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Friday, August 30, 2013

Still marching with my SOS brothers and sisters

The news media cameras are all gone.
The crowds all gone home.
The press is gone searching for the next popular thing.
Sounds like they are already playing the minstrel role for war just days after our nation honored our prince of peace Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Be not mistaken America the dreamer's legacy has not been put to bed for another year.
Look around,
Listen to the people sing,
Open your ears and eyes,
The people are still marching.
Our nation's Fast Food workers are marching for a living wage.
Trayon Martin is at peace, but not the injustice that put him to rest.
In Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, and New York parents and teachers are still marching to stop the closing of their schools.
My United Opt Out brothers and sisters are still marching,
My BATs brothers and sisters are still marching,
My Defending Public Education K to 16 are still marching,
My SOS brothers and Sisters who marched boldly in DC, are considering heeding Rev Sharpton's call to take this fight for justice and jobs on the road.
SOS is planning to go the Selma Bloody Sunday Jubilee.
While these Ed Deformers wave their flags of power, money, and political clout, SOSers have not stopped marching for our public schools.
They have chosen the slogan of Public Education Is A Civil Right.
Dr. King sad:
Cowardice asks the question is it safe?
Expediency asks the question - is it politic?
Vanity asks the question - is it popular?
But conscience asks the question - is it right?
And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular; but one must take it because it is right."
Ring every bell, shout it on every mountain top, call it out on every corner, SOSers ask only one question, is it right, and they have never stopped marching for what is Right.
Heed my words, Secretary Status Quo Duncan, Michelle Rhee, Paul Vallas, and every other Ed Deformer all roads lead to Selma.
Going to Selma,
Jesse The Walking Man Turner

Public Education Is A civil Right, not a choice, not a lottery, and it is not for sale. For those interested in why Selma see the following link.

If you are wondering what the Walking Man is listening to on his walk over the mountain's the Roots version "Nobody gonna turn me around" 
See you in Selma people 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Have you heard about Crazy Common Core Groupies?

I saw this image at with the caption A Girl with a book, and the following Oscar Wild quote "If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” 

It got me to thinking about these Common Core Groupies running around shouting Rigor, Rigor, Rigor. They certainly have no sense of vocabulary, or what a dictionary is. Any quick check of the meaning of rigor comes up with something like this:" 

hardship, harshness, severity, adversity; ordeal, misery, trial; discomfort, inconvenience, 

a mine operated under conditions of rigor: strictness, severity, stringency, toughness, harshness, rigidity, inflexibility, intransigence.

intellectual rigor: meticulousness, thoroughness, carefulness, diligence, scrupulousness, exactness, exactitude, precision, accuracy, correctness, strictness.

(rigorsthe rigors of the journey: hardship, harshness, severity, adversity; ordeal, misery, trial; discomfort, inconvenience, privation.
If they did they might understand why early childhood experts think they are plain nuts. Actually early childhood experts viewed them as being absolutely, completely, totally crazy, wacko nuts! 

Early childhood experts can't see any parent saying bring on the 





Misery, and 

Discomfort for my child. 

I hope this problem with the rigor thing is starting to make a little sense now. It certainly is not a word we should be using with young children. 

Now back to reading a book you enjoy over and over again. It appears these CC Groupies don't have time for anything, but this close reading thing. They are fanatical over it in fact. This close reading doesn't take into account any emotional connections to books. It's all objective for them. For example: when I finished reading Isabel Allende's "House of spirits" I was in between flights at O'Hara International Airport. I found myself crying uncontrollably so like any "too proud to cry" male I hid my tears under my jacket. It appears that was all wrong with them. They can't get past any type of enjoyment in reading. Now I did say enjoyment, but reading "Hosue of Spirits" made me sad enough to cry. How does that become enjoyment, well really sad books have a way of releasing happy tearful tears. Sort of like the blues, and I'm a big blues man. Now these CC Groupies can't take crying of any kind. Can't you hear them shouting: It's all about the information, the standards, and the test stupid.  Pleasing them would mean I should have focused on the factual information, and not get lost in the narrative of love, lost, and pain. They'll all objective about books; it's all about the information. Understand these are CEO types, they dream of a McEducation for every child. Every burger is the same size, every one cooked at the same temperature, and they all get flipped at the same time. McEducation is for everyone, but their children. Well that's me getting off the subject again. I do that when I write. I also do it when I read sometimes as well. Getting lost in books is equivalent to finding your soul. They'll never get that one. My apologies the subject is reading a book you enjoy over and over again. 

I have been working with struggling readers, their parents, and their teachers for over 30 years now. I can't remember one skill, one strategy, one phoneme, vowel, or vocabulary lesson that sparked a love of reading. That is not to say these things didn't help, but compared to discovering the right book these are grains of sand.

Now yes, the right book is important, but it's like a pebble really. That is when compared to the climate created by the right teacher/parent/friend/ that invites the reader into the right book. The right climate is a mountain compare to the right book. It's the Holy Grail of joining the literacy club. On the journey to becoming a reader who enjoys reading the sand becomes the pebbles, the pebble become the mountain. It all goes together. Remember reading is a complex process. Anyone telling you differently is nuts.   

Remember those CC Groupies they do get all up tight with enjoying reading anything. Heck if you expect to enjoy reading then you might expect to enjoy your job one day. Every teacher, knows that Common Core Heaven explicitly forbids it's groupies from enjoying anything about any one's future career. Everything about the future scares them. They live in constant fear of the 21st century despite living in it. Future careers are all about being college ready and globally competitive. I can't imagine inspiring young people by saying, "stay focused, or you won't be globally competitive" in the future. The future for me as a young kid was about being the heavy weight champion of the world, the next Elvis, and or the next Steve McQueen. This globally competitiveness thing would not have inspired me. Now I am doubly sure it wouldn't inspire today's young people.  

A quick review we have grains of sand, pebbles, and the mountain. Right?

Well together they become the magic that sparks reading for enjoyment. The magic is the invitation to join the literacy club. Oh, oh, I mentioned the Literacy Club again, this means I have to mention Frank Smith who happens to be a real literacy expert. These CC Groupies hate literacy experts. Actually CC Groupies hate just about any education expert. They hate researchers as well. They adore their CEO friends, Billionaires friends, and Ed Deformer friends. Now these Ed Deformers friends utterly hate "The Literacy Club." it's a Frank Smith metaphor describing the social nature of literacy learning. You see the problem don't you? You realize the word socialism has the word social in it. To these CC Groupies reading is a fierce competition, child against child, friend against friend, even family member against family member. Reading in the 21st century for CC Groupies is a survival of the fittest 

Everyone agrees reading is a complex process, and no one has a simple answer, but I have never met a reader who loves reading who never fell in love with at least one book. Now these Common Core groupies they don't have time for these things, they only have rigorous demands on students and teachers. Their mantra said over and over again a hundred times every hour is "We need rigorous standards and rigorous tests will save us". Sounds kind of corny to me actually. 
As for me well  I would go for the right book, right climate, even if the book is about Zombies. I wouldn't even mention the word zombies around these people. That's another story about their obsessive love of non-fiction books. I'll cover that, some other day people.  
Let me end by saying imagine a world where learning isn't a race, 
You know like in Finland. 
Oh, they are ranked number one in literacy.
  Emmmm, they might have something there. 

Still walking,

Jesse The Walking Man

If you are wondering what I am listening to today on my walk over the mountain it's all Barry Lane.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Get on the bus America

Today I posted on my home page the above picture with the following comment and link to the Makana song "
Get on the bus people, the middle class is shrinking, our pensions are sinking, and for the first time in our history our children are going to be less well off than their parents.
Occupy America,

The silence and apathy in America as we accept closing public schools in our poorest and most needy communities, leaving our university students with massive loan debts, and the constant union bashing is deafening. How can we accept this premise that our children should expect less. Is the American dream dead?
I was blessed to have Mrs. Stansfield. She was Black, and our Honor's English teacher. She taught everyday like everything in the world depended on her teaching, and years later I realize how much it really did. God rest your beautiful soul Mrs Stansfield, thank you, thank you, and thank you. She prepared me for the silence and the apathy of the masses with Langston Hughes's Let America be America again. It's worth returning to the poem and her lesson.

Let America Be America Again
Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free."

The free?

Who said the free?  Not me?
Surely not me?  The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that's almost dead today.

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine—the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!

We were young, urban, and of course responded as young people do...It's cool, and kind of like it is written for now Mrs. S, the hook was baited, and she had us on her line.
Ah, she never let us off easy, no we did not write a five paragraph essay, or any persuasive essay. We studied it, we dug into it, we compared and contrasted it to a dozen other poets, and we studied the historical context of slavery, immigration, poverty, racism, and the labor movement. I can't imagine any teacher taking the time to do that in this insane time of covering the Common Core. Although something deep in this soul tells me there are teachers still breaking the mold, and honoring our profession by doing just that. Thank you, thank you, thank you mold breakers! You know the crazy one we love!

Well back to the lesson. It went on well over a week, and we read numerous other poets from all around the world making universal connections. In the end we ended up with something like Langston's poem makes Americans, what most would rather be kept secret. That dark side of that elusive American dream. An America not so beautiful, not so promising, an America not discussed in the news. It is as relevant as that old gospel: "Let justice roll down as waters and rightness as an ever flowing stream!" And yes she brought her bible in, and yes she brought Dr. Martin Luther King's I have a dream speech in. She brought it all in, remember she taught like life itself depended on her teaching. We even read Marcus Garvey. I fell in love with Marcus Garvey in her class while she played Bob Marley's "Redemption song for us."  She taught us like we were her own children. We knew this from her actions in our classroom everyday.
Oh, I almost forgot I don't remember one single teacher being observed by any administrator in my entire schooling, or any newspaper believing printing our test scores worthy of print. Certainly no one evaluated Mrs Stansfield. Oh, and none of what she taught was on the curriculum. Why this beautiful Black Peal brought it all in, and I am the better for it. Her teaching core wasn't common, it was extraordinary.

Students are blessed not by the teachers who toe the line, but by the ones who break all lines. They certainly won't be blessed by those who toe the Common Core line
Hear's to you Mrs Stansfield with my deepest love and appreciation. It will be in your honor that I join the 50th Anniversary March on Poverty next week.
You are my hero,
Jesse The Walking Man Turner Here's to the crazy ones link

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Resisting Mandates in Connecticut

2002 failing policy: NCLB
2008 failing policy RTTT,
2012 Common Core State Standards, and the test to measure our compliance.
Now Ed refromers it's three strikes and you are out.

Fighting that third strike

Tough luck getting passed the CC if you are a priority school district, (poor district). State funding often requires these districts to blindly follow all DOE initiatives. In reality state initiatives are really Federal mandates that since NCLB was implemented come without the real resources to implement them out.
After 12 years of NCLB/RTTT some school districts in Connecticut have began to question reform policies. Thus Connecticut has Special Masters to oversee them, (Windham and New London), and in Bridgeport people like Paul Vallas.
My opinion is their mission is to remove any administrators or teachers who question state initiatives.
At this point in urban districts more and more teachers don't believe any of their hype. This cuts across length of teaching experiences. Especially teachers with advanced degrees, they are required to know education research. Something people like Vallas, Duncan, and Rhee know little about. Research is important, because it helps us avoid doing the same stupid things over and over again.
One peice of research Ed Refomers missed

One of the most important literacy research studies in the history of American Education is:
"The First Grade Studies" (Guy Bond and Robert Dykstra, 1964-67). These comprehensive studies researched how young children begin to learn how to read. (27 different individual projects coordinated by7 27 different directors in which a cadre of researchers compared first-grade reading programs from 1964 to 1967. (A recap from (

They research 3 basic questions:

1. To what extent are various pupil, teacher, class, school, and community characteristics related to pupil achievement in first-grade reading and spelling?
Answer: Negligible. “To improve reading instruction, it is necessary to train better teachers of reading rather than to expect a panacea in the form of methods and materials”(p.416).

Too bad our NCLB policy makers did not pay attention to this research. They went on to spend billions of dollars on Reading First Schools that force prescribed literacy programs on schools. 6 years later the findings indicated third graders in these schools actually lost comprehension. Plus the only group to show any comprehension gains was the control group, (these are the groups that did what they already were doing). Now you why, the Reading First Schools experiment ended. Of course, no one was fired, no one was repremanded, no one was held accountable for the 6 billion dollars spent on this U.S. DOE reform experiment. These edunation reformers operate across the nation without repricussions, they are above accountability, and in the case of Paul Vallas even the law in Connecticut.

Getting back to the questions
2. Which of the many approaches to initial reading instruction produces superior reading and spelling achievement at the end of the first grade?
Answer: classrooms using an integrated approach, which combined systematic phonics with reading for meaning and writing, far surpassed those using mainstream basal programs. “No one approach is so distinctly better in all situations and respects than the others that it should be considered the one best method and the one to be used exclusively “ (p. 416).

Once again too bad our NCLB Policy did not review the literature before they wasted 6 billion dollars over 6 years on non-integrated basal programs. These education reformers are above the research, we are told they operate like CEO(s). Funny, I know of no sucessful private scetor ventures that operate with paying close attention to research. 

3. Is any program uniquely effective or ineffective for pupils with high or low readiness for reading?
Key finding the persistence of project differences in reading achievement, even after adjustments were made statistically for differences in pupil readiness for reading. Reading achievement is influenced by factors peculiar to school systems over and above differences in pre-reading capabilities of pupils. (1997, p. 415).

Now, what might two of those differences be? Poverty, and quality preschool experiences, you know two of the things Finland when after as it moved from the bottom to the top of international education rankings.

Secretary Rod Paige who opened up our National journey into NCLB said poverty doesn't matter, and was no early childhood advocate. With A trillion dollars they could have easily made Early-Childhood Education free and universal without raising one single tax dollar. Instead America’s public schools were handed new standards and testing. Something that has no historical data to indicate it has ever been effective anywhere in the world.

America's leading Ed Reformers have for over a decade done what no serious researcher would do. They cherry pick their studies, and over looked the "First Grade Studies" one the most respected research studies in education. They overlooked research studies on retention, correlations between high stakes assessments and drop out rates. They ruled out the ones that indicated a connection between heavy emphasis on high stakes assessments, and behavior problems and higher rates of special education identifications. It appears they overlooked anything that might question their objective of increased testing. 

A decade of massive failures later, they don't even cite any research, they enter in board untested experiments. This means they are turning more and more to people with little or no experience and knowledge of education research. Thus the former semi pro basketball player with no teaching experience, no school administrative experience is made U.S. Secretary of Education. Duncan's fellow reformers Paul Vallas, Michelle Rhee, and a host of others given the keys to the kingdom. 
This leadership quickly realized that it does not take long for them to realize that even new teachers quickly lose faith in their reform policies. Thus, the reformers push for more TFA(s) in our public schools. TFA(s) perfect people to deliver DOE policies, because they won't stay around long enough to understand they are being used.
Coconspirators the Main Stream News Media
America's free press isn't so free these days, and they willingly supported every reform every step of the way. Why? Well, Judas betrayed Chirst with a kiss for 30 silver pieces. Our media these days owe it's soul to ALEC. Who do you think buys add time on our major news networks? You got it ALEC sponsors. If you are interested in more about ALEC: Dr. Morna McDermott has a nice utube video that connects ALEC to ed reform.

WHY are Ed Reformers still force feeding these reforms on our schools : in my humble opinion MONEY! Our children, their teachers, and our public schools are for sale. 
I am fighting back,
I am rejecting their betrayal.
I am rejecting their "for sales' signs,
This is why I walked to DC,
This is why I marched with SOS,
This is why I am a BAT,
This is why I will join my SOSers brothers and sisters as they join the 50th MKL Anniversary March on August 24, 2013,
Still resisting and still marching,
Jesse The Walking Man Turner

On my walk over the mountain this morning I listened to one of Momma favorites : the Staple Singers "I'll take you there"
If you need to know the way to DC...I'll take you there