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Former Oakland teacher a lead organizer for Save Our Schools March

Anthony Cody (courtesy photo)

Anthony Cody, an Education Week blogger and former math and science teacher and coach in OUSD, is one of the organizers of Saturday’s Save Our Schools March in Washington, D.C. March participants don’t like the direction in which education reform is headed; among other demands, they are calling for an end to the practice of using student test scores as the basis for decisions about school closures, layoffs and pay.

I reached Cody on Tuesday for this story about the movement. I also talked to Molly Servatius, from San Francisco’s Paul Revere Elementary, who is about to begin her third year in the classroom.

Servatius said she joined the Save Our Schools movement online on the day she saw the Waiting for Superman documentary about the failings of the nation’s public schools — a film that many teachers criticized as skewed and simplistic. She said she looked around and saw people crying during one of the film’s poignant scenes.

She was crying too, she said — but for a different reason.

“I felt so angry and violated by that movie,” she said. “I went home that night and found SOS.”

What do you think of the group’s guiding principals? Someone forwarded me a link to this post on The Quick & The Ed, an Education Sector think tank blog, that found some contradictions between the group’s message and public opinion polls.

Parents Across America (of which `graduated’ OUSD parent Sharon Higgins is a founding member) is also involved in the march. It put out this information for parents who are sympathetic to the cause but can’t make it to D.C.

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Moronga Tupete

    Whats wrong with that picture? Or what is right with the picture.

    SOS is led by White American liberals for the most part. School Reform Leaders and funders are who? White American Leaders right?

    But who lies in the middle of the crisis- Black and Browns.

    SOS is wrong. They should be SOJ (save our jobs).

    People, we are and will be forever duped unless we wake up to see that it hasnt, and will not get any better for us unless its done by us ( and I dont mean the those that march down streets wil bull horns fighting the power)!

    I mean parents and families.

  • Suzanne Knutzen

    I have been a part of Anthony Cody’s “Teachers Letters to Obama,” for over one year, and have watched the genesis of this march arise out of the frustration of top-down federal mandates that are hurting our students, labeling schools as failing, and increasingly making it hard to hold one’s head high and be proud of being a teacher. The Save Our Schools March arose out of teachers being shut out of meaningful conversations with the White House and the Department of Education. Cody has worked in inner city schools, and is in the trenches of education. Those of us in the trenches, regardless of our political leanings, support our students’ learning. Whether yellow, black, brown, or white, our students deserve the best. At the present time, standardized tests suck the joy out of learning. I am all for meaningful assessments, but the top-down corporate testing mania has dimmed our humanity, limited the arts in school, and turned teaching over to technocrats, not those of us in the trenches that work to see the light of learning in someone’s eyes. Learning is about the enrichment of the mind and soul, and not necessarily about making money. Being educated will never automatically make you rich. It might open doors to better jobs, but it is not a guarantee. In fact, many “C” students are better entreprenuers than “A” students. But the love of learning will make life much more interesting, and the pursuit of wisdom will help one avoid life’s pitfalls. That is why I am a teacher AND a life long learner.

  • Sue

    When standradized tests and rankings such as the API dissappear- there will be no Achievement gap and charter schools. This is the ultimate goal of programs and associations such as these.

    No measures, no need! This is what the union wants. American society who depend on charter schools will go through a severe dip below the place where the already rest in society.

    I think the first post is on too something.

  • Jim Mordecai

    Sue:

    What unions want is more jobs, collective protection against unfair actions of the boss, safe working conditions, and better pay and benefits for their members.

    When it comes to standardized testing it would be teacher unions you are talking about. Of course the basics mentioned above are what teachers’ unions want as well.

    I, just one member of a teachers’ union, want elimination of most standardized tests. I was able to teach before standardized testing came in with the War on Poverty of President Johnson. If I returned to full time teaching I would today have less time to teach due to test prep unless I was in a school in a high performing zip code that therefore spend little or no time on test prep.

    I would like to see changes in the NAEP but on the whole support it and hope it continues to inform on how a state’s education system is doing in comparison to other states. So I believe in a limited role for testing.

    Unfortunately, the American Federation of Teachers has a policy were it tries to negotiate a role for standardized testing in teacher evaluation. I believe that approach is unwise. Gallo looked through his telescope and could see the moon. Many teachers don’t have to look through a standardized test to see how their students are performing daily. Just because the Catholic Church says the sun is rotating around the earth and that view might seem reasonable when looking at the sky with the naked eye, doesn’t mean Gallo should bend to the church and deny what experience and study has informed him. Nor should the teachers’ union bend to student standardized test based evaluation system that is without scientific basis and will unfairly do harm when ignorance results in tests being used for purposes they were not designed. Test designed for students can’t be valid when used to evaluate a teacher.

    I agree without standardized testing there is no achievement gap but with or without standardized testing there will continue to be a socio-economic gap. Unfortunately, that gap is growing larger with wars, taxing policy, and privatizing of democratic institutions such as public schools.

    Finally, I don’t believe charter schools would necessarily end with the end of standardized testing. There are many if not most charter schools that don’t do well on standardized testing but authorizers don’t close them for a variety of reasons beyond test scores. That means to me that corporate charter schools would remain if standardized testing were eliminated.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Nextset

    Jim Mordecai: The “Gap” you are referring to is growing because of dis-eugenics – government promoted dis-eugenics. No amount of teaching can stop the trend although I believe better schools can greatly affect the free fall in quality of life enjoyed by the left side of the Bell Curve.

    There is no war on poverty, only government promoted poverty. The last 50 years was just the warm up, you are going to see chaos and declines in the next 25 years among blacks specifically and left siders in general.

    The welfare state envisioned by Obambi cannot deliver on it’s promises. Superinflation will wreck the quality of life for the bottom (cognitive) half of the population and you can safely bet that the elites can and will protect themselves and their families, just as they have done in the former USSR. You are going to start seeing a number of “vacation” homes abroad if push comes to shove.

    Socialism is a child’s fantasy – it has never worked in human history. It can be used to take power and domination over a population, which is what’s really going on here. Won’t stop poverty though, it accelerates it.

  • Jenna

    To the teachers who do not want to have any – or few – standardized tests: I remember in Oakland when my friends attended public school that what they learned in Oakland in fifth grade I had learned in second or third grade in Contra Costa County school. There was virtually no science and no way for parents or students to know that they were not being taught the science that I was learning.

    Art, music and foreign languages (French, Spanish, German and Italian) were offered beginning in elementary school. Even today schools that teach a year or two ahead, ostensibly to avoid the problem of test scores, offer a great deal more in terms of content.

    To teachers who want to do away with testing – there is a part of me that agrees with you. Unfortunately, I fear that students will not be taught any state standard content. At least now they are “taught” reading, writing, math and some science. The other part I do not understand is to be proficient students need only answer approximately 60% – 70% of the questions correctly on standardized tests. In the real world that would not get you a civil service job, a driver’s license or a passing grade out of college. Students need to read, balance a checkbook, understand a credit card statement, complete an employment application and write a resume. Students need to be able to reason, understand cause and effect, understand consequences and be able to be law abiding citizens. We know from some of the stories on this blog it just is not the case with more than half of the youth in Oakland (drop out rate).

    How will the lack of standardized tests help our current situation?

    How can a city prosper and serve all of its citizen when half are not able to qualify for or get a job?

  • Marcia

    I wish people would focus on the original subject of this post. Anthony Cody is one of the most thoughtful commentators out there in deconstructing what’s really going on these days with education policy. Not only that, unlike many commentators he actually knows something about teaching. He was a stellar teacher at Bret Harte when my children were students there in the early and mid-90s. You can check out his blog here: http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/.

    With regard to the “contradictions between the SOS message and public opinion polls,” note that The Quick & the Ed” blog that purports to critique SOS tells us that “the American citizenry supports paying teachers based on their students’ academic achievement” (http://www.quickanded.com/2011/07/part-ii-the-contradiction-of-advocating-for-a-public-that-often-disagrees-with-you.html). Well, that doesn’t sound so bad. But note further that the question asks about academic achievement, NOT TEST SCORES. Yet because test scores are the only measure we have, the “education reformers,” aka those who push an agenda that aims to destroy public education (and the entire public sector), will claim that the public supports paying teachers based on test scores. That’s not what the poll shows.

    Finally, when considering “public opinion” on “education reform,” let’s remember that millions of dollars from right-wing think tanks have been expended over the last 30 or so years to shape this opinion. Given that, it’s remarkable how supportive of public schools the public remains.