Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Thorny Path of the Non-compliant Xeriscapist (in San Antonio, Texas)

It’s been almost 25 years of xeriscapery, though passive at first…lazily letting whatever would grow flourish. I had finally stopped paying rent and moved into my own little house with plenty of yard space in front and back.  I took pictures of the lush growth in my enclosed back yard. My green reverie was soon desiccated -- I received a citation from the city! My verdant grasses and tall plants were in violation of the city code. If I didn’t comply within a certain time limit there would be a hefty fine to pay.
For several years I would wait for the notice and then retreat over the city code line that my natural vegetation had again criminally crossed and trim the luscious growths back to a code-acceptable height and width.
It seemed that someone in my neighborhood didn’t like my yard style and would regularly make complaints. I don’t think there is enough staff to patrol all our streets in search of weedophiles (it would be runcophile if I used the Latin word or hierbaphile if I used the Spanish) – there had to be some self-appointed monitors who would call in the official weed-killers.
About ten years ago I decided to become an active xeriscapist. I researched catalogues and other online sources and found Wildseed Farms in Fredericksburg, Texas -- exactly what I was searching for: offering seed mixes for this region and also for special purposes, e.g., attracting butterflies. I bought seeds by the pound and randomly strewed them in my front yard.

I was getting mixed results but every year I would have more beautiful flowers that were natural to the region and needed very little care and watering. I am not a dedicated gardener – my hobbies lie elsewhere.
I continued getting periodic visits from our code compliance friends from the Development Services Department – Field Services Division – Code Enforcement Section of our venerable City of San Antonio.
One winter friends helped clear my front yard, turn the soil and plant about $200.00 of Texas native wildflowers. I had included a variety of sunflowers that grew to be huge golden borders. I was very new to all this so I had many smaller flowering plants that were hidden by the large sunflower plants.

After that I increased the varieties of seeds and was more organized where I scattered them. I made sure to cover with a bit of topsoil so that the birds wouldn’t have a feast at my expense.  I no longer planted the big sunflowers with the edible seeds: birds, bugs and ants just love them and I won’t use pesticides. The wild sunflowers, quite common to this region do quite well on our roadsides, empty lots and my front yard.
And still I would get the code-enforcer visits. One year I was actually at home (I usually got the message from a form tacked to my front door). I tried dialoguing with the lady about my garden which was in full bloom that early summer day. She was adamant that I had to chop every green thing down to a height of one foot regardless of what the plant was because everything in my front yard was considered a weed or noxious plant.
I contacted my city council office and talked to some young intern who seemed perplexed by my situation. I emailed pictures of my yard and a kind civil note. (Which took some effort because diplomacy is not my strong suit.) A week later I got a note from a supervisor from the city department that has taken such an interest in my yard. He had driven by and saw the flowers and told me to chop them down when the yard was finally dry and flowerless.

The last two years had been uneventful until I got a Notice of Violation tacked to my door on this June 25, 2014.

This year I planted my seeds very late and so everything didn’t start coming up until late April. It wasn’t until late May and early June that I had a decent variety of flowers but no Bluebonnets and few Indian Blankets. Right now, aided by some rainy days, there’s a color riot dominated by the Zinnias and wild sunflowers (not the edible kind). A thick growth of a plant with a tiny yellow flower (a weed I didn’t plant) covered some sections of the yard and actually choked out some of my seeds. I assumed that was the noxious plant referred to. I had put fertilizer in the soil because I was planting so late and so I have a lush growth, mostly of plants I like and want.
What I didn’t do was trim the ‘weeds’ (plants I didn’t want) because I didn’t want to cut the flowers that are now blooming profusely.  

Several years ago I started encouraging plants that die in the winter but become nice bushes in the spring and that had just appeared in my yard with no formal invitation or planting.

One is a reed-like plant that spreads easily and blooms with pleasant (to me) wheat-like spikes. Another is a dark green leafy plant with daily purple blossoms that die in the evening. The reed-like plant, located at the intersection of the public sidewalk and the one leading to my front door, this year is huge! I love it but I think it is one of the main code-criminals. We trimmed it and left a few tall spikes.

So -- We went out there and trimmed more of the edges (from 1 foot wide to 2). We lawn-mowered through some of the thicker sections of the unwanted plants but there were too many floral casualties with that approach.  Because the soil was moist from a recent shower I was able to pull out almost each unwanted plant (weed to the City of San Antonio). 
I hope I made my horticultural design intentions clear: the plants that remain are “… cultivated flowers and gardens, or native grasses, perennials and annual plants installed as part of a landscaping design.” 

Maybe I should give the whole subsection as given in the
San Antonio Property Maintenance Code – Notice of Violation – In Person/Posted.

302.4 Weeds All improved premises and exterior property shall be maintained free from weed or plant growth in excess of 12 inches in height. All noxious weeds shall be prohibited. Weeds shall be defined as all grasses, annual plants and vegetation, other than trees and shrubs provided; however this term shall not include cultivated flowers and gardens, or native grasses, perennials and annual plants installed as part of a landscaping design.

I’m old enough to remember my youthful appreciation of Lady Bird Johnson’s campaign for the bountiful natural variety of things that grow natively to Texas.  I fully induct myself in that horticultural order, culture and practice.

Maybe I have neighbors with time to spare and go around as amateur code-enforcement cops. I assume their concern is ‘property value’ and what is deemed proper for a middle-class neighborhood. They seem to prefer the ugly, un-ecological water-gorging regularly-trimmed lawns -- they need to see an order and design that fits within very narrow perimeters.  Some of my neighbors were stopped from erecting some really elegant iron fences. We are now a historical area and the codes are even stricter. (Forget that many ugly cyclone fences were left in place and grandfathered when the new codes were established.)

The only thorns along my xeriscaped floral path are the San Antonio Property Maintenance Codes! But in the Lady Bird Johnson tradition I will continue to let my Texas wildflowers grow.

The Devil Never Sleeps EI Diablo Nunca Duerme So Play On! By Rodolfo F. Acuña

The Devil Never Sleeps EI Diablo Nunca Duerme So Play On! By Rodolfo F. Acuña B
ugsy: The devil never sleeps, so I'll sleep when I die
When I lay down I feel him watchin',
I'll sleep when I die
The devil never sleeps, so I'll sleep when I die
When I lay down I feel him watchin',
I'll sleep when I die

The 1968 Olympics in Mexico City left an indelible impression on me. When John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised their fist in the black power salute it changed me and others view of history. It seemed as if it was the perfect eulogy to the martyrs of the Tlatelolco massacre who on the night of October 2, 1968 the Mexican army in collusion with the United States killed an estimated 300. Carlos and Smith’s fists primarily paid tribute to the historic Civil Rights Movement but for many of us Tlatelolco was fresh on our memories. After this point sporting events took on a new meaning, and the old yay team seemed less important and hollowed. The black power salute took on broader meanings, and I looked behind the sports industry and its role as an opiate of the masses.

In recent years, events such as the Olympics and the World Cup have become irritants not so much because of the competition and the sport events but because of the reaction of the fans. It is as if Tlatelolco and Carlos and Smith’s fist had never happened. An editorial by Francisco Goldman this week titled “Fooling Mexican Fans” brought this to mind. Goldman quoted a SinEmbargo article that wrote, “Ready for your Clamato and Gatorade?” which he pointed out were common hangover remedies. SinEmbargo went on “In about three weeks, when you wake from your World Cup dreams, remember that when the soccer fest began, the country was on the verge of monumental decisions. If upon waking, you realize that the country’s energy reserves have been cheaply sold off or whatever else, don’t bother protesting because this is a chronicle foretold.”

The SinEmbargo editor pointed out that Mexican politicos were debating and passing laws “that could open Pemex, the nationalized oil company, to foreign investment, the Mexican Congress scheduled legislative sessions from June 10 to 23, dates precisely coinciding with you know what. Final passage might be pushed back, but it originally looked like it was supposed to happen on Monday, when Mexico plays Croatia to decide which country advances to the elimination rounds.” Goldman recounted that in 1998, also under the leadership of PRI the Mexican Congress passed a $67 billion rescue of Mexican banks, which like the U.S. bailout ten years later was paid by taxpayers. It happened on December 12, which as all good Mexicans know, is the Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe and the start the Christmas holiday season. Again on Dec. 12, 2003 PRI legislators teamed up with conservative allies to “fast track” the constitutional assault and the privatization of Pemex that is being accomplished as we read.

The dictator Porfirio Díaz once said “Pobre México tan lejos de Díos y tan cerca a los estados unidos” (Poor Mexico so far away from God and so close to the United States). The truth be told, what he said about the devil to the north has become a reality in the guise of the police, corrupt functionaries, greedy elites and university administrators within Mexico. There is nothing wrong with talking about soccer teams as long as they don’t encourage a national amnesia or hide the fact that “the devil never sleeps.” The victories of the Mexican team should be celebrated but not hide the memories of the Tlatelolco massacre or the raising of the black power fists that happened in 1968 while others were celebrating. We should not need Clamato and Gatorade to wake up to what is left behind.

The devil takes the form of the greedy Mexican capitalists who will benefit from the so-called reforms, and the opiate of the World Cup. They benefit from the economic integration brought about by trade treaties and other accords that accelerate the process of economic modernization. Remember free trade is not fair trade. However, we delude ourselves into thinking that the devil is not at work in our country. One of my favorite people recently posted on Facebook that he would root for the American team because it would be unpatriotic to root against the U.S. This was while flying a picture of Zapata. I don’t say this to criticize him but I only say that he should stay awake and remember that the devil never sleeps.

A commentator on Goldman’s piece wrote: “How is the situation you describe in Mexico any different than what occurs in the US? Does anyone remember a debate on bills that 1) gave $15 billion to oil companies, 2) immunized gun companies against those horrible frivolous law-suits, 3) made it impossible for the CDC to conduct research on the health costs of gun violence, and 4) attempt to bankrupt the Postal Service; most passed in the middle of the night.” Of course, the devil is a fictional character who too many Americans believe exists. The devil was manufactured to keep us in line. Americans delude themselves into thinking that they are on the side of the angels. They are under the illusion that they are safe, and forget that the “devil never sleeps.” The saying is a metaphor for events and people we should beware of instead of “When I lay down I feel him watchin', I'll sleep when I die…”

Unfortunately, some never learn this lesson. I don’t remember how many times I have warned student activists and faculty to beware of vacations –Thanksgiving, Christmas, between semesters and the long hot summers especially. The devil in the form of administrators and the Trustees who divert our attention from pressing issues, and use then to lessen faculty governance. In this case, the devils are not the critics, but those who benefit -- administrators earning six figure salaries. They hide the fact that tuition is driven by their salaries and by the proliferation of administrators and their minions. Indeed, their teams are padded with assistants, most of who do not have doctorates and earn more than full professors. I live in dread of the summers because they are a time when faculty takeoff to conferences, vacations and indulge themselves watching events such as the world cup and debate who is better Lebrón or Kobe. They take on a devil-may-care attitude, which means that they seem relaxed and do not seem worried about the consequences of what is happening at the university or to their democracy.

  The game becomes all-consuming and they forget the “the martyrs of the Tlatelolco massacre who on the night of October 2, 1968 the Mexican army in collusion with the United States killed an estimated 300. Carlos and Smith’s fists paid tribute to the historic Civil Rights Movement but for many of us Tlatelolco was fresh on our memories

So Play On! I am awake knowing that “The devil never sleeps, so I'll sleep when I die.”

Monday, June 23, 2014

Witnessing a PTA Comunitario Meeting - Josie D. Cortez - Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA)

April 15, 2014 The instructions were clear: meet at Cesar Chavez Elementary School at 5:30 on Wednesday for the ARISE-Las Milpas PTA Comunitario meeting. I google-mapped the location and found it was only 10 minutes from my McAllen hotel. The drive took me through a number of twists and turns, starting with expensive neighborhoods surrounding the McAllen country club, then winding through more moderate and modest homes. In ten minutes, I had driven from the McAllen Independent School District to the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD. PSJA ISD has consistently been in the news for its extraordinary transformation from low-performing schools to a national model of Early College High Schools, among other accomplishments. What makes this even more extraordinary is what you can’t see on the map—the fact that these schools are in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, with traditionally underserved border communities and colonias, many lacking basic infrastructure. What is also not visible on the map is the abundance of hard-working families, their communities, and grassroots organizations that serve them. ARISE-Las Milpas is one such a grassroots community-based organization made up of women and men who dedicate their lives to lifting their communities. Arriving at the school by 5:15, I expected it to be what most schools look like at 5:15 on a Wednesday—quiet, with perhaps an administrator, a few school staff, and the custodians. I double-checked my watch—the time had to be wrong. At 5:15, the school was bustling with students, teachers, parents, and administrators. I met the principal, Mr. Roel Faz, who explained there was afterschool tutoring, and a number of extracurricular activities going on such as dance and chess clubs. Entering the cafeteria for the PTA Comunitario meeting were about 25 families, parents and little ones, some in strollers, some with their brothers and sisters, all representing their Las Milpas neighborhood. All interested in finding out more about their children’s school, and how they could support their children’s education. As a parent, I can’t remember how many PTA meetings I attended but I do remember “support” always took the form of fundraising; baking cookies and cupcakes, selling everything from chicks to cotton candy at the school fairs, and despite my keen interest in my child’s academic progress, academics was never part of the PTA meetings. My concerns and opinions about such matters were never welcomed. This PTA Comunitario meeting was different from anything I had experienced. While this was taking place at a school, this was clearly community-led. At 5:35, the PTA Comunitario president, Ms. Nasaria Garcia, asked IDRA’s Aurelio Montemayor if they should start the meeting. Aurelio (the “father” of the PTA Comunitario concept), quickly told her she should decide, not him. This was their meeting. He (and we from IDRA) were there to support them. Ms. Garcia took the microphone on the stage and confidently called the meeting to order. Another PTA Comunitario member, Ms. Esperanza Berrones, read the previous meeting’s minutes. Then the deputy superintendent was introduced. I had just met Mr. Garcia and both he and Principal Faz seemed quiet and unassuming, professional and welcoming. He began to speak in Spanish first mentioning that the superintendent, Dr. Daniel King, had planned on speaking to the families but like many parents juggling commitments and priorities, his daughter’s recital scheduled at the same time called him away. He asked his deputy superintendent, Mr. Narciso Garcia, if he would address the gathering. Mr. Garcia began speaking about his son, now 17 years old. As Mr. Garcia’s career choices took him to different schools, so did his son’s schooling. His son followed him to PSJA ISD when his father was an administrator, then on to a charter school where his father served as principal for two years, on to La Villa ISD as a superintendent, and back to PSJA ISD where his father became deputy superintendent. Mr. Garcia recalled the charter school experience, in particular, as a personally difficult one. Noticing his son was unhappy, bored, and despondent; he knew that he needed to make a change. He admitted what all parents hate to admit: that sometimes, parents make mistakes. The charter school had been just that—a mistake. He had believed the charter school would prepare his son for college and career. He told from an insider’s view what his experience had been. His son wasn’t being prepared for college, college courses weren’t even being offered. He found out that, unlike public schools, charter schools systematically cull their enrollment if students are “different.” If they don’t behave a certain way or keep their grades up or if they need special support such as English Learners often do, parents are told that “their child’s uniform doesn’t fit.” They are told to leave. That didn’t sit well with Mr. Garcia, particularly because he had been one of those “different” students years ago. He spoke of a photograph that he hangs in his office. It’s a picture of him standing with his parents, and younger brother. They are standing with some baskets of tomatoes they had picked as migrant workers. He keeps it in his Deputy Superintendent’s office and told us that “where you start isn’t where you have to end up.” With his voice breaking with emotion, he said that as parents, we have to say, “Aquí es donde se rompe la cadena, [Here is where the chain breaks].” And the way to break that chain is through education. You could hear a pin drop as he spoke. Even the youngest child was quiet, somehow sensing that something important was being said. Mr. Garcia composed himself, and went on to say that PSJA ISD educates all children, and their early college high schools give students a leg up on college hours. As an example, Mr. Garcia’s 17-year old son is a junior at PSJA now and has already earned about 72 college hours. At $600 a college credit hour, that has already saved his family about $43,000. When his son goes to college, he’ll begin as a junior. There were gasps heard, followed by applause. Mr. Garcia then asked Mr. Faz to share some highlights of Cesar Chavez Elementary. The principal spoke of the robotics class now being offered, along with the chess club that was headed to Corpus Christi for the regional competition, and how every child is supported with tutoring so they don’t fall behind. In the three years as principal, Cesar Chavez has improved in student academic achievement ratings, going from unacceptable to recognized status, and is aiming for more. Quoting his school’s namesake, Mr. Faz’ final words to the families were “Sí se puede.” As Mr. Garcia thanked the families and the PTA Comunitario, he left them with a profound and heartfelt commitment. He told everyone that while he had one son, and Dr. King had several children, in truth, they both had 32,000 children. They know that they are entrusted with all of PSJA’s children; what they want for their own children is what they want for all children. To cap off the meeting, the Cesar Chavez Dance Team took to the stage. About a dozen little girls and two (very brave and perhaps very wise) little boys danced into the hearts of everyone gathered. As the meeting drew to an end, Ms. Garcia asked for another round of applause for Mr. Garcia and Mr. Faz. People lined up to have their picture taken with them, thanking them for their words and actions. As we left the school building, I turned to see a picture of Cesar Chavez and thought he would be proud, Sí se puede.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Reflections on the 50th Anniversary of Freedom Summer - Why Teach for America and the Common Core are More Civil Wrongs than Civil Rights. Yohuru Williams & Marla Kilfoyle One of the more disturbing narratives employed by corporate education reformers, who support both Teach for America and the Common Core, is the claim that they are cast in the spirit of the Civil Rights Movement—specifically in the use of education as a tool to challenge economic and political inequality. The larger claim of the Common Core defenders is that it will close the achievement gap. Their rhetoric is that CCSS will increase “rigor” and make children “college and career ready.” The idea that a set of standards can erase child poverty, systemic racism that continues to exist in our educational system, and squash the rise of classist privilege is beyond absurd. To do this in the name of Civil Rights is insulting. Have the CCSS really leveled the playing field? Are they really doing what the corporate reformers say they will do? An examination of Kentucky, the first state to adopt the CCSS in 2010, clearly shows that CCSS is not addressing Civil Rights nor is it closing the achievement gap. In 2011, one year after Kentucky adopted the CCSS, the average reading scale score for Black students in the 4th grade was 210. In 2013 it fell to 204. In Texas, where CCSS is not implemented, Black students in the 4th grade in 2011 scored 210 (the same as those exposed to CC in Kentucky) and in 2013 that number fell one point to 209 (5 points above those exposed to CC in Kentucky). So, our question is; does it look like CC is closing the achievement gap? Why is it that children of color in Kentucky, who are exposed to CC, are scoring below a scaled reading score when compared to their counterparts, who are not exposed to the CCSS? Kentucky however, is merely the tip of the iceberg. In a May 2013 commencement speech at Brown University Teach for America founder Wendy Kopp admitted another of the major problems associated with TFA as a remedy to inequality. “It turns out,” she pointedly acknowledged, “it's hard to recruit and select a diverse corps of individuals who are ready to teach in our neediest schools. It's hard to provide them with the training and ongoing support necessary so they don't just survive but thrive with their students. It's hard to ensure their experience does not disillusion but empowers them to be lifelong leaders for change.” Yes, Wendy it is hard and the corps individuals you place in our neediest schools are not trained sufficiently to be there. They don’t stay or live in the communities they teach, they often replace teachers of color who have been fired, and as a result don’t make themselves agents of change in the neighborhoods in which they teach. It is widely known that Teach for America corps members sign on for a 2 year commitment. Julian Vasquez Heilig and Su Jin Jez note a study done by Miner in “Teach for America: A Return to the Evidence” (2014) that 16.6% teach beyond their 2 year commitment. In their training, Heilig and Jez write, Teach for America corps members report that 6 pages of an 800 page training manual is spent on how to teach English Language Learners. Finally, Heilig and Jez note, that Barnett Barry, CEO and founder of the Center for Teaching Quality, states, “Teach for America gets their recruits ready for a sprint and not a 10K. They don’t make long term commitments to teaching and it is viewed as a stop-over before graduate school and a career.” Why is it that our neediest communities are the recipients of Teach for America corps members? Why are they not entitled to a highly trained teacher that will commit to their children, their school, and their community? Although the claim that CC and Teach for America will close the achievement gap is dubious, it has gained traction, which necessitates a clear refutation. This year, for example marks the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer the massive voter education project in the South that substantially contributed to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. As we pause to reflect on the importance of this Civil Rights Movement milestone, we should also be aware that Freedom Summer has more to teach us especially in understanding what Civil Rights activists privileged as the driving force behind education-community building. A central feature of the Freedom Summer campaign was the creation of Freedom Schools. In their wonderfully accessible, book Lessons from Freedom Summer: Ordinary People Building Extraordinary Movements (2008) on Freedom Schools and Freedom Summer authors Sylvia Braselmann, Linda Reid Gold, and Kathy Emery reproduce many of the documents associated with the original Freedom Schools as well as the five principles that drove their creation and curriculum. In list form, the strong parallels with the core ideas expressed by BATS are more than apparent. 1. The school is an agent of social change. 2. Students must know their own history. 3. The curriculum should be linked to the student’s experience. 4. Questions should be open-ended. 5. Developing academic skills is crucial. They also expose as false education reforms unconvincing claim to the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement. There is simply no honest way to compare a program that denigrates and disempowers young people to one that help lay the basis for one of the greatest social revolutions in the history of the world. The curriculum adopted for Freedom Summer embodied the blueprint for change. Civil Rights activists working in Mississippi recognized the importance of building a solid educational foundation that would allow members of the community to better understand and claim their place in a participatory democracy. To this end, the Council of Federated Organizations, an amalgamation of civil rights organizations working in the region, sponsored a conference in New York City in March of 1964 to draft a curriculum. Underwritten by the National Council of Churches, the conference brought together fifty-three delegates from broad range of backgrounds and disciplines, with the active participation and the blessing of teachers and teacher unions. The curriculum writers for the Freedom Schools esteemed student centered activities as part of a child’s learning. They also appreciated the importance of developing a curriculum that was culturally relevant. The intellectual growth and development of the whole child and not the achievement of arbitrary standards was the measure of student success. To that end, the curriculum writers of the Freedom Schools focused on civics and community service as both instructional tools and important components for social change. They devised 14 case studies utilizing real problems that allowed students to examine and debate political, social, and economic forces in society. In the process this helped students develop the skills and insights necessary for understanding their place and role in a participatory democracy. The Freedom School student manual, for instance, impressed that, “questioning is the path to enlightenment.” Reflecting on the legacy of the Freedom Schools almost a decade ago, one of the program’s chief architects, Civil Rights activists, Charlie Cobb recalled that what they found in the segregated Mississippi schools was, “a complete absence of academic freedom . . . geared to squash intellectual curiosity and different thinking.” This, of course, is very similar to how many teachers and education activists feel about the CCSS today. What we see with Common Core is not a leveling of the playing field but a narrow set of standards that are neither culturally relevant nor designed to interest and engage students in anything beyond performance on standardized tests. It is also important to note the ways in which teachers played a critical role during Freedom Summer. Like Teach for America, the vast majority of the “teachers” in the program were new to teaching. This is essentially, where the comparisons end, for unlike TFA these volunteers made no claim to being “teachers” nor harbored any pretense about having all the answers. The conference attendees played a big part in helping the recruits identify what role they would play by presenting a realistic portrait of the state of affairs in Mississippi. The curriculum drafting committee recognized that many of the “teachers” headed into makeshift classrooms with neither the educational background nor knowledge of Mississippi society and culture to transform either overnight. They also acknowledged that the Freedom School teacher’s actual instructional time with students was limited. They therefore focused on designing goals and strategies to allow the Freedom School to enhance rather than replace the curriculum—leveling the playing field by providing additional instruction and attention - not a one size fits all approach. Comprised of three parts, the final curriculum sought to enhance student instruction in three critical areas. First, the Citizenship component sought to use the student’s own experience to teach them about the value and importance of civics and civic engagement. Next, the Academic component sought to help students brush up on basic skills. Finally, a recreational competent sought to help students build healthy minds and bodies and included physical education, music and the arts. Like a three-legged stool, the various components sought to awaken students to the power of their own potential by encouraging them to see themselves as important parts of the larger community. They accomplished this through the promotion of five key values, which present day so-called corporate education reformers might be wise to study. These included helping students to see their schools as agents for social change, encouraging and providing the opportunity for students to learn their own history and tied the curriculum to the students’ own experience. They also placed a premium on the development of critical academic skills, not through rote memorization or standardized tests but open-ended questions to encourage critical thinking and personal reflection. During discussions regarding this aspect of the schools, the subgroup charged with drafting this portion of the curriculum actually noted how “traditional evaluation and testing methods were as oppressive as traditional teaching methods” because “both caused fear, submissiveness and loss of self-respect among students.” This, of course, is a mantra more familiar to BATS than to TFA supporting corporate education reformers. BATS do not seek to co-opt the history or legacy of the Civil Rights Movement. The association however is well aware of the importance of this history and its connection to our present struggle to ensure educational models that uplift communities by putting people before profits, and an education of the whole person over the dubious data culled from standardized tests—driven not by a desire to build communities but to further segment them. For this reason, BATS will gather in Washington this July 28, not simply to recreate the victories of the past, but contest for a new future, devoid of the harmful effects of corporate education reform. Posted by BadassTeacher Association at 5:41 PM Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest

FairTest and the Test Battles

Bob Shaeffer reports: There's no "summer break" for testing resistance campaigns as pressure builds on policy-makers across the nation to end standardized exam misuse and overuse. Note, especially, the political diversity of states with major activity. The assessment reform movement cannot be described accurately using conventional terms such as "liberal" vs "conservative" or "left" vs "right." Opposition to test-and-punish educational strategies spans the ideological spectrum Alaska Repeals High School Exit Exam, Plans to Award Withheld Diplomas New Connecticut State Tests Mean Less Time for Teaching and Learning One Florida Mother Has Had it With High Stakes Testing Union Challenges Florida's Test-Based "Merit Pay" Law as "Irrational" Indiana State-Federal Assessments Stand-off Illustrates Politically Driven Testing Charade Louisiana School Grades Distort Picture of Education Gov. Jindal Wants to Pull Louisiana Out of Common Core Testing Maine School Grading System Has Major Flaws New Massachusetts Teacher Union President Supports Three-Year Moratorium on Standardized Testing New Jersey Testing Concerns Grow as PARCC Phase-In Begins More Questions on Accuracy of New Mexico Teacher Evaluations Upstate New York School Districts Say "No" to Pearson Field Tests Field Test is Exercise in Futility Just Say "No" to NY Field Tests New Yorkers Demand Release of Test Questions for Public Inspection New York Republican Legislators Promote Plan to Review Common Core Assessments Bill Would End Pearson's Common Core Testing Contract Why I Despise North Carolina's End-of-Grade Tests Ohio's Standardized Tests: What's the Point? Oklahoma Schools Challenge Flawed Writing Test Scores!UfudR Standardized Tests for Tennessee Learning Disabled Students Make Little Sense Bringing Transparency to Tennessee Testing Vermont to Develop Local Proficiency Standards, Not State Exit Exam Virginia Kids Are Not "All Right" Due to High-Stakes Testing NCLB Falsely Labels Wyoming Schools as "Failing" Obama-Duncan Education Policies Test Our Patience,0,3100945,full.column What Happens When a Student Fails a High-Stakes Test This Is Not a Test: Jose Vilson's Vision of Race, Class and Education in the U.S. You Don't Fatten a Pig By Weighing It Testing Overkill Won't Draw In Better Teachers Correcting a Harmful Misuse of Test Scores Morality, Validity and the Design of Instructionally Sensitive Tests Common Core Assessment Sales Job is a Hoax National Principals Groups Seeks Pause in Common Core Assessments "We Will Not Let an Exam Decide Our Fate" I Am a Scientist with Learning Disabilities, And That's OK Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing office- (239) 395-6773 fax- (239) 395-6779 mobile- (239) 696-0468 web-