Friday, September 27, 2013

Jose Montoya, activist, poet, artist, teacher, ally, friend

Jose Montoya, Sacramento poet, activist and  artist. RIP. –  Ally, Friend, Teacher.

 Jose Montoya, artist and activist, died Wed. Sept. 25, 2013 in Sacramento, California. Jose was a teacher, a poet,  and a community activist important to the Chicano movement as it developed in the 1960s and 70’s.  He was a poet Laureate of Sacramento and a co founder of  the Royal Chicano Air force- an artist collective who helped to define Chicano art and commit their art to political involvements.
The son of farmworker champion Cesar Chavez, Paul F. Chavez, and United Farm Workers President Arturo S. Rodriguez said in a joint statement, “We will always cherish Jose for how he inspired us as well as so many others through his art. But we will also remember him for the countless times when he walked picket lines, helped organize UFW events and fed the farmworkers during every major strike, boycott and political campaign. He was truly a servant of the farmworker movement and we will always be in his debt.”
Montoya influenced thousands of students and teachers during his 27 years as a professor of art at California State University Sacramento, as well his earlier years as a teacher in Wheatland.  He was a sought after speaker on issues related to using art  in teaching.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Reign of Error- Ravitch 2

reign of errorDefinitely go out and buy Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to Americas Public Schools by Diane Ravitch, which just been launched with proper publicity. She is a phenomenal woman—sending out a half-dozen e-mails a day, two books in the last decade, and traveling to speak throughout the USA. And…while she’s younger than me, she’s old enough to have rested on her laurels. Maybe it helps to change your mind, because my exhaustion comes (in part) from feeling it’s all been said before (including by me).
Reign of Error lays out step by step the relentless thirty year drive to either centralize the education of the young—on one hand—or divest it entirely into privatized hands on the other. Finally, the two sides have joined forces on a strategy that simultaneously does both. While this coalition has many old roots, in its current form it began with the fanfare around the publication of A Nation at Risk (1983). Ravitch was, at that time, a supporter of this bold statement that more or less accused America’s teachers and school boards of a plot to undermine American health and welfare of the international scene. We were, said the signers, at risk of becoming a second rate nation if we didn’t take this crisis seriously. I asked my colleague on the NBPTS, AFT leader Al Shanker, why he had signed on. He said it was a good strategy because only in a crisis is the nation willing to put the money into schooling needed to make it really first-rate. He said—as I recall (paraphrased), ‘It’s true our schools are not as bad as the report suggests, but we are entering a new period and they either have to change dramatically or what the report accuses them of will become true. We need a smarter citizenry.’
The trouble is that crying “wolf” has never been a great way to make sensible policy. Sometimes there is no choice (like Pearl Harbor). But the continuous claims that our public education system is destroying our nation has almost entirely led to bad policy.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Tim Wise- Anti Racism scholar to speak at Sac Stat...

SACRAMENTO PROGRESSIVE ALLIANCE: Tim Wise- Anti Racism scholar to speak at Sac Stat...: Tim Wise Lecture- Sep. 19- CSUS-University Union: Sacramento State’s University Union UNIQUE Programs, Associated Students, Inc. and th...

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Reign of Error _ Ravitch

An Evening with Diane Ravitch, educational blogger and author
Memorial Auditorium
1515 J Street, Sacamento, CA  95814
Friday, Sept. 27, 2013
6:30-8:30 pm.
Tickets are $5.
For additional information, contact Sacramento City Teachers Association – 916 452-4591.
About Diane:
My website is
I am a historian of education and Research Professor of Education at New York University.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Education Spring - rebellions

by Jeff Bryant, 
Earlier this year, spontaneous rebellions against top-down mandates and budget cuts inflicted on public schools erupted around the nation.
In a months-long Education Spring, students, parents, teachers and community activists staged boisterous rallies, street demonstrations, school walkouts, test boycotts, and other actions to protest government austerity and top-down “accountability” mandates that damage community schools and diminish students’ opportunities to learn.
The protests spanned the nation and generated national media attention, resulting in a policy impasse in Washington D.C. and many state capitals, as government leaders and politicians scrambled to pause the rollouts of new heavy-handed school punishments.
Prominent pundits began to openly question the intention of a self-defined “reform” movement that has reigned for years but failed to produce any direct benefits to school children. And prominent educators, economists, parent advocates, labor and religious leaders, and community organizers called for a new policy agenda focused on ensuring students have the opportunities and resources they need to learn as much as they can.
Showdown In California
In California, a confrontation between the state’s schools chief Tom Torlakson and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is emblematic of growing resentment toward the education reform movement’s overreliance on testing.

Mismatches in Race to the Top Limit Educational Improvement: Lack of Time, Resources, and Tools to Address Opportunity Gaps Puts Lofty State Goals Out of Reach | Economic Policy Institute

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Diane Ravitch: School privatization is a hoax, “reformers” aim to destroy public schools

Diane Ravitch: School privatization is a hoax, “reformers” aim to destroy public schools

They assert that the best way to save education is to hand it over to private management and let the market sort out the winners and the losers. They wish to substitute private choices for the public’s responsibility to provide good schools for all children. They lack any understanding of the crucial role of public schools in a democracy.
The central premise of this movement is that our public schools are in decline. But this is not true. The public schools are working very well for most students. Contrary to popular myth, the scores on the no-stakes federal tests— the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) — are at an all-time high for students who are white, black, Hispanic, and Asian. Graduation rates are also at an all-time high.
More young people than ever are entering college. Even more would go to college if the costs were not so high.
Of course some schools and districts have very low test scores and low graduation rates, and this has always been true. Most of these schools and districts have two features in common: poverty and high concentrations of racial minorities. The combination of these two factors is associated with low test scores. Children whose parents are poor and have low educational attainment tend to have lower test scores.
Children who are poor receive less medical attention and less nutrition and experience more stress, disruption, and crises in their lives. These factors have an ongoing and profound effect on academic performance.
That is why poor children need even more stability, more support, smaller class sizes, and more attention from their teachers and others in their schools, but often receive far less, due to underfunding.
Unfortunately, many people are unwilling to address the root causes of poor school outcomes, because doing so is either too politically difficult or too costly.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Changes in state school assessments

AB 484 Now Goes to Governor's Desk for Signature
SACRAMENTO—Legislation that would move California assessments into an era of critical thinking and deeper learning has now received state Senate and Assembly approval and is headed to Governor Brown's desk, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said.
Torlakson sponsored Assembly Bill 484, which passed the California state Assembly on concurrence vote today after Senate passage Tuesday. Authored by Assemblymember Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, and coauthored by Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, it marks a major step forward in the state's transition to the Common Core State Standards. The legislation suspends most Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) assessments and authorizes new Common Core-aligned assessments known as the Measurement of Academic Performance and Progress (MAPP).
"California's shift to the Common Core is about helping students meet the challenges of a changing world, and AB 484 recognizes that updating the way we teach students also means updating the way we test them," Torlakson said. "Lawmakers see that our students must graduate with more than knowledge, but with the ability to apply that knowledge to work collaboratively and solve problems."

Note: There is a problem with California adopting Common Core until the state amends the History Social Science Framework. We need some critical thinking here.  See California must change its history books before adopting Common Core.  Below. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

All Schools Need Assistance - Viewpoint

Every Sacramento school should be a ‘priority’ school

Special to The Bee   PUBLISHED THURSDAY, SEP. 12, 2013

As a teacher in Sacramento City Schools for the past 18 years and a parent of two children in the district, I join Marcus Breton in celebrating Father Keith B. Kenny’s rise in test scores (“A school that cares triumphs,” Sept. 4). The teachers and students worked very hard and deserve to be lauded for their efforts. However, in trying to establish a cause for the rise in scores, Breton left out many important details and did not paint a complete picture.
To assert that the gains were made because of “a break in teacher seniority” as he states in his column, is an oversimplification at best and is not supported by the facts. The school that made the biggest API gains in the district was not, in fact, one of Superintendent Jonathan Raymond’s “priority” schools. It was Maple Elementary, whose students were also all eligible for free and reduced lunch. Maple was one of the seven non-priority schools closed by the district last June.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

California must change its history books before adopting Common Core.

    California  is  at an important tipping point.  I and my graduate students  participated in the 2009  efforts to revise the History/Social Science  curriculum frameworks and frankly the issue of Mexican American history was marginalized.  It will require  some effort to change this.  It is important to intervene soon.  Once the national common core standards begin adopting History/ Social Science, the new standards  will  most likely integrate the existing state  standards- which ignore Mexican American/Latino history.  The inadequate 1986 History/ Social Science Framework  will become the national standards and will continue for another decade.  New York is currently revising their civic standards to prepare for inclusion in the common core. To this date we have been unable to interest legislators in responding to this problem.  See more here
    Students need to see themselves in the curriculum in order to believe they have a stake in the society. Textbooks for  California schools are selected by the State Board of Education based upon recommendations of their Curriculum Committees and the state frameworks and standards.   The current Framework reflects the historiography of the 1950’s. It was written in 1986 by senior scholars, they in turn were educated in the early 1970’s or before. It is substantially out of date. 

Monday, September 09, 2013

Walking the Labyrinth of the Corporate-Owned-Common Core

Michelle Rhee : front person for elite attacks on public schools

Excerpts from;  The Activist Handbook. Second edition.  2013. Reprinted with permission.
Randy Shaw
Michelle Rhee, chancellor for Washington, D.C., schools from 2007-2010, is the front person for elite attacks on teacher unions and public schools. Local school superintendents rarely become national figures, but Rhee appeared on the cover of Time magazine holding a broom to signify plans to sweep away teacher tenure. ..
By 2012 Rhee toured the nation promoting charter schools and vouchers, assessing teachers based on their students’ test scores, and most important condemning the evils of teacher unions.  Rhee made more than 150 public appearances in 2011-2012, reportedly getting as much as $50,000 per speech plus “first-class expenses.” It’s a pretty good deal for an educational “reformer” whose reputation is based on her controversial tenure as D.C. Chancellor.  Rhee closed schools, fired over half of the teachers, and tried to eliminate tenure….
Prominent educator Diane Ravitch has explained the Rhee phenomenon:
“This formula which will be a tragedy for our nation and for an entire generation of children, is now immensely popular in the states and the Congress.  Most governors endorse it.  The big foundations endorse it. “

Friday, September 06, 2013

Spared schools in Chicago see few financial benefits from closing 50 schools

Mathew Blake

In pushing through the closures of 50 neighborhood Chicago schools this summer over the vociferous objections of the teachers union and community groups, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his handpicked school board argued that the shutdowns would make up for budget shortages and direct more resources to other neighborhood schools.
But a week into the school year, the remaining schools appear to be receiving no immediate financial benefits from the closings.
The school year started on Monday for all 403,000 Chicago Public Schools students. Media coverage has largely focused on the “safe passage” routes that the district drew up to help the 12,500 students affected by the closings walk to their new schools. The closings prompted widespread concern that displaced students would have to cross gang lines to arrive at their new classrooms, exposing them to violence. But after five school days, there have been no reported violent incidents involving students traveling to their new schools.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

For Labor Day - Thank a Teacher

Teacher unions offer our best shot at revitalizing the labor movement.
Who would have thought that teachers, who often don’t consider themselves workers, would provide the most widespread, most sustained global resistance to capitalism’s anti-labor assault? From Chicago to Mexico to the UK, teachers unions are engaging in militant, head-to-head battles with ruling elites who are remaking education as a market and taking ideological control of what is taught. Why are teachers unions so prominently in the news? Why are they being attacked? And what should we be expecting from them this Labor Day?
Union density and span is one reason. Public school teachers comprise the largest segment of public sector workers, and over half of all unionized public employees in the US are teachers. In 2010, governments employed 3.2 million public school teachers, about 70% in unions, either the National Education Association (NEA) or the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). No other occupation in the US can claim this union density and this national presence – not the building trades, not auto, not steel, not health care, not federal workers either.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Labor Wrestles With Its Future

By Harold Myerson

Celebrate Labor Day. 
Since the emergence of capitalism, workers seeking higher pay and safer workplaces have banded together in guilds and unions to pressure their employers for a better deal. That has been the approach of the American labor movement for the past 200 years.

That approach, however, has begun to change. It’s not because unions think collective bargaining is a bad idea but because workers can’t form unions any more — not in the private sector, not at this time. There are some exceptions: Organizing continues at airlines, for instance, which are governed by different organizing rules than most industries. But employer opposition to organizing has become pervasive in the larger economy, and the penalties for employers who violate workers’ rights as they attempt to unionize are so meager that such violations have become routine. For this and a multitude of other reasons, the share of unionized workers in the private sector dropped from roughly one-third in the mid-20th century to a scant 6.6 percent last year. In consequence, the share of the nation’s economy constituted by wages has sunk to its lowest level since World War II, and U.S. median household income continues to decline.

Unions face an existential problem: If they can’t represent more than a sliver of American workers on the job, what is their mission? Are there other ways they can advance workers’ interests even if those workers aren’t their members?
(Editors note; See also post on labor and the immigration struggles on

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Gov. Brown endorses Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Several community groups question SB 744

Enrique Moreno
The California Latino Legislative Caucus held informational hearings on current efforts on immigration reform on Aug.27,2013, in Sacramento, California.  Speakers from community groups, labor unions, growers, and Dreamers, among others, presented the major issues and many of the problems with SB 744, the current federal proposal.  Enrique Moreno of Border Angeles described terror on the border. There were clear divisions among the groups about the current bill for its many repressive characteristics.  Mike Garcia of SEIU the Service Employees International  was  one of the more active advocates  for the bill saw the passage of the amended S744  as a major victory for working people. Conservative Republican forces in the U.S. Senate amended the bill to achieve a massive   $46  Billion  expansion of border control and  enforcement.  Moreno testified that this would only lead to more deaths on the border.
California Governor Brown joined the hearing for a short while and clearly endorsed efforts at comprehensive reform and promised to work with the legislators to assist with related state issues.
You can view the entire hearing with its many excellent and well informed speakers here.
It is well done and well informed.
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