Weekly Roundup 10/17

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Another week, and another round of attacks on public education. Surprises in the news include lawmakers targeting remedial and developmental education and Massachusetts halting new charter schools. We are happy to report some good news out of New York and Philadelphia, even as teachers in those states are embroiled in conflicts and protests. One thing became clear this week: we need to stand in solidarity as more stories about the war on teachers and public education emerge.

There’s a new war waging in education, and this time it’s affecting students and educators at all levels, even post-secondary. In Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, Connecticut, and other states, lawmakers believe the answer to students needing extra time and support in college is taking it away from them. For these lawmakers, it makes perfect sense that remedial education is failing and the best way to make lower-achieving students more successful is to remove their access to remedial classes. States are implementing their own solutions to the “remediation problem,” from making remedial or development courses optional to restricting students to a single semester of non-credit remedial coursework. It’s probably not a surprise that the opponents of remedial or developmental education are a political advocacy group called College Completion America, despite the fact that a 2006 study showed students taking remediation are more likely to graduate than equivalent students who don’t. Read the NEA Today article to get the whole story.

Oh, New Jersey. We feel for you, too. One Newark seemed to have fallen off the education news radar for awhile, but it came back on the scene in a big way this week, when Superintendent Cami Anderson stated the district plans to expand some of the changes made under the plan. As reported by Naomi Nix, one of the changes includes instituting private pre-K providers as part of its universal enrollment system. Anderson talks a good game, but parents, teachers, and Newark residents have been protesting One Newark since its inception. The opponents include Newark mayor Ras Baraka, who has been speaking out against the reorganization of schools and who now is appealing to President Barack Obama to intervene in the “‘disruptive and illegal education reforms'” taking place in the school district. Read the article about Baraka’s stance, plus his entire letter to President Obama here.

In the aftermath of the State University of New York’s (SUNY) board of directors approving the creation of 17 new charter schools last week, angry parents demanded an audit of SUNY and their charter schools, Success Academy. In an interview with City Comptroller Scott Stringer, Jess Berry of the Brooklyn Downtown Star reports that Stringer is planning to come up with a protocol for the audits and then audit the charter schools. This is big news, as more and more parents, teachers, union leaders, and others concerned about the lack of oversight in charters are calling for more regulations. In New York, this is particularly promising news for outraged parents who say that the Success Academy schools already in existence are “grossly under-enrolled.” Read Berry’s article that also gives a history of the conflicts between charters, parents, and other citizens of NY.

While New York seems to be adding charters as fast as they can, an October 14 report in the Boston Globe states that new charter schools are unlikely in Massachusetts, as the state halted plans for new charter schools in Brockton and Fitchburg. This decision came on the heels of the Massachusetts Senate “overwhelmingly” rejecting an increase in the number of charters that may operate in low-performing districts. One thing is for sure, with the private groups pushing for the charters in Massachusetts, this debate is far from over. Read the Boston Globe article and decide for yourself.

Pennsylvania education secretary Carolyn Dumaresq petitioned the Commonwealth Court to dismiss a case filed by the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia on behalf of 7 parents and the advocacy group Parents United for Public Education pushing for the PA Department of Education to investigate the more than 800 complaints filed by parents in the Philadelphia school district last year. Dumaresq claims that a state investigation is not required because the complaints are not curricular, but the attorney representing the parents argues that many of the complaints focus on insufficient offerings in state mandates regarding foreign language, physical education, and programs for gifted students. This feels like one more way that the state is tying the hands of public school students, parents, and teachers in Philadelphia. Read the NewsWorks article to get the full story.

If you’ve been following our blog and Facebook page this week, you’ve seen quite a lot of content about the atrocities being carried out against the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) by the School Reform Commission (SRC). The SRC’s action to cancel teacher contracts has far-reaching implications, and it is important to stay up-to-date with everything that is happening. Last night (10/16), nearly 3,000 people showed up prior to the SRC meeting and shut down Broad Street to protest the SRC and stand up for the PFT. This report from The Examiner details the events of the meeting, including speakers’ comments and the ways in which various attendees called for an apology and resignation from Sylvia Simms, the SRC member who lashed out at Philadelphia Student Union members when they effectively protested the viewing of the anti-union film We Won’t Back Down during Parent/Family Appreciation Month. Simms reportedly mentioned “failing schools” and “jail” in her comments to students.

It’s very interesting that this week brought about two statements, one from U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and one from NEA President Lily Eskelsen García, regarding the amount of time students spend taking and preparing for standardized assessments, yet neither mentions the Common Core. Not once. At first glance, educators and parents may be encouraged by these statements; let’s face it, they both essentially admit that the sheer volume of testing needs to decrease. But, it is impossible in this day and age to call for less testing and never mention the monster behind it all. Is this a maneuver to placate teachers and parents for awhile? Be careful of wolves in sheep’s clothing.

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