Wednesday, April 15, 2015


The timing of our launch of Educating. All Our Children. requires we begin where the children are this month:  locked into silent classrooms, in row-ordered desks, divided by stands of white board, hunched over answer sheets or computer screens, contributing their labor to the profits of big testing companies.

Or should we say, the children sit captured in concentrated efforts to assure their teacher keeps her job, their principal gains a bonus? Or, we see the kids working for stars:  how many stars, how many A or B ratings, will they need to keep their school open? Is this a word problem, requiring our close reading of the text? Or is it simple math? If so, why the complicated statistical formulas essential to the scoring but understood by almost no one?

Educating. All Our Children. will look back into where these tests comes from? How did they become “high stakes? And who decided?  And what can we do about them?

But because this very week, the children are in “the testing season,” it seems most timely to get to the good news:  this is also the season of “test resistance.”  Students are demanding to be taught, not to be tested. Parents are “opting out” of the testing, refusing to let their children become “data points” in the testing machine.

Here are three great resources for keeping up with the resistance:

  • Can resisting high stakes tests really be a national movement?  Bob Schaeffer, for FairTest, captures stories from across the country:  Testing Resistance and Reform.”
  • There is even an OptOut map by The Movement to End Corporate Education Reform -- to see who in your area is “opting out” and how you can put your own community on the test-resistance map!
  • Diane Ravitch’s blog offers a national forum for the stories of parents and teachers challenging the system, as well as her own keen insights into this strange “reform” system.
In future posts, we'll delve more into who's setting these policies, who is benefiting from testing our children, and why this all matters for our democracy as well as for our children.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Welcome to Educating. All Our Children., dedicated to building an informed community of advocacy on behalf of our children and their education. The public’s schools, so vital to democracy and to children’s wellbeing, are under siege.  Testing systems that once seemed to be an expensive bureaucratic nuisance that “one day too would pass” are now widely understood to be the Trojan horse of statistical tricks to triage students, discredit teachers, and cast suspicion on the very legitimacy of public education.  The urgency of this assault on the public’s schools calls for timely, informed, collective response:  a paradox of both immediacy and thoughtful deliberation. 

The “All Our Children” in our name means just that – every child must grow and learn and thrive under our care.  The “Educating” extends to us, the parents, teachers, scholars, activists, policy shapers – the grown-ups who must get smarter about what is going on before we can fully educate the children. 

Educating. All Our Children.  will keep the focus on the children as we share timely information, important research studies, voices from the classroom, and in doing so, work to recast – and reclaim --the debates about what our schools would be like if we were committed to a powerful, equitable, and democratic education for all our children.

To begin, a piece I wrote as an introduction to a special issue on Education and Democracy for the American Educational Research Journal – in 2002! Our struggle isn’t new, but energies must be:

“There has perhaps been no time in our history when the links between a public education and democracy have been as tenuous as they are right now, at the beginning of this new century.  From Jefferson to Dewey, from the common schools to the freedom schools, educational practices and policies in the United States have invoked the values of democracy for their legitimacy. Even when the reality has fallen far short of the ideal, the articulated premise surrounding public support for the education of children has been democracy’s need for an educated citizenry.  That an educated citizenry could prevent, discern, and even throw off tyranny underlay the presumption that the education of children was a shared and common good, an insurance, if you will, against tyrants and oppression, against those who would co-opt or silence the voices of the many. The denial of literacy to slaves spoke perversely of the power that Whites believed an educated mind to possess – a power multiplied when held not just by one slave, but by slaves in common. 

Our press and government chambers are filled with stories about education, advocacy for education, plans for education “reform.” Education would seem to be a vaunted priority, a collective good. Yet when closely exampled, many of the policies and practices being promoted as reforms are attempts to restructure even publicly funded education into forms of private goods.  Such efforts include privatization and standardization.

Privatization, particularly in the form of vouchers, removes public education dollars from public governance, transferring public funds into private entities that may or may not have any responsibility to serve a public purpose. . . a fairly transparent threat to a tradition of schooling that presumes both a democratic purpose and a democratic governance of schools. 

The symbolic language of education for democracy has dominated the history of education in the US, even when many of our schools were highly inequitable in the populations they served and extremely hierarchical in their bureaucratic structures.  That symbolic language. . . nevertheless provided a common ground where, from time to critical time, citizens could revisit not only their goals for schooling, but their ideals for their children and for their country."

Our hope in launching this blog – a decade after those concerns were raised -- is to create a space for reclaiming, re-asserting the many ways we need to be talking about children and the public’s schools – morally, developmentally, democratically, creatively, truly educationally.  Educating. All Our Children. aspires to be that common ground.

*An excerpt from “Private Asset or Public Good: Education and Democracy at the Crossroads,” the Editor’s Introduction to the Special Issue on Education and Democracy, American Educational Research Journal (summer 2000, vol 30,2; pp 243-238.)