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Issue # 8
    May 10, 2012

Information and action for parents coming together to strengthen our public schools. Comments? Suggestions? Stories?  

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PAA Action Alert


Teacher Appreciation Week: What to do and what NOT to do!  


A lot of people received a "heartfelt e-mail" from Michelle Rhee and "Students First," asking them to honor teachers this week by clicking on Rhee's web site to hear the messages of thanks for teachers from her billions of members.  


Parents, be warned. Don't do it. The minute you click on any link from Michelle Rhee - sugar-coated as each one is with rhetoric about supporting "great" teachers - she will add you to the pretend army of her crusade to destroy public schools through privatization via charters, vouchers, and "virtual school," and high-stakes testing for students, teachers and schools. Rhee claims she has a million members already, most of whom were probably captured using this tactic.  


Check out the RheeFirst web site to find out all you need to know about Michelle Rhee. Learn more here about how Rhee pays $1.75 per head to direct people to misleading Rhee petitions after they have signed someone else's petition. Read about a PAA member's efforts to get to stop. Spread the word about Rhee petitions the way you warn friends about any other computer virus.


And take a look at this awesome/scary "Michelle Rhee Connections Map" created by PAA's Oakland, CA, founding member Sharon Higgins.   


Now, how to show your appreciation for teachers? Here's a great way:   


Keep promoting the National Resolution!


The National Resolution against High-stakes Testing now has a QR code (right). To use a QR code, download a free app onto your smart phone; it will scan the image and take you to the site.    


Another Florida endorsement!  


From the Tampa Bay Times: With Teacher Appreciation Week as a backdrop, the St. Lucie School Board on Tuesday unanimously adopted the national resolution that urges state and federal lawmakers to reduce the emphasis placed on the testing of students....Teacher Diane Hanfman, who read the resolution into the record, joined loud applause in cheering the board vote. "Thank you," she said, "for allowing me to have the most significant moment of my education career." District spokeswoman Janice Karst said St. Lucie, as many other district, has had an ongoing concern over the amount of money being spent on standardized testing, the FCAT in particular. "Each one of the points there" in the resolution, she said, "our board stands in 100 percent support."   


PAA's founding member from Florida, Rita Solnet, provided support for the St. Lucie school board and continues to work with other boards across the state.   


PAA News


A plea from Philly PAA chapter: help us save our public schools

PAA founding member Helen Gym from Philadelphia writes about her city's new local "Blueprint for Reform" which calls for closing one-fourth of Philadelphia's schools, 40 alone next year (64 total), placing 40% of students into charters, and dividing up the remaining schools into NYC-inspired "achievement networks" run by third party operators under a five year performance contract.

"We're asking for your help to publicize what's happening to almost 200,000 children in public and charter schools here. Philadelphia is the poster child for the disasters of national education reform - we're reeling from a state takeover, EMO's like Edison Schools, privatizing and contracting out, unchecked charter school growth, massive education budget cuts, and constant turnover in leadership. We're not unlike many cities across the country, but we are quite possibly the largest city to date to propose an effective dissolution of public education in the name of so-called 'reform.'"

Read the full story on the PAA blog, learn from it, and share widely. See media clips below.

PAA protests ALEC in NC

When members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) descend on Charlotte for their spring summit, Parents Across America will be there to meet them.

Members and supporters of PAA affiliate MecklenburgACTS will spend Friday, May 11, calling attention to the destructive education legislation that ALEC has promoted, legislation that increases high-stakes testing, promotes school vouchers and online charter schools and undercuts the teaching profession.


Demonstrators will also be promoting the National Resolution on High-Stakes Testing, which calls on state and federal officials to drop high-stakes testing mandates.


Activities will include "Pencils Down: High-Stakes Testing Drill" and guest appearances by the pineapple and the hare from Pearson's now-infamous test item. If you live in the area stop by!


When:  Friday, May 11, at various times between 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m.

Where: Westin Hotel, 601 S. College St.


More details are available on the MecklenburgACTS website. If you need further information, please contact Pamela Grundy at


PAA(ers) in the media


PAA's Helen Gym was mentioned in this Diane Ravitch blog about the dire situation in Philadelphia, and Diane provides a link to Helen's powerful essay in The Notebook, which was also reposted on the Washington Post Answer Sheet blog. Diane wrote: "When I read Helen Gym's blog about the reform proposal, I realized that she knows far better than I that this latest reform plan is just the latest in a long series of empty promises that do nothing for children and communities. So I am putting her blog here. It is a wonderful caution against those who promise miracle cures but offer neither evidence nor experience to support their plans."      


The Philadelphia Inquirer quotes Helen: "We got the bait and switch. We were promised a fiscal plan, and we got a complete academic overhaul."

PAA member Wendy Lecker from Connecticut published this essay about high-stakes testing in the Stamford Advocate. As one antidote, Wendy recommends Will Fitzhugh's Page Per Yearprogram, in which a first grader writes a one-page paper, using one source, and the pages and sources increase gradually each year. 

Last week's parent involvement panel featuring PAA co-founder Julie Woestehoff at DePaul's College of Education was mentioned in the Catalyst Notebook blog   and on Mike Klonsky's Small Talk blog


Join Us!


Parents Across America invites existing local or statewide groups who share our overall goals of progressive, positive education reform and more parent input in education policymaking to affiliate with us. The more of us there are, the stronger our voice will be at every level. We are also looking for parents who are interested in forming new chapters of PAA in their states and/or local communities. Check out what we believe, and if you agree, join with us! Read more here.


PAA Chapter/Affiliate News


PAA welcomes its new Connecticut chapter (pictured below).  On April 29, parents from across Connecticut met in New Haven to form PAA-CT and add a long overdue authentic parent voice to the statewide debates on education. 

PAA-CT's first public act was a letter to the Connecticut legislature opposing many of the provisions of Governor Malloy's education bill, in which he sought to pass the same failed corporate reform measures other states have embraced, including:  expanded funding of charter schools, concentrating power over struggling schools into the hands of a non-educator Education Commissioner and a massive increase of standardized testing. The letter can be found here on PAA's website.  

PAA-CT's email is 

Connecticut parents form PAA chapter


PAA member Susan Barrett reports:

1) We have had four districts in strike mode. One settled, one was on strike for less than a day before contract was settled, one is on strike now (and the district is offering online classes, over $300 for substitutes per day, plus room and board), and then a 4th district will probably be on strike any minute.

There is a law firm in town called Hungerford that has written a paper on how to take down unions. Here is the story of the online classes being offered in striking districts. Not sure who offers these classes. Would love to know. Here is how to take advantage of teachers in a financial crisis according to Hungerford.

2) All this insanity is leading us to do a May 31st Save Our Schools Action Day. It is really tied to the inadequate funding for schools. We have something called a Quality Education Model that methodically estimated what a quality education would cost. We are more than $3 billion short on this, in the past few years, funding has decreased by over $1 billion, we have seen class sizes increase by 20% in elementary schools and up to over 28% in high schools. We have lost 16% of teachers in addition to thousands of support and administrative staff. Instead of tackling this, our Governor appointed an Oregon Education INVESTMENT Board that never talks about funding our schools...fancy that.

3) Our state is about to hire a CEO for education, overseeing P-20 at $303,000/yr. ($280,000 is the salary, then benefits). There has been NO PUBLIC PROCESS on this. Mind you, this position is coming into play because Oregon eliminated having an elected state superintendent in its "education reform package" spring of 2011. Guess who pushed for this move? Yes - Stand for Children.  We now have an appointed super, which is the Governor, who is now hiring a CEO for 4X the salary of the superintendent, as a way to "streamline." Hmmmm...


Read PAA founding member Dora Taylor's thoughtful blog post about the takeover of the Washington State PTA to promote a pro-charter school agenda.
 New York

PAA co-founder Leonie Haimson shared this photo of a New Rochelle teacher, courtesy of Gotham News, and   this update on Pineapplegate from NY1:  

NY1 has learned that more errors were discovered on this year's hig h-stake state exams.Twenty different mistakes were found in the translated math tests. In most cases, the errors in translation resulted in questions where there was no right answer. In at least two cases, there was more than one correct answer.

There were errors in every language the state has tests translated into - Korean, Spanish, Chinese, Haitian Creole and Russian - as well as four errors in Braille versions.

This makes 28 questions invalidated on the state tests so far, including several on an infamous passage about a pineapple and a hare.

The state is using a new test publisher this year, the company Pearson. It is the first year of a $32 million, five-year contract.
PAA Blog Highlights

In addition to the articles already mentioned in this newsletter, new posts on the PAA blog this week include:
Parents Across America (PAA) is a non-partisan, non-profit grassroots organization that connects parents and activists
from across the U.S. to share ideas and work together  
on improving our nation's public schools.    

PAA is committed to bringing the voice of public school par­ents - and common sense - to local, state, and national education debates.