I’m back!

I’m back! I have been in elementary school land for the past 5 years. I needed a break from teaching middle school. I taught first grade for two years and third grade for three years. That was enough.

I missed middle school.

Yes. You read that correctly! I love teaching reading and writing to middle schoolers. I love Young Adult books. I love how students are still kids, but not. I love their sense of justice. I missed it!

I did not miss grades, however. I have never liked grades. Grades are inherently racist and harmful to kids. I’ve dreamt about going gradeless for many years, and have decided this will be the year I implement it. Now, I do still have to give a grade. That’s a requirement. However, I am going to guide my students in learning about self reflecting and giving themselves a grade.

Crazy, right? I do teach middle school…

As I was wracking my brain about just how I would do this, I came across a book titled Pointless an English Teachers Guide to More Meaningful Grading by Sarah Zerwin.

I thought this book might have some great tips or insights. As I started reading, I was blown away with her assessment of the grading system. It is structural racism. Grading focuses on a product, and not the actual learning.


So, I decided to start documenting my journey into having adolescents self-reflect and grade themselves. Yes. A big undertaking. Stay tuned!

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How Neo-Liberalism is Destroying Public Education

I often want a source I can go to when I need articles on a certain topic in education. So that is what I am creating. The articles that follow are all about how neo-liberalism is destroying public education. If you come across more good articles, let me know and I will put it up!

Henry A. Giroux: Can Democratic Education Survive in a Neoliberal Society?

The Neoliberal Attack on Education

Privatizing Public Education: The Neoliberal Model

Global Neoliberalism and Education and its Consequences

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San Diego: If it sounds too good to be true…

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The truth about Title I funds and annual testing

Read this. They will try to scare you, saying the school will lose funding! Not true. #OptOut

More than a Score Chicago

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was originally passed in 1965 as part of the War on Poverty with the intention of providing the schools with large numbers of the neediest students with additional funding.  These funds are known as Title I funding.

In 1994, those funds were tied to annual standardized testing for students in schools receiving Title I funding. And since the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001, annual testing in reading and math has become a fixture of the entire American public school system. Annual testing in all public schools will continue under the most recent reauthorization of ESEA, the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA.

Families wishing to opt their children out (aka have them ‘refuse’) this annual testing are told that their schools’ Title I funding is at risk because schools that do not have 95% participation on the state…

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Open Letter to Oklahoma Voters and Lawmakers

He speaks the truth!

Steven E. Wedel

I am a teacher. I teach English at the high school of an independent district within Oklahoma City. I love my job. I love your kids. I call them my kids. I keep blankets in my room for when they’re cold. I feed them peanut butter crackers, beef jerky, or Pop Tarts when Michelle Obama’s school breakfast or lunch isn’t enough to fill their bellies. I comfort them when they cry and I praise them when they do well and always I try to make them believe that they are somebody with unlimited potential no matter what they go home to when they leave me.

What do they go home to? Sometimes when they get sick at school they can’t go home because you and the person you’re currently shacking up with are too stoned to figure out it’s your phone ringing. Sometimes they go home to parents who don’t…

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Hillary Clinton: Still on the Hook

I was thinking of writing a piece about this, but Mercedes has said it perfectly!

deutsch29: Mercedes Schneider's Blog

On December 22, 2015, Hillary Clinton spoke at a high school in Iowa, and she made a comment that speedily boomeranged on her:

I wouldn’t keep any school open that wasn’t doing a better-than-average job.

I wrote a wry response regarding the mathematical nonsense related to her misspoken goal of all schools’ being “above average.”

However, even as US News rushed to Clinton’s rescue to say that Clinton’s comment had been taken out of context, the greater problem is that Clinton tossed off such a comment at all.

hillary clinton 3  Hillary Clinton

School closure is destructive, and Clinton demonstrated her corporate-Democratic lack of awareness of the impact of the continued, privatizing-reform attack on the traditional, community-centered, American public school.

In November 2015, Clinton appeared to be critical of charter schools– and her husband Bill assisted with the backpedaling as billionaire charter-pushing funders like Eli Broad tightened his grip in his…

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NEA = Sell Out

By: Heather Poland

I was excited to learn that as a California State Delegate I would be able to participate in the conference call with CTA and Lily Eskelsen Garcia about the imminent primary endorsement of Hillary Clinton.

I, as many colleagues, am upset that this is a possibility. I emailed my NEA board reps, many of whom agreed with me. I encouraged members from other states to also email their NEA board members. I was looking forward to the conference call, though I was under no false hope that anything said would change Lily’s mind. I wanted to hear her words from her mouth, and hopefully ask a good question that other members and CTA board members would hear and, hopefully, think about.

The first 15 minutes were Lily speaking, defending why she wants to early endorse Hillary. The overall message I got from her was that she is scared. She mentioned many times that others had called the NEA irrelevant after the last presidential campaign because NEA did not endorse during the primary. Lily believes that a primary endorsement equals a seat at the “inner circle” table. Personally, I don’t believe this at all. The education reformers have money. They use their money to buy policy. Does Lily really think that endorsing during the primary will make the candidate listen and follow through with our recommendations? Money talks. Hillary is already influenced by Broad and Gates. Why would she suddenly change her views and do what is right for education when there is money pouring in from other places, and the dialogue now that so many civil rights groups also buy into is that of more testing and ed reform.

Why aren’t we making the candidates work for us instead of being scared that we won’t have a “seat at the table”? Don’t endorse anyone until they prove that they are 100% against corporate ed reform. That would be badass. The NEA isn’t irrelevant because we didn’t endorse during the last primary. The NEA is irrelevant because it doesn’t push politicians to do the right thing. Why not come out with a statement that says the NEA will not endorse ANYONE who is in favor of high stakes testing and horrible policy such as Race to the Top? That would show power. That would show leadership from NEA.

Another argument Lily gave was that Bernie would never be able to raise enough funds to counter the Koch-Republican candidate because he will not take dollars from Super PACs. So basically, Lily is scared that a Republican candidate will win. I felt that way once, back when I voted for Obama, twice. While Obama has done some great things, he is not everything I had hoped for, and definitely fell VERY short in education. I refuse to act on fear. The NEA should also not act, or react, based on fear. The NEA could be shaping education policy, but instead, it is cow-towing to corporate ed reformers. Bernie Sanders is raising a lot of money from small donors, and will continue to do so. No, he will not have as much money as Koch, but people are sick and tired of billionaires funding candidates.

The NEA is alienating its members, and this is especially bad in light of the Friedrich’s case. If they win, California will lose agency fees. This means that people could opt to NOT pay into the union. As it is now, teachers do NOT have to join the union, but they do still pay a fee to cover the costs of collective bargaining. This fee does NOT include political contributions a fact that many people don’t know. Political contributions are voluntary. Teachers who opt not to join the union still benefit from our collective bargaining. Without the dues from every teacher, that capability would be reduced greatly, and we would see the quality of education decline further. With the NEA pushing for this primary endorsement, many members I have spoken to, who are pro-union, would want to pull all their support from the union.

Eric Heins, CTA president, told u that there was a poll of general members between September 16th and September 21st. He said it was random, though didn’t offer any details or say how big the sample size was. He stated that the results from that showed, Hillary Clinton 41% support, Bernie Sanders 24%, and Joe Biden with 14%. Without Biden, Hillary’s support grew to 47% and Bernie’s to 33%. Personally, I would like to know more about this poll. I don’t know any members who were polled, and I would love to know if anyone was actually polled. I would also like to know what the sample size was. Eric Heins also said that CTA leaders were polled, but I know of at least one who said she was never polled.

Several questions were taken, and Terry Pesta, from San Diego Retired Education Association asked a great question. He asked, “If we endorse for primary, and that candidate doesn’t win, doesn’t that hurt us?”

Lily seemed to think it wouldn’t hurt us. She wants us in Hillary’ “inner circle” and thinks that if Bernie Sanders won the primary, we would, of course, put our support behind him. But wouldn’t that alienate us from him just a bit? Supporting Hillary until she doesn’t win is a standard political move that makes sense to many large organizations. But what if it alienates us from Bernie? Why not be badass, and come out with a statement about why we are NOT endorsing ANY candidate at this time?

I was called to ask my question as well: “Why are we endorsing anyone instead of telling the candidates we won’t endorse until they are 100% against corporate ed reform. Hillary is “in” with Broad and Gates.”

Lily’s response was that she wasn’t sure what “in with” Broad and Gates meant. She also went on to say that people within NEA have taken money from Gates, and some see it as just using that money. When I went to NEA RA in 2014, there was an NBI about NOT taking ANY money from Gates. That was “sent to committee” which is code for, “sent to die”. In 2015 a similar NBI was brought forward, and did not pass. It is pretty clear that Lily has no problem with accepting money from Gates.

She also asked, “would there be anyone we support if we were to stay pure?” That statement was also very telling to me. She has sold NEA out. NEA could be a progressive organization, and that is something many were hoping for under Lily Eskelsen Garcia, but we are not. She is too scared of being seen as a coward. Ironic.

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It has come to the attention of many of us today that the NEA Board of Directors plans on voting to early endorse Hillary Clinton, before the primary. When the AFT did this, there was outrage among members of AFT as well as NEA. Have they learned nothing from that? There was even a New Business Item at the NEA-RA that was about early endorsing. Is NEA listening?

Not only does early endorsing a candidate- who many members do NOT want- hurt the democracy of the organization, but with Friedrich’s case it weakens our union. We are only strong when we work TOGETHER. Many teachers have expressed to me that they are considering cancelling their union memberships if this early endorsement goes through. I don’t agree with doing this, but I completely understand why they feel the need to consider this. WE are the union. The Board of Directors needs to listen to the MEMBERS, not the other way around. They were elected to represent US. Speak up and MAKE your voice heard. Find out who your Board of Directors in your state are and contact them! Many of us in California have already done this. Below is a list of emails of California Board of Directors you can email with your concerns. I encourage you to find out who your state board members are, and email them now!

Emails of CA Board of Directors:

“Goldberg, David” <dgoldberg@cta.org>,
Theresa Montano <tmontano@cta.org>,
“Mr. Bonaccorsi” <hopkins_mr_b@yahoo.com>,
“maruk@cox.net” <maruk@cox.net>,
Karen Schuett <sschuett@bak.rr.com>,
“thedor@pacific.net” <thedor@pacific.net>,
Tracy Taylor <tracylee88@verizon.net>,
“Ellis, Robert” <r-ellis@juno.com>,
Kenneth Tang <3puttskenny@gmail.com>,
Erika Jones <ERILYJ@aol.com>

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I Didn’t Become A Teacher

This. Exactly this.

Pernille Ripp


I didn’t become a teacher so I could test my students into submission.  So I could talk about them as data points and chart their growth on a spreadsheet.

I didn’t become a teacher so that I could make students cry.  Or make them smile on command, make them sit still, make them schedule their breaks to my own benefit.  Punish them into submission while I wondered why they seemed so disengaged.

I didn’t become a teacher so I could tell children which books they couldn’t read, where they couldn’t sit, and who they couldn’t work with.

I became a teacher so that I could help students make their voice louder.  Help students believe more in themselves.  Help students grow, learn, and thrive.

I became a teacher to help students find the guts to say, “This is what I need, this is what I want.”

I became a teacher not to…

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Teaching, Writing as Activism?

Yes! Exactly this!

academic freedom isn't free

To the extent that I become clearer about my choices and my dreams, which are substantively political and attributively pedagogical, and to the extent that I recognize that though an educator I am also a political agent, I can better understand why I fear and realize how far we still have to go to improve our democracy. I also understand that as we put into practice an education that critically provokes the learner’s consciousness, we are necessarily working against the myths that deform us. As we confront such myths, we also face the dominant power because those myths are nothing but the expression of this power, of its ideology.

Paulo Freire, Teachers as Cultural Workers

Thus, proponents of critical pedagogy understand that every dimension of schooling and every form of educational practice are politically contested spaces. Shaped by history and challenged by a wide range of interest groups, educational practice…

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