Save Our Schools: Coalition for Action

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Save Our Schools: Coalition for Action

July 8th – 10th

BATs will be descending upon DC once again this summer! This time we will be joined by SOS, UOO, NPE, NCEUA, NEA BAT Caucus, Opt Out Florida Network, and CELT!

We are working with these organizations to form a coalition that will grow with like-minded people to speak and march in solidarity in Washington DC on July 8-10th.

This coalition is working hard to join together a broad group of diverse people to make the statement to our government and to the citizens of our country that “This is what democracy looks like!”

We envision actions and festivities for children and adults, which foster awareness and to celebrate democracy by living it.

Details are developing for this event so please sign up to receive updates and support us!

We have a burgeoning coalition of grassroots groups, union organizations, and activists who will rally and march in support of education and social justice. The Coalition is growing, and we envision a mass gathering with bold actions and expressions of resistance for children and adults, which foster awareness and camaraderie in the movement to save our schools. Join us inWashington D.C. on July 8-10th to celebrate democracy by living it. The general schedule for the event is:

  • July 8th: Rally & March (location will be announced soon)
  • July 9th: National & International Summit with family and kid-friendly events
  • July 10th: Coalition Congress – member organizations meet to plan next steps for the movement

An action this big requires much collaboration and support, and the Coalition has many involvement opportunities for individuals and organizations alike. Consider helping in the following ways:

  1. Endorse the principles and the 2016 event
  2. Provide active publicity about the 2016 event to your organizations and listserves
  3. Organize in your area and assist people in attending the event
  4. Provide financial support for the 2016 event and/or scholarships to deserving attendees
  5. Collaborate and actively engage in the planning of the 2016 event by joining the Coalition for Action Steering Committee or one of its planning sub-committees. For more information on how to help and participate in the Coalition event, contact Bob George at (708) 692-5818.

This is an election year, and surely there can be no better time to show our government and our fellow citizens, “This is what democracy looks like!” We look forward to marching with you this summer in D.C.!

In solidarity,

The SOS Coalition for Action

Action Statement on Orlando and LGBTQ Community Support

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Our thoughts are with the families and friends of the victims, as well as all members of the LGBTQ community and their allies. The echo of these shots have been heard across the country and around the world. It is a sound that will not soon be forgotten.

The recent tragedy in Orlando, Florida has highlighted the deprivation of tolerance that still exists in our society. The intersectionality of education with our societal issues is one that can not be ignored as we call upon fellow educators to recognize and embrace our role in shaping future generations towards creating an inclusive space that will be safe and free of oppression.

To provide an inclusive, safe environment in which all students can learn, it is imperative that the rights of members of the LGBTQ community be recognized and protected at all levels, student, educator, or school staff professional. As bullying initiatives have highlighted in recent years, safety is the number one right of all within a school. However, in spite of these efforts, members of the LGBTQ community are still being intimidated and harassed.

To strive for an environment that is inclusive for all students, we urge all educators to:

  • Include activities and lessons that teach and promote tolerance.
  • Work to make school bullying policies include language that specifically protects gender nonconforming students.
  • Create/build/support a GSA club at school.
  • Offer students the support they need to make their preferred gender identity known. Use their preferred pronoun and name while also respecting their privacy rights and possible need for confidentiality.
  • Advocate for diversity training for all members of the staff and administration.
  • Work to make sure all after school activities and events are inclusive.
  • Advocate for the designation of gender neutral restrooms.

To strive for an environment that is inclusive for all staff, we urge all educators to:

  • Advocate for diversity training for all members of staff.
  • Advocate for a review of the district’s workplace harassment guidelines to include language that protects members of the LGBTQ community.
  • Know the procedures for reporting workplace harassment and intimidation within your district, and make others aware of these procedures.
  • Use a person’s preferred name and pronoun.
  • Act to designate gender neutral faculty restrooms.
  • Speak with legislators and work to eliminate any laws that allow for the dismissal of employees that identify as a member of the LGBTQ community as well as any laws that are discriminatory of members of the LGBTQ community

It is through education that our future society can become one that is tolerant and inclusive of all people. It is our responsibility to become purposeful and intentional in our profession to build towards that goal.  Once again, we offer our sincere thoughts of peace to all those in the LGBTQ community who are suffering at this time.

BATs Request a White House Conference on Education and Equity

The Badass Teachers Association, representing a network of over 70,000 teachers and education activists throughout the United States, formally request a White House Conference on Education and Equity.

13390910_775477449254803_2084676380_nOur organization stands firmly against the serious harm being perpetrated to public education by both corporate privatization and right wing fiscal starvation policies. The current political rhetoric strengthens our resolve to reclaim the rights of all children to a free public education.

We focus on the many reasons poverty is claiming the lives and health of our children, and we focus on keeping our K-12 schools from privatization and the target of under-funding.

Our organization proposes that a White House Conference be initiated immediately. Like much of the American landscape, Public K-12 Education requires infrastructure overhaul that have been installed to insert barriers that inhibit authentic learning. We do not accept the mendacity that racial and ethnic minorities must fail.

We witness what happens when social justice safeguards are removed by forces that hide inside school choice and free market de-regulation. Public school teachers are this country’s first responders against the effects of poverty.

School privatization profits from systemic racism and use their profits to build higher barriers and deeper inequities. Testing monopolies and “business” style management practices now glean millions exploiting our children and disregard our students with special needs and English Language Learners. These efforts must not go unchecked.
To see the entire proposal for this conference go here
http://badassteachers.blogspot.com/2016/06/press-release-badass-teachers.html

Scoreboard

Issues: Oppose/SupportClintonSandersO’MalleyTrumpCruzRubio
Common CoreSupports Video LinkInconclusive There is nothing that states Sanders has outright endorsed or opposed the Common Core. He voted in early 2015 against an anti-Common Core budget amendment that would “prohibit the federal government from ‘mandating, incentivizing, or coercing’ states into adopting Common Core or any other standards.” This vote could imply support for CCSS or opposition to some of all contents of the amendment. SupportsOpposesOpposesOpposes
End Standardized Testing/ End Federal Mandated Testing
Every Student Succeeds Act
Charters
Teacher’s Right to Due Process
Teacher Evaluation on Test Scores
Vouchers
Education Funding
Protecting Rights of Special Needs and English Language Learner

New Jersey BATs Decry the Use of Standardized Tests.

he Badass Teachers Association was created to give voice to every teacher who refuses to be blamed for the failure of our society to erase poverty and inequality through education. BAT members refuse to accept assessments, tests and evaluations created and imposed by corporate driven entities that have contempt for authentic teaching and learning.
NJ Logo new 5-14The Badass Teachers Association of New Jersey firmly states that there is no validity in the recent release of the New Jersey Partnership for Assessment for Readiness of College and Career scores and reaffirms their mission to work to eradicate such measures that are being used to punish our children, our teachers, and our schools.
A single score on a single test cannot possibly measure the daily events that occur in our public school systems. These tests were not designed by classroom teachers and the results have been released with many inherent flaws.
– These tests were aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), the implementation of which was so botched that the state of New Jersey is now working on revisions.
– The CCSS implementation was done as a top down initiative across all grade levels, creating a ‘bubble’ of students who do not have the educational background of having these standards throughout their educational careers, yet were subjected to these closely tied tests as an assessment.
– The administration of the test across the state was met with many issues including but not limited to – loss of internet access, computers with no sound-cards to enable text-to-speech features, classified students who did not receive accommodations that were outlined in their IEP, disorganized scheduling that caused extreme loss of instructional time and tore away at the consistency that children need to create a positive learning environments.
The validity of the cut scores remains extremely questionable in light of the knowledge that there is a direct agenda of several parties to label our schools as failing in order to close down and reorganize districts in ways that best benefits and feed the bank accounts of private interests. It is a known fact that results on standardized tests relate heavily to socio-economic backgrounds; a fact that logically precludes the conclusion that these tests are not a true measure of learning. These tests have been established as a tool to label public schools, specifically in urban communities, as failing.
The fact that the New Jersey Department of Education is not forthcoming with all of the information about the PARCC scores in one public release that includes educational stakeholders is a testament to the knowledge they hold that the educational decisions made under Governor Chris Christie are not what is best for our children.
The purpose, the client, and the reason for education is to benefit the children. As an organization, we vehemently decry the use of these tests to measure the value of our school systems, our teachers, and our students.

The Art of Deception: Friedrich vs. CTA


History is a great teacher. Now everyone knows that the labor movement did not diminish the strength of the nation but enlarged it. By raising the living standards of millions, labor miraculously created a market for industry and lifted the whole nation to undreamed of levels of production. Those who attack labor forget these simple truths, but history remembers them.   ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

History is a great teacher. Now everyone knows that the labor movement did not diminish the strength of the nation but enlarged it. By raising the living standards of millions, labor miraculously created a market for industry and lifted the whole nation to undreamed of levels of production. Those who attack labor forget these simple truths, but history remembers them.
~Martin Luther King, Jr.

History is a great teacher. Now everyone knows that the labor movement did not diminish the strength of the nation but enlarged it. By raising the living standards of millions, labor miraculously created a market for industry and lifted the whole nation to undreamed of levels of production. Those who attack labor forget these simple truths, but history remembers them. ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

History will remember.
Let Dr. King’s words lift our spirits in a time when unions are under attack.

Friedrichs vs. CTA will be heard in the Supreme Court this coming year. As research into this case is done, a disturbing sense of unease grows.

Here are the Plaintiffs

REBECCA FRIEDRICHS

SCOTT WILFORD

JELENA FIGUEROA

GEORGE W. WHITE, JR.

KEVIN ROUGHTON

PEGGY SEARCY

JOSE MANSO

HARLAN ELRICH

KAREN CUEN

IRENE ZAVALA

All of these folks are represented by The Center for Individual Rights. (More on them later)

Also listed in the lawsuit is the CHRISTIAN EDUCATORS ASSOCIATION INTERNATIONAL, more on them later as well.

Here is the screen shot of the cover sheet of the petition

Slide1 (1)
The issue at hand from the SCOTUS blog is whether Abood v. Detroit Board should be over turned and public-sector “agency shop” arrangements (a.k.a. mandatory union dues) should be invalidated under the First Amendment; and (2) whether it violates the First Amendment to require that public employees affirmatively object to subsidizing nonchargeable speech by public-sector unions, rather than requiring that employees affirmatively consent to subsidizing such speech.”

In plain English, the case will challenge whether Abood, which, according to Cornell Law, was established by a “Michigan statute authorizing union representation of local governmental employees permits an “agency shop” arrangement, whereby every employee represented by a union, even though not a union member, must pay to the union, as a condition of employment, a service charge equal in amount to union dues.”
Keep in mind that the plaintiffs in this case can, and Friedrichs did, opt out of paying full dues (non chargeable) if they do not want their money used for political purposes (this is in California).

Keeping this all in mind when analyzing the Friedrichs case, return to Dr. King’s statement:

“Now everyone knows that the labor movement did not diminish the strength of the nation but enlarged it.”

If Friedrichs successfully overturns Abood and removes “agency shop” fees many surmise it will destroy labor unions in the country. Exposure of the real intent of the Friedrichs case is necessary because the political nature of this case is alarming; not just because of its ability to destroy labor unions but because of the nature of the deception.

The Center for Individual Rights is the firm that is representing Friedrichs, the 9 other teachers and The Christian Educators Association International.

The largest donor to CIR are the Koch Brothers ($40,000)

The Koch Brothers have a long and prestigious resume of attacking public sector unions and two summers ago were instrumental in orchestrating the removal of a teacher’s right to due process in Kansas.

CIR also has a long history of fighting against Affirmative Action and supported the Boy Scouts in an attempt to keep out LBGT people.

Is the picture becoming clear?

Digest!

When looking at the main plaintiff of the case, Rebecca Friedrichs, a question is raised, “How is she associated with an organization that has a long history of opposing “affirmative action and other programs that attempt to restore racial/gender/sexual equality.”?

Part 2 of this expose will explore the connections.

Take a look at some statements explaining why she has supported this lawsuit.

In this Orange County register article she stated, “In 1993, I refused to support a union attack on a common sense voucher initiative that would have given parent’s choice in education and saved millions in tax dollars. Instead of respecting my rights and opinion, my union representative called me a “radical right winger,” and bullied me in front of colleagues. What was radical about protecting taxpayers and desiring the best for my students and their families?” http://www.ocregister.com/articles/union-631122-employees-unions.html

In this video clip she states that teachers get “cadillac pensions” and uses corporate reform rhetoric that due process protects “bad teachers.” (see beginning 4:32)

Also included in this lawsuit are the Christian Educators Association International. Who are The Christian Educators Association International? They are a teachers association with fees and dues. Here is their mission:

To Encourage, Equip, and Empower Educators according to Biblical Principles

Proclaim God’s Word as the source of wisdom and knowledge

Portray teaching as a God given calling and ministry

Promote educational excellence as an expression of Christian commitment

Preserve our Judeo-Christian heritage and values through education

Promote the legal rights of Christians in public schools

Provide a forum on educational issues with a Christian world view

Partner with churches, parachurch organizations, educational institutions and parents

Provide resources and benefits for educators including professional liability insurance

If you feel so inclined, meet and read about their director, Finn Larson. He claims their mission guides their focus in serving Christian Educators and in pursuit they:

Proclaim God’s word as the source of wisdom and knowledge

Portray teaching as a God given calling and ministry

Promote educational excellence as an expression of Christian commitment

Preserve our Judeo-Christian heritage and values through education

Provide a forum on educational issues with a Christian world view

Partner with churches, parachurch organizations, educational institutions and parents

And….by the way one other plaintiff in this case, Harlan Erhlich is a member of CEAI

Digest!

CEAI also seems to be partnering with Union Facts on an event called “National Employee Freedom Week” a coalition of 68 organizations in 40 states that promote union members opting out of their union.

Who is Union Facts? Sourcewatch describes Union Facts as “a secretive front group for individuals and industries opposed to union activities.”

Is the Friedrichs case really about First and Fourteenth Amendment rights?

Is it about mandatory union dues?

This is NOT about “agency fees” at all. This is not about First Amendment rights or Fourteenth Amendment rights.

This is about, contrary to what Friedrichs says, the destruction of unionism.

So, where do we go from here? We fight and expose the deception of this lawsuit. Call. It. Out! Spread. The. Word.

This is a concerted effort by the Koch Brothers, conservative factions, and religious entities to destroy the backbone of this country – labor unions who fight for social justice and who have a right to labor peace.

#solidarity

Governor Christie, We Will Not Turn the Other Cheek!

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Abusive Christie

As a national organization dedicated to purposeful action to support educational professionals and America’s children, we would be remiss in our mission if we were to take lightly presidential candidate Chris Christie’s recent statement on CNN that the national teachers union deserves a “punch in the face” for being the most “destructive force” in America. Our duty must extend beyond a call to action to expose a presidential candidate’s bullying attack on teachers unions. Now is the time to show how these statements are symptomatic representations of what is a national agenda.

The 21st century in the United States is a time of profound social inequality, with great economic prosperity for the few and a steady erosion of the safety net for the rest of us.  It is incumbent on educators to expose the systemic tearing away of the fibers of unionism itself through this and countless other attacks. These attacks have come not only from presidential candidate Christie, but from politicians and public figures that stand to directly and personally benefit from seeing an end to unions in this country. Christie’s statement is a call to arms for all unions to unite against  the common enemies who have union busting agendas as we face future battles, including the impending Supreme Court decision in the Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association. Unions were once an essential tool in the establishment of the middle class in the US, fighting for equity within our society. As we face a further threat to economic equity, we need to call upon the ideals of unionism and strengthen protections for society as a whole, including additional support for our marginalized populations.

Exposing the national anti-union agenda must not be our only goal in the wake of presidential candidate Chris Christie’s repugnant statements. Such a blatantly violent, misogynistic term must not be tolerated from a sitting governor, let alone a presidential candidate.  It is necessary to call into question the term “punch” Christie uses when referring to the teachers’ union. This language is a specific attack on women who comprise 70-73 percent of education professionals and are a minority sector of our population. As a governor, Chris Christie and other elected officials are charged with the representation of their constituents. Those entrusted with governance are representatives of all people – men, women, and children – and all are called upon to condemn these statements.

“The Heart of the Swarm” Bats Congress Speech 2015

Excerpts from Dr. Yohuru Williams BATs Teacher Congress Speech, “The Heart of the Swarm,” delivered Saturday July 24, 2015. This is a shortened version of Dr. Williams’s remarks during the BAT’S Congress on Saturday.
10169447_10153444324956118_8138437963594981830_nWelcome Back to DC Bats! A little less than a year ago today, we marched on the Department of Education to deliver a simple message. Restore our schools. We pledged then that we would not stop fighting until we had achieved our goal of the restoration of public education and re-centering of its focus back on children. We explained to the world then . . .and remind all today . . . that BATs privilege three things: people over profits, parity of charity and choice over chance.

We return today for phase two moving forward with a plan to reclaim our educational system from the forces of politics and enterprise who continue to endanger them.

This danger takes many forms. An education secretary, for example, with neither the credentials nor the political will to understand the necessity of public education. A mighty cabal of corporate interests pushing a program of high stakes testing and privatization that seeks to drain every penny from the public coffers. A host of unethical politicians and so-called community leaders who have swallowed the corporate education Kool Aide echo them in their claims that that our schools are failing and beyond hope. Add to this, fake grass roots organizations like Students First funded by the moneyed interests that promote their anti-union, anti-local control program under the guise of public service. Claiming their work to be the great civil rights issue of our time, they forge ahead administering one death-dealing blow after another to public education assisted by panoply of petty bureaucrats and civil servants without the knowledge or power to challenge them.

Last year we came to plead our case. This year we come to draft and mobilize behind a national platform, which we will decide . . . that that will allow us to fight as a unified force for restorative justice in reclaiming public education.

We recognize that there are rough waters ahead and we fight against a national narrative of failure informed by racism and poverty— however we will not back down.

We come today prepared to roll up our sleeves, hammer out our differences and begin mobilizing on a scale the likes of which have not been seen in the United States for decades. Welcome to the BATS Congress!

I feel a little like I am preaching to the choir this morning, but sometimes even the choir needs to be reminded why we sing. Our voices matter because we speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.

A snapshot of the past six months, in this regard is instructive. Indulge me if you will for just a few moments to show you how. Despite a national opt-out movement, and on the ground actions by groups such as the Movement of Radical Educators, the Caucus of Working Educators, the Newark Student Union, United Opt Out and of course the BATS, the pied pipers of corporate education reform continue to push their poison penned legislation. They would have the effect of turning the nation into the charter barter tragedy that is the state of public education in the city of New Orleans today, unregulated, hyper-segregated, economically deflated, and politically negated.
They continue, nevertheless, to undermine democratic practice, flaunting their poor grasp of history and their lack of vision; attacking the very agents who are an essential line of defense for our youth, teachers, and schools.
. . .
We are going to be clear, our schools are not for sale, and we are not interested in your Cartoon Education Reform. Stop turning public education into a mockery with your corporatizing crockery.

I recognize that they have cut instructional time for literature in our schools so it may feel for some like “Apocalypse Now” but I would remind you as my literature teachers would that “The Sun Also Rises.” Today over Morningside Washington, we rise with the sun with a powerful message for those who are in danger of finding themselves on the wrong side of history.

So I would like to, in conclusion. read to you from the Gospel of Bats A farewell to Arms: The BATs version.

Attention enemies of public education, time for you to go on a permanent vacation. Today you may smile and laugh with scorn. But do not be surprised in the next few months if you find yourself in the heart of the swarm.
. . .
The Bats are going to play TSA for TFA.

Because when we recognize, in your lack of training, a detriment to youth, we cannot hold back, we must tell you the truth.
We appreciate the deception but numbers don’t lie.
It was clear. so clear, you weren’t ready to fly.
So we show you the door, but don’t you despair, for I’m sure now that you’re jobless Ms. Rhee will be there.
And when she runs in the other direction clutching her purse, scream to her “But Michelle you said students first!” ask her to explain where is your piece of the pie and while you’re at it for BATs please tell her “Bye Bye.”

For nearly eight years Mr. Duncan, the balls been in your court.
But it is obvious to all, leadership wasn’t your sport.
Your reign is now ending in thunderous despair.
You hear a crack from the heavens and you wonder “Whose there?”                                                                                                                                                                                             You reach for your binder and swing; ‘swat swat’.
It’s a shame you didn’t play baseball, or you would know all about BATs.
BATs fly by radar; we see with mind, how you have left our children and schools in a bind.
When down in a block we descend from the sky, to show you the door and tell you “Bye Bye!”

Bill and Melinda Gates your intentions so clear, trading the humanities for technology is all you hold dear.
We can teach without your I Pad and you may wonder why because the center of everything you do begins with I, I, I.
But we are the people and we will decide what is best for our children and as an aside when we show you the door and free money, you cry . . .                                                            We will do our best Backstreet boys impression and tell you Bye, Bye, Bye.

Corporate Education Reform lackeys too numerous to name, from small town America to Greece, Russia and Spain.
Your diabolical plans to drive our schools in a hearse was diagnosed and exposed by a public school nurse.
She took your temperature and grimly informed our nation has the Germ . . . Global Education Reform.
I suppose this is why you cut our school nursing jobs first, then libraries, athletics, music and verse.
But if you stay real quiet you can hear the beat of our drum for
we must
we can
we shall overcome…
We will restore our schools, so be forewarned, that truth and justice are at the heart of this swarm.
Our democracy is too important.
We can’t allow it to crash and that . . .you see . . . is why they call us badass!

For we will stand for the littles and fight for the truth, perish for principle in defense of our youth, do all in power to put the wrongs to end.

So BATs roll up your wings let the Congress begin!

The 5 Teachers You Meet in Heaven: What It Really Takes to Save Our Schools

10169447_10153444324956118_8138437963594981830_nA few weeks ago, I had the privilege of delivering commencement addresses to the graduates of the Read Middle School and the Metropolitan Business Academy Magnet High School in Bridgeport and New Haven, Connecticut respectively. The student speakers at both schools thanked their principals and teachers for helping prepare them for the next chapters in their lives — chapters, of course, yet to be written. Their remarks, nonetheless, were far from perfunctory as evidenced by the heartwarming displays of affection students from both schools showed for their teachers. It is a safe bet that all they imagine regarding the significance of the connections they made will prove not only true but also richly rewarding in the future. They only have to look around to see why.

There are abundant examples of the many ways in which teachers change lives. During his acceptance speech for the Tony Awards top honor, Best Musical of 2015, producer Joey Parnes, for example, made it a point to thank “two of my many teachers” as well as “two of my newest teachers” emphasizing the importance of lifelong learning. During the same ceremony, actor Neil Patrick Harris likewise acknowledged his former “teachers in small town New Mexico.” He explained, “When sports were the only option, you showed creativity has a place in the world.” These are wonderful and much needed nods to the importance of and need for continued support of music and arts education. They also illustrate the deep, if not always-obvious ways, teachers can inspire greatness through a challenging assignment, a stimulating discussion, a few well-timed words of encouragement, the unbridled enthusiasm of a librarian, some constructive feedback on a piece of music or art, a successful entry at the science fair or the special attention of a club leader or coach. It is an aspect of the art of teaching that long-term educators cherish.

Given the continued attacks on the teaching profession from so-called corporate education reformers, these displays of gratitude and emotion are especially welcome as they powerfully reaffirm the quintessence of teaching as a humanistic enterprise.

Beyond the artificial scales of progress measured by high stakes testing, teaching at its core is about building relationships. It is one of the reasons that I believe if Mitch Albom’s bestselling book The Five People You Meet in Heaven was not simply a work of fiction, one or more of the five persons you meet in Heaven would most certainly be teachers.

Albom’s popular book, of course, begins with an extraordinary act of kindness and self-sacrifice with the main character giving up his life to save another. Albom, however, paints a portrait of Heaven, not as a place but a process. Consistent with this premise the main character’s voyage into the afterlife begins with a quest to understand his life’s true meaning. Over the course of this journey, he comes to appreciate how all life is intricately and beautifully interwoven — how one tiny ripple or encounter can have enormous consequences.

This is true of teachers and the immense responsibility they shoulder in guiding the hopes and dreams of the nation’s youth. Perhaps more than others, they understand the interconnectedness that Albom aims to highlight — especially in the present climate when so many of the foundations of our educational system are in real peril from corporate education reform and high stakes testing.

Those bent on destroying these foundations, would do well to heed the wisdom of Albom’s narrative voice. There are no random acts. Tinkering with those bodies and traditions that connect us is a risky enterprise. One of the institutions that still powerfully unites Americans are our schools. It would be magnificent if the “common core” they sought to promote focused less on artificial standards and test scores and more on establishing a deep appreciation for our shared humanity.

Teachers, of course, can lead the way, not toward some false utopia embodied in the privatizing, anti-union, agenda of the testing moguls but in education’s humanistic roots — providing young people with multiple pathways to success through a wide variety of educational, artistic and athletic experiences.

“People think of Heaven as a paradise garden, a place where they can float on clouds and laze in rivers and mountains,” Albom writes. “But scenery without solace is meaningless.” People who believe that hastily prepared teachers and high stakes testing can yield the promised land of educational achievement should recall that form without substance is equally meaningless. We cannot afford to settle for the façade of excellence without fully investing in tackling all of the problems that beset our nation’s youth.

There can be no discussion of great schools in the abstract without improving strategies to address poverty and inequality, as well as building cultural competencies that emphasize our pluralistic strengths not undermine them. This, by definition, must include support for music and the arts, athletics and afterschool programs that help to build communities and promote democratic practice. This can never be accomplished without the cultivation of a diverse pool of well trained, properly supported teachers — true professionals forged in our nation’s graduate education schools and imbued with a sense of instruction that emphasizes care for the whole person not merely the cultivation of test scores.

No matter how loudly self-interested billionaires and sly politicians try to deny it, great schools begin with great teachers, collaborating with enlightened administrators and communities to serve the needs of the next generation.

In this sense, the five teachers that you meet in Heaven will likely be the same dedicated professionals currently working in an environment in which they are understaffed, underfunded and often grossly underappreciated, but still relentlessly sacrificing in the hopes that the tiny ripples they create can shape a life and perhaps, a better future.

NJ BATs Statement to NJ Assembly Eduation Committee

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The more than 1300 members of the New Jersey Badass Teachers Association stand in solidarity with Chairmen of the Assembly Education Committee, Assemblyman Diegnan, in his requests that a representative of Pearson appear Thursday before his committee to explain the company’s surveillance of New Jersey student’s social media activity and the companies decision to report students to the Department of Education.. The story that Bob Braun released Friday March 13th demonstrates the extensive overreach that this company has been allowed with regards to the privacy of minors and its possible collusion with the Department of Education. The fact that Pearson feels entitled not just to monitor social media but to report behavior that they find to the NJDOE and that they expect the NJDOE to act on such reports is a blatant display of a very troubling relationship between a private for profit company and the NJDOE, a public body that is empowered to serve the needs of our children. This needs to be investigated – the full extent of the demands and control that Pearson has on our NJDOE and thereby on our schools, educators, and students. It is quite clear that Pearson is serving its own interest and will use any measure to achieve their goals.

The concerns expressed by parents, teachers and community members regarding the disruptive effect PARCC is having on the educational programs in our schools including budgetary cuts from needed programs,such as creative arts and after school activities, was cause enough for concern . But when we allow a profit driven corporation to dictate demands upon our schools, all stakeholders should be questioning the motives of these entities and analyzing if they are really operating in the best interest of all our children. At this point, it has become quite clear that Pearson is serving its own interest and will use any measure to achieve their goals.

Pearson’s overwhelming influence has resulted in disruption to our schools, a dictation of the testing modifications of our special needs students, a strain on our budgets to meet technology and testing requirements as well as holding our children hostage to a strained testing culture that has driven any love of learning and enjoyment of school from their daily lives. Parents have started to speak loudly against their influence in the form of thousands of children across the state refusing to take the PARCC exams. Our union has launched an extensive campaign against testing. As a company that is being paid millions of dollars for a contract with the state, Pearson should be in the position to be meeting the demands of the state, of our schools, and of our children. Instead, the state has been exhausting all resources possible to meet the demands of the Pearson corporation to integrate its requirements. Requirements that have resulted in several testing errors that include videos not being seen or heard by all students, students and test administrators becoming frustrated when unable to correctly start tests, unnecessary burdens to school administrators and staff to adjust scheduling needs, a loss of classroom instructional time, a total interruption in the educational learning process, not once but twice this school year, and an entire generation of students that have been left feeling that they are not smart enough and that they do not deserve a well-rounded learning experience.

As constituents of the state of New Jersey , we have confidence that our legislators will hold Pearson and the New Jersey Department of Education responsible for these transgressions against our children. We trust that the Assembly Education Committee will see the need for more than one simple conversation to address the issues that Pearson is forcing our schools to face. We know that several more conversations will be held as our representatives take on the responsibility of investigating the invasion of Pearson into the lives of our children.