slideshow 1 slideshow 2 slideshow 3 slideshow 4 Slideshow 5 Slideshow 6 Slideshow 7

Effort afoot to restore art in California schools

Jill Tucker - - Monday, April 23, 2012

As it turns out, business leaders hiring the workforce of tomorrow don't want applicants who are really good at filling in bubbles on standardized tests.

Creativity is key, more than 1,500 executives said in a 2010 survey.

Yet California, like many states, long ago deemed creative arts a luxury, one that few schools could afford.

And so, with the backing of business, state officials have formed Create CA, a statewide initiative they hope will restore art in schools, so that paintbrushes and even pirouettes are once again as important as No. 2 pencils.

The idea is to bring together those who have labored independently for arts education. Participants want to pass legislation, increase funding and raise public awareness.

Those behind the effort - including artists, educators and executives - believe California now has enough supportive policymakers and the right mix of corporate backing and political will for the idea to succeed where similar efforts have floundered.

Gov. Jerry Brown wants it. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson wants it. Business leaders and politicians want it. Nonprofit groups focused on the arts want it and are lined up to help.

Ravitch: The toll of school reform on public education

This was written by education historian Diane Ravitch for her Bridging Differences blog, which she co-authors with Deborah Meier on the Education Week website. The item was first published on March 6. In their blog, Ravitch and Meier exchange letters about what matters most in education. Ravitch, a research professor at New York University, is author of “The Death and Life of the Great American School System,” a critique of the flaws in the modern school reform movement that she just updated.


By Diane Ravitch

There comes a time when you look at the rug on the floor, the one you've seen many times, and you see a pattern that you had never noticed before. You may have seen this squiggle or that flower, but you did not see the pattern into which the squiggles and flowers and trails of ivy combined.

In American education, we can now discern the pattern on the rug.

Consider the budget cuts to schools in the past four years. From the budget cuts come layoffs, rising class sizes, less time for the arts and physical education, less time for history, civics, foreign languages, and other non-tested subjects. Add on the mandates of No Child Left Behind, which demands 100 percent proficiency in math and reading and stigmatizes more than half the public schools in the nation as "failing" for not reaching an unattainable goal.

Occupy the Capitol for Education!

Occupy the Capitol March 5th flyer

Monday, March 5, 2012

10 AM: Mass March * Southside Park (6th & T Sts)
11 AM: Rally at the Capitol Building
12:30 PM: Lunch at the Capitol Building
3:30 PM: General Assembly and Nonviolent Direct Action Training to Occupy the Capitol!
5:30 PM: RALLY NORTH STEPS in Solidarity with Occupy the Capitol

Thousands of students, parents, teachers, and workers will flood into Sacramento on Monday, March 5th. How long we stay will be up to you.

Join us to demand that Wall St. and the 1% pay to refund education, jobs, essential services, and a better future!

For more information on the day of action, please visit

Protest Corporate Rhee-form of Public Education

Protest Rhee-forming of Public Education

What: A silent protest against the Rhee-form of the public education system.

When: Wednesday January 25th 2012 at 5pm.

Where: 828 I Street inside the Sacramento County Main Library's Tsakopolous Library Galleria.


“We need to say it's wrong, and if that doesn't work, engage in direct action, it's time to organize, demonstrate, and agitate…”
~ Diane Ravitch, in Sacramento 1/20/12


Selling Schools Out

By Lee Fang
Posted on November 17, 2011, Printed on January 9, 2012

If the national movement to "reform" public education through vouchers, charters and privatization has a laboratory, it is Florida. It was one of the first states to undertake a program of "virtual schools" — charters operated online, with teachers instructing students over the Internet — as well as one of the first to use vouchers to channel taxpayer money to charter schools run by for-profits.

But as recently as last year, the radical change envisioned by school reformers still seemed far off, even there. With some of the movement's cherished ideas on the table, Florida Republicans, once known for championing extreme education laws, seemed to recoil from the fight. SB 2262, a bill to allow the creation of private virtual charters, vastly expanding the Florida Virtual School program, languished and died in committee. Charlie Crist, then the Republican governor, vetoed a bill to eliminate teacher tenure. The move, seen as a political offering to the teachers unions, disheartened privatization reform advocates. At one point, the GOP's budget proposal even suggested a cut for state aid going to virtual school programs

Lamenting this series of defeats, Patricia Levesque, a top adviser to former Governor Jeb Bush, spoke to fellow reformers at a retreat in October 2010. Levesque noted that reform efforts had failed because the opposition had time to organize. Next year, Levesque advised, reformers should "spread" the unions thin "by playing offense" with decoy legislation. Levesque said she planned to sponsor a series of statewide reforms, like allowing taxpayer dollars to go to religious schools by overturning the so-called Blaine Amendment, "even if it doesn't pass…to keep them busy on that front." She also advised paycheck protection, a unionbusting scheme, as well as a state-provided insurance program to encourage teachers to leave the union and a transparency law to force teachers unions to show additional information to the public. Needling the labor unions with all these bills, Levesque said, allows certain charter bills to fly "under the radar."

If Levesque's blunt advice sounds like that of a veteran lobbyist, that's because she is one. Levesque runs a Tallahassee-based firm called Meridian Strategies LLC, which lobbies on behalf of a number of education-technology companies. She is a leader of a coalition of government officials, academics and virtual school sector companies pushing new education laws that could benefit them.

An Evening With Diane Ravitch

Sacramento Convention Center
1400 J St.

Friday, January 20, 2012
6:00pm - 7:30pm

Education historian and activist Diane Ravitch will be speaking
at the Sacramento Convention Center.
She will be joined by teacher/blogger Anthony Cody.

Tickets are only $5.00 and can be purchased at the offices of
5300 Elvas Ave, Sacramento, 95819.

Diane's website is

Companies, nonprofits making millions off teacher effectiveness push

By Sarah Garland - HechingerReport

New education reforms often translate into big money for private groups. Following the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act, states paid millions of dollars annually to companies to develop and administer the standardized tests required under the law. Companies also cashed in on a provision mandating tutoring for students at struggling schools.

Now, a movement to overhaul the teaching profession is creating a new source of revenue for those in the business of education. More than half of states have changed, or are in the process of changing, their laws to factor student test scores into teacher evaluations. Most are also adding new requirements for the classroom observations used to rate teachers, which in many districts are often cursory and infrequent.

The main intent of the new laws is to help identify which teachers are doing a good, bad or mediocre job so that those struggling in the classroom can be given extra support or, if their performance doesn’t improve, fired. But one early outcome of recent legislation is a booming new market services and products to help states and school districts scrambling to meet the new legal requirements.

“It’s an incredibly heavy lift for states,” says Sandi Jacobs, vice president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group. “Some have contracted out big pieces of it, whether it’s someone internal in the state or an outside provider.”

State needs waiver from federal school law?

The waiver for NCLB would mean that the state would have to invest millions and millions more in unproven gimmicks like "new and improved" teacher evaluations and merit pay that have not been proven to help kids achieve. If we took the millions of dollars invested in testing and used them for teaching instead, kids would receive a better education. If you think that kids today get the same education kids got 20 years ago you're dreaming. We ought to be spending money on class size reduction, school nurses, school psychologists, classroom aides, arts programs and vocational ed. instead all those things have been cut from school budgets. Teachers are alone in the classroom trying to raise test scores for fear that their school will be labeling failing while kids living in poverty are offered no enrichment that would compensate for their backgrounds and help them keep pace with their wealthier classmates.

The push for testing and more testing, teacher evaluations and charter schools are all driven by profit. None of these so called reforms have demonstrated that they improve kids' educations more than a simple investment in our schools. It's not about the kids, it's about the money.

Viewpoints: State needs waiver from federal school law

Read more:

Diane Ravitch debunking claims of 'miracle' schools and challenges New York Times editorial praise for New Orleans's 'turnaround'

Diane Ravitch - October 18, 2011

[Substance Editor's Note: The following was blogged to Education Week's blog on October 18, 2011 and is shared here with our readers. Long time Substance readers will not that nearly a decade ago, Substance joined with Gerald Bracey, now deceased, in challenging the claims by researchers for the American Enterprise Institute that it was possible to invoke through "standards and accountability" a "No Excuses" model for corporate test-based school reform. An essay by George N. Schmidt appeared in Phi Delta Kappan (before they sold out to the Broad Foundation) debunking the claims on behalf of the "No Excuses" schools in Chicago. Subsequently, the "No Excuses" crowd claimed a similar discovery for California, which was also debunked easily. Substance is heartened that Diane Ravitch and her associates are going to provide regular fact checking whenever "miracle" schools are rolled out by the corporate apologists in the bourgeois media, and we hope all of our readers will cheer her on. However, given the decade-long history of these falsifications on behalf of corporate versions of "school reform," we doubt we'll see much truth soon. Thanks to Diane and her colleagues, and we hope when she reads this she'll smile in memory of Jerry Bracey. with a nod to the irony of it. The beginning of Diane's remarks below — Dear Deborah — indicates that this blog is part of an ongoing discussion with Deborah Meier].

IF YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES, DON'T READ THIS, Education Week "Bridging Differences" Blog -- October 18, 2011, By Diane Ravitch

Dear Deborah,

Last June, I wrote an op-ed for The New York Times disputing the idea of "miracle schools." With the assistance of two volunteer researchers, Gary Rubinstein and Noel Hammatt, I learned that several schools touted by various political leaders as miraculous were not. My intention was not to criticize the schools and their staff, but to criticize the politicians who were using the schools to imply that their policies (like firing the staff and closing the school) were working and that it wasn't all that difficult to turn around a school that enrolled large numbers of low-performing students.

Rewriting the attack on teachers

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Actor Matt Damon explains to a right-wing website why American public school teachers do their jobs. MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell has more in the Rewrite.


Theme by Danetsoft and Danang Probo Sayekti inspired by Maksimer