My apologies for a slightly, perhaps overly long, introduction but I thought it was important for you to get to know my beliefs and a primer for what I believe to be the crisis in American education today.
I retired two years ago as a third-grade teacher and I assure you that lemonade and hammocks are a part of my day. Yet, one of our mission statements in the school district where I taught was, “To cultivate and to sustain communities in which school citizens learn and practice the belief that informed participation benefits the common good that is essential to our democratic system.”
My kids were taught to be activists, to stand up from what they believe in and take action. I was an activist educator and never planned on walking away from education. My promise to myself and my colleagues was to continue to fight for them, our country and public education.
Save our Schools March: www.saveourschoolsmarch.org is one of the organizations that I joined two years ago. It is both a nationwide and local organization dedicated to fighting for one of the proud bastions of democracy, public school education. It is under serious attack from pundits, politicians and education entrepreneurs that want to misinform you about the failing state of schools in this country and this state so that they may profit from our children.
They are wrong. NJ schools are in the top 5%. New Jersey is the fourth best state in the nation to raise children, inching up one spot from last year because of its successes in the classroom, according to the latest Kids Count report evaluating family health, economic stability and educational achievement.
According to Diane Ravitch, a top academician and researcher:
“There is only one longitudinal measure of academic achievement for America’s students as a whole, and that is the federal NAEP-the National Assessment of Educational Progress. NAEP is a no-stakes test. This is what it shows. The test scores of American students are at their highest point in history. The test scores of white students, black students, Hispanic students and Asian students are at their highest point ever. They are at the highest point ever for students in fourth grade and eighth grade, in reading and in math. The increases in reading have been steady and significant. The increases in math have been very large. The increases have been greatest for black students and Hispanic students. Reformers will never admit to these simple facts. But they are facts, and they are a matter of record.”
Many governors around the country, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, consistently attack the public schools, rob funds from the schools and their employees to balance, “ the budget” while causing the downfall of these very schools. That clears the way for the private sector to can step in and profit by creating their schools with taxpayer money-using your property taxes.
I am traveling down to Washington, D.C. tomorrow to be a part of a three-day (August 3-5) historic People’s Education Conference. We will be proudly defending public education by cutting through misinformation and focusing on true information reform, not the deceits of the “reformers” that steal from all of our schools damaging the poorest in the name of choice. We’ll be taking on the root cause of some of our failing schools- poverty. There’ll be numerous workshops and keynotes from some of the best activists in the country. We’ll be debating many contemporary issues in public education; better teacher education and accountability; segregation in our schools: the damaging effects of high risk standardized testing that is being misused to demoralize and punish teachers, students and schools rather than improve them. Just yesterday in the Texas Tribune it was reported that “studies threaten to shake the foundation of high-stakes test-based accountability. Mr. Stroup and two other researchers said they believe they have found the reason: a glitch embedded in the DNA of the state exams that, as a result of a statistical method used to assemble them, suggests they are virtually useless at measuring the effects of classroom instruction.”
And many more workshops will be presented.
During the convention, our Guiding Principles will be debated (check out our website), recorded and codified into a unifying statement. That document will be sent to The Democratic and Republican Convention, the White House, the Department of Education and disseminated around the country.
And I’ll be lucky enough to be down in DC taking notes, forming.
Why call it a BLOG/DIARY? It is like a diary/blog where the daily reports and comments will be put together in one read when I return. I welcome any comments on this (perhaps overly long) introduction and my observations on the convention and the workshops down in DC. It is not a private but open diary, ready to add your ideas, criticisms and comments.
I thank The Patch Team for this opportunity to reach out to you and share what I consider a crucial issue in the growth (or reduction) of education in this country.
“Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.”
Franklin D. Roosevelt