Category Archives: Charter Schools

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Has Been Confirmed; And the Resistance Has Too

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Students in Seattle take part in a walkout on November 14th, 2016, following the election of Donald Trump. (Photo: mitchell_haindfield_/_Flickr)

Betsy DeVos–platinum card member of the 1% and leading corporate education reformer–was voted in today by the Senate as the next U.S. Secretary of Education.  With the vote deadlocked at 50-50, Vice President Mike Pence, cast his vote for Ms. DeVos and announced that President Trump’s nominee for education secretary had been confirmed.  As I explain in this interview with journalist Sarah Jaffe, Secretary  DeVos has no experience with public schools besides trying to get rid of them with privatization schemes.

But while DeVos has been confirmed, so too has the resistance. Parents, students, educators, and their unions are organizing grassroots movements that have the potential to defend and transform public education.


Posted as part of Interviews for Resistance at http://www.sarahljaffe.com on January 31, 2017

Welcome to Interviews for Resistance. In this series, we’ll be talking with organizers, troublemakers, and thinkers who are working both to challenge the Trump administration and the circumstances that created it. It can be easy to despair, to feel like trends toward inequality are impossible to stop, to give in to fear over increased racist, sexist and xenophobic violence. But around the country, people are doing the hard work of fighting back and coming together to plan for what comes next. This series will introduce you to some of them.

Public schools have been a bipartisan battleground for years now, with teachers unions taking attacks from elected officials at all levels as part of a broader movement to “improve” education by handing control over to private companies. Donald Trump’s nominee to run the education department, Betsy DeVos, is a stalwart of this privatization drive, never having met a public school she liked (and barely, as many have pointed out, having met a public school at all, since she neither taught in any nor attended them nor sent her own children to them). But teachers around the country are organizing against privatization, and gaining support from parents and students. We talk to one of those teachers, Jesse Hagopian.

Hagopian teaches high school in Seattle and is an editor for Rethinking Schools magazine. He is also active in his union with the Social Equality Educators.

Sarah Jaffe: The school where you teach in Seattle, Garfield High School, has had a lot of activism from students, as well as teachers, in the past, hasn’t it?

Jesse Hagopian: It has a legacy of activism. It was the school where Martin Luther King spoke when he made his only visit to Seattle. Graduates of our school founded the first chapter of the Black Panther Party outside of California, here in Seattle. It is a legacy we are proud of and that we are seeing revived.

Earlier this year, our football team (the entire team) took a knee during the national anthem in protest of police abuse. Then, it spread to the girls’ volleyball team and the girls’ soccer team and the cheerleaders, even the marching band. Everyone was taking a knee to raise awareness. Then, after Trump’s election, there were some five thousand students across the district, or more, that walked out, including large numbers at the school. It is exciting to see a new rebellion amongst young people today.

I have been hearing from teachers who are having a hard time figuring out how to talk to their students about Trump’s election. Can you talk a little bit about what it is like being a teacher in this moment, talking to your students about what is going on?

The first example I want to use is from my son’s school. The day after the election a young Muslim girl came in and she hadn’t yet heard that Trump won the election, so she found out there at school. When she found out, she fell to the ground and was pounding her fists into the ground and crying. She was just terrified about what could happen to her and her family — whether they would be split apart — [and] fears of violence. I am so proud of what my son’s teacher did. She decided right then and there to gather all of the classes at the grade level and bring them together, and all the families who were there for drop-off, and hold a discussion, allow kids to discuss their fears and their thoughts and let them know that this is going to be a safe place for them.

That is an example that I try to use, to have my classroom be a place that facilitates dialogue, that allows the kids to discuss the fears and anxieties that they have when they hear Trump’s plans for banning Muslims, for deporting immigrants, all of his atrocious sexual assault exploits, his fear-mongering and hatred and bigotry of all kinds. The students need a place to talk about it. I try to facilitate that, as well as letting them know my classroom is a safe place. On the door, all the teachers on my hallway have put up signs that say, “This is a safe place for our students and a place where we will oppose homophobia and sexism and racism and xenophobia and Islamophobia.” We want to communicate that message clearly with our students.

Then, we also have to do it in the curriculum. It is so critical that our curriculum is talking back to the textbooks, which too often just glorify American history without engaging kids in critical thinking about the real challenges and forms of structural oppression that have been perpetuated throughout US history. We have to allow them to dig into the curriculum and into the history to figure out how we arrived at a moment like this. It’s really crucial to helping support them right now.

The Seattle Education Association had a strike fairly recently and I believe one of the issues at stake there was racial justice, in particular, in the schools.

Absolutely. Last year we went on strike for five days. One of the main demands was about having racial equity teams in every school. The district opposed us and didn’t want to add any racial equity teams. We wanted them in every school building. By the end of the strike, we had negotiated 30 racial equity teams across the district, which was really critical to advancing social justice education in Seattle for a number of reasons.

One, it brought us together with the community. Some of the key leaders in the Black Lives Matter movement signed onto a letter supporting our strike because of our desire to fight for racial justice in our schools. Then, this past fall, this October, we were able to build on that victory. We actually built a monumental action. It was called Black Lives Matter at School Day. It started with a few teachers, but it mushroomed into an action [where] some two thousand out of five thousand teachers in Seattle wore Black Lives Matter shirts to school. Many hundreds of teachers taught lessons about structural racism and the Black Lives Matter movement that day.

It really helped to expose the fact that there are a majority of us in the school district that see a much bigger purpose for education than just preparing our students for a low-wage job or shipping them through the school-to-prison pipeline, that we want education to be about empowering our students to create a better future.

The Seattle strike was one of several teachers’ strikes in recent years. Can you talk about what has been going on among teachers’ unions nationally and the challenge to the attacks that public schools have been facing?

The assault has been brutal on teachers’ unions across the country. It has been bipartisan. It happened with an increased strength against our unions under George W. Bush with the No Child Left Behind act. It only accelerated under Obama and his Race to the Top scheme that would further link teacher evaluations and pay to test scores, destabilizing the work force.

Now, we just see the attack unabated with Donald Trump’s new proposed Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, and we know that everything she has in store for our schools is absolutely wrong and we have to build a vigorous opposition to her.

I think that this attack is so strong because the richest 1 percent in this country know that teachers unions are the biggest unions left in America. They are one of the most concentrated sources of organized labor. They have the ability to really transform the labor movement and our communities, to make ties with parents, students and teachers, and because of that source of strength they have also become a target.

When Betsy DeVos was nominated I was struck by the fact that she is a figure that is very closely associated with school vouchers, which in recent years had kind of fallen by the wayside in favor of this really big bipartisan push for charter schools. Can you talk a little bit about those two things and these waves of privatization?

I think privatization is the central aim of the corporate education reformers. The Democrats, over the last eight years under Obama, had worked very hard to give charter schools a liberal gloss and make them seem as if they were part of a civil rights movement to rescue inner city kids, Black and Brown children, from a failing school system, when in reality these charter schools often underperformed the public schools. They function to siphon off money from the public school system to privately-run schools.

They often have some of the most draconian discipline policies. We have seen that Black and Brown students are suspended at much higher rates in charter schools, from recent studies. These schools were just the opposite of what the Democrats had promised, but they were able to cobble together a coalition for a while of people across the political spectrum who were advocating for these schools as an alternative to what they called “failing public schools.” I think that action really laid the groundwork for what we are seeing now, with the revivals of vouchers, which are just another strategy for privatizing public education, giving kids a limited amount of funds to use to go to any school they want rather than actually investing in the public schools and making every public school a quality one with the resources it needs to succeed.

We live in a country that can find trillions of dollars to bomb people all across the world and can find trillions of dollars to bail out the banks that sabotaged the global economy, but when it comes to our kids’ education, they want to try to do it on the cheap. They want to actually try to make money off of it rather than fully invest in the schools that we would need to help our kids succeed.

When Trump announced Betsy DeVos, I said, “She has no idea what is coming her way,” because the movement around public education has gotten so big and so strong in the last couple of years. I wonder if you can talk about the way that students and parents and teachers are really coming together to fight for community public schools.

Absolutely. That is really what we need. The advantage that people like Trump and the rest of the 1 percent have is their immense wealth. The advantage we have is our numbers. Those numbers are really visible around education, because it draws in so many diverse groups together in one place. It brings together labor with parents from all different backgrounds, and students. It has been a source of power for community organizing and social justice initiatives around the country.

In Chicago, I think they have brilliantly organized social movement unionism strategies. They have organized the power of labor to get behind community issues. Then, community groups have come and supported them when they are on strike. And with our recent action here in Seattle with the Black Lives Matter at School Day, it just took us all by surprise. When we passed the resolution in our union to wear these shirts to school we thought maybe a few dozen social justice teachers would wear these shirts and teach lessons. Then, the orders went through the roof and families began setting up tables at schools with materials out front to pass out to other parents about how to talk to your kid about race. We had a wonderful evening forum that was packed out and displayed the talents of our youth. I think that action is one that can be replicated around the country and already has been.

Last week, the teachers in Philadelphia launched Black Lives Matter at School Week. The whole week, they had a different theme every day, within the Black Lives Matter movement, to highlight the different intersectional identities within the Black community and teach lessons and hold dialogues around those actions. That has already been a powerful example of bringing together families and labor in a common struggle.

I could see this type of movement flowering across the country, especially as police brutality continues unabated. The next time we see a horrific murder of a Black or Brown body, I think it will further convince educators in other cities that we need to transform our schools into sites of resistance to everything that Trump stands for. I really hope that is where our movement can go, because Trump emblazons his name on everything he owns. He has the Trump Towers, the Trump golf courses, the Trump Hotels. I would like to see our schools become public sites of resistance to all the bigotry that he stands for. The school reader boards here in Seattle said “Black Lives Matter” at many of the schools on our day. I think if we keep at it, we can help to transform our schools to become these sites of resistance.

Do you have specific tips from the work you have been doing in Seattle for educators in other places who want to start talking to people in their community, their students and their students’ parents, particularly around issues of racism, but in general around the issues that their communities are facing?

One is, for fellow educators, it is really critical to form a caucus inside the union to gather together like-minded social justice advocates and begin to present your ideas to the broader union, to help make your union strong enough to fight back against the privatization attacks and to help raise social issues like the Black Lives Matter movement. Oftentimes, beginning with a study group is a good way to go, getting a book to read. In Chicago, the social justice caucus that won the election and took over the union began by reading Naomi Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine. It was just a small study group and now they have quite a bit of influence in that city.

Right here, we recently held a study group on Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor’s book From #Black Lives Matter to Black Liberation. Finding a book that can bring people together to discuss their ideas and then talk about how we want to implement them in the union is critical.

Then, I think picking a couple of key issues that you can organize around that will bring in parents, students and teachers. Here in Seattle, one of the main issues that we are rallying around right now is the fight for Ethnic Studies. I would add Gender Studies, as well. I think in this time where our president disparages Black Lives Matter, where our president is an open sexist and a proud sexual assaulter, I think we need to teach our kids the truth about the contributions to this country of people of color, and of women, and the struggles that they have been through. We are launching an initiative with the NAACP here in Seattle to demand that every school include Ethnic Studies. A recent study out of Stanford showed huge benefits academically, for Ethnic Studies programs, in raising graduation rates. I really think that is something that needs to take off across the country.

Betsy DeVos has not been confirmed yet. Even some of the Democrats within Congress who have rubber-stamped most of Trump’s other nominees are saying that they are going to fight on hers. People who are following that, what can they do?

We need to fight as vigorously as possible against her confirmation because she has absolutely no idea what she is doing with public education. She never went to public schools, her kids didn’t go to public schools, her only association with the schools is her attempt to privatize them with her foundation. During her confirmation hearing they asked her questions about her family foundation because her family foundation has given millions to the Republican Party, but even more despicably, has funded things like gay conversion therapy, which is a pseudo-science that is an absolute atrocity in the way it psychologically abuses LGBTQ youth. She has no business being anywhere near a public institution that is meant to nurture all of the kids in the United States.

I think that we have to raise public protests. We have to agitate in our unions to make sure our unions are vocally opposing this and letting the politicians know there will be consequences if they vote to confirm her. Joining local rallies and demonstrations against her confirmation is really important.

Lastly, how can people keep up with you?

My website is IAmAnEducator.com. They can follow the work I do there or on social media. Most importantly, I think getting a subscription to Rethinking Schools and bringing social justice lessons into your classroom is the best way to stay connected to the movement.

Interviews for Resistance is a project of Sarah Jaffe, with assistance from Laura Feuillebois and support from the Nation Institute. It is also available as a podcast.

Black to School: The Rising Struggle to Make Black Education Matter

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Tonya Ray, center, a math teacher at the Academy of Public Leadership, talking with students in Detroit, May 11, 2016. (Joshua Lott / The New York Times) Originally published by Truthout, Jesse Hagopian| Op-Ed


The struggle for equitable education went to summer school, and the new school year is getting underway with leading Black organizations bolstering the movement against the central components of the corporate education reform agenda.

In an earthmoving decision for the education landscape, the NAACP — the nation’s oldest civil rights organization — voted at its July national gathering to call for “a moratorium on privately managed charter schools,” saying charter schools:

do not represent the public yet make decisions about how public funds are spent [and have] contributed to the increased segregation rather than diverse integration of our public school system…. Researchers have warned that charter school expansions in low-income communities mirror predatory lending practices that led to the sub-prime mortgage disaster, putting schools and communities impacted by these practices at great risk of loss and harm.

A moratorium would halt the granting of any more licenses to open new charter schools — that is, schools funded by the public but privately run and not accountable to democratically elected school boards. The NAACP announcement has corporate education reformers reeling. Rick Hess, director of education policy at the right-wing American Enterprise Institute, said that if local governments adopt the NAACP’s proposed moratorium, “It would give a permanent black eye to the sector.”

If the NAACP’s stance on charters would bruise the corporate agenda, then the declaration from the Movement for Black Lives — the newest civil rights coalition, comprised of dozens of grassroots organizations around the country — would flatline it altogether. The coalition released a policy platform at the beginning of August that called for, among other things, a moratorium on all out-of-school suspensions and the removal of police from schools, replacing them with positive alternatives to discipline and safety. It also called for a moratorium on charter schools and school closures, and full funding formulas that adequately weigh the needs of all districts in the state. The Movement for Black Lives wrote:

Sixty years since Brown v. Board of Education, the school-to-prison pipeline continues to play a role in denying Black people their human right to an education, and privatization strips Black people of the right to self-determine the kind of education their children receive. This systematic attack is coordinated by an international education privatization agenda, bankrolled by billionaire philanthropists such as Bill and Melinda Gates, the Walton Family, and Eli and Edythe Broad, and aided by the departments of Education at the federal, state, and local level…. Their aims are to undermine Black democracy and self-determination, destroy organized labor, and decolor education curriculum, while they simultaneously overemphasize standardized testing, and use school closures to disproportionately disrupt access to education in Black communities.

Indeed, billionaire philanthrocapitalists have upended education over the past 15 years by backing a series of major policy changes — codified in the No Child Left Behind Act, the Race to the Top initiative and the Common Core State Standards. These policies have badly damaged education for all kids and have had particularly harmful effects on Black and Brown communities. Today, increasing numbers of people have discovered that these reforms are in reality efforts to turn the schoolhouse into an ATM for corporate America.

While their program for corporate reform is being eroded by research and rising grassroots movements, the corporate reformers are clinging to one last glossy brochure in the public relations portfolio — the one with photos of Black youth on the cover and promises that all of these reforms are really about civil rights and defending kids of color.

The president of the pro-corporate reform group Democrats for Education Reform, Shavar Jeffries, scolded the NAACP for its opposition to charters: “It’s a divide between families who are served by charters and see the tangible effects that high-quality charters are having, and some who don’t live in the inner-city communities, where it becomes more of an ideological question versus an urgent life-and-death issue for their kids.”

What these neoliberal reformers know, but don’t want you to know, are the findings of a recent study on charter school discipline practices. This comprehensive analysis found:

  • Black students at charter schools were suspended 6.4 percent more often than white students at the primary level and an astounding 16.4 percent more at the secondary level.
  • 374 charter schools suspended 25 percent of their enrolled student body at least once.
  • Nearly half of all Black secondary charter school students attended one of the 270 schools that was hyper-segregated (meaning at least 80 percent of the student body was Black) and where the aggregate Black suspension rate was 25 percent.
  • 235 charter schools suspended more than 50 percent of their enrolled students with disabilities.

Also of great concern for neoliberal reformers is the Movement for Black Lives’ opposition to the abuses of standardized testing. With the rise of a mass movement of teachers, parents and students opting out of standardized testing, the multibillion-dollar testing industry has been scrambling for talking points to maintain its legitimacy. The industry’s latest strategy for containing the movement against test-and-punish education policy is to pretend it is aligned with the civil rights movement. Take this sophistry on behalf of the testocracy from the Education Post, a website funded in part by the Walmart-funded Walton Foundation:

Spreading misinformation about testing threatens one of the primary data points that can be used by parents, teachers and lawyers to fight for the civil rights of children who have been under-taught…. Every time someone opts their middle-class kid out of an exam, they are impacting the validity of data that could be used in a court case to prove that students’ civil rights are being violated in their schools. Every time someone spreads the lie that teachers can’t do their jobs because of standardized testing, they give credence to forces who don’t believe that teachers should be accountable at all.

Forget the fact that the nation’s largest public school systems have more cops than counselors. Forget the criminal underfunding of our schools. Forget the racist corporate textbooks rampant in our schools. The testocracy would have you believe that the primary problem in education — indeed the real obstacle to civil rights — is the parent who opts their kids out of a standardized test, or the teacher who explains how the curriculum is being warped by having to teach to the test.

What the testocracy doesn’t want you to know is that standardized testing is a multibillion dollar industry, with the average student in the American public school system taking an outlandish 112 standardized tests during their k-12 career. They don’t want you to know that many schools that serve Black and Brown students have become test-prep factories rather than incubators of creativity and critical thinking, with testing saturating education at even higher concentrations in schools serving low-income students and students of color. They don’t want you to understand the way high-stakes tests are being used around the country in service of the school-to-prison-pipeline. A review by the National Research Council concluded that high school graduation tests have done nothing to lift student achievement, but they have raised the dropout rate. When one test score can deny students graduation — even when they have met every other graduation requirement — it can have devastating consequences. Boston University economics professor Kevin Lang’s 2013 study, “The School to Prison Pipeline Exposed,” links increases in the use of high-stakes standardized high school exit exams to increased incarceration rates.

While it may be true that the students opting out today are disproportionately white, to portray the movement against standardized testing as a white movement is to make invisible the important leadership role that people of color have played around the country. Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis, a Black woman, is one of the most important leaders in the national movement against corporate education reform, and she led the union in the “Let Us Teach!” campaign against high-stakes testing. The Black opt-out rate reached 10 percent in Chicago last year. In Ohio, a recent study shows that communities of color and low-income communities opt out at nearly the same rates as whiter and wealthier ones. This past school year in Baltimore, the predominantly Black students in the Baltimore Algebra Project produced a brilliant music video against standardized testing — and then led a walkout during the PARCC [Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers] test, coinciding with the anniversary of the murder of Freddie Gray by the police, in an effort to highlight the school-to-prison-pipeline. And some of the biggest student walkouts in US history against standardized testing occurred in New Mexico at schools serving a student population that is roughly 90 percent Latino and Latina.

Nationally, the NAACP has yet to join the opt-out movement and advocate for civil disobedience in the struggle for authentic assessment and education justice. However, an increasing number of local NAACP chapters are raising opposition to the punitive nature of high-stakes testing and preparing for a struggle at the national level. In Seattle, the local NAACP hosted a press conference to encourage parents to opt out of the Common Core tests. As Seattle NAACP president Gerald Hankerson put it, “The opt-out movement is a vital component of the Black Lives Matter movement and other struggles for social justice in our region. Using standardized tests to label black people and immigrants ‘lesser,’ while systematically under-funding their schools, has a long and ugly history in this country.”

The increasing involvement of the Black Lives Matter movement in struggles to democratize education may come as a surprise to the obscenely wealthy, who are using their money to control public education and often fancy themselves civil rights crusaders. But it shouldn’t surprise the rest of us.

The struggle for education has been a part of every major uprising for racial justice that Black people have engaged in throughout US history. This includes resistance to the “compulsory ignorance” laws during slavery, the establishment of the Freedman’s Bureau and public schools during Reconstruction, the debates between Booker T. Washington and W.E.B Du Bois on the purpose of education during Jim Crow, the Brown V. Board Supreme Court lawsuit, the Freedom Schools of the civil rights movement, and the fight for Black studies programs during the Black Power era. The struggle for Black education has always been central to the fight for Black liberation.

Today, a new Black rebellion has erupted — from the sit-down protests on NFL fields, to the urban rebellions in the streets — galvanized by extrajudicial executions of Black people by the police and racist vigilantes. While the movement to defend Black folks from unaccountable, racist police has been the most prominent aspect this new movement, Black Lives Matter doesn’t end with the demand that Black people not be shot down in the streets. While there are certainly many prerequisites to achieving a society where Black lives truly matter, one of them, certainly, is confronting the long legacy of racist schooling and replacing it with an a consciously anti-racist education system.

A world where Black lives matter and Black education is empowering will not come easily. It won’t be funded by benevolent philanthropists. It won’t be promoted by corporate lobbyists or legislated by the politicians they own. It will only happen with an uprising beyond even the scale and militancy of the last century’s civil rights and Black Power movements. The contradictions of unhinged police murder of Black people in the “land of the free,” coupled with corporate education reformers’ racist schooling policies enacted in the name of “closing the achievement gap,” are already producing large-scale, renewed social unrest. The question of how powerful this movement grows is up to us.

Time to hit the books and take our struggle for public education Black to school.


Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

Jesse Hagopian

Jesse Hagopian is an associate editor for Rethinking Schools magazine. Jesse teaches history and is the Black Student Union adviser at Garfield High School, the site of the historic boycott of the MAP standardized test.  He is the editor and contributing author to More Than a Score: The New Uprising Against High-Stakes Testing (Haymarket Books, 2014) and recipient of the 2013 “Secondary School Teacher of the Year” award from the Academy of Education Arts and Sciences. A survivor of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Jesse is an advocate for Haitian human rights. Visit his blog: iamaneducator.com. Follow him on Twitter: @jessedhagopian.

 

Jesse Hagopian and Pedro Noguera Take on the Testocracy in Nationally Televised Debate: “Is public education in the U.S. broken beyond repair?”

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CLagDabUkAACJq3.jpg:largeLast Thursday I flew to New York City to take on Peter Cunningham, the former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education (under Secretary Arne Duncan, during President Obama’s first term), in a debate hosted by Al Jazeera America’s program The Third RailWe debated the question, “Is public education in the U.S. broken beyond repair?”

I have to say, those 45 minutes in the green room before we went on to do the show seemed like they would never pass.  First I had to settle my nerves.  I knew my years of experience teaching and seeing the misery of high-stakes testing was causing in our schools was going to be hard to dispute. But this was the former Assistant Secretary of Education and surely he would have slick responses and cherry picked data to try to mask the truth?  But it wasn’t the coming debate that was troubling me most.  Try to imagine just how awkward a situation it was. Mr. Cunningham now runs a website devoted to shutting down the “education spring” uprising against corporate education reform; I’m a teacher trying my best to help that movement bloom. I am used to challenging the rich and powerful, but here I was sharing coffee and chitchat with one of the primary spokespeople for the privatization of our schools and the reduction of education to merely a “testucation.”

When we finally entered the TV studio, I was relieved for the conversation to turn from the weather to the mighty storm of resistance that parents, students, and teachers are building in opposition to the “testocracy.” We tussled over many major questions relating to the corporate model of education reform.   Mr. Cunningham argued in favor of charter schools. I pointed out that of course he supported charters because he received $12 million from Billionaires Eli Broad and the Walton’s (the Wal-Mart family) who support the privatization of education. I went on to explain, “My problem with charter schools is that they’re anti-democratic. They’re not under the control of a democratically elected school board…[and the charter system] siphons off public funds to private schools…[Creating] a profit model from public education.”

Mr. Cunningham argued in favor of the use of high-stakes testing in education. I argued, “High-stakes testing has pushed out everything that matters in education.” I cited how recess and the arts are vanishing in schools as they become test-prep centers, rather than incubators of creativity.  And I noted that while they push these standards and tests on our children, “It’s amazing that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, the President himself, send their kids to schools that don’t use the common core.”

At one point Mr. Cunningham inexplicably defended Arne Duncan’s comments that the opt out movement is just white suburban moms—a comment that Duncan himself had to apologize for. I explained the reality that every family has the right to protect their child from being reduced to a test score and that this opt out movement is actually growing rapidly in communities of color—including the many hundreds of Latino students who walked out of the PARCC test in New Mexico last year, the Black students in Baltimore who occupied the school board meeting in opposition to the labeling of their schools failing so as to close them down, and the Seattle NAACP chapter calling for opt out as part of the Black Lives Matter struggle.

One of the overriding themes that I tired to express (in the limited format of a few minuet debate program) was the idea that the superrich have horded the wealth at the expense of our children. Today, over half of the students who attend public school live in poverty.   Then these billionaires—such as Mr. Cunningham’s sponsors—claim that the reason why youngsters don’t have a better quality of life is due to unaccountable teachers.

The best part of this The Third Rail debate was when they brought in the great Pedro Noguera, Professor of education at New York University, who powerfully and succinctly and expressed the primary issue with education reform today:

The problem I see is the we’ve developed an accountability system that holds those with the most power the least accountable.

We all cordially shook hands at the conclusion of the debate and conversed on the finer points that we hadn’t had time to cover while on stage. The lingering education disputes soon turned back to small talk, but this time I no longer felt awkward because I had a great image in my mind: The Walton’s huddled around the TV scowling as they decided whether to cancel Mr. Cunningham’s funding for his inability to defeat the logic and experience of lowly educators.

Watch these clips from the debate and decide for yourself: Do we need more testocrats or more educators helping to transform the schools?

In this clip, I defend my son’s decision to opt out of the MAP test and discuss how high-stakes testing is eroding education.

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In this clip, Pedro Noguera expresses the primary contradiction of corporate education reformers and I call out the hypocrisy of the testocracy

Laura Flanders Show Video: The privatization of public schools & the biggest uprising against high-stakes testing in U.S. history

I recently was a guest on the Laura Flanders Screen Shot 2015-04-22 at 10.50.43 AMShow to discuss the factors contributing to the mass opt out movement that has developed around the nation, now the largest uprising in U.S. history against high-stakes, standardized testing (see the below video).

I have been traveling around the country on my book tour for More Than a Score: The New Uprising Against High-Stakes Testing and meeting with an outpouring of people looking for inspiration and organizational strategies for resisting the testocracy. Last week I spoke to packed audiences in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and Chicago where parents, students, and teachers turned my book reading event into an organizing session to forge connections and relationships that will undoubtedly lead to new testing boycotts.

Screen Shot 2015-04-22 at 10.51.09 AMIn my home town of Seattle, we are already seeing the greatest number of opt outs in our city’s history with so many hundreds of opt outs of the new common core tests at my school that the teachers are no longer being asked to administer the test. At Seattle’s Nathan Hale High School, 100% of the school’s 11th graders opted out of the 11th grade Common Core test!

During the past year students have refused to take high-stakes tests at unprecedented rates. The largest walkout against high-stakes tests in U.S. history happened this school year in Colorado when more than 5,000 students refused the new end-of-course exams and rallied to express their view that standardized testing is eroding the quality of public education.   Then in New Mexico in March, over one thousand students walked out out of school against the Common Core PARCC test.

But it is in New York State where the revolt has truly reached a mass scale. Preliminary reports show over 180,000 NY families have opted their children out of Common Core testing in an unprecedented act of mass rebellion that is proelling the “Education Spring.” This collective act of struggle to defend students’ civil rights has the power to challenge NY Gov. Como’s test and punish policies—most recently enacting policy that mandates 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation to the state tests.

In the first part of the Laura Flanders Show I explain the dynamics contributing to this uprising, but it is theScreen Shot 2015-04-22 at 8.47.46 PM second half of the show, “Perfect Storm,” that explains what the real high-stakes are if our movement doesn’t win. This expose explains how the testocracy moved into New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, labeled the schools failing, and converted 100 percent of the public schools into privatized charter schools.   This is the vision that the testocracy has for the rest of nation: label our schools, students, and teachers failing so as to erode one of the last free and public institutions left in the U.S. The U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, even went so far as to say Hurricane Katrina was “the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans.” Thankfully, New Orleans parent advocates such as Karran Harper Royal, who is interviewed in the segment, have exposed that charter schools have not improved education in the city and have organized to defend the public schools.

Watch the Laura Flanders Show’s portrayal of two possible futures: the end of public education or the mass rebellion of students, parents, and teachers against the testocracy. Then pick which of these futures awaits our nation.

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