Give the Gift of Opt Out

It’s Christmas Eve, and like many children across the globe who celebrate the holiday, my kids are excited that their long wait is coming to an end. My son and daughter are still young, almost seven and three respectively, and it’s easy to allow the perception of magic that fills their hearts to enter my soul this time of year. While it’s hard not to get caught up in the contemporary culture of all things materials, I’d like to pause for a moment of reflection at this day’s winding down to give thanks for all the non-material fortunes in my life, namely that my children are happy and healthy, and that we as a family are bound by love, and thriving from love’s energy.

While I give thanks for all that I have, I also acknowledge the incredible disparity in the world between those who have everything and those who have virtually nothing. Luckily I fall in the middle and am humbled. If you are like my family and your children wake up tomorrow filled with Christmas excitement, think of those who are less fortunate. We must, as a society, be willing and able to do something about poverty, and the generational disadvantages that affect many demographics.

But this isn’t a post about Christmas. Christmas is merely a perfect opportunity to reiterate the damage being stricken on our schools and the children who walk down their halls by the corporate elite who wish to profit from a privatization scheme that has been pushing Common Core standards, scripted curriculum, worksheet curriculum, test preparation materials, and of course, the litany of standardized tests themselves. School reform entities have weaseled their way into prominence because somehow they convinced us of the myth that our schools were failing and our teachers were incompetent. This is not true.

Our schools have become the target of reform because of poor performance on standardized tests, and we’ve been told that we are falling behind our international counterparts. This is also false. The reformers would have you believe their lies by leaving out important information. Poverty. Child poverty in the United States is staggering, according to a Washington Post article, with one in three children living in poverty in this country. Compare that to countries like Finland who traditionally score higher on international tests and one can see that their child poverty rate is much lower. When looking at test scores within the United States, it is clear that schools within economically advantaged communities score much higher than those within communities with high levels of poverty.

povertygraphic

The fact is that our schools and our children are being shortchanged based on a myth. In most cases, our schools are thriving. Those that are not are generally located in communities without the financial resources to compete with affluent districts. Ironically, it is these “failing” districts who are punished the most, given less funding, restructuring, teacher firings, and even school closure. The real problem is not school failure. It is not teacher incompetence. And it is not a lack of “rigor” or high standards. The issue is poverty and disparity, and until policy makers are willing to face this societal dilemma head-on, our schools and children will still suffer the cyclical illusion of failure because of something entirely out of their control.

What can one do about this as an individual? You can speak out. Speak truth to power. Every voice that dispels the myths is a voice of reason tipping the tides to policies and social programs that tackle the real problems and not the illusions. If you are able to speak out, you must. When it comes to education, you can give the greatest gift of all: Opt Out. Fight back against the myth based on test scores. Remove the data that corroborates the lies. Opt your child out of standardized testing and say no to the corporate takeover of our PUBLIC education system.

This Christmas season, as you contemplate all that you are thankful for, put test refusal on that list. You are your child’s best advocate, and opting out is a gift that every parent can give. It doesn’t cost anything and the rewards are infinite. Merry Christmas! And let’s wish for a New Year where the culture of testing is denied and our children and teachers can go back to real learning.

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NYSAPE Press Release: John King Resigns

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 11, 2014

More information contact:

Eric Mihelbergel (716) 553-1123; nys.allies@gmail.com

Lisa Rudley (917) 414-9190; nys.allies@gmail.com

NYS Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) – http://www.nysape.org

John King Resigns: Parents & Educators Call for a New Direction from the Regents and

Demand NO Interference from Governor Cuomo

Late Wednesday, the New York State Education Department announced that Commissioner John King is resigning effective the end of this year to accept a new post in Washington as an advisor to US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Last year NYSAPE, parents, and educators from around the state called for Commissioner King to step down. After many months of frustration and outrage from parents and educators across New York State, the chapter closes on an embattled commissioner who failed to address legitimate serious concerns.

Eyes from all corners of the Empire State now turn on Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, the Board of Regents, and the legislature to ensure the next commissioner represents the substantial change in direction that public school parents demand from a responsive government that serves the people. NYSAPE calls for the Regents to adopt an open, inclusive selection process and stresses the importance of input from parents, educators, and other stakeholder groups in appointing a commissioner who will be more accountable to the public at large.

Governor Andrew Cuomo will also be watched very closely to ensure he does not overstep the constitutional authority of the Regents and interfere in any manner with the selection of a new commissioner of education. For innumerable reasons, New Yorkers are very glad to live within a NYS Constitution that does not grant Governor Andrew Cuomo authority when it comes to oversight of education in New York. They will be watching very closely both Governor Cuomo, who called public schools a “monopoly” to be broken, and his private backers with financial interests in the privatization of our public schools.

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Westchester County

“It is time for the Board of Regents to move in a very different direction. The Regents dismal track record of refusing to heed warnings and address significant parental concerns with excessive testing, student data privacy, and school privatization leaves no room for error with the selection of the next commissioner and must not allow for any interference from Governor Andrew Cuomo or his backers,”

said Lisa Rudley, founding member of NYSAPE and Westchester County public school parent.

New York City

“John King was the most unpopular commissioner in the history of NY State. He showed no respect for parents, teachers or student privacy. Ironically, he was intent on protecting his own privacy, and routinely withheld public documents; our Freedom of Information request of his communications with inBloom and the Gates foundation is more than 1 ½ years overdue. His resignation is good news for New York state; hopefully he will be unable to do as much damage at the US Department of Education,” Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters.

Long Island

“This is bittersweet news for the parents and educators of New York. For the past few years we have endured an education commissioner that has repeatedly ignored our pleas for help. He has heard our stories of our children suffering as a result of the Board of Regent’s corporate reform agenda, and replied, “full steam ahead”. New York has seen the largest testing revolt and parent uprising in known history under his regime. This outrage and pushback from parents and educators will continue to grow until the Board of Regents and the State Education Department put their focus where it belongs: on our children. The future of education for the children of New York now rests with the selection process of his replacement, and parents demand to see educators on this search committee. Our hope is that his replacement will finally begin to listen to parents and educators, put our children first, and protect our NYS public education system,” stated Jeanette Deutermann, founder of Long Island Opt Out and Nassau County public school parent.

Dutchess County

“John King had many successes as commissioner of education. He was successful in creating a polarized, toxic situation and shutting down dialogue on important education policy matters such as common core, high stakes testing and student privacy. King earned a prestigious vote of “no confidence” from the state’s largest teachers union. King successfully hurled accusations and insults against parents, educators and concerned citizens and was able to deflect responsibility for his actions. King was successful in shortchanging the democratic process. King managed to avoid accountability to the Regents for demonstrated incompetence and lack of professionalism. In his short reign as commissioner of education, King was successful in mobilizing and forcing parents, educators, and concerned citizens to call and write state politicians demanding the he resign or be removed. King provided great advice and leadership that advanced charter, corporate education and other interests at the expense of public school children,” said Anna Shah, Dutchess county public school parent.

Otsego County

“The news of Commissioner King’s resignation is a victory for everyone in NYS who has repeatedly called for this moment. I am hopeful that a replacement commissioner will be appointed who has enough integrity to heed the concerns of stakeholders rather than blatantly ignore them. We must insist on an educational leader who will represent the best interests of students, parents, teachers, and schools,” Danielle Boudet, founding member of NYSAPE and Oneonta Area for Public Education.

Oneida County

“The students, parents, and teachers of New York State must insist that Mr. King be replaced with a commissioner that will actually put the needs of students’ first. Under John King’s watch, New York State embraced a reform agenda set forth by billionaires, a reform agenda designed to falsely label public schools as failing, widen the achievement gap, and portray hard working professional educators as the problem. This trend will only continue unless the citizens of New York demand better for our children. Mr. King’s departure provides the true stakeholders of public education-children-the hope that our next commissioner of education be courageous enough to defend our public schools by challenging the false narrative currently put forth by reformers,” said Jessica McNair, Oneida County public school parent and educator.

Erie County

Eric Mihelbergel, founding member of NYSAPE and Erie County public school parent stated, “On October 15 of 2013 we called for the resignation of NYS Education Commissioner John King after he proved his complete disregard for parents and the public by cancelling all scheduled Town Hall meetings across New York State. Now, over a year later, he is leaving New York State education in far worse shape than he found it. The New York State Board of Regents must step and do what they could not do before. They must appoint a new commissioner that puts the needs of our children ahead of the agenda of corporate education reformers.”

“Considering the many problems from Common Core, testing, and the failing APPR educator evaluation system, it is time that New York State has an experienced educator who has worked as a public school classroom teacher, principal, and superintendent as its next commissioner,” Chris Cerrone, Erie County public school parent and board of education member.

Statewide

Marla Kilfoyle, General Manager of the BATS stated, “John King has disregarded the voice of the practitioners in the classroom which soundly told him that the policies he promoted were hurting children and destroying their education.”

New York State Allies for Public Education consists of over 50 parent and educator advocacy groups across New York State. More details about our education positions and advocacy can be found athttp://www.nysape.org.

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Farewell Commissioner King

It’s already old news across New York State that John King is resigning from his post as NY’s education commissioner, effective at the end of the year, to take a position as a top advisor to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.  New Yorkers from all corners of the Empire State have been calling for Commissioner King’s resignation for over a year, so I consider the news of his departure from our state a victory.

Truth be told, I will miss Commissioner King. His innate ability to open his mouth and spew retorts that completely sideline the voices of stakeholders in education did wonders to galvanize our (activist) cause. John King simultaneously represents our anger and our resolve to fight back. He has often been photographed at forums across the state where articulate yet angry NY citizens spoke truth to power about the devastating effects they have witnessed in public schools because of the education policies King was hired to staunchly execute and defend. The face of King’s consistently smug, dispassionate, and disinterested responses has become a recognizable symbol of the infuriating and destructive reforms that have ruined public education.

NYS Commissioner of Education John King and Regents Chancellor Meryl Tisch, the dynamic duo of ed. reform. We must continue to call for Tisch’s resignation as well.

Maybe it’s because I’ve seen the world of education reform just keep getting more and more bizarre over the past two years, with one unbelievable addition after another, that rarely am I surprised anymore. I have to laugh at some of the praise I’ve been reading, like Regent Bennett calling Commissioner King “the best educator I’ve ever met.” This remark by a regent makes it even more imperative that attention must be paid to the NYS Board of Regents, its members, the role they play in state ed. and the thus far lack of transparency in the process in which regents are appointed to the board.

The title of this Peter Cunningham article in Education Post is called “A Great Education Leader Joins a Great Team.” — two mind-boggling, fallacious statements in my opinion. In fact the entire article is a sugar-coated ooze of praise for the great commissioner, using phrases such as “enormous change and progress,” and this giant whopper: “John brings unparalleled credentials, experience in both traditional and nontraditional schools, and extraordinary courage and composure as a leader.” Cunningham must be referring to King’s limited classroom teaching experience in a charter school and the fact that he sends his own children to a private Montessori school. Perhaps the article should be titled “NY Education in Ruins, John King Goes National to Help Duncan Dismantle Public Ed.”

The people of New York, the real stakeholders in public education have a different story to tell, and not all news of King’s departure is filled with praise. This lohud editorial, “Commissioner King’s Tone-Deaf Legacy” is not forgiving of the commissioner’s total lack of response to concerns that have echoed through the state. In this recent statement put out by NYSUT (New York State United Teachers), citing the great disconnect between King’s vision for NY and the cries of concerns coming from public schools’ stakeholders, the teachers union joins the call of other groups such as the New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) who demand that the Board of Regents select a new commissioner who will be a true advocate for public schools and who will actually listen to public school stakeholders..

King’s legacy of “full steam ahead” education reform policies and blatant ignoring of real concerns expressed by a majority of NY parents, teachers, students, and taxpayers will not be missed. But there is concern for many that such utter incompetence is being rewarded with a promotion to a top position at the federal level. For my part, I am not concerned. United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has already menaced education at the national level with policy pushing that promotes competition between schools and teachers in a test-driven education environment filled with inappropriate standards, narrowed curriculum, ridiculous data-driven accountability measures, and drowning local involvement. While I am appalled that King is moving up, I envision his new position at Arne’s side more like one would see a loyal lapdog at the feet of his master. After all, King is aptly able to perform the role; we’ve seen time and again his inability to utter any original thought that isn’t a direct recitation of Race to the Top policy agendas and Common Core rhetoric. And isn’t that what a master really wants? An obedient servant, a loyal head nodder and yeasayer?

Perhaps King isn’t being “promoted” at all. Maybe the rumors are true that King was forced out by Governor Cuomo. After all, he failed as his primary responsibility to squash the rebellion. New Yorkers are mad as hell over education reforms inflicted on our schools. And we are not backing down. I say let John King move into the ranks of Arne Duncan and Michelle Rhee, two of the most hated individuals associated with education reform. After all, individuals like Michelle Rhee will long be held as symbols of school deform, and will help to galvanize our resolve to reclaim public education long after the so-called legacies associated with their job titles are repaired. Let the anger and uprising that John King helped to foster in New York spread further into the hearts of all Americans across the nation so that our collective purpose to save our schools becomes even more empowered.

To Stampylonghead

Dear Stampy,

My son begged me to post this note to you. I agreed on the condition that he finish his math. The math is completed, so here it is:

IMG_0244

IMG_0245

He’s 6, so let me translate. The first page says:

Stampy (the symbol in the upper left corner is a heart)
come
to
my
birthday.
January.
OSCAR (my son’s name)
there’s
cake!
For
you!
in
America.

Page 2 is obviously a drawing of your minecraft persona standing over and gesturing toward a cake (“kake”). Oscar says you really like cake!

Cheers,

Oscar’s mom