Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Why Current Protests May Spread to Schools and Force Officials to Cut Back on Testing

The current protests against the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice, show no signs of dying down. Based on what I am seeing in New York City, we can not only expect protests that will block bridges, highways, streets and tunnels, but are likely to disrupt Christmas shopping. These protests have already dwarfed, in size and militancy, those launched by the Occupy movement and are far more diverse in race and class. But most importantly, these protests are drawing in large numbers of high school and even middle school students. A whole generation of students whose main experience in schools has been relentless testing and zero tolerance disciplinary policy policies have had the heady experience of taking over streets and stores and subways and disrupting the activities of entire downtown business districts. Never in their lives have they experienced anything like this sense of collective power, and those who think it will stop with protests against policing are operating with tunnel vision.
As someone who was politicized by civil rights protests in the 60's and ended up participating in building take overs at my own university, I know from experience how protest can become "contagious" and that the sense of power students derive from protesting outside of school can easily translate into protests at schools
We are likely to see this happen, in high schools and even middle schools throughout the country next spring
Remember the old song from World War I "How can you keep them down on the farm when they've seen Paree?"
There are tens of thousands of high school students around the country who have experienced the feeling of power that comes from collective action.
Having had that experience, can we then expect them to go through metal detectors and sit through one boring class after another to prepare for the endless round of tests officials have imposed on them. Many high school students, especially those in inner city, working class and lower middle class communities now HATE going to school, especially since the things they love, arts and sports, have been cut back to make room for tests. That coupled with the increasing prevalence of metal detectors and arrests for minor disciplinary infractions have created a simmering anger that has mainly taken the form of individual explosions. What if that rage was channeled into collective protests such as strikes and walkouts? Not an impossible experience
Especially since the rewards of going to school are not all that great
What is the light of the end of the tunnel for students who fight through the boredom and graduate from high school ?
If they go directly into the job market, they face minimum wage jobs with the same "zero tolerance" discipline they experience in their schools
If they go on to college, the face the prospect of accumulating huge student debt and entering the job market where they are going to have to compete for a dwindling number of jobs with decent salaries and benefits.
Put all of this together- the power students now feel, the boring and humiliating experiences they have in school, and the grim prospects they face in the job market and you have the perfect scenario for a massive student uprising. An uprising that may become so long lasting and strong that it will force officials to do something they never imagined-- cutting back on testing and making high schools a place where students actually want to attend, filled with experiences that will give them the sense of power and agency they right now are finding in the protests sweeping the country

Monday, December 8, 2014

Why We Can Expect a Major Escalation of High School Protests This Spring

As an historian of social movements, one of the things I have learned is that experience in one form of protest often spills over to another. In the 1960's participation of tens of thousands of young people in civil rights demonstrations, some of which took involved civil disobedience, went a long way to shaping their response to the escalation of the Vietnam War, leading ultimately to the largest and most militant anti-war movement in US History,  You can also say the same about the participation of hundreds of thousands  of working class Americans in hunger marches and unemployed demonstrations in the early Depression years, an experience which conditioned them to participate in the wave of militant strikes that swept through the US from 1934 through 1937, leading to the collective bargaining agreements in overland trucking and the auto and steel industry which labor leaders had once thought impossible.

  We may see a significant escalation in education based youth activism as a result of the remarkable protests against the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice currently sweeping the nation.  Although these protests have attracted people of a wide variety of ages and racial backgrounds, tens of thousands of high school students have participated in them, not only in Ferguson, but in New York, Florida, California, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Colorado  and numerous other states where thousands of people have taken to the streets. And with many more protests to come, those numbers could escalate dramatically.

  The sense of power and agency that these high school students are gaining from participation in these protests should not be underestimated.  For many, these have  been the first protests they have ever participated in and the sensation of being part of a purpose filled group of thousands of people capable of shutting down streets, highways, bridges and transit lines has given them a feeling of power and agency they never thought possible

  That feeling of power is not going to disappear. It is going to remain part of who they are and when they return to their high schools and even middle schools, many of which have test filled curricula, zero tolerance disciplinary policies and heavily policed security arrangements,  a coming clash is  inevitable 

   Do not be surprised if the result is a wave of school walkouts this coming spring- some to protest excessive testing, some to protest humiliating security policies, some to protests the elimination of arts and sports programs, some in solidarity with people protesting police violence in their own cities and neighborhoods. Young people who have had a taste of freedom, a taste of solidarity, and a taste of their collective power are not going to easily adapt to the scripted curricula and constant test prep they are being deluged with; with metal detectors in their schools; and with police being brought in to arrest students for minor disciplinary infractions.  To young people who have been in the streets  and brought the operations of whole cities to a standstill, compliant acceptance of policies which humiliate them bore them and stigmatize them may well be seen as intolerable.

   And if high school walkouts spread to the point where they make schools non functional and interfere with testing, they may do more to force a reconsideration of Test Drive Pedagogy and Common Core than all other protests combined

    The genie of youth activism is out of the bottle, and will not return any time soon

   And the result may be the first real break in the Test Machine that has grabbed control of our educational system and is busily squeezing the life out
of it for all concerned

It Only Takes a Spark- A Dallas Teacher's Response to Events In Ferguson

I went to Ferguson for the Weekend of Resistance in October of this year. While there I became entranced by the organizers. They were young, vibrant, charismatic, whip-smart, passionate, technologically savvy, fiercely determined, and incredibly organized. And I do mean organized. They linked everyone together through websites and text messages. There are many websites they have formed, but the main one is a person registers here, they will receive DAILY newsletters with updates. Additionally, everyone was told to text “hands up” to 90975. Through text messaging, individuals are updated with Breaking News or any changes in plans.
As someone who has spent their life studying racial justice, I started a Facebook group called Racial Unity which was to act as a forum for discussing race and racism. Because of this and a propensity to do so, I remained very in tune with current events. I also joined SURJ, Standing Up for Racial Justice, and was on an initial conference call with them. After indicating that I wanted to organize, I had plans to have a conference call with them to discuss how to begin organizing.
I had not yet been on my “organizing” conference call with SURJ, but, after the Eric Garner non-indictment announcement (the second in a couple of weeks), I was angry but felt resolved. Resolved in my knowledge that it was time to put my lifetime of racial justice study into action.
Knowing that the Ferguson organizers wanted people to gather at their local Department of Justice on the Friday following this announcement, I knew people needed to gather if for no other reason than to commiserate. I figured that other people, too, would be aware of the Ferguson organizers’ wishes and would probably automatically gather at the DOJ on Friday night, but I wanted to set it in stone and inform people of the exact plans.
That night I created a Facebook Event setting the rally for that Friday at 8:00 p.m. at the Dallas Department of Justice. I didn’t have any corporate sponsors or organizers to back me up, but I guess I didn’t realize I needed them. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world,” right? I knew I was ready and equipped and that it would work out. Immediately, people started messaging me making suggestions and asking if I needed help or if I had considered this or that. It was magical.
I posted the event on Facebook, Twitter, Ferguson Action, and the Ferguson tumblr. Other people volunteered to help me post it and share it everywhere, which they did. When the first person messaged me and asked me who I was going to have as speakers, my first thought was “speakers?” I’ve attended many rallies, but not all have had speakers; however, due to the occasion I determined that speakers were probably necessary. I said I didn’t know but that my partner, who is an expert on black history and was also a DJ in the past, could probably help. This was Tuesday night.
By Wednesday morning, a local pastor messaged me on Facebook and asked if he could speak. I asked him what he wanted to say, and he sent me some articles he had written. After reading them, I decided he would be a good fit for what I wanted the rally to look like.
Shortly after that, someone else messaged me with recommendations for speakers. He had three local pastors in mind, including the one I had already approved. Although I had no idea what the message SHOULD BE, I knew that I didn’t want to have speakers blaming the black community for these injustices through any “pull your pants up” speeches. I’m also agnostic so I really wasn’t sure about having three pastors as speakers.
During this time, I emailed SURJ SEVERAL times asking legal questions about where we would be allowed to stand, whether we needed permits, etc. They were very helpful and encouraging. Through them, I was able to talk to an experienced organizer in New York. I also drove by the DOJ to scope out the scene. Almost on cue, I saw that a small park was right across the street from the DOJ. I determined that, if it was a public park, we would gather there. It seemed ideal. I also made sure there was plenty of parking. In addition to metered parking, there was a paid parking lot on the other side of the Justice Center.
When I got home, I researched the park, found out that it was public, and edited my events to indicate that we would be gathering at the park. I also told them to bring signs and dress warmly as it was cold for Texas early in the week.
I initially said no to the other two pastors because I just didn’t want the rally to be a sermon, and I didn’t know what else to expect of pastors. This was my background with churches. However, the person who had initially recommended them just didn’t give up. He sent me some articles that each one had written and convinced me that they would be great fits as well. I gave him my approval and gave out my phone number to him and the pastors.
During this time, several different people asked me whether we would be marching. I initially said no because I didn’t want to run into complications with the police. Then people started suggesting small marches to me. I finally gave in to a small march to the City Hall and back. I again updated the events pages.
On the Friday morning of the march, another person I didn’t know contacted me and asked me to call him. He said he was an organizer who had been planning an event at the Dallas Police Department but that he wanted to combine events and be united. I agreed with him. Unity is essential to this movement. He also said that he wanted to take a long march to a large local interstate. I told him that wasn’t really what I had in mind, but he said he had regular rallies against violence and that he had marshals he would be bringing with him. He told me that he wanted to march TO the interstate but not ON the interstate. We agreed upon that. I told him the police needed to know about the march, and he said that the police were well aware of the event and that some police officers would accompany us on the march.
The day of the march I purchased a megaphone that was supposed to carry sound for ½ of a mile. I had called around about renting out a sound system the day before, but the cost and the timing were prohibitive.
When we arrived at the park on that Friday night, something else magical happened. The park had been decorated for a Christmas parade the next day so there were Christmas decorations and lights, and it looked beautiful! They also had stages out for, I assume, speakers for the upcoming parade; however, it seemed like divine intervention to me as it made an ideal place for speakers to stand. Police cars and police officers were aplenty, but they sat down and didn’t interfere during the rally.
The program ran for about an hour. People trickled in throughout the rally so the crowd just kept getting bigger. The speakers were vibrant and powerful. The audience was respectful and receptive. Several times during the rally, different speakers told the audience that we were going to be peaceful, we were not going to confront the police officers, and we were not going to get arrested. Members of the crowd murmured their approval.
After the rally we marched. The marshals and three police officers peacefully marched alongside us. An (over)abundance of police cars drove next to us the entire way. Throughout the march, we chanted. Many of the people knew the chants from previous marches, and those that didn’t either figured them out and joined in or marched along in silent solidarity. Altogether we had three or four megaphones which made the chanting easier and louder.
The most valuable rule about organizing that I learned is to be flexible and to listen to requests from other people. Really listen and consider their suggestions and requests. What I need to stress to you is that it all starts with an idea. Things have a way of falling into place after that.
I truly believe that the way this event seemed to organize itself was due to the power of the people. People are aching for something different. They’re yearning to fight against this unjust system. And they’re willing to do whatever it takes to change it. I hope the powers that be are listening because we’re ready and we’re coming.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

What Rudy Guiliani- And Most of the Media- Doesn't Understand About Today's Young Protesters:

In several much publicized media appearances, former New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani expressed his dismay at the huge protests against the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, arguing that Black and New Yorkers should be grateful for the aggressive police tactics he introduced, which he claimed
saved tens of thousands of lives in NY's Black and Latino neighborhoods. To justify his argument, he pointed out that the murder rate in NY City has declined from over 2,000 a year when he took office to a little more than 300 a year today. Why, he asked, are young protesters not moved by this dramatic drop in violence?
There are many things you can say about Mr Guiliani's comments, but one thing it reveals is how out of touch he is with experience of young people of
color in New York City, especially those growing up in the city's shrinking and rapidly gentrifying working class and immigrant neighborhoods.
First of all, these young people have no memory of the wave of violence that swept through New York City when the crack epidemic hit, beginning in the mid 1980's and continuing through the mid 1990's. Even among scholars, the question of whether aggressive policing, or community revulsion against crack did more to reduce the murder rate is a matter of debate, but most people in high school or college now have no memory of the crack years- except through the music of Biggie, Nas and JZ- so feel absolutely no sense of gratitude for the reduction in violence in the neighborhoods they are living in. Coming of age after the year 2,000, they did not experience the gun battles between rival crews outside their apartment buildings and schools, that their counterparts did ten years earlier.
But more importantly, their experience with police and law enforcement has been so stifling and intimidating and suffocating that it nullifies any statistical comparisons that might be made between the 90's and today. The combination of a huge expansion of the city's police force, and application of the "broken windows" theory of policing has left young people of color feeling subject to harassment and public humiliation in their neighborhoods, at their schools, and in their ventures into the city's shopping districts. All over New York City, for the last ten years, armies of police officers have roamed through city, stopping young men of color hundreds of thousands of times, allegedly in the search for guns and drugs, even though less than 5% of the stops find anything illegal. It is hard to find a young Black and Latino male from the Bronx , or Southeast Queens, who has not been "stopped and frisked" numerous times, a ritual that is frightening, humiliating and filled with a message that they are viewed as an object of fear by city officials. This can happen to them outside their apartment building or school, in the subway, or when they are shopping or going to play ball. The awareness of this possibility hovers over them like a bad dream
Worse yet, virtually all of the high schools they attend now have metal detectors, so going to school now involves the virtual equivalent to passing through airport security! After worrying about being searched by police going to school, they find themselves searched by police IN SCHOOL, a process made more likely because more and more schools now have students arrested for disciplinary issues that were once handled in house by school personnel, such as cursing out a teacher, refusing to remove a hat, or shoving another student.
What we are talking about here is something utterly unprecedented in the history of New York and perhaps American urban history- the militarization of entire neighborhoods so that young people of color feel vulnerable to search and seizure and physical abuse every time they step outside of their place of residence.
This smothering, stifling police presence is THEIR REALITY, something they deeply resent not only for the fear it inspires, but for the message it sends about what the rest of the city and the rest of the nation thinks of them
That is why they rise up in anger when someone unarmed who looks like them is killed by police. They see themselves in Eric Garner and Michael Brown.
And feel no gratitude toward the public officials who have given police license to control every inch of space in their communities- at their expense.
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Saturday, December 6, 2014

Who Is in Danger?

The bitter divisions within the nation over how to respond to the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner are not going to be easy to heal. For many people, this issue is not just political, it is deeply personal. And it stems from the following two realities:
1. Being a police officer is dangerous. Your work can place you in life threatening situations, some anticipated, some not. Every person who has a police officer in their family worries about them coming home safely. That is real. And those who know and love police officers empathize with the life and death decisions they have to make on the job and hope they make the one that allows them to live another day
2. Being a Black Male in the United States is dangerous. Many people fear you strictly on the basis of your appearance, and law enforcement officials in a wide variety of settings view you as a potential criminal and a threat. Your family members and loved ones understand this and hope you return safely from encounters with the police, which are more and more likely to happen given the vast expansion and militarization of police forces as a result of the War on Drugs and the War on Terror.
How to reconcile these two realities, is, to put it mildly, a challenge.
I will say this. People choose to be police officers, knowing the dangers. People do not choose to be Black Males. They are saddled with the dangers because of the accident of birth, and the weight of America's unhappy racial history.
I look forward to a time when policing will be less dangerous, and being a Black Male will not be dangerous at all
In the meantime, we are in in pain, and at one another's throats.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

New York State To Dramatically Increase Field Testing-- by Trevor Krebbec

State To Dramatically Increase Field Testing (SATIRE!)
by Trevor Krebbec
Based on what he called, "the tremendous popularity of our current field testing program," New York State Commissioner of Education John King announced plans to make these tests a weekly occurrence throughout New York State public schools next year.
"Many of our vendors felt it was unfair that only Pearson is able to test their products in the school setting. We recognized this as a valid complaint, and because equity is one of our top priorities, we came up with a plan that we think will better serve all the members of this important constituency"
Texas based Paragonic, Inc., a manufacturer of school furniture, will be the first participant. On the first Friday of the 2015/16 school year, all public school students in the state will spend 90 minutes testing Paragonic's new line of chairs, sitting down and standing up again repeatedly to evaluate the comfort, weight, and ease of movement of the chairs. Stressing how much NYSED (the New York State Education Department) cares about special ed students, Commissioner King added that students with test modifications will be given extra time, up to 3 hours of sitting down and standing up.
Parent groups have already announced plans to opt-out of these added field tests, but Commissioner King was adamant. "Why would you deny your child the opportunity to be involved in their choice of seating? I think it shows that parents who will allow their children to stand and stare for 90 minutes while other students at least get to sit down for part of the time... well, I guess they just don't care about their kids."
Teacher representatives disputed King's claim that field tests are popular, but King stood his ground. "Some are claiming that we only spoke to executives at Pearson, but this is completely untrue. We spoke to middle managers, sales reps, people in accounting, and even administrative assistants. None of them oppose field testing. If anything, most felt we weren't doing enough." Responding to further complaints that NYSED's actions run counter to the opinions of educators, King said, "we conducted a survey of every superintendent who has applied for a position at NYSED, and they were 100% in favor of our plans for testing - not to mention the Common Core, APPR, literally everything."
Deputy Education Commissioner Ken Wagner acknowledged that there have been complaints, but he dismisses them, saying these people "have constantly criticized nearly everything the department has done in the last four years." In other words, as King explained, "We are very open to feedback, but it is NYSED policy not to accept complaints from people who complain. We want to hear from positive people, not naysayers. To put it another way, we know we're right, so anybody who says otherwise is, by definition, wrong."
Opponents of field testing may think they are looking out for the best interests of children, protecting them from unnecessary stress and having their instructional time needlessly wasted, but Wagner says these critics are just lazy and ignorant. "Rather than go through the difficult work, taking the time, to help people understand the need for field testing, sometimes it's easier to say 'I'm opting out.'"
After the chair test, subsequent field tests include Johnson & Johnson's "Band Aid" brand (all students will have different size bandages applied and ripped off their skin to test "ouchiness"), Elmer's glue (younger students will eat different types of paste to test for toxicity) and Epi-Pen (a single use needle used for treating severe allergic reactions).
Previously, Epi-Pens had only been used on students who were experiencing symptoms of reactions. But according to King, this is just too small of a sample. "This is really about what's best for all kids, and the only way we can know if these needles hurt too much - or not enough - whatever the case may be, is by testing them out on every single student."
Some districts have indicated that they will refuse to participate, but Mr. Wagner says that’s not acceptable. “If a particular community does not participate in field testing, it’s not like the need for field testing suddenly goes away. The burden just gets shifted to their neighbors.”
Public school advocates disagree, suggesting that, ideally, all districts would refuse. However, the commissioner counters, this would be even worse, as the burden would then be pushed onto corporations. "Corporations exist to make a profit. It's that simple. If we don't allow them to test out their products on our students, it will cut into their bottom line, and that hardly seems fair."
New York Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch agreed. "As John has said, it's all about equity. Corporate profits in this country are at an all time high and yet some firms are seeing margins that are barely out of the single digits. Have you ever been in the boardroom of a corporation that failed to meet its quarterly projections? Well I have, and its a sad, sad, sight - one that I'd like never to see again."
"Some point out that our mission is to serve students, but students are people and so are corporations. And while students are only with us for 12 years or so, corporations can last forever and we have to take that into account."
Asked if this new policy contradicts his prior statements regarding the need to limit testing, the Commissioner insisted it did not. “Field testing isn’t testing. When you put a modifier in front of a word, it becomes a new thing. We can do even more. Some of our corporate friends have suggested “pre-field-testing,” “quasi-field testing,” even “enhanced field testing techniques,” really creative stuff. You can see why we’re so interested in allowing corporations full access to our public schools. As I see it there are still over a hundred days on which students aren’t taking tests. This is only the beginning,” Mr. King said. “Only the beginning.”
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There Are No "Outside Agitators!" Young People Are Leading Themselves!

Anyone who thinks the current protests against the deaths of Michael Brown and Evan Garner are being orchestrated from above by figures like Al Sharpton has not spent time speaking with my students. The feelings of alienation and despair and rage they are conveying are coming from a place deep inside them. They are the ones who feel trapped. They are the ones who feel profiled. They are the ones who feel in danger. They are the ones who feel the American Dream is escaping their grasp. Police issues are one portion of a grim scenario that is unfolding in front of them when they consider their future in a sociey where they will be leaving school burdened with debt, where fewer and fewer jobs provide decent incomes, where more and more wealth and power is consolidating in a few hands. They have little use for Al Sharpton. They have little use for Barack Obama. They are becoming their own leaders. Underestimate them at your perilO

Thursday, November 27, 2014

In Defense of "Thugs"

I am not here to demonize Darren Wilson. I have many former students, and people I coached who are police officers and when tragedies like this happen, I prefer to focus on how police are being deployed, trained and instructed to perform rather than an individual officer's actions.

However, I am beyond ENRAGED by the campaign of demonization directed at Michael Brown. This so-called "thug" was no different from hundreds of thousands of young men playing high school and college football, no different from scores of young men I coached, and not much different from what I was like at his age. The chances were excellent, given his family and his future college plans, that he would lead a productive life, like millions of other so called "thugs" before him. Like my players. Like my students. Like me

.His death was an unspeakable tragedy. A waste of talent and potential. And a terrible blow to the prospects of unity and understanding in our divided nation.

Until we learn to love and protect our Michael Browns, we are descending into a very deep hole, one our history has prepared for us, but
from which we still have time to escape.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Why Young People Are Taking to The Streets Following the Grand Jury Decision- And Not Only in Ferguson

The response to the Grand Jury decision in Ferguson is going to be a referendum- in the streets and on social media- on how young people, especially young people of color, view their lives and opportunities in an increasingly hierarchical and racially polarized society and on what role police play in maintaining that hierarchy. If they are taking to the streets in rage, it is because they don't see what happened in Ferguson as an isolated incident, but as something which resonates because of their own experience with police, school officials, and other symbols of authority in American society. It is also a telling commentary on what they think about about their own prospects for a secure future in a society where wages are stagnant and college is increasingly out of reach. Make no mistake about it- the police are a symbol of something far larger. The huge power invested in them, the latitude given police officers to use deadly force and the militarization of police in communities large and small, is a refection of what the public expects them to do, For a young person of color and perhaps for any young person who feels marginalized and trapped, the message is clear- they are a National Security Threat and their lives are expendable.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Brian Crowell's Critique of the Badass Teachers Association

How Badass Teachers (BATS) Lost Their Soul;
A Critique By Brian Crowell

My name is Brian Crowell. I am former member of The Research Team of The National Badass Teachers Organization. I am one of the organizing members of the new Badass Teachers of Color Organization. This new organization was founded by 14 members including co founder of BATS, Professor Mark Naison of Fordham University. This critique will be a technical critique of how the policies of BATS is inconsistent with its creation and how its response to the dismal election results forced a split within the organization of BATS. This analysis is not meant for any personal attacks but rather to show a direct conflict in policy prescriptions for current problems facing labor. I will not discuss non progressive views of certain members of BATS, as I think that will dissuade from the current crisis facing American Labor.

Critique 1. The National BATS Organization has no interest in restoring the true left and progressive roots of Labor. When presented with a resolution to restore FDR’s Second Bill of Rights as a primary platform of policy, the resolution was killed in the National BATS
Leadership. Even though the resolution was very popular, and had much input from members of BAT leadership, the Leadership of BATS didn’t “want to offend NEA or AFT” by presenting them with the resolution. Given the election results and the difficult terrain for labor going forward I believe a return to the spirit of FDR is what”s needed to reignite labor. Some in BATS are comfortable with “capitulation” as a political strategy. (See resolution in Appendix 1 below)

Further analysis. The economic condition of many citizens in the United States is beyond dismal. 1 in 30 children in America are homeless while the stock market is at an all time high. Student Loan Debt is at an all time high. Wages have been stagnate for the better part of 2 generations. (See Appendix 2 below) All of these facts have happened under the watchful eye of the unions. African American Veteran Teachers, and teachers as a whole are being forced out of the profession, with many due process rights being stripped away. Logic would suggest that the prescription to address this war on the 99% is the direct mobilization of labor to challenge these problems. However, the BAT Leadership doesn’t want to “offend” the existing leadership of the union community. Therefore, we indeed have a philosophical difference on policy.

Critique 2.

Whether its known or not the National NEA and AFT Leadership have a direct relationship with Wall St. This relationship manifests itself in the form of union sponsored credit cards and insurance company products. Let me be clear, I am not opposed to unions making money. What I am opposed to is the high interest on revolving debt and the direct relationship to the corrupt financial institutions who ran our economy into the ground. The 700 billion dollar TARP bailout was the largest example of welfare for financial institutions in the history of America. (See Matt Taibbi;

At minimum the “usury relationship” between wall st. and unions should be reconciled via a lower interest rate for members on revolving debt. (See Appendix 3 below). Again how can we as labor get bank reform, (Glass Steagall) if we don’t address the conflicts of interest in our own unions? Again this is a philosophical difference in policy that I would like to highlight.

To conclude, it is clear under the current trajectory that unless a major change in policy in the union leadership is adapted, labor and the middle class will continue to be diminished. Teachers don’t feel enthusiastic about giving their paychecks to unions and be told to feel good about getting steamrolled in elections. Elections have consequences for better or worse. The philosophy of Badass Teachers of Color seeks to harken back to the principles of old labor and apply them to modern difficulties. To pretend that the status quo is above reproach, and fear of offending existing leadership is no path to prosperity for labor.

Brian Crowell

Appendix 1: Resolution;

A Resolution
In light of the NeoLiberal Economic Policies that openly attack the poor and middle class, The American Federation of Teachers has formally resolved the following and ask The American Federation of Teachers to support the following:
We demand that the American Federation of Teachers adopt the following policies, taken in the spirit of President Franklin Roosevelt’s Economic Bill of Rights:
We demand the right to:
Employment, with a living wage
Food, clothing and leisure
Farmers rights to a fair income
Freedom from unfair competition and monopolies
Medical care
Social security
Consistent with President Franklin Roosevelt’s 2nd Bill of rights, and in the light of current issues facing the nation’s teachers, we also demand the following of our unions and associations:
We Demand that AFT must fight to defend veteran teachers from being forced out of their jobs by administrative harassment.
We Demand that AFT must fight to dramatically increase the number of teachers of color in our classrooms.
We Demand that AFT must stand up as strongly to denounce Democratic politicians who attack teachers and public education as Republican Ones.
We Demand that AFT actively support Constitutional Protections for Migrant and and Documented workers and children.
We Demand that AFT actively organize to unionize retail workers, fast food workers, childcare workers, domestic workers, home care and hospice workers, and to advocate for these workers a living wage.
Consistent with The New Deal Legislation of the 1930’s we Demand that AFT advocate for WPA/TVA work and employment programs to alleviate homelessness and poverty.
We Demand that NEA actively actively engage policy makers to enforce Constitutional Protections for LGBT Citizens.
We Demand that AFT actively pursue policies that protect public education from Unfair Competition from Charter Schools.
We Demand that AFT actively pursue policies that promote Equal Equality and Equal Pay For Women; without compromise.
Consistent with Farming Legislation of the 1930’s, We Demand that AFT pursue policies to promote small and medium size farming in lieu of large agribusiness farming.
Consistent with The Hill Burton Act of 1946, We Demand that AFT pursue policies to fully enact a single payer health care system.
Therefore, be it resolved that BATS vote and stipulate to the above mentioned language. Effective immediately, the terms and goals of this resolution will become codified policies of AFT.

Approved by AFT Executive Committee _________________________________

Appendix 2:

Appendix 2B:

Appendix 2C:

Appendix 2D:

Appendix 2E:

Appendix 3:

Appendix 3B:

Appendix 3C:

Sunday, November 23, 2014

When Teachers Drop the Ball on Uncontrolled Testing: A Guest Post by Daniel Hornberger

Due to an administrative error at the high school where I teach, a large group of students fell through the cracks and were not given the state-mandated tests. When the state’s idiotic State Performance Profile was released two weeks ago, the school’s number had dropped significantly...due to the above “problem.” So when the high school principal addressed the faculty, he explained that, yes, the number did drop, and, yes, it was due to miscommunication among the outgoing and incoming administration. He closed by saying this wouldn’t happen again and we would all need to work together to ensure that number would increase.
When he finished his report, I walked to the front of the LGI and, armed with a simple PowerPoint, explained to the entire faculty exactly how the SPP is calculated: 90% of the score comes from test data...including SAT participation. I asked the staff, “Can anyone tell me why that makes sense?” A few shook their heads. When I showed them that the final 10% considers graduation rate, attendance rate, and PSAT participation, I anticipated they’d quickly become as angry as I was. But I was wrong. They simply stared at me as if I was speaking a foreign language. I tried to make them understand that it makes no sense at all to include scores from tests created by the College Board let alone the PSSA tests, which are highly invalid, ineffective, and damaging to kids.
One colleague said, “But the SPP is still out there and realtors use it on Zillow when they sell homes.”
I responded, “So we’re using kids’ test scores to establish real estate value?”
Someone diverted the discussion into complaining about our district’s lack of strong leadership. The principal and assistant principal didn’t comment because they had departed before I even began. I leaned against a table and listened as they attempted to deflect all of the district’s ills onto the administration. One quote in particular made me laugh. A colleague said, “Well, we probably shouldn’t complain about our current administrators. If they leave, we have no idea who we’ll get.”
That vapid remark almost sparked my departure, but another colleague asked, “Aren’t our evaluations and salaries based on these scores?”
I wanted to yell, “OUR SALARIES ARE DETERMINED BY THE COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AGREEMENT! AND IF WE REFUSE TO ADMINISTER THE TESTS, THEN THEY CAN’T USE THE DATA IN OUR EVALUATIONS!” At that precise moment, I thought of something Dr. Mark Naison said to me: “Pennsylvania won’t take the lead. It’ll be New York, New Jersey or even California who will. People in Pennsylvania tend to wait until other states make the big decisions.”
Most of my colleagues simply don’t care. It’s easier to follow orders. It’s easier to nod in agreement with whatever the administration says. It’s easier to complain about the lousy free breakfast during Education Week or not having enough “Wear Blue Jeans Days."
I simply shook my head and said, “Look, if you’re okay perpetuating something that harms kids in order to pad your own wallets, that’s on you.” I picked up my laptop and walked out. I’m disgusted and disillusioned. Dr. Naison hit the nail on the head.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

What We Lose When We Replace Public Schools With Charter Schools

Among most frightening things about the replacement of public schools with charter schools in low and moderate income communities are the removal of schools from public scrutiny, the institutionalization of authoritarian school management, and the suppression of parent, teacher and student voices
Our public schools, with all their faults, were places where the public had input, whether it was by legislators, school boards, parents, or community leaders. They were public institutions in the best sense of the world, where community meetings were held, where programs open to the community were often sponsored and where voting took place during elections for public office. In contrast, all too many charter schools see the communities they are located in as toxic and seek to insulate the children and families in them from their surroundings. They run their schools as heroic outposts of civilization and progress in a grim social landscape, limiting access to their buildings to those enrolled in the school, and seeing the communities cultural traditions as more a threat than an asset to their efforts to march students to "college and career readiness."
Along with that approach comes a top down management style where high paid school CEO's have far more power than public school principals to intimidate staff, discipline students, fire teachers and push out students and families. It is not uncommon for charter schools to have enormous teacher turnover, high rates of student expulsion, and disciplinary policies which would not be tolerated in a public school. Fear of the school CEO shapes school culture in a way that leave teachers parents and students little recourse, since charter schools are freed from many of the regulations that public schools operate under.
What we are seeing, unfortunately, is that political officials, in a desperate effort to produce better results on test scores in low and moderate income communities, are willing to sacrifice democratic traditions, community input, and due process for teachers and students.
That is a fearsome price to pay for "global economic competitiveness" and "the production of a 21st Century workforce" goals which our public officials and education leaders claim they are pursuing.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Attacks on Test Refusers- Rising Tuition at Public Colleges- The Dual Face of our Education Crisis

Two things few people connect show the depth of the crisis we face-

1. The systematic attempt, across the nation, to deny parents the right of Test Refusal or Opting Out, saying that one of the requirements of enrollment in public schools is taking all tests those schools give and having the data put in a national data base, The number of states doing this simultaneously cannot be accidental. It reminds me very much of the eviction of the Occupy Protests within weeks of one another, something else which was coordinated nationally.  It also been accompanied by instructions to teachers to NOT discuss the politics of testing with parents.

2. The rise in tuition at public colleges, especially in flagship state universities, putting them beyond the reach of most middle class families in a time of income stagnation and decline. This is happening in California, Wisconsin, many other places,

Taken in tandem, this represents an attack on low and moderate income America's, the bulwark of our public schools, denying their rights and opportunities in the sphere of education from pre-K through higher education.
It does not speak well of the kind of country we are becoming

How PAR (Peer Assistance And Review) Has Become a Vehicle for Abusing Teachers- Written by a Former PAR Coach

Take it from a former PAR Coach. PAR is a scam. 
We were taught how to do backwards mapping- this is when we are told by administration what the candidate's score will be, and then we fill in the blanks and justify the score we give them.The candidate has no control over what score he or she will get. We have absolutely been given a score to give them. Nothing they do or don't do will change that.

We are also taught Gas-lighting Techniques to break the candidate down and get them to resign without finishing the PAR process or holding the district and union to task.The technique of Gas-lightings is used to completely break down the candidate and confuse the candidate. As PAR coaches are instructed to be vague, so the candidate doesn't really know what is expected. We were told never to model and we given many conversation workshops on how to answer questions without answering questions.We were given more money and promised advancement if we helped them fail out candidates. It was scary and I only did it one year.I'm always haunted by my involvement in PAR. Everyone should know the signs that you are being Gas-lighted
Here are the signs you are being Gas-lighted :
1. You are constantly second-guessing yourself
2. You ask yourself, "Am I too sensitive?" a dozen times a day.
3. You often feel confused and even crazy at work.
4. You're always apologizing to your boss/PAR coach
5. You can't understand why, with so many apparently good things in your life, you aren't happier.
6. You frequently make excuses for your employer/PAR coaches behavior to friends and family.
7. You find yourself withholding information from friends and family so you don't have to explain or make excuses.
8. You know something is terribly wrong, but you can never quite express what it is, even to yourself. This is accomplished through the PAR coach being vague and constantly moving the target of accomplishment - you can't hit it, cause it is purposely being moved.
9. You start lying to avoid the put downs and reality twists. 
10. You have trouble making simple decisions.**** This is major. When you are in PAR, you are so broken down, you won't make simple decisions without extreme self doubt.
11. You have the sense that you used to be a very different person - more confident, more fun-loving, more relaxed.
12. You feel hopeless and joyless.
13. You feel as though you can't do anything right. Again, this was done deliberately by the PAR program.
14. You wonder if you are a "good enough" employee.
15. You find yourself withholding information from friends and family so you don't have to explain or make excuses.

Remember your employer can be an abuser. PAR coaches are specially trained to carry this out in a legal manner. PAR coaches learn how to Gas-light in stages, but they do move fast. 
PAR Coaches wil never help you as a teacher and they are not sent to do that. 

I'm so ashamed of my year as a PAR Coach. When I think of it, I can hardly live with myself. I hope that by educating others, I can begin to pay it forward a little. 

Namaste and Be Well.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Great NY Principal Accuses Chancellor Tisch of Hypocrisy on Charter Schools

Dear Regent Tisch,

I found your latest comments about expanding charter schools to be not only disgraceful but hypocritical.

Unlike you and your crowd,   my sons did attend their local public schools and graduated with High School diplomas from their local,  traditional PUBLIC schools.  To my knowledge your own children never attended public schools. I do not believe you ever even worked in public education either.  You are quoted in  today's Daily News as stating your desire to  "expand charter schools again", despite the fact that there are over 100 vacancies upstate and 28 remaining in NYC.  Enough is enough!

I have watched the rich and powerful, like yourself, profit off of the destruction of public education for the past twenty years.  This movement went into overdrive under the administration of your dear friend "Michael" and pal Joel Klein who I read in a  NY Times article that you not only know but also share Passover supper and go on double dates with.  How quaint, cozy and intimate, yet terribly sad for public education.  I even remember a news article quoting you before Bloomberg's immoral overturning of term limits as saying "I absolutely support Mayoral Control as long as  Michael is in charge".  No sense of impropriety there at all!  The private sector, hedge funds and billionaires all  profited handsomely under these policies and our traditional public schools have suffered greatly as a result.  Just look at the ARIS debacle and the 95 million dollars  that were taken out of public education to pay for lawyers, data consultants, computer contracts, etc.. at the expense of classroom teachers and direct services to children.  Your pal Joel is reported in yesterday's papers to have been paid to manage this project through his new employer Amplify under fellow billionaire Rupert Murdoch.

None of the unqualified folks that you consistently  helped obtain waivers  to run the system over the past dozen years  (David Steiner, Cathy Black, Dennis Walcott, Harold Levy or Joel Klein) ever possessed the required certification to hold their positions. You seem to be running an affirmative action program for the rich and unqualified.  You  have used your position to allow  patronage resulting in the rich and the  friends of the rich to run roughshod over our schools for far too long.  This is all too much.   I  have done some research , forgive me if any of my findings are inaccurate, but I believe that none of you sent your children to a public school nor ever  worked in a public school (Joel's 6 month attempt to get out of the draft not included) yet you all declare yourselves experts in "Education Policy".   That is akin to those armchair generals  Washington is full of who are always sending our soldiers off to war. They  want to work in Defense and Military "Policy" but have done everything possible to avoid ever having to pick up  a weapon to defend their nation.

Bloomberg threw a hissy fit when the prior charter school cap was lifted only two years ago, as part of the State's Race to the Top Application. He was upset that there was a "Saturation Clause" placed in the legislation.  Such a clause would have protected areas like my own in Bushwick-Williamsburg where Charters are out of control despite lack of demand. This is seen by our Community Education Council for what it is,  a land grab! The C.E.C. has even passed resolutions calling for a moratorium on charter schools in our Community School District.  The Saturation Clause was  improperly removed and our community, like Harlem is now overrun with these unwanted entities.    Charter schools were designed to be innovative lab sites, NOT the alternative school system that the rich want to see flourish  in order to cut their tax bills due to the lack of job stability, unions and pension costs.  If you want more charter schools open them in your own zip code. Our C.E.C.  has said 'NO". You need to respect parent voice.

Why don't you call it a day?  Step aside and let us have a new regent take over who has actually worked in and understands PUBLIC education (Dr. Lester Young, Dr. Betty Rosa or Dr. Kathleen Cashin are a few possibilities).  Someone not rich, not from nor connected to the upper east side would be a  breath of fresh air.    The policies you and your friends have let  loose upon our schools  are destructive and wrong.   The insane charter policies that you, the Governor and  Dean Skelos push on NYC would never fly in the suburbs which is why there are over 100 charter spots open upstate.  The cap in NYC still has not been reached but you and your rich friends are salivating over a chance to open even more. Shame on you.  You were all for mayoral Control when your rich pal was in charge but now that a populist who actually sends his children to public schools is in charge you start putting roadblocks in his way.  The people of NYC have spoken -  loudly and clearly. They do not want any more micromanagement from your crowd.  Let Mayor de Blasio do his job and stop  trying to control him through the back door from Albany. Mayoral Control is a policy and though I personally disagree with it, it should not be implemented as "good for my friend Michael" and "bad if I don't like Mayor de Blasio's policies". Once again you show a hypocrisy in that you supported one policy for your pal and another for our new mayor.

I know you rarely, if ever, receive letters like this from educators currently employed in public education. That is only because of the fear that taking a stance against you and these wrong headed policies will result in professional retribution.   I have seen enough and know what I am up against:  you and your very powerful friends.  That said, I must speak truth to power as I watch my community continue to be decimated by your

destructive agenda. I pray for a better day in PUBLIC education, free from the destructive policies of billionaire "philanthropists", do-gooders and policy wonks where communities and the mayor they elected are free to run their schools.

Brian De Vale


29 Year Veteran PUBLIC School Educator


P.S. 257 /


Council of Supervisors and Administrators

Community School District #14

60 Cook Street

Brooklyn, NY 11206