Friday, June 08, 2012

59 Schools' Parents Boycott Field Tests for High-Stakes Exams, demanding more teaching less testing

Too many Democrats are on the same side as Republicans on this issue, and these parents have figured out one of the ugly reasons why: constant redundant testing puts money in the pockets of testing companies which they then use to buy politicians to require more testing.

These parents bypassed the politicians and went directly to the source of the problem: they protested at the testing company.

Like the Occupy Movement, to get action to stop education "reform" that is destroying our public schools so for-profit charter and management companies can take over, we need to go to the source, the companies buying the corrupt politicians.

Pearson might make a good test case. Since it's clear even many Democrats are ignoring good policy on this educators have a simple way they can effect change themselves: Whenever they have an individual choice of textbooks or materials or are involved in purchasing decisions for their schools, districts, or even states, they should refuse to consider Pearson, and send them a brief letter saying why. Pearson also does a substantial business in college textbooks, so higher ed instructors can cut them off too.

Over time, educators should figure out which textbook, software, and other companies are pushing for these policies, and boycott them until education decisions are back in the hands of educators and those who put kids ahead of profits.

Parents across New York City and New York State, fed up with high-stakes and excessive standardized testing in public education, are boycotting the “stand-alone” field tests scheduled for middle and elementary schools this week. And many are joining a protest at the headquarters of Pearson, the state’s for-profit test development contractor, to demonstrate their anger as well.

From June 5th to June 12th , children across the state are being forced to give up learning time solely to serve the research purposes of billion-dollar test publisher Pearson, which has a $32 million contract with the New York State Education Department. But parents in 59 schools – an unprecedented number – are fighting back by refusing to allow their children to take these field tests.

In support, the Chancellor’s Parent Advisory Council (CPAC) passed a resolution on May 31 endorsing the boycott and urging all parents to opt their children out of the field tests. The Community Education Councils (CECs) of District 3 in Manhattan (Upper West Side) and District 20 (Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Borough Park, Kensington) in Brooklyn passed similar resolutions.

“All this testing is out of control,” says Dani Gonzalez, a Bronx parent who is protesting at today’s demonstration. “Real learning happens when children can explore and experiment and do projects, when they can read books and discuss them. All this testing is crowding real learning out of the classroom. My children can’t learn when all they do is prepare for tests and take tests.”


Monday, May 07, 2012

Wall St wants to privatize public community COLLEGES too

One of the reasons I like teaching community college instead of high school (which I had a credential to do) is the greater freedom to teach the way I think is best for my students and the relative freedom from attempts to kill the institution and let Wall Street jackals feed on the corpse--which is exactly what is going on with K-12, with the narrowing of the curriculum, repetitive testing to prove failure, mass firings to break unions, and ultimately, contracting public education out to private, for profit education management companies and charter schools.

What is usually left unsaid by the reformers is their jewel in the crown, charter schools, only 17% produce better results than public schools and 37% do worse. That's even less impressive when you consider the advantage they have in being able to boot kids with behavior problems, and that typically, it takes a motivated, involved parent to get their kid into a charter in the first place.

And yet our politicians, including our Democratic president, keep selling this as if it's the cure for cancer.

Now it looks like that shitstorm is coming to community colleges too. Sadly, two salvos came the supposedly progressive bastion of Santa Monica, first from one of our state legislators, then Santa Monica College itself. Both wanted to set up a second tier of completely unsubsidized to tuition, in the case of legislation, by making a provision for private contractors to administer the classes through the college extension--a backdoor privatization of college the way charter schools are being used in K-12.

Apparently, a similar push happened a couple of years ago with for profit college scam factory Kaplan trying take over a share of California community college classes.

This article uses "despicable" way too much, but it's a good intro to what's going on:

Santa Monica College students fight privatization: Anti-privatization conference held for 112 Community Colleges serving 260,000 students in the State of California

If this kind of privatization had taken place before I went to college, I'd have five times my current $100K in student loans, and my student loan payments would be most of my salary.

Faculty and students, that's not the future I want for us. Start tracking this issue and looking for ways to fight back.
The attack on K-12 education is much farther along, and the results are not pretty.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Bill would cut student loan forgiveness time in HALF

On March 8, Congressman Hansen Clarke (D-Mich.) introduced H.R. 4170, the Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012.

Here's the part that should be of interest to all faculty and our students:

Improving Public Service Loan Forgiveness: The act would also provide for Public Service Loan Forgiveness after 60 monthly payments instead of 120. It is impossible for us to overstate how much this would help borrowers who have committed to careers at relatively low-paying public interest jobs, who could actually start saving for their kids' education and perhaps owning their own home half a decade earlier than they anticipated.
Read the details of the other improvements here.

If you are reading this, you need to contact your congressmember and senators and tell them to support his bill. It doesn't have to be a long, fancy letter, just say

I am your constituent, and I want you to actively support and vote for HR 4170, the Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012.
Even if you don't know who represents you in Congress, if you know your own zip code, you can find their contact information here.

You could even call 202 225-3121, or these numbers and if you know where you live, they can connect you to your representatives. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Letter to CA Democratic Leaders on death of single payer healthcare bill

I was deeply disturbed to see how the Senate Democrats handled SB 810, which would have greatly benefited all Californians and likely been wildly popular and beneficial to election prospects of Democrats even further up the ticket and around the country.  
If this had been the first time the bill had made its way through the Senate, failing by 4-6 votes once it got to the floor would have been a respectable if disappointing outcome.  
This wasn't the first time it made it to the floor though.
As you know,nearly identical bills passed both chambers only to be vetoed by Gov. Schwarzenegger, but with a Democrat as governor, there is a real chance that this could become law.  
If a handful of Democratic senators block this historic opportunity, it will make a lot of us wonder if you guys actually care about average people or only do bold legislation when you know you have a business owned governor who can be depended on to veto it.  
It was also hard not to notice the five and six figure donations from the insurance industry to the handful of Democratic senators who killed the bill by abstaining or voting no along with Republicans.
I can't trust a party that can be bought like that. 
The failure of this vote also undermines our trust in even the reputation of those who voted for it and the Democratic leadership. 
Legislative bodies have a clever trick they do when they need something to pass, but it would hurt some rep with their constituents: they might ''release'' the reps who need to be released once they've rounded up enough other votes to pass it without them
That could also happen when they DON'T want legislation to pass, but want it to look like ''Gosh darn it, we sure TRIED,'' then they ''release'' the reps least likely to be harmed by voting against it (think Joe Lieberman and the US Senate).  
For our current form of government to endure, Democrats need to actually enact Democratic policies when you have the levers of power not simply slow the onslaught of the conservative dismantling of our middle class.  
If you guys can't put some version of SB 810 on Jerry Brown's desk before he leaves office, Democratic voters will be hard put to think of a reason to remember to vote on election day, let alone cast a vote for Democrats.  

You need to post an explanation on your webpage about why this failed, what will be done to discipline those Democrats who refused to vote yes, how soon you will get this on the agenda again, and what you will do differently to actually get it signed by the governor. 
As I was digging around for their contact information, it was striking that SB 810 wasn't mentioned on the homepages of the Democratic Caucus, Speaker, or President Pro Tem, but lots of lesser issues were. 

Add your voice too: 

Democratic Caucus 

Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (online email contact) (address, phone, and fax at bottom of her homepage) 

Senate Majority Leader Ellen M. Corbett (online email contact) (address, phone, and fax at bottom of her homepage) 

California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton 
1401 21st Street, Suite 200 
Sacramento, CA 95811 
(916) 442-5707 phone 
(916) 442-5715 fax 

As others have noted, the system may be too broken for these guys to be responsive anymore, but we have to let them know this is unacceptable so they can't plead ignorance of our disapproval and be telling the truth.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

part time faculty should save CA single payer bill

Single payer health care in California would be especially helpful to part time faculty since many community colleges don't bother to give health insurance to part timers.  I taught community college for ten years before any of my employers offered me health insurance--and that's just for me, it won't cover my wife or child. 

My wife's dad lost his health insurance with his job, but is too young for Medicare, so he drives to Tijuana every month or so for cheaper out of pocket medical care.

That's a disgrace in the richest, most powerful nation on Earth. We have a right to the same kind of universal healthcare people in Europe and every other advanced democracy enjoy.

Single payer for California has made it to the governor's desk twice before, but Arnold vetoed it both times.  

Now we have a Democratic governor who is a lot more likely to sign it than our former Austrian Autocrat and state senator Mark Leno's SB 810 for single payer health insurance in California made it's way through senate but failed by two votes.

Five Democratic state senators abstained from voting, but if two of them vote yes by the 31st, the bill will go to the Assembly.

It's critical that you call, fax, or email these five abstainers and tell them to support Mark Leno's SB 810 single payer bill or expect a progressive primary opponent in their next election.  

Alex Padilla (Pacoima/LA area)
Capitol – 916-651-4020
Fax:  916-324-6645
District – 818-901-5588
Fax:  818-901-5562

Rod Wright (Los Angeles area)
(916) 651-4025
Fax: 916-445-3712
(310) 412-0393

Juan Vargas (San Diego area)
Sac: (916) 651-4040
Fax: (916) 327-3522
Dist: (619) 409-7690
(619) 409-7688

Michael Rubio (Fresno/Bakersfield area)
Sac: (916) 651-4016
Fax: (916) 327-5989
Dist: (661) 395-2620
Fax: (661) 395-2622

Ron Calderon (Los Angeles area)
Sac: (916) 651-4030
Fax:  (916) 327-8755
Dist: (323) 890-2790
Fax:  (323) 890-2795

Friday, January 27, 2012
Single Payer 2 Votes Short in Senate
by David Gorn

The idea of a single-payer health care system in California stalled on the Senate floor yesterday, falling two votes short of passage.

Reconsideration of the bill was granted, though, so proponents of SB 810 by Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) have until Tuesday to reintroduce the bill. First they will have to come up with two big votes. The bill failed on a 19-15 vote.

The idea of universal coverage has been passed by the Legislature before. In 2007 and 2009, both houses approved the idea, only to have it vetoed by Gov. Schwarzenegger. Last year, it passed the Senate and stalled when it was not brought to the floor in the Assembly.

Follow the story at: