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Monday, November 7, 2011

The data that count, and the data that really count

Crossing the line report indicates that "Sexual harassment is part of everyday life in middle and high schools. Nearly half (48 percent) of the students surveyed experienced some form of sexual harassment in the 2010–11 school year, and the majority of those students (87 percent) said it had a negative effect on them.1 Verbal harassment (unwelcome sexual comments, jokes, or gestures) made up the bulk of the incidents, but physical harassment was far too common." (Hill, & Kearl, 2011).

While MNBC's Education Nation, Secretary Arne Duncan, and Common Core Standards followers are chasing higher test scores our children are being groped in school hallways, called “faggot” and bullied online.  Tell me again how NCLB/RTTT address this issue?
Can someone please explain to me how NCLB/RTTT's moral compass addresses the issues of  poverty, bullying, racism facing our children?  
What if my school has high test scores, but also has serious issues with sexual harassment? No problem really under NCLB..all that matters are a school's test scores. Now I get it NCLB/RTTT have no moral compass!
Just where in the Common Core Standards do we address the real issues facing our young people?  
There is the data that count, and the data that really count. The way I view the failure of NCLB is it misses the data that really count.  High stakes testing is merely the smoke screen hiding the real issues of school inequality America. 
Imagine what we could achieve if we address the real issues facing our children in our schools?
Imagine what we could achieve with education reform that saw our children as more than data? 
Still marching, 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The people are stepping up!

Once again it appears the pundits of mass media are confused. They say claim our Occupy Wall Street people, and all the other occupiers popping up across America, and in cities all over the world lack a central message a single focus.

Well let me put on my teaching hat for you politicians and media pundits. First you must stop listening to your own sound bites. Listening to your self talking is not listening to others. The answer is standing right before you.
The people are speaking, and you are still missing the point. Listening is a skill that involves more than waiting for the answers you like, or the ones that fit neatly into your perfect sound bites. Life is complicated, but here it is from one Liz Hourican, one of the protestors in Phonnix:
"Peace activists, indigenous rights activists, immigrant activists - they're all here. It may sound different to you but it's all the same. We're all stepping up and saying something's wrong."
Print this headline the people are stepping up and saying something is wrong, and we are taking back our country!
Here is my proposal friends: The Opt Out Of The State Test: The National Movement >< is planning to occupy the United States Department of Education this coming March 30, 31, April 1 and 2. I say lets join them. Lets occupy every DOE in all 50 states?
I am asking all the members of Children Are More Than Test Scores >< to occupy the DOEs in the state they live in on those dates as well. I am proposing to the Save Our Schools March & National Call To Action >< leadership that we join this occupy effort.
The time for stepping up, standing up, walking, marching, and speaking up is now!
I am going to organize a coalition of the willing in Connecticut to occupy the DOE this spring, and I am going to put my heart and soul into making this happen, and I am going to join the Opt Out group in DC on April 1 and 2 in solidarity as they occupy the United States Department of Education. I salute those at Occupy Wall Street.
Still walking to DC,

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

America's 1988 surrender to poverty

In his 1988 State of the Union Address President Ronald Reagan surrendered to poverty declaring "The federal government declared a war on poverty, and poverty won." (He said it many times, many ways; that exact quote is from his 1988 State of the Union address.)
His argument was the war on poverty made people poor. Well in 2010 some 23-years later after America's surrender to poverty another 2.6 million people slipped below the poverty line last year. We now have 46.2 million people now living in poverty in the United States. This is highest number in the 52 years that the Census Bureau has been tracking it.  Never mind that we define poverty as being a family of four a family making 22, 112 dollars or less. What family of four could live on 22,000 dollars? 

Where do our poor come from?
They certainly are not coming from the wealthy. The growing number of families living in poverty come from the Middle Class. Throwing up the white flag in the war on poverty has not only led to a dramatic increase in the poor, but has led to a decline in income for the middle class. The Middle Class, median household incomes adjusted for inflation declined by 2.3 percent in 2010 from the previous year to $49,400. That was 7 percent less than the peak of $53,252 in 1999. If this continues we may find an America with only two classes one poor and one rich.
Poverty is real and growing in America. Giving tax breaks to oil companies and millionaires has resulted in a shrinking middle class. Ending the war on poverty did not save America money. We are looking at the largest deficits in American history. Too bad our leaders are not looking at their own data.
An America that surrenders always loses. What does this means for public schools? It means more and more children coming to school not ready to learn, coming to school hungry, and homeless. What is the United States Department of Education plan for this? Well poverty doesn't matter to them. This kind of thinking can only come from those who has never known poverty. Their solution is more testing, and new standards.
Take from it Dr. Jesse Patrick Turner who lived in poverty as a child. Poverty matters to those living in poverty. We were poor for my whole childhood, but during the worst two years. 
When we had no heat or electricity poverty mattered! 
During the Thanksgiving without a turkey poverty mattered!
When we were evicted poverty mattered!
During the Christmas without a tree poverty mattered!  
While living in a single occupancy hotel room poverty mattered! 
I have been an A student my whole life except during those two years.
If you think poverty does not matter come talk to me?
If you think surrendering to poverty made America better come talk to me?
If you happen to meet Secretary Duncan in your travels let him know Jesse is walking to DC again in 2012? 
In case you want another look at the cost of poverty

Data sources for the above:

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Why books make the difference!

No Save Our Schools today, No shouting at the walls of test them until they cry stuff. Today it's back to the seeds of transformation planted some 46 years ago that started me walking last year. Life's experiences shape who we become.   Alan Cohen reminded us that: "Scared and sacred are spelled with the same letters. Awful proceeds from the same root word as awesome. Terrify and terrific. Every negative experience holds the seed of transformation.'

For me the seeds of transformation came in the Thanksgiving without a turkey, the Christmas without a tree, the winter without heat. I found warmth at school, hope in the eyes of a few candles given to me by my single mother who knew a boy with books has everything he needs in the dark. Those candles planted a pocketful of seeds of transformation found at my public library. My research back then informed me that while reading by candlelight may hurt the eyes it improves comprehension ten fold.
Charles Dickens gave me light in a dark world.
Teachers and books blessed me,

Monday, August 8, 2011

Reflections on the SOS conference and March 8 days later

 Reflections of the Save Our Schools March ~ some 8 days later…

What did it feel like to march? 
For over a year now I have been saying “Silence and Apathy are not acceptable when it comes to our children”. Standing with the thousands of marchers in DC last week it felt so fantastically empowering to listen to an array of speakers, my fellow organizers, and the thousands like us who were all there for one thing and one thing only, to stand up and march to the White House, and chant "whose children- our children"..."whose schools-our schools", "whose teachers-our teachers"  siting here more than a week later, I can still hear the chant, and it’s music to my old ears. 
Finally the day had arrived and the SOS marchers could not remain silent any longer.  With another generation of children become subject to the same old failed punitive policies of NCLB/RTTT.  I joined the thousands of parents, teachers, and educators who all felt exactly like me “Silence and Apathy are not acceptable”.  Finally we were saying it out loud enough for all to hear, we are the marchers, and it was the marching that empowered us. It was just the thought of marching that gave us the strength to grow a national resistance to the mental slavery of top-down reform policies of NCLB/RTTT. In my humble opinion last Saturday July 31, 2011 was one of those historical moments, where in later years, people will ask “were you there?”  Our SOS Conference and March marks the turning point against a tide of more unfunded NCLB/RTTT mandates.

I liken the 2011 Save Our Schools Conference at the American University In Washington DC to the First Women’s Rights Convention at Seneca Falls, NY, where the suffrage movement in America was first launched.  At the time media and press coverage was not too positive, but history marks it as the spark that lit the flame of a national Women’s Movement. Attendance at the 1848 Seneca Fall Convention was 300 women and men; the very same number who attended our conference at the American University.   We filled every spot, and even had to turn some away. The Seneca Falls Convention began the first national battle for women’s suffrage. It would take another 72 years before  the women of America  obtained the right to vote.
Last Saturdy,
We did not declare victory at our SOS rally and march.
There was no “Mission Accomplished” announcement.
We merely opened the door of resistance to NCLB's “Top Down Education Policy Reform Models.”
But look out Secretary Arne Duncan, because the resistance is going to continue banging at that door!

Did the Save Our Schools March and Conference accomplish its goals?
We had initially hoped to fill up our conference, we did it sold out pretty quickly.  We hoped for some 3000 to 5000 people, we had at least 5000, and "National Parks Service” estimates some 6000 to 8000 people. Last year in August 2010 when I walked to DC from Connecticut some 50 people showed up at the American University, and two local newspapers wrote articles about my walk.
This year,  CNN, MNBC, Fox, and news stories from mainstream media and the blogs still continue to come in.  It’s true, quite a bit of the press focused on Matt Damon whose message to the crowd that day made the perfect point about public school and its teachers: 

"As I look at my life today, the things that I value about myself, my imagination, my love of acting, my passion for writing, my love of learning, my curiosity, came from the way that I was parented and taught," Damon proudly told the teachers, while stopping to hug his Mom  ~ a teacher...

"And none of these qualities that I just mentioned, none of these qualities that I prize so deeply, none of these qualities that have brought me so much joy, that have made me so successful professionally, none of these qualities that make me who I am can be tested," (Matt Demon Save Our Schools March 7/30/11). Matt Demon brought the press and we loved him for making a stand for our public schools.

Are we satisfied?
No indeed, not yet, we need so many more, to continue to speak up, to stand up, to march, and to vote in this coming election year. It’s a long road to the change ahead of us.
I find courage in Robert Frost’s poetry and his immortal words:
"The woods are lovely, dark, and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep"
These woods of change is where this New England Walking Man does is walking. Like Robert Frost our New England Poet whose rode his horse around his farm each evening into the woods on snowy nights. 

What exactly did the Save our School March and Week of Action Accomplish?
Were we noticed?  Yes!
Was it mostly positive?  I believe so.
Were we criticized from the right and the left? Yes.
The critics on both sides ignored the influence of groups such as Parents Across America, they ignored the numerous academics in attendance, and on the podium.  Instead they focused on union participation which they see as a weakness, but I see as a strength. Critics are critics ~ in their eyes we were too old, too white, and too hippie at best. What these critics over looked is how many in attendance at SOS were parents, how many were teachers, and how many spent our own dollars just to be there. Not one speaker was paid. So go ahead, shoot your arrows we can take them. Hit us with your best shot! We have been made strong by a decade of ignoring us. We are the people, and we are marching. Let me inform our critics that, we wear multiple hats. We are parents, we are teachers, we are union members, and some are old, some are young, some are hippies, some are conservatives, some are democrats, and some are republicans, but altogether we are the new face of American resistance to NCLB, and we are on the march! 

What’s next for SOS?
For most at the march it was back home to prepare for the coming school year. For the Walking Man it was right back to what I do most days. After our 7-hour drive home to Connecticut Sunday night I graded some papers, grabbed a few hours sleep, and was back working with children and teachers from 8:00am to 12:15 the following day.   From 1:00 to 5:00pm I was working in class with my teachers from Jamaica enriching their knowledge about diagnosis and remediation. Then I cleaned the Literacy Center, graded more papers, made the certificates of completion for the children, and ordered the sheet pizza for our end of program celebration. My teachers convinced Tony's Pizza to open early just so the kids can have a pizza party at 10:am in the morning.  I ended the night like every other night using social media to build the resistance. So with a kiss goodnight to my wife I ended my day the way I began it in prayer. Who is this Walking Man? Just another New England boy who dreams of a day when he can just teach again. 
So what happens next SOS?  The struggle continues, we will collaborate to organize parents and teachers locally, with a proposed march to our state capital Hartford. We will continue to work on enhancing our presence on Facebook with Children Are More Than Test Scores, I will work on my blog to be more informative. The congress ensures the resistance will continue, and for the first time in a year we are more than a handful of rag tag resisters. We are not alone. We are the resistance, a movement, and we are on the march Arne Duncan. 

Will the Walking Man be back next year in DC?
You can bet your bottom dollar on it ~ just in time for election year 2012.  
We are on the map and on the march! 
You can expect SOS to continue to collaborate and organize future resistance events at the local, state and national level. And I will do everything I can to bring SOS back to DC again in 2012 with 4 buses from Connecticut alone.
Want a look at the Walking Man on Connecticut Fox News discussing the Save Our Schools March? 

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Hallelujah, hallelujah, the people are marching!

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, The People are Marching!
Admit Hasan wrote on facebook: "I like this spirit! You are great, Mr. Jesse Turner. My reply ~ "No Amit , I am just one little person, but one little person can become great and do something beautiful when he is joined by others.  It's the otherness that achieves greatness; it is the otherness that moves the spirit. Yesterday was Democracy in Action; it was Grassroots in Motion. Maybe even the sound of the people singing their Hallelujahs to the Lord. We were Great; We were Beautiful;
We were marching on Washington. This is what Dr. Martin Luther King taught us to do.  Martin was with us there yesterday, and he too said "Hallelujah" 
Leonard Cohen wrote the song
I've heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don't really care for music, do you?
It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

It was no coincidence that Barry Lane sang that song yesterday; it was no coincidence that the thousands there sang along with him; it was no coincidence that great children, great parents, great teachers, and administrators were there yesterday. No Admit, I am not great, but our people together are great.
We never look down,  we didn't cry, we didn't beg, we did not bow down,  no indeed, we marched, we marched  just like Dr. King taught us to do.
Dylan sang:
“Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth saving”

My friends, I cannot even begin to put into words the beautiful feeling that marching brought yesterday. 

"Show me what democracy looks like ~ This is what democracy looks like"
Thousands of children, parents, teachers, and administrators chanted yesterday as we showed a president, a secretary of education, and a nation what democracy does indeed look like.
Today 11:00am and it's Save Our Schools Congress; you can bet your bottom dollar that we will be calling for another march next year!
The time to march with us is now America.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Day # 3 Two visions

Where do I begin? Where does a man go when he sees his dream coming through right before his eyes. This SOS dream is real, it is so real, there is a revolution growing here in Washington DC.  For as long as I can remember I have been the lone ranger in the room saying, “but, but, but, children are more than test scores”  it’s been over a decade now of NCLB.  But here in DC everyone is a ranger, everyone is speaking up, speaking up loudly,  for children, parents, teachers, and public schools.
I am humbled by their chorus of “we are marching”. Honestly, I am in awe of these conference attendees here at SOS.

Keynote: Let me say first that Diane Ravitch is powerful, her voice carries out the truth, the suffering, and the hopes of children, parents, teachers, and our public schools. SOS have been blessed, she is our gift, and she walks in beauty!

Making the choice over which session to attend  is just too hard here. It’s like you are in the candy shop, and someone tells you everything is free.   But the sessions I could not resist yesterday was “Wisconsin Teachers Organize and Take Action on Social Justice.” Again, I just sat, listening to three teachers tell the story of how they risked it all, how they stepped up to assume leadership roles in Wisconsin. Step by step, they gave their stories on how they grew a resistance.  Three beautiful souls Amy Mizialko, Amy Daroszeski, and Judy Gundry use become organized, have mass sick outs, even how to write petitions. Their story is truly inspiring.
Being teachers of course, they had us break into small groups and share what we had learned. You know the old saying, “You can take the teacher out of the classroom, but you can’t take the classroom out of the teacher.”
The Eureka moment for our group came as we worked on reframing the message”

A Tale of Two Public Schools

SOS Schools
Children as data
Children as test scores
Children as proficient,
Children as standards,
Children as not proficient,
Children as not being at standard.
Children as human beings,
Children as critical thinkers,
Children as artists,
Children as writers,
Children as Readers,
Children as saviors of our democracy,
Children as change agents,
Children as responsive citizens.
Children as gifts.
Schools as data factories
Schools as for profit institutions,
Schools as assembly lines of proficiency,
Schools of choice places you change like your socks, place you never really come to know.
Schools as places where teachers are silence,
Schools as places where parents are silent,
Schools as a race where most are losers, and only a few are winners,
Schools as places where students are no more than Washington DC’s data.

Schools as change agents,
Schools as depositories of our collective nation’s story,
Schools as holders of our past, present, and our future,
Schools places where our history unfolds,
School places where
our brothers and sisters went,
Places our parents went,
School where our grandparents went,
Places where our children go,
Schools places where teachers are respected,
Schools places where parents are respected,
Schools as places where children are more than test scores.

This morning, in about two hours time, I am marching.  We are marching as SOS, we are marching in the light of God.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Day number 2 at SOS

We are not alone any more.  For the first time in many years I sat back, and listened to other people fight the good fight.  After two years of walking for change I was able to sit down, and rest these tired feet. The SOS House is full; people are not on their knees, they are not silent; they are working for change.  This  house is not a house of silence and apathy, it is the house of change, and we are marching.
 Jonathon Kozol gave the challenge, and the challenge is being met by people from every corner of America. This is a sharing of actions, a sharing of resistance stories; this is a sharing of parents, teachers, educators, and yes-even students.  There are vocal students here from New Orleans, and I am in love with their energy, their passion, and most of all their commitment.

Yesterday I attended the session “ The New Parent Involvement” by Parents Across America’s Karran Harper Royal and Pamela Grundy. I leaned that our parents in New Orleans and Charlotte-Mecklenberg, North Carolina are truly organized, fighting back with information, and resisting the mental slavery of NCLB/RTTT.
Pamela shared the story of how parents reached out to teachers, and how a North Carolina district chased a “Can’t Get Enough testing crazed Superintendent” out of Charlotte-Mecklenberg.  Karran took us through the tragedy of what is happening to the New Orleans Public Schools where state approved charter schools use push-out/trick out schemes to remove special education and low performing students from their schools.  Their goal is to get these students out . This is why The Southern Poverty Law Center is suing the State of Louisiana. Karran said “ I am here to tell you that New Orleans is the canary in the coal mine, and the canary is dead! Please do not replicate what is happening in New Orleans”.

Another session I attended was “Think/Do Tank”
Mike Klonsky led a brain storming session on how we need to defend ourselves from the forces of privatization in public education. This session was like something from the 1960’s. At this session we began the work of building a foundation under this resistance to NCLB/RTTT.
This session focused on reframing the public school debate from teacher bashing to supporting teachers, children, and our local schools.
When asked about why people were here…over and over again conference attendees said “we are here to march, to act, do something, to stand up for children and teachers, and we are marching”.
My favorite moment came from a Principal named Buzz Howard who said: “We should frame this discussion around who we are and what we do.
 I suggest the following mantra:
We are your public schools, the place where young people come to develop habits of
·      The mind and intellect
·      Character and citizenship
·      Social and emotional intelligence
In a nourishing and challenging environment to become happy, responsible, and responsive participants in American society. The place where teachers are professional men and women who make school work”

At the end of the day we invited the White House to our March:
We sincerely appreciate the interest of the White House in the Save Our Schools March and National Call to Action. We’d be pleased to host any White House or Department of Education personnel on the Ellipse on Saturday so they can hear firsthand what teachers, students, parents & community members from around the country have to say about public education. Thousands of concerned citizens will be sharing their experiences and their thoughts on the future of our schools. July 30th is your opportunity to listen to us. After the March, we will be open to meeting with White House or Department of Education leaders to further discuss our specific proposals.

All in all, the cat is out of the bag, the revolution is here, and we are marching. Come one, come all to DC, your schools need you this Saturday.
I am marching,

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Walking Man is in DC!

This one is rough people it’s nearly 2:AM, and I just unpack. I’m in DC people. I'll edit it in the morning, but in the meantime I want my readers to feel what it is like.

Well, well, well, the Walking Man is here in DC for the Save Our Schools March. I am looking forward to attending the SOS conference at the American University, and meeting all those stand up do right marchers. A year ago Bess Altwerger, Sabrina Stevens, Vivian Vasquez, and I were praying someone would show up in DC last Labor Day to hear about my walk to DC, and to discuss the negative impact of NCLB on children, parents, teachers, and local schools. 80 people show up at Bus Boys and Poets, and 25 people show up at the American University the next day. We saw that as a success. Bess Altwerger always said Jesse walks this year, and next year we all walk. We joined Chris Janotta and Laurie Murphy from SOS Million Teacher March, because they said they were marching to DC. We started plotting, but the National Park Service said we would need to raise 150, 000 to hold a rally in DC.  Well that left some of us with shaky legs, but Bess said we could do that! I like to say I felt confident about that, but I was shaking in my boots.
The seed for Save Our Schools started there short a 150, 000 dollars. Somehow Laurie and Bess convince people we could to it. We wanted parents in so we grew into Save Our Schools March and became a genuine grassroots movement when Rita Sonnet from “Parents Across America” said we’re in. Then Rita said I think I might be able to bring Diane Ravitch on board as well. Anthony Cody’s Teacher Letters To Obama were always in, but when they officially came on board things really started to take shape.   
CELT, the Center Expansion of Language and Teaching, (CELT) gave us our first real donation, (We were only 149, 000 dollars away at that point). Then brought the NCTE, (National Council of Teachers of English), and IRA, (International Reading Association). CELT members kept their support coming, and Diane Ravitch not only came on board like Rita said, but gave us a 10,000 donation, (only 139,000 short then). Then the endorsements just started rolling in every single day, and people started giving small donations 10 and 20 dollar ones. They started to add up. We were nearly at 90,000 with those small donations. I forgot to mention that the Freedom came on board. They empowered us, and lifted us morally and spiritually as well. They wanted to come, but needed help. Matt Damon even kicked in some money to help bring the Freedom Riders to the March as well, and said I’ll be there my mother is a teacher.
Then the American Federation of Teachers said we want in, and we want to help, and help they did. Next the National Education Association jumped, and started helping as well. Parents, educators, and teachers started registering for the conference, the conference sold out, but people said that’s alright we are still coming for the march.
People came through it looks like we raise the necessary funds, but the executive committee is still a little worried that we might end owing money. We have put our names on the line for this, and let me tell you I haven’t slept easy for the past 6 months. We most certainly are grassroots.
My Momma use to say sometimes a person has to testify. You just have do what is right no mater what the consequences. She knew silence and apathy are not acceptable.  That who we “Save Our School Marchers” are the do right- no matter what people.

Well back to my walk from Connecticut to DC to protest NCLB/RTTT I met with individuals, small groups (2-4 people), and groups ranging between 12 to 30 people all along the way.  One day I calculated I met and spoke to roughly about thousand people on my walk. A couple of newspapers gave my walk a passing glimpse. No CNN, MNBC, or Fox news they were too busy hanging on every word Arne Duncan had to say. Not one person out of that thousand told me they had a positive view of what NCLB was doing to their children and schools, and messages of support were coming by the truck load from Facebook groups like "Stop Senate Bill 6", " Parents Across America, Teacher letters to Obama. These were my lifelines on the days were no one show up. Teachers and parents from every corner of America started emailing me, and posting messages on our Facebook Children Are More Than Test Scores group. Membership in that group went from 2 in March to over 7000 members a year later.  Last year people use to say are you really walking. This year people are saying walk Jesse walk.
I’m in DC Secretary Duncan, and I am available to meet with you anytime you are ready. I think you know my message, but just in case Mr. Secretary I am here to tell you that Children Are More Than Test Scores.