PAA Action News
April 3, 2014

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PAA Action Alert

Sharon Higgins speaks at rally
opposing Gulen charter schools
Educate yourself and tell others about the controversial Gulen charter school network

Join PAA founding member Sharon Higgins in her second of two webinars on the largest charter school network in the United States, a network operated by people in and associated with the Gulen Movement (GM), a secretive and controversial Turkish religious sect.

Sharon is the foremost U.S. expert on Gulen charter schools. As she wrote in a guest blog for the Washington Post:

The concerns raised about the charter schools in the GM network have related to questionable admissions practices; the channeling of school funds to close associates; abuse of contractors; participation in biased, GM-created competitions; incidents of bribing; using the schools to generate political connections; science fair projects being done by teachers; unfair hiring and termination practices; and more. Still, authorizers continue to approve charter applications, ill-informed parents continue to use them, and taxpayers keep funding the schools - all without much discussion.

Are there Gulen charter schools in your area? Look here for the full list. Gulen schools go by such names as Concept, Horizon, and various versions of "math and science academy."

The webinar, GULEN 101: SESSION TWO, is open for registration. It will be held on Monday, April 7, 2014, from 6:30 PM - 8:00 PM CST.

Seating is limited. If you missed Session One, it is available for review here.

In Session Two, Sharon will build on the background established in Session One and explore in greater depth the Gulen Movement's presence in the United States, including an analysis of a selection of the Movement's charter schools.
Please join Sharon for this important discussion!

PAA and PAAers in the News
PAA non-profit status approved!  


After a more than 7 month wait, PAA has been approved by the IRS as a 501c3 not-for-profit organization. This is an enormous step forward for us. We are very proud of the hard work that went into the application and very grateful for the volunteer assistance of our attorney, Dusty Federko, of the Katten Muchin law firm in Chicago, as well as The Law Project of the Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights under Law.

White House names PAA founding member Helen Gym
a Champion of Change
Wow! Congratulations to PAA founding member Helen Gym for being honored by the White House this week as a Cesar Chavez Champion of Change.

A recognition event took place on Monday, March 31, with a live-streamed panel discussion including Helen and 9 other honorees.

As the White House press release explained, "named after the Mexican American labor leader and civil rights activist, the honor goes to those 'who have committed themselves to improving the lives of others in their communities and across the country. At the core, all of our honorees represent the values and steadfast determination of Cesar Chavez to organize ourselves for a more just tomorrow.' "

We are so proud of Helen, whose story was repeated in multiple television news stories and print media including the local Philadelphia CBS station,, and, not least, Diane Ravitch's blog.

Helen modestly points out that she is not the first PAA founding member to be so honored. Here's Pamela Grundy's Champion of Change page from a few years ago!
Pam Grundy and Peter Wong protest overtesting

Pam writes about why her son will opt out of end of year testing 

The aforementioned Pamela Grundy and her husband, Peter Wong, wrote a joint op-ed in the Charlotte News-Observer explaining why they have decided to opt their son out of this year's End of Grade testing in North Carolina.

Pam and Peter wrote:

Like the vast majority of parents who are choosing to refuse the tests, we regularly challenge our son to undertake difficult tasks where he is unlikely to succeed at the first, second or even third attempt - tasks such as mastering a difficult musical piece, or writing a high-quality research paper. These endeavors have real value. High-stakes standardized tests, in contrast, do far more harm than good.

During nearly a decade of experience with high-stakes testing, we have become increasingly appalled at the damage we have seen it do to schools and children.
For more information, visit, and take a look at their "Opting out" section. If you live in North Carolina, please also sign the opt-out support petition they've put up there.

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 new Ohio chapter!

We are so happy to have a new chapter in Ohio, PAA-Central Ohio, led by Lori Wilhelm. You can contact Lori at

An end to inBloom?

PAA co-founder Leonie Haimson reports that New York State has finally opted out of inBloom. New York was the lone hold out from an original list of nine states that intended to use inBloom to upload, store and share student data. This week, the NY State Education Department agreed to sever its relationship with inBloom and will ask them to delete all the student data already stored on its cloud.

Leonie has spearheaded the national movement to expose and oppose expanded student data sharing with for-profit companies. She wrote this reflection yesterday on the NYC Public School Parents Blog about the long fight and why we must remain vigilant in protecting our children's private data:

(inBloom) appeared to be convinced that they would win by dealing solely with state and district administrators, who they felt they could buy off with promises of grant money and the like.  These educrats, including the top brass at the NY State Education Department, had no understanding or interest in dealing with the real-life concerns of parents, who simply wanted to protect their children's privacy.

Whether inBloom will survive or morph into something else is as yet unclear.  inBloom spokesman Adam Gaber told Stephanie that the nonprofit is "pushing forward with our mission" to make student data more accessible to educators. In reality, their goal was always to facilitate the collection and sharing of personal student information with data-mining vendors, and they may still be able to do this in one form or another....

In any case, the inBloom saga has opened up a can of worms, letting us know that dangerous threats to student privacy arise from a multitude of sources, including the state agencies, avid to track your child's data from cradle to the grave, as well as for-profit vendors, eager to collect as much highly valuable student data as possible in the name of "improving instruction" and "personalized learning" but primarily to make a buck.

Help petition the White House on testing

New PAA Board member Lourdes Perez, founder of PAA affiliate HispanEduca, has mounted a petition drive on Here's what the petition says:

"Standardized test-makers are profiting from selling their collection of their products to states and employers and this abuse is happening in school districts all over the nation. Their lobbyists are behind federal and state laws that require student scores to be used to evaluate not only the students but their teachers, principals and schools. Testing experts have long said that standardized test scores should not be used for high-stakes purposes, but policymakers have insisted on it anyway.


"Moreover, the practice of using high-stake tests like ACT and SAT is creating an education apartheid where only the rich can dream of a future while the poor lack public education to learn and progress in life. We oppose the use of these tests & will punish politicians who support them with our votes."

Please sign!

PAA Blog Highlights

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

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