Posted in Baseball, Play Kid's Work, poverty, reform, retention, SAT, TeacherShortage, Teaching Career, Tenure, Testing

Blogoversary #11: A Review

Today this blog begins its twelfth year (See NOTE, here). It would have been nice to be able to write a post on how American public school advocates have overcome the forces of so-called “education reform.”

Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened. The privatizers are still doing damage and spending their billions to turn public schools into charters. They’re still working to divert funds for public education into vouchers.

So instead, of a victory post, here is a short clip from each September that this blog has been in existence from September 2006 through September 2016.

On beyond thirty…

September 14, 2006

From my first post. Now, after 40 years, I am still fascinated by how humans learn…still volunteering in a local elementary school.

So here I am, now a part time pull-out reading specialist in a suburban/rural school in the midwest, still trying to figure out a better way to teach even after 30 years. I still find learning fascinating. It’s still hard for some children…easy for others…and I still want to know why.

“That” time of year…

September 10, 2007

It’s ten years since this post. Economic stratification and inequity is worse than ever. Test scores still reflect the income of the family.

Poverty, as the media is fond of saying, is no excuse. Gerald Bracey, educational researcher, replies that, true, poverty is not an excuse…it is a condition, just like gravity. “Gravity affects everything you do on the planet. So does poverty.”

All the Way with Pearl Jam

September 27, 2008

Sometimes I post non-education content. This song was for the Cubs. Last year they went “all the way.” #bucketlist

Duncan’s Background and Duncan’s Plans

September 6, 2009

*This quote is by Stephen Krashen…containing a quote by Susan Ohanian…

In her book, “Caught in the Middle: Nonstandard Kids Caught in a Killing Curriculum,” published in 2001, Susan Ohanian, an experienced and award-winning educator who has actually taught in public schools, pointed out that:

“The pattern of reform … has spread across the nation: Bring in someone who has never been involved in public education; proclaim that local administrators and teachers are lazy and stupid; use massive testing to force schools into curriculum compliance” (page x).

Since this passage was written, this pattern of reform has clearly spread to the highest levels.

Tenure and Unions

September 22, 2010

Indiana teachers no longer have due process as a job protection. Before 2011 tenure in Indiana guaranteed a teacher a hearing in front of an impartial party. No longer.

Tenure, they say, protects bad teachers. Unions support and protect the tenure system which, they say, gives teachers in K-12 a “job for life.” The only problem with that statement is that it’s wrong.

Tenure, as defined by these reformers and in turn, the general public who listens to them, does not exist. K-12 teachers who achieve tenure — or permanent status — do not have a job for life. According to Perry Zirkel, a professor of education and law at Lehigh University’s School of Education,

Tenure is no more than a legal commitment (set by the state and negotiated union contracts) to procedural due process, ensuring notice and providing a hearing for generally accepted reasons for termination, such as incompetency, insubordination, and immorality.

Tenure’s primary purpose is economic job security, tied to the otherwise uncompetitive pay in comparison to other professions; however, tenure is not a lifetime guarantee.

Why Are SAT Scores So Low?

September 23, 2011

Here’s something which the corporate “reformers” don’t like to talk about. The higher the family income, the better the children do on SAT tests. Take a look at this…

Which Future Awaits our Grandchildren?

September 7, 2012

The shame of the nation, as Jonathan Kozol put it, is still the number of American children who live in poverty.

We don’t have to write off nearly a quarter of our children to poverty. I wrote a few days ago,

What other nation would accept a poverty rate of almost a quarter of its children?

I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine any other of the world’s wealthy nations allowing that to continue. The United States is among the world leaders in child poverty — We should be ashamed of ourselves.

Play is More Important Than Tests

September 9, 2013

Sadly, kindergarten is the new first grade.

I remember when the “abuse of testing craze” started a couple of decades ago…that was when we were required to use “research-based instruction.” A group of us got together and found a research basis for everything we did. Every teacher in our school system needed to be ready to justify what they did based on research.

Later, (2002) the US Department of Education started the What Works Clearinghouse so teachers could find teaching techniques and methods which were (supposedly) supported by research.

But now the truth has come out…when research goes against what the “reformers” want it’s ignored…or denied.

Retention Wars: Blaming Children

September 25, 2014

More than a dozen states, including Indiana punish third grade children — 8 and 9 year olds — for low reading achievement by forcing them to repeat third grade. Retention in grade doesn’t work…and we have known it for decades.

In the past, parents, teachers, and administrators used to make the decision to retain a student in his current grade. Now it’s state legislatures, governors, and departments of education. We have allowed the wrong people — politicians and policy makers — to determine the academic placement of our children using the wrong kinds of tests in the wrong kinds of ways.

Teacher Shortage? When All Else Fails Blame the Union

September 18, 2015

…”Reform” is the status quo in Indiana. Indiana is a state where public schools are closed so charters can open, where bankrupt charters are forgiven their taxpayer-funded loans, where an A-F school ranking system is manipulated for the benefit of political donors, where vouchers are available with only minor restrictions, where teachers are evaluated based on student test scores because testing is overused and misused, where teachers no longer have due process rights, where untrained or poorly trained non-educators can walk into a classroom and start teaching with minimal oversight, where the Governor and members of the State Board of Education blatantly prefer privatization over public schools

#%@! Adults Should Quit Punishing Children

September 7, 2016

Retention in grade doesn’t help children. It merely shows how adults have failed children.

FLORIDA STILL REQUIRES THE PUNISHMENT OF 8 AND 9 YEAR OLDS

…as does Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, D.C., Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Washington. Other states – Colorado, Maryland, Oklahoma, Virginia, West Virginia – encourage it, though it’s not required. Different hoops are needed to avoid it in various states. See K-3 Quality: Is there a third grade retention policy?

These states and Florida, demand retention in grade of third graders for not learning quickly enough, or not being able to pass a standardized reading test. Retention in grade isn’t remediation. Retention in grade punishes children for the failures of adults.

*All quotes are my words unless otherwise noted.

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Posted in 1000 Words, Baseball, IN Gen.Assembly, Politics, Public Ed, Testing, Trump, vouchers

Food for Thought

A collection of memes and cartoons from around the internet about public education.

BASEBALL

The national metaphor for hope…a new season.

MARCH MADNESS

No, not basketball – the Indiana General Assembly.

We’re in the midst of the annual attempt by “reformers” in Indiana to

  • extend the misuse and overuse standardized testing
  • expand the voucher program
  • increase funds to charter schools
  • decrease funds to public schools
  • deprofessionalize teachers
  • bust the teachers union

Winners: private and privately run schools, corporate donors, Republican campaign war chests.

Losers: Indiana public school students and their teachers, public school corporations, the future of Indiana.

IMPROVE THE GARDEN, DON’T PLOW IT OVER

Repair our public schools and the neighborhoods they occupy. Don’t close them.

STANDARDIZATION

Teachers are required to differentiate curriculum because all children are different, but give a standardized test which all children have to pass.

FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

Have We Lost Sight of the Promise of Public Schools?

If there is hope for a renewal of our belief in public institutions and a common good, it may reside in the public schools. Nine of 10 children attend one, a rate of participation that few, if any, other public bodies can claim, and schools, as segregated as many are, remain one of the few institutions where Americans of different classes and races mix. The vast multiracial, socioeconomically diverse defense of public schools that DeVos set off may show that we have not yet given up on the ideals of the public — and on ourselves.

TESTING

Now that we know better can we just stop the overuse and misuse of standardized tests? How many instructional hours are wasted for teachers, support staff, and students?

POLITICS

Nothing new for Indiana…

VOUCHERS

A voucher vs. public school comparison.

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Posted in Baseball, Personal History

Baseball Interlude: Random Thoughts: Cubs Win!

IT’S “NEXT YEAR”

I saw my first professional baseball game at Wrigley Field in the summer of 1956 – or maybe it was ’55…or ’57 – in any case, it was sometime in the mid 50’s. Ernie Banks was a newcomer, having joined the team in 1953 after playing professional baseball with the Kansas City Monarchs. Ron Santo, Billy Williams, and Ferguson Jenkins were teenagers still in high school. Ryne Sandberg and Greg Maddux hadn’t been born yet.

I watched games after school. I got on the ‘el’ after high school and rode to Wrigley. I followed the team in the newspaper when I didn’t have TV or radio access. I joined the Die-Hard Cubs Fan Club in the 80s…and the Cubs Club when the former morphed into the latter.

Here, then, are some random thoughts on an occasion I always hoped to see. The Cubs have won the National League Pennant. “Next year” is now.

  • In 1969 I was in college and only followed the Cubs in the newspaper (IDS). There were TVs in the dorm (I even had a roommate with a TV for a while), but that was before cable or satellite and WGN didn’t broadcast to Bloomington, Indiana. I’m glad I didn’t see that season on TV or in person. It was too painful.
  • My dad saw (or more likely listened to) the Cubs win the National League in 1929, 1932, 1935, 1938, and 1945, but never saw a World Championship. I was born three years after the Cubs’ last trip to the World Series.
  • All the years the Cubs were in the post season for the National league pennant…and came up short…1984, 1989, 1998, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2015…”Wait till next year!”
  • “So the Cubs haven’t won a pennant in nearly forty years. Why not look at it this way? Take it in terms of eternity. That’s not even a fly speck. Just tell yourself that sometime in the next thousand years the Cubs will get their share of the pie.” – Jack Brickhouse*
  • Since 1876, and before 2016, the Cubs have won two World Series, sixteen National League pennants, and six division championships. The last pennant win (until last night) was 1945. The last World Series win was 1908.
  • Hey! Peanuts! Cubs peanuts here!
  • “I have always been an optimist and even though sometimes you lose more than you win with that type of attitude, still and all there are enough great moments, thrills and excitement to make it all beautiful. You know that tomorrow will be a better day.” – Jack Brickhouse*
  • When Dexter Fowler walks to the plate in the top of the first inning in Cleveland on Tuesday, October 25, he will be the first African-American in a Cubs uniform ever to play in a World Series.
  • For decades I’ve said that all I want is a National League Pennant…even if they lost in the World Series. Now that the Cubs have finally won a National League Pennant, a World Series win would be nice…
  • Baseball is the perfect metaphor for life. Some teams, often those with the most money, win more times than others. But money doesn’t always buy success just like money doesn’t buy happiness. For that, you have to rely on family and friends (teamwork), hard work, a positive attitude, and some luck. Getting knocked down doesn’t make one weak. Strength is better measured by the ability to get up after being knocked down. Courage is not the opposite of fear…it is being afraid, yet still persevering in the face of certain defeat. A hero isn’t the one who wins the game, but the one who keeps swinging till the final out.
“Don’t let anyone say that it’s just a game
For I’ve seen other teams and it’s never the same
When you’re born in Chicago you’re blessed and you’re healed
The first time you walk into Wrigley Field
…Someday we’ll go all the way, yeah, someday we’ll go all the way” – Eddie Vedder
  • Perseverance. Perseverance. Perseverance.
  • “Cub fans will take winning in stride. With enthusiasm, with tears of joy, perhaps, but in stride…When it happens you will find us, like our ancestors in 1908, sensitive enough to know how to be humble in the face of a miracle.” – Jim Langford*

THE TWO GREATEST CUB FANS IN HISTORY

I wish you could have been here to see this…

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*from The Cub Fan’s Guide to Life by Jim Langford.

Posted in asimov, Baseball, Personal History, poverty, Public Ed, read-alouds, retention, Teaching Career

Random Thoughts on the Occasion of My 10th Blogoversary

…which is tomorrow.

[NOTE: This is not my “main blog.” You’ll find that at http://bloom-at.blogspot.com. I began this “mirror” blog in January of 2013, a full 7 years after I started blogging at Blogger.]

Here are some random thoughts about learning, education, and other things…with a few quotes sprinkled throughout. FWIW…

  • “Lazy” students are most likely students who have given up. If there’s one argument in favor of investing more in early-child education and early intervention, then this is it. It’s much easier to keep a child going with successful experiences than to get a child to “restart” after they have failed and given up.
  • Misbehavior is often a cover up for academic difficulties. It’s much easier to choose to be a behavior problem than it is to accept that learning is difficult and risk being labeled as “stupid.”
  • Despite the chronological gap between the students I taught in 1975-1976 and the students I taught in 2015-2016, the needs of the children were the same. They wanted – and want – to learn, to be accepted for who they are, and to be loved.
  • Reflective teachers never stop learning. I have never considered myself a “master teacher” because I recognize my own inabilities and weaknesses. I don’t believe that I ever “mastered” teaching. Each day there were things I could have done better.
  • “…it is the struggle itself that is most important…It does not matter that we will never reach our ultimate goal. The effort yields its own rewards…” – Data in The Offspring
  • Criticism is worthwhile. Ask trusted colleagues for it, then accept it and use it to improve.
  • “For years we’ve been told from Wall Street entrepreneurs that we don’t need more money for these inner-city schools, we just need the same management techniques that they use on Wall Street. They say, “You can’t throw money at this problem.” But they are the ones who pull their kids out of the public school system and put them in Exeter and Andover, which now costs about $50,000 a year, or the people who live in the rich suburbs who spend $24,000 on their public schools, almost twice as much as children in New York. They say you can’t throw money at the problem, but I say it seems to work for their kids.” – Jonathan Kozol An Interview with Educator and Activist Jonathan Kozol
  • Every student can learn. However, expecting that every student will learn the same thing, at the same time, and in the same way, is unreasonable. Human beings don’t grow on a set schedule. We all didn’t learn to walk on the 3,000 day of life and not everyone will learn to read in First Grade Kindergarten. Those who expect uniformity in child development should stay out of the classroom. Those who demand uniformity in student achievement should keep their policies out of public education. Students are not widgets. Education is not a business.
  • Every student is different. The strength of a classroom is in the diversity of its students. One way for humans to outgrow the damaging tribalism which has been responsible for most of the wars in human history is to bring together our children to play and learn.  We should celebrate and encourage infinite diversity in infinite combinations.
  • “When people have said ‘poverty is no excuse,’ my response has been, ‘Yes, you’re right. Poverty is not an excuse. It’s a condition. It’s like gravity. Gravity affects everything you do on the planet. So does poverty.'” – Gerald Bracey, Parents, Poverty and Achieving in School
  • It’s well established that children need a safe place in order to learn. No one can learn if they’re afraid. The same goes for the adults in school. Teachers need a safe place to teach. Bullies don’t belong in the classroom, the school office, or the central office.
  • Things I miss in today’s schools: cursive writing, typewriters, card catalogues, and paper based reference materials (aka World Book Encyclopedia).
  • “Cub fans will take winning in stride. With enthusiasm, with tears of joy, perhaps, but in stride…When it happens you will find us, like our ancestors in 1908, sensitive enough to know how to be humble in the face of a miracle.” – Jim Langford in The Cub Fan’s Guide to Life, 1984
  • “The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children…It is a practice that should continue throughout the grades.” – 1983 Commission on Reading. Reading aloud is more important than standardized tests, test-prep, work sheets, homework, book reports, flash cards…
  • Teachers, you won’t be able to “finally get caught up” until the end of the school year. There’s too much to do and not enough time to do it. Until a better way comes to American education, teachers will have to accept that fact and prioritize.
  • Teachers, there won’t be enough money for public education until the American people, through their leaders, give it a higher priority. It’s the future of the nation. Public school students are the future leaders of the country. We’re a nation of selfish, shortsighted people only thinking about “mine” and “now.” We need to invest in our future…in public education.
  • If you retain a student in grade you’re increasing to 60% the chance that he will drop out. Obviously no teacher can force a student to learn, but we need to reach students before they fail. Students need early intervention, wraparound services, and attention to the causes of their learning problems, rather than the reaction of retention. Policy makers can help by funding Pre-K education, early intervention programs, and support services. Which child isn’t worth the money?
  • “Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’” – Isaac Asimov
  • My first students are now adults in their late 40s. I can see how they impact the community. Teachers, quite literally, have the future of the nation in their classrooms. Today’s difficult student might one day make a contribution to national defense, the national economy, or an advancement in medicine.
  • “History has proved again and again that whenever mankind interferes with a less-developed civilization, no matter how well intentioned that interference might be, the results are invariably disastrous.” – Picard in Symbiosis
  • One’s skill as a teacher, while important, is secondary to one’s ability to understand and relate to children. My greatest successes as a teacher were with those students whose hearts I was able to touch. My greatest failure – and one stands out more than all the rest – was with the student I couldn’t reach because I couldn’t relate to him.
  • Technology is not “the answer.” It’s a tool. The same goes for educational trends like…brain training, phonics vs. whole language, multi-graded classrooms, project-based learning, and new math. Those techniques and concepts, and others like them, might be helpful for some students some times, but they are just tools. I’m more and more convinced that the “answer” is found in the relationship between teacher and student.
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Posted in Baseball, Immigrants, Politics

Baseball Interlude: No Foreigners Allowed?

Tis the season, it seems, for anti-immigrant fear mongering.

Phyllis Schlafly, the great-granddaughter of a European immigrant who lived in Canada before coming to the US, wants to ban foreigners from playing on U.S. professional baseball teams.

When I first saw that I thought it was a joke…an article from the Onion. But no. It’s no joke. Schlafly, whose great-grandfather emigrated to the United States from Scotland, wants to ban all foreigners from playing professional baseball in the U.S.

Why?

THEY CAN’T SPEAK ENGLISH AND ARE STEALING JOBS

First, because they

cannot speak English

Should we deny people jobs because they can’t speak English?  Perhaps Ms. Schlafly has forgotten that this country was taken from the natives – who didn’t speak English – and then built by immigrants – many of whom didn’t speak English.

A good portion of the food Schlafly puts into her anti-immigrant mouth every day was likely picked and processed by people who don’t speak English.

And what about stealing jobs? Does Schlafly make sure that everything she puts on her native born body or into her home is manufactured by native born Americans, in American factories, owned by Americans? What about her cell phone? What about the computer she uses to write her poison? What about the car she drives, the TV she watches, the microwave in which she heats up her coffee.

The hypocrisy takes my breath away…

LITTLE LEAGUE GRADUATES

Second, we shouldn’t allow foreigners to play baseball because they

did not rise through the ranks of Little League

I didn’t make this up. She actually wrote this.

Yes, it’s true that Little League baseball was started in the US in 1939, but as of 2016 Little League International supports baseball for children in 80 countries around the world including places rarely associated with baseball such as Uganda and Turkey. So, saying that no foreign born player has risen through the ranks of Little League is very likely untrue, especially those who hail from the baseball rich cultures of the Dominican Republic, Venezuala, Mexico, and Japan.

And…what? Little League is now a prerequisite for playing professional baseball? Where did all the pre 1939 baseball players come from? Where did Honas Wagner play Little League? What about Christy Matthewson? Was Three-finger Brown a pitcher in Little League before he lost parts of two fingers in a farm implement accident?

Just to be sure I’ll check the article to make sure it’s not from the Onion…

NO GIRLS NEED APPLY

Third,

Baseball is a wonderful activity for boys and young men.

If you are going to write about Little League and baseball, you ought to know something about it. Little league (unlike organized, professional baseball) is not gender exclusive. Girls are actually allowed to play baseball with boys. In fact, a girl, Mo’ne Davis of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, pitched a shut out – a two-hitter – during the Little League World Series in 2014.

I wonder…if Mo’ne Davis decides to pursue a career in professional baseball would Schlafly approve because she’s an American, and came up through the ranks of Little League.

AMERICANS ARE BETTER?

Fourth,

All six of the six recipients of the top awards this past season are native born American, but more than a quarter of Major League Baseball players are foreign-born

Yes, I knew that all six of the six recipients of the top awards in 2015 (MVP, Rookie of the Year, and Cy Young) are native born Americans.

Past winners, however, include Dominicans, Cubans, Venezualans, Canadians, Mexicans, and Japanese. True baseball fans recognize names of stars like Albert Pujols, Miguel Tajeda, José Abreu, José Fernandez, Miguel Cabrera, Félix Hernández, Joey Votto, and Ichiro Suzuki. Cherry picking one year of award winners does not mean that all the players descended from immigrants are better than all the players who are immigrants.

BASEBALL, HOT DOGS, AND APPLE PIE

Let’s just carry this a step further. Does Ms. Schlafly want us to ban all foreign born workers from getting paid for jobs in the U.S.? How about actors? Should we keep them from working on movies or TV programs made in the U.S.? Should we ban all foreign born writers? all foreign born musicians? Why single out baseball players…let’s ban all foreign born professional basketball players, soccer players, tennis players, hockey players. Think of all the jobs that could go to Americans!

But baseball, and other sports, reflect the fact that the United States is a nation of immigrants. The anti-immigrant/false patriotism spouted by bigots like Schlafly has no place in any professional sport in this country. Indeed, it has no place at all in our nation.

In the best tradition of this nation, immigrants like the players mentioned in the paragraphs above, come to the U.S. to improve their lives, just like Schlafly’s Great-Grandfather Stewart did when he came to the U.S. in 1851 from Scotland. If the U.S. had Schlafly’s no-foreigners-allowed policy back then, chances are Phyllis Schlafly would have grown up as a Canadian.

IT’S A SMALL WORLD AFTER ALL

We live in a smaller world than humans of the past. National boundaries are not corporate boundaries. Goods and services are mobile. Even those things “Made in USA” are likely to have foreign parts.

People, too, are more mobile than before. It doesn’t take 2 months to sail from Europe to North America any more. We’ve seen the Earth from space…national boundaries aren’t visible.

Sooner or later people are going to have to accept that all of us live together on one, small planet.

Which is the more “American” policy? Locking our door in fear of the stranger, or welcoming the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free?”

It’s time we outgrew our antiquated tribalism.

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Posted in Baseball

Baseball Interlude: Monte Irvin

“Baseball has done more to move America in the right direction than all the professional patriots with their billions of cheap words.” — Monte Irvin, quoted by MLB historian, John Thorn

Monte Irvin died Monday, January 11, 2016. He was 96.

Irvin played in the Negro Leagues and the Mexican League before coming to the Major Leagues in 1949. He played alongside, and mentored Willie Mays, and was part of the New York Giant’s 1951 World Series Championship team.

From the Giant’s web site tribute to Irvin:

Monte Irvin was a mentor to Willie Mays and a friend to Ted Williams. He was in the Polo Grounds’ home dugout when Bobby Thomson hit the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” and was visiting Havana when the Cubans ran out a hotshot pitching prospect named Fidel Castro.

Irvin’s long, wonderful life was the stuff of dreams, a uniquely American story and an enduring testament to talent, perseverance, grace and dignity. Perhaps it is the greatest tribute to this remarkable man, who died Monday night in Houston of natural causes at age 96, that he’ll forever be remembered as much for his decency and sense of humor as for his amazing skills.

Monte Irvin played his last year in professional baseball (as a player) with the Chicago Cubs. It was 1956 – my first year as a (8 year old) Cub fan.

Al Yellon, author of the Bleed Cubbie Blue blog, wrote of a milestone game in which Irvin particpated,

His one year with the Cubs was decent, as he hit .271/.346/.460 with 15 home runs in 111 games at age 37. Irvin’s addition to the team in 1956 meant that in the first game Sam Jones started that year, April 20 against the Cardinals, the Cubs fielded a majority African-American lineup for the first time (Irvin, Jones, Ernie Banks, Gene Baker and Solly Drake). They were the second team to do so. (First was the Dodgers, July 17, 1954.)

Irvin was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1973.

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Posted in Baseball

An Impact on Other Lives

“A life is not important except in the
impact it has on other lives.” — Jackie Robinson

Today, January 31 is Jackie Robinson’s birthday. He was born in Cairo, Georgia in 1919.

Eulogy for Jackie Robinson…by Jesse Jackson. From Ken Burns, Baseball

Jackie Robinson Tribute: Baseball Hall of Fame.

“There’s not an American in this country free until every one of us is free.” — Jackie Robinson

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All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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