An evening with Diane Ravitch, champion of public schools

Plan to attend An Evening With Diane Ravitch, moderated By Eli Stokols of Fox31 News. You will not want to miss the chance to hear the author of “The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education.”

In her latest book, distinguished education scholar and former proponent of the federal No Child Left Behind Act Diane Ravitch raises concerns over testing mania and school choice. In the process, she is reframing the national debate over the best ways to improve our nation’s public schools.

From 1991 to 1993, she was Assistant Secretary of Education and Counselor to Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander in the administration of President George H.W. Bush. She was responsible for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement in the U.S. Department of Education. As Assistant Secretary, she led the federal effort to promote the creation of voluntary state and national academic standards.

From 1997 to 2004, she was a member of the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the federal testing program. She was appointed by the Clinton administration’s Secretary of Education Richard Riley in 1997 and reappointed by him in 2001. From 1995 until 2005, she held the Brown Chair in Education Studies at the Brookings Institution and edited Brookings Papers on Education Policy. Before entering government service, she was Adjunct Professor of History and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Here’s some footage of a talk she gave last fall in Los Angeles with the local teacher’s union…

Out of a shared commitment to Colorado’s public school children, the following hosts are pleased to bring you the opportunity to share an evening with Dr. Ravitch:

University of Colorado at Denver, Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA), Uniting 4 Kids, Democrats for Excellent Neighborhood School Education (DeFENSE), Jeanne Slavin Kaplan, Northeast Community Congress on Education (NCCE), Black Education Advisory Committee (BEAC)

Sponsors:University of Northern Colorado – College of Education and Behavioral Sciences, Piton Foundation, Every Child Matters, Connect Us, Friends of the Open Schools (FOTOS), Progress Now, University of Northern Colorado – Center for Urban Education, Community College of Denver, Metro State College

The sponsoring groups do not want anyone to be deterred from attending because of cost. Therefore, if ticket cost is an issue, please contact dcta@coloradoea.org or call 303-831-0590 for scholarship information.

DETAILS:

Where:
Universitiy of Colorado at Denver
Tivoli Student Union
900 Auraria Pkwy.
Turnhalle Event Room
2nd Fl. Rm 250
Denver, CO

When:

Thursday February 17, 2011 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM MST

Reception, Book Signing and Preferred Seating:
$50.00
6:00 pm to 7:30 pm

Speech and Q & A (Prior to Event): $10.00
7:30 pm to 9:00 pm

Speech and Q&A Only:
(Day of Event)
$15.00
7:30 pm to 9:00 pm

Event to support Friends of Education

To register for event, click here.

For more information, send an email to dcta@coloradoea.org or call 303-831-0590. We hope you can join us!

Dear Nate: do you know about the problems at Rachel B. Noel?

Nate Easley or any other board members did not visit Rachel B. Noel last fall, even when our Open House was posted on the DPS website, and when it was well known that we had just begun implementing a federal turnaround grant. Wouldn’t the president of the school board want to know what’s going on at a school before he or she voted for sweeping changes?

No, probably not.  But here is an inside report for your information.  It came in from one of our parent organizers.

I feel that people gathering recall signatures need to know that:

  • Nate Easley or any other board members did not visit Rachel B. Noel last fall, even when our Open House was posted on the DPS website, and when it was well known that we had just begun implementing a federal turnaround grant.  Wouldn’t the president of the school board want to know what’s going on at a school before he or she voted for sweeping changes?
  • DPS’s solution for co-locating three schools in this building is to divide the RBN library, a focal point of the building, into classrooms!  Has Nate Easely or any of the board members he leads seen the plans?  Do they agree with the plan to completely phase out the library? And, this re-location solution won’t even work past year 3–the building is not big enough.
  • Easley was on the FNE committee–did it not raise a red flag for him when A+ sent out an e-mail survey to committee members and community members at 5:00 on a Friday evening of a 4 day DPS weekend?  The survey was due back Monday at noon, 1.5 days before the staff and many of the parents would be accessible.  If he really represented the community, wouldn’t he want real, meaningful community engagement?
  • Many of the comments written by Noel staff, parents and community partners at the FNE meetings never made their way to the committee members or DPS staff now in charge of implementing the new plan.  Did Nate Easley ask after each FNE meeting to see the comments being made by his constituents?
  • New principals have been or are being selected at several FNE schools, through a process which is apparently not transparent and does not align with the district’s standard principal selection process.  Several FNE principals voiced their concern about the way in which decisions are being made at a recent principal’s meeting, the minutes of which were recorded by……..Oakwood Homes
  • The school board is responsible for hiring the superintendent and making sure he or she implements board policy and district strategies effectively.  Who is in charge?  Is Boasberg calling the shots while the board rubber stamps every idea?
  • Nearly 2/3 of the staff will be reduced in the next two weeks.  Even though they said Noel would “continue the transformation”, our student projections will force such major staff reductions that our transformation/phase out plan will change significantly.
  • In addition to the conflict of interest being cited by the recall committee, I think the community needs to know how little the board was involved in this process, even though Easley was “on the committee”.  I know most of this is not new to you, but the more I think about what a mess this is, I feel the community needs to understand that they are not being well represented.

What’s your response, Nate Easley?

Where’s Nate Easley now?

Look who’s showing up to important-looking mayoral candidate forums during working hours way across town from his own district…

An emailed invitation from KIPP schools. Click to enlarge.

Isn’t he supposed to be at work at 8:30 a.m. on a Friday? Is the Denver Scholarship Program giving him time off for board business?

If he’s got time for these important appearances as a “special guest,” why doesn’t he have time to return calls or show up to meetings in his own community?

And to make matters worse, they’ve even got the logo of the new charter school that’s replacing Rachel B. Noel Middle School, which he voted for.  But community doesn’t realize that their kids can’t automatically go to that school now.  If they’re not accepted, they have to try to find some other middle school for their kids…maybe even across town.

It’s too late, Nate.

Protesting corporate takeover of public education is nationwide

You see, taking back our schools is not just something we do in Denver.  It’s happening all over the country.  Watch this video.  Internalize what the protesters are pointing out about NYC schools.

Doesn’t it sound familiar?

The time to take back our schools for our kids has arrived.  The petition to recall northeast Denver school board member, Nate Easley, has been approved, and this weekend we’ll be talking to voters for the first time.  It’s an entirely grassroots effort.  There is no money to pay campaign workers.  We have nothing to defend our children’s futures except our hands and our hearts.  Will you take back our schools with us?
It makes no difference what part of Denver you live in.  EVERY DPS STUDENT is being affected by the top-down, community-crushing decisions being made at central administration.  Every community is facing the prospect of weak academic programs, dictatorial principals, tone-deaf school board representation and misguided experimentation on our children and their futures.  And worst of all, NONE OF THEIR “REFORMS” ARE WORKING. Will you take back our schools with us?
With the election of Nate Easley in November 2009, neighborhood schools won.  Even though he’s turned his back on the community that raised him, we can win again by holding Easley accountable for his eggregious conflict of interest that only props up a bloated central administration that soaks up 50% of every education dollar and further weakens our children’s chances for success.  A community-driven reform of our schools is possible.  It’s happening in our district right now.  Will you take back our schools with us?
Click on the green button to the right to help us hold Nate Easley accountable.

Yellow Journalism at the Denver Post

The Easley editorial is just the latest instance in which the newspaper failed to be a beacon for the pursuit of truth, fairness and impartiality, reporting and commenting upon educational issues. As mentioned, nothing of the North High fiasco ever received coverage in the Denver Post. The same pattern is being repeated in northeast Denver. The Post has yet to raise any questions or concerns about the upcoming “turnaround” of Montbello High School and other schools in northeast
Denver.

by Ed Augden (retired DPS teacher and community activist)

If there is truly to be a civil, honest discussion of educational reform and related issues such as the proposed recall of  Nate Easley, Denver Public Schools (DPS) Board of Education president, then the Denver Post must be civil and honest  in its news coverage and its editorial commentary. The Denver Post’s editorial on Sunday, Jan. 23, was not civil or fully honest. The editorial writer ridiculed the petition complainants and made the fallacious claim that the recall effort is primarily focused on Easley’s votes as a board member for certain “reform” actions in northeast Denver (his district) and northwest Denver.  Certainly, the writer must have read the petition’s language. It states clearly that the primary reason for the recall effort is Easley’s apparent conflicts of interest.

Mr. Easley is the deputy director of the Denver Scholarship Foundation. In his role as board  president, he directly oversees the foundation. As an employee of the foundation, he reports to the executive director of the foundation. Both Tom Boasberg, DPS superintendent, and Theresa Pena are board members of the scholarship foundation. Thus, the roles overlap and Easley is in the position of being Boasberg’s employer and employee. In such conflicting roles, Easley should recuse himself from voting on Boasberg’s evaluation or salary. He has failed to do so and has, consequently, violated DPS board policy and state law, according to the petition complainants.

The editorial writer completely omitted the principal reason for the recall effort. Certainly, Easley’s votes have directly contradicted his campaign promises and those are legitimate concerns.  However, as the petition clearly states, Easley’s apparent conflicts of interest are the reasons stated, not his voting record.

This pattern of deceit by both the Denver Post and DPS administrators and the board’s majority members is familiar to residents of northeast and northwest Denver. The proposed plan for northeast  Denver is familiar to students, parents, teachers and interested community members. In 2006, DPS, supported by the Post, implemented the “redesign” of North High School. The principal, in the process of implementing an improvement plan, was reassigned, the faculty required to reapply for their positions (most declined to do so) and a new principal transferred from a nearby elementary school. During the two years of “redesign”, many students were traumatized when they returned for the fall semester to new teachers and counselors and a new principal. During the new principal’s tenure, test scores declined (Isn’t testing a primary “reform”?), the dropout rate increased and the school population declined. North High has failed to recover. Yet, nothing of this failure ever appeared in Denver Post news stories or was commented upon by its editorial writers. And, of course, DPS simply ignored the results, quietly reassigned the new principal to her former position and has yet to acknowledge the plan’s utter failure. Boasberg’s only public comment about these actions is that lessons, although not identified or qualified, have been learned. Have Post reporters or editorial writers ever questioned Boasberg, his subordinates or board members about these schemes?

As a former journalism teacher in Denver Public Schools, I know that newspapers should adhere to a journalistic code of ethics. The Denver Post has failed that code in its reporting and commentary of educational issues in DPS. The Easley editorial is just the latest instance in which the newspaper failed to be a beacon for the pursuit of truth, fairness and impartiality, reporting and commenting upon educational issues. As mentioned, nothing of the North High fiasco ever received coverage in the Denver Post. The same pattern is being repeated in northeast Denver. The Post has yet to raise any questions or concerns about the upcoming “turnaround” of Montbello High School and other schools in northeast
Denver.

As the only remaining major daily newspaper in the Denver metro area, doesn’t the Denver Post have the responsibility to be truthful, fair and impartial in reporting the news and shouldn’t the same standard be applied to commentary?

Denver rebuts the Denver Post

The tide has definitely turned against corporate-reform darling, Nate Easley.  But don’t take our word for it.  Read just a few of the letters to the editor and other pieces written in response to the cloying propaganda printed by the Denver Post to try to save him.

These are the letters that the Denver Post are too afraid to publish.  Read on…

Dear Editor,

I am one of the 190 who were rubber stamped for non-renewal last May. Dr. Easley, School Board President, not only rubber stamped all principals’ decisions despite the public showing at the May meeting but condemned the two board members that stood up for the nationally certified and highly qualified experienced personnel that were up for non-renewal.

Even more concerning is his current conduct regarding Montbello. It is easy for DCIS and other magnet schools to look perfect because they only take the students that fit best into their program and conveniently as well as legally get rid of any student that does not make them look great. To be fair Denver Post should report the number of students originally accepted into magnet schools that do not graduate from that school. But then, with my ties to DC politics, I don’t expect any news agency to present a balanced point of view.

DPS is completely within it’s legal rights to ignore parents wishes, non-renew highly qualified/nationally certified experienced personnel, and will continue on its current path with the support of Dr. Easley, Mr. Boasberg and the rest of Grant Street or Fox Street.

I personally have moved on to better districts and better jobs, but I had the flexibility as a single person without children with a paid for home and car, to live off of unemployment until January 2011.

–Ms. B.

This is a classic game disinformation and propaganda by the Post and the “reformers.” Every time someone is against their interests, they take out the bogeyman, the union.  It’s such a lie.  The right and the middle see unions as bad, so it’s a great way to distract from the argument of Nate being a patsy for the status quo.

It’s not a union vs. Nate/”reformers” battle, but a battle against 5 years of incompetence vs. real improvement.  The reformers and Nate want the status quo, which is effectively bankrupting our future.  Our side wants revolutionary change, something reformers haven’t been able to give us after 5 years of empty promises.  As for the union, they are as weak as most every union in this country and they are not the motivating force behind the recall.  It’s people who are fed up waiting for these dramatic changes that Bennet/Boasberg have promised who are behind the recall.

–Mr. W.

To the Denver Post:

The editorial deriding the recall of Denver School Board president Nate Easley reads like an effort to disenfranchise parents from neighborhood schools. It is parents who want neighborhood schools strengthened rather than closed and replaced. It is parents who don’t accept the only option for school reform is a privatized charter. It is parents–not unions and teachers–who show up at DPS’s “input” meetings, only to realize DPS secretly plans school closures far in advance with a charter already chosen, and  such meetings are complete hooey. It is parents who experience the district’s failure to support what works (a successful math program) or remove what doesn’t (inept principals) and then watch in horror as DPS and its board deems the school a failure and replaces it with an unproven charter.

The district has stonewalled parents for so long that the Post shouldn’t underestimate the number of angry people. Easley’s transgression is not his beliefs about reform, but his failure to acknowledge what his constituents want for their children’s schools. His recall is about Denver parents regaining a voice in their schools.

–Ms. A.

Dear Editorial Staff of the Denver Post,

Please find below my letter in regard to yesterday’s editorial, “School board member’s recall would be setback.”

U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, has the Denver Post’s Editorial Board as speed dial number two, right behind that of DPS Superintendent, Tom Boasberg.  It seems that those who live and send their kids to schools in suburban America believe that they know more about fixing urban public schools than the parents whose children attend those neighborhood schools.  Hundreds of us parents have volunteered countless hours in Denver’s neighborhood schools solely to benefit the kids.  We know how to fix Denver’s schools.  When will our superintendent come to us for help and advice?  When will our school board members stand up to our superintendent and demand that he fix our neighborhood schools rather than pronounce them failures and replace them with privately-run institutions?  Does the Rocky Mountain News have to come back to life to force the Denver Post to return to good journalism?  That is no joke.

Regards,

–Mrs. T.
DPS Parent & Graduate

And one of our favorite allies, Sabrina Stevens Shupe, just penned a wonderfully eloquent indictment of Easley.  As she says,”…good leaders make sure to stay connected to those they serve, to make a case for why change is necessary, and to do their best to ensure that the final decision reflects the whole community’s interests, not just those of its most powerful members, or those with whom they already agree.”  We certainly agree with that sentiment.

Read Sabrina’s smackdown of Nate Easley here.  As one of our core organizers likes to say, “no, no Nate!”

The Denver Post props up Nate Easley

(originally sent via email – sign up for our newsletter to the right)

The Denver Post thinks we’re a joke.  They say that we’re just a “handful of people” that want to hold Easley accountable.  Well, as you know from our reports about the unrest and push-back in response to the hostile takeover of the greater Montbello schools, it’s not just a handful.  It’s an entire community, and Easley is feeling it.  He even now claims he attended a meeting with parents recently!

Well, it’s about time, Nate.  But it’s too little, too late.

Here’s how to push back even more

We need your  help in responding to the mythology that the Denver Post is hawking.  Choose one or all of the following actions:

  • Please go to the online version of the article (you can find it here) and post a comment in rebuttal.
  • Please send a letter to the editor (the instructions are at the bottom of this email).
  • Write an article on your favorite education, community-centered or political blog.
  • Share this email with friends using this link: Forward to a Friend.

We’re providing the talking points you can use in your piece, below.

How to send a letter to the Denver Post editors

E-mail: openforum@denverpost.com (straight text only; no attachments)

Mail: The Open Forum, The Denver Post, 101 W. Colfax Ave., Suite 600, Denver, CO 80202

Fax: 303-954-1502

Guidelines: The Post welcomes letters up to 150 words on topics of general interest. Letters must include full name, home address, day and evening phone numbers, and may be edited for length, grammar and accuracy.

To reach the Denver Post editorial page by phone: 303-954-1331

And don’t forget to copy us on your submission!

Talking points from the “Take back our schools” campaign

The Take Back Our Schools Campaign for DeFENSE (Democrats for Excellent Neighborhood School Education) is a coalition of parents, educators & students leading a grassroots effort in Northeast Denver and Montbello to recall DPS Board of Education president Nate Easley for:

  • Being a rubber stamp for the school district, voting nearly 100% the time with corporate backed members of the school board for policies that are not reflective of his constituents’ interests
  • Saying he would promote neighborhood schools during his campaign, then when elected voting to increase the number of corporate charter schools
  • Saying he would work with teachers collaboratively during his campaign, then when elected conspiring with school officials to fire groups of teachers without a fair process
  • Not being responsive to the concerns of the Montbello parents and students when he voted to shut down neighborhood schools without a comprehensive transition plan for students
  • Being a “no show” at numerous Northeast Denver community meetings hosted by the school district or concerned community groups
  • He did not show up at 3 community meetings held between Oct 2010-Jan 2011 sponsored by the school district to discuss the future vision of schools in Northeast Denver
  • He did not show up last year to any of the community meeting at Manual High School during the principal search process
  • He did not show up last year to confirmed community-led meetings with the Black Education Advisory Council, the Northeast Community Congress for Education or with concerned Montbello parents
  • Holding secret meetings that should have been open to the public in violation of the state’s open meetings law requiring transparency when school district policy is being made;
  • He misused the law in an attempt to censure (publicly reprimand) 3 progressive school board members who were invited by a lawyers group to attend an education information meeting
  • Engaging in a conflict of interest in his dual roles as DPS Board of Education president and as the Deputy Director of the Denver Scholarship Foundation where he is employed and subject to undue influence related to his votes by school officials who sit on his board (superintendent Tom Boasberg and board member Theresa Pena).
  • Using the resources of the his employer, the Denver Scholarship Foundation, to conduct school board business
  • Hired a staffer paid for by his employer to conduct DPS public relations business in the community
  • Used his employer’s administrative resources to manage his DPS administrative tasks

Thank you for everything you do to ensure an equitable education is available for EVERY child.

The DeFENSE Team

Recall against Nate Easley, and the campaign for northeast Denver kids, has begun

The initial steps to put a recall of Nate Easley on the May ballot has started.  A coalition of northeast Denver residents filed the following proposed language for the ballot:

We the qualified voters of Denver Public School District 4 demand the recall of current elected Denver Public Schools Board of Education member Dr. Nate Easley. Our demand is based on Mr. Easley’s activities related to conflicts of interest and allowing these to effect his representation of his District 4 constituency. Specifically, Dr. Easley’s roles as DPS Board of Education president and his job as Deputy Director of the Denver Scholarship Foundation make him subject to undue influence related to his votes as our representative. As a board member, Dr. Easley supervises the DPS superintendent, who also serves as on the DSF Board of Directors, thereby having direct influence over Dr. Easley’s employment. As Deputy Director of DSF, Dr. Easley receives a substantial salary, the threat to which compromises his ability to independently represent District 4. As a result, Dr. Easley has consistently voted for policies that are not reflective of his constituents’ interests, closing schools, supporting an atmosphere of distrust among District employees, and failing to provide sound fiscal oversight of DPS monies.

So what does this mean?  Once the language is approved, then community has 60 days to collect 5,363 signatures to place the issue on the ballot.  At that point, candidates who choose to run against Easley can step forward and collect their own signatures (they only need 50) to appear on the ballot as the replacement candidate.

THIS IS WHERE YOU COME IN. We need help to collect signatures from eligible voters, and you don’t need to live in northeast Denver to help.  We have a meeting/training scheduled for this coming Saturday, Here are the details:

Saturday,  January 22
9 a.m.
Oleta Crain Center, 2102 Marion Street, Denver (here’s a map)
Petition-gathering training and information meeting

This is also a great opportunity for parents to speak up about concerns they have, about the turnarounds in Montbello, as well as what’s coming to near Northeast Denver.  Read the Denver Post article about the recall here.

Will you join us?  Click here to RSVP.  We can’t set the course aright for our schools without your help.  Please help us stand up and say “No More”!

A shiny new building for friends of Hoyt

Why would you divert bond money to expand Slavens K-8 when the middle-schoolers should be going to Merrill…and then tell people that there’s no money to renovate the old Byers building?  Is this just a gift to Bruce Hoyt’s friends?

DPS has argued that seats shouldn’t be added at Byers because of low utilization rate at the middle-school and high-school levels in the surrounding area.  How, then, can they rationalize spending $20M in taxpayer money to add 300 seats at Slavens?   http://slavens.dpsk12.org/about_facts.asp

Makes no sense to us.  Watch the video above.

A DSST at the old Byers building? Community seems to say yes.

This email went out today:

Dear DPS Board Members:

The former Byers Junior High building

I am writing in support of bringing the nationally acclaimed Denver School of Science and Technology (DSST) to the empty Byers Junior High building at 150 S. Pearl.

In 2003, DPS asked voters to approve a bond package that included $ 8 million for Byers renovations.  We voted for the package, but after the vote the money for Byers was moved elsewhere, without a public process.  This action was not taken by this board or this DPS administration, but it was a violation of the public trust and disrespectful and dishonest to voters like us who want to support DPS.  Please don’t let us down again.  Please keep your commitment and revitalize this beloved community asset by bringing DSST to Byers.

South Denver needs more school choice.  Too many parents take their kids out of DPS after elementary school.  In these difficult economic times parents are spending money they don’t have on expensive private schools or driving long distances to put their kids in their school of choice, or even moving out of our neighborhoods altogether.  By failing to act, DPS is hurting the very neighborhoods it should be helping.  Bring DSST to south Denver to revitalize Byers Jr. High, provide badly needed school choice, and help sustain the integrity of our neighborhoods.

We have heard that the DPS administration doesn’t want to bring DSST to Byers because they believe there aren’t enough kids to fill the additional seats.  But DPS is currently failing to attract the neighborhood kids that are already there – south Denver has the lowest DPS “capture-rate” in the entire city.  And more kids are coming!  Neighborhoods that once had few kids are now full with young parents and strollers.  Our elementary schools are already operating at or above capacity.  I have no doubt that new census data will show a dramatic demographic change and prove that the increased school demand is coming if DPS can capture it.  We need DSST to meet this growing demand.

I was disappointed to read in the Washington Park Profile DPS Board member Bruce Hoyt state that “Byers is not a priority location” for DSST.  Is this the opinion of other Board members too?  I am in strong support of this effort, as are many of my neighbors, so I would be surprised and frustrated that our own elected school board representatives feel no obligation to actually represent the views and interests of their own constituents.  We want our Board members to be advocates for us to the DPS administration, not the other way around.  And we want to bring DSST to Byers Jr. High School.

Please do everything you can to bring DSST to Byers.

You can email the board too at board@dpsk12.org.

What’s with the bait and switch on the money that voters allocated for the Byers building?

A few factoids and links:

  1. Recent article in the Wash Park Profile:http://washingtonparkprofile.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1255&Itemid=170
  2. DPS has argued that seats shouldn’t be added at Byers because of low utilization rate at the M and H levels in the surrounding area.  How, then, can they rationalize spending $20M in taxpayer money to add 300 seats at Slavens?   http://slavens.dpsk12.org/about_facts.asp
  3. 52% of students in SE Denver do not have access to a high performing seat (pg. 71), and they are predicting a shortage of 1,290 seats within four years (pg. 72) 72):http://waller.dpsk12.org/BOE%20Presentation%20Final.pdf

4.     If you click on this link, then type in an address adjacent to Slavens, you’ll find that the middle school for that neighborhood is Merrill:   http://maps.dpsk12.org/