A TN BAT Asks a Key Question

Tennessee teacher and Badass Teachers Association (BAT) member Larry Proffitt asks an important question of his colleagues in a recent post on the BAT blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

How do we correct our path and stave off the test-crazed push for perfect scores? We get involved. One of the most effective teaching strategies is modeling, so we model. We talk to our board members, commission members and legislators. We sit and do not complain, but we state problems and offer solutions. It is what educators do. It is what we must do. “I just want to teach!” Yes, I’ve heard it more than I can count. I’m sure students, if asked, would say they just want to learn and be children. They, my friends, are depending on us. Our students deserve the opportunity to learn all they can and develop as whole students. Itinerant subjects are being lost to improvement and prep. Is it truly improvement if they are losing the arts and social interaction that helps them learn about co-existing with those that are different than themselves. Every aspect of our schools, good schools, are important. We cannot afford to sacrifice the next generation. Does it mean there does not need to be change? Of course not, but it doesn’t mean educators and students are failing. It means society has changed and requires those in charge to supply resources to deal with those changes. We must insure students are the focus.
Read all Larry has to say here.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

 

TN BATs Talk Haslam

The leadership of Tennessee BATs (Badass Teachers Association) released this statement in response to Governor Bill Haslam’s remarks on education on Monday:

All educators are pleased with the governor’s proposal if it puts aside the promotion of pay for performance based on test data. Student populations change and test data changes. The TVAAS system is based upon a formula that no one at the Tennessee Department of Education has explained satisfactorily thus far. A straight across the board raise would be a welcomed move by the governor, but only as a first step. Many education policies are in need of review by experienced educators. Sit with a selection of teachers that are not hand-picked and not in short-notice secret meetings. Let’s make real progress for the sake of our students. Together it can be done when both sides genuinely listen.

 

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

Diane Ravitch Coming to Nashville

Education historian Diane Ravitch will be visiting Nashville on Wednesday, November 19th.

Here are the details from a press release:

Tennesseans Reclaiming Educational Excellence (TREE), Tennessee BATs, and Momma
Bears today announced a special event featuring acclaimed historian, best-selling author, and former Assistant U.S. Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch. Ravitch served in the administrations of President George H.W. Bush, where she worked alongside then-U.S. Secretary of Education and current U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, and President Bill Clinton.

The event, “Educating Nashville,” will take place at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 19, in
Nashville. The venue will be announced via TREE’s Facebook page, http://facebook.com/TNExcellence, on Monday, Nov. 17. Dr. Ravitch will be introduced by local officials and will hold a question-and-answer session after her remarks regarding the hoax of education privatization. Following the program, attendees are encouraged to stay and meet
with public education advocates from across the state.

“We are honored to welcome Dr. Ravitch to Nashville,” said Lyn Hoyt, president of TREE. “She has seen and studied the effects of education privatization across the country and
is the nation’s foremost expert on what works and doesn’t work when it comes to
reforming our public schools.”

Ravitch frequently writes about topics including Common Core, charter schools, vouchers, and standardized testing and is well respected across partisan lines. Tennessee’s own Senator Alexander urges readers of his “Little Plaid Book” to “[r]ead anything Diane Ravitch writes
about education.”

The event is free. Parents, teachers, elected officials, policymakers, and members of the media are encouraged to attend. To RSVP, visit http://ravitchnashville.eventbrite.com.

About Diane Ravitch
Diane Ravitch is Research Professor of Education at New York University and a historian of education. She blogs at dianeravitch.net, a site which has had nearly 8.3 million page views in less than a year. From 1991 to 1993, she was Assistant Secretary of Education and Counselor to Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander in the administration of George H.W. Bush. 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. She has
authored 11 books and edited 14 others.

About TREE
Tennesseans Reclaiming Educational Excellence (TREE) is a
statewide volunteer advocacy organization rooted in fighting for strong,
equitable public education, and committed to growing child-centered education
policy.

About Tennessee BATs
Tennessee BATs (Badass Teachers) is an affiliate of the national BATs organization and is a rich and diverse group of education professionals and concerned citizens/families who
strive to engage in discourse that improves their profession.

About Momma Bears
Momma Bears is a Tennessee-based grassroots organization of public schools advocates who defend and support children and public schools and recognize quality public education
as a right for every child.

Here’s our 2013 interview with Diane Ravitch

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

TN Teacher Attends Public Ed Nation Event

On October 11th, the Network for Public Education hosted the first Public Education Nation event in Brooklyn, New York.

The event focused on “Changing the Conversation” and allowed critics of the current education reform agenda a platform to discuss ways to improve public schools. The event was chaired by edu-blogging celebrity Anthony Cody.

Tennessee was represented at the event by teacher and President of the Franklin County Education Association Lucianna Sanson. She previously answered some questions for us about her trip to DC with the Badass Teachers Association.

Sanson provided this report from the Public Education Nation event:

 

Overall impression
I attended the Public Education Nation Event, in Brooklyn on Saturday, October 11, 2014 to listen, learn, make connections, and build relationships with other education activists across the country. I was honored to be asked by Anthony Cody, author of The Educator and the Oligarch, and award-winning edu-blogger at “Living in Dialogue,” to take part in the event as a social media moderator.
What I took away from the NPE event was that we all have to work together and become community activists in order to, as Jitu Brown said, “kill” corporate ed reform.
On the current climate in Tennessee
Memphis, Shelby County, Nashville, Knoxville, and Chattanooga, are all feeling the pressure applied by the heavy hand of the Achievement School District as it lays chains of Charters across the state. Teachers in Tennessee are stressed, demoralized, over-worked, and under-paid in many districts.
Tennessee teachers should all watch the archived videos of the NPE event. The panels featured students, administrators, college administrators, parents, and classroom teachers. The panelists are passionate and determined to save our public schools. Watching the panels will give TN teachers the knowledge that we are not alone in the battle here in the Volunteer state. TN teachers can learn how to band together and speak about the attrocities happening in our public schools. Tennessee teachers, I encourage you to speak the truth about toxic testing, developmentally inappropriate standards, loss of arts and recess, and the systematic removal of experienced teachers replaced by green Teach for America recruits.
TN teachers need to realize that they have a voice and they can use it to speak truth to power and stand up to the Corporate Bully of Ed Reform because we do have allies across the Nation that are watching and are willing to help us fight back corporate ed reform.
On how parents and teachers can fight back against institutional ed reform in TN
We begin by having honest dialogue with parents about what the testing is like in our schools. We educate parents on what is happening. We discuss with our students the affects that the testing is having on them. We inform our parents that they can refuse certain tests for their child. We can listen to the voices of our students when they have a concern about being tested. We can encourage our students to speak up about testing and the effects it is having on their educational experience.
These videos and discussions should be shared again and again and again with community leaders and policy makers, county commissioners, board of education members, lawyers, civil rights groups, and citizens who help fund our public schools. These are the grassroots experts discussing the “in the trenches” reality of ed reform, not astroturf faux educators discussing “rigor and grit.”
A message to TN policymakers
My message for Tennessee policymakers is to stop listening to the corporate millionaries, especially the Koch brothers (yes, Williamson County, I am talking to you)  and start listening to the teachers before our state loses our most valuable asset, our public school system, to venture capitalist vultures who grow fat while starving our students.
Tennessee Politicians- Here are my questions for you:  Are you willing to sacrifice our children and our public schools to corporate America? A corporate America that knows nothing about education, or education practice? Or will you choose to embrace community schools, listen to experienced educators, and allow our tax  dollars to support our public schools?
A final observation
One last tidbit from the forum. At the end of the finale, when Diane Ravitch and Jitu Brown were taking questions, I stood up and spoke to them about the ed reform situation in TN. I spoke about Memphis and Shelby County being merged and excessing veteran teachers. I spoke about TFA staffing the schools. I spoke about Nashville struggling to fight back the ASD invasion. I also mentioned our brave advocy groups here in Tennessee: the TN BATs, BEARs, TREE, and SPEAK, and how we network across the state to keep each other informed on the shenanigans going on in our state. I wanted people to know that Tennessee needs to be on the radar as a targeted state.
When I was through speaking, Diane Ravitch gave a positive shout out to our activist groups by saying ” Well, one thing I know for sure about Tennessee is that they have BATs, BEARS and TREEs!!”
Sanson with Diane Ravitch at the Public Education Nation event:
Luci and Diane
For more on the event, see Russ Walsh’s take.
Follow Lucianna Sanson @Lucianna_Sanson

Tennessee BATs Attend DC Rally

The Badass Teachers Association (BATs) is a nationwide group of teachers who aggressively argue against the status quo in education — that is, the current education reform agenda. Recently, the BATs held a national rally in Washington, DC and even had a chance to meet with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. A group of BATs from Tennessee joined the national event and TN Ed Report interviewed two of them about the experience.

Lauren Hopson is a teacher in Knox County and Lucianna Sanson is a teacher in Franklin County.  Here’s what they had to say:

1)      Why do you choose to affiliate with the BATs?

Hopson: I discovered the BATS purely by accident when I was checking to see who was posting the video of my October 2013 school board speech. I have always been a bit of a rebel, so the name fit me. At the time, I had no idea how seriously BATs took advocating for our students. Realizing that only solidifies my desire to be part of this group.

Sanson: BATs is a grassroots organization that is a support network for public schools across the nation. In TN, teachers from all areas of the state are able to network and communicate with each other about reforms that are taking place in the state of TN. This is a difficult time for public schools, teachers and students. BATs not only discuss the injustices taking place on the state level, BATs also address these issues and actively seek for positive ways to problem solve and make our public schools better for all students.

 

2)      What was the purpose of the DC BAT Rally?

Hopson: There were several purposes for the rally. Of course, the main purpose was to get the attention of the Department of Education and draw national attention to the destructive nature of current educational reform efforts. However, it also set up a place and time for educators across the country to network and share the experiences with ed reform in their own states.

Sanson: The purpose was multi-faceted. The National BATs Association wrote and delivered specific demands to the DOE and Secretary Arne Duncan- chief among them were demands to stop the over-use of Standardized testing and to halt the privatization and spread of Charter Schools across the United States.

3)      What did you learn from other BATs around the country while you were in DC?

Hopson: Surprisingly, I learned what an appreciation and admiration teachers in other states have for the TN BATs. Along with the Washington, Chicago and New York groups, we have been some of the most vocal and active BATs in the entire country during the last year. I think our own Secretary of Education’s close relationship with Arne Duncan has caused us to feel the effects of education reform more immediately than other states. However, I also think we just have a strong group of vocal teachers who have the Southern backbone to fight these destructive policies.

Sanson:  I learned that TN is not the only state that is going through these same types of reforms. I also learned that racism and socioeconomics play a large role in the take-over of our urban school systems. Basically, the suspicion that re-segregation is happening via Charter school take-overs, “parent trigger laws,” “school choice,” and “Vouchers,” was confirmed by speaking with other BATs across the country. Memphis, and the takeover of their schools by the Achievement School District (ASD), is especially troubling since it is patterned after the New Orleans Recovery School District. I learned that there are only five Public Schools left in the city of New Orleans, and, according to the Fordham Institute, Memphis is directly patterned after New Orleans.

 

4) What were the highlights of your trip to the rally?

Hopson: Singing “Lean on Me” with hundreds of teachers arm in arm in the DOE courtyard was an emotional experience. However, getting to watch my friend and our own legislator, Representative Gloria Johnson, speak during the rally about the positive effects of the “community schools” initiative was a seminal moment. She was able to share the details of a bill she is sponsoring dealing with this concept with educators from across the country who were excited to take this idea back to their home states. It even received interest during the meeting our delegation had with DOE officials at the end of the day.

Sanson: The highlight, for me, was finally meeting all of the people I have been collaborating with on a daily basis for over a year and watching our plans unfold. The Rally on Monday was a true celebration of our students and our public schools, complete with music and dancing, student performance, and spoken word. It was a visual representation of what BATs symbolizes: a holistic approach to learning and the assertion that school should be student-centered and FUN, not testing-centered and a CHORE.

 

5) Do you feel the rally and associated events accomplished anything for teachers? If so, what?

Hopson:  We did get to send in a small delegation to meet with officials in the DOE, and even briefly with Arne Duncan himself. It remains to be seen whether the ideas shared in that meeting will be taken seriously, although TN Teacher Larry Proffitt who was a part of the delegation, seemed optimistic. I do think we drew attention to the plight of students and teachers in America, and at least in my community, I heard from lots of teachers who wish they had been a part of it. Hopefully, this will lead to greater numbers at the next rally. For those of us that did go, we got to feel a sense of connection to a larger power which instilled a new sense of commitment and determination in us all.

Sanson: Yes. On Monday, the all-day celebration for public education ended with a committee meeting inside the U.S. DOE with Secretary Arne Duncan and his team. Our BATs team- which consisted of six members- one of them Larry Proffitt from TN, outlined our concerns and were heard by the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, and his team. The BATs have another meeting at the U.S. DOE scheduled for later this fall. We look forward to continued dialogue and discourse with the U.S.DOE.

 

6) What do you see as the future for BATs in Tennessee and nationally?

Hopson:  I hope to see BATs become a driving force in changing the direction of education reform. I want to be part of a group that politicians have to take seriously if they want to get elected. BATs should also be a group they will go to for information. With TN being in the Bible Belt, I know it will be hard for the public to get past the name Badass Teachers. Hopefully, however, they will come to see the mission behind the name and realize these Brave Activist Teachers are fighting to protect their children.

Sanson: TNBATs will continue to be the state branch of the National Group. We will continue to network and align ourselves with other parent and citizen groups across the state and nation. We will continue to work with local legislators and policy makers to bring about change. We will continue to work with the Tennessee Education Association to support equality for our teachers, support staff and students.  We will continue to educate and speak truth to power about the reality of Ed Reform and the Privatization movement; we will continue to take a stand for our students and public schools. After all, BATs exists to fight for our students and public schools.

7) How would you describe the current education climate in TN?

Hopson: Toxic. We have toxic levels of testing. We have toxic levels of stress on our students and teachers. Students and teachers have been dehumanized and reduced to nothing more than numbers and data points. There is a complete lack of trust between teachers, administrators, and politicians. Using our students as pawns to further the interests of big money, big power groups is NOT the way to improve our schools.

Sanson: Current ed climate in TN: war zone

Teachers in TN are, in the words of Lauren Hopson, “tired” of not being heard and taken seriously. We are tired of being told how to do our jobs by people who have never taught and who know nothing about teaching. We are tired of seeing our students over-tested. We are tired of teaching to a test. We are tired of being treated like second-class citizens instead of highly trained professionals. We are tired of being “excessed” and replaced by inexperienced TFA green recruits who are ill-equipped with only five weeks of training. We are tired of groups like Micheel Rhee’s Students First giving money to people running for office. We are tired of Governor Haslam and his Commissioner of Education, Kevin Huffman, who have done nothing to help our public schools, but who have done much to sell them to the highest bidder. Most of all, we are tired of being afraid and being bullied into compliance by people threatening our livelihoods. Tired we may be, but being on the front lines and in the trenches means that you get up and go to battle every day. That is what we will continue to do for our Public Schools and our Students: Fight for Them.

 

8) Why should other teachers affiliate with BATs?

Hopson: BATs will provide a sense of community for them and a structure around which they can organize and regain their power.

While I was touring the Civil Rights section of the American History Museum in DC, I saw a quote from A. Phillip Randolph which said, “Nobody expects ten thousand Negroes to get together and march anywhere for anything at any time….In common parlance, they are supposed to be just scared and unorganizable. Is this true? I contend it is not.”

Nobody expects that of teachers either, but I think BATs will change that!

Sanson: TNBATs is a group that helps and supports teachers, parents, and public schools so that we can be better teachers for our students. We are invested in our students and schools and we are determined to bring positive change back into the TN public school systems. BATs are tough, resilient, trustworthy, caring, and willing to go the distance for our students and our profession. I think the better question should be “Why wouldn’t other teachers affiliate with BATs?”

 

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport