PAA Action News
Mar. 14, 2013

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PAA Action Alert

Parent Trigger - False Promises, Divided Communities and Disrupted Young Lives
Parent Trigger - False Promises, Divided Communities and Disrupted Young Lives

Share this new video on the parent trigger

Here's a four minute video
from the Education Opportunity Network. "Another Reform Misfires" features a parent, Lori Yuan, who opposed the trigger at her children's elementary school in Adelanto, CA and John Rogers a professor from UCLA who has described the parent trigger as "a misguided approach to improving educational improvement and enhancing parental engagement."  

Parent triggers have been introduced in 14 states this year (see map below) and may be introduced in Pennsylvania this session as well. 

PAA's weekly legislative fax for you to use

This week, the PAA weekly education fax was about the growing national resistance to excessive standardized testing.  


PAA believes that excessive reliance on standardized exams narrows the curriculum, promotes teaching to the test and leads to unfair and unreliable evaluations of students, teachers, and schools. We support high-quality accountability measures and reliable assessments including true multiple measures.   


Read our recommendations and the full fax we sent  to all members of the U. S. House and Senate education committees here. We urge you to copy and send it as a fax, e-mail, or snail mail to your Congresspersons and, where appropriate, your state and local elected officials.


PAA News

Lots of media clips to catch up with in the two weeks since our last newsletter! Here goes!

Network for Public Education

As reported in the Village Voice and elsewhere, Diane Ravitch has launched the Network for Public Education, a politically-oriented public education advocacy group whose leaders include PAA co-founder Leonie Haimson and Robin Hiller, the leader of PAA affiliate Voices for Education, along with Phyllis Bush, who was instrumental in organizing our 4-state conference in Fort Wayne, IN, last month.

The group announced that it will "support candidates who oppose high-stakes testing, mass school closures, the privatization of our public schools and the outsourcing of its core functions to for-profit corporations, candidates who work for evidence-based reforms that will improve our schools and the education of our nation's children."

NPE is a 501c4 organization which is allowed to endorse candidates and raise money to contribute to their campaigns, unlike groups like PAA which operate under a 501c3 structure. NPE plans to challenge Michelle Rhee's Students First, Stand for ChiIdren, and rich folks like Michael Bloomberg, who have funneled so much money to corporate reform candidates in Los Angeles, Denver, Ohio, and other places across the nation.

The press release announcing NPE's formation quoted Phyllis Bush saying:

Public schools are under assault in this country. Now more than ever it is imperative that concerned citizens unite to save the public school system. Our group, Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education, and other grassroots groups helped to elect Glenda Ritz to become our Superintendent of Public Instruction, a huge victory against rampant and destructive education policies. With the creation of the Network for Public Education, we will reach out to others across the nation to fulfill the promise of public education.

Check out the NPE web site, consider joining as an individual, and  like them on Facebook!

Philly's Parents for Public Education in the news

PAA affiliate Parents United for Public Education has reports on today's anticipated vote to close as many as 27 schools in Philadelphia. Among the schools slated for closure are a high school with a graduation rate of 90% which will merge with a school with a graduation rate of 53%. Read more here.

Parents United's ethics complaint against a prominent Philadelphia foundation and the Boston Consulting Group went national with this Associated Press story.  It was also featured on Huffington Post. 


Finally, Parents United's Helen Gym, a PAA founding member, writes about the impact of a District proposal to teachers to slash collective bargaining rights. Among the proposals are dramatic wage and benefit concessions, no step increases for teachers earning a masters or doctorate,  elimination of class size caps, scheduling elementary lunches to 30 minutes a day, and removing guarantees for "adequate" textbooks and supplies, access to copy machines, and yes, even a water fountain. Read Helen's take here and here on the PAA website.   

NYC's Class Size Matters has also been busy

Besides launching the Network for Public Education (see story above), PAA co-founder Leonie Haimson, head of PAA affiliate Class Size Matters in New York City, held a press conference today on the encroaching invasion of our children's privacy by Wireless and others: 

As reported in Reuters, a company called inBloom Inc. is collecting the most private, sensitive, and personally identifiable student data from New York and other states, storing it on a vulnerable "data cloud" and making it available to commercial vendors:

 "In operation just three months, the database already holds files on millions of children identified by name, address and sometimes social security number. Learning disabilities are documented, test scores recorded, attendance noted. In some cases, the database tracks student hobbies, career goals, attitudes toward school - even homework completion."

As the article makes clear, this company plans to share this information "with private companies selling educational products and services.  Entrepreneurs can't wait."   We learned from a press release that one of these for-profit companies that the state has signed up to use this data is called Escholar.

The operating system for inBloom is being built by Wireless, now renamed Amplify, a subsidiary of NewsCorp owned by Rupert Murdoch and run by Joel Klein.  Leonie Haimson was quoted about Amplify's new tablet on NPR four days ago.

Thousands of parents have emailed the State Education Department and DOE to protest this arrangement; hundreds have sent opt-out letters without response.  One parent was told by a staffer at SED that they were too busy collecting and transmitting the data to inBloom to respond to parent concerns. My question is this:  if this is really for the benefit of public schoolchildren, why do they refuse to notify their parents or ask for their consent?

CSM's research on class size was also quoted by Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn.

From PAA Board member Natalie Beyer in North Carolina:
Here's a link to an Op Ed "School Vouchers: A Threat to Our Very Foundation" from Public Schools First NC, which Natalie helped found. The letter says:

School vouchers foster a two-tier school system that puts underfunded public schools at a disadvantage. It's a myth that vouchers give choice equally to all families.... Furthermore, vouchers do not improve student outcomes. Where vouchers have been tried, they have shown no appreciable academic benefit. More than 20 years of research indicates that students who leave traditional public schools for private schools do not fare better academically.

PSFNC is co-sponsoring a Crucial Conversation with Dr. Diane Ravitch in Raleigh, NC next Thursday March 21 at noon. Read more here.

And from South Carolina...

Peter Smyth shared a letter to the editor he wrote about teacher evaluation for PAA affiliate Charleston Area Community Voice for Education. It's a response to this editorial in the Post and Courier.

Peter writes:

...the editors, S.C. Education Superintendent Mick Zais, Charleston County School District Superintendent Nancy McGinley, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and others support a system for teacher evaluation that will likely entrench more ineffective teachers while reducing the number of effective teachers. That's worse than regression to the mean. They back a system with no supporting evidence, but only a nice story line and the hope it might work.... The whole issue is more deeply flawed because it defines what we want for our children and what we want teachers to focus on, as increasing scores on narrow standardized tests. One would think we might look at other countries with successful education systems, or closer to home, certain private schools.

WGN-America story on school turnarounds features PAA Board member

PAA Board member Julie Woestehoff was interviewed for this WGN-TV story on a Chicago school turnaround, Phillips High School. The school has lost a large number of students and test scores have dropped in the second year of the turnaround.  

Julie said:

We think (the turnaround) is very disruptive, that it destabilizes our communities and that it has not really been the panacea, the silver bullet that it's been promised....Part of the problem is there have been too many experiments. We've had probation, reconstitution, reinvention, remediation, every "tion" in the world and none of them really seem to take hold. And that's because I believe that the CPS refuses to accept the input of the people who really know best what needs to happen. 


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
Delana Ivey (center) signs Parent Power up as a PAA affiliate
while PAA co-founder Julie Woestehoff (right) looks on
Welcome new Indianapolis affiliate Parent Power and PAA-Indianapolis!    

Our first affiliate in Indiana is Parent Power. We met Parent Power leader Delana Ivey at the 4-State PAA conference in Fort Wayne, IN. She is also setting up a PAA chapter.

Delana has already started reaching out for PAA. She reports, "At Legislation Day at the Indiana State House March 19, we will introduce PAA to Indiana PTA parents (who will be attending their Leg. Day). Our purpose is to create PAA awareness and partnerships with active PTA members around Indiana."
Also, PAA- Indianapolis and Parent Power Present:
ED TALKS: The Policies and Politics in Indiana Public Education 
IUPUI - Education/ Social Work Building rm 2116 
March 25, 2013 6pm-7:30pm 
This event will be filmed by Indiana Cable Access Station.
Once filmed we will post on FB and link in Email.

Welcome, Parent Power and PAA-Indianapolis!  You can reach them at   

Testing forum - From Seattle to Chicago

More Than a Score, a parent-based testing resistance group convened by PAA Chicago affiliate Parents United for Responsible Education, is co-sponsoring a forum in Chicago on March 19th featuring Seattle teacher Jesse Hagopian, a leader in the Garfield High School testing boycott, with Chicago Teachers' Union president Karen Lewis.

The forum will focus on ways to fight the expanding use of standardized tests in our schools.

PAA Blog Highlights

Keep up with our blog for more news and commentary on public education from the parents' point of view. New post this week (in addition to the ones mentioned in the stories above):