Sunday, April 27, 2014

#162 April 27,2014- Education as a Rallying Point

Class, Money, Education 
and Voting. . .
America has long been portrayed as a land of freedom and opportunity.  This is one of the reasons why we have attracted immigrants from so many places throughout our history.  Our high standard of living, and our relatively open society have been a magnet that has drawn people from all parts of the world.  Even in challenging economic times America has been a preferred destination for people struggling to survive in other places.  This has been true through history, and continues even into current times. 

At the same time, those who look realistically and carefully at our history, as well as our current situation, recognize that America isn't a perfect place.  Those who portray America as an exceptional place purely on the basis of our economic and political systems, ignore the realities that exist here.  America has benefited from a combination of many different things to achieve our status in the world.  Some  are physical like our geography, isolated from the conflicts of Europe, Africa and Asia by ocean barriers and distance, our natural resources, and the huge area our nation occupies.  Others are the result of events and actions around the world that allowed our nation to grow and mature with minimal interference from other world powers.  We have been very fortunate as a nation and our growth into a superpower has not been achieved purely by our own “virtues.”  A legacy that includes brutal oppression of those who disagree with the wealthy elite who control our nation. 

The bloody labor dispute of a hundred years ago continues to reverberate in contemporary political discourse.
By The New Yorker

Our history has been a constant struggle between the ideals that our nation is built on, and the reality that the people who hold power in America create for themselves.  While we would like to imagine that our the United States has avoided the inequities and injustices that prompted many of our citizens to immigrate to America, the reality is that our nation has fallen short of the vision that we hold so dearly.  We have seen different groups fight for a share of the "American Dream" and their battles have moved our nation closer to achieving our goals of "Liberty and Justice for All."  Yet, there is always a pushback from those who have acquired wealth and status using the existing social, political and economic systems that serve to benefit their interests. 

These cycles where we advance Progressive ideals and then see  Conservative efforts to return our society to its previous status have been a part of our history and the largest conflicts have a visible impact on our nation.  We are currently involved in a time period of historical implications.  The changes in attitudes, legislation and policies that were made during the 1960's and 1970's are being undone now, in the 2010's.  Some of the most noticeable are the changes in electoral policies, attacks on the regulatory powers of our government, and the undoing of important Civil Rights legislation.  Those who have significant power and wealth are fighting hard to maintain their status as the demographics and opinions of our nation shift. 

Their efforts are designed not only to defend their status, but to eliminate the potential for any significant change to occur in the immediate future.  The efforts are many, and impact almost all areas of our society, but there are some higher profile and more intense attempts that are easily observed.  The efforts to implement restrictive Voter ID laws that will give Conservatives a political advantage which can be used effectively to protect special interests.  Another example is the effort to destroy the power of labor by eliminating the ability of workers to organize effectively.  A third example is the effort to privatize many important services that have been provided by the public sector. 

The end result of these efforts is a society that caters to the needs of a smaller number of powerful citizens.  The impacts of these policies that began being implemented in the 1980's are being felt right now.  They are observable on a larger, societal scale.

After three decades of slow growth, median income in the U.S. trails that of Canada. Poor Americans now make less than the poor in several other...
The New York Times|By David Leonhardt and Kevin Quealy

A new study by researchers from Princeton and Northwestern Universities finds that America's government policies reflect the wishes of the rich and of powerful interest groups, rather than the wishes of the majority of citizens.
Gawker|By Hamilton Nolan

They also have an impact on a personal level that affects a huge number of Americans.  Whether it influences our personal wealth, our health, our safety, or our future, the efforts to manipulate public thinking are catastrophic for anyone who isn't in the top percent of earners in America.

The connection has been "confirmed by many different studies by different investigators over different time periods."
Bill Moyers

They don't like paying taxes, and that's all that matters.
Mother Jones

New AFL-CIO report finds executive pay continues its upward trajectory as middle class wages remain stagnant

The obvious questions are these, if we live in a democracy why doesn't the majority vote and act in ways that will promote their own interests?  How can a small number of influential people (even with huge amounts of wealth) control a much larger number of people in a place where freedom and equality are supposed to be held in such esteem?

The simple answer is that we idealize the wealthy and strive to achieve the same status as they hold.  We often do this at our own expense, or at the expense of others who should be our allies in the fight for social justice.  We believe the hype about the "job-creators" and we allow ourselves to be mislead by media and advertising that promote an agenda that directly opposes our own interests.    

None of these money-making methods are productive, or praiseworthy, or suggestive of a meritocracy. Perhaps demeritocracy is more apt.

A California firm on behalf of an undisclosed client has bought nearly $2 million worth of air time from Sept. 1 to Nov. 3 in four Wisconsin markets.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel|By Daniel Bice

Another thing that has allowed a minority of citizens to dominate the majority socially, politically and economically is the lack of a unifying force that citizens could rally around.  All of our efforts to advance the values of social justice have been focused on different subgroups or interests.  Labor has fought for the goals of labor and different demographic groups have fought to promote their own interests.  This has allowed for the strategy of "divide and conquer" to be used effectively.   There has rarely been a concerted effort by many groups to unify around the ideals of "Liberty and Justice for All."  We have come close at times, for example under the leadership of Dr. King during the Civil Rights movement, but eventually the movements fragment under the strain of internal and external pressure. 

The Wisconsin Uprising of 2011 had the potential to be an effort that could combine many different interests.  Yet, as we move further through time we see how the difficulty of incorporating multiple interests along with the constant attacks from our opponents weakens the power of a movement based on combating societal injustice. 

The Uprising needs to find a unifying issue that can take the effort to the next level and propel us to further action.  Education could be that issue.  It is important to labor, impacts every demographic group, and is an issue that lies at the very heart of the social justice movement.    

To truly improve education in Milwaukee, we must start with the assumption that poor children are no less deserving of a quality education than rich children. As such, the schools that privileged suburban parents demand for their children should be the yardstick we use to measure the adequacy of edu…

In order to realize the full potential of education we need to combat the message of education "reformers" and educate the public about the realities of what is needed to fully accomplish the goals of equitable and inclusive public education.  This means calling out the "reformers" and providing a real view of just what is being done to our public education system in the name of equity and opportunity. 

On Sunday, March 23, 2014 in a speech at Riverside Church in Manhattan, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, faced with declining public opinion poll numbers, made nice to charter school companies and their wealthy...

In 1848, Sam Brannan ran up and down the streets of San Francisco yelling, ”Gold! There’s gold in the American River!” Brannan had no intention to dig for gold himself, of course. Just before he ma... 

NEW YORK (AP) — "Just Do It" has been a familiar Nike slogan for years, but some parents are wondering what it was doing on some of New York's Common Core standardized English tests.

The health care law may be Republicans’ favorite weapon against Democrats, but the Common Core is also roiling the party and shaping the establishment-versus-grass-roots divide.
The New York Times|By Jonathan Martin

This means that educators need to step up and become active in promoting our profession and making education an issue that can unify the different aspects of the Progressive movement.  It has been a very difficult past 3 years, but educators are resilient and our cause is just.   

The effects of reform on the teaching profession.
Washington Post

The end of collective bargaining.|By Lee Enterprises

The Good, The Bad and
The Ugly. . .

The Good . . . Conservatives and others who oppose virtually everything that President Obama has done are continuing their crusade against the ACA.  They will find some way to spin this in a negative way, but I fail to see how providing ways for more people to access healthcare is bad for our nation.

About half of this is through the exchanges. The rest is via Medicaid and employer plans.
Mother Jones

A great way to send a message, and to support public schools.  Could something like this happen in Madison?

A grassroots effort to support schools grows into a sizable donation.|By Kristen Shill

The Bad . . .  Nothing that we haven't heard before, or that is shocking for people who have been paying attention.  The questions remain, what do WE do to make changes?

A nationwide study of racial disparity has been released.|By PolicyMic

The Ugly . . . With all of the publicity about mass shootings and gun violence in general, how is it that nothing seems to improve?  The answer lies in a couple of places, our nation's inability to combat a powerful gun lobby and the NRA is one.  The other is our reluctance to address the mental health needs of so many in our population.  Not everyone who commits a crime with a gun is mentally ill, however, an improvement in our treatment and support of those struggling with these illnesses could go a long way in creating a safer society for everyone. 

Welcome to America, the land of blue jeans, rock & roll, and sporadic meaningless mass murder.
Mother Jones
Medicaid expansion would mean millions more would get mental health care coverage.
Washington Post

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Issue #161 April 19, 2014- Reclaiming Education and Wisconsin Politics

No Diane Ravitch (Again)
However. . .
Madison seems to be a cursed location for Diane Ravitch.  She had to cancel her previous engagement here due to illness, and now has a knee injury to deal with. 

In an earlier post, I shared with you the fact that I took a bad fall, landed on my knee, and tore the ACL ligament. The MRI showed the damage was even more extensive than it first seemed. I not on...

However, Texas superintendent John Kuhn (
and Chicago Teachers’ Union president Karen Lewis (
will speak at Monona Terrace on May 1st at 7:00 pm.  

The “Reclaiming the Conversation in Education” sessions led by Edgewood College’s School of Education will still be held prior to the speakers.  This will offer public education advocates an opportunity to connect with each other and should be a powerful event. 

Talking the Talk. . .
The need to "Reclaim the Conversation in Education" is one that is increasing in importance with every passing day.  We are facing attacks on public education that are unprecedented in nature.  The desire of many so called "reformers" isn't to really fix our education systems, but rather to destroy them and replace them with a new, privatized system.  This new system will return us to a time of segregation, inequity and a disparity in educational opportunities that we haven't seen since the end of WWII. 

The attacks on education are coming from the same sources that are seeking to return our entire social structure to a pre-New Deal America condition.  Those claiming to want to "reform" our society use the language of Progressivism, but they fail to back up the talk with policies that substantially support the ideals that they supposedly believe in.  They use data from studies to justify their actions and policies, but often misuse or misrepresent the evidence.  The resulting policies are geared to resolve problems that have been misidentified, misinterpreted, or that may not even exist in reality. 

I see it often claimed that the high rate of child poverty in the US is a function of family composition. According to this view, the reason childhood poverty is so high is that there are too many unm

» Privatizing struggling Milwaukee schools doesn’t pay off, report to be released April 24 says |...

Their words resonate with the ideals that America was founded on, almost to a fault.  Remember that the ideals that we are so proud of were based on a narrow view of who the rights, freedoms and privileges applied to.  Women, minorities and the poor were excluded from power either through design, or by omission.  Too frequently, the policies that political, social and economic "reformers" are promoting are guilty of these same flaws and prejudices.  They have targeted many areas of our society for "reform," and we have felt the effects strongly here in Wisconsin.

In recent years we have seen increased efforts to "reform" the educational systems here in Wisconsin.  We find ourselves following the same pathways that other states have followed, often with disastrous outcomes.  As a nation we should have learned a long time ago that standardized testing, standardized curriculum, cuts in funding for public schools and the privatization of education don't work for most students.  Yet, we continue to see these types of policies promoted across the country.     

We know that political, social and economic patterns tend to be cyclical in nature.  We often talk about a pendulum swinging back and forth when we talk about policies and trends in most areas of our society.  This is as true in education as it is in any other field.  For example, phonics instruction gives way to Whole Language, which then blends into a Comprehensive Literacy System, which then gives way to new ways of teaching literacy skills.  Instruction in all aspects of education changes based on our social, political and economic climate as well as the changes in our understanding of the biological and societal influences on learning.

Given that reality, why are so many educators and supporters of public education so concerned about the recent efforts to "reform" our schools?  In fact, I often hear fellow educators say that we need to weather the storm and wait for the "pendulum" to swing back towards a climate that is more supportive of public education, educators and all students.  Unfortunately, we are currently engaged with opponents who want to cut the string and eliminate the ability of the pendulum to swing back.  This isn't a debate like the "good old days" where we are arguing about subtle differences, or whether to focus on one aspect of teaching and learning over another.  The current struggles around education revolve around the goals of "reformers" to absolutely, permanently and irrevocably crush those who oppose them.

These efforts to "reform" our public schools into oblivion have coalesced around a few major areas.  The first is the use of standardized tests to identify and define success for our students and our schools.  These testing requirements have given ammunition to those who claim our schools are failing by putting numbers to a collection of Achievement and Opportunity Gaps that have been a part of our schools and society forever.  By putting concrete numbers in place "reformers" are able to point to the gaps in test results as evidence of the need to make drastic changes to our education system. 

Identifying and emphasizing Gaps isn't a negative thing in itself.  Educators have known about these Gaps for years and have received little support in their efforts to address them.  What is problematic is the fact that so much emphasis is being put on improving test scores, as if a better test score is a real indication of a better educated and well equipped student.  In fact, the way that most of these tests and evaluations are set up the Gaps we have will not only continue, but will expand.  Take ELL students for example.  Once a student becomes proficient in English they are exited from the program.  This means that the only data we have on ELL students will always contain test results from students who are developing their language skills.  Throw in the fact that for the highest stakes tests, students are usually tested exclusively in English and you can see how we will always have huge Gaps between ELL students and students who speak English as their first language. 

The tests themselves are problematic in many ways.  They are developed by companies with little input from actual classroom teachers.  When used to define success for students they limit the ways that instruction is delivered by forcing educators to spend time preparing students for tests instead of providing engaging and informative lessons.  They funnel money away from classrooms and into the coffers of test making companies.  School districts are forced to spend millions of dollars to have access to tests so that "reformers" will have data to use against the schools.         

Around the country, students are now taking preposterously lengthy standardized tests related to the Common Core Standards Initiative. To the...
The Daily Caller

First-grade teacher Kelsey Lewis has seen students in her Lee County elementary school cry, have panic attacks and vomit during...|By JESSICA LIPSCOMB

Along with the tests come curriculum and materials created by test making companies to "help" educators improve their students' test scores.  The freedom of educators to use the strategies and materials that fit their students' needs best is being eroded by the waves of initiatives that are supposed to improve outcomes for students.  We sit in professional development sessions and read articles published by the companies who are selling their product.  We spend hours learning about "new" ways to teach our students that are really just repackaged strategies we've used for years.  Real conversations about ways to reach our most at-risk students are pushed aside so that we can do "deep-dives" into "unpacking" the Common Core State Standards.  In the end, educators are left no more effective, but certainly demoralized and confused. 

A third area where "reformers" have focused their attacks have been educators themselves.  Whether by supporting union busting initiatives or by promoting mechanisms to hold educators "accountable" there is clearly an anti-educator sentiment among many "reformers."  Once again we see the power to drive education "reform" wielded by those with little or no direct experience or contact with actual students in real classrooms.  Data is used, and systems are created to analyze educators efforts, but these are flawed and impractical.  The new Educator Effectiveness initiative in Wisconsin is a perfect example of a system that will eat up time and resources while failing to improve education.      

Well-funded misinformation campaigns succeed in part by leaving no rock unturned in the quest to...

The evidence against VAM is at this point overwhelming. The refusal of school reformers to acknowledge it is outrageous.
Washington Post

Why the conventional wisdom about America's teaching corps is wrong.
Washington Post

We are seeing these attacks on educators take their toll.  Educators are retiring early, moving to new professions, or are stressed and demoralized.  Educators are in positions where we directly interact with students and families who are often under significant amounts of stress and who are struggling to make ends meet.  When those who are supposed to help these students/families are put under stress themselves it becomes more difficult for help to be delivered. 

American teachers feel stressed out and insignificant, and it may be impacting students’ educations. Gallup’s State Of America’s Schools Report,...
The Huffington Post|By Rebecca Klein

Wake County Public Schools held a press conference Thursday to talk about the alarming increase in mid-year teacher resignations.|By WNCN Staff

All of the testing, the standardization of curriculum, the pressure to meet standards and to stay on track to be "career and college ready" put significant strain on our students.  We are creating environments that are more stressful, and therefore less learner friendly, while increasing expectations.  This is truly unfair to everyone involved in the educational process.

With the constant focus on testing and data, we rarely discuss the important 'unmeasurables' -- including the emotional realities of children's lives.

Money is the final way that "reformers" seek to gain complete control over our educational system.  Education is a costly enterprise that requires significant investment on the part of our society.  In times of budget struggles we always see a movement to cut costs and to reduce spending.  Education is one of the areas that has been targeted over the years as a place to save money.  At the same time we can also see how there is money to be made in education.  Even in the most challenging of financial times there are those who find ways to make a profit, whether it is good for our students, schools and society, or not.   

The U.S. Department of Education is forecast to generate $127 billion in profit over the next decade from lending to college students and their...
The Huffington Post|By Shahien Nasiripour

Around 45 people lined up to do the unexpected at the Eau Claire school board’s meeting Monday night — instead of complaining about school...

All of these "reforms" are made possible because our public schools are, public.  We are governed by elected officials and must follow rules that are developed by public officials.  This is one of the strengths of public education, the fact that we are accountable to the public in ways that our private counterparts are not is a positive.  This means that all students are supposed to be welcomed into our public schools, no matter their race, gender, disability, income level, etc.  It means that we are responsible to our students, families and community, and must work to provide the best opportunities possible for students to achieve. 

Unfortunately, it also means that our public schools are vulnerable to those who would manipulate public opinion in order to promote an economic, political, or social agenda.  These groups see an opportunity to win victories at a basic, fundamental level, that will allow them to control the fabric of our society.  By dominating the dialog about topics like education they can dictate the direction that we take in a number of ways.  They are working to eliminate their competition and to monopolize power at all levels of government.  This is why Act 10, Voter ID and other initiatives are so problematic, especially when combined with an effort to control how education is delivered in Wisconsin.     

How new candidates get recruited and trained to run for city, county and state office is increasingly being handled by interest groups.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel|By Erin Richards

Supporters of private school vouchers have spent about $10 million on political campaigns in Wisconsin since 2003, including $2.4 million in support of Republican Gov. Scott Walker, a new report released Monday...

What this means for educators and supporters of public education is clear.  We can't afford to wait for things to change in our favor.  If we allow things to continue on the current trajectory, the pendulum will continue to move further to the  right.  Instead, we must do what we did in 2011-12 and begin working to defend the things that we believe in.    

Anthony Cody here describes teachers as "reluctant warriors," as men and women who...

We must also use existing systems to make our voices heard.  This means attending school board and city council meetings.  It means writing letters, calling and emailing local representatives.  It means participating in campaigns and sharing our ideal publically.  It means getting involved in our local schools and speaking out about the "reforms" and initiatives. 

One concrete example that people in Madison can participate in is in the creation of your local school's SIP (School Improvement Plan).  According to MMSD, "Every school is required to develop, refine, and receive approval on a yearly SIP. Created by the School-Based Leadership Team (SBLT) with input from school staff, families, community members, and district administration, the SIP is a plan that defines a school’s targeted work for the year to raise achievement for all of its students. It is aimed at measurable goals, and it is monitored throughout the year."
The group of families, staff and community members (SCAPE) that has been organized in my school community is planning on becoming very active in this process.  We hope that by providing a SIP of our own we can influence the direction that our school takes in terms of curriculum, professional development, emphasis on testing and other areas of concern to us.  The MMSD website specifically says, "We hope you'll join your school to learn more and give your feedback about your School Improvement Plan.  See your principal for information on getting involved in the process."  I encourage concerned citizens to do just that. 
The Good, The Bad and
The Ugly
 (Wisconsin Political Edition). . .

The Good . . While it hasn't been given the coverage it deserves, the investigation into the activities of conservative groups in their support of Governor Walker is of significant interest, especially as we gear up for the November elections.  The fact that the GAB is a non-partisan group with several members either former Republicans or even appointed by Walker lends credibility to the investigation.

The state Government Accountability Board voted unanimously to authorize the investigation of fundraising and spending by Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign and his conservative allies during the recent recall elections.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel|By Patrick Marley

Chair's 2013 November Removal Followed June 2013 Unanimous Vote to Investigate MADISON,...

The disclosure by Francis Schmitz is intended to counter conservatives' claims that they are being targeted because they backed the Republican governor.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel|By Daniel Bice

The Bad . . . I'm always terrified when I actually seem to agree with Senator Grothman on anything.  Fortunately it is an extremely rare occurrence.  However, his point that we should be encouraging people to contact their elected representatives is right on point, even if he refused to respond to anyone that I know who has tried to contact him (and who live in his district). 

The conservative senator suggests that not all communications between legislators and...|By Lee Enterprises

The kickoff for Scott Walker's 2014 campaign promises more of the same rhetoric and demagoguery.  In other words, he will attempt to make us proud to be Wisconsinites, while doing little to actually make Wisconsin a better place to live.  He wants us to ignore the fact that he fell well short of his promised 250,000 new jobs, that the businesses that have been created are almost entirely non- job producing, and that the rights of the state's citizens are being restricted on a regular basis.  

By Rebecca Kemble on Apr 15, 2014 By: Rebecca KembleWisconsin governor Scott Walker opened his 2014 reelection campaign this morning in typical... It had gotten pretty bad four years ago. Over 130,000 jobs lost. A deficit over 3 billion. And taxes going up. Wisconsin's future looked ...

Asked Wednesday after speaking to the Wisconsin Hospital Association if he would commit to serving a full second term, Walker dodged the question.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel|By Patrick Marley

The Ugly . . . Meanwhile the Republican party continues to slide further to the right.  I believe Abraham Lincoln had some strong feelings about preserving our union and a state's ability to secede from it.  

State Sen. Dale Schultz retires, shaking his head at how the Republican Party has changed.

Wisconsin Republicans will vote on whether to include the threat of secession into their party platform.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

#160 April 13, 2014- Reclaiming Power in Education

Educational Power. . .
These are troubling times for public education and for supporters of free, equal, and integrated schools.  There is news about budget cuts, increased "accountability" and new initiatives for our public schools on a nearly daily basis.  The fact that so many of these so called "reforms" are questionable in intent and in validity make them even more troubling.  After all, we know that there are Achievement Gaps and other problems that exist in our public school systems.  Educators and public school advocates don't want to stand in the way of reforms that truly work in the best interest of all students.  Yet, the "tools" that are offered to our schools don't measure up to the simple standard of being "good for kids." 

This is a reality in communities all around Wisconsin.  Whether in urban or rural settings, in Conservative or Liberal communities, wealthy or poor districts, the news is the same.  The attacks on public education are taking a toll on educators, schools and are impacting public perception of our schools.          

As the public sees more and more information about the problems in our schools, the solutions offered by "reformers" seem increasingly reasonable.  After all, if our students are failing shouldn't we increase accountability for schools, gather more data about our students and offer alternative programming to meet the needs of different groups of students?  On the surface testing and privatization in our educational systems seem to provide needed "reforms" that will help improve outcomes for students.

Cities nationwide are watching the experiment to see if replicating its model might benefit students

Common Core-aligned tests will soon replace Wisconsin's standardized tests in reading and math.|By Lee Enterprises

Yet, the increased testing, efforts to privatize and initiatives that are imposed on educators are simply a continuation of the policies designed to destroy our public schools that started a few decades ago with legislation like No Child Left Behind.  They are imposed by people who are not invested in the children who are impacted by the "reforms."  People who have limited, if any, classroom experience and who frequently don't have children in the schools they are "reforming."  They limit the ability of educators to use professional expertise and direct knowledge of specific students to provide educational opportunities specifically aimed at individual student needs.  They force educators to spend as much, or more, time filling out paperwork, as working with students.  In short, the "reforms" too often intensify the very problems that they are supposedly designed to eliminate. 

Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert eviscerated the always controversial Common Core, remarking that the uniform education standards actually...

Tuesday's annual release of state test scores of students attending private schools using vouchers included scores from students in the statewide...|By Lee Enterprises

If people outside of our schools really knew just how harmful many of these efforts to "reform" our schools really are, they would be amazed and appalled at what is being done to our students, educators and school systems.  Whether it is the extra hours of work and the impractical nature of the new Educator Effectiveness system, the standardization of curriculum at the expense of quality educational opportunities or the stifling of the voices of professional educators, the results are the same for students.  Those who live in affluent, upper class neighborhoods receive a different education than those in other areas.  The "reforms" that are being imposed are re-segregating our schools based on race, and class.  

Why does so much of our talk about race and poverty leave us Americans spinning our wheels? One big reason is etiquette. What is said often matters less than who says it.
Green Bay Press-Gazette

The general public is caught between what they hear "educational experts" say about the "reforms", and what they know about the educators in the schools in their communities.    Remember, most Americans mistrust public schools in general, but respect and like the schools in their immediate community.  Those who have students in school also have strong opinions about what they want their own children to learn and how they want the learning to occur.   

It may surprise you.
Washington Post

The problems that we face are not unsolvable.  The challenge is for those who work, learn and support our public schools to stand up against a political machine that seeks to profit from the educational process.  It takes organization and courage to continue to fight against the powerful forces who are moving education "reform" processes.  The task is daunting, but one that isn't impossible.   
Wisconsin had the worst achievement gap between black and white students among states last year, and officials shouldered the blame Wednesday while putting the onus on teachers to address the issue.

The opt out movement is gaining momentum as more parents are opting their students out of standardized testing. Here are a few actions that are occurring across the country made up of many voices. ...

Now that the opt out season is in full swing and the Testing Resistance has spread across the country, we should take a minute to reflect and remember the purpose of opt out. Despite what the "chan...

Uniting families, students, community members and educators together can help begin the process of reclaiming power in education policy making.  Divided, we will be easy to defeat, but united these forces are extremely powerful.  The difficulty is in finding time and venues to get many groups together to talk.  It is only through conversation and debate that common ground between these diverse groups can be found.  Unless these conversations occur the gaps between different parts of the educational community can seem wide and insurmountable. 

These gaps are exactly what the "reformers" use to give power to their message of public school failures.  Yet, all the different components of our educational community share some common interests and goals, safe schools, high achievement, successful students, these things that every educator, family and community wants.  We are all bound together in an effort to find the best ways to make these broad goals become achievable.  It is time for us to recognize the power we have and the obligation we have to use that strength for our students, our schools and our society. 

Or unless you get organized.
Mother Jones
The Good, The Bad and
The Ugly. . .

The Good . . . Keeping with the theme of organizing in order to increase the power of our message, here's an effort in Milwaukee that is very promising on its own, but also as a model for future action.

Common Ground is demanding at least $150 million for school athletic facilities before it will support public funding to replace the Bradley Center.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel|By Don Walker

Madison educators joined together to raise money for a great cause, and have fun at the same time. 

People bowled for a good cause in Madison Sunday.Dream Lanes hosted the MTI Bowl-a-Thon, along with Madison Teachers, Inc.<br>|By Jennifer Kliese

We also need to get the message out about the reality of the ACA.  There is another narrative circulating among those who oppose more Progressive legislation, or who simply hate our current president. 

For this edition of Curbside Consult, I Skyped with Dr. Jonathan Gruber, who is the Ford Professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and director of the health care program at the National...

According to Rand, 8.2 million new people—7.2 million of them previously uninsured—have gotten employer insurance since mid-2013.
Mother Jones

The Bad . . . Those on the Right will try and tell anyone who will listen that Liberals are the ones who use government to enforce their values and who are on crusades to attack any who oppose them.  However, there is plenty of that type of action coming from both sides of the aisle. 

A Wisconsin state senator is asking the state to investigate the registration of one voter who led a protest against a mine the senator supports.

In 2011, in response to a conservative group’s request, Erpenbach turned over 26,000 emails but blacked out the names of the senders.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel|By Patrick Marley

The Ugly . . . Everyone is entitled to an opinion, however, it would be great if more opinions were rooted in fact, not propaganda.  

The report finds that MSNBC was the most accurate cable network in 2013, and CNN could be a lot more accurate if it would stop hosting "debates"...
Mother Jones