GEM NYC
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Two Upcoming Events!

1.  Monday, July 18th, 5pm
CUNY Graduate Center
Room 5414
5th Ave and 34th St.
1/2/3/B/D/F/M/N/Q/R to 34th St.
***Read below, a powerful letter from parent, Janine Sopp, who is a member of the testing Committee

2.  If you haven’t seen it already, here is another opportunity to see The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman. There will be a discussion afterwards, please join us!  Resistance Cinema is going to screen the film “The Inconvenient Truth About Waiting For Superman” at Community Church of NY on Sunday July 24th, 1:15pm. Community Church is located mid town just a few blocks from the Empire State Building at 40 East 35th st. The screening will take place at an adjacent brownstone owned by the church at number 28.

Click below to see the summer schedule for Resisstance Cinema.
http://russellbranca.com/AriaAperta/Projects/documents/RCSummer2011schedule.pdf

If you want a little more info about Resistance Cinema and its history click below. You can see the archives by scrolling down.
http://russellbranca.com/AriaAperta/Projects/ResistanceCinema.html

Click below and you can read a review that Russell, who is setting up this screeing, wrote of Diane Ravitch’s book last November.
http://russellbranca.com/AriaAperta/BookReviews/TheDeathAndLife.html  
______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Dear Parents, Education Advocates, Teachers and Concerned Friends,
As we are coming off what appears to be an attack on our Public schools through the threat of losing 6,000 teachers to budgetary layoffs, we are left with 4,100 teaching positions saved, but no positions replaced due to attrition.  It is clear that as our children’s libraries and  art and music programs are being compromised, millions of dollars are being diverted into increased testing and data collecting, neither of which is actually serving to better educate our children.  The most positive outcome of this experience has been the mobilization of parents and teachers and the ignition of what can become an engaged parent/teacher movement for real reform in our schools.
Many feel that our schools have become testing obsessed, forgetting to focus on what is most important to children by giving students quality teachers, small class sizes and a more hands-on experience.  Instead, our policy makers are taking money out of meaningful programs like the arts and physical education in order to increase the funding of high-stakes testing that inadequately tests both students and teachers, reduces the time spent on actual teaching in the classroom, and adds undue stress to the total school experience.  Parents and children are bearing the negative effects of these tests, and we see that our children’s natural curiosity for learning is being turned into lethargy and a general lack of interest in school.  How can our policy makers expect children to be engaged in their education when they deplete what many believe is most essential to learning?

The research is clear: “Data from interviews reveals that teachers experience negative emotions as a result of the publication of test scores and determine to do what is necessary to avoid low scores. Teachers believe that scores are used against them, despite the perceived invalidity of the tests themselves. From classroom observations it was concluded that testing programs substantially reduce the time available for instruction, narrow curricular offerings and modes of instruction, and potentially reduce the capacities of teachers to teach content and to use methods and materials that are incompatible with standardized testing formats.” 1

We find it disconcerting that those who have the most experience with our children’s education, teachers and parents, have been left out of the decision-making process around what is needed to increase learning.  Most feel disempowered or disenfranchised, feeling as though their voice does not matter and that their children’s education is no longer in their hands.  If a parent gets involved through their PTA, SLT or in the classroom, they are quickly discouraged by the bureaucracy that ensues on behalf of their school, finding teachers and principals reluctant to address their concerns. 

If the tone of this letter resonates with you, you may be relieved to know you are not alone in your experience.  Hundreds of families are feeling stranded and stressed by their experience with our public schools.  Many have turned to charter schools in the hope of finding a solution to this situation.  This experience often proves to be an even more limiting place to express parental concerns or become intimately involved with a child’s education.  We are seeing the trend of charter schools expanding while our public schools are being compromised, both of which are becoming a sick experiment affecting our children at the hands of private interests.  Is this what you envisioned your children’s education to look like?

We feel there are alternative ways to assess children and teachers — innovative, creative and adequate ways that will serve our children’s needs and help guide the performance inside the classroom.  Being “college ready” does not have to mean being tested to death.  We believe educating the whole child is what prepares them for the world beyond school and adds meaning to their life and our society.  Narrowing their experiences through teaching to the test flattens their learning and consequently the society they will become a part of after school.  We believe our schools can have culturally rich, rigorous curricula that prepare our children for college and the workforce without the external control of high-stakes testing.  The over focus on testing is hurting our kids and our schools, and we must demand and put forth an alternate vision.

Over the summer, the Grassroots Education Movement would like to explore other options and build parent power to oppose the forces that seem set on pushing an agenda of high-stakes testing on our teachers and children.  We are planning a campaign around testing next year that will begin with education about what high-stakes testing is and how it negatively affects our children and schools.  We will educate and organize around alternative experiences.  As well, we will explore the notion of opting-out of these tests, which may be a giant first step in regaining the power that parents can have in their children’s education.  We are encouraging the mobilization of such an opt-out campaign that would be strategically crafted and targeted to a few schools for one of the local or interim assessments.  If you are interested in becoming involved in this movement, please contact Janine Sopp or Bill Linville to learn more at janinesopp@gmail.com or  bill.linville@gmail.com.

Our first major organizing meeting will be held on July 18 at the CUNY Graduate Center, room 5414, at 5:00pm.  We hope to involve as many teachers and parents in this process as possible, knowing that the larger the movement, the stronger the impact.  These recent attacks on our public schools are only the beginning. So a stronger parent/teacher force will be needed to influence the next wave of intensity.

We look forward to hearing from you and working with you. 
Janine Sopp
Public School Parent
1 Put to the Test:  The Effects of External Testing on Teachers, Mary Lee Smith, Professor

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