PAA Action News
Jan. 15, 2015

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PAA Action Alert

Urgent action alert:
ESEA and testing

As we mentioned in our last newsletter, Congress is moving pretty quickly now on the long-delayed reauthorization of ESEA, formerly NCLB.

First up is a Senate education committee hearing on testing and accountability on January 21, and we want to be sure our Senators know by then that we expect them to make some real changes in the test-and-punish regime of NCLB.

Most promising is a proposal from new Senate Education Committee chair Lamar Alexander, R-TN, who replaced retiring Senator Tom Harkin as the Republicans take control of the Senate. A discussion draft of his bill is here.

Sen. Alexander has offered two options for testing in a new ESEA. Option 1 offers states flexibility in how often they test and what kind of assessments they use. Option 2 would leave testing more or less as it is in the current law, except that it does not require the use of tests to evaluate teachers.

PAA has taken a position in support of Option 1. In a statement we sent today to all members of the Senate and House education committees, and to the media, we
urged support for Option 1's proposed shift from annual to grade span testing and its flexibility regarding the choice of assessments to measure student achievement.

Here's what you can do

1) Contact your Senator and Congresspeople today and ask for their support for grade-span testing and state flexibility in selecting appropriate assessments, Option 1 of Sen. Alexander's ESEA bill.

2) Share your thoughts with Chairman Alexander who has asked for input on his proposal here:

3) Consider making an appointment at home with your Senators and Congresspeople this weekend if possible. Members are out from the end of the day to day until next Tuesday evening. Maybe you can run into some at MLK events!!!

3 + 1 talking points:

1) I support grade-span testing in place of annual testing requirements.
2) I support flexibility for states to choose assessments that help children and don't force schools to become standardized test prep factories.
3) I support including a parents' right to opt their children out of any standardized test.  

+ 1) Add your own story - what has caused you to oppose high-stakes standardized testing?

Testing and civil rights

Testing politics make strange bedfellows. We may consider Democrats in Congress to be our natural allies on many issues, but when it comes to testing, we are at odds at least with those Dems who primarily listen to insider groups like Education Trust and think that Arne Duncan actually knows something about schools.

In fact, Duncan made a speech three days ago in which he stated categorically that "all students need to take annual, statewide assessments that are aligned to their teacher's classroom instruction in reading and math in grades 3 through 8, and once in high school."

A day before Duncan's speech, Ed Trust and a number of national civil rights and education advocacy groups also came out in support of continued annual testing.  

One of the concerns of these groups is that children of color, children living in poverty, children with disabilities, homeless, foster and migrant children, children in detention, children still learning English, Native children, and girls as well as boys will continue to receive the short end of the educational stick if they are not tested every year.

Many of these groups acknowledge the harm done to their constituents by the misuse of standardized tests for grade retention, denial of graduation, school push-out, mass school closure and teacher firing, and other destructive practices.

What they seem unwilling to do is stand up against those practices and work toward policies that can hold responsible adults and institutions accountable without hurting children.    

PAA co-founder Julie Woestehoff has posted a paper on the PAA site, "Civil rights, discrimination and standardized testing," which addresses this problem, and includes a link to a 2-page fact sheet on Racial Bias in Standardized Testing.

Many of our members and readers are also members of local chapters of some of the signatory groups supporting continued testing:


The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

American Association of University Women

American Civil Liberties Union

Children's Defense Fund

Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates

Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund

Easter Seals

The Education Trust

League of United Latin American Citizens

Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund


NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund

National Center for Learning Disabilities

National Council of La Raza

National Urban League

National Women's Law Center

Partners for Each and Every Child

Southeast Asia Resource Action Center

United Negro College Fund

As we push for what we know is the right thing to do about testing, you may want to share these documents and your own thoughts with these groups.


We will keep you posted on future Congressional ESEA hearings and topics - we will be keeping an eye on issues including expanded charter school funding, virtual learning and vouchers. 
PAA and PAAers in the News

Lots of parent activity in Roanoke, VA

PAA-Roanoke Valley leader Laura Bowman has been asked to be an occasional education blogger on a local news station. Her blog post will be the first one they publish on their website and concerns the re-authorization of ESEA. We'll share the link when it's posted.
Laura says she's been kept busy in her PTA leadership role, but encouraged by the number of people who are interested in PAA-Roanoke Valley. As her PTA President job ends she plans to make PAA-Roanoke Valley a more physical presence in the area and have quarterly meetings and organize and participate in events.

Meanwhile, look at what Laura's been up to!

  • This is the Dell Think Tank I was invited to participate in last year and they did an interview with me afterward. There are several clips of the interview here. 
  • Here's coverage of a meeting with Governor Terry McCauliffe when he was running for Governor. 
  • Here's coverage of the Town Hall Meeting on Education I organized last year. The focus was on testing.
  • I took the Virginia Standards of Learning test for a news report
  •  I attend School Board meetings and sometimes speak.
  • Here's the coverage of the Legislative Meeting I held for our PTA Council this month.
  • Here's the video I took of my presentation at the above meeting. I sent it to our Governor, Board of Supervisors, School Board, and Legislators. 
  • Here's an editorial in our local paper focused on the Eat for Education program I'm trying to establish here.
Save the date

PAA secretary Julie Woestehoff will be featured in an Education Week webinar on community engagement focusing on the Chicago Local School Council model of school governance on February 7. Details coming!

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 Board retreat in Dallas    

The PAA Board of Directors is having a retreat this weekend, January 16-17, in Dallas, TX, to work on PAA goals and strategies and to continue some discussions we started at the July 2014 conference.

We're excited to have the chance to meet with our PAA-North East Texas chapter while we're in Dallas.

We'll report out on results after the meeting.

There are currently two vacancies on the Board (Dawn Collins and Lourdes Perez) 
which the Board expects to fill at the retreat. New Board elections are coming up soon, however, so stay tuned! 

UOO Conference this weekend

PAA affiliate HispanEduca leader Lourdes Perez is a featured speaker at the United Opt Out conference this weekend, Jan. 16-18, in the Broward Convention Center in Fort Lauderdale, FL. The fourth annual UOO event, the "Standing up for Action" conference will take place on the second floor of the convention center in Palm Room A, and it is open to the public.  


There will be sessions in Spanish.


Kids just can't sit still for the tests...

Danielle Arnold-Schwartz reports that PAA Suburban Philadelphia is planning a Standardized screening and opt out informational meeting, which, she says, "is somewhat new for the burbs around here (People think the state tests will help their kids "get ready" for SAT's)."

Here is a blog post Danielle wrote on the recent increase of finger pointing at "kids these days," the "need" for grit, and how kids just can't sit still for the tests:


Moral Mondays Across America?

Our PAA-Indiana leader, Delana Ivey, reports that PAA-Indiana and PAA affiliate Parent Power are joining with the Indiana Moral Mondays Education Committee to oppose ALEC-inspired legislation in Indiana.
Moral Mondays started in North Carolina in response to the (unfortunately successful) efforts of a conservative-leaning legislature to impose a lot of ALEC-driven law on the state.

ALEC is the American Legislative Exchange Council, a group of legislators, lobbyists and wealthy donors who come together to craft pro-business, anti-democratic legislation which they then bring back to their home states. The most notorious of these proposals is the "Stand Your Ground" law, but ALEC also promotes vouchers, charter schools, and taking charter school and other key decisions away from local school boards.

PAA affiliates Mecklenburg ACTS and Great Schools for North Carolina have participated in many local Moral Monday events. 

Delana with Julie Woestehoff at 2014 Parent Power conference
Delana is looking for other groups interested in joining forces with or helping form Moral Monday groups across the US.

You can contact her at 

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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