|June 18, 2013||Special Edition|
As a populist wave of discontent with top-down education mandates continues to sweep the country, more than 25,000 concerned citizens have coalesced behind an Education Declaration to Rebuild America.
A Declaration With Broad Support
Released last week by the Education Opportunity Network, in conjunction with the Opportunity to Learn Campaign and the Institute for America’s Future, the Declaration received widespread attention from national and local outlets.
Reporting from her blog at The Washington Post, Valerie Strauss wrote, “The document offers a progressive approach to school reform that includes ensuring that teachers are properly trained and respected, that opportunities to learn for all students are paramount and that learning must be ‘engaging and relevant.’”
The Chicago grassroots parent activist group PURE said the Declaration “demonstrates that the message of true education progressives is becoming clearer and more unified.”
At the progressive blog site Daily Kos, long-time classroom teacher Kenneth Bernstein wrote, “Increasingly people are coming together to oppose what has been the thrust of educational policy, and to try to reclaim and reinvigorate public education.” Bernstein called the Declaration “an important step in that direction.”
From the website of the Tucson Citizen, local blogger called the Declaration “an answer to the conservative ‘education reform’ movement,” and the document “signals the growing strength of progressive educators at a time when the public is growing skeptical of the endless high-stakes testing.”
At The Huffington Post, Richard Eskow said the Declaration was an answer to “the Wall Street crowd” that “wants us to think of education in terms of means – which usually means finding ways to spend less – rather than ends. But when it comes to education, the ‘ends’ are our children.”
Eskow, who is affiliated with one of the sponsors of the Declaration, noted, “A lot of well-intentioned people get taken in by cynical agendas like this, especially when the other side isn’t being heard. That’s where the “Declaration” comes in. It says that ‘Education is a public good.’ A public good is something that is, or should be, available to all without exception, like clean air, drinkable water, and the national defense.”
Despite the waning of the school year, the Declaration comes at an opportune time.
America’s Education Spring Rolls On
As The Nation’s John Nichols recently said on MSNBC, what is transpiring in the nation’s public schools “is a mess.”
In Michigan, supporters of public education will rally on June 19 to “reject the corporate, profit-motivated takeover of public schools, massive school closures, and meaningless high-stakes testing.”
The fight for public education is flaring in rural areas as well – at least in Tennessee, where families and students are fighting school cuts and consolidations.
These protests against education mandates are not going away. At the website for The National Center for Fair and Open Testing, there is a running timeline with the latest news on the movement, and new links are added every week.
A Positive Way Forward
The Education Declaration to Rebuild America comes at a time when lawmakers in Washington, D.C. continue to fret over education legislation – the rewriting of No Child Left Behind – that will likely go nowhere and please no one.
Writing at The National Journal, Kevin Welner – the director of the National Education Policy Center and a signatory of the Declaration, wrote, “Perhaps our senators haven’t yet noticed, but their constituents don’t much care for No Child Left Behind. Perhaps they haven’t noticed all the protests against excessive testing and school closings.”
Noting that the Declaration he signed had “in just one day … garnered more than 10,000 signatures,” Welner concluded, “Let’s hope that during the summer recess [the senators] have a chance to speak with parents, students and teachers – people who will ask the fundamental question: Why continue failed policies?”
There is a more positive way forward. Sign the Education Declaration to Rebuild America and help advance that.
The Education Opportunity Network, in conjunction with the Opportunity to Learn Campaign and the Institute for America’s Future, has released “An Education Declaration to Rebuild America.” The declaration is a progressive response to a grassroots rebellion that has taken place around the country against education policies that impose top-down standards on students and teachers without … Continue reading “Education Declaration to Rebuild America Released”
The Education Opportunity Network, in conjunction with the Opportunity to Learn Campaign and the Institute for America’s Future, has released “An Education Declaration to Rebuild America.” The declaration is a progressive response to a grassroots rebellion that has taken place around the country against education policies that impose top-down standards on students and teachers without giving them the support they need.
The declaration has been signed by 50 prominent progressive leaders, including key voices in the education reform movement. The declaration, along with a list of signers and a link for concerned citizens to support the statement, can be found on this page.
Watch Education Opportunity Network editor Jeff Bryant discuss the importance of the Education Declaration and answer key questions.
Listen to the news conference introducing the Education Declaration (or download the mp3 file).
For too long, our policymakers have engaged the nation’s schoolchildren in a grand experiment, with frequent testing, incentive programs and top-down mandates that promised much but delivered little. Today, leading academics, policymakers and educators come together to demand an education spring embodied in An Education Declaration to Rebuild America. Those who’ve signed the Declaration include … Continue reading “Special Edition: Education Declaration to Rebuild America”
For too long, our policymakers have engaged the nation’s schoolchildren in a grand experiment, with frequent testing, incentive programs and top-down mandates that promised much but delivered little.
Today, leading academics, policymakers and educators come together to demand an education spring embodied in An Education Declaration to Rebuild America.
Those who’ve signed the Declaration include prominent progressives, such as Robert Reich; public officials, such as Florida State Senator Nan Rich; education experts Diane Ravitch and Linda Darling-Hammond; union leaders Randi Weingarten and Dennis Van Roekel; parent activists, such as Rita Solnet; authors Jonathan Kozol and Dave Eggers – and more than 40 other prominent leaders. See them here.
We invite you to add your name and forward this to friends so that we can grow this movement for real education reform based on what America needs and our children deserve.
An Education Declaration to Rebuild America
Americans have long looked to our public schools to provide opportunities for individual advancement, promote social mobility and share democratic values. We have built great universities, helped bring children out of factories and into classrooms, held open the college door for returning veterans, fought racial segregation and struggled to support and empower students with special needs. We believe good schools are essential to democracy and prosperity — and that it is our collective responsibility to educate all children, not just a fortunate few.
Over the past three decades, however, we have witnessed a betrayal of those ideals. Following the 1983 report A Nation at Risk, policymakers on all sides have pursued an education agenda that imposes top-down standards and punitive high-stakes testing while ignoring the supports students need to thrive and achieve. This approach – along with years of drastic financial cutbacks — are turning public schools into uncreative, joyless institutions. Educators are being stripped of their dignity and autonomy, leading many to leave the profession. Neighborhood schools are being closed for arbitrary reasons. Parent and community voices are being shut out of the debate. And children, most importantly, are being systemically deprived of opportunities to learn.
As a nation we have failed to rectify glaring inequities in access to educational opportunities and resources. By focusing solely on the achievement gap, we have neglected the opportunity gap that creates it, and have allowed the resegregation of our schools and communities by class and race. The inevitable result, highlighted in the Federal Equity and Excellence Commission’s recent report, For Each and Every Child, is an inequitable system that hits disadvantaged students, families, and communities the hardest.
A new approach is needed to improve our nation’s economic trajectory, strengthen our democracy, and avoid an even more stratified and segregated society. To rebuild America, we need a vision for 21st-century education based on seven principles:
- All students have a right to learn. Opportunities to learn should not depend on zip code or a parent’s abilities to work the system. Our education system must address the needs of all children, regardless of how badly they are damaged by poverty and neglect in their early years. We must invest in research-proven interventions and supports that start before kindergarten and support every child’s aspirations for college or career.
- Public education is a public good. Public education should never be undermined by private control, deregulation and profiteering. Keeping our schools public is the only way we can ensure that each and every student receives a quality education. School systems must function as democratic institutions responsive to students, teachers, parents and communities.
- Investments in education must be equitable and sufficient. Funding is necessary for all the things associated with an excellent education: safe buildings, quality teachers, reasonable class sizes, and early learning opportunities. Yet, as we’ve “raised the bar” for achievement, we’ve cut the resources children and schools need to reach it. We must reverse this trend and spend more money on education and distribute those funds more equitably.
- Learning must be engaging and relevant. Learning should be a dynamic experience through connections to real world problems and to students’ own life experiences and cultural backgrounds. High-stakes testing narrows the curriculum and hinders creativity.
- Teachers are professionals. The working conditions of teachers are the learning conditions of students. When we judge teachers solely on a barrage of high-stakes standardized tests, we limit their ability to reach and connect with their students. We must elevate educators’ autonomy and support their efforts to reach every student.
- Discipline policies should keep students in schools. Students need to be in school in order to learn. We must cease ineffective and discriminatory discipline practices that push children down the school-to-prison pipeline. Schools must use fair discipline policies that keep classrooms safe and all students learning.
- National responsibility should complement local control. Education is largely the domain of states and school districts, but in far too many states there are gross inequities in how funding is distributed to schools that serve low-income and minority students. In these cases, the federal government has a responsibility to ensure there is equitable funding and enforce the civil right to a quality education for all students.
Principles are only as good as the policies that put them into action. The current policy agenda dominated by standards-based, test-driven reform is clearly insufficient. What’s needed is a supports-based reform agenda that provides every student with the opportunities and resources needed to achieve high standards and succeed, focused on these seven areas:
- Early Education and Grade Level Reading: Guaranteed access to high quality early education for all, including full-day kindergarten and universal access to pre-K services, to help ensure students can read at grade level.
- Equitable Funding and Resources: Fair and sufficient school funding freed from over-reliance on locally targeted property taxes, so those who face the toughest hurdles receive the greatest resources. Investments are also needed in out-of-school factors affecting students, such as supports for nutrition and health services, public libraries, after school and summer programs, and adult remedial education — along with better data systems and technology.
- Student-Centered Supports: Personalized plans or approaches that provide students with the academic, social, and health supports they need for expanded and deeper learning time.
- Teaching Quality: Recruitment, training, and retention of well-prepared, well-resourced, and effective educators and school leaders, who can provide extended learning time and deeper learning approaches, and are empowered to collaborate with and learn from their colleagues.
- Better Assessments: High-quality diagnostic assessments that go beyond test-driven mandates and help teachers strengthen the classroom experience for each student.
- Effective Discipline: An end to ineffective and discriminatory discipline practices, including inappropriate out-of-school suspensions, replaced with policies and supports that keep all students in quality educational settings.
- Meaningful Engagement: Parent and community engagement in determining the policies of schools and the delivery of education services to students.
As a nation, we’re failing to provide the basics our children need for an opportunity to learn. Instead, we have substituted a punitive high-stakes testing regime that seeks to force progress on the cheap. But there is no shortcut to success. We must change course before we further undermine schools and drive away the teachers our children need.
All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.
October 29, 2015 Subscribe THIS WEEK: Now Who’s Making Excuses … Capping Tests Won’t Help … School-To-Prison Pipeline … Online Charters Stink … Deaths From High School Football TOP STORY Education Reform’s Very Bad, God-Awful Week By Jeff Bryant “Because of all the big money behind current education policies, it’s difficult to see any real … Continue reading “Education Reform’s Very Bad, God-Awful Week”
By Jeff Bryant
“Because of all the big money behind current education policies, it’s difficult to see any real break in the status quo, but anyone who believes that cracking down harder on neighborhood schools while pushing for privately operated charters are the necessary “reforms” our education system needs has to admit this past week was a huge downer … The big take-away is that education reform has never been as much about getting policy right as it has been about getting the politics right. So any work to improve education in the policy shop will be for naught if we don’t match or exceed that level of effort on the political front.”
Read more …
NEWS AND VIEWS
National Education Policy Center
NEPC Director Kevin Welner and Managing Director William Mathis write, “Lower grades on the Nation’s Report Card are … bad news for those who have been vigorously advocating for ‘no excuses’ approaches – standards-based testing and accountability policies like No Child Left Behind … Promises of education’s test-driven reformers over the past couple decades have been unfulfilled … It has distracted policymakers’ attention away from the extensive research showing … achievement is caused by opportunities to learn … They assured us that success was a simple matter of adults looking beyond crumbling buildings and looking away from the real-life challenges of living with racism or poverty. As a substitute, we were told to look toward a ‘no excuses’ expectation for all children … Any benefits of test-based accountability policies are at best very small, and any meager benefits teased out are more than counterbalanced by negative unintended consequences.”
Read more …
The Washington Post
Education journalist Valerie Strauss writes on her blog, “Solutions offered by the [Obama] administration – apparently to calm an anti-testing rebellion around the country – don’t much move the needle. They won’t cut into testing time and test prep all that much, if at all, and they won’t eliminate what is arguably a bigger problem: the high stakes associated with the exams … The Testing Action Plan does not, incidentally, recommend a specific limit on test prep time … The Testing Action Plan also does not call for the elimination of using standardized test scores to evaluate educators … For years we’ve heard teachers complain that test scores don’t come in a timely manner for them to use the scores to help individual students … The testing culture is entrenched in our schools and that those who profit both financially and academically from the tests won’t let it go easily.”
Read more …
“Juvenile crime rates are plummeting … But school discipline policies are moving in the opposite direction: out-of-school suspensions have increased about 10% since 2000. They have more than doubled since the 1970s … Black students are three times more likely to be suspended or expelled than white students … Administrators started relying more heavily on actual police … About 92,000 students were arrested in school during the 2011-2012 school year … And most of those are low-level violations… When a school allows a School Resource Officer to arrest a student … they’re turning that student over to the juvenile justice system. That makes it that much easier for a student to get a juvenile record … Punishment for a second offense is likely to be much harsher … [Some] schools are exploring restorative justice programs, which focus on forming relationships between teachers, students, and administrators and giving students an opportunity to resolve problems by talking about them.”
Read more …
“Students who take classes over the Internet through online charter schools make dramatically less academic progress than their counterparts in traditional schools … Gains that online charter students saw in math were so limited, it was ‘literally as though the student did not go to school for the entire year’ … Such schools enroll about 200,000 full-time students across 26 states … More than two-thirds of online charter schools had weaker overall academic growth than similar brick-and-mortar schools. In math, 88% of online charters had weaker academic growth than their comparison schools … Full-time online charter schools now enroll about 8% of charter students nationwide.”
Read more …
“Since the start of the high school football season, five high school football players have died following on-field injuries, matching both last year’s total and the average number of football-related deaths since the late 1990s … Between 2005 and 2014, another 92 high school football players died indirectly from the sport, with causes ranging from heart-related issues to heat stroke and water intoxication … Amid lingering unease over the long-term effects of concussions, some schools have considered getting rid of football altogether … Notably, only 37% of public high schools had access to a full-time athletic trainer … Historically, compared to other high school sports, football has accounted for a large majority of catastrophic injuries.”
Read more …
February 4, 2016, 2016 Subscribe THIS WEEK: How Bernie Would Improve Schools … Poverty Sprawl … Black Students Get Harsher Discipline … Test Rebellion Gets Bigger … Which Students Get Newer Teachers TOP STORY An Emerging New Narrative For Education By Jeff Bryant “The simple story about education no longer works – at least the … Continue reading “Test 3”
By Jeff Bryant
“The simple story about education no longer works – at least the one we’ve been hearing for the past 20 years … Fortunately, a new narrative is emerging from sources outside the usual think tanks and policy shops … It’s a radical departure from the current policy that constricts educational opportunity by imposing financial austerity, expanding private ownership of the system, and using narrow-minded measures of what constitutes ‘results.’”
Read more …
NEWS AND VIEWS
“Bernie Sanders came out in favor of a massive change in the way the US funds schools … Bernie’s right: The property tax system of funding schools is inherently regressive, granting fewer resources to poorer towns with lower property values and more to rich towns with high property values. Federalizing funding of public schools … would be a huge boon for both economic and racial equality … Done right, it can improve school quality while maintaining a degree of local autonomy … Federalizing education spending would entail raising federal spending on the order of $500 billion a year … It’s … possible to raise a big chunk of that revenue by, for example, raising the top income tax rate to 50%.”
Read more …
“The geography of child poverty is changing, and research suggests educators may need to tailor their supports for disadvantaged students in rural, suburban, and urban areas … Urban poor students tend to have more chronic stressors … Urban poor areas generally have a wider variety of programs … Rural poor students may have lower crime and costs of living and better access to nature and play areas, but may be more economically … isolated … have fewer early-childhood or school-age support and welfare programs … Suburban poor students tend to have lower stressors and higher resources … but they may face more frequent discrimination from wealthier peers.”
Read more …
Black Students In South Twice As Likely As Whites To Be Physically Disciplined And Suspended, Report Shows
Atlanta Black Star
“Black students in the South are twice as likely to receive corporal punishment … One in 100 Black Georgia students reported being struck by a teacher… Black male students were more likely to receive physical punishment … 42,000 Black male students reported being beaten … Black students are not just physically punished at a higher rate. They also have higher rates of suspension than white students … 15% of Black students will be suspended in a given year and Black students are twice as likely to receive in-school suspension.”
Read more …
The Washington Post
Award-winning New York school principal Carol Burris writes, “The testing ‘opt out’ movement is gaining momentum, even as efforts to derail it ramp up … The Ohio legislature is considering a bill that would take opt out students out of accountability reporting … which would, in turn, result in less local resistance to parent requests … In Delaware, the State PTA led the fight to overturn their governor’s veto of a bill that would have made it easier for parents to opt their children out … The leader of the Florida House Democrats, Mark Pafford, publicly urged parents to opt their students out of the tests, which he characterized as meaningless … Keep an on eye on the state that accounted for nearly half of the half million opt outs last year – New York. Despite attempts to convince the public that there will be real change to the standards, testing and teacher evaluation, the parents’ opt out movement is gearing up.”
Read more …
“Black and Hispanic students are much more likely to have an 8th grade math teacher with five or fewer years’ experience than are their white and Asian peers … There’s good proof that experience begets quality, at least to a point – a recent study found that the average teacher’s ability to boost student achievement increases for the first 10 years of teaching, and possibly longer … 36% of black students and 33% of Hispanic students have a math teacher who has taught secondary math for five years or less.”
Read more …