Parents Across America

Parents Across America on “Won’t Back Down” movie

As hype for the “Won’t Back Down” movie heats up, PAA sent this message to entertainment media:

In case you are preparing to interview the stars of the controversial new film “Won’t Back Down,” or review the movie, Parents Across America would like you to be aware of the following facts:

1.       Walden Media which produced the film also co-produced the movie “Waiting for Superman”.  The people at Walden Media have admitted that they had a specific political agenda in making this film.  In an interview in the NYT, Walden’s CEO said they realized “there were inherent limitations of the documentary format,” of W4S, and they wanted to reach a larger audience through characters who struggle with issues that are “ripped from the headlines.”

2.       While the film doesn’t mention the “Parent trigger” law by name, the ads describe the film as being “inspired by actual events” and depict parents signing a petition to take over a struggling school.  Michelle Rhee and others have been showing the film in screenings around the country to promote the Parent Trigger legislation, which calls for similar measures.  In our FAQ on the movie, we provide some background about how the Parent Trigger legislation was first developed, how it has been disseminated by the right-wing group ALEC, and how it has never successfully worked to bring about true parent empowerment and why it is unlikely to do so in the future.

To read more about who to contact if you have questions about Parent Trigger laws, or if you would like to know more about Parent Trigger Laws and other practical information about our public schools, please click here

Lifelong Democrat ready for fight in Charlotte over school reform

With the Democrats, alas, are coming some of the most powerful voices in so-called education “reform” — purveyors of policies whose failures we and other Charlotte parents have experienced first hand. They bring not the patience and determination required to build up struggling schools and students, but rather a sharp critique of teachers and a steamroller philosophy that the Broad Foundation (which funds many of these groups) calls “disruptive” change.

Here in Charlotte, we are all too familiar with the damage such “disruptive” policies have done to children, schools and communities.

photo of Pam Grundy by Peter Wong

In the fall of 2010, despite pleas and warnings from students, parents and community members, our board of education voted to abruptly close a set of “failing” schools, most of which served low-income neighborhoods. As students were crowded into other schools, discipline infractions rose and test scores fell. The deep damage done to school system-community relations has yet to be repaired.

* A few months later, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) unveiled a battery of 52 new standardized tests, with the goal of testing every child in every subject, from kindergarten through high school, and then using the scores in teacher salary calculations. Our schools quickly became testing factories, and learning ground to a halt. Community protest managed to stop that madness, but we now face a similar barrage of state exams, mandated by our president’s Race to the Top initiative. Fed up with all the testing, more parents are abandoning the public schools for private institutions.

* Finally, two weeks ago, a pair of longtime CMS employees spoke out about the “crisis of heart” our district is experiencing, describing a stress-filled, dehumanizing atmosphere whose results include “too many fine educators, both novice and veteran, deciding to leave their beloved profession or questioning how much longer they can endure the stressful madness.” Statistics on principal and teacher departures from our district bear out their words.

Yet despite such on-the-ground experiences — as well as a stunning lack of evidence that these “disruptive” measures do anything to improve teaching or learning — the “reform” bandwagon rolls on, dragging federal policy along with it. The programs of the president I worked so hard to get elected have become just another obstacle.

I know many right-wingers want to dismantle our nation’s public education system, using charter and voucher laws to fragment education into a plethora of privately run institutions. When the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) held a summit here last spring, it felt good to be outside, protesting their attacks on public schools. It’s much harder to watch members of the party I support strike equally devastating blows, seemingly unaware of their effects.

We here at the grass roots face quite a challenge. Groups like StudentsFirst and Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) spend a lot of money…We hold home-printed signs and yellow pencils crafted from pool noodles.

The difference says a lot. There’s big money in many of the endeavors these “reformers” propose: money for testing companies, for charter school management firms, for computer and software producers.

To read this entire article and sign on to their very important petition, please click here


The Wall Street Journal Covers Up ALEC Link To Anti-Union School Privatization Law

The Wall Street Journal this morning failed to report ties between the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and controversial “parent-trigger” legislation that would allow parents to take over and convert public schools to charter schools. They also failed to report that the Journal’s parent company, News Corp, is a member of ALEC. The Journal’s treatment of the legislation also cited no criticism of the proposal, which has been described as an effort “to manipulate parents into letting [the charter school lobby] privatize more public schools.

In the July 23 article, the Wall Street Journal reported on legislation that, according to the article, “empowers parents to take control of a school if enough of them sign petitions” and convert it into a charter school. But the article failed to mention that the proposal is based heavily on model legislation developed by ALEC, a controversial right-wing group that was recently exposed as a significant influence in the pro-charter movement in Georgia.

ALEC has also been behind such controversial legislation as voter ID laws and “Stand Your Ground” legislation. After the group’s involvement in these efforts were made public, several of their corporate members left the organization. One of the corporations who remains a member of ALEC, however, is News Corp, the parent company of the Wall Street Journal. The article did not disclose the paper’s relationship with ALEC and similarly did not disclose their relationship even while shielding ALEC from critics.

In addition to not disclosing their conflict of interest, the Journal reported on the claims of “advocates” of the legislation, but made no mention of opposition by several parent organizations, including parents who wanted their initial petition signatures in favor of that legislation revoked, because “many parents said that they had been misled about what the petitions called for” as well as “harassment by some signature gatherers.” In addition, the nonprofit group Parents Across America pointed out:

Click here for the rest of the story.

NC Senate bill 795: More high stakes testing

Mecklenburg ACTS
Hello Friends,

The NC House and Senate are currently considering legislation that will increase testing madness and weaken public schools. Last year, it was your timely e-mails that helped kill HB 546 and stall testing madness in CMS. E-mail legislators about Senate Bill 795 TODAY! We’ve posted easy to copy email address for legislators here.

This e-mail is long and detailed: we apologize in advance. But these are crucial decisions for the future of our schools, and it’s important to understand them. You can find the full text of the bill here. Look for the box at upper left, and click on “edition 3” (unless there is a more recent edition by the time you get there – it’s changing very rapidly).

Testing and SB 795

SB 975 is a grab-bag of “reform” proposals. Specific parts of the proposal that would increase testing and/or raise test stakes include:

• A-F grading of schools (Part III) will make the stakes higher on tests. The legislation would give each school a grade of A to F, based solely on students’ test score performance, and require that each grade be widely publicized.

• Pay for Performance (Part X) requires each district to prepare a pay for performance plan for the 2013-14 school year.  Districts are be instructed to use measures of student “growth” (read “standardized test scores”) in pay for performance calculations.

• Replacing teacher career status with short-term contracts (Part XIV) will place pressure on teachers to produce high test scores at all costs year after year.

Although the legislation includes a section supposedly dedicated to “minimizing the time students spent taking tests through State and local testing programs” (Part IV), that section misses the point entirely. As we all know, the damage done by high-stakes testing affects teaching and learning throughout the year, not simply on those days that tests are administered.

Other sections of the bill concern us, including the legislators’ decision to mandate specific remedial reading strategies, more calendar shenanigans, and a provision that would require districts to grant a year-long leave of absence and a guaranteed return to any public schoolteacher who wished to move to a charter school.

Background and ALEC Connections

Most of these proposals were inspired by legislation passed in Florida, which has been promoted around the country by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate-funded entity with connections to prominent testing companies such as Pearson and Scantron  [admin’s note: Scantron has recently announced their resignation from ALEC, but with no apology for what they did with ALEC, nor for the people they adversely affected.  Nor are they trying to stop ALEC legislation put into play while they were active members.]. Florida’s students are among the most tested in the nation

Although Florida has seen a few general gains in test scores during the past decade, NONE of the Florida proposals being recommended for North Carolina has been directly linked to improvements in student performance (for more detail, see here). In addition, parents and school board members across Florida are currently in revolt over Florida’s heavy-handed state exams, as well as its methods for evaluating schools.

These are not measures we want enacted in our state. SB 795 has passed the Senate Education, Appropriations and Finance Committees.  It’s time to email both the Senate and House Education Committee, as well as your own Senator and Representative.

The most effective letters mention the bill number (SB 795), and relate in specific, personal terms why you oppose (or support) a bill and its provisions.

Thank you!