PAA Action News
Sept. 17, 2015

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PAA Action Alert

Challenge Duncan's rule changes for testing disabled children

Thanks to conversations with Dr. Gary Thompson, a noted Utah child psychologist who has spoken out against the Common Core, we have learned that new federal regulations go into effect on September 21, 2015, barring states from using alternative assessments for special education students, with the exception of a very restricted number of students they label "severely cognitively impaired."

Dr. Thompson has shared his concerns about this change, which he says the US Department of Education (USDE) based on "fraudulent and unethical use of psychology research." He has written a powerful, detailed critique of the USDE's rationale for this rule change -- that is, "new research" that supposedly supports the idea that students with disabilities can perform at the same grade level as traditional students, and can be tested fairly on the same test used by traditional students, especially if his or her teacher is doing a good job and the tests used are from the "next generation" of tests (i.e. PARCC and SBACC). USDE states:
Nearly all States have developed and are administering new high-quality general assessments that are valid and reliable and measure students with disabilities' knowledge and skills against college- and career-ready standards....we believe that alternate assessments based on modified academic achievement standards are no longer needed and, with high-quality instruction and appropriate accommodations, students with disabilities who took an alternate assessment based on modified academic achievement standards will be able to demonstrate their knowledge and skills by participating in the new general assessments.
Carefully fact-checking USDE's citations, Dr. Thompson discovered that every finding was compromised. Some studies were directly paid for by the USDE and its partners, some were not peer reviewed, and others tested one age or ability grouping of children but applied the findings to a different age or ability grouping. Some claims were not supported by any research study whatsoever.

Dr. Thompson's conclusion is that "The US Department of Education's interpretation of cited 'studies' used to justify policy changes have been dangerously manipulated and are utilized to achieve political goals at the expense of millions of public school children."

So, for reasons for which USDE has no legitimate basis, millions of our most vulnerable children are about to be subjected to tests which PAA believes are already harming the general population of students emotionally and academically.

What can we do? Opting students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) out of standardized tests is one good response. Dr. Thompson also suggests we call for congressional hearings on the faulty "research" behind this latest top-down testing mandate.

Still time to impact ESEA

Congress is back after summer break, but seems to be too distracted by Hillary Clinton's emails, Planned Parenthood videos, and Donald Trump's latest quip to do too much about ESEA reauthorization as far as we can tell.

So, there's still time to weigh in with your Senators and Congresspeople. You can share with them PAA's latest fax message, our priority points for ESEA, or our  full position paper.  

Dyett update

The Dyett hunger strike has gone on for a month now with little indication that Mayor Emanuel is concerned.

Parents in Chicago are protesting the closure and potential privatization of Dyett High School, the area's last open enrollment high school.

Dyett parents and community supporters have spent months  working with educators to develop a strong proposal for transitioning the school to a global leadership and green technology school, but their ideas are falling on deaf ears at City Hall and in district offices.

See story below for more on growing national support for the hunger strikers.

What can you do to support the Dyett hunger strikers?

Even if you're not in Chicago to help out, you can still like the Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology Facebook Page here, read their excellent school transformation proposal here, and donate to the hunger strike (via its sponsoring organization, Kenwood Oakland Community Organization) here.

PAA News

PAA joins 300 groups and individuals
in support of Dyett hunger strike

This week PAA signed a national letter addressed to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, joining nearly 300 educators, academics, researchers, community groups, and others to express concern for the health of the Dyett hunger strikers and support for their proposal to establish Dyett as a Green Technology and Global Leadership school.  While the Mayor has conceded that he will not to close the school after all, but keep it open and open-enrollment, the protesters are not ready to end their 32-day hunger strike.   

As reported by Diane Ravitch, "The education advocates call on Emanuel to take the following next steps:
  • A curricular emphasis on green technology and to include "Green Technology" in the name of the school.
  • The involvement of members of the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School on the design team and in the selection of the principal,
  • An elected and fully empowered Local School Council.
QUEST challenges multiple threats
to public education in Boston

PAA affiliate QUEST reports:

"QUEST has been responding to several threats to equitable access to public schools in Boston. These include a ballot initiative to lift the charter cap, a lawsuit claiming the charter cap is unconstitutional, and a proposal by the Mayor for a combined charter-district enrollment system."
They issued a press release on the enrollment proposal which concludes, "QUEST points out that the Compact, adopted in 2011, has shown little benefit for the vast majority of Boston's students and believes that expanding a multi-district education system with little transparency or accountability will increase inequitable options for the city's students, especially those with the greatest needs."  
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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!
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