juliet, A Day No Pigs Would Die, The Good Earth, After the First Death, and West Side Story.
In 1997 Don was informed by the administration at John Evans that they would no longer purchase the class texts. Instead they would supply an English text book. Don presented the comparison demonstrating that the class sets of novels were less expensive to the district than the text books according to the five year replacement schedule for both. After careful review of the offered text and its substandard literary excerpts, Don made the decision to purchase the class book sets himself. When the books arrived directly from the publisher they received the stamp, "Property of Mr. Don Perl." He noticed that his students were more careful handling them from home to school recognizing that they would have to last for the next five years.
One day during a class discussion about The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, the principal came to observe. Olan, a principal character in the book, had just given birth alone. The family was suffering from the crushing effects of drought, and there was very little for them to eat. The author writes of the cry of an infant, and then silence. Olan walks out carrying the bundle over her shoulder and announces, "The child is dead."
One student asked, "Did she kill her child?" What ensued was a conversation about euthanasia. A young girl responded, "It's never okay to kill a person."
"But what if severe poverty makes living impossible?" questioned another student.
At the conclusion of the conversation, facilitated entirely by the students themselves, Don was pulled aside by the principal and asked, "Where is this in the standards?"
"Intelligent discussion is absolutely critical in education," was Don's only reply.
That marked the beginning of the trend to standardize, dilute critical thinking, and detach students from their own learning process. In the fall of 2000, Don attended a mandated faculty course on administering the Colorado Student Assessment Program, CSAP. When he called to the facilitator and explained that he could provide justifiable support for three out of the four options on one of the sample reading questions, she leaned down and whispered in his ear, "I know. That's why I'm leaving the program." That same year in the spring of 2001, he refused to administer the CSAP test to his students. The superintendent arranged a meeting to determine the disciplinary action that would be taken against Don. As the superintendent, in his own forum and in his own office, tripped over his words and shifted in his chair, Don's representative quietly commented, "You are an activist, Don. You have made this comfortable person, uncomfortable." At the end of that year Don resigned his post as English and Spanish teacher. His letter to the superintendent with a copy to the principal of John Evans bore one sentence: "So displeased am I with the direction public education is going, I have chosen to make this my last year. "
Don now is a lecturer at the University of Northern Colorado in the Hispanic Studies department and teaches Spanish to university undergraduates. He has been described as the conscience of the department. In 2004 he led a ballot initiative to eliminate the Colorado Student Assessment Program. Out of the 65,000 signatures needed, he and other activists, working on the threads of a shoe string, collected 12,485. He founded The Coalition for Better Education, Inc. CBE and has remained instrumental in informing students, parents, and teachers about the harms of high-stakes testing as well as parental rights to resist this fraudulent system of accountability which condemns all our children to school experiences devoid of joy and devoid of the richness that true education can bring. The Coalition for Better Education, Inc. is a non-profit corporation filed in accordance with the laws of the State of Colorado.
Will you please make a donation to the CBE?
Each year The CBE purchases bill boards and bus benches to inform parents of their right to opt out of high-stakes testing. 100% of all donations are spent on educating and empowering parents to speak out on behalf of children. The costs of the billboards vary. The one on I-25 heading south out of Colorado Springs costs about $1,200, and a smaller one on the western slope costs about $700. The contract is for one month, but generally the bill boards stay up for quite a bit longer than that month. Our goal is to raise $2,000 by 2011. Will you contribute?
Donations can be mailed to:
2424 22nd Avenue
Greeley, CO 80631
Learn more at www.thecbe.org
Controversial new films:
The films: Waiting for Superman and The Lottery will be out this week. The best approach to improving public education and protecting the minds and hearts of our children are organized communities, with strong voices, engaged in a learner-centered educational process. These films propose charter schools, KIPP, as the fix, weakening neighborhoods. Performance pay is an underlying theme in these movies and suggests a systematic process to replace veteran educators with cheap non-educators who rotate on a two year basis in America's most impoverished schools. Both KIPP and Teach For America (also The New Teacher Project) are big money makers. (The CEO's of the two organizations happen to be married.) Please consider the greater complexities at play here and ask yourselves: "Who does this really serve?"
You are encouraged to learn more at:
Request for volunteers:
Anthony Dallman-Jones and other important education leaders have joined with me to help develop a national strategy. We are looking for a volunteer or three to help gather contact information and research partnering organizations. Most of the work can be done from home in just a few hours a week. Is this something that you can help? Contact