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 or call 303-831-0590 for scholarship information.


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


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

Reception, Book Signing and Preferred Seating:
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)
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 or call 303-831-0590. We hope you can join us!

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.

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”!

Join us for a showing of “Race to Nowhere,” Dec. 2

“Race to Nowhere” is an important film that shows the impetus behind such high-stakes testing charter schools like West Denver Prep and KIPP, as well as some of our public neighborhood schools, unfortunately. It’s a by-product of No Child Left Behind, and we have to be aware of the negative consequences so we can advocate with all the facts.

We’re excited to be co-sponsors of a showing of the documentary, Race to Nowhere, on Thursday, December 2.  We’re sponsoring this showing with Uniting4Kids, the Institute for Democratic Education in America and more.

Here’s a preview of the film:

Natalie is profiled in the film

Tickets are available here, priced at $10 (or $5 for students with ID), or $15 at the door. The program includes displays and student work starting at 5:15 p.m., and the movie (followed by a panel discussion) begins at 6:30 p.m. Don’t miss DeFENSE’s own Lisa Calderon along with the other guests, moderated by our author/activist friend, Angela Engel (her book is available for purchase on the right, toward the bottom of this page).  The Oriental Theater is at 4435 W. 44th Avenue in Denver.

This is an important film that shows the impetus behind such high-stakes testing charter schools like West Denver Prep and KIPP, as well as some of our public neighborhood schools, unfortunately.  It’s a by-product of No Child Left Behind, and we have to be aware of the negative consequences so we can advocate with all the facts.

Join us!

Cherry Creek News answers Gottlieb

Community is alien to some.We have more from the “take me to your leader” file.  This time, the publisher of EdNews Colorado, Alan Gottlieb, wrote to us to find out more about who we are. We decided to let Cherry Creek News take a stab at answering, since being a community-friendly publication has obviously given them the keen insight into why a group like ours should exist.

Is the corporate-reform crowd really so tone deaf that they don’t understand the deep discontent they sow?  Are their ears really so closed to the oft-stated preference of Denver residents for well-resourced neighborhood schools?

Here’s just a tidbit:

Q. Why is it so hard to find out who your leadership is? In fact, you even turn off the Facebook function that allows someone to “see all” of the people who “like” you. Why? I really believe that you have nothing to hide, so why do all this stuff that seems like subterfuge? When reporter Nancy Mitchell (SIC) asked these questions no one ever replied. But when she asked for the alternative plan for FNE, someone responded immediately.

A. Classically, Alan is unable to conceptualize of an organization that is truly grounded in the community and its concerns. Groups can operate on a consensus basis, with no leaders. In fact, Alan, you don’t have to have a six-figure salary, based upon million-dollar donors, and a stack of org charts to have an organization. And Alan, if you “like” DeFENSE on Facebook, you can see who also “likes” DeFENSE. What you take as subterfuge is your own incompetence.


Read the rest of Cherry Creek’s defense of, well, DeFENSE, here.

We also find Gottlieb’s opinion piece of today, in which he basically calls community “babies,” pretty tiresome too.  “Grow up,” he admonishes.  Read more about why he thinks community needs to be in time out, here.

Then come back and let your comments rip here.

You see, we’re not interested in working within the corporate-reform paradigm.  They have long forgotten our voices, the cries of our children, and the promise of collaborative reform.  They have tried to co-opt the hard-fought gains of real civil rights struggle by using its imagery to fool unsuspecting communities into buying their failed bill of goods (only 17% of all charters are even marginally better than a neighborhood school).  “Education is a civil right,” they cry.  “Poverty doesn’t matter,” they rail.  But we’ve tried it their way, and we have nothing but dismantled neighborhoods and distressed students languishing in even worse schools to show for it.

“Fool me once,” one man said.  “You’ve been led astray,” says the other.  No thanks.  We’re reclaiming equitable education for our kids, regardless of their race, creed or income level.  We’re taking back Denver’s schools for Denver’s kids.

More mysterious DeFENSE

Apparently, DeFENSE members hide out in plain sight. Those sneaky DeFENSErs!

The picture below is from last night’s elected officials/candidate forum in Montbello, hosted by Elet Valentine.  There are DeFENSE members in the picture.  Can you pick them out?

Can you pick out the "sneaky" DeFENSE members?

The Denver Post‘s Jeremy Meyer has been pulling his hair out, trying to figure out who we are.  But we’re right here in plain sight, Jeremy.  Don’t you see us?  Perhaps your search-and-destroy mission on behalf of Boasberg is blurring your vision a bit.

Go ahead and try to figure out who we are.  We’ll be the ones trying to protect our children from inequitable education choices that only stymie their true abilities.  We’ll be the ones protecting public education and being part of the solution that makes it better for ALL kids.

The mysterious DeFENSE

Secret and mysterious!

Last night we got the following email through the contact form on this site:

From: Van Schoales <>
Subject: so who are you?

Message Body:
Who built this website and who is your leadership?  Are you connected to DCTA?  Do you have members and if so how many?  It seems you have about a 150 facebook friends.    I’d be interested in meeting with you.  Are they teachers?     Please send me a note.

Thanks, Van

Actually, Van, it’s more like 161 Facebook friends.

Van Schoales is the executive director of Education Reform Now! and a board member of Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) in Colorado.  He recently came out in favor of vouchers as will be debated before the Douglas County school board very soon.  Since we know that DFER’s Executive Director, Joe Williams, is also pro-voucher, it’s not a stretch to imagine that Colorado DFER’s membership is too.

But we digress.

There has currently been a groundswell of support for our fledgling group from across the city, and the “edu-power brokers” are starting to take notice.  We know that some Boasberg henchmen are shaking people down, demanding to know if they’re DeFENSErs,which is something we find pretty amusing.  Hence, Van Schoales’ email to us, pretty much demanding us to take him to our leader.

Here’s what we have to say about all this.  Who are we? We are parents, teachers, community members and business leaders who are concerned about DPS and its schools.  We are concerned about the education our children are receiving.  We are concerned that minority and low-income children are being left behind by district “reforms.”  We are concerned that teachers are not being treated fairly, which is harming their ability to teach our children.  We care about schools and public education.

We hope that clears up the mystery.