Friday, November 2, 2012

Malcolm X's "The Ballot or the Bullet"

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On April 3, 1964 Malcolm X delivered his now famous “The Ballot or the Bullet” speech in Cleveland, Ohio. It was both an exhortation for black Americans to use their political power ‘maturely’ and vote only for blacks who shared their interest, and a warning that the mechanisms of voting and legislation might not be sufficient to secure freedom for black Americans, that other means might be necessary.

On Nov. 6, 2012 ballots will be cast, or not, for the 45th president of the United States. Throughout this presidential election cycle, activists have struggled and argued about the power of the ballot versus the power of organizing outside of the sanctioned political system. Education activists are aware of the deep injustices perpetuated by Obama’s education policies, the racism, the school to prison pipeline supported by high stakes testing that impact black, brown and poor students disproportionately, the land grabs and destruction of community schools, the undoing of teachers unions and the impact of the attack on teachers on the black middle class. Some who call themselves progressives argue that a vote for Obama is, while deeply inadequate, necessary to forestall greater harm. For many education activists, and others fighting for a just and truly democratic society, the choices presented by the ruling parties, the Democrats and the Republicans, are not a choice at all. For some, voting even if that vote is Green or Justice, is seen as an empty gesture at best and a manipulation at worst.

In 1964, Malcolm X told us that we were at a critical juncture in the fight for freedom. He was right about that. In July of that year President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. That summer, black and brown Americans in cities across the country took to the streets in confrontations with the racist police that oppressed their neighborhoods. The violence of the police state against poor, black and brown people is as bad as it was in 1964, with stop and frisk laws, high surveillance, and the mechanisms of the war on drugs incarcerating black men at seven times the rate of white men. In the past year we have seen the brutal tactics of militarized police used against Occupy encampments across the country. We see free speech limited to special zones, increasing poverty, and the blatant purchase of elections by the richest few. We stand again at a critical juncture in our history, where we know change is necessary for any chance of freedom and justice, and we must decide how to work toward that change. In the spirit of learning from our histories and fully engaging this essential question, Education Radio offers Malcolm X’s speech “The Ballot or the Bullet.”

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Save Our Schools People's Convention

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In August 2011, Education Radio released its debut show - filled with the passionate voices and stories of the Save Our Schools National Convention and March held in Washington DC that July, organized by parents, teachers and scholars to speak out against the corporate assault being waged on public schools and teachers. A year later, in August 2012, Save Our Schools convened again in Washington, this time with the purpose of holding a People’s Convention, filled with workshops and discussion about the need for continued action and movement building to preserve and expand public education. Education Radio traveled to this convention to document where SOS has come over the past year, as well as to collect and share additional stories and voices. In today’s show, we’ll share some of what we collected.

Faya Rose Touré
In this documentation of SOS, we hear from Faya Rose Touré (formerly known as Rose Sanders), civil rights activist, attorney and first African American female judge in Alabama. Touré has also been intensely active in education equity, particularly around tracking in Alabama and in visioning how schools can provide a holistic and humane environment for children. She calls for the establishment of a universal core curriculum that tells the truth about our histories and prepares all students to leave school with the critical capacities necessary to realize their full potential. She was a keynote speaker at the Save our Schools People’s Convention.
Deborah Meier

Finally, we hear from two members of the Save Our Schools steering committee, Deborah Meier, a 50 year veteran practitioner and administrator in public education  and Mike Klonsky, DePaul University teacher educator. In our interview with them we learn what the past year of organizing SOS has been like, what SOS stands for, and what their next steps are.  
Mike Klonsky

For more about the voices heard in this program:
Faya Rose Touré (Rose Sanders) on Alternatives to Tracking
Mike Klonsky's Huffington Post blog entries
Deborah Meier @ Bridging Differences on EdWeek.Org

Saturday, September 29, 2012

"Won't Back Down": Corporate Education Reform and the Rhetoric of Fiction

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In the past weeks, we have watched with renewed energy and hope as the teachers, parents, students and community members of Chicago have shown us the power of solidarity. Their resistance to the privatization of public education and their demand to reclaim the classroom from hedge fund managers, real estate tycoons, venture philanthropists and their political stooges, is shifting the narrative from one of blaming teachers, students, parents and unions to naming the lies behind corporate ‘reform’ efforts.

This impressive and inspiring ‘actual event’ stands in sharp contrast to the most recent attempt by corporate deformers to manipulate the narrative about schools, teachers, students, parents and where the battle lies in education. Set for release on Sept. 28, Won’t Back Down brought to you by the same people who gave us Waiting for Superman, is selling itself as "inspired by actual events".  In this week’s program, Education Radio unmasks the lie behind that tag line, the Parent Trigger laws that the film alludes to, and the pretense that this films speaks for anyone except corporate profiteers. At the same time, we will explore the actual events of parents and community members who have opposed Parent Trigger laws, their struggles and their solidarity. 

Leonie Haimson
We speak with five women, all activists and parents. First we hear Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters and a founding member of Parents Across America, tell us about the corporate reformers behind the movie.

Lori Friedlander Yuan
Then Caroline Grannen, from Parents Across America talks about parent trigger laws, their genesis, and the uncovering of the astroturf forces behind one attempt to enact the trigger in Compton California.

Rita Solnet from Parents Across America Florida and Testing is Not Teaching, saw the movie and shares its manipulative impact, while also contrasting its fiction with the real story of Florida parent activism to defeat parent trigger legislation Florida. 

Rhoda Rae Gutierrez and her family
We also hear from two Lori Frieidline Yuan about the deceit used by the astroturf Parent Revolution, to get a parent trigger law enacted in Adelante, California. She tells about how the parents were first deceived and then worked to have their voices really heard.

Last, we speak with Rhoda Rae Gutierrez, a Chicago parent, and Program Director at the Collaborative for Equity and Justice in Education.  She talks abut her experiences supporting Chicago teachers during their strike.

Together, the stories these women tell give us a picture of what real activism looks like, and of the knowledge and strength to be gained when parents join teachers to take down corporate reformers their deceitful and dangerous narratives.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Jonathan Kozol: Fire in the Ashes

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As we welcome the 2012 school year, and while Chicago teachers are courageously standing up for high quality education for all students, we bring you a moving and inspiring talk by award-winning author and longtime education and civil rights activist Jonathan Kozol. This talk was recorded at the 2012 Save Our Schools People’s Education Convention in Washington DC. 

Kozol begins by focusing on the damaging nature of the current testing mania imposed on children, teachers and schools in the poorest communities; the inequality between rich and poor schools; and how current education reform policies result in the resegregation of black and brown children in our education system and are in effect perpetrating major civil and human rights violations on our most vulnerable children. 

As told in his new book, Fire in the Ashes: Twenty-Five Years Among the Poorest Children in America, Kozol vividly takes us back to the scenes of his prize-winning books Rachel and Her Children and Amazing Grace, and to many of the children’s lives he graphically documented, sharing the tragedies, struggles and resilient journeys as they grew into adulthood.

With Strings Attached: The Gates Foundation and Venture Philanthropy

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In this week's program, we take a closer look at the role of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in funding and promoting corporate education reform. The Gates Foundation is one of a handful of venture philanthropists - along with the Broad and Walton Foundations - who have spent billions of dollars in the last decade to change the face of public education in the United States.

Gates' agenda for reform is essentially identical to that of the U.S. Department of Education, namely increasing the use of high-stakes standardized tests at all levels, standardizing curriculum, creating a de-unionized system of merit-based pay for teachers tied to student test scores, and disinvesting in neighborhood public schools in favor of opening new charter schools.

As we've explored in previous episodes of Education Radio, all of these reforms can be tied to a larger ideology of free-market competition and a corporate agenda of deregulation and privatization, and are actually leading to greater social and economic inequalities. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Arizona Goddam! The Fight for Raza Studies in Tucson

**Please Note: This is a Two Hour Program**

Crystal Terriquez and Pricila Rodriguez
In January 2012, Tucson Unified School District's (TUSD) renowned and highly successful Raza Studies Program, was shut down. The program was finally eliminated after a prolonged, brutal campaign to demonize the students, the teachers and Tucson Arizona’s Mexican American community;  the latest of a long history of cultural genocide enacted against Mexican Americans and indigenous people in the United States. In this two hour program, we look at the history of the struggle for Raza studies, also known as Mexican American Studies, in the Tucson Unified School District and why the program was so meaningful and successful, and we explore why the program was viciously attacked and shut down - by examining the racist narrative and intent of the state and school administrators who are responsible for its destruction. We hear about the devastating impact the shutting down of this program has had on teachers, students and community members in Tucson. 

Jose Gonzalez
There are so many incredibly dedicated people involved in the fight for Raza Studies in Tucson - from those who helped to found and build the program, the many teachers who taught in the program, the students who participated, and the community members and activists who are fighting to reinstate it. We were able to speak to just a few of these many voices, and want to recognize the hard work and varying perspectives of all those with whom we did not speak.

Raquel Rubio-Goldsmith
We talk with four students who are alumni of the program, who share their experiences: Crystal Terriquez, Pricila Rodriguez, Alfred Chavez and Alfonzo Chavez. We also share testimony from a student, Teresa Mejia, who was present when TUSD adminstrators removed books and materials during classes (this testimony is available on activist Brenda Norrell’s blog: We spoke with Mexican American Studies history teacher Jose Gonzalez about the history and the shutting down of the program. 

Human rights activist and University of Arizona professor Raquel Rubio Goldsmith helps us understand the link between what is happening in Tucson today and the Chicano movement of the 1960s. We also speak with University of Illinois Chicago Professor of African American HIstory and Educational Policy Studies David Stovall, who conducted a program evaluation of Ethnic Studies programs in Tucson over the 2006-2007 school year, and hear about his findings from that evaluation. 

We talk to social theorist Joe Feagin, about the way that racism and white supremacy are playing out in this situation. Banned author and poet Martin Espada reflects on the dangers of censorship, how it feels to have his work banned, and shares a poem that speaks to the power that literature can have when used a tool for resistance and emancipation. Finally, we discover the growing local and national resistance movement that gives hope, not only for the future of this program in Tucson, but to the building of solidarity that will help fight this from happening elsewhere. Alfred and Alfonzo Chavez, members of U.N.I.D.O.S., talk with us about Tucson's Freedom Summer, we speak with Tara Mack, Director of the Education for Liberation Network and member of the Teacher Activist Groups, about the No History is Illegal Campaign, and we hear a clip of Tony Diaz talking about Librotraficante. 

Specific examples of this resistance and opportunities to get involved in the fight are listed below:

Save Ethnic Studies   - a website produced by the teachers involved in the struggle. Visit this site to gain a deeper understanding of the issues.
Support the Raza Defense Fund to donate to help two MAS teachers in their lawsuit against incredibly well-funded and vicious opposition.
No History is Illegal - a website produced by Teacher Activist Groups where you can find curriculum based on the banned MAS curriculum to use in your own classroom. 
Librotraficante - a project devoted to fighting back against the censorship and banning of books in Arizona.  
Tucson Freedom Summer  - join the fight to save MAS  - in Tucson - July 2012 

Additional Resources
Tucson’s Maiz-Based Curriculum: MAS-TUSD Profundo by Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodríguez 
The Cambium Audit Report and other related materials
And yet there is more...
Due to time constrants there were several pieces we were unable able to fully explore in our radio show. We have tried to include some of those pieces below in hopes that you will be able to deepen your understanding of the struggle in Tuscon. The following quotes are by several of the authors whose books were boxed up and taken out of classrooms as a part of the ban on ethnic studies:

"I don't take it personally, but what I do see is an ongoing plan, a very deliberate plan and antagonism in the US and Southwest. What is obvious is that it's about more than books. ... When they take out Shakespeare, Paulo Freire or Pulitzer Prize winners, that I can't imagine that they read everything and somehow determined this is a threat to democracy. ... This reminded me of McCarthyism and the red-baiting of writers, except now we are targeting a specific people. I feel we have to start paying attention to this trend. Now we are seeing similar laws (to SB 1070) in Georgia and Alabama. I don't think most of the public east of the Mississippi or the East Coast is aware. We have to make them aware" - Ana Castillo, author of the banned books Loverboys and So Far From God

"The last time a book of mine was outlawed was during the state of emergency in apartheid South Africa in 1986, when the regime there banned the curriculum I’d written, Strangers in Their Own Country, likely because it included excerpts from a speech by then-imprisoned Nelson Mandela. Confronting massive opposition at home and abroad, the white minority government feared for its life in 1986. It’s worth asking what the school authorities in Arizona fear today."- Bill Bigelow, editor of Rethinking Schools and author of the banned book Rethinking Columbus

Let's get one thing out of the way: Mexican immigration is an oxymoron. Mexicans are indigenous. So, in a strange way, I'm pleased that the racist folks of Arizona have officially declared, in banning me alongside Urrea, Baca, and Castillo, that their anti-immigration laws are also anti-Indian. I'm also strangely pleased that the folks of Arizona have officially announced their fear of an educated underclass. You give those brown kids some books about brown folks and what happens? Those brown kids change the world. In the effort to vanish our books, Arizona has actually given them enormous power. Arizona has made our books sacred documents now.” - Sherman Alexie, author of the banned books Ten Little Indians and The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Standing Up to Pearson: Speaking Out, Sharing Stories, Growing Resistance

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Some of the 67 UMass students who said no to Pearson with Barbara Madeloni.
Education Radio has been following the developments of the University of Massachusetts student teacher resistance to the Pearson supported Teacher Performance Assessment. The attempt to impose a corporate sponsored standard assessment on pre-service teachers is one more example of the corporatization of public education and the surveillance, silencing and demands for obedience that accompany it. Following our report of March 24, Mike Winerip ran an article that brought the students’ resistance to readers of the New York Times. As we have shared on our blog, the response has been nothing short of astonishing as teachers, teacher educators, parents, students and community members from across the country contacted education radio producer Barbara Madeloni and the students to speak their support and share their own stories of the destructiveness of Pearson and problems with the Teacher Performance Assessment.
Rachel Hoogstraten, Alex Hoyo, Katie Smith, Danielle Nelson

Steven Cohen
In this week’s program, we speak with some of those supporters about why they felt compelled to contact Barbara, how Pearson and/or the TPA are impacting their lives, and how we might further this resistance. Judith Kocik, director of an adult education program and Kip Fonsh, school committee member and director of education for a county jail, explain the devastating impact of Pearson's purchase of the GED.  Parent and community member Alex Pirie talks about his delight that University students are taking a stand against corporatization of the University and teacher educator Steven Cohen, from Tufts University, helps us understand how contrary is the TPA to the needs of developing teachers. We also hear from Ginette Delandshire, from Indiana University Bloomington, who was involved in the first iteration of the teacher performance assessment, her critiques of it, and how these critiques have been ignored.  As well, we speak with some of the UMass students who engaged in the resistance about how they felt about the article, about the response to it, and about how this action will impact their work as teachers.
Alex Pirie

Ginette Delandshere
In developing this program, we discovered more detail about the menacing and destructive reach of the testing giant Pearson and its profiteering on the most marginalized and vulnerable of our community.  And we discovered a broad range of people who are articulate and angry about the neoliberal assault on public education.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Reality of Virtual Schooling

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In this week's program, we explore the proliferation of virtual schools. Virtual schools offer on-line education to primary and secondary school students without the added expenses associated with brick and mortar structures and unionized teachers and support staff.  

We hear opinions on virtual schools from well-known education scholars Jonathon Kozol and Diane Ravitch. We investigate one such virtual school, the Massachusetts Virtual Academy in Greenfield, Massachusetts. We talk with the superintendent of schools, Susan Hollins, who was the driving force behind the opening of that school in 2010, and we also speak with two Greenfield School Committee members, Maryelen Calderwood and Andrew Blais, who opposed it. Finally, we turn to early childhood education scholar Nancy Carlsson-Paige, who talks about the vitally important social, emotional and cognitive needs of young children that are in danger of not being met by virtual schools.

We also explore K12 Inc., a for-profit publicly traded technology-based education company that touts itself as the largest provider of proprietary curriculum and online education programs for primary and secondary students in the United States. It is also one of the fastest growing operators of virtual charter schools worldwide. K-12 Inc. was founded in 1999 by Michael Milken and William J. Bennett, a former Reagan Secretary of Education and Bush senior drug czar.  We take some time to talk about the background of these men, along with several others involved with this company, as a means to expose the insidious nature of companies like K12 Inc. 

To learn more about virtual schools and about what you hear on this program, visit the following links:
Education According to Mike Milken by John Hechinger
Virtual Schools Expand Students' Network by Laura Insensee
Outsourcing Information: The Rise of Virtual Schools by Nancy Hanover
The Massachusetts Virtual Academy
Susan Ohanian on K-12

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Pearson's Teacher Performance Assessment: Exposed!

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"From one educator to another, thank you for taking a stand!

In this weeks program, we listen to an episode we originally aired back in March about the development of a national Teacher Performance Assessment, driven by the testing giant, Pearson, Inc. Thanks to a recent story in the New York Times, this topic has gained new relevance and has opened up the discussion to a wider audience. Michael Winerip's article, "New Procedure for Teaching LicenseDraws Protest," appeared in the New York Times on Monday, May 7th. The story featured University of Massachusetts Amherst student teachers and instructors who are refusing to take part in the field test of a Teacher Performance Assessment being implemented by Pearson, Inc., a private company and the largest assessment and testing provider in the United States.

Both our program and the NYTimes article feature teacher educator, and Education Radio producer, Barbara Madeloni and her student teachers explaining what the TPA is and why they are resisting it. After our original broadcast, we heard from teachers and teacher educators from around the country who were also struggling with ways to resist. The article in the Times has, excitingly, further opened the discussion of the privatization of teacher training and resistance to this national audience. Since the story was published, we've received an incredible amount of feedback and comments that have affirmed the work of Barbara and her student teachers. This outcry of parents, teachers, activists and others who have contacted Barbara or commented on the article should remind us all that there are many out there who disagree with the current trend of privatizing public education. And that the act of teacher training cannot and should not be reduced to an assembly-line, Taylorist logic.

A sampling of comments from around the country that were sent to Barbara Madeloni, with identifying information removed, can be found after the jump...
1)  I just wanted to say that the story in the NYT was the best thing I've read in a long time and so inspiring. Thanks so much for what your doing and please pass my gratitude along to your students as well.  Their courage and activism really gives me hope.
2) I was very moved by the article I read about you and your students yesterday in the New York Times.  I retired from teaching two years ago after having had an amazing career as a special educator for close to 40 years. …  I have to say that I was so inspired by what you and your students are doing in taking a stand against this absurd Teacher Licensing Process.  I wish I could meet your students to tell them how wonderful I think they are for refusing to participate in this bizarre assessment.  Please let them know that I  hope that the future teachers of America will be people like them.  I am having a hard time understanding why more of the education schools around the country aren't standing in solidarity with you and your students.  Hopefully they will wake up and step up to block this outrageous licensing process.

3) Keep up the fight, you and your students are clearly fighting an uphill battle. Best of luck.

4) From one educator to another, thank you for taking a stand!

5) I just read the NY Times article "Move to Outsource Teacher Licensing Process Draws Protest" and wanted to offer my support. I am extraordinarily proud that I have gone through the teacher education program at UMass. Keep up the good work!

6) The NY Times article describing your and your students' resistance to Pearson was one of the most heartening things I've read about education in a very long time.

7) I just read the NYTimes article  and I applaud you and your students.  How can we stand firm and not allow this "recipe" attitude for teaching to take over?  I am a retired educator. I had a fantastic professor for my undergraduate teacher training (that was in the 1950's).   Daily lesson plans, daily discussions, weekly observations, (no 10 minute videos that are evaluated by a person who doesn't know you).  This professor… really turned me on to, not only, the responsibility of education but a love of the profession.  I felt prepared and proud when I had my first classroom… Children are our most important resource, they must not be shortchanged.  Stay firm in your opposition to this new but unwise  approach to education.

Best of luck to you and your students,

8) Bravo to you and your students for bringing the issue of outsourcing teacher
licensing to our attention. As a retired teacher I am becoming increasingly alarmed 
at the undermining of public education and confidence in teachers through some
very erroneous beliefs about the benefits of privatization.  After 30 years in classrooms
of every type over my career, from alternative to gifted, elementary to secondary,
I know there are few shortcuts to becoming a good teacher. In the early years, ones
youth, energy, enthusiasm and extra time can make up for a lack of experience and skills;
later, as a teacher gains more experience and confidence, he/she gradually masters the
profession. Thank you for the work you do helping our young teachers enter the profession
with integrity and committment. 

9) I want to express my admiration for the stand that you and your students have taken in response to the commercialization of teacher training undertaken by the juggernaut known as Pearson. They have also taken over the GED Testing Service and have moved into the GED testing market. By 2014 they will introduce a computerized GED test that will cost more than triple the current cost. They are creeping into the lives of hundreds of thousands of people without so much as a whisper by anyone who might be able to control this commodification of public education. I applaud you and your students and I would volunteer to help you in any way I can to maintain control of teacher education and licensure under the auspices of those individuals and institutions dedicated to improve public education and its proponents and not destroy it.

10) (Written to the state legislature) 
As a voter and taxpayer in Massachusetts (and parent of a recent UMass Amherst grad), I’d like to call your attention to the article in today’s (05/07/12) New York Times, “Move to Outsource Teacher Licensing Process Draws Protest.” 

I can’t tell you how proud I am of these young people for standing up to the corporate desire to own (and profit) from everything. And how outraged I am that UMass Amherst could have been snookered into cooperating with this absurd effort to boost the shareholder benefits of an “international company” with its home base in England. 

Pearson has managed to acquire companies that vertically integrate almost the entire educational spectrum and at enormous expense to the American parent – the profit has to come out of somebody’s hide. 

The simple minded and, in my opinion, useless Pearson test scheme is also part of their business plan with students evidently expected to cough up $300 to pay for the privilege of having to take a 40 page test and provide a very brief video tape of themselves reviewed by just about anybody who has a little free time on their hands and wants to be an evaluator. I’m (almost) beyond outraged. It’s hard enough to find committed and creative young people who would even consider the currently punishing and unrewarding field of education at this point and this initiative seems like just one more nail in the coffin of what was once a state committed to and pioneering in the field of education. 

Since I am currently inundated with calls from work study students at UMass looking for donations (I politely suggest that when my daughter’s student financial obligations are through, then I will consider a donation) and that the extraordinary amount of compensation provided the administrators (not to mention our obligation to William Bulger for his pension requirements!) is a continuing drain on our resources and on anyone truly concerned with education in this state, and now this… 

I’d suggest that the legislature take a serious look at what is going on. 

11) Thank you for standing up against the loss of regional distinctions in our schools and in favor of local (vs. corporate and federal)  teachers.

12) I just read the piece in the NY Times about your refusal, together with that of your students, to participate in the ludicrous new procedure for testing potential teachers. As a parent of two elementary school students I thank you profoundly for taking this stand publicly, and I hope others will join you.

13) Congratulations on your effort.  I recently retired from ….College, where capitulation to Pearson is in vogue.   Your news is most welcome to those of us who find the corporate model for teacher education and the reduction of knowledge and skills to package, commodified modules within an all-encompassing market economy counter human. 

Thank you and your students. 

14) I am part way through my NY Times ed article on your efforts to slow things down.


I just retired from publiv ed, 40 years of wonder!!

Stay in the hunt!!

15) I read Mike Winerip's piece in the Times this morning and just wanted to say: well done.
 I work in the Ed Dept at XXXX and thank you and your students for your efforts.

16) Cheers to you and your students, Ms. Madeloni. …  Putting students and teachers in the hands of corporations is scary stuff.  Hopefully, our country will wake up to the dangers.

17) I  read an article about you and your students pushing back against Pearson’s intrusion into teacher education.  We in adult basic education (literacy, pre-GED, GED, English for Speakers of Other Languages) were shocked to learn recently that Pearson now owns the rights to the GED and will be controlling the content, pricing, administration, and scoring of the test, with the result that many of our students will no longer be able to acquire the GED credential.  

I wonder if there’s any way that adult basic ed and higher ed can work together to resist this force.  I am not sure exactly what I am proposing here, but I was very heartened to hear that UMASS/Amherst is out there fighting the good fight and I thought it might help to know you’re not alone in your outrage at Pearson’s tactics.

18) I saw this in the paper. WAY to go. Rock on!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Detracking for Education Equity: A Lecture by Carol Burris

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In this week's program we will be listening to a speech by Dr. Carol Corbett Burris about the negative impacts of tracking and the possibilities and opportunities that exist when schools detrack students.  This speech was delivered as part of the Simmons College/Beacon press Race, Education & Democracy Lectures on March 31, 2012. 

Beginning her career as a Spanish teacher Dr. Burris is now the principal of South Side High School in the Rockville Center School District in suburban Long Island, which has seen a staggering increases in student achievement and the near elimination of the achievement gap as a result of detracking.  Dr Burris received her PhD from Teachers College in 2003 where her award-winning dissertation detailed the positive effects seen on student achievement when her district began detracking math classes.

Dr. Burris recently made headlines with the Open Letter of Concern she co-authored with Wheatley school principal Sean Fenny protesting the use of evaluating teachers and principles by student test scores. As of today over 1400 New York state principals have signed this letter of resistance to neoliberal education reform.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Criminalizing failure: How high stakes testing warps identities, opportunities and communities

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In this week’s program, we take a closer look at how high stakes testing is impacting what happens in classrooms, how teachers see students, how students see themselves, and the kinds of society we are building through how young people are being educated. The impact of high stakes tests is both broadly social and intimately personal. Socially, high stakes testing re-segregates our schools, marginalizes black and brown children, young people who live in poverty and children who do not learn in traditional ways. High stakes testing tells us who we will value, and who we will not value, and makes room for us to criminalize youth, especially black and brown youth, opening the path to the school to prison pipeline. It operates within and builds on white supremacy, and exploits long standing privileges and oppressions. And, as with any dominant discourse, high stakes testing enters our consciousness and begins to structure how we see ourselves, each other, and the kind of world we want to build.

We speak with Linda Christensen, Director of the Oregon Writing Project at Lewis and Clark College, author of Reading, Writing and Rising Up among other books, and editorial board member for Rethinking Schools about how, entering the classroom, even with a curriculum designed to access student voices and knowledge, she discovered that the testing came to stand between her and the students, and her work with students to reclaim their knowledge and stories.
Wayne Au

Linda Christensen
Wayne Au, assistant professor of education at University of Washington Bothell,  and author of Unequal by Design: High stakes testing and the standardization of inequality, talks about how high stakes testing locks some students out of the curriculum and begins a process of devaluing - that changes how students know themselves, how teachers know students, and how society sees young people, especially young people of color.

Joan Grim
Joan Grim, teacher educator in special education at the University of Tennessee Knoxville, helps us to understand how high stakes testing is undermining 40 years of creating more inclusive classrooms by re-segregating both schools and the broader community, diminishing the strength and pleasure of diverse communities, and restricting the opportunities for young people with disabilities within our communities.

Edward Brockenbrough
We then speak first with Ed Brockenbrough, assistant professor at the Warner School of Education at the University of Rochester, about how white supremacy, the institutionalization of systems of power and privilege that advantage white people, manifests in schools, the role of high stakes testing as surveillance,  and the school to prison pipeline.   Erica Meiners, professor of education and women’s studies at Northeastern Illinois University, furthers the connection from high stakes testing, to surveillance, to the school to prison pipeline and, finally, our massive incarceration system.

Erica Meiners (with Tim Scott)
We also hear from educators who are subverting these destructive process in their classrooms, including Linda Christensen, and Monique Redeaux, fifth grade teacher in the Chicago Public Schools, who talks about her experience within the high stakes testing machine and how she and her students find their voices within it.  We close out the program a spoken word piece from Cadijah Hyacinth, a student from NYC.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Breaking the Silence: LGBTQ Curriculum in Public Schools

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In today’s program we discuss curriculum politics in the public school system, and the role they play in establishing a biased and oppressive curriculum that silences lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people throughout history and today.  We talk with students, educators, and activists who are committed to furthering social justice for the LGBTQ community, and have participated in the movement towards an LGBTQ inclusive curriculum. We also explore ways in which LGBTQ inclusion can be successful, as with the FAIR Education Act, and one example of a high school LGBTQ literature course that is central to the curriculum and highly enrolled. Through these interviews we see just how powerful an LGBTQ curriculum can be for individual students, but also for the kinds of communities we create when we know our histories, learn from our struggles and come to understand the fluidity and inter-sectionality of our identities.

Erica Meiners
We speak with Erica Meiners, Northeastern Illinois University Professor, author of The right to be hostile: Schools, prisons and the making of public enemies, and Queer Activist, about some of the barriers to LGBTQ curriculum including the power of heteronormativity. Kaila Kuban, professor of anthropology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, talks with us about the challenge posed to schools as instruments of obedience when LGBTQ opens up the fluidity of our identities, and Kirsten Helmer, Doctoral candidate of Language, Literacy and Culture at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, helps us think about both the need for and impediments to LGBTQ inclusive curriculum.
Kirsten Helmer

We then speak with Amherst, Massachusetts teacher Sara Barber-Just about her development and teaching of a Gay and Lesbian literature course.  Next we talk with Katie Russavage and Grace Findlen-Golden, two Massachusetts high school students about what an LGBTQ inclusive curriculum means to them. And finally, we hear from Rachel Harper, teacher and a founding member of the Chicago based organization ChiQueer about the incredible power of the uncertainty opened up by LGBTQ curriculum.