UnCommon Community Against Common Control

*Correction to the August 20, 2013 post.
Commissioner John King will be at School of the Arts on Wednesday, August 28, 2013.

On Wednesday, August 28, 2013 parents, students, teachers, and community members will come together, at the School of the Arts, at 1:00 pm, to protest against the Common Core curriculum being imposed by the New York State Department of Education under the direction of Commissioner John King.

Parents object to the stress on their children and the time away from “real” learning.

Students object to the tediousness and irrelevance of the test.

Teachers object to the exorbitant amount of time taken away from “real” teaching in order to practice for the test, take the test, and review after the test.

And, community members object to the cost of testing to taxpayers with no benefit in return for students or teachers.

With nearly everyone objecting to the Common Core, how is it the State was able to legislate its use as a student assessment and teacher evaluation tool?

The entire community must understand that State legislators and NYSUT worked together to comply with Common Core edicts and in making them law.

States that resisted were given the option to apply for a one year waiver to comply and with the current uprising against the Common Core, there may be even more “back peddling” concerning its nationwide implementation.

It is vitally important that this community protest Commissioner King’s visit since parents, students, and teachers, the most important stakeholders in the educational process, were not invited to meet with and speak to King.

However, it is also vitally important to recognize that this must be the beginning of the battle.

All concerned stakeholders in education must come together to convince state legislators to repeal Common Core legislation.

All concerned stakeholders in education must come together to fight for the right of our children to be educated in a system where they are the focus and an excellent education is the goal.

We must come together to protest, we must work together to change the system of education.

Our children are not “common” and their education should not be “common” either.

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Failure Fuels Funding

“Thirty-four states and the District of Columbia have made it more attractive to seek welfare benefits than entry-level employment.Cato Institute.”

“The federal government currently funds 126 separate programs targeted toward low-income people. . . State, county, and municipal governments operate additional welfare programs. . . . welfare spending has steadily increased at an unchecked rate, outpacing average entry-level incomes and making it more attractive in some areas to seek welfare over employment.”

New York State Welfare Spending
Pre-tax Equivalent ($): 43,700
Hourly Wage Equivalent ($): 20.01
Unemployment: 7.5 percent

(New York State’s unemployment rate is .1 percent higher than the national rate.)

Most Americans don’t mind the government spending their tax dollars on social welfare programs. These social welfare programs employ thousands of people per state, and millions across the country. In order for these people to remain employed, there has to be an impoverished population to maintain the necessity for social programs and the people that run them.

Considering the fact that even the most basic employment requires an education, the failure to provide that education to a certain group of people, African Americans and Latinos, insures that the educated, who are primarily White and Asian, will have jobs while the impoverished will remain on welfare.

Being paid more on welfare than working is not new. Looking at the reality of why a certain group of people are paid to remain on welfare has yet to be examined.

The truth is, in order to maintain the class system that exists in America, there has to be a lower class and the majority population of that lower class has always been African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans, not so ironically, the same groups that our current system of education is failing.

As long as Americans accept the notion of “Middle Class” they blindly agree that there should be a “lower class” of people and an “upper class”. Only mis-education can perpetuate this kind of ignorance.

The only way to change this dehumanizing system is to properly educate every child.

The only class our children should be in is a classroom.

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What You See Is All You Get

Orient: To acquaint with the existing situation or environment.

Orientation: The act or process of being oriented.

The District began its orientation programs throughout the city on August 20, 2013. The purpose of these orientation events are to “set the tone for the school year with informative and enjoyable activities for students and their families.

Each school orientation date is given however no times, room numbers, contact names or numbers for individuals who are knowledgeable about these events are posted.

Will parents be told of the existing environment of their school?

Will the district explain to parents why their child has a 50% chance of failure depending upon the school they attend and that there is no hope of enrolling their child in a successful school because all the seats are taken?

Will the district admit to parents that the current situation of the district is chaos since many teachers, paraprofessionals, and school staff have no idea, at this point, where or what grade they will be teaching?

The Prekindergarten & Early Childhood page of the District’s website has a link that directs parents to, “Find Your Child’s Teacher. Browse our Teacher Directory for PreK to find your child’s classroom page.”

Unfortunately there seems to be no requirement for teachers to actually post a classroom page as many of the links take parents to a blank page. Fortunately for some parents, their teachers took the initiative to create some very helpful and interactive pages.

Why would District leaders direct parents to “Find Your Child’s Teacher” which leads them to a teacher with a blank classroom page?

If the district sees this information as important to parents, why wouldn’t they make sure that every teacher listed actually had a “classroom page” that was informative?

These are the things that frustrate and alienate parents. Parents can see there is no real effort by the District or district leaders to connect parents and teachers in the process of educating their child.

Our children deserve our best. We are their role models. When we don’t care, they don’t care.

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Buffalo Gets The President, Rochester Gets The King

On Wednesday, August 21, 2013, a group of teachers and parents who “have been meeting for the past four months attempting to educate the parents and teachers about Common Core” will meet again in an effort to understand these new standards.

On Wednesday, August 29, 2013, New York State Education Commissioner John B. King will be speaking before Rochester City School District principals at the School of the Arts.

The invitation from Superintendent Vargas states, “We have invited the Commissioner to address District administrators about our plans to improve student achievement, working together to achieve our goals, and implementing the best strategies possible for success.” Administrators will be able to ask questions about the Regents’ Reform Agenda.

The Regent’s Reform Agenda calls for “Transformational Leadership”.

The “Challenge” of the reform agenda, “Graduating all students college and career ready.”

How will they do this:
* Implementing Common Core standards and developing curriculum and assessments
* Building instructional data systems
* Recruiting, developing, retaining, and rewarding effective teachers and principals
* Turning around the lowest-achieving schools

Attending this talk is by invitation only, and the current sitting Board of Commissioners, teachers, and parents were not invited, we are told, due to Commissioner King’s time constraints.

It would seem a better use of Commissioner King’s time to address all interested stakeholders, especially parents, teachers, and Board members, in an open forum in order to bring clarity to those individuals most directly affected by the Reform Agenda.

By addressing only a small group of individuals, principals, who were invited but do not have to attend, the information provided by Commissioner King can be easily misconstrued when being disseminated among larger groups.

As well, part of the Reform Agenda calls for “Utilizing Limited Resources” by asking districts to “Communicate with your Schools and Community.”

Commissioner King could have been given the opportunity to address the concerns of all individuals directly affected by the Regents’ Agenda.

Superintendent Vargas could have opened the district’s doors to every interested stakeholder.

Transparency means that everyone can see clearly, not just a select few.

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Offtrack Betting

This being an election year, everyone is climbing on the education train with ways to reform the current system of education so that it impacts the failure of the fewest number of children across the nation.

It is very easy to climb aboard this iron horse since it jumped the track decades ago and education leaders have yet to place it back on its wheels to get it moving again.

Unfortunately, even if they did find a way to return this antiquated system of locomotion to its limited sphere of influence, it would still only accommodate those travelers who are affluent enough to afford the price of a ride in the first class car.

Education reformers are betting that once they shine up the train and the tracks, citizens will not recognize the system of education that has be taking our children around in circles, failing, year after year, to get any closer to reaching a successful destination.

Common Core, standardized testing, teacher evaluations, master schedules, post-failure programming, privatization, charter schools, are nothing more than rust removers and glossy paint being used to cover up decades of failure.

The only way to provide our children with the education they deserve is to change the direction of educational tracking from identifying our children’s weaknesses to discovering, developing, and directing their gifts and talents.

Education must be fueled by the power and passions of teachers that believe in the power and passions of their students. That can only happen when the entire education community comes together to support the construction of a new system of education that is driven by the gifts and talents of every child.

We cannot continue to force our children onto a train that has jumped the track; a train that was constructed decades ago with only one track that revolves in circles of failure.

It is time we begin to build new tracks. We must work together, as a community, to put our children on those tracks, tracks that lead to the educational and civic success of all children.

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What Do You Want To Do?

What does a child centered education look like?

John Hunter, a California teacher, was hired to teach a gifted class. When he asked what he should do, his administrator challenged him by saying, “What do you want to do?”

What he wanted to do is evidenced by what he did. He created a learning environment for his students that gave them the same opportunity to explore their passions, interests, and critical thinking abilities that his administrator afforded him.

A child centered education is not only liberating for the child, it frees the teacher from the bonds of conformity and allows them the opportunity to explore their passions, interests, and critical thinking abilities.

Mr. Hunter teaches students that they are gifted because he believes in them and believes their thoughts and ideas are relevant and important to him, their classmates, and to the world in which they live.

He connects his students to each other and to the world by exposing them to the reality of the enormous impact day to day decisions, made by world leaders, have on everyone around the globe.

By nurturing the creativity, individuality, and critical thinking of every child in his classroom, he allows the child’s natural curiosity and desire to learn excite and engage them in the learning process.

There are many teachers like Mr. Hunter. Unfortunately, the influence of standardization by corporations force those teachers to abandon their passion and spend their day delivering instruction from a scripted lesson, according to an unnatural and dehumanizing pacing chart, developed by individuals who are not and probably never have been in a classroom.

It is time we stop supporting failure by funding policies, plans, and programs that are contrary to the natural and human development of all children.

We must begin to recognize and understand that a system of education that focuses on the developmental abilities of every child is the only way we will begin to experience educational success.

Our children deserve to be educated in a system that discovers, develops and directs their gifts and talents.

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Soap Or Alcohol – You Decide

September 4, 2013 is only three weeks away and the district has its suggested supply list for students posted on their website. Included in the list for Grades Kindergarten through Fifth is one 8 ounce bottle of hand sanitizer.

Several years ago a notice was sent to all schools warning them of the dangers of hand sanitizer.

“The liquid sanitizer, which contains 62 percent Ethanol, makes it a powerful 120 proof liquid. . . “A young child can get into hand sanitizer rather easily, and come into a hospital with alcohol intoxication,” says Cyrus Rangan, MD, a medical toxicology consultant for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

While the number of reported cases of death from alcohol poisoning is relatively low, alcohol induced comas in children has occurred.

It may seem like a trivial concern that the district is promoting the use of alcohol based hand sanitizer to our youngest students, consider kindergarten children who use the sanitizer and then put their fingers in their mouths to suck on them.

Now consider the fact that many children suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome or were born drug addicted and are predisposed to that addiction which can be triggered by the continued exposure of alcohol in their system through the use of hand sanitizer.

Whether or not children are hospitalized for alcohol poisoning, there is still the reality that children are being exposed to and possibly affected by the alcohol in hand sanitizer. Continued exposure can affect their attention, behavior, ability to comprehend and communicate.

The use of hand sanitizer is not more effective than using soap it is simply easier and less expensive.

To make the decision to include hand sanitizer in the list of school supplies for our youngest children is irresponsible if you know and understand the dangers and implications of the use of such a product.

Having the responsibility to insure the health and well being of thousands of children means you should know and then make responsible decisions based on the most current information available.

Our children deserve informed adults making decisions about their education and their educational environment.

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Learned Helplessness Results in “Willful Blindness”

Margaret Heffernan,an entrepreneur, CEO, writer and keynote speaker exposes the “dangers of willful blindness“. She states, “Freedom doesn’t exist unless you use it.”

In her TED talk “Dare to Disagree” Ms. Heffernan explains that although the data clearly showed “a child a week was dying” of cancer in a little town in Montana where vermiculite was being mined, “nobody wanted to know.”

“Openness alone can’t drive change.” explains Ms. Heffernan, “We have to be prepared to change our minds.”

“Organizations can’t think because the people inside them are too afraid of conflict.”

This is the dilemma we face within the Rochester City School District.

Central Office administrators are afraid of conflict with the superintendent, principals and vice-Principals are afraid of conflict with zone chiefs and teachers are afraid of conflict with principals.

As well, the district has worked diligently to place in positions of authority, individuals who are easily intimidated and ultimately silenced.

At the heart of this fear and practice of intimidation is the threat of loss.

For teachers, the loss of their job, choice of grade level or the loss of the room or school they’ve been working in for years is intimidating.

For principals it is the loss of position, title, and money. There is always the threat of being returned to the classroom.

Central Office administrators are threatened by superintendent changes which occur every two to four years.

The only threat to the superintendent position is the school board and their only threat is the voter.

As a society we have learned to “look out for number one” and that has created a disconnect from our humanity and nearly eliminated our power to unite for any good cause.

In the current system of education, children learn helplessness by not being held accountable for their learning, behavior, or success. They learn to be quiet to “get passed along”.

We must teach our children to be powerful, and break the cycle of “willful blindness” in order to raise the level of success for them and for us.

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What Will Be Our Legacy

Each day articles flood newspapers and the internet speaking out against high stakes testing, the common core, the failure of our current system of education to provide a “basic” education for our children, the racism inherent in the system and the poverty it produces.

This weekend is the 93rd anniversary of the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing women the right to vote.

Next weekend is the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington to secure civil rights for all the people of the nation.

ANSWER, Act Now to Stop War and End Racism reports, “On August 28, 1963 hundreds of thousands joined the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Organized by A. Philip Randolph and other prominent civil rights leaders like Bayard Rustin, the demonstration was one of the largest in U.S. history and dealt a serious blow to Jim Crow segregation. It was at this protest that Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.”

Today, more than ever before, we have the technology to actually realize the “one man, one vote” dream of our forefathers and today, more than ever before, we remain silent.

Rochester, the home of Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony, warriors in the battle to end hatred in America, continues to remain politically silent in the face of a School Board who contracts with corporations that benefit from our children’s failure.

We silently complain as each year our children fail to meet even the lowest requirements of educational success yet we continue to elect into office individuals who make decisions that are detrimental to the educational health and well being of our children.

We meet in groups day after day, night after night to discuss the problems of educational failure, racism and poverty, asking what can be done to correct this situation while ignoring the power of the collective voice to change the leadership of education at the local, state, and federal level.

Our children are failing because we are failing to fight for their success.

We are their role models, what are we modeling?

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When Will Enough Be Enough

Noted economist Richard Wolf, author of Democracy At Work, Occupy Economy, Capitalism Hit’s the Fan, the Global Economic Meltdown and What To Do About It, spoke on the Bill Moyers show Sunday.

On the show Wolf compared the Stock Market crash of the 1920’s to today’s economic condition stating that the biggest difference between the two recessions is that the people were in such dire straights in 1929, they began to organize and through their collective voice, they received the attention of President Roosevelt who convinced half of the major corporations responsible for the crash, to take responsibility for their actions and help the American people.

He continues to say that today, the American people are like “deer caught in the headlights” unable to believe that they cannot posses the American dream.

Finally, Wolf maintains that the corporations learned from their mistakes of that era and were bound not to repeat them.

The dehumanization and de-Americanization of children became the objective of education. Corporations began to control education when they changed the focus of from creating an enlightened society of knowledgeable citizens to producing workers more suited to the industrialized environment of the factory.

The exchange was subtle, with philanthropic overtones masking the takeover with offerings of consulting services, program grants, and corporate volunteers that would help shape the workforce of the future.

Once districts became reliant on the donations of private entities, those entities withdrew their resources claiming economic disparity, leaving large urban districts in economic upheaval and ripe for takeover.

This cycle is being repeated today, with the same intent and the same results.

If our leaders in education are unable to recognize the reality of the detrimental effect that corporate influence has had on education, they are unable understand the necessity of returning to the original intent of education.

Our collective voice is the only way to stop the corporate machine.

Sign the petition at http://www.greenrochester.org and send a clear message that the Rochester community will not fall prey to the corporate agenda.

Our children deserve a child centered education.

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