PAA Action News
Apr. 15, 2015

Welcome to PAA Action News, the information and action newsletter of Parents Across America.
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PAA Action Alert

Sign up for our May 5 webinar
on charter school accountability

PAA is pleased to join with the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) in a webinar on the many problems with poor charter school oversight which wastes millions of dollars every year. Lawmakers ignore this growing scandal as they continue to push for rapid charter school expansion. Parents need to learn the facts about charter school waste, confront your representatives, and push for common-sense reforms.  

From CPD:  
The number of charter schools has grown rapidly over the last ten years and while some have succeeded, independent studies show that other charter school operators have failed to perform, wasted taxpayer dollars and in some cases stolen money. The performance and operational failures are largely the result of states failing to provide the kind of oversight that would improve student learning and reduce instances of fraud. There is ample evidence that the American people want public control and accountability for all publicly funded schools. In the Public Interest (ITPI) and CPD have just conducted a poll that shows that Americans overwhelmingly favor common sense proposals to strengthen charter school accountability and transparency, improve teacher training and qualifications, prevent fraud, serve high-need students and ensure that neighborhood public schools are not adversely affected.

Join PAA and CPD policy experts in a webinar to learn about the results and the policy implications of the findings.

When: Tuesday, May 5, 8 pm ET, 5 pm PT
Where: Sign up here!

Keep up the pressure!

There's still time to have an impact on ESEA. The Senate education committee finally came up with a proposal - the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 which is in "mark-up" this week. This means that the committee is discussing and debating the proposal in preparation for voting it out of committee and onto the full Senate floor. The proposal was resulted from negotiations between committee chair Republican Lamar Alexander and Democrat Patty Murray.

The Senate proposal is disappointing. It still requires annual testing in grades 3-8. Alexander claims that testing got out of control under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) because of the high stakes attached to schools' failure to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), not the testing mandate itself. He believes this will no longer be a problem under the Senate proposal, which gives states, not the federal government, the power to decide what to do about schools and districts with low test scores. The Senate bill also has no requirement that tests be a component of teacher evaluation.

We respectfully disagree that this is enough to effectively address test mania in the US, particularly under Common Core and its PARCC and SBAC tests.

For example, the Senate bill keeps the requirement for a 95% test participation rate, which is already being used as a hammer by schools, districts and states against parents who wish to opt their children out of testing.

Language in the bill about alternative forms of assessment is vague and not really different from what policy makers ignored in NCLB. A new program to support the development of high-quality alternatives has so many hoops to jump through that it is unlikely to find many takers.

The Senate bill also pushes for more charter schools.

So, what to say to your Senator now?

How about this: Parents want less testing, and the only way to accomplish that is to cut back on federal testing mandates by returning to grade-span testing and specifying parents' right to opt their children out of testing. Parents also want an end to unlimited, unregulated charter school expansion at the expense of traditional public schools.   
Mark your calendars!

Sunday, April 26, 9 am: Join us in Chicago!

PAAers Nate Harris and Julie Woestehoff will present a workshop at the Network for Public Education's national conference in Chicago. Our session, "The Impact of Poverty, Race, and Cultural Bias on Educational Opportunity," is scheduled for  Sunday morning, April 26, at 9 am. We hope those attending NPE will join us in this important discussion. 

Tuesday, May 5, 8 pm ET

Sign up today for our May 5th webinar on charter school accountability. Register here.

July 20-24: PAA annual conference in DC

We have set tentative dates for our annual conference in DC - July 20-24, 2015. Pencil us in! 

PAA and PAAers in the news

PAA-Seattle holds press conference on opting out

PAA-Seattle leader Dora Taylor, PAA's President, held a press conference last week on the
growing numbers of students opting out of the Common Core-related SBAC tests this year. Parents, students, teachers and community members have formed a new group, Seattle Opt Out, to promote and support those opting out of the SBAC.

 Featured at the press conference was a statement of support from the Seattle/King County NAACP, as well as:
  • SPED parents who talked about how these tests unfairly punish and demoralize their students,
  • ELL parents who addressed why these tests are not culturally or linguistically appropriate, and
  • Parents of color who talked about the way these exams maintain institutional racism.

Washington State requires students to pass the high school level SBAC tests in order to graduate.   


The press release quoted Garfield High School teacher Jesse Hagopian, "The cut score for SBAC testing was deliberately set so as to fail around 60% of the students who take the test.  None of us teachers got into our profession to demoralize students and we find this political decision to artificially create mass failure reprehensible and pedagogically unsound."



Truthout photo from Seattle Opt out press conference


A report of the press conference in Truthout included these related quotes: 

"...the Opt Out movement is a vital component of the Black Lives Matter movement and other struggles for social justice in our region. Using standardized tests to label Black people and immigrants 'lesser,' while systematically under-funding their schools, has a long and ugly history in this country."

-Gerald Hankerson, current President of the Seattle/King County NAACP


"It was not until I was long out of school and indeed after the [first] World War that there came the hurried use of the new technique of psychological tests, which were quickly adjusted so as to put black folk absolutely beyond the possibility of civilization."

--W.E.B Du Bois, Co-founder of the NAACP

PAA President Dora Taylor moderates legislative hearing
senate hearing common core part 1
Wayne Au testifies

Senators Maralyn Chase (D) and Senator President Pro Tem Pam Roach (R) led a bipartisan press conference on Thursday, April 2nd followed by an exposť of the Common Core educational standards adopted by the Legislature in 2011.

Chase and Roach are the lead sponsors of Senate Bill 6030, introduced Feb. 18, which would have the state withdraw from Common Core standards and return to the Essential Academic Learning Requirements that preceded Common Core.

"Common Core is uniting liberals and conservatives like no issue I have seen. Our conference Thursday is about building momentum toward a legislative repeal of Common Core in 2016," said Chase, D-Shoreline.

The panel participants included:
  • Moderator: Dora Taylor, League of Women Voters Education Committee and President, Parents Across America
  • Diane Ravitch, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education, under President H.W. Bush and National Assessment Advisory Board, under President Bill Clinton; historian of education, and educational policy analyst 
  • Director Sue Peters, Seattle School Board, founding member of PAA
  • Wayne Au, Associate Professor of Education, UW-Bothell
  • J.R. Wilson, Parents Across America member, citizen, taxpayer, voter, educator, past executive committee member of Where's the Math? and Truth in American Education co-founder
  • David Spring, PAA member, teacher and author

QUEST leader Mary Battenfeld reports that the group has been focused on gathering data and testifying about inadequacies and inequities in the city and state budget for Boston and public schools more generally, and on fighting school closures.

Mary wrote an oped on the state budget and schools that was published on the public radio blog Cognoscenti.


In it she wrote, "Budgets contain more than numbers. They tell the story of who we are and what we care about. Right now, the story features inadequate funding for 200,000 Massachusetts children who live in poverty. It's the responsibility of our state government to revise that story, and the budget, to give those kids what they need."



PAA-Suburban Philly inspires wave of opting out

Danielle Arnold-Schwartz, leader of PAA-Suburban Philadelphia, tells us that one of their members started a petition to Governor Tom Wolf to end the Pennsylvania common core, standardized testing and the corporatization of public education, which Diane Ravitch tweeted on 4/14/14.

Her initial goal was 100 people, and over 3,000 people have signed it so far. Danielle blogged about it here

Here is an excerpt:

" As Governor of Pennsylvania, throw out the whole Pennsylvania Common Core and high stakes standardized testing. Do not "rebrand" it. Get rid of it for good. The entire premise is corporately motivated without accountability to the public -- we the people -- but with access to public dollars. It is wrong and at the expense of our children. The publishing company Pearson has a great sales pitch. It's well honed which why it has gone as far as it has and as quickly as has. However, the pitch versus the practice is something different altogether. The very notion of one size fits all education is flawed. Each child is unique. Each child has different strengths and weaknesses. We all do. That's what makes our country strong. We aren't all one size fits all identically thinking drones and nor should we be. What makes this country great is that it allows differences in thought and celebrates that and our economy has fostered from that. We absolutely must celebrate intellectualism and the need for it. Quality education is the key. However, the overarching macro McDonaldization of conveyer belt education is highly problematic and anti-intellectual as well as down right boring!"  

Danielle also reports that suburban Philadelphia is experiencing an exciting wave of  opt outs since their PAA chapter supported a local screening of the documentary, Standardized. One superintendent stated, "The number of parents who are requesting to see the exam has gone up 1000, 2000 percent, compared to previous years..." 

Here's a story in Newsworks about the increase in opt outs.

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 chapter!

We are so happy to add the Liberty Parents Action Network as an affiliate, our first in Missouri! The group will hold its first meeting this weekend; details on their Facebook page. Please like them on Facebook! And we wish them luck as they get organized. 

PAA-Northeast Texas Leader speaks at rally


Jennifer Collins, founder of PAA-Northeast Texas, spoke at the Save Texas Schools rally on Saturday, March 28 in Ft. Worth, Texas. You can read her full remarks here on her blog, but here's a quote:   


"One year ago, I knew next to nothing about education policy. One year ago, I had never written a letter to my state or federal representatives. In fact, I'm not even sure I could have told you their names. One year ago, I had never given public testimony before lawmakers or been interviewed for a TV news story about education. This wasn't even on my radar. One year ago, I had not been to Washington, DC-not even as a tourist. And one year ago, I certainly had never given a speech at a rally in front of hundreds of people.


"Then the STAAR test changed my life. In the last year, I have written letters, spoken with school superintendents, administrators, and teachers about education issues, testified twice before the Texas Senate Education Committee, organized community forums and documentary screenings, and been interviewed by television and print news reporters for stories on education. I have made valuable connections within my district, across the state, and around the country. I founded Parents Across America-Northeast Texas and attended the PAA national leadership conference and BATS rally in Washington, DC. And now here I am speaking to you. I'm here because I care. I care about my daughter's future. I care about my son's future. I care about every child's future. And I know that you are here today because you care too."



Anyone know about CLASS?

PAA Board member Deb Mayer, leader of our affiliate Oregon Save our Schools, published this blog about the Chalkboard Project last week. 

She says she's fairly certain that CLASS, one of the programs they promote, is a nationwide thing, and she'd like to find out if CLASS is operating in other states and the names of the nonprofits that are promoting it. Anyone have an answer for Deb?  

You can reply to this newsletter email or to if you have some info for Deb.  
PAA blog highlights

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