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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Save Our Schools March 7/28-7/30

I will be going to the Save our Schools March in DC, 7/28-7/30. I will try to meet with some of our valley legislators there also. Here is an update on the SOS March with accommodation and transportation info. at the end.

First is- why go? Here is what former undersecretary of education, Diane Ravich says why she will be there-it sets the tone:

Education Week "Bridging Differences" Blog -- June 21, 2011
By Diane Ravitch

I will be marching with the Save Our Schools coalition
( http://www.saveourschoolsmarch.org ) of teachers and parents on July 30
in Washington, D.C. I know you will be, too. I hope we are joined by
many thousands of concerned citizens who want to save our schools from
the bad ideas and bad policies now harming them.

I am marching to protest the status quo of high-stakes testing, attacks
on the education profession, and creeping privatization.

I want to protest the federal government's punitive ideas about school
reform, specifically, No Child Left Behind and the Race to the Top.
Neither of these programs has any validation in research or practice or
evidence. The nation's teachers and parents know that NCLB has been a
policy disaster. Race to the Top incorporates the same failed ideas. Why
doesn't Congress know?

I want to protest the wave of school closings caused by these cruel
federal policies. Public schools are a public trust, not shoe stores. If
they are struggling, they should be improved, not killed.

I want to protest the way that these federal programs have caused states
and districts to waste billions of dollars on testing, test preparation,
data collection, and an army of high-priced consultants.

I want to protest reliance on high-stakes testing, which has narrowed
the curriculum, encouraged gaming the system, and promoted cheating.

I want to express my concern about the effects of 12 years of
multiple-choice, standardized testing on children's cognitive
development, and my fear that this reliance on bubble-testing
discourages imagination, creativity, and divergent thinking.

I want to express my opposition to an educational system devoted to
constant measurement, ranking, and rating of children, which validates
the belief that some of our children are winners, while at least half
are losers.

I want to speak out against federal policies that promote privatization
of public education.

I want to protest federal efforts to encourage entrepreneurs to make
money from education, instead of promoting open-source technology, free
to all schools.

I want to protest the federal government's failure to develop long-term
plans to improve the recruitment, preparation, and support of the
teaching profession.

I want to protest the ill-founded belief that teachers should be
evaluated by their students' test scores, which is a direct result of
the Race to the Top.

I want to express my disgust at the constant barrage of attacks on
teachers, principals, and public education.

I want to urge Congress and the Obama administration to recognize that
federal funding should support equity and benefit the nation's neediest
students. That was the rationale for passage of the Elementary and
Secondary Education Act of 1965, and it should be the rationale for
federal funding today.

I want to urge Congress and the Obama administration to acknowledge that
school reform cannot be imposed by legislative fiat, but must be led by
those who are most knowledgeable about the needs of children and
schools: educators, parents, and local communities.

I want to urge Congress and the Obama administration to recognize the
constraints of the Constitution and federalism and to stop using the
relatively small financial contribution of the federal government to
micromanage the nation's schools.

I want to urge Congress and the Obama administration to acknowledge that
our nation's public schools have played an essential role in making our
nation great. After many historic struggles, their doors are open to
all, regardless of race, economic condition, national origin,
disability, or language. We must keep their doors open to all and
preserve this democratic institution for future generations.

I want to urge Congress and the Obama administration to recognize that
our public schools are succeeding, not declining. Since the beginning of
the National Assessment of Educational Progress in the 1970s, our
students have made slow but steady gains in reading and mathematics.
Improvement has been especially notable for African-American students.
Progress was greatest, ironically, before the implementation of NCLB.

I call on Congress and the Obama administration to cease spreading false
claims of educational decline. Since the first international test in
1964, we have never led the world in test scores, and we have often been
in the bottom quartile on those tests. Yet, as President Obama said in
his State of the Union Address in January, we have the world's greatest
economy, the world's most productive workers, the most inventors, the
most patents, the most successful businesses, and the best universities
in the world. And all of these great achievements were created by people
who are mainly products of our nation's public schools.

I urge Congress and the Obama administration to support programs that
help children arrive in school ready to learn: assuring that every
pregnant woman has appropriate medical care and nutrition; that children
have high-quality early-childhood education; and that parents know they
have the support they need to help their children grow up healthy and
ready to learn.

I am marching because I want every child to attend a school where they
can learn not only basic skills, but history, geography, civics, the
sciences, and world languages, and have ample opportunity to engage in
the arts.

I am marching to support the dignity of the education profession and to
express my thanks to the millions of teachers, principals, and other
educators who are in the schools every day, doing their best to educate
our nation's children.

I hope the march will revive the morale of our nation's educators. I
hope it will remind the American people that the future of our nation
depends on our willingness to protect and improve our public schools,
the schools attended by nearly 90 percent of our nation's children.


Want to go by train?

According to a post from Rita Solnet on the Citizens for Public Schools
Facebook page, Amtrak is offering discounted fares to the Save Our
Schools march.

Amtrak will offer a 10% discount off the best available rail fare to ( Washington , DC ) between (July 25, 2011 – August 03, 2011).

To book a reservation call: Amtrak at 1 (800) 872-7245.
Ask for: Save Our Schools March Convention Rate-X08H - 929.

Some places to stay with more info:

Last Day to Get Group Rate at Embassy Suites in DC has been extended to July 1!
The rate is $199 at the Embassy Suites at Chevy Chase Pavilion for suites holding up to 5 people, including breakfast (but not tax). With 5 people to a suite, each one will pay only $40! Cut off to get group rate is 6/25/11. To view the hotel, click here. To make a reservation call
202 362 9300. The code to get the group rate is SAVE OUR SCHOOLS MARCH. (We have asked Embassy Suites for an extension beyond
June 25 for the group rate, but so far we have not heard back.)
More information with links about these other two hotel options can be found at the end of this newsflash:
Washington Marriott Wardman Park - cut off for group rate July 11
Hilton Garden Inn -- cut off for group rate is June 28


The route for the march on Saturday, July 30, has been changed! We will now march to the White House instead of to the Department of Ed.
Why did we change the route?
The Department of Ed is closed on Saturday, so no one will be there to notice. But just as important is everyone's safety. It's hot and humid in DC in July. Our new route is shorter, and we'll have grass to walk on for part of the way.
The rally starts at 11:30 and will feature entertainment and speakers. At 1:30 we'll begin to gather for the march and head out toward the White House by 2:00. Cooling tents will be stationed along the route. After the march we'll return to Ellipse Park for more activities. You'll be glad to know that school buses will be available to transport people who are not able to walk back to Ellipse Park. Stay tuned for more about the march and rally.

Amtrak is offering a 10% discount on the best available rail fare to Washington, DC between July 25 and August 3. This offer is good only for those participating in the Save Our Schools events and is available only through the Amtrak phone line at 1 800 872 7245. Ask for the Amtrak Convention Rate - X08H - 929.

To make sure you are getting the best rate, contact your travel agent or go online and check just to be sure that there's not a better rate.
For those of you who prefer to fly, we are negotiating a discount with Delta. As soon as we hear, we will contact you by email.

The American University stop for the conference and the congress is Tenleytown Station on the RED LINE. There is a free shuttle every 15 minutes from the station to AU, but it is less than a mile walk for those who enjoy exercise. The DC metro is safe, clean, and efficient. Transferring between lines is easy.

2 More DC Hotels!
The Washington Marriott Wardman Park in DC has given us a group rate of $129,which includes wi-fi but does not include breakfast or parking or tax. To view the hotel or to register online click here.
The code for registering online is SOSSOSA.
If you prefer to register over the phone, call 800 228 9290 and use the code SAVE OUR SCHOOLS ROOM.
Cut off for group rate is July 11.
To view the hotel, click here.
The Hilton Garden Inn in Bethesda, Maryland offers a rate of $113 for singles or doubles and $123 for triples. The rate includes breakfast but not tax. The code for the group rate is CELT.
Telephone: 1 301 654 8111. FAX: 202 686 3405
Cut off for group rate is June 28. We have requested an extension but have not heard back yet.
To view the hotel, click here.
The hotel is within walking distance to a metro station on the RED LINE and 2 stops from the nearest metro station to American University.
Anyone having trouble making a room reservation should email

And finally from Educationa Week-if you want to stand up and fight back:

Education Week -- June 15, 2011
By Erik W. Robelen

Thousands of educators, parent activists, and others are expected to
convene in the heat and humidity of Washington next month for a march
protesting the current thrust of education policy in the United States,
especially the strong emphasis on test-based accountability.

Organizers say the effort aims to galvanize and give voice to those who
believe policymakers, including U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan
and state governors, have gone astray in their remedies for improving
American schools. Leaders of the march---current and former educators
among them---say they're determined to build a grassroots movement that
has staying power beyond the gathering this summer and "restores" a
central role for educators, parents, and communities in policy decisions.

How widespread such sentiments are in the K-12 workforce is hard to
quantify. The nation has more than 3 million public school teachers, and
they're a diverse bunch. And a lot of teachers may not pay much
attention to national policy debates.

But march organizers and supporters suggest that many teachers have
become increasingly frustrated with the test-driven accountability
framework at the heart of the U.S. education system and look with alarm
at the wave of teacher-evaluation measures being enacted in some states,
pegged in part to student scores on standardized tests.

Such views are shared by Pat Graff, a 34-year teaching veteran who
co-chairs the English department at La Cueva High School in Albuquerque,
N.M., and is her school's testing coordinator.

"I think it's going down the wrong track fast," Ms. Graff said of the
main policy direction she sees. "It ramped up with No Child Left Behind
and the push for accountability and [adequate yearly progress]. And then
they just keep adding tests. ... Teachers lose the opportunity to teach
anything beyond how to fill in the bubbles."

Meanwhile, she said, teachers "feel like the scapegoat ... for
everything that's wrong with society."

Nancy Flanagan, a former classroom teacher of 30-plus years who writes
an opinion blog hosted on the Teacher section of the Education Week
website, said frustration with the federal No Child Left Behind Act's
pressure to boost test scores in reading and mathematics has mushroomed
among teachers.

"A lot of people were waiting it out," said Ms. Flanagan, a member of
the organizing committee for the Save Our Schools March and National
Call to Action. "States were complying. Teachers were unhappy. Huge
amounts of money were going to the wrong things."

She added: "When [President Barack] Obama was elected, I think it came
as a huge shock to people that he was not only going to continue the
policies, but exacerbate them."

By exacerbate, she pointed, for example, to incentives in the Obama
administration's Race to the Top initiative for states to link teacher
evaluations to student test scores.

Tony Bennett, Indiana's state schools superintendent and himself a
former teacher and school administrator, voiced skepticism, however,
about the aims of the Save Our Schools march, dubbed SOS. "Does it stand
for Save Our Schools or Save Our Status Quo?" he said. "They seem to
articulate very well everything they're against."

Mr. Bennett, a Republican, defended the need for test-based
accountability, suggesting it's vital to ensure students are no longer
shuffled through school without adequate preparation, even as he said
plenty of work remains in improving assessments. He also said that on
the issue of teacher evaluation, test scores are only part of the
equation, despite what he calls "fearmongering" from critics who suggest
that's all there is to it.

"We are embarking on a journey in education in this country that is a
dramatic shift from what we've done in the past," Mr. Bennett said, "but
it's the right shift."
Building a Network

Organizers of the Save Our Schools march say they expect 5,000 to 10,000
people to attend the Washington gathering on July 30. Ms. Flanagan, the
Michigan teacher of the year in 1993, said the size of the rally isn't
the point.

"The point is to start momentum toward a sea change, to bring
together---physically and virtually---a network of people who want
change," she said.

Social media have been key drivers of the march, with organizers using
blogs, an SOS Facebook page, and Twitter to promote it.

The four "guiding principles" for the march are: equitable funding for
all public school communities; an end to high-stakes testing used for
the purpose of student, teacher, and school evaluation; curriculum
developed for and by local school communities; and teacher, family, and
community leadership in forming public education policies.

Anthony Cody, one of the lead organizers and a former classroom teacher
who is now a science-content coach for teachers in the Oakland, Calif.,
district, said concern about the uses of standardized tests is at the
heart of the matter.

Sabrina Stevens Shupe, in downtown Denver, says she's alarmed to see how
testing-based accountability continues to increase. "We were very
excited that, 'Oh, we're going to get Obama in office,' ...and we get
this bait and switch with Arne Duncan and Race to the Top," says Shupe,
a Save Our Schools organizer and former Denver teacher.

"That's really the core thing driving this movement: The understanding
that learning is complex, and that it is not captured in a test score;
it is not captured in most of the data that is worshiped at the
district, state, and federal levels," said Mr. Cody, who, like Ms.
Flanagan, writes a teacher-oriented opinion blog at edweek.org. "We want
to be held accountable for things that matter, and we've seen test
scores create a system of accountability that has a very poor
relationship to what really matters for students."

A lot of the Save Our Schools leadership, he said, is drawn from people
who have been active "teacher leaders." Several of them, including Mr.
Cody and Ms. Flanagan, hold national-board certification.

Confirmed speakers for the rally include education historian Diane
Ravitch, who co-authors a blog hosted by edweek.org; the education
author and activist Jonathan Kozol; and Superintendent John Kuhn of the
Perrin-Whitt district in north-central Texas.

A two-day conference is scheduled before the march and a "congress" the
day after to discuss next steps.

Among the organizations to endorse the Save Our Schools march are: the
International Reading Association, the National Association of Secondary
School Principals, the National Council of Teachers of English, the
nonprofit group Parents Across America, and the Virginia School Boards
Association. Also, more than 30 state and local teachers' unions, plus
the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education
Association, have signaled their support.

Organizers say the effort originated with individuals, not unions.

"We are very happy they are on board, but they are not driving the bus,"
Mr. Cody said.

"What our union liked about this was these are rank-and-file folks from
across the country," said aft President Randi Weingarten, even as she
cautioned that the union may disagree on some "nuances" of the SOS
principles. "There is a frustration about the politics and the policy.
And a lot of it is about voice, and the lack of voice."
Interpreting Obama

Debates on the use of standardized tests have been swirling for years.
It's no secret that many educators and researchers have long been leery
of giving them too much weight in gauging student learning and meting
out consequences for schools, students, and teachers.

In fact, a major report just issued by the National Research Council
raised questions about the value of tying consequences for schools,
teachers, and students to test results. The evidence examined "is not
encouraging about the ability of incentive programs to reliably produce
meaningful increases in student achievement," it said.

Says Benjamin Van Dusen, a former science teacher and Albert Einstein
Fellow, "I'm not opposed to having standardized tests and having them be
important. ...I think we need better tests, more authentic assessment."

Some observers and advocates suggest that a variety of factors have
combined to ratchet up frustration. For one, more and more public
schools are facing sanctions under the NCLB law, as the levels of
proficiency required have climbed.Also, the recession has led to
cutbacks in aid to schools, with impacts on teacher pay, benefits, and
class sizes. And several states recently passed laws to scale back
teachers' collective bargaining rights.

Then there's the Obama administration. Some educators and activists who
campaigned for Mr. Obama in 2008 say they believed he was intent on
making a significant shift in direction on education from the Bush
administration, in part to counterbalance the weight of standardized
testing in schools. Now, they feel that is not happening.

Stephen H. Lazar, a teacher at the Bronx Lab School in New York City who
plans to attend the SOS march, said he's been disappointed with Mr.
Obama: "The president's education agenda is a symptom of the 'reform'
movement that has managed to capture the national narrative around
education." ("In War of Words, 'Reform' a Potent Weapon," March 2, 2011.)

"We were very excited that, 'Oh, we're going to get Obama in office, and
the ridiculous things about No Child Left Behind will go away,' " said
Sabrina Stevens Shupe, a former teacher in Denver who co-authors a blog
called Failing Schools and is on the SOS organizing panel. "And he comes
in there, and we get this bait and switch with Arne Duncan and Race to
the Top."

But Andrew J. Rotherham, a partner and co-founder of Bellwether
Education Partners, a nonprofit education consulting firm in Washington
and a former education aide to President Bill Clinton, suggests that
those who are upset with President Obama may not have been studying his
education plans closely during the 2008 campaign.

"It is hard to make a case that the president has somehow pivoted or
made a bait and switch," he said. "Either it was a Rorschach test, or
they weren't paying attention."

The U.S. Department of Education did not accommodate a request to speak
with Secretary Duncan or another official for this story. But in an
email, department spokesman Justin Hamilton wrote: "We believe that
teachers are America's unsung heroes. And while there are different
opinions on the best ways to boost student achievement, we all agree
that reforms are needed."

Mr. Duncan issued an "open letter" to teachers in May, timed to Teacher
Appreciation Week, in which he seemed to take pains to offer an olive
branch. He noted and echoed some of the concerns expressed by teachers,
such as that the NCLB law has prompted schools to "teach to the test"
and has led to a narrowing of the curriculum.

"And you are frustrated when teachers alone are blamed for educational
failures that have roots in broken families, unsafe communities,
misguided reforms, and underfunded school systems," he wrote in the
letter, published on the Education Week and Education Department websites.

Mr. Duncan pledged to work with teachers to improve the law and
strengthen the teaching profession. "I hear you, I value you, I respect
you," he wrote.

But the letter sparked an online backlash, including from some SOS
organizers. A common thread was the contention that Mr. Duncan's
conciliatory words were belied by his department's agenda, especially
with the Race to the Top.

"Your actions have spoken so loudly to America's teachers that we can't
hear your words," one commenter wrote.

The $4 billion grant competition has sparked controversy for, among
other measures, pushing states to tie teacher evaluations to student
test scores, create or expand their charter school sectors, and choose
from a set of prescriptive models for turning around the
lowest-performing schools, measured mainly by test scores.

Even though the Obama administration has not backed away from using
tests to drive accountability, it is pursuing efforts to change them.
With $360 million in additional Race to the Top money, it is backing
work by states to design new testing systems that it says will measure
student growth---rather than capture a snapshot of achievement---supply
real-time feedback to teachers to guide instruction, and include
performance-based items to gauge more types of learning.
Gauging Teacher Views

Richard Rothstein, a research associate at the Economic Policy
Institute, a Washington think tank, also sees a disconnect between the
administration's rhetoric and policy.

For example, he said that even as the administration has called for
wrap-around supports beyond schools---in areas like health and social
services---to help children succeed academically, the president's
blueprint for overhauling the NCLB law "holds schools accountable for
identical results, whether or not they have these [supports]. It's
completely incoherent."

Recent survey data provide some clues as to how educators feel about
testing and education policy.

Only about one-quarter of public school teachers believe their states'
standardized tests provide "good" or "excellent" information about
school quality, according to a 2009 survey co-sponsored by the journal
Education Next and the Program on Education Policy and Governance at
Harvard University. More than two-thirds of teachers responding said
they "somewhat" or "completely" opposed basing a teacher's salary in
part on his or her students' academic progress on state tests.

Most of the 40,000 teachers who responded to a 2009 online questionaire
sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Scholastic said
that state standardized tests are far less important in gauging student
achievement than formative, ongoing assessments in class, class
participation, and performance on class assignments.

Benjamin Van Dusen, who taught high school science for five years and is
now working on a doctorate in education at the University of Colorado at
Boulder, said that while he believes standardized tests need to be
better and "more authentic," he sympathizes with policymakers who desire
measurable results.

"I'm not opposed to the idea of having standardized tests and having
them be important," said Mr. Van Dusen, who last year was an Albert
Einstein Distinguished Educator fellow.

As for teacher evaluations, Mr. Van Dusen said he doesn't object to
using tests as part of the equation.

"We need to figure out who is not an effective teacher," he said, "and
get them out of there, and figure out who is good and keep them."
Other Voices

Meanwhile, a new nonprofit group in New York City, Educators 4
Excellence, seeks to give teachers more voice in policy debates, but its
agenda parts company in some ways with the Save Our Schools march. For
example, the group backs tying teacher pay in part to test scores. It
also calls for ending "last hired, first fired" teacher-layoffs
policies. Morethan 2,600 New York teachers have backed the group's
"declaration" of beliefs, said Sydney J. Morris, the co-founder and a
former teacher.

Her group receives financial backing from the Gates Foundation and other
philanthropies. (Gates has been a funder of Education Week's nonprofit
parent corporation.)

For her part, Kaye Thompson Peters, an English teacher at Central High
School in St. Paul, Minn., and an active union member, said she hopes to
attend the Save Our Schools march. She's had enough of what she sees as
an overemphasis on standardized testing and suggests it impedes good

"It's time someone said the emperor has no clothes," she said. "You need
to stand up and you need to fight back."