Saturday, August 13, 2005

Action: Alternatives to Military Recruitment at AISD

Action Overview:

We want to gather information about military recruitment in the AISD, comparing military recruitment with college recruitment in area schools and brainstorming non-military options for mentoring and community involvement. This information will then be used in a future meeting with the AISD school board.

Rather than focus our presentation around a "pro-war vs. anti-war" stance, we want to explore the effect of military recruitment, and of the privileging of military recruitment over other options, on students' educations. Part of this project will involve contacting students who would be effective spokespeople at board meetings and brainstorming lists of groups who might currently be denied mentoring/leadership access to students.

We also want to remain in contact with Austin Youth Activists about their march/rally scheduled for October 1st.


Research for Next Meeting:
  1. What is the policy of NCLB regarding access to military recruiters? How much access is required under the law?
  2. How many AISD students have been recruited by the military? How do these numbers break down by race and class?
  3. How does military recruitment compare to college recruitment on area campuses? How many AISD students are admitted into colleges/universities? How do these numbers break down by race and class?
  4. Does the military recruit at all area schools equally, or are some schools more likely to have recruiters?
  5. What is the accreditation or training status of people teaching the Leadership Class at Webb Middle School?
  6. What is the racial breakdown of casualties from the war in Iraq?

Friday, August 12, 2005

Action: Creating Flier for Parents around NCLB/Testing

Please post comments if you would like to get involved with this action or if you have suggestions about process, content, or resources for this action.

At our August 10th gathering we decided to take up immediately two of the four action items outlined at the July 14th gathering: Military Recruitment in AISD and Making Information about and Action around NCLB available to parents.

Here’s what the action group on NCLB/standardized testing came up with:

Action Overview:

We plan to research and develop a flier for parents that provides them with accessible information about standardized testing under NCLB and that explains some actions they can take as parents in the District. The point of the flier will be to provide information and to empower parents as advocates for students’ best education.

Process:
We will begin research now, looking into the data Austin Interfaith has already collected, examining online and offline information provided by AISD, and exploring recent books and articles on Texas schools and NCLB.

When we complete a draft of the flier, we will hold an open forum with parents and community to review the draft and to explore distribution options.

We will distribute the flier through parent organizations and tabling, and we will seek possible approval at individual schools to have fliers sent home in backpacks.

We will start with Alliance schools from the sub-district (currently on hold).

Flier Content:
Possibilities include…
suggesting questions parents might ask teachers,
making information about testing as well as opting out available to parents, and
offering action-oriented responses for parents

Examples of actions include…
school board meeting times and description of the meeting process,
school board member contact information,
description of how to contact schools with questions

Research Areas:
Is standardized testing a problem? If so, how, and who is it a problem for? (tests as gatekeepers)
What language does AISD use around these tests?
What are these tests and how do students take them?
What does each school consider the best kind of teaching?
Does a good test score mean a student will do well on the SAT or get into college?

Research Resources:
Austin Interfaith data share?
Recent books and articles on Texas education and NCLB
AISD websites and documents

Sunday, July 31, 2005

New AISD teacher orientation-e4C presence?

Hello all,

If anyone thinks it worthwhile to have a presence at the new teacher orientation, let me know--soon! The elementary teachers will be at Bowie on Thursday from 7am-12pm. I'm not sure where the new high school teacher orientation will be. We could possibly set up a table outside where teachers' unions usually set up to give out information.

Anyway, e-mail me or comment soon, so we can get together and discuss this.

Also, I commented about the Youth Activists for Austin meeting...Check it out, there are details about their efforts and what they need help with.

Thanks,
Stacey

Friday, July 29, 2005

Return of the academic witch hunts

Meet the New McCarthyites
Return of the Academic Witch Hunts

By DAVE LINDORFF

Here for entire Counterpunch article


McCarthy-style witch hunts are coming back, and the first place we'll be seeing them is at Pennsylvania's public colleges and universities.

Under the innocent-sounding name "Academic Bill of Rights," a gaggle of right-wing "culture warriors" in the Republican-led Pennsylvania House recently passed HR 177, a resolution authorizing them to invade public colleges and universities armed with subpoenas to grill faculty on curricula, reading lists, exams, homework assignments, grading and teaching styles, and to take testimony from students, allegedly to determine whether their professors are fair or "biased."

The underlying assumption of the resolution--part of a nationwide campaign spearheaded by one-time SDS lefty and now rabid right-wing activist David Horowitz--is that America's colleges and universities have been overrun by leftist fanatics intent on banishing conservative ideas and punishing conservative or Christian students who dare to speak out.

The notion that leftists are in charge in academia, is as bogus as the notion that the media are dominated by liberals. The political mix on most campus faculties across the country is not much different from what you'd find in the broader community. Moreover, leftist teachers are no more likely to impose their ideas on students or to punish those who disagree than are rightists (maybe less), and in either case such behavior should and would likely be roundly condemned. (Any decent school has a mechanism for students to challenge political bias by a professor, and indeed Horowitz and his minions have been hard-pressed to show any hard evidence of such abuses.) Add to this the reality that at the higher you look in university administrations, through chairs to deans and provosts on up to presidents, the more conservative officials tend to be politically. At Pennsylvania's Temple University, for example, the University Senate voted resoundingly to oppose HR177 as a threat to academic freedom and free speech, yet the university president, David Adamany-technically an ex-officio member of the Senate--was quoted publicly as not seeing anything troubling about the legislative intrusion into academic affairs.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Anti-Militarizationin Schools Meeting on Friday 7/29

Friday, July, 29, 6:30 pm
Youth Activists of Austin is opening up their
July 29 meeting to the community to help plan a march calling for the
demilitarization of high schools (can extend to colleges as well) on
Sept. 17 (date open for discussion). Come help plan and/or lend your
organizational name in endorsement. Contact Will at 731-4293 or
ramblinboy@gmail.com.
LOCATION: Maplewood School - outside near the side entrance steps (on
E. 38 ½ St., 5 blocks east of I-35, at the railroad tracks)

Youth Activists of Austin, focusing on anti-war and anti-recruitment
efforts, meets on Fridays. This group is exclusively run by and for
high school activists to organize.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Discussion and Action Items from July 14 Gathering

Our next meeting will be Thursday, August 4 (Carver Library, 6-8), just before the AISD school year begins. We will have break-out groups for the action items we developed at the July 14th gathering… read on for details.

At the meeting on Thursday, July 14, Bastille Day, we had a lovely French-food potluck and discussed the research compiled (and collected in previous blog posts here) over the past month in relation to the research objectives articulated at the June meeting (see the June 14 blog post, “Research Areas from June 9 Meeting,” for a list of these objectives). We also decided that each meeting we’ll choose a different facilitator for the discussion; the facilitator’s role will be to ensure everyone has a chance to speak, to move us to the next topic or to a decision after a discussion when appropriate, and to use the white board to compile ideas and points raised by the group.

The goal of this meeting was to choose a path of action for the group, and we reached a series of four short-term objectives that Educators for Change will take up this school year. Each of the four action points appear in a separate blog post below.

Please review the following action points and post a comment to the action you are interested in indicating that you want to be involved. (We will also have break-out groups for these action points at the August 4 meeting, so you can get involved then as well.) Please list your contact information in your comment. We will send out an email list for each action item so that those groups can get in touch and get started. (At that point we will remove your contact information from your comments for your privacy.)

1. Issue: Military Recruitment in AISD

A central research area from the June 9 meeting was related to military recruiting in schools, and representatives from Non-Military Options for Youth attended the July 15 meeting to share information about their work.

Because “opt-out” choices for parents (that is, choosing to keep your children’s contact information private from everyone, including the military) can be easy for the military to circumvent, the group discussed the need for a more thorough representation of non-military options in schools and for restrictions on military recruiters’ access to students.

Response:
Alberto volunteered to help develop a comprehensive response to the presence of the military in schools; this comprehensive response could be presented to AISD and to principals as a method for treating military recruitment similar to college recruitment. The comprehensive response would include two approaches:
a. limiting recruiters’ access to students both in time and space, and

b. replacing currently military-run school programs (like mentoring at Webb Middle School) with community resources (like Big Brothers Big Sisters and partnerships with university classes, students, and professors). (We assume that such partnerships will improve students’ learning environments in a range of ways.)

Action:
This action would begin in three ways:
a. attending AISD Board Meetings (on select Monday nights) to speak out and educate the public about current unlimited military access and about the comprehensive response we envision, then following up with phone calls and meetings with AISD administrators, and

b. connecting with teachers at Webb Middle School to develop information-dispersal there (Stacey has a few ideas here)

c. possibly developing an example community collaboration with one of Stacey’s 5th-grade classes at Pickle Elementary and by holding information groups for parents at Pickle Elementary.

Please click on “comment” below if you would like to comment on this action item or if to write that you’d like to get involved with this action item. Please include your contact information.

2. Issue: Getting Beyond Standardized Testing

Stacey explains that AISD models itself after two school systems. While the testing is the means, the goal is what the University of Pittsburgh has defined as the “Principles of Learning” (see http://www.austinisd.org/teachers/principlesoflearning/pol.phtml). The Principles of Learning indicate a need for independent thinking and creative teaching, while the testing model proves an obstacle to the ultimate development of students as “accountable” and “intelligent” “apprentices.”

Austin Interfaith has developed an alliance of schools applying to exempt themselves from the repercussions of testing for three years while they develop an independent system of teacher training and student evaluation.

Response:
Educators for Change wants to educate ourselves about the “Principles of Learning” and to connect with the developing alliance of schools to help advocate for their project and provide resources as appropriate.

Action:
Action for this item will take place in two ways:
a. researching and educating ourselves as a group about the “Principles of Learning” and AISD’s relationship to them, and

b. attending Austin Interfaith meetings to make connections and go from there.

Please click on “comment” below if you would like to comment on this action item or if to write that you’d like to get involved with this action item. Please include your contact information.

3. Issue: Making Information on and Action against NCLB Accessible to Parents

While doing research over the past month, Educators for Change repeatedly realized that the information available about our research areas is either physically inaccessible (cannot be downloaded or the link is missing) or is written in an inaccessible fashion (too long, too complicated, etc.).

Response:
We are particularly concerned that parents (and possibly the teachers and the students themselves) have information on how to advocate for their students around NCLB.

Action:
Action for this item will take place in two ways:
a. researching, digesting, and translating (both into accessible language and, possibly, into Spanish as well as English) available information about NCLB

b. making a flier (or a series of fliers) that offers a short version of this information and produces a couple of action items for parents that would be easy and effective (so that parents are able to act on instead of feeling overwhelmed by information)

c. a longer-term action item here might include developing a website that makes this translated information and these action items available in a central location.

Please click on “comment” below if you would like to comment on this action item or if to write that you’d like to get involved with this action item. Please include your contact information.

4. Issue: Developing E4C Community Base & Holding the Media Accountable

4. Issue: Developing E4C Community Base & Holding the Media Accountable
Since the information about NCLB, testing, and military recruitment strategies and alternatives are not readily available, and since we are a new group without an established (and, therefore, possibly objectionable or dissmissable) mission, we have the opportunity to get information and action items into the media.

Response:
Educators for Change can synthesize available information and even connect with ongoing groups to produce articles and press releases to get our name out there and thus to inform the public and put pressure on administrators about progressive education options and initiatives.

Action:
Action for this item will take place in two ways:
a. serving as a media-watch center, we will produce information points and even articles to send to appropriate area newspapers, and we will send letters to the editor to area newspapers to keep the voice of progressive educators and information about the above issues in the public eye

b. getting the word out about Educators for Change by attending and making contacts with a range of meetings of groups who are dealing with educational issues connected to our action items

c. a longer-term action item here might include developing our own publication focused on an audience of parents and students and providing digested information, useful action items, and examples of ongoing activism.

Please click on “comment” below if you would like to comment on this action item or if to write that you’d like to get involved with this action item. Please include your contact information.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Teaching Peace in Texas Conference

Representatives from Non-Military Options for Youth brought this conference up at the last gathering. The conference is Friday, August 5th, at the Wyndham Hotel in Arlington, from 9:00am-4:30pm. You can register or find out more at www.texansforpeace.org/Conference2005.htm. This link also appears on the sidebar of this blog.