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Issue # 11
    May 31, 2012

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

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PAA Action Alert


It's report card time!   


PAA has prepared a report card for Michelle Rhee's StudentsFirst group. Rhee has been all over the U. S. --  maybe including your state -- spreading bad education legislation. She claims to have a lot of support, but as our report card indicates, she exaggerates the size of her membership and promotes policies that most parents oppose.


Take action to support our public schools today! Share your Michelle Rhee stories and PAA's StudentsFirst report card with your friends, networks, and legislators.

Here is our press release and a full-size version of the report card.
National Resolution Update

A huge win for the National Resolution and Florida parents, including our PAA founding member Rita Solnet, with the Broward County school board voting YES on a modified resolution. Broward is the 6th largest school district in the nation. Read more here.

Karen Miller, one of our PAA members in Texas, reports that  the state PTA has endorsed the original Texas resolution - which started all this! - and that efforts are ongoing to urge more school boards to sign on as the school board campaigns heat up.

If you haven't endorsed the Resolution or encouraged your local school board. PTA or other advocacy group to sign on yet, do it now! Here's where to go.   

Get ready for the SOS National Convention!  


Join education activists from around the country this August 3-5 in Washington, DC for the Save Our Schools National Convention!  


Parents, students, and people of all professions and persuasions are encouraged to attend and assist with crafting a progressive set of principles regarding what we expect from public education and how it should function to serve every type of child. Once completed, we will present these principles to both political parties in time for their upcoming national conventions.
 The Save Our Schools Convention is scheduled for August 3-5 and will be held at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, 2660 Woodley Rd NW, Washington, DC. There is a $150 per person registration fee to help pay for the convention. Please use this link to register.  


You can also join the SOS Early Childhood Webinar      Friday June 1, 9 pm EDT. Deborah Meier and Nancy Carlsson-Paige will lead the discussion. Details here.    


PAA News


Diane Ravitch: "The best parent organization in the United States today is Parents Across America."

We were thrilled to read those words on Diane Ravitch's blog this week. She was highlighting PAA and our members' roles in exposing recent testing scandals (see next story).

Diane wrote: "One important lesson to be learned from this episode is that parents can be powerful. Parents have the freedom that teachers don't have to call out bad test items like this one, which was blatantly untrue. If a teacher called a press conference or put out a statement blasting a test item, the teacher might be fired for revealing what was on the test. Parents are not bound to remain silent. And parents should not remain silent."


Let's heed those words. Help get the truth out about standardized testing and stand up for teachers!



Finally, let's give back to Diane for all she does for parents and our children's education: make a donation in honor of her "Hero in Education" Award from FairTest. Here's how. 

More PAA(ers) in the news


Julie Woestehoff and charter school propaganda question

Another testing scandal was exposed this week, as mentioned above, this time by PAA co-founder Julie Woestehoff, head of PAA's Chicago affiliate PURE.  


A teacher sent Julie a screenshot of a standardized test question that the Scantron Company used in quarterly reading comprehension tests given to Chicago Public School students. Looking like a factual passage -- with a pie chart and bullet points -- the passage said that charter schools were "open to all students," "showing improvement in student achievement" and "playing an important role in reforming education across the country."  


The passage also stated that "Multimillionaire Charles Mendel sends his children to a charter school because he believes that charter schools provide the highest-quality education."   


The thing is, there is no such person, and the other claims about charter schools are at least highly debatable if not outright  fiction.  


Julie complained to Scantron that the question was no more than pro-charter propaganda. The Chicago Sun-Times got into the act and soon the company agreed to pull the question from any future tests. But we all know that there are more bad questions out there. As testing companies demand more secrecy, it will be harder to monitor them.  


This is why we need a parental opt out right and more test transparency. You can read the whole story here.   


"Enough is enough"


PAA put out a press release expressing our concern about major testing scandals uncovered by two of our members within just a few short weeks. Here's a quote:  


"Enough is enough," said Pamela Grundy, a third PAA co-founder who helped lead a parent revolt against an expansion of high-stakes testing in Charlotte, North Carolina. "Parents need to stand up and be heard. Legislators work for us, not for the testing companies. We need to let them know how frustrated we are with this unproductive focus on high-stakes testing, and demand that they listen to parents as they devise a more sensible approach to improving our nation's schools."


Read the full release here


Open Letter to President Obama on class size 


Last week Mitt Romney stated that class size didn't matter. The Obama/Biden campaign decided to ask what we thought about that. You can answer them here.   


As you can imagine, PAA co-founder Leonie Hainson, head of NYC's Class Size Matters, had more to say:   


Do you really want to know what I think? President Obama, you do appear to be a thoughtful man. If you disagree with what Romney said, you should rein in your own Education Secretary and ask him to take back his erroneous statements on the subject.  Even more importantly, if you respect the priorities of parents and teachers as well as the best education research, you will immediately restore the $620 million in your budget that districts can use for class size reduction....

And perhaps you should consider taking a few minutes out of your busy schedule to speak to teachers and parents as well, about what they think about the importance of smaller classes, as opposed to the wrongheaded education policies pursued by your administration.

You can read the rest of her letter here.


On the radio with Susan Barrett 


PAA Oregon member Susan Barrett was recently a guest on a special talk radio segment called "Dying for an Education with Susan Barrett." 


She got in a plug for PAA as well as some good points about key education issues like the Common Core and charter schools.  


She was also promoting today's Oregon Save Our Schools Action Day.   


Here's a quote from her blog on the subject:  


Over the past few years, our elementary class sizes have increased by 19%, our high school class sizes have increased by over 28%, and our school districts in Oregon have chopped away at their days, with one district cutting a total of 15 days this year! Music, art, libraries, shop, and many sports, once a part of public school education, are now only available to some, usually through fundraising. These are OUR children, OUR schools, OUR future. As frustrated and tired as I am, I won't give up. This is too important.  

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

Welcome new affiliate!

We're so delighted to welcome Boston-based Citizens for Public Schools as a PAA affiliate.

The contact person is Marilyn Segal, Executive Director, | 18 Tremont Street.

Eliminating teacher tenure in NC

PAA member Dov Rosenberg reports from North Carolina:

A bill to eliminate teacher tenure has just passed the NC Senate! Please visit this link and voice your concerns and professional opinions! 
Not only does this bill seek to end tenure, it claims to "strengthen teacher licensure" by giving prospective teachers standardized tests and introduce "pay for excellence" for "growth in student achievement," which means more testing and tying teacher pay and performance evaluations to student test scores. 
After Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) presented Senate Bill 795 (Excellent Public Schools Act) to the Senate Education Committee today, this writer explained to the Senate committee how current career status (tenure) laws protect good teachers from political retribution while providing school systems the tools to dismiss poor performing teachers. 

Chicago screens "Inconvenient Truth" with Spanish translation

This week PAA's Julie Woestehoff headlined a panel discussion following a showing at Talcott elementary school of the movie, "An Inconvenient Truth about Waiting for Superman" which features PAA's own Leonie Haimson and New Orleans founding member Karran Harper Royal.  

A special aspect of this showing was the simultaneous translation into Spanish.

The screening was sponsored by Parents4Teachers, a relatively new local group formed to help support Chicago's teachers as they face a possible strike vote and beyond.

Earlier in the month, producers of the Inconvenient Truth movie made the film available online for the first time. While it's always better to see it with friends, this will help get the truth out to more people across the nation. Be sure to share the link!

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.