PAA Action News
Feb. 13, 2014

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PAA Action Alert

Thank a teacher - opt out!

They're starting to call it "testing season" in America. Maybe that's why so much of the nation is in the grip of ice and snow. But parents all over the US are turning up the heat on excessive testing. We're working to let teachers teach and let children learn.

So, maybe we should start calling it "opt out season."

Here are some things you can do:
  • Tomorrow (Valentine's Day) thank a teacher. Say whatever is in your heart.
  • Write that opt out letter - here are sample opt out letters in English and one in Spanish and a simple form letter from Chicago in English and Spanish.  
  • Read and share PAA's position paper on testing.  

PAA and PAAers in the News

Deb Mayer op ed in the Washington Post

PAA leader Deb Mayer, from Portland OR, wrote this excellent post in Valerie Strauss's Answer Sheet blog, "One thing Bill Gates could do that would actually help kids in school."

Deb's proposal? Feed the children.

She details studies that link higher achievement to better nutrition, including the fact that the lowest achieving New York City students made the most gains with a high-quality diet. Unfortunately, the gains were not maintained. Deb explains:

Soon the improvements made in the NYC lunch menu were altered to again include foods with unhealthy sweeteners, flavors, preservatives, food dyes, and fats. Children stopped eating or ate the cheap, poor quality food. Test scores dropped....

Bill Gates, and you, too Arne Duncan, I challenge you to a noble experiment. Feed the children. No more harmful sugar additives, flavors, food dyes, preservatives, or fats. None of that genetically modified stuff, either. Feed the children well, and they will achieve more, much more. This must be a nationwide systemic intervention, not a competition where some kids get good food and some kids don't.  This isn't The Hunger Games, after all, and besides, we can afford it. Feed all the children well. Then, install safeguards to keep this fine intervention in place for years to come. Your goal of improving education will be a successful and sustainable one!

PAA affiliate makes news in North Carolina

Members of PAA affiliate had the privilege of joining tens of thousands of participants in the massive Moral March on Raleigh last Saturday.

The March vividly portrayed the anger many North Carolinians feel about the far-right legislation passed by the North Carolina state legislature, including the most far-reaching curbs on voting rights in the nation, the refusal to expand Medicaid or extend unemployment benefits, sharp restrictions on women's ability to make their own medical decisions, and reduced per-pupil funding for public schools.

"The people are dissatisfied with what their elected officials are doing," co-chair and PAA founding member Pamela Grundy told the Charlotte Observer. "And they're letting them know."'s schoolgirl puppet, Rosa (pictured above), was also featured in a newscast by Raleigh's WTVD-TV.

PAA co-founder joins NY Times debate
on parents and federal education policy

Leader of PAA affiliate Class Size Matters in NYC, Leonie Haimson, has added her thoughtful voice to a New York Times debate over the role of parents in school and student success in light of comments by President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan that parents should put more pressure on schools and student to perform. Leonie writes:

Rather than insisting that parents should get with the program and put more pressure on their kids, Obama needs to recognize that parents are now demanding more of him. They are challenging him and other policymakers to wake up to the damage being done, reverse course and institute proven reforms that will strengthen our schools rather than stifle children's creativity and independent thinking, by forcing them into a cookie-cutter mold.


Blaming parents for struggling schools or low student performance is inaccurate, unfair and shifts the responsibility from where it should be: inequitable school funding, high class sizes, soaring poverty and failed leadership.

You can join Room for Debate on Facebook and follow updates to this discussion on   


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
Remembering Tom Olson

Susan Barrett, PAA leader formerly from PAA affiliate Oregon SOS, writes: 
One of the Oregon SOS co-founders, recently passed away. Tom was one of the most amazing, incredible advocates for students and for people experiencing hardships of poverty and even for recent immigrants. He was a fighter until the end.

PAA became familiar with Tom because of his open letter to Stand for Children's Jonah Edelman. Your posting of Tom's letter and my story about SFC is what really helped people find us.

After PAA published my story about Stand for Children, Tom saw it and contacted me. He shared his open letter with me, and also his extensive resume as a means of introducing himself. To have someone with his level of experience and research expertise, was great for launching our Oregon group. He was amazing. Non-stop, constantly attending meetings in the state capitol, or even when he couldn't attend, reading all education related materials and analyzing them. He had written a number of papers for our blog.

He had written a number of op-eds. Here is one we all remember so well. The way our state was ignoring poverty's affects on education, was a big issue for Tom. With Tom, and his dear friend and other OSOS co-founder, Rex Hagans, we did get a bill passed last session that requires the DOE to at least issue a report on how poverty impacts one's educational attainment. It was a bit more watered down than we originally intended, but at least it raised the discussion.

There is certainly far more that could be said about Tom. Because PAA shared Tom's open letter, I thought I would share at least some of this with you all.

Susan also reports that Portland teachers are ready to strike for the schools they deserve, and that the Portland Student Union, which has  been so active opting out of testing, is organizing walk-outs in support of the teachers' strike.  

One last word from Susan - she has moved from Oregon to Massachusettts and is looking for allies to continue her fight for excellent public schools. You can contact us at with ideas for Susan!

Join the HispanEd Policy Police!

Here's an invitation to all from Lourdes Pérez Ramírez, leader of PAA affiliate HispanEduca, based in Florida.

Join her linked in group, HispanEd Policy Police!

If you are wondering, what is and why join HispanEd Policy Police, I'II say you are asking the right questions.

So here is the answer to your "what and why."

I am the president and founder of HispanEduca, an education advocacy nonprofit organization whose mission is to empower all Hispanics with current and critical information on education policy issues and reform that directly affect Hispanics (discriminate, are biased, close the doors of education and workforce opportunities to Hispanic students and workers) so when the time comes, they have the opportunity to influence and develop education policies that help increase Hispanic/Latino education attainment levels.

Most of the discussion about education policy issues and reform takes place among education circles. That means that not many Hispanics are exposed to these critical issues, therefore, important decisions that impact our students and our workers (especially blue collar workers) are taken by the political elite AND lobbyists without us having the opportunity to voice our concerns.

That is precisely what HispanEduca and now its group, HispanEd Policy Police, intend to stop.

I believe, and literature supports my claim, that it is time for the common citizen, including Hispanics, to get involved in this process in one of many ways: becoming aware of education policies and reforms that directly and indirectly affects our children because they cloak inequity; becoming education advocates; supporting nonprofit organizations whose mission is to advocate for better opportunities for our Hispanic children, or joining a group like HispanEd Policy Police to be part of the dialogue.

HispanEd Policy Police will run the extra mile to keep informed Hispanics and other people who are interested in improving education and workplace conditions for Hispanics.

You don't have to be Hispanic to be part of this group. You just have to be interested in the topic, and we will be more than honored to have you. Please feel free to comment, critique, share your opinion no matter your side of the issue, and even give us suggestions on how to improve this group.

If after this synthesized explanation you feel like joining us, we will be more than pleased and honored to have you.

Another great blog post by leader of PAA-Suburban Philadelphia

From Danielle Schwartz:

Here is a blog entry  I wrote in September featuring a letter the Pennsylvania NAACP released regarding PA's high stake graduation exams, the Keystones.        
It begins: "It isn't every day that one hears things like,   "Eugenics...human rights violation...unspeakable horror...holocaust on our youth and trauma... a system of entrapment for the youth of Pennsylvania...depraved indifference...deficient in a moral sense of concern...lacks regard for the lives of the children who will be harmed, and puts their lives and futures at risk...LYNCHING OUR OWN YOUNG."

And another great post by Florida school board member on testing

Courtesy of Lourdes...this article by Rick Roach reflects on the screening of the "Standardized" movie.

PAA Blog Highlights

Keep up with our blog for more news and commentary on public education from the parents' point of view.

In addition to the posts mentioned above, these posts by PAA President Dora Taylor are new on the blog:
For more....
If you have questions, comments, suggestions or stories to share, please e-mail us at or

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