Defend Public Education

Victory for the Teachers and Students of Detroit: Steve Conn elected DFT President

Posted in education, politics, union action by Nicole Conaway on January 21, 2015

Victory for Steve Conn and EON/BAMN in the Detroit Federation of Teachers—Victory for the New Civil Rights Movement in the Struggle for Educational Opportunity in Detroit

Teacher and Community Celebration and Action Rally: (1) to implement the democratic decision of the teachers and secure the inauguration of Steve Conn, and (2) to launch the new presidency and organizing campaign. Scheduled Tuesday, January 20 at 4:00pm, located at 7700 2nd Ave., Detroit.

In a courageous stand for hope and progress in Detroit, teachers elected Steve Conn as president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers. This victory represents the initiation of a new period of civil rights struggle in Detroit, a bold challenge to the segregated and unequal conditions that have only worsened during the years of hostile takeovers. Fighting the ongoing trend of the decimation of the Detroit schools, the teachers are now poised more than ever before to defend the educational interests of the students, the teachers, and the entire city.

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Steve Conn of Equal Opportunity Now/By Any Means Necessary caucus is sworn in as President of the Detroit Federation of Teachers

Statement by Steve Conn: “With great pride and urgency, I accept the mandate of the Detroit teachers to fight for the futures of our students and for the quality teaching and learning conditions that our city deserves. We will not accept the continued regime of deteriorating, second-class education. With the support of my fellow teachers, of our students, and our community, I believe that we can stand up for the real hope and progress that has long been denied. I believe that our impoverished city can have a bright future, because I know the great potential of the students I teach, and I know the deep compassion of the teachers with whom I work. My first action as president will be to organize a mass meeting—for Sunday, January 25—in response to the demand of members to hold such a meeting for teachers to discuss and vote on a program of action to rebuild the union and to save public education. Teachers are circulating petitions to call this historic meeting. I will work tirelessly to rebuild the Detroit Federation of Teachers, and to enable our union to stand up for the basic rights of our students and educators. The DFT ought to be a leading voice to champion the cause of educational opportunity, and as DFT president I pledge that our union will resolutely struggle for the resources and policies that our schools so desperately need.”

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EON/BAMN Campaign literature

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Tom Stephens: Assault on Detroit

Posted in education, politics by Nicole Conaway on June 26, 2011

via Tom Stephens: Assault on Detroit (counterpunch.org)

Weekend Edition
June 24 – 26, 2011

An Open Letter to Arne Duncan

Assault on Detroit

By TOM STEPHENS

US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan labeled Detroit “ground zero” in education reform by video conference. He pointed out that Detroit students have posted the worst scores in the nation in math, reading and science, levels that shocked local and national education officials. Duncan said those results, on the National Assessment of Educational Progress Trial Urban District Assessment, caused some to view the city as having “no viable future if the status quo is allowed to stand.” (From The Detroit News, June 21, 2011)

Hon. Secretary Duncan:

Your labeling of Detroit and its People, including our Children, in a five-minute video conference address on June 21, 2011, is much more than an egregious display of bad manners, arrogance and racism.

The education “reform” movement whose standard you bear may have reached a new low – especially in your extraordinarily narrow and myopic, even obsessive focus on high-stakes testing of children and phony standards for “accountability” (standards that you apply to children, but never to the politicians and corporate interests who are pushing them). In short, you must have gone completely insane.

Permit me to explain this harsh judgment.

Many studies and competent professional educators have by now concluded that the infamous “No Child Left Behind” Act model of education has failed our children. Indeed, longstanding opponents of these “reforms” have been amply justified by experience in our original assessment of this model: it was designed to punish public school systems and children in low-income communities, predominantly of color, while generating enormous profits for corporate testing and turnaround ventures.

Even advocates of these failed “reforms” (most notably former Bush administration education official Diane Ravitch, in her bestselling book “The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education”), have evaluated the evidence generated by a decade of such “reform,” and exposed its failure to promote effective education, and its success at enriching and empowering unqualified political operatives like yourself, who are nevertheless pressing ahead amidst wars and recession with a second decade of this failed model.

However, until now as far as I know no one has been so bold, mindless or irresponsible as to claim that the results of a single standardized test battery condemn an entire community to non-viability. Standardized tests have often been shown to be scientifically unreliable for assessing and intervening in educational programs. When used as overly prescriptive guides to policy, they produce wildly divergent results, condemning successful programs working under the most difficult conditions to the label of “failure,” while rewarding far less effective educational systems in better-resourced communities. Perhaps even worse, the corporate “reform” mania for testing reinforces an anti-intellectual, reductionist and counter-productive praxis of “teaching to the test,” instead of real, dynamic education in the modes of critical thought, agency and empowerment through intellectual growth. All this is more than enough to condemn the high-stakes testing regime for which you stand as the federal government’s top bureaucrat. But until now no one has publicly claimed that a community could be condemned to “no viable future” by poor test results. Shame on you!

Your five-minute video conference assessment of Detroit’s community was in support of the third state takeover proposal for Detroit Public Schools since 1999. The first two state takeovers are now widely acknowledged to have inflicted nearly catastrophic damage on this system and the children it seeks to serve, amounting to a peculiar form of institutionalized and politicized corporate child abuse. Now you support yet another ill-planned experiment with the intellectual and cultural welfare of Detroit’s children.

What do you even know about Detroit or its people?

What evidence do you have that Governor Rick Snyder’s new, and vaguely defined “Educational Achievement Authority” and “”Educational Achievement System” will actually improve educational outcomes for Detroit’s children, as opposed to institutionalizing the school-to-prison pipeline in “underperforming” schools for children labeled as “failures,” underwritten by the biased, partisan agenda of the Broad Foundation and other members of what Ms. Ravitch appropriately calls “the billionaire boys’ club,” i.e., the Gates and Walton Foundations?

Will you apologize to Detroit, its people and children for your abusive statements, delivered in the most thoughtless and insulting way?

School “failure” results from the failure of your “reform” agenda to create a new paradigm for education – not a “race to the top,” but a race to regain our humanity and become well-educated, effective citizens in a democracy. Of necessity, Detroit is learning faster than most places how real education can address the challenges of our community, and how these challenges are opportunities to engage children and people of all ages in educational programs that grow our souls.

I respectfully suggest that Detroiters and others with actual knowledge of our community, and especially Detroit’s children, many of whom are thriving in excellent schools, should write Secretary Duncan and inform him, in your own words, why we are a distinctly viable, creative, flourishing and beloved community:

Honorable Arne Duncan
Secretary of Education
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20202

Tom Stephens is a lawyer in Detroit. He can be reached at: jail4banksters@yahoo.com

Catherine Ferguson Acdemy Student statement says it best

Posted in Catherine Ferguson articles, education, politics by Nicole Conaway on June 9, 2011

A student wrote this today and asked me to use it to, in her words, ” gain support for our cause”

Save Catherine Ferguson
By: Ikeeah Dozier
It is often said that Catherine Ferguson Academy is the school for pregnant girls. This is not true, I wouldn’t even say that this is a school for teenage mothers – it is much more than that. Catherine Ferguson is not only for the continuing education of young mothers, but for the beginning education of our children. We don’t have day care here, we have early education classrooms. We aren’t leaving our children with glorified babysitters, we are leaving them with teachers. It isn’t just that our children are learning educationally, they are also learning socially. By being in the classroom from such an early age, our children are learning how to interact. Whereas children that stay at home for three years then enter preschool don’t know what to do in a room full of children their age.
Catherine Ferguson isn’t telling girls that it’s ok to get pregnant. We are saying that if you do get pregnant, there are options. I say “we”, because Catherine Ferguson is a family. We all travel great distances to get here. Some of us take one bus, some of us three. Some of us live on this side of town, some of us live east. Then there are those, like me, that don’t live in Detroit at all, but in one of the outlying cities. There are even girls that moved here from different states.
Why try to break up this school when it has everything that we need? We are learning, our children are learning, and should something happen, only a flight of stairs, or a short walk down the hallway, separates us. The nurse’s station is only a few feet away, and they are trained to handle many difficult situations.
By closing Catherine Ferguson, you are not only closing us out, but our children. It’s as if you’re saying that because we made a mistake, neither we nor our children deserve an education. Who is anyone to deny the children of teenaged mothers an education? Children are the future, so why send them into the world with anything less than the best?