PAA Action News
Nov. 20, 2014

Welcome to PAA Action News, the information and action newsletter of Parents Across America.
Connect With Us
Like us on FacebookFollow us on TwitterView our videos on YouTube

PAA Action Alert

"Like" Helen today!

Our wonderful founding member, Helen Gym, is a nominee for RootsCamp's "Most Valuable Organizer" award. Helen, the leader of PAA Philadelphia affiliate Parents United for Public Education, has done some amazing things lately, from appearing in the White House as a "Cesar Chavez Hero," to taking on a major Philadelphia foundation, to helping rid the state of a governor who did his best to defund public schools.   

Please cast a vote for Helen today- it's easy! Go to the RootsCamp award site here, find Helen's name (nominees are listed alphabetically by first name) and follow the link to "like" Helen and share your vote on Facebook.

In her statement, Helen wrote:

At Parents United we're uplifting voices of Philadelphia parents to not only beat back a toxic ed reform narrative and send a message about investing in our public schools, we're changing the political direction of our city and state. In the past year we filed 100s of parent complaints again soon-to-be-ex Governor Tom Corbett's Dept. of Ed around the shameful condition of our children's schools, we won a lobbying charge against monied donors trying to backdoor privatization schemes, and helped parents organize a schoolwide vote to keep their schools public rather than be turned over to charter. We're working to humanize the dialogue around how we talk about poverty, schools, and our children. And we're sending a message to our elected leaders in PA and Philly that a vocal and organized parent body is truly a political force to be reckoned with.

You may see some other folk you know listed among the nominees - go ahead and like them, too! The award winners will be announced at the end of the RootsCamp conference in Washington DC on Dec. 14.

Help Reclaim our Schools

Several PAA affiliates are part of a nationwide "Week of Action" this week, coordinated by the Alliance to Reclaim our Schools. Special events are planned for today, Nov. 20. Please check the schedule here and go out and show your support if you can.
  • PAA's Pittsburgh affiliate, Yinzercation, joins with local allies in a press conference at school board headquarters calling on the School District to advance sustainable community schools strategies to turn PPS schools into community schools and  calling on Governor-elect Tom Wolf to make Sustainable Community Schools one of his top education priorities in the first 100 days.
  • PAA's Boston affiliates QUEST and Citizens for Public Schools is joining with allies to "adopt" the Dearborn School to show support for its teachers and students and demand sustainable community schools. They will symbolically "walk-in" to Dearborn to show their support during this difficult time as Dearborn works to turn their school around without a charter operator and address critical infrastructure issues.


PAA and PAAers in the News

Exciting reports from PAA's chapters/affiliates

It's been an amazing year for PAA chapters and affiliates. At the beginning of this school year, we asked our member groups to share some of the highlights of their work. These reports are posted on our web site by region: Please take some time to read these stories of challenge and progress in real school improvement! Thanks to PAA founding member Pamela Grundy for collecting and collating these reports, and to our chapters and affiliates for their hard work and dedication.   
Test resistance is growing!

FairTest recently released a report on the growing national resistance to standardized testing, which included interviews with PAA founders Pamela Grundy and Julie Woestehoff and PAA affiliate Save Our Schools NJ's Julia Sass Rubin, along with many other allies around the U.S.

FairTest found that "The relentless expansion of testing, coupled with high stakes, and the resulting damage parents see inflicted on their children has fueled the rapid rise of campaigns to roll back the overuse and misuse of standardized tests.

"Saying "Enough is enough!" a national movement erupted across the nation over the past two years. Its core demands are simple and clear:
* Sharply reduce the amount of standardized tests;
* Eliminate high-stakes uses of those tests; and
* Implement educationally sound assessments such as performance assessment."

FairTest predicts that "the testing resistance and reform movement will expand in size, reach and power. The road will not be easy. Our allies face well-funded,
deeply entrenched forces. Though test-and-punish proponents are engaged in
tactical retreats in some jurisdictions - supporting brief suspensions of testing
requirements, for example - they will doubtlessly try other strategies to control
education through testing. We cannot afford to relax the pressure on policy makers. By building larger, stronger, grassroots campaigns, assessment reformers will remain on track to win many more victories in the coming years."

Congratulations to Indy Parent Power

Recently, PAA's Indianapolis affiliate Parent Power received support for its "Talking Points" from Teaching for Change. Parent Power's John Harris Loflin reports that his group was impressed by TfC's orientation towards parents as well as its support for emancipatory curricula and pedagogy for all students. 
TfC's letter stated that, "We applaud Parent Power Indianapolis's efforts, which are guided by an emphasis on the public ownership of schools and designed to challenge the power dynamics that discourage and disenfranchise marginalized parents. Teaching for Change is pleased to endorse this platform which encourages parent activism, inclusion, and engagement in the most meaningful ways."

Chicago's local school councils
highlighted in Education Week

PAA Board of Directors member Julie Woestehoff was quoted in a recent Education week article (subscription required) marking the 25 year anniversary of the Illinois School Reform Act that created elected, parent-dominated local school councils in every Chicago public school.

While the district has attempted to undermine and marginalize LSCs, the system has endured and continues to attract strong support from parents, teachers, and even principals.

PAA promotes LSCs as a model for parent empowerment (see our position paper 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
PAA Election round-up

PAAers around the US had a variety of reactions to the recent national election. The best news came from Pennsylvania, where grass-roots organizing by groups including PAA affiliates Parents United and Yinzercation helped oust governor and public school foe Tom Corbett.

The news from Texas, Massachusetts, and Illinois was less promising. Jennifer Collins, leader of PAA-Northeast Texas, reports that new leadership in the governor and lieutenant governor positions is likely to promote vouchers and charter schools. The outlook for reducing standardized testing is much better, with useful legislation likely to be brought forward in the state's biennial legislative session.

In both MA and IL, new governors with corporate reform leanings were elected. Mary Battenfeld, leader of PAA Boston affiliate QUEST, notes that new governor Charlie Baker appointed a "radically pro-charter" supporter as head of his transition team. And, while Illinois voters rejected Paul Vallas for lieutenant governor, thus putting a nail or two in the public service coffin of this much-despised "reformer," governor-elect Bruce Rauner is even more likely to follow the standard corporate reform playbook.   

Read the full reports here on the PAA blog.  
Parent Power sponsors
2-day testing conference

Speaking of Indy affiliate Parent Power, leader John Harris Loflin reports that the group sponsored an unprecedented 2-day public discussion on standardized testing at the Indianapolis Public Library this past Sunday and Monday.

"The debate over mandated high stakes standardized testing is growing. Who wins and who loses when American students fill in the bubbles-especially for urban families and schools? Why do education reformers tout the test as "the" measure of student, teacher and school success when standardized tests are not designed for these daunting tasks? What is the difference between testing and assessment? How can Indiana parents, educators and community members promote authentic school accountability? What is the history of standardized testing and what role did Hoosiers play in the movement's beginnings? See"

On Sunday, Nov 16, the group sponsored the
Indiana premiere of the documentary
Standardized Lies, Money & Civil Rights: How Testing Is Ruining Public Education
The post-film discussion was moderated by local hip hop "MC" Mathew Davis of Localmotion and featured Parent Power leader Delana Ivey and PAA Board of Directors member Nathan Harris along with:
         Phillip Harris, co-author of The Myths of Standardized Testing
         Carole Craig of the Indianapolis NAACP education committee
         Kahlil Mwaafrika leader of the Kheprw Institute Community School
         Merry Juerling of Opt Out Indiana and an Indianapolis Public Schools    


A panel discussion on Monday, Nov. 17, was moderated by Scott Elliott of Chalkbeat Indiana and included Dr. Dena Cushenberry, Superintendent MSD Warren Township; Dr. Khaula Murthada with IUPUI's Educational Leadership and Policy Studies; and Jeremy Baugh, Founding Principal of The Phalen Leadership Academies, who spoke on issues of student testing and school accountability.

For questions or comments about this event, write John Harris Loflin at

PAA Blog Highlights

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

For more....
If you have questions, comments, suggestions or stories to share, please e-mail us at or

Looking for regular updates on key education stories? Join the PAA News List by e-mailing