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Archive for November, 2012

Last week, we sent the following message to the folks who have signed up for our e-news, and we didn’t want you to miss out on this special deal. 

If you would like to be among the first to know about current education news we think is important, articles, curriculum, and of course, deals and discounts, you can sign up for our e-news here

- Kris Collett

Dear Friend of Rethinking Schools:

The folly of high-stakes testing looms large right now, particularly because late fall is the time when many public schools givethe state-required standardized tests. My teacher friends in Wisconsin are busy giving their students the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination. How’s that for a euphemism?

At Rethinking Schools, the increasing reliance on test scores to assign a number value on a student’s academic accomplishments, to evaluate teachers, and to label schools has long troubled us. We have published countless articles about the dangers of an overreliance on high-stakes tests, and we collected the best of those in our new book Pencils Down: Rethinking High-Stakes Testing and Accountability in our Public Schools.

In hopes of boosting morale and inspiring resistance movements among the ranks of teachers and progressive education activists, we are offering a free chapter download from Pencils Down: “High-Stakes Harm” by beloved writer, teacher, and Rethinking Schools editor Linda Christensen. Linda asks important questions in her article, like “How do we retain our critical stance on assessments while preparing students for them?” and “Can we ‘teach the tests’ without compromising what we know to be true about teaching and learning?”

These are the kind of popularly written, story-rich articles that can help clarify issues and mobilize opposition to the test-dense curriculum that is at the heart of corporate education reform.

Please download this chapter, draw inspiration from it, and share widely.

If you like what you read, you can purchase the book at a 20% discount through December 5, 2012. Use code TEACHINGK12 at checkout on our website or when calling our order line 1-800-669-4192.

Thank you for your important work.

In solidarity,

Kris Collett
Outreach/Marketing Director

More on Pencils Down and High-Stakes Testing:

Read the complete introduction by editors Wayne Au and Melissa Bollow Tempel.

Read a review by Samuel Reed, III of the Philadelphia Public School Notebook:
“This hard-hitting anthology may rail against the high-stakes test, but that doesn’t mean the writers are opposed to assessment or accountability. Many of the articles, essays, and analyses in this collection demonstrate that teaching and learning are more complex than numbers. Pencils Down works to demystify, for readers ranging from teachers to parents at the PTA meeting, the Holy Grail of high-stakes testing.”

Check out the National Center for Fair and Open Testing for more excellent articles, resources, and the latest news. (Fun Fact: Monty Neill, who is Executive Director of the Center, and authored or co-authored three of the articles included in Pencils Down.)

Join more than 11,000 individuals and 400 organizations in signing the National Resolution on High Stakes Testing.

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A recent Education Week article reported that between 2009 and 2011, 3,700 public schools in the US were closed. Reuters reported that school closings in 2010-11 were up 60% from ten years earlier.  The current wave of school closings is part of a bipartisan corporate reform assault on public education, especially in communities serving poor communities of color. The good news is communities are fighting back. The article below tells one such story.

- Stan Karp

Crenshaw School Community Fights For Real Improvement and Against LAUSD Superintendent’s Scorched-Earth Approach

by Christina Lewis, Crenshaw High Special Education Teacher; Irvin Alvarado, Crenshaw High Alumni; Alex Caputo-Pearl, Crenshaw High Social Justice Lead Teacher, UTLA Board of Directors, Coalition for Educational Justice Organizer; Eunice Grigsby, Crenshaw High Parent, Crenshaw High Alumna

On October 23, LAUSD Superintendent Deasy announced he intends to reconstitute Crenshaw High School.  This scorched earth “reform” that is destructive for students, communities, and employees has been used at Fremont, Clinton, Manual Arts, and more in LAUSD, despite courageous push-backs at those schools.

The Crenshaw school community is determined to fight back.  The slogan that permeated the emergency 150-person Crenshaw Town Hall Meeting at the African-American Cultural Center on October 4 crystallizes the struggle — “Keep Crenshaw: Our School, Our Children, Our Community.”

In an attempt to disarm the push back and win public support, Deasy is combining the reconstitution with a full-school magnet conversion.  Crenshaw stakeholders are, of course, open to conversations about changes that will improve conditions and outcomes for our students–but those must be collaborative, well-resourced, and must serve all students.  That said, it is clear that Deasy’s main objective is not magnet conversion – it is to take top-down control of the school and reconstitute (which means removing all faculty and staff from the school, with an “opportunity to re-apply”).

The school community says NO to any form of reconstitution, and YES to school improvement that includes stakeholders and holds LAUSD accountable for its years of neglect and mismanagement.

In this spirit, teacher, parent, and administrator leaders of Crenshaw’s nationally-recognized Extended Learning Cultural model have been reaching out to Deasy to work in collaboration for over a year and a half.  He has not responded.  It’s clear that Deasy has cynically set Crenshaw up – persistently ignoring calls to meet when it is about something locally-developed and progressive; later, acting as if nothing is happening at the school, and dropping the reconstitution bomb.

The Extended Learning Cultural model has been developed over the last few years at Crenshaw – a school of approximately 65% African-American students and 35% Latino students, with approximately 80% with free and reduced lunch.  The Extended Learning approach is to teach students standards-based material wedded with cognitive skills used in real life efforts to address issues at school, in the community, and with local businesses.  Cultural relevance, Positive Behavior Support, parent/community engagement, and collaborative teacher training and excellence are foundations of the program.  Students engage in rigorous classroom work, as well as internships, job shadows, leadership experiences, school improvement efforts, and work experiences.

The Extended Learning Cultural model is fundamentally about extending the meaning, space, and time of learning, and extending the school into the community and vice versa.  This rooting of learning into a context is essential for students who have been constantly uprooted and destabilized by economic injustice and by a school system that focuses on narrow test-taking rather than cultural relevance.  Extended Learning could be enhanced dramatically for our students with LAUSD support.  Instead, by threatening it, Deasy is jeopardizing Crenshaw’s progress, outside partnerships, and outside funding.

Moreover, the Extended Learning Cultural model is supported by research – it draws from the Ford Foundation and various progressive academics’ national More and Better Learning Time Initiative, and it has been developed at Crenshaw with USC, the Bradley Foundation, and other nationally-recognized research partners.

In contrast, the research shows that reconstitutions are not good for students.  Reconstitutions cut students off from faculty and staff they know, from programs they are involved in, and from the communities surrounding their schools.  Districts reconstitute schools in working class communities of color, creating more instability and uprootedness for students who are often our most vulnerable.  Reconstitutions are educational racism.  For more details, see a brand new study from UC Berkeley and the Annenberg Institute at Brown University.

Extended Learning showed results at Crenshaw in its first year of partial implementation, 2011-2012, after 2 years of planning.  Crenshaw dipped on some indicators between 2009 and 2011 when the school had a principal who wasn’t the first choice of the selection committee, who was imposed by LAUSD, and who did not work collaboratively.  However, when the school regained focus around Extended Learning in 2011-2012, the data show growth, including:

  • Meeting all State of California API growth targets except for one, often far exceeding the targets (for example, a 92 point API gain among special education students);
  • Reducing suspensions and expulsions;
  • Achieving substantial growth among African-American students on the API, reaching API levels significantly higher than African-American students at many other South LA high schools;
  • Achieving an explosive increase in math proficiency levels among Limited English Proficient students on the California High School Exit Exam;
  • Achieving a huge jump in proficiency levels in math on the California Standards Test among all 10th graders;
  • Including many more students in internships and work experiences;
  • Organizing more partnerships for wrap-around services for students;
  • Increasing parental involvement.

Yet, Superintendent Deasy wants to disrupt this trajectory of growth and reconstitute Crenshaw.  Worse yet, he wants to do this without any consultation with the community, parents, students, alumni, faculty, and staff.  Part of his agenda is to curry favor with the national scorched earth “reform” movement.  Another part is straight union-busting.  He has said many times he doesn’t like the teacher union leaders at Crenshaw – many of the very leaders who have been at the forefront of building the Extended Learning Cultural model, its national connections, and the growth that has come from it.

Not surprisingly, other schools that have been reconstituted in LAUSD have undergone “re-application” and “re-hiring” processes that have been highly suspect – unrepresentative hiring bodies, discrimination against older staff and teachers of color, and discrimination against staff based on political issues.

The Crenshaw school community has a strategy to win the push back against Deasy’s reconstitution and to win support for the Extended Learning Cultural model and other enhancements:

  • Amidst Deasy’s intense destabilization efforts that affect the school daily, educators, staff, and parents are working with site administration to tighten up school operations as much as possible;
  • The school community is deepening, refining, and broadening engagement around the Extended Learning Cultural model;
  • Faculty and staff have strongly solidified against reconstitution internally;
  • School stakeholders are building on years of work with a unique coalition of community partners to organize parents, students, alumni, and community.  This coalition includes Ma’at Institute for Community Change; African-American Cultural Center; Black Clergy, Community, and Labor Alliance; Labor/Community Strategy Center; Coalition for Black Student Equity; Coalition for Educational Justice; Sierra Club; Southern Christian Leadership Conference; Park Mesa Heights Community Council; and more.
  • The coalition is working closely with United Teachers – Los Angeles.  The House of Representatives voted unanimously to support the Crenshaw struggle.  UTLA West Area and Progressive Educators for Action (PEAC) are critical supports for the ongoing organizing.

At the moment, the organizing will focus on the two places Deasy needs to go with his destructive plan for approval – the LAUSD School Board and the California Department of Education.

On the latter, Deasy cannot undermine Crenshaw’s plan for its federal School Improvement Grant, SIG, without communicating with Crenshaw’s School Site Council (SSC) and communicating with Sacramento, because the grant is administered by the State.  Yet, the Superintendent is moving forward with undermining Crenshaw’s plan for this federal grant – that would bring close to $6 million to resource-starved Crenshaw High – without consulting with the SSC or with school stakeholders, and without a discussion of other monies that could be jeopardized through his destabilizing of the SIG plan.  Further, Deasy’s undermining of the federal grant is occurring after only 3 months have passed in Crenshaw’s implementation of its SIG plan – an implementation that has, thus far, met its immediate goals, and has supported some of the Extended Learning Cultural model’s main foundations.

The Crenshaw school community knows that the eyes of the city, state, and nation are watching Crenshaw.  If Deasy gets his way at Crenshaw, it further opens the door to these kinds of moves everywhere – including places he’s already attacking locally with similar reconstitution efforts, like LAUSD’s King Middle School, and far more.  On the other hand, if Crenshaw is able to organize with school and community to push back on Deasy and to further advance a deep and hopeful educational and racial justice-based reform, its reverberations will be felt incredibly widely.

Keep connected to the struggle and “like” our Facebook page – Crenshaw Cougars Fighting Reconstitution – and be in contact with us through email at caputoprl@aol.com.

Related Resources

Challenging Corporate Ed Reform and 10 Hopeful Signs of Resistance, by Stan Karp

Arne Duncan and the Chicago Success Story: Myth or Reality?, by Jitu Brown, Eric Gutstein, and Pauline Lipman

“I Thought This U.S. Place Was Supposed To Be About Freedom” : Young Latinas Engage in Mathematics and Social Change to Save Their School, by Maura Varley Gutierrez

Rethinking School Reform: Views from the Classroom, edited by Linda Christensen and Stan Karp. Informed by the experience and passion of teachers who walk daily into real classrooms, Rethinking School Reform examines how various reform efforts promote — or prevent — the kind of teaching that can bring equity and excellence to all our children, and it provides compelling, practical descriptions of what such teaching looks like.

Keeping the Promise? The Debate Over Charter Schools, edited by Leigh Dingerson, Barbara Miner, Bob Peterson, Stephanie Walters. This wide-ranging and thought-provoking collection of essays examines the charter school movement’s founding visions, on-the-ground realities, and untapped potential-within the context of an unswerving commitment to democratic, equitable public schools.

 

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Many of you are familiar with the work of Tucson teacher Curtis Acosta. Acosta is the warm and eloquent—and photogenic!—language arts teacher featured in the film, Precious Knowledge, about Tucson’s now-outlawed Mexican American Studies program. The program is still suppressed, but the work goes on, as Acosta describes in this letter, recently posted to the Education for Liberation email list. Rethinking Schools continues to support this fine program and we urge you to show your solidarity in whatever way you can.

And, speaking of which, if you live near Seattle or plan to attend the upcoming National Council for the Social Studies conference, please join us for the presentation of our Zinn Education Project’s Myles Horton Award for Teaching a People’s History to Sean Arce, a key architect of Tucson’s Mexican American Studies program. Arce will be speaking and showing Precious Knowledge. Details here

- Bill Bigelow

Curtis Acosta

Dear Compañer@s and Supporters,

It’s been a while since I last wrote about the situation in Tucson. However, there are a few links that I felt I should share with those interested in our continued lucha to reinstate Mexican American Studies in Tucson. First and foremost, I would like you all to know that I am still teaching my Chican@ Literature classes at a youth center on Sundays. I have a great group of youth that have joined me. The classes are free and it has been healing to have the freedom to engage in critical dialogue about literature without the threat of demonization hanging over our heads. However, we are only a handful in our Sunday class,  and those good feelings are not balanced by the injustice of thousands of students who are not able to take our courses in their regular public school experience. It is shameful, but we are dogged in our determination to see MAS back in TUSD.

The following link is to an essay that I wrote for renowned author, and personal hero of mine, Ana Castillo. It is a part of her amazing online magazine La Tolteca. I decided it was important to explain in more detail how I used The Tempest in my Chican@/Latin@ Literature classes. If that interests you, please take a look.

How I used The Tempest in my Chican@/Latin@ Literature classes.

Here is a documentary that was filmed about how our classes have been dismantled and the fall out. It’s another unique perspective that may serve as good discussion and dialogue for you and your students.

I hope that we can count on more support for my colleagues Sean Arce and José Gonzalez as they continue to defend themselves against a frivolous lawsuit.

Support the Raza Defense Fund

Since our classes were eliminated there have been many different rumors and such about the future of MAS and the Tucson Unified School District, so I was fortunate enough to be interviewed by award winning writer, Jeff Biggers of the Huffington Post. It was a great way to actually address what the future may bring for us with a  federal desegregation order and plan to be revealed on Friday.

We have two new members of the school board as of last night, and the feeling in town is one of optimism. However, the administration is very much the same and our curriculum and books are still banned. I’m not sure what type of future there will be for my colleagues and myself, but we will keep fighting for restitution of our program. I hope this interview answers any questions you may be having, but if not, feel free to reach out and contact me or my colleagues for further details.

Will Tucson School Board Reinstate or Replace Mexican American Studies? Interview with Curtis Acosta.

We hope you are all doing well all over the country toward liberating and inspiring our youth to not only dream, but to have the will to act!

In Lak Ech,

Curtis Acosta

Tucson, AZ

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Over the years, Debbie Reese’s work has been an important resource for educators. Her website, American Indians in Children’s Literature, is an authoritative source of analysis, and was one of the country’s “go to” sites when early this year Tucson suppressed the Mexican American Studies program and banned books like Rethinking Columbus.

Reese has been kind enough to allow us to reprint her articles in our publications—see, for example, “Fiction Posing as Truth,” in Rethinking Our Classrooms, Volume 2; and “Teaching Young Children About Native Americans,” in the curriculum material that accompanies the DVD, Unlearning Indian Stereotypes.

In Reese’s essay and resource listing below, she addresses librarians: “Too many people think that American Indians died off, due to warfare and disease. When the emphasis in library displays is American Indians of the past, you inadvertently contribute to that idea.” This is worth remembering for all educators, at all times—but especially now as we enter the “official” Native American Month. Debbie Reese is tribally enrolled at Nambe Pueblo in northern New Mexico.

Resources for American Indian Month 

by Debbie Reese

November is the month that the President of the United States designates as Native American Month. Below are suggestions on how you might get your library ready for parents, teachers and students who come into your library looking for materials on American Indians.

In this post, you’ll find links to ALA’s READ posters that feature Sherman Alexie, author of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. You’ll also find links to the Indigenous Languages Development Institute, where you can buy a wall clock with numerals in a Native language, and READ posters in Indigenous languages, available from the Tulsa American Indian Resources Center:

Creating a Library Atmosphere that Welcomes American Indians

In these posts, you’ll find recommended books about American Indians, by age group:

Top Board Books for the Youngest Readers

Top Ten Books for Elementary School

Top Ten Books for Middle School

Top Ten Books for High School

If you want some guidance on how to help students do research on American Indians, using encyclopedias and websites, see:

Resources for Projects on American Indians

If you’re looking for books and materials about boarding schools for American Indians, here’s some:

Boarding Schools for American Indians

If you want guidelines on how to evaluate the content of a Native site, here’s an excellent page about that:

Guidelines for Evaluating American Indian Web Sites

And, if you want to develop your understandings of the ways that American Indians are not “multicultural” or “people of color”, see:

We Are Not “People of Color.”

If you’re looking for a Question/Answer book about American Indians, this one by the National Museum of the American Indian is outstanding:

Do All Indians Live In Tipis?

Did you know that “papoose” is not the American Indian word for baby?

Papoose?

Did you order Louise Erdrich’s newest book in the Birchbark House series? If not, do it today! Chickadee is terrific!

Louise Erdrich’s Chickadee

I’ll close with this:

Too many people think that American Indians died off, due to warfare and disease. When the emphasis in library displays is American Indians of the past, you inadvertently contribute to that idea. Librarians are a powerful group of people. You can help Americans be less-ignorant about American Indians.

Research studies show that American Indian students drop out at exceedingly high rates. Scholars attribute this, in part, to their experience with curricular materials in school. Materials set in the past, materials that stereotype American Indians, and materials that are factually incorrect or highly biased against American Indians, cause Native students to disengage from school. Libraries can interrupt that disengagement, or, they can contribute to it…

As human beings, we love to see reflections of ourselves and our hometowns. They can a source of pride or a boost to the self-esteem. But—that is only true if they are accurate. Native people want that, too, but American society has a long way to go to get there.

Libraries can get us there, but we’ll need your help year-round, not just in November. I hope the resources I share in this email will be ones that you spread out, all year long. If you’ve got questions, let me know.

Thanks,

Debbie Reese, PhD
Tribally enrolled: Nambe Pueblo
Email: dreese.nambe at gmail dot com

Related Resources

Why the Best Kids’ Books Are Written in Blood,” by Sherman Alexie. Rethinking Schools  magazine, Volume 26, Number 1, Fall 2011.
  Unlearning Indian Stereotypes. Narrated by Native American children, this DVD teaches about racial stereotypes and provides an introduction to Native American history through the eyes of children. Useful for elementary through adult education.
  Rethinking Columbus. More than 80 essays, poems, interviews, historical vignettes, and lesson plans reevaluate the myth of Columbus and issues of indigenous rights.

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