Print and Go!: When the weather isn’t cooperating use these free custom printables to make your own indoor wellness way.
1/11/19 The Run-Down on IDEA: The landmark legislation, IDEA became law in 1975. Parents and teachers agree the system intended to help student with disabilities is in the breakdown lane. This is What Solidarity Looks Like: The American Federation of Teachers has started an interest-free loan program members affected by the partial shutdown of the federal government. The AFT represents not only teachers but also other government employees, including corrections officers, firefighters, engineers and budget analysts Tuesday is Budget Day: Governor Cuomo will unveil his proposed budget ahead of the Feb 1 deadline on Tuesday. Expect proposals on school aid and taxation among other items.
Print and Go!: When the weather isn’t cooperating use these free custom printables to make your own indoor wellness way.
Meanwhile: NY Governor Cuomo dismissed full funding for schools and is standing with big business to make permanent the school-crippling tax cap.
Rejecting Flavor of the Month “Reform”: Even if renewal schools aren’t magically transforming schools -they are making a real change in the achievement gap.
Print a Free Wellness Way: Did you make a resolution to get moving this year? Why not print a custom Wellness Wayto help your students get up, get moving, and get a little happy!
1/7/19 Playing Chicken: Legislators may be playing chicken as their session starts – a bill would ban baby chicks in classrooms. I suspect foul play.
Rich (Schools) Get Richer: As public schools continue to struggle – Wall St is fueling already wealthy private schools.
Unequal Response: Governor Cuomo agrees that there is funding inequity among schools, but not where you think.
Strike Set for Tomorrow: Teachers in LA are ready to strike tomorrow. While their lot is similar to others - there are some important differences.
1/4/19 Killing Court Case Hurts Kids: Once more New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says the court case calling for equitable school funding is done. Advocates say repeating a false narrative doesn’t make it true - and hurts kids. Shutdown Hurting SUNY: Research conducted at SUNY is grinding to a halt as the government shutdown drags on. Home Sweet Home: Teachers are being priced out of the housing market near their schools – what are communities doing to attract and retain staff? Literacy Isn’t Just for Reading: Has your school cut classes that provide basic financial skills? This state is taking action by requiring financial literacy training. On the Calendar: Why buy a calendar? Print a custom teacher calendar here.
1/2/19 Cuomo Holding the Cards: In his third inaugural address Governor Cuomo shows he’s all in for a progressive agenda – but didn’t address school funding. The Fights Ahead: The fight for school funding and teacher pay gets real as a district prepares for a teacher strike by hiring legions of “substitutes”. Cracking the Code: Millions of kids can’t read. Why? They need help cracking the code. On the Calendar: Why buy a calendar? Print a custom teacher calendar here.
1/1/19 Happy New Year! Wrap It Up: Well, ok. Check out teacher stories you missed in 2018. Including the biggest stories in “the city”.
Predictions for 2019: A veteran teacher makes predictions for education in the coming year.
On the Calendar: Why buy a calendar? Print a custom teacher calendar here.
Vexing Voters: Teachers took to the polls like never before in November. But why is it so hard to vote in New York?
Top Teachers: The nation’s top teachers will hold a teach in to highlight the plight of immigrant children in detention camps.
Relax. We Got This: No time to get holiday cards for colleagues, parents, and students? Print them yourself! Click it!
12/19/18 Coal for Cuomo?: Incoming NYS Senators are calling out Governor Andrew Cuomo for his comments deriding full and equitable school funding and doubling-down on the crippling tax cap.
DeVos Safety Commission Is In: The Federal Commission on School Safety issued their report. What’s in it? Rolling backdiscipline guidelines and ramping up armed teachers.
From A to Zzzzzzz: Naps have been an easy target as administrators try to pack more “content” into theelementary day. But naps are vital to developing children - supporting focus and learning.
Relax. We Got This: No time to get holiday cards for colleagues, parents, and students? Print them yourself! Click it!
12/18/18 Which List is Cuomo On?: Nice List: Re-committed to protecting unions and public sector workers. Naughty List: Once again laid the responsibility of equitable school funding on local districts, earning the nickname “Ebenezer Scrooge” from an advocacy groups as he called the court case for equitable funding a ghost of the past. New Ed. Chairs: Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan will be departing the Education Committee chairmanship to take the position as deputy majority leader. Nolan will be replaced by Assemblyman Michael Benedetto a Bronx Democrat. Meanwhile in DC, Education Committee Chair Lamar Alexander will not seek re-election. Can Charters Be Reformed?: Should they?
Relax. We Got This: No time to get holiday cards for colleagues, parents, and students? Click it!
12/17/18 It’s Not That Simple: What do teachers really want? Check out these charts showing “Teaching in 2018”.
Shortage Hits Schools: Don’t take your school nurse for granted. The nursing shortage is worsening with many schools going without healthcare professionals.
Teen Drug Survey: This annual survey shows teen vaping nearly doubles as the use of other drugs declines.
Relax. We Got This: No time to get holiday cards for colleagues, parents, and students? Click it!
12/13/18 Worrier or a Warrior? It could be brain chemistry at work and it means a lot when a standardized test is looming.
Feds to Change Rules: A federal school safety committee is poised to change discipline rules that will hurt minority students.
Tax Breaks for Corporations Breaking Schools: Public schools in 28 states could have received nearly $2 billion in funds that instead were given away by state and local governments as corporate tax abatements last year, according to a new report
12/12/18 Screens and Young Brains: A new study shows children who have too much screen time prematurely stop brain development. How much is too much? Mayer is Chair: Sen. Shelley Mayer, a longtime advocate for public education has been named chair of the Senate education committee. This is a result of the turnover in the November elections. Teachers Arrested: Union members representing CUNY were arrested yesterday as they held a picket line demanding a fair contract.
12/10/18 Cafeteria Parents: Here’s the story on banning parents from school cafeterias.
Cursive Comeback: Is this skill antiquated or a way to build brain power? One state may mandate instruction.
Credit Check: Are credit recovery programs good for kids or schemes to boost graduation rates?
Windy City Win: Charter strike in Chicago yields better pay, shorter day and year and protections for students.
12/5/18 Knock, Knock: As unionized charter school teachers (yes, unionized charters) use their union power to demand better working conditions, creepy union-busters are going door to door to “save you money”. Yeah, right. Tell You Webmaster: Schools from pre-k through college are being held accountable for not having ADA compliant webpages. Is yours? Rules to Live By: Check out these classroom rules that work just about everywhere!
12/3/18 It’s About Time: The President says he can’t imagine not being named Time magazine man of the year. But, Time has made whole groups of people the winners – how about teachers? To Twitter everyone! #AboutTimeAmericanTeacher SED Is Insecure: NYS SED has failed to secure its computer information systems for more than a year, which could leave students’ personal data at risk of hacking, according to state auditors. Less is Less: Less than half of middle school students received health education lessons mandated by SED. The law states that kids must have health education every day for one semester and instruction time must add up to 54 hours.
11/30/18 Holy Grail of Ed. Lawsuits: A lawsuit claims that a proper education in civics is a constitutional right - needed for students to fully participate in our democratic process.
Teacher Talk: Help for your non-teacher friends. Where Real Reform is Needed: Private schools aren’t required to report sexual abuse by staff members. That may change today. Meanwhile… NYC charters are being sued for changing special ed. services without parental consent.
11/29/18 It’s Back!: Remember the court case to force full-funding of public schools? It’s back baby! Pre-K to 3-K: The move from pre-k to 3-k makes a lasting impact in learning- that is clear. But, are some kids being incorrectly diagnosed too early with ADHD? A Better Way?: After a bruising mid-term election cycle is New York headed to a new way to finance campaigns? Don’t Fight It: December is near. How about a random act of kindness calendar for your classroom?
11/27/18 Class is In!: The days of 3 men in a room are over for the NYS Budget as longtime public school advocate, union supporter, and former teacher, Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins takes her place leading the NYS Senate.
Apple Code: Registration for thousands of free “Hour of Code” sessions taking place at Apple Stores nationwide is on now.
Cradle to College: Public education in New York is poised to start at birth (almost).
11/19/18 Carranza Buried by Complaints: Commissioner Carranza got buried by complaints from parents for mishandling the snowstorm, angry parents waited for some children after midnight. Youth Vaping on Rise: To curb youth smoking and vaping the FDA plans to limit flavored products. Check out this Q&A on teen vaping. DeVos Backs Title 9 Changes: Sec. DeVos’ new guidelines to the civil rights law that would drastically change the way schools handle sexual misconduct.
11/16/18 Cafeteria Crackdown: As if school wasn’t stressful enough- this district is launching a crackdown on ketchup. Where Are Teachers Most Respected?: As educators stand up for themselves a new report shows where teachers are most respected. Giving Thanks: Here are some Thanksgiving writing prompts and themed paper to promote thankfulness. Share the Love and Win: I’m thankful to work with awesome SRPs. You too? Share the love on Nov. 20th!
11/15/18 Copy Cats: How can you tell when public school and opt-out advocates have won? When “school reformers” and charters start copying you. Taking on Tough Topics: Schools are taking on tough topics to help students including suicide prevention and preventing sexual violence. This important work requires increased funding – here’s where to get it. Na, Na, Na Na, Na - It’s Electric!: Meet New York State’s newest efficient electric school buses. Recharge you finances with NYSUT membership benefits!
11/13/18 Afterschool Special: NYS will invest $6.8 million in after school program funding in 15 high-need districts. Hot Topic: Education was a key issue in mid-terms. See what happened state by state. Parents Can Choose Non-Binary: This school district will be the first to let families select “non-binary” — rather than male or female — when indicating the gender of their child on enrollment forms.
11/9/18 Read and Reboot:Has the talk during election season made its way into your school? Take a breath and check out kids’ books to promote diversity and tips for infusing positive language in your classroom. Lasting Impact: Teachers across the country stood up for their colleagues and students in this week’s elections. Even if they didn’t win their efforts have caught the attention of students, parents, and politicians.
11/8/18 Did We Ever!!!: Members and their families voted in droves on Tuesday winning more races than ever. And, the wave of activism among teachers and students is growing past election day! Here’s how to keep the momentum going. What a Concept!!!: A concept many New Yorkers may never have heard of allows teachers, parents and even students to steer millions of dollars to their communities and schools.
11/6/18 Your Vote Count: From the Con-Con win saving teacher pensions to changes de-linking testing to APPRyour advocacy and vote counts. What will your vote today do to help public ed tomorrow? It's November: We say our member will "Remember in November". Find your NYSUT endorsed candidates here.
11/2/18 “Making” Students Love School: It’s not just robots and 3D printers. The “Maker” movement is helping students and teachers p-12 love learning. Student Debt Grows Up: The generation saddled with huge student debt is coming of age and will be making waves on election day. Need help? Class is IN!: When classroom teachers run for NYS Senate – educators are all in. Yes They Do: Yes, your family does listen to you. Have the conversation about who you support and why. Find your NYSUT endorsed candidates
10/31/18 Happy Halloween! Frank(en) Debate: Young people don’t need to lose their heads over choosing teaching as a career. Check out the spirited round-table on how to attract and keep great public school teachers.
Eeeek!: Superstition can get out of hand on Halloween. But, a little superstition can be a good thing for the self-driven student (and teacher).
Commish Defends Renews: Commissioner defends the achievements of New York’s renewal schools.
Hate on the Rise: Data from the Anti-Defamation League, the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States increased by 57 percent in 2017 over the previous year. What can schools do to reduce hate attacks on all groups?
Vote Nov 6 for the APPR and Funding Fix!: Teachers and their families need support in Albany and DC. Schools need full funding and APPR needs reform. See NYSUT’s Voter Guide
10/30/18 Dogs to the Rescue: One school started using comfort dogs to support students (and staff). Now more are joining the pack. Going Positive: As campaign season gets nasty (nastier). A NYSUT endorsed newcomer and an incumbent poke fun at the negative by going positive. Yes, watch this. School Stressers: The new report shows poverty among school kids downstate at all-time highs while upstate 50 school districts are under cyber-attack. More comfort dogs please! Vote Nov 6 for the APPR and Funding Fix!: Teachers and their families need support in Albany and DC. Schools need full funding and APPR needs reform. See NYSUT’s Voter Guide
10-25-18 Vote For Your Favorite Teacher!: Over 100 teachers like you are running for office. Why? See the short video. Don’t Be Shy: As educators and unionists we’re proud of our work and aren’t shy about expressing our values –especially at the ballot box. Teaching Albany a Lesson: Meet the AP Biology teacher who may flip the NYS Senate. A 50 year old husband and father of 3 has a real shot- pushing for education, working families, healthcare, and the environment. Vote Nov 6 for the APPR and Funding Fix!: Teachers and their families need support in Albany and DC. Schools need full funding and APPR needs reform. See NYSUT’s Voter Guide
10-23-18 They’re Running: Teachers make such great candidates – it’s almost unfair. Meet them here and here! Yes, you should still volunteer to phonebank! The “New” Teachers: As teacher recruitment and retention take center stage see who the new teachers are. Teaching Acceptance: As unsettling sentiments fill news headlines, parents and teachers are wondering how to instill values of acceptance and cultural understanding in their children. Vote Nov 6 for the APPR and Funding Fix!: Teachers and their families need support in Albany and DC. Schools need full funding and APPR needs reform.
10/19/18 Kids Use STEM to Crush Cancer: Students in this school used a STEM project to help beat cancer. Sadly new English learners are often left out of STEM. Teacher Strike 4 Human Rights: On the 50th anniversary of a famous NY teacher strike see how it was about the civil rights of students and families. Broken Promises: The broken promise of loan forgiveness for teachers and others in public service is causing irreparable financial damage. Help is here. Vote Nov 6 for the APPR Fix!: Teachers and their families need support in Albany and DC. Schools need full funding and APPR needs reform. Your vote is needed. See NYSUT’s endorsed candidates HERE!
10/16/18 Forces of Evil: NYS Senate leader John Flanagan, who blocked APPR reform in the spring is blasting New York’s teachers union as one of the forces of evil. Who? Us? Why? One word for the Senator Flanagan – D’Amato! Doing Fine Thank You!: So, how are America’s schools doing? In most cases, just fine. Better than ever. Regents See the Gaps: Our Regents find the achievement gap is growing among minorities and the poor. New data shows the number of homeless students could fill Yankee stadium. Thought Janus Was the End?: The Janus case was a blow but public unions are roaring back. Think it’s over? Nope. Vote Nov 6 for the APPR Fix!: Teachers and their families need support in Albany and DC. Schools need full funding and APPR needs reform. Your vote is needed. See NYSUT’s endorsed candidates.
10/12/18 School Rules: Nutty administrator rules? No? Then thank your union! Write It Up: More reading and writing in high school? No time for that. A scholar makes the case for leaving test driven instruction behind. UFT is In: New York’s largest teacher local has a new contract that includes bonuses. The plan also reduces observations. Vote Nov 6 for the APPR Fix!: Teachers and their families need support in Albany and DC. Schools need full funding and APPR needs reform. Your vote is needed. See NYSUT’s endorsed candidates.
10/11/12 School News on Demand: Student journalists are using Snapchat for instant news updates, kids are live-streaming school board meetings, and that’s just for starters! What’s in Your Contract?: Planning time getting pinched? It’s a big problem in lots of schools. What’s in your contract? Will Elia Extend?: After a fiery response from New York’s teacher union, N.Y. Ed Commissioner says a test moratorium may be extended. And, there a lawsuit filed to protect NY from harmful elements of ESSA. Vote Nov 6 for the APPR Fix!: Teachers and their families need support in Albany and DC. Schools need full funding and APPR needs reform. Your vote is needed. See NYSUT’s endorsed candidates.
10/10/18 Shred It: NYSUT slams bogus evaluation system – not worth the paper it’s printed on… Landmark Learning Study II: How People Learn, the hallmark study gets an update. See how the education world is changing Stress Takes Toll on Teachers: Teaching should not be one of the most stressful jobs in the US. Work load, long hours, and the burden of pointless APPR is taking a toll and thinning our ranks. Vote Nov 6 for the APPR Fix!: Teachers and their families need support in Albany and DC. Schools need full funding and APPR needs reform. Your vote is needed. See NYSUT’s endorsed candidates.
10/9/18 Prepare for Parents: Parent / teacher conferences can be stressful. Younger teachers find help in advice from teachers who are also parents. See NYSUT’s guide here. Alhassan in Action: After the fanfare, look inside the classroom of New York’s Teacher of the Year, Alhassan Susso and be inspired! Move Them Out!: Teachers ready for change brought moving trucks to their state capital vowing to move out elected officials who don’t support teachers and working families. Move Them In!: Teachers and their families need support in Albany and DC. Schools need full funding and APPR needs reform. Your vote is needed. See NYSUT’s endorsed candidates.
10/3/18 You Are NOT Chuck Norris: Get your flu shot and get it early, experts urge, as new flu season gets underway. Last flu season was America's deadliest in at least 40 years. Betsy’s SSDD Tour: Yup, same theme as last year’s back to school road show – charters and vouchers and right to work schools. Common Sense Security: Parents and teachers want better school security. They want common sense plans that keep kids safe but don’t turn schools into armed camps. Vote on Nov 6 for a Real APPR Fix!: APPR needs reform. Your vote is needed. See NYSUT’s endorsed candidates.
10/2/18 They Want Your Vote: Politicians on the campaign trail are making some eye-popping promises: billions more for schools, pay raises for teachers, and funds to fix or replace crumbling schools. Some have even said “tax increases” aloud. Class Size Matters: Teachers are leaving the profession just as a nationwide shortage is looming. Class size and the demands to accommodate more students with less staff is driving that bus. Vote on Nov 6 for a Real APPR Fix!: APPR needs reform. Your vote is needed. See NYSUT’s endorsed candidates.
10/1/18 When It Rains - It Spores: Mold in schools is a serious threat to the health of students and staff. Last week a school was evacuated due to mold, now more schools are being tested. When it rains - it spores. Need help? Click here Tuned in and Talking: Last week many classrooms tuned in to the Kavanaugh hearing. In the age of #MeToo and the Supreme Court hearings should we discuss consent in schools? US Slips in Health and Ed: The U.S. was ranked 6th in education and health based on a person’s expected productive years of work. Now it’s 27th.
9/28/18 Tech Skills Please: Our workplaces are becoming more reliant on technology- here’s proof that every rung of the employment ladder relies on tech skills. Baby Gap: Researchers know there's an achievement gap that exists at 18 months. Here are the 5 things to do to jump start brain development in young children. Teacher Votes Can Fix APPR: You may remember that the APPR bill stalled in the NYS Senate. Three labor backed candidates are seen as key to changing that – one is a high school teacher.
Wiggle Room: Title IV of ESSA has a lot of wiggle room for spending. From books to STEM to school security, but can it be used to arm teachers? How about funding SROs, and making facility upgrades to keep kids and staff safe?
This just in... : Teachers need more time for planning and collaboration with colleagues. Check out these no/low cost schedule alternatives.
9/26/18 Speaking of Testing…: Employers say speaking skills are their most wanted skill for new hires, but schools pressed to teach to tests don’t teach that. Speaking of tests… here a 3 things to watch as test score release day draws near. Activating Voters in High Schools: Chancellor Carranza and student activists visited a Manhattan high school to promote voter registration and preach the importance of political activism. Can you register new voters before they turn 18? Yes, you can! Number 1!: New York ranked as the #1 teacher friendly state. NY also home of most unionized and activated teachers. Coincidence? Nope!
9/25/18 Old School: How one school teaches its students to vote (and it’s old-school) Electronic Registration…for a friend: Today is national voter registration day! Register here. Teaching Pols a Lesson: Teachers aren’t just running for office- they’re winning!
Supreme Conversations: The Supreme Court candidate debate is a hot topic.What are teens learning from all this? And how should adults be handling this conversation?
9/24/18 Classroom Stick-Up: Post-it notes are perfect for classroom activities. Here are 25 P-12 ideas for your classroom. Did you know you can print on them? Yes you can! The Ed Flip: New York education policymaking has been defined by predictable splits between Assembly and Senate. That could change on November 6th.if teachers get out and vote!
Safety Q&A: It’s important to respond to kids’ queries and have conversations around school safety, but broaching this topic without causing unnecessary fear or anxiety can pose a challenge. Here are some tips. Student Loan Forgiveness Help: Data shows 99% of applicants for a student loan forgiveness program for those in public service were denied, yes really. Got student loan debt? NYSUT can help.
9/21/18 Up Early to Teach: Cash-strapped teachers in the US are getting up extra early to tutor students….in China. Free Class in Democracy- For a Friend: The most common reason Americans don’t vote - because they don’t know how. Here’s a free class open to all. Helping Students Become Teachers: As teacher shortages nationwide hamstring schools, NYSUT has a plan to help New York students Take a Look at Teaching to see if a career in education is right for them.
9/20/18 Model Civics (Yes, YOU!): Students see teachers as role models - and we need to step up by being good examples. Take the opportunity to model civil discourse to improve future voter participation and engagement. PR Schools Still Need Us: One year ago, Hurricane Maria ripped through Puerto Rico. For the educators, students, and parents who remain on the island, nothing has been the same since. You can help support them with a click. P-12 + Higher Ed = Success: Collaboration between P-12 and Higher Ed. can be the key to success after graduation- but only if they get together.
9/19/18 Meet Alhassan Susso NYS Teacher of the Year: A high school teacher who immigrated to this country from West Africa and entered teaching to transform the lives of young people is the state’s 2019 Teacher of the Year. Meet UFT member Alhassan Susso and be inspired! Lunch 4 All Pays Off: Allowing kids to eat for free, instead of restricting free lunch to students whose families fill out forms, reduces the number of students who get suspended and greatly improves attendance and participation. How Opioids Will Impact Schools: The opioid crisis is raging now, but the impact for children born addicted will impact our education systems for years to come.
9/14/18 I Am A Teacher in America: Read it. Results Are In: Here’s a roundup of winners and losers from yesterday’s primary races. It’s full speed ahead to Nov 6! Want to help? Contact your local president or PAC! NY Says No To Guns in School: New York bans the use of federal, state money to buy guns for schools. DeVos Loses Student Loan Lawsuit: Score one for those with student loans.
9/12/18 Are You Middle-Class?: Unions built the American middle-class. Are you a proud middle-class member? Try this calculator and thank your union! Unequal Funding: The Alliance For Quality Education released a report highlighting what it described as racial inequities in the way the state distributes supplementary school aid. More Teachers Stepping Up: The momentum from the historic wave of statewide teacher strikes last year is still picking up steam. And, more fed-up educators are stepping up and running for elected office. Opt-Out Starts Early: School just started but forward thinking teachers and parents are getting ready for opt-out season. Still Leaded: About 9% (1,165) of the water fixtures in NYC schools found to have elevated lead levelstwo years ago still don’t meet state standards. The number includes 435 used for cooking or drinking.
9/11/18 NY’s Public Higher Ed Rocks!: A total of eight public CUNY schools —are among the country’s 50 best colleges this year. Celebrate today and keep up the fight to fund New York’s SUNY and CUNY colleges! Students Step-Up for Sports Equity: A student initiated law suit says low income and minority students don’t get the chance to play sports in their schools. Their mission - sports equity. Put These on the List: What do teachers really need from parents? Hint: You can’t buy these at Target. Union Envy: Yep, being a union member is cool. New data says most people want to join a union!
9/10/18 It's a Big Deal: Micro-Affirmations: small, welcoming acts accentuate the positive, provide encouragement, and foster healthy relationships can make a BIG impact on classroom culture. Homework Timeout: A teacher describes how her view on homework changed after making visits to their homes.
9/7/18 The Salary Slide: As other professionals see growth, teachers’ pay stagnates, why? See what teachers nationwide are doing to make ends meet. 1 in 7: That’s how many students are chronically absent. As schools face increased accountability for bringing down these rates, a new report reveals the scale of the task. Is Heat the New Snow?: Are heat days the new snow days? Some districts are considering sending kids homewhen classroom temps soar. NYSUT has a bill for that!
Matt Damon explains why he made this surprising new film By Valerie StraussOctober 28 at 12:50 PM (Stone Lantern Films and Turnstone Productions)“Backpack Full of Cash” is a film title that suggests some untoward money dealings. And a new film by that title is — though the theme is not the traditional movie yarns about arms or drug dealing. Actually, it’s a 90-minute documentary about the real and ongoing movement to privatize public education and its effects on traditional public schools and the students they enroll. With actor and activist Matt Damon narrating, “Backpack” tells a scary but important story about corporate school reform policies that critics say are aimed at destroying the U.S. public education system, the country’s most important civic institution. While many Americans have heard of charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately operated, often by for-profit companies, and school “vouchers,” which use public money to pay tuition for private schools, they may not understand their central place in the broader corporate reform movement. That movement, which also includes policies such as standardized test-based “accountability” systems, thrived under the administrations of presidents George W. Bush, a Republican, and then Barack Obama, a Democrat. But there are both Republicans and Democrats who oppose corporate reform as well. Answer Sheet newsletter Education questions and answers, in your inbox weekly.
Sign up“Backpack” — done by Stone Lantern Films, and Turnstone Productions — attempts to explain the entire movement through the prism of the 2013-2014 school year. The best way to understand what is happening is by looking at how corporate reform affects schools, teachers and children, and that’s what the film attempts to do. Here’s a description of the film, from its Kickstarter website: BACKPACK takes viewers to Philadelphia, where in 2013-14, the charismatic principal of South Philadelphia High worries about the upcoming school year — his school has no music teacher, no librarian, and just two counselors for over 1,000 students. Across town, the C.O.O. of a brand new charter school welcomes students to gleaming, high tech classrooms. In North Philly, a 10th-grader performs a virtual frog dissection on her computer, in her bedroom. Her cyber charter school is run by the biggest for-profit online education company in the world. In Nashville, TN, a teacher is giving standardized tests to her eight-year-old students. This is their 30th Test Day of the year. Testing companies reap huge dividends. And in Louisiana, a Bible school headmaster teaches creationism to students who pay tuition with tax-funded vouchers. [Why the movement to privatize public education is a very bad idea] The description also notes that the term “backpack full of cash” refers to the belief by corporate reformers that every child should be allowed to take their share of public education dollars — their “backpack full of cash” — to any school they want, charter, religious, online or public. (The problems with such a system are many: Public money shouldn’t be used for religious purposes; traditional school systems, which educate the vast majority of students, need dependable budgets to properly operate; and the public has little or no oversight over private, religious and charter schools.) The title could equally refer to the billions of dollars that private philanthropists have spent in recent years to privatize the public education system through pet projects that have no research to back up their effectiveness. “Backpack” was directed and co-produced by Sarah Mondale, president and co-director of Stone Lantern who is also a public school teacher in New York. She directed and co-produced the 2001 four-part series titled “School” — and she was nominated for an Emmy for her direction of “Asylum: A History of the Mental Institutions in America.” The film makers are seeking funding via a Kickstarter campaign to complete final work on the film and distribute and promote it. The film makers got Damon, who has been vocal about the importance of public education for years, to narrate it. In an email, Damon explained why he agreed: “I got involved in the making of ‘Backpack Full of Cash’ because it tells the important story of how current education reform policies are increasing inequality and causing harm to our most vulnerable children. The expansion of charter schools is draining funds from our public schools and benefiting some children while leaving others behind with fewer resources. We need a public school system that gives every child an equal chance to a great education. I had that chance in the public schools I attended and I want to see it given — fairly and on an even playing field — to every child in our nation. “Backpack Full of Cash” helps us realize that true education equity will come when we address the deeper issues underlying education inequality such as child poverty, racial segregation, and the unequal funding of our schools.” Supporters of the privatization of public education say that outsourcing school management and running public schools like businesses is more efficient than allowing government to do the job. Critics say civic institutions can’t be properly run like businesses in part because children aren’t widgets. According to Samuel E. Abrams, director of the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education at Columbia University’s Teachers College, whose recent book, “Education and the Commercial Mindset,” details how and why market forces have become important in corporate school reform: … where there is insufficient transparency for proper contract enforcement, the free market fails. Laissez-faire enthusiasts neglected to differentiate discrete (that is, easily measurable) from complex services. In the case of schooling, which is a classic complex service, the direct consumer is a child, who is in little position to judge whether classes are being properly taught. The parent, taxpayer and legislator are at a necessary distance. And standardized testing as a check on quality is rife with problems. It isn’t merely that teachers and principals under tremendous pressure to raise test scores can correct wrong answers on bubble sheets, as documented in Atlanta most notably, but they can also give students more time to complete tests and lend help in the process. More fundamentally, heavy reliance on standardized testing leads to teaching to the test, which means crowding out instruction in subjects that aren’t tested, particularly art, music, crafts and play, which are fundamental to a well-rounded education. Damon’s involvement is the latest in a string of education-related activities. In March 2011, he said during a television interview that President Obama’s standardized test-based school reform policies had disappointed him. Two months later, Obama took a shot at Damon in a comic address to the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, saying: “I’ve even let down my key core constituency: movie stars. Just the other day, Matt Damon — I love Matt Damon, love the guy — Matt Damon said he was disappointed in my performance. Well, Matt, I just saw ‘The Adjustment Bureau’ so . . . right back atcha, buddy.” Then in July of the same year, Damon came to Washington and delivered a speech at the Save Our Schools rally where teachers, parents and others protested the Obama administration’s standardized test-based school reform policies. Damon came at the request of his mother, Nancy Carlsson-Paige, a well-known child development expert and professor emeritus at Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass., who was involved with the rally. The administration at the time was concerned enough about his speech to attempt to arrange a meeting, with then-Education Secretary Arne Duncan offering to meet Damon at the airport and talk to him on the drive into the city, according to sources at the time. Damon refused. In 2014, Damon had an online conversation with fans on Reddit and among the subjects he discussed was his opposition to standardized test-based school reform and the exclusion of teachers from the shaping of education policy. And now, he has narrated “Backpack Full of Cash.” [Matt Damon’s clear-headed speech to teachers rally]