Saturday, March 28, 2015

Women Speak

Week of 3/29/15

Top three for the week!

The amazing women of United Opt Out Who Created
An Activist Handbook for the Education Revolution
United Opt Out’s Test of Courage
Edited by:
Morna M. McDermott, United Opt Out National
Peggy Robertson, United Opt Out National
Rosemarie Jensen, United Opt Out National
Ceresta Smith, United Opt Out National
Eleven Reasons to Refuse Standardized Testing for Your Children
By:  Maine Badass Teacher  Jacky Boyd
The Momma Bears of Tennessee

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Women Speak

Week of 3/15/15

Top three for the week!

Opting Out of Governor Cuomo’s Attack on Public Education

By:  Bianca Tanis

The Powerful, Enforced Silence Around Standardized Testing
By:  Dr. Mercedes Schneider

Empathy v. Criticism:  How to respond to those who think more testing is needed to improve education 
By:  Dr. Denisha Jones

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Women Speak

Week of 3/8/15

Top three for the week!

Kristin Phatak and Heather Poland

There won't be a test and there will be a party

Kristin Phatak 

BAT Co-Founder Priscilla Sanstead

Sharing one of the most powerful memes on Twitter and Facebook created by Sue Goncracovs

 Francisco Ortiz, Kimberly Mayfield Lynch and Kitty Kelly Epstein

OP-ED: Our Schools Need Latino Teachers

Kimberly Mayfield-Lynch is chair of Black Women Organized for Political Action and chair of the Education Department at Holy Names University.

Francisco Ortiz is a Bay Area teacher and a graduate student researching issues of Latino teacher recruitment.

Kitty Kelly Epstein hosts Education Today on KPFA – FM and writes on issues involving education and urban policy. (A Different View of Urban Schools (2012) Peter Lang).

Kimberly Mayfield-Lynch

Kitty Kelly Epstein

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Women Speak

Week of 3/2/15

Top three for the week!

Melissa Katz - NJ Blogger and Education student

Karen Sprowal - Parent

Interview with former Success Academy Charter School Parent

Marla Kilfoyle - General Manager Badass Teacher's Association, Teacher, Parent

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Women Speak 
Week of 2/15/15

Top 3 for the Week!

Carol Burris 
Award Winning Principal - NYS

"There Comes a Time When Rules Must Be Broken"

Marie Corfield - NJ Blogger and NJ Teacher

12 Questions Every Parent Must Ask

Kathleen Jeskey
Oregon Teacher and BAT Leadership

Tonight I am informing you that I am a conscientious objector to this test

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Tapestry of the American Classroom Needs  More Color

Mary has been teaching in an urban school for over 20 years.  She describes her career, “I love teaching where I do.  I love the community, the children, and my colleagues.  I have been growing more concerned, however, with the number of teachers of color that are being let go, not being granted tenure, and leaving our school.”   Mary is a white teacher but she teaches  predominantly children of color.  Mary further states, “Losing my colleagues of color is heart wrenching to me but I will tell you mostly it is a huge disservice to my students of color who need to see people of color in front of the classroom.”   In 2012 there were 3.3 million teachers in America.  According to the National Center for Education Statistics 83% were white, 8% were Hispanic, 7% were black, and 2% were Asian.   When the 2007/2008 data was examined we found that 84% of teachers were white, 6.7 were black, 6.9% were Hispanic, and 1.3% were Asian.  So, in a 4 year span we saw the small jump for our Teachers of .3% points.  We have a teacher diversity problem in this country.  In 2013 and 2014 children of color became the majority in our public schools but 82% of our teaching force is white.  As a nation we need to become concerned that the figure has not risen significantly in over a decade.  We need to be concerned that although the populations of our students of color has grown significantly the numbers for our teachers of color has not.   What is perhaps most concerning is that in 2011, 59% of our teachers of color taught in urban areas which has been the target of most of the nations’ school closings.

Why do we have a teacher of color shortage?  According to Richard Ingersoll, an education professor and researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, between 1988 and 2008 we had more teachers of color leaving teaching then entering it. Why are so many teachers of color leaving the teaching profession and why are so little entering the profession?   LaRuth Gray, a scholar in residence at the Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools at New York University stated in an interview for the Boston Globe, “Teaching used to be one of the few professions that black college graduates could aspire to and make decent money but as the country integrated and other professions opened their ranks, education lost its cachet and fewer black students thought about becoming teachers.” 

When Ivory A. Toldson conducted an analysis of the top 10 occupations among black and white males he found that the No. 1 profession for college-educated black men was primary school teacher. Which takes us back to the data on school closings;  Chicago, New Orleans, Detroit, and other major cities that have experienced school closings, if we look back at the data that 59% of our urban teachers are teachers of color, we can safely assume that the college-educated black man, who chooses teaching in primary schools as their No. 1 profession, are losing their jobs at a higher rate than their white counterparts. The benefits of hiring and retaining teachers of color funnel to children in the classroom and beyond.  Research shows us that when children have teachers of the same backgrounds they do better in school, graduate at higher rates, and are suspended less. As well several studies in the 1980s and 1990s found that teachers of color elevate the self-worth of students of color.  An analysis of the research by Sabrina Zirkel shows us that race- and gender- matched role models have even more of an importance for our youth than providing them with information about how to behave. Rather, the true importance lies in the fact that such role models provide youth with a sense of place and value in the importance of building the future.

How do schools become active in the process to hire and promote teachers of color? The hiring process starts with the active recruitment plans that involve a direct action plan, community involvement, inclusion of all stakeholders, and partnering with organizations that actively seek to employ persons of color. Active recruitment is not enough and action planning must continue through the hiring process. Any hiring committee that is formed needs to reflect the diversity, while including members of all populations within the school, including student and parent representatives as well as members of the faculty from all different staffing levels. The hiring process should also actively involve the candidate as a member by allowing viable candidates to fully examine the role they will be playing in the school as well as an opportunity to discuss how they can fulfill and expand upon that role.

After such an investment in the recruitment and hiring process of teachers of color, to neglect support for the retention of these teachers would be to invalidate the process as a whole. Review of turnover rates and monitoring of progress towards attainment of diversity goals are basic steps to analyzing success of these actions. But to proactively promote the long-term employment of teachers of color, certain aspects need to be identified and actively supported. Teachers of color need to be heard and they need to be seen in our schools. They can play an active, and valued, role in educating faculty and students about race and privilege.  We have a diversity problem in our schools.  The tapestry of the American classroom needs more teachers of color.   Children of color need to see them and children who are white need to see them!  The tapestry of the American classroom needs to be diverse so that our children can experience the value of diverse role models. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

WU4PE Spotlight on Women Fighting 4 Public Education

Women United for Public Education is a group that is interested in promoting the role women play in education as well as the fight for public education and its true purpose.

As we reflect on what has occurred the past two years and envision what is to come in 2015 we would like to recognize a few categories of people and organizations that have stood out for us.  Although we are a newer group, we have been lurking and checking out the power of many women in our movement that are demanding strong public education for all and refuse to placate to the false narrative that is spun by the wealthy.     

We start with education bloggers because we know the strength of a well written blog and have witnessed the power that such pieces can wield, more so than main-stream media.   We were impressed by the work of Jennifer Berkshire (Edushyster) this year.  Her wit and humor is wielded as the sharpest of weapons against corporate reform.    You can find her blog here   We also enjoy the work of NYC Parent advocate Leonie Haimson.  Leonie writes citing research and backs up everything she says with the power of peer reviewed research.    Her blog can be found at   Finally, we noticed this amazing young lady on twitter the other day, Melissa Katz.  We examined her blog and it is powerful because she is an education student and a sound blogger

Next we want to recognize individual teachers who are standing up this year and refusing to give tests that harm our children (especially our younger children).   A true hats off to Peggy Robertson, Ceresta Smith, Susan Bowles, Karen Henderson, and Nikki Jones.   From Colorado to Florida, to Oklahoma, these brave women are standing up for kids and true education.  We hope that many teachers join them in 2015 by refusing to let testing define education.   

The next category was tough.  We scoured twitter and Facebook sites for our top parent activists.   There were so many but we have it narrowed down to LI OPT OUT Jeanette Deutermann who led the largest opt out movement in the country (60,000 test refusals in NYS).  Karran Harper Royal of New Orleans who is a powerhouse behind exposing the post-Katrina charter school system that  is failing the children of New Orleans.   Finally, Zakiyah Ansari, an outspoken advocate for public schools in New York City.   She was selected to be on Mayor De Blasio’s transition team and was an outspoken advocate against the devastating era of Bloomberg in NYC.

Students Activists defined the revolution against corporate education reform in 2014 and we are sure will be a true powerhouse in 2015.  The Newark Student Union, Philly Student Union, Providence Student Union, and the students in Colorado who boycotted testing all led the revolution by taking it to the streets and showing the adults how it is done.  

Great education activist organizations still continue to expose the corporate reform rhetoric with strong facts and research, all led by strong women, have sprung  into action.  A huge hats off to the women leading United Opt Out, Parents Across America, and The Badass Teachers Association.  Behind the scenes we have seen these women writing, tweeting, blogging, organizing protests, and taking to the airwaves to dispel the false rhetoric of the corporate education reformers. 

Book writing against corporate education reform has been powerful in the last few years.   Diane Ravitch's Reign of Error is a valued resource for many education activists.   We particularly enjoyed
Mercedes Schneider  A Chronicle of Echoes: Who's Who in the Implosion of American Public Education.  Written in 2012, but we feel a missed opportunity by many, was Lois Weiner’s The Future of Our Schools: Teachers Unions and Social Justice.  All three are strong and powerful books that highlight our fight to save our public schools and harness the need for equitable funding .

Although not many politicians on either side of the aisle fought for public education and equitable funding, three women stand out as warriors for public school children, their parents, and teachers.  Elizabeth Warren, Gloria Johnson of Tennessee (who sadly lost in re-election), and Glenda Ritz who is Superintendent of Education in Indiana (and fighting Rick Snyder a corporate hack governor  attempting to strip her of her power to run the DOE) are all women fighting for strong public education at the federal, state, and local levels.

What would 2015 be without strong women leading our unions?  Barbara Madeloni was elected Massachusetts Teachers Association president and has already led that association in strong initiatives.  Lily Eskelsen was elected the new NEA president and has shown early promise with articles geared towards reduced testing and strong teacher due process rights.   Of course no union leadership could be spoken about without mentioning the name of Karen Lewis.  Karen had to step down due to illness from leading The Chicago Teachers Union but we look forward to her return to education activism in the near future.

When we made our list of journalists we didn’t want to go with the “famous” names so we found some real strong local journalists who were writing the truth about what was really going on in education reform.  A huge tip of the ink quill to Long Island Press reporter Jaime Franchi, The Philadelphia Education Examiner reporter Tamara Anderson, and Twin Cities Daily Planet investigative journalist Sarah Lahm.  Google them and read some of their fine work in framing the truth about corporate education reform and putting a spotlight onto what is really happening in their regions.

We have saved the best for last – our teachers.  We give a huge shout out to these individual teachers who stood up for kids in the public arena.  Michelle Gunderson of Chicago was outspoken during the testing boycotts by teachers in Chicago this past year.  Melissa Tomlinson asked her governor one simple question, “why do you call our schools failing?” which led to a public temper tantrum by Governor Christie but  heralded Tomlinson into the national spotlight as a heroine to all teachers.  Finally, Neshellda Johnson, a teacher in Memphis, Tennessee who is fighting the charterization of her district got up and gave a powerful truth-filled speech that no Board of Education could ignore (google her name and watch the video).

We are proud that we could harness such a strong list of women who are united in their cause to save public education, a fight for equitable and fair funding of our public schools, and a group not afraid to raise their voice in truth and power for the children of this country.