PAA Action News
Jan. 24, 2013

Welcome to PAA Action News, the information and action newsletter of Parents Across America, a network of activist parents coming together to strengthen our public schools. If you have questions, comments, suggestions or stories to share, please e-mail us at or visit
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PAA Action Alert

Sign up for the PAA Testing Webinar!

On January 27 at 1:00 PM PST, 3:00 PM Central and 4:00 PM EST, Parents Across America will host an online seminar on high stakes testing and opting out of such tests.

Ripped from the headlines! Webinar guest Jesse Hagopian is a teacher at 
Garfield High School and part of the MAP test boycott that's been all over the news.

Jesse will be joined by: 
  • Shaun Johnson, a former public school teacher, current teacher educator and online radio show co-host of At the Chalk Face who is a founder of United Opt Out National.
  • Monty Neill, Executive Director of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest). Dr. Neill  authored Implementing Performance Assessments: A Guide to Classroom School and System Reform, and Testing Our Children: A Report Card on State Assessment Systems, the first comprehensive evaluation of all 50 state testing programs.
  • Tim Slekar, a former public school teacher and now an associate professor of teacher education. Dr. Slekar is also co-host of At the Chalk Face and a founder of United Opt Out National. 
There will be a discussion on:
  • How high stakes testing got started.
  • Methods to fairly evaluate a teacher in the classroom.
  • Opting your student out of high stakes testing, why and how. 
Each guest speaker will have an opportunity to talk about these subjects and then it will be opened up for questions and discussion.

SIGN UP! To sign up for this event, go to Eventbrite. You will be notified of instructions on how to sign onto the webinar a few days before the event.

We can accept a maximum of 100 guests.

More testing action!

Read about the growing support for the Garfield boycott here.

Like the Garfield teachers' stand on Facebook!

Read letters of support for the Garfield teachers' boycott from PAA-Seattle and PAA Massachusetts affiliate Citizens for Public Schools.

PAA News

New PAA position paper: Parents support teachers

Last week, PAA released a new position paper, "Why Parents Support Teachers." This paper was written by committee of the whole with special thanks to Howard Eagle, Pamela Grundy and Julie Woestehoff.

The paper reviews the "long tradition of parent support for public schoolteachers," including recent events such as the Chicago teachers' strike. We acknowledge that difficulties can exist between parents and teachers, but, as the paper concludes:

While parent and teacher groups do not always agree, our best chance to be heard is to speak together on those issues where we find common ground, to oppose unproven, damaging education strategies and to support positive, research-based reforms supported by adequate funding. Parents Across America is proud to support teachers in these efforts.



Response to the paper has been positive; Education Clearinghouse calls it "an idea we can all support":


Here is an excellent post on the Parents Across America (PAA) web-site.  The post explains why PAA supports teachers.  I thought this was great because there are so many out there (see: reformers) who are constantly denigrating teachers and the work that we do.  In short, there is too much bashing of teachers and not enough praising of teachers going on.


I hope you find this post interesting and if you can lend support to Parents Across America, it is a great place to start.


You can download a pdf copy of our new position paper here. Other PAA position papers can be found on our web site here.  

More on Seattle teachers' test boycott featuring PAA's Sue Peters

Sue Peters, founding member of Parents Across America and co-editor of the Seattle Education blog with PAA's Dora Taylor, spoke with Tim Slekar and Shaun Johnson on Chalk Talk Radio a few days ago about the Garfield MAP test opt out. Garfield High School teacher Heather Snookal joined Shaun and Tim for the second half of the show.

PAA-CT leader finds a stand-up superintendent!

When last we wrote, PAA-CT leader Wendy Lecker had made a simple plea for one Connecticut superintendent to speak out about the dangers of Connecticut's over-emphasis on high-stakes standardized testing.


Wendy later wrote in her column in the Stamford Advocate:  


Diane Ravitch, the nationally noted author, education historian and former Assistant Secretary of Education, posted my column on her blog and one courageous superintendent stood up - Thomas Scarice, of Madison. The story of how Superintendent Scarice and his community crafted the district's recommendations for its teacher evaluation plan is a model of how education policy should be made. In Madison, the process and results reflected a consensus of the entire community and a focus on what children need.


Here's Diane Ravitch's reaction.  


PAA's Lorie Barzano on Texas defunding testing

Lorie Barzano, Chair of PAA Austin affiliate Coalition SAUS (Strengthen Austin Urban Schools), reports a new twist on the Texas revolt against high stakes testing.

The Texas legislature, which meets every two years, went into session last week. As one of its initial acts, the TX House of Representatives passed its preliminary budget for the upcoming biennial.

In the line-item for standardized testing, the TX House approved $0---zero dollars -- a move that took most people by surprise, since the state had signed a new 5-year, $500 million contract with Pearson Inc. just last year.
Lorie Barzano at USDE parent leaders meeting April 2012
In his opening address to the House, Speaker Joe Straus commented, " parents and educators concerned about excessive testing---the Texas House has heard you."

Given the state's new contract with Pearson, Coalition SAUS does not anticipate that the TX House will withhold all funding for testing in its final budget. 

However, as  Lorie commented in the Dallas News, "One of the surest ways to assure there will be a meaningful discussion of the testing is to withhold the funding until some of the stickier parts get addressed."

Are New Orleans schools really better?

This opinion piece by PAA founding member Karran Harper Royal was just published on the WWLTV web site. 

Her answer? It depends. "If you are a New Orleans Public School parent, you may have a mixed reaction. Some are very disappointed that after trying school after school they have yet to find this miracle of success that they have heard so much about. Some parents have left the public system in search of private school vouchers and the elusive promise of a better opportunity, while some have left New Orleans all together."
Karran Harper Royal

Karran also questions the data used to evaluate the schools' progress: "Based on our current measuring tools we will not be able to measure success in terms of test scores or school performance scores. We must measure the success in terms of a higher quality of life and the ability to participate in society. The reforms that are needed to get us there must involve a focus on learning and not testing."

Journey for Justice 2

Karran will be on the Journey for Justice 2 next week with representatives from 18 states, and she will testify before a special hearing at the US Department of Education on the discriminatory impact of school closings. Read the press release here, and stay tuned! 

PAA affiliate PURE takes on Chicago charter network's financial practices
PURE press conference 1/17/13

PAA co-founder Julie Woestehoff, executive director of PAA Chicago affiliate Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE), held a press conference announcing a complaint filed by PURE and the chairman of the Pilsen Academy Local School Council with the Illinois Office of the Executive Inspector General, asking the EIG to investigate the financial practices of a clout-heavy charter school network run by the United Neighborhood Organization (UNO).    

In 2009, UNO received an unprecedented $98 million grant from the state of Illinois to build new charter schools. PURE learned that UNO went to the recent lame duck legislative session asking for $35 million more. PURE is concerned that UNO is in deep debt and is using projected student enrollment as collateral for more loans.

The Chicago Tribune reported: "PURE's executive director said UNO has not been transparent enough about how the money is being used. 'We have our doubts of whether this money going to UNO is in the best interest of children,' said Julie Woestehoff, executive director of PURE."

Crain's Chicago Business called it "Springfield magic - money for schools ...some schools."

Read more here (reposted here by Diane Ravitch) and here.

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
Welcome to our newest chapter - PAA-Western PA!

We are excited to welcome PAA-Western PA, as a new chapter. The leader is Mary Manges and you can contact her at

Our chapter/affiliate application form was on the fritz for a while, but it's back on line now, ready for more new members!

PAA now has 43 chapters and affiliates in 22 states!

Great event hosted by Oregon Save Our Schools

Susan Barrett, leader of PAA affiliate Oregon Save Our Schools, offers this response to last week's forum with NYC teacher Brian Jones:

We were SOOOOOO grateful to have Brian Jones in town. He loved the play, A Noble Failure, and went back a 2nd night (before flying out this AM) to write a review of it. It is fantastic. I hope it can somehow get across the nation.

Here is the audio from his public forum and some background on the play

Portland students against high-stakes testing

Susan also wants to share the Portland Student Union petition against high stakes testing. They have a Facebook page, where you can also find the petition to Oregon Governor Kitzhaber.

Parents, beware! Your student's privacy is at risk

PAA co-founder Leonie Haimson's NYC Public School Parents blog warns parents that NY and eight other states plan to share your child's confidential school records with private corporations without your consent.

The blog post Includes a video of Khem Irby, founder of PAA's North Carolina chapter PAA-Greensboro speaking before the Guilford NC school board last week about the district's intention to give confidential student records to private corporations as part of the "Shared Learning Collaborative" run by the Gates Foundation.

You can download a fact sheet for parents here.

Protecting Student Privacy Rights and Data 
PAA-Greensboro leader Khem Irby testifies on protecting student privacy rights and data

Reminder: PAA Chicago affiliate to sponsor testing forum today

PAA's Chicago affiliate Parents United for Responsible Education will sponsor a testing forum featuring FairTest's Monty Neill on Thursday January 24 at 7 pm at the Hartzell Methodist Church, 3330 Martin Luther King Drive in Chicago.

The forum will focus on sound, effective alternatives to high-stakes standardized tests.

The event is free and open to the public. Details here.       
PAA Blog Highlights