PAA Action News
Oct. 11, 2012

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PAA Action Alert

Join the Campaign for our Schools! 

What are your hopes and dreams for our schools? That's the question that teacher blogger Anthony Cody and historian Diane Ravitch hope you will answer in your own letter to President Obama.

They want parents, teachers, students, and other members of the public school community to write your thoughts about what needs to change in federal education policy and send them in a letter to President Obama by October 17th (next Wednesday).

There are sample letters and copies of many actual letters already posted on Diane's blog and the web page for the Campaign. They are also asking you to copy and paste your letter on the web page; letters submitted there will be included in a printed, bound document that will be delivered to the White House.

Details and specific information about how to contact the White House can be found on the PAA web site.

And, if you haven't already, please take a minute to endorse the National Resolution on High-Stakes Testing here.   


PAA News
PAAers in the News

PAAers in print: Educational Courage

The Christian Science Monitor has just named "Educational Courage" one of the Top 15 "Must-Read" Books about K-12 Education in the US:

"'Educational Courage: Resisting the Ambush of Public Education,' edited by Nancy Schniedewind and Mara Sapon-Shevin, is a book of personal essays by experts, parents, educators, activists, and others affected by education reform. It places many of the assumptions that underlie American education policy (i.e., "Education is failing, and the teachers are to blame") in critical perspective. The essays tell some of the human stories that have emerged from education reform, from that of a third-grader so stressed by high-stakes testing that she wound up in a psychiatric unit, to a teacher who left Teach for America to advocate for public schools."

One of these personal essays was written by PAA co-founder Julie Woestehoff, of Chicago's Parents  United for Responsible Education (PURE).

The publishers, Beacon Press, have created an "Educational Courage" web site for further information and action ideas related to the book. Some of PURE's tip sheets and fact sheets, which Julie mentions in her essay, are linked in the "Practical Materials" section of the site.

Buy the book from Beacon, on Amazon, or on other sites.

Sojourners Magazine just published a blog comment/letter to the editor Julie wrote in response to a previous article by Nicole Baker Fulgham, "Beyond 'Superman,'" which discussed the "Won't Back Down" movie and recommended that meaningful reform must involve all stakeholders having a stronger, more meaningful voice in school decision-making. 

PAAers on the air

Julie was also interviewed on National Public Radio a week ago on "Won't Back Down," saying, "The problem is the packaging of this movie as part of a whole propaganda campaign promoting charter schools and going after teachers unions." 

PAA Philadelphia affiliate member Helen Gym debated the head of the Commonwealth Foundation, a think tank promoting the free market, on the parent trigger, charters and equity, on the local Philadelphia NPR affiliate radio station. Listen here.

Tales of Karran

Parents Across America Founding Member Karran Harper-Royal recently spoke at the New Zealand Post Primary Teachers' Association's annual conference. Her keynote speech, "From New Orleans to New Zealand with Love:  A Warning About Disaster Capitalism and Public Education," opened the PPTA's annual conference.

PAA founder Karran Harper Royal speaks in New Zealand
(Photo from
Karran said there is a parallel between the way charter schools are being forced on the New Zealand population - particularly in quake-stricken Christchurch - and the situation in New Orleans, and urged Kiwis to work against similar mistakes being made in their country.

"I am honored to be here to share with you what has happened in New Orleans as we struggle to survive after our own educational disaster. I can't go back in time and fix that, but what I can do is share our experience with the rest of the world so they don't have to suffer the plight that we have. We were so shell-shocked after Katrina that we never saw it coming - but you have a chance to put a stop to it. Through our shared struggle we will be able to save our children as our education system is attacked," she said.

More at  

NOLA School Board election
Campaign contributions for the New Orleans school board race, which PAA's Karran Harper Royal jumped into at the last minute, are raising interest in the press

Karran is opposed by two charter school advocates, including Sarah Usdin; Karran's "warchest" is only about 5% of the $110,000 Usdin has been able to collect from corporate reformer like Joel Klein.

Read more about Karran's campaign here.
For charters or children?

Wendy Lecker, our PAA leader from Connecticut, wrote this excellent article for the Stamford Advocate which was later subject of a blog post by Diane Ravitch, who said, "Wendy Lecker, advocate for public education in Connecticut, raises important questions. Why was Hartford's low-performing Milner School handed over to charter operator Jumoke Academy? Why did Hartford officials do nothing to help Milner until the charter school took over? Why did Jumoke get $2 million to fix Milner but no help was available to Milner before the takeover? Lecker asks: is the responsibility of the state to help the kids or to help grow the charter sector?"

Join us!
If you share our overall goals of progressive, positive education reform and more parent input in education policy making, we invite you to affiliate with us if you are an existing group, or to form a new PAA chapter. The more of us there are, the stronger our voice will be at every level. Here's how!
PAA Chapter and Affiliate News

More doings in Texas

From PAA's  Houston leader, Karen Miller: Diane graciously extended her visit to Austin for other events aside from her keynote address to the Texas School Administrators and School Board Associations, including the taping of a PBS-syndicated program, "Overheard" with Texas Tribune editor, Evan Smith.  The program will air 10/18 in Austin, and at various stations throughout the country and will be available online. Check this site for local listings.

In addition, the Texas testing revolution has been subject of a Texas Tribune Festival the week preceding Diane's visit.

PAA's Lorie Barzano and I also attended a UT-Austin Symposium on High-Stakes Standardized Testing and have been working with Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment (TAMSA) aka "Moms Against Drunken Testing."
The forum was organized by UT LBJ School prof (and AISD parent) Carolyn Heinrich. A link to the archived broadcast is included here.
An AISD parent, political consultant (and high stakes testing critic), Jason Stanford, attended the Eastside Memorial HS event with Diane that Lorie organized.  More here, here and here. 

Additionally, I notified TASB that Diane Ravitch graduated from San Jacinto HS in Houston (as did my husband, though not in the same graduating class, overlapping years) and she was just named to their list of "proud products of Texas public schools."

Opting out in Chicago

PURE helped sponsor an "opt-out" forum last Thursday night for parents of several Chicago public schools interested in opting out of some of the 100 plus standardized tests students are subjected to every year.

Opt-out fever is heating up in the city. PAA affiliate 19th Ward Parents and PURE are co-sponsoring an anti-standardized testing forum featuring FairTest's Monty Neill on Friday, November 2. They are also working on a citywide strategy session with the Chicago Teachers' Union.

PAA Blog Highlights

Check our blog for new blog posts in the days ahead.