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Sunday, June 26, 2011

A walking Man resistance story

 A Walking Man Resistance Story

People often ask me "why are you walking again"?  I give them the 30-second sound bite first, because children are more than test scores...
Some persist, and I go into the 3 minutes talk.... NCLB has spent nearly one trillion-dollars on education reforms that ignored class size, that failed to hire an army of tutors, that reduced the curriculum to reading, writing, and math pushing out history, art, music, and even physical education for many poor schools...
Finally, for those who persist further, even saying "we understand, we agree, but what can one man do walking? "  That's when I sit down, and we talk, we talk until I have explained and the listener understands "that  this is a Democracy At Risk, this is a Generation At Risk, this is Our Country, Our Children, and we can simply watch it slip away, or we can take it back". 

I quote Howard Zinn: “Don't depend on our leaders to do what needs to be done. Because whenever the government has done anything to bring about change, it's done so only because it's been pushed and prodded by social movements, by ordinary people organizing."
Somewhere in the conversation it always comes up, “so you just started walking"?  And I continue to  explain, "Back in 2004 I put together my very first Children Are More Than A Test Score Conference at CCSU. That was all I thought was needed back then, but I've since grown tired of just talking and debating. By 2006 I started resisting,  in 2010 I walked from Connecticut to Washington DC.  Along the way I lost 50 pounds :-),  and met other resisters.  At Busboys and Poets, (cafe in D.C.) Bess Alwerger, Vivian Vasquez, Sabrina Stevens and I started to dream about a movement, and maybe even a return to DC another year.  Bess CELT brought CELT, and CELT brought the National Council of English Teachers, Sabrina, brought Anthony Cody and the members of Teacher Letters to Obama, Facebook brought Rita Solnet, and her army of friends. Rita brought Diane Ravitch, and before we knew it we became a movement "Save Our Schools March & Week of Action". The SOS movement brought the American Federation of teachers, the Nation Education Association, and too many others to list here.  A movement Howard Zinn would be proud of, a movement joined the Freedom Riders.

 In 2011 I am again walking those miles to prepare for the Save Our School March this July 30.  

Sometimes a person starts to walk away saying good luck saying but, I don't think anyone can change things. I say wait it's been a long road, and yes even before NCLB became the law of the land, I spoke against its focus on standardized assessment.  At each and every opportunity I explained to Connecticut policymakers that the research indicates a heavy emphasis on such testing can only increase behavioral problems, and of course the drop out rate! 

Finally, I give the them my last line of hope "The origins of every tidal wave can be found in a single drop of rain" join us become a raindrop of change. Most leave saying I hope you are right walking man. I hope you are right. On rare occasions, when I go into that rain drop rant, the last person listening might say "let's fight this thing together". 

I say "Walk with me, come to DC with us".

It's close to July 4th, 2011 ~ I'm still persisting, and I am again walking, but this I am walking with a few other raindrops.

My name is Jesse Turner I am one of those ordinary people Howard Zinn talked about.
200 miles down, 300 to go...

For my readers who like to know what music inspired me today:
The song of day on my walk this morning was one of my Momma's favorites" A Change Is Gonna Come". I love the Leela James version. I could almost hear Momma singing along with Leela. I could hear her saying keep waking little Jess. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

I heard them all 150 miles down-350 to go

Well 150 miles down, and some 350 to go. Today's walk was tough my feet are tired, and I have 350 miles to go.
Today two simple things inspire me. The first is a week long event I created on Children Are More Than Test Scores asking people to say something good about teachers and children. The posting are food for the teaching soul, and it has only been open for about 12 hours at this time. Take a look at these great post going up from teachers and parents!/event.php?eid=196222780424754

The second thing was listening to Old Crow Medicine's "I hear them all" on my walk...There is something about walking, listening, and singing along to :
"I hear the crying of the hungry
In the deserts where they're wandering
Hear them crying out for Heaven's own
Benevolence upon them
Hear destructive power prevailing
I hear fools falsely hailing
To the crooked wits of tyrants when they call"
A person needs music, just like a person needs love, shelter, and hope. The endorsements keep coming into Save Our Schools March, and we have far too many wonderful speakers coming, and all on their own dime. We are marching in the light of god really, and we are marching to DC.

Well, I have my walking shoes on, a pocket full of hope in my pocket, and I can't be stop. So see you in DC,

Thursday, June 16, 2011

An Save Our Schools Declaration of Independence

Frustrated Educators Aim to Build Grassroots Movement a must read for from Education Week: 

 Children, parents, and teachers are declaring their independence from NCLB/RTTT this July 30 in Washington.  

Spoken Word Poet Gil Scott-Heron informed America over 40-years ago:

"The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised,
will not be televised, will not be televised.
The revolution will be no re-run brothers;
The revolution will be live."

Let me say it will be live from DC this July 28-31. Revolution is an American right rooted in our nation's independence from the shackles of a Mad King George whose refused to listen to his people.

“But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. --Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government.” (1776, Declaration of Independence)

This resistance to NCLB/RTTT is not new it has been going on for a decade at this point. You can find it's foot prints on Susan Ohanian's webage,
For over a decade now the DOE leadership in Washington used it's signature AYP accountability-testing system to push their top down NCLB/RTTT reform model on children, parents, teachers, and schools. After a decade of failed policy the man in the mirror is their policy and leadership not our schools. 
This week even Arne Duncan joins in the NCLB is a failure conversation. "The stakes are high. As it currently exists, NCLB is creating a slow-motion educational train wreck for children, parents and teachers. Under the law, an overwhelming number of schools in the country may soon be labeled as “failing,” eventually triggering impractical and ineffective sanctions." Please someone let Secretary Arne Duncan know he is the engineer driving this train wreck. The missing components in Arne Duncan’s reform policies are the voices of parents and teachers. We have tried, we have begged, and I even walked 400 miles in 40 days from Connecticut to DC last August protesting NCLC/RTTT policies.

“When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.” (1776, Declaration of Independence)

For a decade now former Secretaries Ron Page and Margaret Spelling, and current Secretary Arne Duncan have been informing parents, teachers, and legislators that race, poverty, and special needs are excuses for failure. Their golden promise is that school choice and testing-based accountability systems would bring equity to our schools. Nearly a trillion-dollars and a decade later our schools are more segregated than ever, and equity we are told comes in school choice delivered via lotteries and testing. We are told to wait for Superman.  Shame on a United States Department of Education that took federal government eye off the prize access and equity to quality schools for all.

We are marching to DC to take back our schools. Unlike the DOE we don’t have silver bullets, we don’t have simple solutions, or 30 second sound bites.  We are certainly not waiting for Superman, or Bill Gates. However while "NCLB/RTTT" policy is test driven we are driven by a set of guiding principles:

Save our Schools Guiding Principles
For the future of our children, we demand:
Equitable funding for all public school communities
  • ·       Equitable funding across all public schools and school systems
  • ·       Full public funding of family and community support services
  • ·       Full funding for 21st century school and neighborhood libraries
  • ·       An end to economically and racially re-segregated schools
An end to high stakes testing used for the purpose of student, teacher, and school evaluation
  • The use of multiple and varied assessments to evaluate students, teachers, and schools
  • An end pay per test performance for teachers and administrators
  •  An end to public school closures based upon test performance
Teacher, family and community leadership in forming public education policies
  • Educator and civic community leadership in drafting new ESEA legislation
  • Federal support for local school programs free of punitive and competitive funding
  •  An end to political and corporate control of curriculum, instruction and assessment decisions for        teachers and administrators
Curriculum developed for and by local school communities
  •  Support for teacher and student access to a wide-range of instructional programs and technologies
  • Opportunities for multicultural/multilingual curriculum for all students
  • Small class sizes that foster caring, democratic learning communities 
My first 100 miles down, 400 miles to go. See you in DC,
Guess what I was listening to day as I reached my first hundred-miles marker? 
It was all Spoken Word Poet and Musician Gil Scott-Heron  "The Revolution will Not Be Televised". I could almost see him smiling down saying march on brother.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

This is one of those historical lines that makes us who we are!

This is a defining moment. It's one of those historical lines drawn in the sand.  
On one side we have Arne Duncan saying " NCLB/RTTT is a train wreck", and on the other hand we have The Resistance. 
I decided long ago I was joining The Resistance to NCLB/RTTT test em 'till it hurts.  There have been multiple warning signs in Washington that the Department of Education lacks any real credibility in education reform.  In my view, the two  that stand out most  are:
# 1: the First Grade Impact Study Report 2008, this report found Reading First did not produce a statistically significant impact on student reading comprehension test scores in grades one, two or three.  Reading First was the DOE’s silver bullet guarantee to raise the test scores of students in these schools. After spending some $6 billion dollars, there was no "We're sorry parents, teachers, and taxpayers" from the DOE.  Instead they insist we continue to trust them on this, and assure us to stay the course.

# 2:  2011 
Recently a Blue-Ribbon Committee of the National Academies of Science concludes there were few learning gains from this testing movement. Say that again ~  "Few learning gains from the testing movement" But, the DOE continues to tell us the testing will save us.   There has been nearly a trillion dollars spent over the last decade on test-based accountability systems, built upon “adequate yearly progress”. What do students, parents, teachers, schools, and taxpayers have to show for it: “little to no positive effect overall on learning and insufficient safeguards against gaming the system”

If those two major blunders are  not enough for America to start questioning the DOE, Secretary Duncan himself states this week: "The stakes are high. As it currently exists, NCLB is creating a slow-motion educational train wreck for children, parents and teachers. Under the law, an overwhelming number of schools in the country may soon be labeled as “failing,” eventually triggering impractical and ineffective sanctions...."
Call me crazy, but isn’t Secretary  Arne Duncan the driver of this educational train wreck? His two predecessors, Secretary Ron Page and Secretary Margaret Spellings were no different; we the taxpayers are to believe the problem is everywhere except in the leadership at the Department of Education.   According to Secretary Duncan, it’s congress’s fault for not reauthorizing this oncoming NCLB educational train wreck.
We have a choice, we can ride Arnie’s train, or as Bob Marley sings, we can  “Get up.. Stand up for your rights...Don't give up the fight."  Join me as I march with SOS to Washington DC this July 28-31.  Check out  the article in Education Week by Erick W. Robelen's focusing on Frustrated Educators building a grassroots movement to take control of that educational train wreck ~ the DOE train.
Educators are drawing the line in Washington DC this July 30 at the Save Our Schools March. 
While CNN, MNBC, and Fox may not yet see our line in DC. The media for the past ten years has not been able to move beyond "can't get enough NCLB" spin.  There are many teachers, parents, and citizens who also can't see beyond that spin.  But this July there will be a few brave souls crossing that line.  Parents and teachers from every state are marching to DC to  fight against the connected, the powerful, and a United States Department of Education that has lost sight of it's mission. 
While CNN, MNBC, and Fox probably won't report our march, make no mistake about it history will remember it.  We will draw our line in the sand fully understanding there will be no victory this July 30th. Instead with hearts full of hope, like Colonel Travis who drew his sword and slowly marked a line in the dirt saying: "I now want every man who is determined to stay here and die with me to come across this line." We are crossing the line hoping to break through the main stream media's spin to awaken a grassroots movement that takes back control of our schools. A grassroots movement that helps children understand there is more to life than test scores. Silence and apathy are not acceptable when it comes to our children. 
Call me crazy, call me naive, call me anything, but don't call me silent and apathetic.
Perhaps no one will come.
Perhaps no one will notice.
Perhaps, all we will gain that day is a sun burn.

Maybe CNN will be too busy covering the latest DC sex scandal.
Maybe Secretary Duncan will distract the world with another RTTT spin Press Conference.
Maybe every child in America will reach the 100 percent proficiency mark by July.

So what if parents and teachers march to DC and cross the line from endless spin to action.
What if no one notices, only god?
What if only those who come to DC are the only ones who notice?

Yes, it is so much easier to do nothing.
Yes, it is so much easier to throw up our hands, and remain silent.
Yes indeed,  it is easier to walk away than to walk to DC.

However, what if this is a Shakespearian moment?
What if your High School English teacher was Mrs. Stanfield?
What if you found your very soul in Henry The V, Saint Crispen's speech in her class?
What if when you walk you could hear Henry say:
"He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,  Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd,   And rouse him at the name of Crispian. He that shall live this day, and see old age,   Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,     And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian.'     Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,   And say 'These wounds I had on Crispian's day.'     Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,     But he'll remember, with advantages,     What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,     Familiar in his mouth as household words" ?

What if you heard these words, with tears in your eyes as your walk through the rain?
Another 10 miles down, and 410 to go,

My walking song of the day:

Thursday, June 9, 2011

We can Change the World

Today I walked another 10 miles, 30 down, and 470 to go!
Today on the Save Our Schools March Florida Facebook Page Sarah asks in regards to Pro NCLB Reformers "How can we help these reformers understand?"
I would like to share the reply I left her within my blog; the place that last year gave me a place to be heard  when I thought I was alone... 
"Salutations Sara, and beautiful Florida, 
the state that stopped Senate Bill 6 last year,
the state that gave us hope when we felt most helpless... 
Sara you ask ~ what can we do to help those reformers understand.
I tell people, every tidal wave has its origins in a single drop of rain. 
Last year I walked from Connecticut to Washington DC protesting NCLB policies. 
I started a Facebook group Children Are More Than Test Scores  (there are now more than 7000 members) 
I started blogging about my walk. 
Everywhere I went on my walk I found others who felt exactly like me.
 I wrote a letter to the President, and while he did not respond- Anthony Cody from Teachers' Letters To Obama did, He even published my letter in his blog.
I met Rick Meyers from New Mexico, 
Rita Solnet, Cerestra Smith, from Florida, Sarah McIntosh Puglisi from California, Sabrina Stevens Shupe, and Yvonne Sui Runyan from Colorado, and Vivian Vasquez from Washington DC. 
At the conclusion of my walk, on Labor Day at Busboys and Poets in DC we wondered could we really change the world?
On that day a few of us raindrops decided why not?
And we've been inviting all the other raindrops to roll into DC this July 28-31 for the Save Our Schools March & Week of Action.
Last year I walked alone...
this year we are bringing an army to DC to take back our schools. 
Sara, come join our wave this July!
Last year I walked 400 miles in 40 days. 
I lost 55 pounds. 
My wife hopes I can lose another 20 pounds ~ so I'm walking 500 miles this year.
My walk did not change the world, but it changed me. 
I learned we are not alone. 
I found hope for change in all the wonderful people I met on the road.
Tell Secretary Arne Duncan the Walking Man is coming back to DC, 
because silence and apathy are not acceptable ~ not last year, not this year,not ever!
460 miles to go...
Just in case people are wondering what I was listening today on my walk through the rain...

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

So far past Michael Petrilli's 100% proficiency Reformers' club

Michael Petrilli, ( tried using some fancy footwork around the criticism of NCLB's 100% Proficiency goal in his article in Education Next, "The Ends of Education Reform" I used his piece to motivate me to walk another 10 miles today, that now places me 40 miles closer to my 500 miles by July 30, 2011.
The premise of his article is that a 100% proficiency goal is the only goal possible if you care about children.

My response to his article is:

Michael, said reformers should clarify the ends that education reform can achieve. “If not 100 percent proficiency, then what? “

This very nature of the 100 proficiency model sums up the moral dilemma and failure of NCLB. The focus is on data not children. It sells public schools as factories that operate proficiency. It disregards a 100 years of legal battles for equity in our public schools. It promises choice, but while delivering lotteries. Any claim choice schools and proficiency testing eliminates poverty and cures special needs is merely the new smoke screen for a return to Plessy vs. Ferguson’s separate but equal.
The struggle for civil rights for children of color and special needs children is America's moral battle that will not be won with proficiency model reforms, but with truly desegregated public schools.  Fifty-seven years after the Brown decision, blacks and Latinos in American schools are more segregated than they have been in more than four decades. NCLB reforms have ignored the issue of desegregation just like they do with poverty.  This is why Michael I am marching to DC this July 30.

Thank you Michael for reminding the road ahead is tough, full of pitfalls, and snake oil sales men with cures for everything. All we need do is bow down to the NCLB/RTTT reformers. Well Michael I am walking, writing, speaking, and fighting your 100 % proficiency model reformers every step of the way. I have walked 40,000 steps closer to DC since yesterday. 460 miles to go, and that Save Our School March & Week of Action train keeps rolling along.  
Children are more than test scores,
click the link if you want to view a little of my walk today:


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

500 miles to DC

Salutations Readers, last year I walked alone, and this year I am on the organizing committee for the Save Our Schools March and Week of Action, (

Dr. Martin Luther King said: "The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no morals."
In 2011 we find ourselves faced with an educational reform policy NCLB/RTTT deeply rooted in efficiency... this is a policy that reduces our children, their schools and teachers to test scores.  I guess we could throw our hands up in the air, complain privately, and watch as another generation of children are lost.  Or better yet, we know silence and apathy are not acceptable when it comes to children - now is the time for action, on my part, your part, our part!

Readers, like the old Gospel song “People get ready, there’s a train a coming”,( this SOS train is moving beyond endorsements, moving beyond supporters, moving beyond contributions, it is a call to action. We are 53 days from the Save Our Schools March and Week of Action in DC
Last year I walked 400 miles in 40 days to reach Washington DC to protest No Child Left Behind and Race To The Top policies.    On that walk I met with parents, teachers, reading specialists, special education teachers, and concerned citizens who told me that the educational policies of Secretary Arne Duncan  are killing the motivation to learn in their schools. The people I met shared their stories about schools where children are being tested or practicing for being tested for 8 to 12 weeks of every school year.   
Sadly some children are spending 60 days of an entire school year either taking, or preparing for the taking of standardized tests.  This translates to one of every three school days being spent on testing, or testing preparation.  Let's make one thing perfectly clear from the start testing is not teaching.
This policy is a moral outrage in my professional opinion.    Perhaps in the minds of  those in Washington DC, testing is what motivates students to learn.   Their legislative policies since 2001 are about sorting, weighing, measuring, and isolating our children, teachers, and schools. A policy rooted in separating the strong from the weak, and punishing the weak while rewarding the strong. In reality this is the most Un-Christian and Un-American educational policy ever devised, and it is an affront to the past 100 years of legal struggle for equality in our public schools.   

“No Child Left Behind” policy amounts to the largest disconnection in living memory between our nation’s leaders and our nation’s parents, children and their teachers.  Our leaders want to determine whether or not our children  are ready to compete in the world market. Children, parents and their teachers need learning to be meaningful.  Policymakers and politicians expect education to be efficient, and to them efficiency means testing. For parents and teachers meaningful means being prepared for life. Thus far, neither McGraw Hill, or Educational Testing Service have a test that measures a meaningful life. 
Fair Test,  ( in 2001, summed up NCLB as "let children eat tests". Just as the French rejected a queen whose answer to starvation was "Let them eat cake" I propose that we reject this "let them eat test policy"
The most tragic point however, about Race To The Top policy is, having spent close to one trillion dollars, ($1,000,000,000,000) there is little or no data to support these policies as having met with success. If Washington's education reform policy were sold as a medicine these reformers would be under arrest for faulty research, for harming children, parents, teachers, and local schools. Instead of having a discussion of this policy, we should be requesting an investigation of serous crimes against our public schools.

Just like that old  gospel song tells us “People get ready ~ you don’t need no ticket to get on board this train…all you need do is get on board.”

As for getting on board, my plans this year are to walk 500 miles in 50 days, but unlike last August when I actually walked to DC, this July I am working and instead will walk 500 miles close to home.  So my blogs this year will be coming to you from the CCSU Literacy Center, where I will do some of my walking on a treadmill parked outside the center. John Foshay and his students will be my June coaches. John recorded most of my walk last year. However my July coaches will be the children in our summer reading program. So expect a few new younger  faces  to be popping up from time to time in this year's Walking to DC blog.
I hope to post pictures, updates, and share letters of support written by the children to the Freedom Riders who are also coming to the Save Our Schools March and Week of Action from New Orleans. Guess you know this will be the summer of reading all about the Freedom Riders at the CCSU Literacy Center.

Lao Tzu the father of Taoism said:"The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step."

Today was my first of 20,000 steps, (10 miles), and the tune that moved me over the 2000 steps today was Joan Baez version of “If you missed the train I’m on”.
Sing the first two verses with me: 
“If you miss the train I'm on, you will know that I am gone
You can hear the whistle blow a hundred miles,
A hundred miles, a hundred miles, a hundred miles, a hundred miles,
You can hear the whistle blow a hundred miles.

Lord I'm one, Lord I'm two, Lord I'm three, Lord I'm four,
Lord I'm 500 miles from my home.
500 miles, 500 miles, 500 miles, 500 miles
Lord I'm five hundred miles from my home. “

 Walkers you know….”If you miss the train I'm on you will know that I am gone..You can hear the whistle blow a hundred miles.”
Lord, I am 500 miles from change,