Snow Days For Everyone

I loved snow days when I was teaching high school English. I would make hot chocolate and share it with my kids coming in from playing in the snow. I would catch up on reading and responding to my students’ essays, whittling down the pile. I would start to make a dinner in the mid-afternoon instead of as soon as I arrived home from a busy day in school. There would be sun and snow and a happy mom.

When I became an administrator, except when snow was up the window sills and the school offices were closed, there was a late start to the day, my kids were too old for wanting hot chocolate snacks with their mom, and I got lots of work done in the school empty of teachers and students.

The words “snow day” are an invitation to freedom and the fun of the unexpected. Wherever you are in life, take the invitation offered by these school administrators and enjoy the snow days.

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Connecticut: Beware!

Diane Ravitch today gave a serious warning to Connecticut parents, citizens, and voters. I am reprinting her blog in full because the message is of such great importance. She warns us about charter schools because they segregate our children, take financial resources from our Connecticut public schools, and do not provide the transparency that makes schools safe and intellectually challenging places for our children. Please read:

Connecticut: Will Legislators Follow the Money or the Voters?

by dianeravitch

Wendy Lecker, veteran civil rights lawyer, reviews the recent report by Common Cause-Connecticut about the intrusion of Charter money and lobbyists into the state.

Former Governor Dannel Malloy depended on charter money and gave them a state commissioner and seats on the state school board,as well as generous funding.

After repeated losses in other states, like Massachusetts, the charter lobby now is doubling down in Connecticut.

After their spectacular public losses, the charter lobby is getting craftier. A recent report by Common Cause and the Connecticut Citizens Action Group reveal some of their newer tactics, but with many of the same backers.

The report, “Who is Buying Our Education System? Charter School Super PACs in Connecticut” continues the work previously done by blogger Jonathan Pelto tracking the influence of charter money. It details the donations and spending of charter Super PACs in Connecticut’s recent elections.
Super PACs enable individuals and organizations to spend unlimited amounts of money in elections, as long as they do not coordinate this spending with candidates.

The report found that since 2016, six Super PACS spent more than half a million dollars in Connecticut elections. These Super PACS are founded and/or dominated by charter lobbyists and employees of charter organizations, such as the Northeast Charter Schools Network, the now-defunct Families for Excellent Schools, ConnCAN, Achievement First charter chain and DFER. Soon-to-be former Gov. Dan Malloy recently joined DFER’s board.

The majority of the money donated came from outside Connecticut and from a limited number of large donors, the largest being Walmart’s Alice Walton.

Perhaps because of their very public defeats by grassroots organizing in other states, the charter lobby became more stealth-like. The report notes that these Super PACS conceal their aims by adopting innocuous sounding names, such as Build CT, Leaders for a Stronger CT, and Change Course CT. They spent money primarily on advertising and canvassing.

One PAC, Build CT, focused on candidates in safe or unopposed races, including: Stamford’s Pat “Billie” Miller and Caroline Simmons, and Senate Majority leader, Norwalk’s Bob Duff. The authors suggest this strategy is designed to curry favor with those who will definitely be in power. Last session, Duff unsuccessfully pushed a charter-friendly school funding scheme where local districts would have to pay for charter schools over which they have no say.

The charter lobby always uses deceptive, “caring” names to hide its true purposes:

1. Privatize public schools
2. Destroy the teaching profession
3. Eliminate unions.

Connecticut Voters: Beware!

Connecticut: Say No To Charter Schools

The principal of Achievement First Amistad High School, the centerpiece of Connecticut charter schools, has quit after a video showing him being physically aggressive to a student  surfaced. 

This reaffirms for us as Connecticut taxpayers that our money should be put into public schools not into charter schools because:

  1. Charter schools take public money (our tax dollars) but have no public oversight. Public schools have public oversight through state regulations and local school board policies and controls.
  2. Charter schools provide an education that is separate and unequal because the students are overwhelmingly students of color.
  3. The quality of education is inferior to public schools because the emphasis is on test prep rather than critical thinking.
  4. The “success” of charter schools, as measured by standardized test scores, is falsely reported because students who do not test well are counseled out of the schools.
  5. The “success” of charter schools, as measured by graduation rates and college acceptance data, is falsely reported because the attrition of students who do not have the credits to graduate or be accepted to college is not included in the reported data.
  6. The “no excuses” discipline practices which make for high suspension and expulsion rates in charter schools seem commensurate with racial prejudice.

The NAACP has called for a moratorium on opening any new charter schools and for better oversight and accountability for existing charter schools. Connecticut should listen to the NAACP.

In Connecticut, we have a budget crisis which is only aggravated by supporting charter schools. We should spend our tax money wisely. We should fund public education. Making our public schools the best schools in the nation is the key to the future of the state of Connecticut.

We have the visionary educators. We have the knowledge. Let’s do it.

For The Children: End Gun Violence

This is a sculpture done by Manuel Oliver whose son, Joaquin, was killed in the school shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
May we have a President who cries over the loss of the children to gun violence.
May we have legislators who refuse to take money from the gun lobby.
May no parent ever again have to suffer the loss that Manuel Oliver has suffered.
May children be safe in school.
May we, as citizens, cry out: No more loss of children. Enough. We are a better county than this.

MLK Speaks To Educators and Parents

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The function of education is not to make students successful takers of timed, standardized tests which correlate with only one factor: the socio-economic status of the test takers’ parents.
Education is our best means for creating learners and thinkers who are impassioned to imagine and create the world anew.
We can design schools in which the curricula is learning centered and character building, but first we must put aside the mind-numbing Common Core and assess students in ways other than by timed standardized tests that serve only one purpose: to make money for those who produce the tests.

The Privilege Of Teaching

This painting by Joan Baez celebrates the courage, commitment, and articulateness of Emma Gonzalez of Margery Stoneman Douglas High School. It also reminds me of so many bright and beautiful students I have taught in public high schools. Their names and faces flash before me. I thank Emma Gonzalez and my students for who they have become. I am grateful for the privilege of having been a teacher.

To be part of helping our students to discover and shape their own values,
To encourage and guide our students to be critical and creative thinkers,
To give our students effective and thoughtful ways to respond to what life does to them,
THAT IS WHY WE TEACH.

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When The Season Offers Challenges

“There will be times when standing alone feels too hard, too scary, and we’ll doubt our ability to make our way through the uncertainty. Someone, somewhere, will say, ‘Don’t do it. You don’t have what it takes to survive the wilderness.’ This is when you reach deep into your wild heart and remind yourself, ‘I am the wilderness.’” – Brené Brown

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