Today, January 21st, 2013, is a remarkable day in history – a day that pays tribute to leadership, civil rights, and the power found in the voice of each individual.
In his second inaugural address, President Obama declared, “You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time – not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals.”
Martin Luther King, Jr., years earlier, also emphasized the importance of our voice and actions when he stated, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
Today, in honor of this moment in history, the administration of United Opt Out National proudly kicks off the official launch to Occupy DOE 2.0: The Battle for Public Schools and March to the White House. These are the times of challenge and controversy of which MLK spoke. It is also time that, as our President mandated, we lift our voices in support of the ideals that we value.
We cannot and will not stand silent as forces threaten to dismantle our system of public education, erode respect for the teaching profession, and erase opportunities for comprehensive and meaningful learning and development. We will stand tall and meet our obligation as citizens to be heard.
Please join us as we explore opportunities for resisting destructive ed. reform policies and for rebuilding our public education system.
The following is a detailed schedule for April 4-7, 2013. Click this link for a shortened schedule to print. The event takes place at the U.S. Dept. of Education at 400 Maryland Ave., SW, Washington D.C., 20202, outside, on the plaza. Here is the official press release with contact info. Donations accepted HERE. Official poster HERE. Livestream is HERE. RSVP HERE. Rules and parameters for the march on Saturday HERE. Need free sleeping? Email Peg at email@example.com and please read HERE. Hashtag for the event is #uoodc13 .
April 4th – Day One: The Battle for Public Schools
Occupy the DOE 2.0: The Battle of the Public Schools begins with introductions from United Opt Out National Administrators: Shaun Johnson, Morna McDermott McNulty, Laurie Murphy, Peggy Robertson, Tim Slekar and Ceresta Smith. So, who are we?
Shaun Johnson is a former public school teacher, current teacher educator, blogger and online radio show host of At the Chalk Face. Contact Shaun at 412-965-1196 and firstname.lastname@example.org .
Morna McDermott has been working in, with, and around public schools for over twenty years. Currently she is an Associate Professor at Towson University, in Maryland where she teaches various theory and methods courses in the College of Education. Her scholarship and research interests focus on democracy, social justice, and arts-informed inquiry in K-post secondary educational settings, and working with beginning and experienced educators. She explores how the arts serve as a form of literacy that challenges traditional classroom learning and dominant narratives. Recent art work and installations have emphasized the value of art as a “public pedagogy” in creating grass roots social-political-educational change. Dr. McDermott currently serves as the Arts Based Educational Research section editor for the Journal of Curriculum and Pedagogy. In addition to publishing in educational journals and books, she writes ongoing columns for www.examiner.com. She currently lives in Baltimore with her husband and two children. Contact Morna at email@example.com or 410-294-3223.
Laurie Murphy is the Director of Resource Development for a nonprofit agency serving multiple counties in central Florida. She has worked in the nonprofit sector for over 15 years. Laurie has strong ties to the educational community, as her husband, two of her children, and countless others in prior generations have all served their communities as teachers. Laurie was a charter member of Save Our Schools March and National Call to Action, Organizing Committee. Contact Laurie at firstname.lastname@example.org or 863-381-8755.
Peggy Robertson has taught kindergarten, first, second, fourth, fifth and sixth grade, beginning her career in Missouri and continuing in Kansas. She was hired by Richard C. Owen Publishers in 2001 to serve as a Learning Network Coordinator and spent the next three years training teacher leaders and administrators in educational theory and practice in the state of Colorado, as well as around the country during the summer months. In 2004 she was hired as the Literacy Coordinator in Adams 50 School District in Westminster, Colorado. While working in Adams 50 she mentored teachers and administrators and supported their development as reflective practitioners. She earned her master’s degree in English as a Second Language at Southeast Missouri State University. She is in her sixteenth year of teaching as an instructional coach at an elementary school in Colorado. She is a member of the Aurora Education Association (affiliate of NEA), a writer, and a devoted education activist through her work at United Opt Out National. She is a contributor to the book, Pencils Down, by Rethinking Schools. Peggy is “basecamp” in terms of organizing the occupation – if you have questions, give her a ring. Her blog can be found at www.pegwithpen.com . Contact Peggy at email@example.com or 720-810-5593.
Timothy D. Slekar is an Associate Professor of teacher education and Head of the Division of Education, Human Development, and Family Studies at Penn State Altoona. Dr. Slekar began his career in education as a 2nd grade teacher in Williamsburg, VA. He also taught 5th grade in York, PA. Dr. Slekar attended the University of Maryland at College Park where he earned his Ph. D. in social studies education. During his studies Dr. Slekar worked with 7th and 8th grade teachers in the city of Baltimore. Dr. Slekar has published research in some of the top educational research journals (Teacher Education Quarterly, Theory and Research in Social Education, Journal of Thought). Dr. Slekar also co-hosts a local talk radio show in central PA (Tuesdays at 11:00 am eastern on WRTA 1240 am). The show is devoted to teachers and teaching in public schools. Dr Slekar and Dr. Shaun Johnson also host At The Chalk Face (BlogTalkRadio) Progressive Education Talk. Contact Tim at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-735-9720.
Ceresta Smith is a twenty-four year veteran educator and member of United Teachers of Dade. She earned her National Board Certification in Adult/Young Adult English/language arts in 2002. In September of 2008, she moved from a school deemed “high performing” to serve as a teacher leader and literacy coach in a school deemed “low performing.” While there, she became a 2009 – 2010 recipient of a Jordan Fundamental Grant that facilitated the implementation of Text Titans, a literacy building initiative designed by her and funded by Brand Jordan, a private foundation created by basketball great Michael Jordan, that honors teachers who motivate and inspire students toward achieving excellence. She currently mentors teachers and teaches language arts at John A. Ferguson High School in Miami-Dade County.
A committed unionist and education activist, Ms. Smith served as Designated Building Steward at Dr. Michael Krop High School and currently serves as the Designated Building Steward at John A. Ferguson High School. Additionally, she served as a delegate to NEA, FEA, AFT, and AFL/CIO. Along with her role as an administrators for United Opt Out, Ms. Smith is one of the original organizers of and is an active Steering Committee member for Save Our Schools March, an organization that promotes and defends equitable and quality public education. Within the framework of both, she has organized national events, engaged in student outreach, and built coalitions between education activists, union leaders, and civil rights organizations. Contact Ceresta at email@example.com or 786-303-4785.
9:30 a.m. Socialize with your peers, enjoy recess, music, art, PE or the library
10:00 a.m. Leonie Haimson
Leonie Haimson is Executive Director of Class Size Matters, a non-profit advocacy group working for smaller class sizes in NYC and the nation as a whole. She is also a co-founder of Parents Across America, a national grassroots group, that supports progressive and proven education reforms. She is a graduate of Harvard University, worked at the Educational Priorities Panel, and founded Class Size Matters in 2000. She writes for several blogs, including NYC Public School Parents and Huffington Post. Leonie will be discussing class size, class bias, and online learning; and the mechanistic notion that putting kids on computers while increasing class size will deliver “personalized” instruction, when what is actually happening is removing personal and human contact from the equation.
10:20 a.m. Pam Zich
Pam Zich is a journalist and a former special education teacher well known within the education activist world as “Rebel Speducator.” Pam recently worked in a school in which the disparities between her new school and the one where she previously worked were obvious from the first day. Resources that were plentiful at her neighborhood school were scarce at her new school. When those inequalities extended to include the special education staff, Pam sought help from the district office. That action led to months of harassment and the birth of her alter ego. As her supervisors carried out a plan to destroy her career as a special educator, she discovered a new voice as someone who has seen first-hand the inequalities in our public schools caused by prejudice. Pam’s voice can be heard at Forget the Label.
As a special educator, Pam was required to remove students from the classroom for alternate assessments that took months to complete and were given priority over IEP goals and objectives. Time that could have been spent on reading instruction was instead spent filling out hundreds of worksheets per student. Children unable to read were given “read-alouds,” and those who did not know their math facts received calculators to provide evidence of their ability to solve multi-step equations. There was a suspicious epidemic of processing disorders among children still learning the English language which resulted in many of them receiving an LD label by the time they were in third or fourth grade. Ironically, that’s when the “testing years” begin. This Rebel has a haunting image in her mind of a young adult trying to fill out a job application but unable to do so because there is no one to read it aloud for him.
10:40 a.m. Mark Naison
Mark Naison is a Professor of History and African American Studies at Fordham University. He is the author of four books and over 100 articles on African American politics, social movements and American culture and sports. Dr. Naison is the Principal Investigator of the Bronx African American History Project. When not doing historical research, Naison likes to play tennis and golf, post commentary on his blog “With a Brooklyn Accent” and make periodic forays into the media. During the last five years, he has begun presenting historical “raps” in Bronx schools under the nickname of “Notorious Phd.”
11:00 a.m. Mic check, music, art, PE, library – take your pick
11:30 a.m. Jim Horn
Jim Horn is Professor of Educational Leadership at Cambridge College, Cambridge, MA. He is also an education blogger at Schools Matter and has published widely on issues related to social justice in education. His presentation will present highlights from a new book that examines the background, rationale, and possible outcomes for value-added high stakes testing.
11:50 LUNCH, mic check, planning time, recess and games
1:00 p.m. Kris Nielsen
Kris Nielsen is a former teacher with Union County Public Schools in North Carolina. After his resignation letter went viral internationally, he chose to continue his fight against the trio of powers that are ruining public education for our students and their teachers. You can find his work at http://www.mgmfocus.com. Title and description of presentation: This is How Democracy Ends. Kris will speak about the three main parts of education reform that are working together to do the most damage to our public education system and what we can do to fight back.
1:20 p.m. Dr. Henry Taylor
Professor Henry Louis Taylor, Jr., a historian/urban planner, is a full professor in the University at Buffalo Department of Urban and Regional Planning and is founding director of the UB Center for Urban Studies. Taylor is a nationally recognized scholar on distressed urban neighborhoods in the United States. His research focuses on the Cuban Studies, anchor institutions, distressed urban neighborhoods and urban education. He has written and/or edited five books and published more than 90 articles, book reviews, commentaries and technical reports. His most recent book is Inside El Barrio: A Bottom-Up View of Castro’s Cuba. He is currently the planning coordinator for the Buffalo Municipal Housing Perry Choice neighborhood revitalization project, funded by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. Dr. Taylor will be discussing The Education War.
1:40 p.m. Susan Horton Polos and Melissa Hecker
Susan Horton Polos and Melissa Heckler are public school librarians and education activists from Westchester County, New York. Susan Polos was present with UOO last year as we occupied the DOE. Currently a member of the 2014 Newbery Committee, she is a National Board Certified library media specialist who serves on the board of the School Librarian Section of the New York Library Association and is active in other professional organizations. Melissa Heckler, a professional storyteller and the co-author of Who Says?: Essays on Pivotal Issues in Contemporary Storytelling (August House, 1996), founded the first in-village schools for the Ju/’hoansi in the Kalahari in Namibia, Africa. Melissa is a board member of the professional library organizations as well and has published articles about her experiences in indigenous education and storytelling. Both Susan and Melissa are committed to the power of play, education for a democratic society, the role of stories and storytelling in teaching and learning and advocacy for equity for all children. Melissa and Susan along with others will give voice to the critical importance of school libraries and school librarians. As Ginny Beall, Las Vegas school librarian, so aptly says, school librarians are an endangered species. In this time of limited resources and misuse of educational funding, school librarians, public librarians and parents must work together to ensure access to stories and information for all children and to provide qualified reading guidance. From a recent study published in the School Library Journal: “English language learner (ELL) students were particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of losing school librarians. They were the only group in which averages actually decreased over time, both for states that lost librarian positions and for all states. Only in states that gained librarians did ELL scores hold their own—showing no change over time. Overall, the reading scores of ELL students in all states declined by -1.4 percent. For states that lost librarians, on average, ELL student scores dropped -2.8 percent—a loss twice as bad as the one suffered across all states.” Presentation title: Occupy the School Libraries.
2:00 Mic check, music, art, PE, or library…take your pick
2:40 p.m. Phillip Cantor
Phillip Cantor is a science teacher at North-Grand High School – a neighborhood public school on the northwest side of Chicago. He was a strike captain during the Chicago Teachers Union strike and is an active member of Teachers for Social Justice and CODE – Communities Organized for Democracy in Education, which is fighting for an elected school board in Chicago. He began teaching in 2002 after a career in multimedia production as a cinematographer, director and producer. He has a master’s degree in education policy from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Presentation title and description: Fighting for the schools our students deserve. The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) strike of 2012 was a turning point that marks a new chapter in the fight for schools that are equitable, just and relevant to students and their communities. The CTU fought back against corporate style reforms, but they also demonstrated that teachers are fighting FOR well resourced schools with smaller classes, rich curricula, respected teaching faculties and wrap around supports for students. By highlighting this positive message the CTU built strong alliances with parent and community groups setting the stage for further progress.
3:00 Diane Ravitch
Diane Ravitch is a historian of education at NYU.
She is author of the best selling Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education.
A champion of teachers.
A champion of public education.
A champion for a great education for all children.
3:20 Planning time
4:00 Closing remarks from United Opt Out National
6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Bus Boys & Poets at 5th and K: Barry Lane’s Cabaret
An Inspiring, Satirical, Show of Singing, Dancing and Clean, Comic Fun that Celebrates Teachers “Barry Lane is the Jimmy Buffet of Educators! His lyrics, music, and ad libs represent our classroom lives.” ~Colleen Kazor, 2nd grade teacher, Michigan
After years of doing stand-up and parody karaoke singing as part of his academic presentations, teacher/author Barry Lane has put together a genuine, interactive, improvisational, night club act for teachers. You will sing, you will dance and you will learn to laugh at yourself and the crazy world around you. You may also begin to realize once again, that you have the most important job in the world.
New Songs include: Your Data Doesn’t Matter,Wasting Away in Basal Readerville, Teacher Creep, Don’t be Cruel to the Public School, More than a Number…
(note: all songs are posted for free at barrylane55 on Soundcloud.com so you can bring the satire back to your school)
April 5th – Day Two: The Battle for Public Schools
9:00 a.m. Opening remarks from United Opt Out National
9:20 a.m. Stephen Round
Stephen Round is a former Rhode Island elementary teacher currently tutoring Dyslexic/Dysgraphic primary students at New Hope Academy in Killingly, Connecticut. His recent viral YouTube resignation, entitled RI Teacher Says, “I Quit!” struck a nerve with teachers, parents and students alike, condemning a “One-Size-Fits-All,” testing obsessed approach to education which leaves many children behind – both socially and academically. His website on which you can view his approach to tutoring struggling readers is www.pireading.com. He and his wife, who is also a teacher, live in Foster, Rhode Island. They have four children and six grandchildren. Presentation title: One Size Does Not Fit All.
9:40 a.m. Sam Anderson
Dr. Samuel Anderson is a retired New York City Mathematics and Black History professor who has taught at various colleges and universities for more than forty years. He is also the author of books on science, technology and the history of slavery. Sam has been active in the Civil Rights / Black Liberation Movements for nearly a half century and has combined his activism with his scholastic work via numerous community organization and Black Studies Departments. He is also co-chair of the Board of Trustees of the Brecht Forum, the Malcolm X Museum, a member of the Black Left Unity Network, a member of the NYC Coalition for Public Education, and Black New Yorkers for Educational Excellence (BNYEE). Sam Anderson is also a parent of two sons who have successfully navigated the New York City public school system. Presentation title: Education Is a Human Right Not a Corporate “Gift.”
10:00 a.m. Kevin Kumashiro
Kevin Kumashiro is professor of Asian American Studies and Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, founding member of Chicagoland Researchers and Advocates for Transformative Education (CReATE), director of the Center for Anti-Oppressive Education, and president of the National Association for Multicultural Education (NAME). He is the award-winning author or editor of nine books on education and social justice.” Presentation title: Bad Teacher! How Blaming Teachers Distorts the Bigger Picture. In the current debate on educational reform, the scapegoating of public school teachers, teacher unions, and teacher educators masks the real, systemic problems and rationalizes market-based reforms that are making problems worse. This presentation highlights the common and commonsensical ways that both the public and influential leaders think and talk about the problems and solutions for public education, and suggests ways to help us see the bigger picture and reframe the debate.
10:20 a.m. Mic check, music, art, PE, recess, or library
Barbara lost her job at Umass Amherst when she supported students who chose to opt out of a Pearson-Stanford field test of the edTPA. Dani, a doctoral student at Umass Amherst, and other students, faculty, teachers and community members organized to support Barbara, grow a movement to fight the corporatization of education and demand education for democracy and liberation. Thus was Can’t Be Neutral was born. Presentation title: See something, say something, organize!
11:30 a.m. LUNCH, mic check, social time, and recess and if you choose,
Lunch Breakout Session: Planning Meeting for Campaign to Withdraw from Assessment Consortia (CWAC)
Join Bess Altwerger and fellow activists for a planning meeting for this new campaign to urge states to withdraw from the PARCC and SBAC consortia. These federally funded national assessments linked to the Common Core will be rolled out in full force in 2014. Once in place, it will be extremely difficult to free our nation’s schools from the testing regime. Thousands more schools, teachers and students will be proclaimed failures and more of our public schools will be closed or privatized. Let’s plan strategies to stop national testing now!
12:30 p.m. Karen Lewis
Rethinking Schools states, “Four years ago, Karen Lewis was a chemistry teacher, one of eight Chicago teachers who formed the Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators (CORE) to fight school closings (see “A Cauldron of Opposition in Duncan’s Hometown: Rank-and-File Teachers Score Huge Victory”). This September, as president of a transformed, democratic Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), she led the 30,000-member union in a successful strike in the city that has been a launch pad for the neoliberal education strategy. ”
Katie Osgood is a special education teacher in Chicago. She currently teaches on a child/adolescent inpatient psychiatric unit. Before that, she taught in a Chicago Public Elementary School as well as spending six years teaching in Japan. She is a member of CORE (Caucus of Rank and File Educators) and Teachers for Social Justice in Chicago. Find out more about Katie at her blog, Ms. Katie’s Ramblings. Katie’s presentation title: Mental Health and Ed Reform. She states, Special education students are being hit the hardest by cruel reform policies: 1)School closures causing chaos for children who desperately need stability 2) Charterization as charters tend to not serve students with significant special needs and discriminate against students with behavior disorders through “no excuses” discipline codes 3) Heavy reliance on high-stakes tests which are designed to be biased against all children with special needs as they fall outside the “norm” 4) Raising of class sizes for children who need the most individualized instruction, and 5) The increase in untrained, uncertified novices working with our most fragile children.
1:20 p.m. Ruth Rodriguez and Linda Nathan
Ruth Rodriguez holds a BA in social work and did graduate studies in Bilingual Education at Boston University. She was a Community Fellow in the Urban Studies Department at MIT where she researched school violence. She has spent most of her life time career in the field of education, as a kindergarten teacher, school/family and community coordinator, and promoting parent/teacher collaboration. Ruth served on the MA Governor Deval Patrick’s Readiness Project on MCAS and Assessment, an initiative that brought together a diverse group of educators, from superintendents, principals, parents, teachers and community advocates, to advise the governor on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MA high stakes exam for promotion and graduation requirement). Unfortunately, the governor did not accept the group’s recommendation, and Ruth was disappointed when told by former State Secretary of Education, Paul Reville, “MCAS is here to stay, and you just have to live with it.” Ruth is a member of the national Save Our Schools Steering Committee, and sits on the Advisory Board of Citizens for Public Schools (CPS) in Boston, MA. Ruth also states, “As a member of MA Governor Deval Patrick ‘Readiness Project’, with the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS), I highlighted the negative impact of MA’s requirement which combined with the states most racist anti bilingual referendum promoted by Mitt Romney and Ron Unz, that ended bilingual education, and had been forcing English Language Learners to take the test after one year English immersion. At a Town Hall meeting held by the Governor, I challenged him to ‘immerse himself in Spanish for one year, then take the MCAS in Spanish,’ for “Governor that is what you are asking English Language Learners to do.’ Unfortunately for thousands of English Language Learners in MA this practiced continued until a group filed a lawsuit that resulted on the state being mandated to provided bilingual instruction to limited language learners. It is still an uphill battle, but the answer for us in MA is to continue to push for an end to MCAS for ALL students.
Linda Nathan is the founding headmaster of Boston Arts Academy, Boston’s only public high school for the visual and performing arts. Under Dr. Nathan’s leadership, Boston Arts Academy has won state, national and international awards and recognitions, and consistently sends over 94% of its graduates on to college. Currently, Dr. Nathan is the Executive Director of the Center for Arts in Education at Boston Arts Academy. The Center fosters transformative education by empowering students, schools and communities through artistic and academic innovation. Dr. Nathan is a leader in education reform, and has lectured and written widely on education leadership, the arts, and democratic schools, including a highly-praised book, The Hardest Questions Aren’t on the Test: Lessons from an Innovative Urban School. She teaches a course at the Harvard Graduate School of Education titled “Building Democratic Schools” and blogs about education and the arts at http://lindanathan.com. The title of Linda’s presentation is What’s Been Lost in the Bubbles.
1:40 p.m. Jessie Ramey from Yinzeration
Jessie B. Ramey, Ph.D., is a historian of working families and U.S. social policy, and an ACLS New Faculty Fellow in Women’s Studies and History at the University of Pittsburgh. She writes about public education research and policy on her blog, Yinzercation, which also serves as the on-line home for a grassroots movement in Southwest Pennsylvania. Dr. Ramey is the author of the book, Child Care in Black and White: Working Parents and the History of Orphanages, which won the Lerner-Scott Prize in Women’s History from the Organization of American Historians (OAH), the Herbert G. Gutman Prize of the Labor and Working Class History Association (LAWCHA), and the John Heinz Award of the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI). She is regularly published in the national media and has twice been recognized by the White House with invitations to meet with President Obama’s senior policy advisors. Presentation title: Yinzer Nation + Education = Yinzercation: The Grassroots Movement in Pittsburgh, PA.
2:10 p.m. EDU4 with Ruth Powers Silverberg and Diayu Suzuki
Daiyu Suzuki is a former schoolteacher, a Fulbright Scholar from Japan, and the co-founder of Edu4. Currently a doctoral student at Teachers College at Columbia University, his research explores the trivialization of the teacher and the truncation of teaching and learning in the U.S. neoliberal educational landscape. Reflecting on his own intense relationship with a mentor teacher during the 7 years that he taught in a public junior high school in Japan, his research pursues one guiding question: “What does it mean to have a teacher?”
Ruth Powers Silverberg is Associate Professor of Education at the College of Staten Island, CUNY, where she coordinates the Post Masters Advanced Certificate Program for Leadership in Education. She received her doctorate from Hofstra University after serving public and private schools for 25 years in early childhood and music classrooms and as an assistant principal. Since connecting with anti-corporate education activist groups in 2010, Ruth has devoted her time to opposing the privatization of public education, including preparing critical school leaders, critiquing local and national reform policies, and coordinating the Edu4 Parent-Scholar Collaboration for Educational Justice Working Group.
Edu4 is an education initiative that seeks to create and maintain public spaces to attract, organize, and coordinate diverse educators and other concerned citizens resisting the multi-layered attack on public education. Edu4 has expanded quickly within the U.S. and beyond, and now consists of about 500 educators, including scholars, teachers, school administrators, parents, students, and other concerned citizens.
2:40 p.m. Mic check, music, art, PE, library or social time
3:00 p.m. Alexia Garcia, Alex Kacsh, Kim Runyon
Alexia Garcia is a senior at Lincoln High School in Portland, Oregon. Alexia serves as the Student Representative on the Portland Public School’s Board of Education. She is also a member of both the Portland Public Schools Student Union and the Portland Student Union. The Student Unions of Portland have received national attention for their “Opt-Out” Campaign in which the Student Union members have been encouraging students to “opt-out” of taking their state mandated standardized tests. Alexia plans to soon pass on her role as Student Representative and take a gap year to explore different education systems worldwide in hopes of one day becoming a teacher.
Alex Kacsh writes: I am fortunate to go to a school that teaches me life skills and allows me to pursue my passions. But in my freshman year of high school my school was in trouble and at risk of closing. Starting my political actions in my freshman year of high school I knew something greater needed to be done. It wasn’t just about me and my education or the school I attend; it is about all students of America and everyone’s education. Alex is a junior and is one of the founders of Students 4 Our Schools and one of the leaders of the TCAP walkout in Denver.
Kim Runyon writes, My social justice work started when I got involved in the start of Occupy Denver. Since then I have helped organize the Rocky Mountain Student Power Convergence, a conference held to discuss and confront issues surrounding the affordability and privatization of education and education as a human right for all people, not just for the privileged. I bottom-lined the Student Power Continuum, an event for K-12 youth to promote awareness of educational issues facing our generation. I also helped plan the TCAP Walkout and protest on Defend Education Day. I founded a Students for Social Justice club at my high school where we strive to get involved in our community as much as possible to raise awareness of social issues and help create change in the community. I am a founding member and only high school organizer of COSPA (Colorado Student Power Alliance) and am thrilled to represent in Washington DC!
3:20 p.m. Nancy Carlsson-Paige
Nancy Carlsson-Paige is Professor Emerita at Lesley University where she taught teachers for more than 30 years and was a founder of the University’s Center for Peaceable Schools. She is the author of five books and many articles and op eds on a variety of education and parenting topics. Her most recent book is called Taking Back Childhood: A Proven Roadmap for Raising Confident, Creative, Compassionate Kids. A strong advocate for public education, Nancy is a critic of current education reforms that promote standardized tests and the privatization of schools. Nancy has received numerous awards for her leadership and advocacy in early childhood and peace education. She advocates for justice in education, the equal right of every child to a high quality education. Presentation title: Ed Policy Gone Wrong: How Young Kids Get Hurt.
3:45 p.m. Planning Time
4:00 p.m. Closing Remarks from United Opt Out National
Day Three – April 6: The Battle for Public Schools
9:00 a.m. Opening remarks from United Opt Out National
9:20 a.m. Ankur Singh
Ankur Singh is a freshman at the University of Missouri-Columbia. He has taken his second semester off to travel the country to make a documentary about the affects of high-stakes testing on students. When asked what he will speak about this was Ankur’s response: “Title: As a direct result of high-stakes testing Ankur Singh is too uncreative to come up with a title for his speech. Education has become so politicized that the vague rhetoric used causes the people it is meant to be for, us students, to fall through the cracks ignored. No longer are we seen as individuals, but as test scores and statistics.”
9:40 a.m. Change the Stakes
Change the Stakes is a group of parents, teachers and other concerned citizens exposing the damaging effects of commercial high-stakes testing for students, teachers, schools and communities. They actively oppose punitive testing in New York City. They believe high-stakes testing must be replaced by educationally-sound and balanced forms of student, teacher, and school assessment. Change the Stakes is an affiliate of the Grassroots Education Movement (GEM-NYC).
10:10 a.m. Mic check, music, art, PE, or visit the library – your choice
10:40 a.m. Matt Farmer
Matt Farmer is a Chicago Public Schools parent. In the lead-up to one of Matt’s recent education-related TV appearances, a local host introduced him as “Matt Farmer – musician, rabble-rouser, attorney, blogger, just kind of a general in-your-face kind of guy.” Matt writes frequently about education for The Huffington Post.
11:00 a.m. Michelle Strater Gunderson
Michelle has worked for the Chicago schools for 20 years and is a fourth grade teacher. She is a member of CORE (caucus of rank and file educators), and a doctoral student at Loyola University, where she is studying Curriculum and Instruction. Presentation title: Chicago Teachers Union, Organizing Building by Building.
11:30 a.m. LUNCH, mic check, recess, and socialize
12:30 p.m. Bess Altwerger and Rick Meyer
Bess is a founding member of Save Our Schools, a current Steering Committee member, and a key organizer of the summer 2011 SOS rally, march and conference in Washington, DC. As a former elementary teacher, longtime teacher educator/researcher, and lifelong education activist, Bess has devoted her life’s work to exposing and opposing the inequities and injustices of U.S. public education. She has worked with teachers on the Navajo reservation, in the barrios of NM and AZ, and in urban school districts in the northeast and mid-Atlantic states to support multicultural/multilingual, democratic and child-centered education. Bess has published and presented widely on the negative impact of federal policies on our schools and classrooms, particularly in the area of literacy. Her books include Reading for Profit: How the Bottom Line Leaves Kids Behind, which exposes the corporate agenda behind federal literacy policies and the negative impact of mandated commercial reading programs on the literacy development of young children in urban schools. Rick Meyer is a professor at the University of New Mexico where he teaches courses in reading process, family literacy research, and writing. He taught young children for almost twenty years before earning his doctorate at the University of Arizona. Rick is committed to progressive literacy practices and works to help children, teachers, and families understand the importance of identity, relationships, power, and agency in every literacy activity in which they engage. Rick has authored nine books (most recently “Reclaiming Reading”), many articles, and many chapters. He is the immediate past president of the Center for the Expansion of Language and Thinking (CELT) and current president of the Whole Language Umbrella (WLU). WLU is the only worldwide progressive literacy organization; WLU holds a yearly conference at which educators and supporters of public education advocate, share strategies, and plan actions. Rick is also an active member of the Latino Education Task Force in New Mexico and secretary of a parent activist group. He was one of the organizers of the Save Our Schools march, rally, conference, and congress held in summer 2011. Rick is also the father of two beautiful children and grandfather of three. Presentation title: Hijacked: The Corporate Take Over of Literacy Learning in Our Schools.
1:00 p.m. Lois Weiner
Lois Weiner is a professor of education at New Jersey City University. She brings to her wide-ranging scholarship on urban teaching and teacher unionism first-hand experience, as a classroom teacher and union officer. Her first book “Preparing Teachers for Urban School” was honored by the American Educational Research Association (AERA) for its contribution to research on teacher education. Her newest book, “The future of our schools: Teachers unions and social justice,” published by Haymarket Press, analyzes how US teachers can turn back the global project that is reshaping education to suit the demands of transnational corporations. Presentation: The future of our schools: Why we need transformed teachers unions and how to get them. Professor Weiner will analyze why teachers committed to social justice need to unite the energy for teaching with efforts to create social movement teachers unions. Drawing on research, her experience as a public school teacher, and as a union activist, she will outline why the future of public education depends on a new social movement of teachers developing alliances with parents and communities to push back on: privatization, deprofessionalizaton of teaching, and the tyranny of standardized testing.
1:20 p.m. Sue Schutt and Jean Schutt-McTavish: NYC High School Administrators
Sue Schutt and Jean Schutt-McTavish are sisters from New Jersey. They are both education activists and NYC high school administrators in “high needs” schools. Jean has 2 children she opts out of high stakes tests. These NYC Principals will speak about the difference between high stakes test driven “reform” and authentic education for democracy.
1:40 p.m. Pamela Lewis
Pamela Lewis is an educator, writer and activist currently living and working in the South Bronx. A native Bronxite and product of the urban public school system, Pamela’s commitment to the children in which she teaches runs deep. As a servant of her community, Pamela uses both teaching and writing platforms as a means to improve, empower or educate its members, as well as others about the people, culture and needs of her community. Her presentation, Teaching with the Enemy, denounces the current vilification of teachers in today’s public schools. She further explains how teacher attacks and current approaches to school reform not only diminish the quality of teaching but serve as distractions to the real reasons behind the achievement gap.
2:00 p.m. Helen Moore
Helen Moore has been a life-long advocate and warrior for the children of Detroit, beginning with her days as a State of Michigan Social Worker and continuing with Black Parents for Quality Education and The Keep the Vote No Takeover Coalition. She is also a member of Detroit’s Council of Elders.
Ms. Moore educates her community on school district policy, student rights, and other education-related legal issues and parental involvement efforts. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Wayne State University and a juris doctorate from the Detroit College of Law. In 2002, she was presented with the Michigan Association of School Administrators Region 10 “Champion for Children” award.
During activist Mary Shoemaker’s funeral, Ms. Moore recalled their battles as social workers and militant members of UAW Local 6000. “I was a union steward,” said Ms. Moore. “Mary and I with the others fought the state over our building conditions and the racism there. Even though they were writing us up like crazy, we won.”
Ms. Moore’s fighting spirit continued during the struggles against state takeovers of the Detroit Public Schools. In 1999, she co-founded Keep the Vote No Takeover (KTVNT), which fought former Gov. John Engler’s takeover of Detroit’s schools. The takeover resulted in massive school closings, privatization and corruption. Moore was the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit filed against it, which went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
She led many protests in Detroit, at the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court in Cincinnati, and in Washington, D.C. at the Supreme Court. Although the Court ruled against KTVNT, she continued her activism at school board meetings during that takeover period, protesting the actions of that board, even being hauled out, brutalized and arrested by DPS police.
Ms. Moore has remained active in the current battles against DPS Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb, state legislation granting unlimited powers to EFM’s, and Governor Rick Snyder’s budget cuts.
2:20 p.m. Stephen Krashen
Stephen Krashen is Emeritus Professor of Education at the University of Southern California. He is best known for developing the first comprehensive theory of second language acquisition, introducing the concept of sheltered subject matter teaching, and as the co-inventor of the Natural Approach to foreign language teaching. He has also contributed to theory and application in the area of bilingual education, and has done important work in the area of reading. He was the 1977 Incline Bench Press champion of Venice Beach and holds a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. He is the author of The Power of Reading (Heinemann, 2004, second edition), Explorations in Language and Use (Heinemann, 2003) and co-author, with Jim Crawford, of English Learners in American Classrooms (Scholastic, 2007). His recent papers can be found at http://www.sdkrashen.com. Presentation title & description: The Case Against the Common Core: The movement for national standards and tests is based on these claims: (1) Our educational system is broken, as revealed by US students’ scores on international tests; (2) We must improve education to improve the economy; (3) To improve education, we must have national standards and national tests that enforce the standards. Each of these claims is false, and that the common core movement ignores the real problem: Poverty. The billions to be spent on standards and unnecessary and excessive testing should be used to protect children against the effects of poverty.
3:00 p.m. March to the White House
6:30 p.m. St. Stephens for dinner, planning and socializing – address is 1525 Newton Street NW, corner of 16th and Newton Street (we will most likely be ordering pizza)
Day 4 – Sunday: The Battle for Public Schools
9:00 a.m. Opening remarks from United Opt Out National
9:20 a.m. Faya Rose Saunders
Faya Ora Rose Touré is a Harvard-educated Civil Rights activist and litigation attorney was the first African-American female judge in Alabama and was part of the winning legal team in Pigford vs. Veneman, the largest civil rights case in history that led to the payment of a billion dollars in damages to black farmers by the U. S. Department of Agriculture. In addition, Touré is founder of the National Voting Rights Museum in Selma, Alabama, and a founding partner in the law firm of Chestnut, Sanders, Sanders, Pettaway & Campbell, LLC. Intensely passionate about her activism, legal work, and the needs of the black community;Touré has founded learning and cultural centers, political and legal organizations, and community initiatives that have benefited Alabamians for three decades.
9:40 a.m. Dave Greene and Nikhil Goyal
David Greene taught Social Studies and coached in NYC, Woodlands HS, Scarsdale HS, and Ardsley HS since 1970. Retired from teaching in 2008, he presently is a member of WISE Services, an organization that helps high schools create and run experiential learning programs for seniors. He is also the treasurer of Save Our Schools March Committee. He blogs as dcgmentor.com and has spoken on the hidden truths of TFA at both the first SOS march and Convention in 2011 and Occupy DOE last year. He is also currently working on a book tentatively titled, So You Think You Know Education? A Teacher’s Perspective. Nikhil Goyal, age 17, is the author of One Size Does Not Fit All: A Student’s Assessment of School by the Alternative Education Resource Organization. An international speaker, Nikhil has spoken at NBC, Dell, Cisco, Fast Company, M.I.T., Florida International University, College of the North Atlantic, and other conferences around the world. He is also a guest lecturer at Baruch College. Nikhil currently serves on the board of FairTest. Dave and Nikhil’s title presentation: Reinventing American High Schools, One Size Does not Fit All. Student-author and teacher-mentor team up to discuss how to revolutionize American schools and spree creativity and the love of learning within young people.
10:10 a.m. Denisha Jones
Denisha Jones is a visiting assistant professor at Howard University. She teaches courses in early childhood education and serves as a mentor for action research projects. Denisha is interested in protecting public education as a right, not a privilege. Title and description of presentation: The De-professionalization of Teaching: Is the Role of Traditional Higher Education Teacher Preparation Programs on the Decline? Traditionally, teachers have been trained at public and private four year colleges and universities. However, with the growth of charter schools we have seen an influx in business oriented models offering expedited pathways to become a teacher. This presentation will examine how many states have adopted for-profit and other alternative certification programs and the impact these programs can have on preserving public education as a right, not a privilege.
10:30 a.m. Tom Poetter
Tom Poetter is Professor of Curriculum Studies at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio. His book The Education of Sam Sanders (2006, Hamilton Books), a novel set in 2029 about the future of public education, anticipates the anti-democratic, corporate takeover that is already underway! He is the founder of TRAAN (Teacher Resistance and Action Network), whose annual meeting is held in Oxford this year on May 4. Presentation title: You Can Run, But You Can’t Hide!
10:50 a.m. Stephanie Rivera
Stephanie is a junior at Rutgers University, a future life-long educator, and a fighter for quality education for all. She is one of four founders of Students United for Public Education (SUPE) and runs her own blog at: teacherunderconstruction.com.
11:20 a.m. LUNCH, mic check, recess, and socialize
12:20 p.m. United Opt Out National Administrators: How We Organized
12:50 p.m. Brian Jones
Brian Jones is a teacher and doctoral student in New York City, and a member of the Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE), the social justice caucus of the United Federation of Teachers. He co-narrated the film, The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman, and contributed to the book, Education and Capitalism: Struggles for Learning and Liberation. Presentation title and description: What Will It Take to Save Our Schools? The struggle over the future of public education has escalated on both sides. Those who favor privatization have been able to dismantle entire school systems in major American cities. Those who fight to defend and improve public education have been galvanized by the Chicago Teacher’s strike and the test boycott initiated by teachers at Garfield High School in Seattle. Brian Jones will discuss lessons from these and other battles in the war to save our schools.
1:10 p.m. Chris Cerrone
Chris Cerrone is a husband, parent of two elementary school children, veteran middle school teacher, community volunteer and youth sports coach in Western New York. As a parent, Chris is an opt out organizer in New York State. Chris also is a member of the Hamburg Teachers’ Association which recently was one of only five districts in New York State which did not agree to a teacher evaluation system using student test scores as a factor. Presentation title and description: Standing up to carrot/stick policies. Educators and parents need to fight the federal and state policies which create a climate of fear in order to achieve compliance.
1:30 p.m. Sherick Hughes
Dr. Sherick Hughes is an Associate Professor with tenure at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is a former public school teaching assistant, G3 Teacher of urban youth in foster care, and a member of the NC-ERC, the former education research wing of Governor Jim Hunt’s Education Cabinet. His research, teaching, and service have earned him leadership roles in the national Save Our Schools movement and recognition from Phi Delta Kappa, the Harvard Family Involvement Network of Educators, AESA, AERA, and Border Crossers-New York City. Presentation title: Why We Can’t Wait.
1:50 p.m. Final mic check of Occupation
2:00 p.m. Deborah Meier
Deborah Meier is a senior scholar at NYU’s Steinhardt School, and Board member of the Coalition of Essential Schools, FairTest, SOS and Dissent and The Nation magazines. She spent 45 years working in K-12th grade public schools in New York City (East Harlem) and Boston (Roxbury) including leadership of several highly successful small democratically run public urban schools–the Central Park East schools and Mission Hill. Her books include The Power of Their Ideas and In Schools We Trust. In 1987 she was the first educator to receive a McArthur “genius” Award and currently blogs for Ed Week with Pedro Noguera (Bridging Differences).
2:30 p.m. Closing remarks from United Opt Out National administrators
Additional details regarding the occupation:
The occupation is held right outside the Dept. of Ed. in D.C. at 400 Maryland Ave, SW , Washington, DC, 20202. We have permits to be there. Please rsvp here.
United Opt Out National Administrators will be staying at the Holiday Inn Washington-Capitol, which is in close proximity to the Dept. of Ed. If you need roommates please post requests on our FB group page and our Occupy DOE in DC page. Should you decide to stay at the Holiday Inn and you are a public school teacher be sure to request the state employee rate which is approximately $220.00 per night and can be divided between four roommates! There are many other hotels, bed & breakfasts, etc., please post requests on the pages mentioned above for more information.
Free sleeping is available at St. Stephen beginning the evening of April 3rd for those arriving the night before, as well as through Sunday morning, April 7th. Please read for more information: http://www.saintstephensdc.org/Sleeping_Info.html . It is Metro accessible to downtown Washington from the Columbia Heights station, which is on the Green/Yellow Line. There are two Metro stations convenient to the event, Capitol South and Smithsonian, both on the Blue Line, which would require a transfer at L’Enfant Plaza.
Our goal this year is to educate and share successful actions that we can take back to our communities and implement immediately to fight corporate education reform. Also, we are committed to our belief that the narrative must change – we must reclaim public education and preserve and improve real teaching, real learning and acknowledge the importance of social and civic education as a right and a necessary component to caring communities within public schools. The business model of education is cold and defined by numbers. Education is messy. Teaching and learning are messy and involve human beings who must be nurtured and supported as individuals who will be the future citizens of our country. We cannot minimize human beings to “numbers” or “data” and we cannot attach high stakes to these numbers; this is harmful to our children, our educators, our schools, our community and our democracy. We are much more – come to D.C. and hear us roar. We are here to DEMAND that education policy meet the needs of children, not corporate interests. We DEMAND an END to high stakes testing and other fear-based punitive policies. We are here to TAKE BACK the narrative around public education; it’s time to replace sound bites and spin with truth and reality. We are here to make the voices of children and teachers HEARD. JOIN US and make your voice heard too.
See you this April,
United Opt Out National Administrators