Bernie's Affirmation

I think we love and respect Bernie because he affirmed what we already knew about the inherent unfairness built into the system we have, and fought to fix it out of concern, not ambition. The DNC emails sort of do the same thing -- who was surprised by their contents? Nobody. Our suspicions about our own corrupt (or just 'nasty' if 'corrupt' bothers you too much) politicians were affirmed.

That many are still willing to play within that structure -- and lecture we who are vocally outraged and trying to make change -- is our national, Democratic problem. That structure uses fear, the same fear they accuse the right of using. It''s childish and an insult to our intelligence.

If another Bernie rolls out in 4 years, we will shoot her/him down, too, out of fear, like this time. Remember when Obama was to usher in the Progressive Revolution? Who doubted he would (raises hand)? Those of you raising your hands, did you think the same of Bernie? No, you didn't -- he was the only, and maybe our last, honest broker.

I still don't know what I will do in November. I know this: I will be a Democrat to vote for Bernie supported candidates, if I have to. Otherwise, I revert back to independent. I am NOT a Democrat. Not anymore. Don't get me wrong, I haven't moved to the right. I have moved nowhere; perhaps I have moved left. The Democratic party moved to the right. I remain a lefty. I will join the new Progressive party that Bernie's revolution will usher in.

Lastly, especially Hillary supporters, she won. Now, put a lid on it for a minute and let the rest of us grieve.


What’s the big secret about the SBAC and PARCC test questions?

What’s the big secret about the SBAC and PARCC test questions?

Back in the day, after I took a test and it was graded, I got my test paper back to see what questions I got wrong. It was part of the learning process.
It seems these days that Pearson doesn’t want the students or teachers to know what the questions are, therefore what questions each student needs to review and focus on to further educate themselves.
It has now gotten to the point where if ANYONE shares one question on the PARCC or SBAC tests, they are to be censored and threatened with legal action.
This is education?
An article was written by a teacher about the Common Core Standards PARCC test (the equivalent of the SBAC used in Washington State) and posted on the blog Outrage on the Page. It described the type of questions given, with examples of specific questions and critiqued each one superbly.
The people at PARCC/Pearson, weren’t happy about this and threatened the publisher of the article with legal action.
Because of the threats, the questions were deleted from the article.
Tweets about the article were taken down and Diane Ravitch’s post on the article disappeared off of her blog overnight. Because of these actions, I and other education journalists are reposting the article that was written by a teacher and revised after threats from PARCC/Pearson, and sharing it broadly on our websites, twitter and Facebook.
Please share widely the following thoughtful article written by an educator about the PARRC test.
The PARCC Test: Exposed
The author of this blog posting is a public school teacher who will remain anonymous.
I will not reveal my district or my role due to the intense legal ramifications for exercising my Constitutional First Amendment rights in a public forum. I was compelled to sign a security form that stated I would not be “Revealing or discussing passages or test items with anyone, including students and school staff, through verbal exchange, email, social media, or any other form of communication” as this would be considered a “Security Breach.” In response to this demand, I can only ask—whom are we protecting?
There are layers of not-so-subtle issues that need to be aired as a result of national and state testing policies that are dominating children’s lives in America. As any well prepared educator knows, curriculum planning and teaching requires knowing how you will assess your students and planning backwards from that knowledge. If teachers are unable to examine and discuss the summative assessment for their students, how can they plan their instruction? Yet, that very question assumes that this test is something worth planning for. The fact is that schools that try to plan their curriculum exclusively to prepare students for this test are ignoring the body of educational research that tells us how children learn, and how to create developmentally appropriate activities to engage students in the act of learning. This article will attempt to provide evidence for these claims as a snapshot of what is happening as a result of current policies.
The PARCC test is developmentally inappropriate
In order to discuss the claim that the PARCC test is “developmentally inappropriate,” examine three of the most recent PARCC 4th grade items.
A book leveling system, designed by Fountas and Pinnell, was made “more rigorous” in order to match the Common Core State Standards. These newly updated benchmarks state that 4th Graders should be reading at a Level S by the end of the year in order to be considered reading “on grade level.” [Celia’s note: I do not endorse leveling books or readers, nor do I think it appropriate that all 9 year olds should be reading a Level S book to be thought of as making good progress.]
The PARCC, which is supposedly a test of the Common Core State Standards, appears to have taken liberties with regard to grade level texts. For example, on the Spring 2016 PARCC for 4th Graders, students were expected to read an excerpt from Shark Life: True Stories about Sharks and the Sea by Peter Benchley and Karen Wojtyla. According to Scholastic, this text is at an interest level for Grades 9-12, and at a 7th Grade reading level. The Lexile measure is 1020L, which is most often found in texts that are written for middle school, and according toScholastic’s own conversion chart would be equivalent to a 6th grade benchmark around W, X, or Y (using the same Fountas and Pinnell scale).
Even by the reform movement’s own standards, according to MetaMetrics’ reference material on Text Complexity Grade Bands and Lexile Bands, the newly CCSS aligned “Stretch” lexile level of 1020 falls in the 6-8 grade range. This begs the question, what is the purpose of standardizing text complexity bands if testing companies do not have to adhere to them? Also, what is the purpose of a standardized test that surpasses agreed-upon lexile levels?
So, right out of the gate, 4th graders are being asked to read and respond to texts that are two grade levels above the recommended benchmark. After they struggle through difficult texts with advanced vocabulary and nuanced sentence structures, they then have to answer multiple choice questions that are, by design, intended to distract students with answers that appear to be correct except for some technicality.
Finally, students must synthesize two or three of these advanced texts and compose an original essay. The ELA portion of the PARCC takes three days, and each day includes a new essay prompt based on multiple texts. These are the prompts from the 2016 Spring PARCC exam for 4th Graders along with my analysis of why these prompts do not reflect the true intention of the Common Core State Standards.
ELA 4th Grade Prompt #1
Refer to the passage from “Emergency on the Mountain” and the poem “Mountains.” Then answer question 7.
  1. Think about how the structural elements in the passage from “Emergency on the Mountain” differ from the structural elements in the poem “Mountains.”
Write an essay that explains the differences in the structural elements between the passage and the poem. Be sure to include specific examples from both texts to support your response.
The above prompt probably attempts to assess the Common Core standard RL.4.5: “Explain major differences between poems, drama, and prose, and refer to the structural elements of poems (e.g., verse, rhythm, meter) and drama (e.g., casts of characters, settings, descriptions, dialogue, stage directions) when writing or speaking about a text.”
However, the Common Core State Standards for writing do not require students to write essays comparing the text structures of different genres. The Grade 4 CCSS for writing about reading demand that students write about characters, settings, and events in literature, or that they write about how authors support their points in informational texts. Nowhere in the standards are students asked to write comparative essays on the structures of writing. The reading standards ask students to “explain” structural elements, but not in writing. There is a huge developmental leap between explaining something and writing an analytical essay about it. [Celia’s note: The entire enterprise of analyzing text structures in elementary school – a 1940’s and 50’s college English approach called “New Criticism” — is ridiculous for 9 year olds anyway.]
The PARCC does not assess what it attempts to assess
ELA 4th Grade Prompt #2
Refer to the passages from “Great White Shark” and Face the Sharks. Then answer question 20.
 Using details and images in the passages from “Great White Sharks” and Face to Face with Sharks, write an essay that describes the characteristics of white sharks.
It would be a stretch to say that this question assesses CCSS W.4.9.B: “Explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text.”
In fact, this prompt assesses a student’s ability to research a topic across sources and write a research-based essay that synthesizes facts from both articles. EvenCCSS W.4.7, “Conduct research projects that build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic,” does not demand that students compile information from different sources to create an essay. The closest the standards come to demanding this sort of work is in the reading standards; CCSS RI.4.9 says:“Integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.”Fine. One could argue that this PARCC prompt assesses CCSS RI.4.9.
However, the fact that the texts presented for students to “use” for the essay are at a middle school reading level automatically disqualifies this essay prompt from being able to assess what it attempts to assess. (It is like trying to assess children’s math computational skills by embedding them in a word problem with words that the child cannot read.)
ELA 4th Grade Prompt #3
  1. In “Sadako’s Secret,” the narrator reveals Sadako’s thoughts and feelings while telling the story. The narrator also includes dialogue and actions between Sadako and her family. Using these details, write a story about what happens next year when Sadako tries out for the junior high track team. Include not only Sadako’s actions and feelings but also her family’s reaction and feelings in your story.
Nowhere, and I mean nowhere in the Common Core State Standards is there a demand for students to read a narrative and then use the details from that text to write a new story based on a prompt. That is a new pseudo-genre called “Prose Constructed Response” by the PARCC creators, and it is 100% not aligned to the CCSS. Not to mention, why are 4th Graders being asked to write about trying out for the junior high track team? This demand defies their experiences and asks them to imagine a scenario that is well beyond their scope.
Clearly, these questions are poorly designed assessments of 4th graders CCSS learning. (We are setting aside the disagreements we have with those standards in the first place, and simply assessing the PARCC on its utility for measuring what it was intended to measure.)
Rather than debate the CCSS we instead want to expose the tragic reality of the countless public schools organizing their entire instruction around trying to raise students’ PARCC scores.
Without naming any names, I can tell you that schools are disregarding research-proven methods of literacy learning. The “wisdom” coming “down the pipeline” is that children need to be exposed to more complex texts because that is what PARCC demands of them. So children are being denied independent and guided reading time with texts of high interest and potential access and instead are handed texts that are much too hard (frustration level) all year long without ever being given the chance to grow as readers in their Zone of Proximal Development (pardon my reference to those pesky educational researchers like Vygotsky.)
So not only are students who are reading “on grade level” going to be frustrated by these so-called “complex texts,” but newcomers to the U.S. and English Language Learners and any student reading below the proficiency line will never learn the foundational skills they need, will never know the enjoyment of reading and writing from intrinsic motivation, and will, sadly, be denied the opportunity to become a critical reader and writer of media. Critical literacies are foundational for active participation in a democracy.
We can look carefully at one sample to examine the health of the entire system– such as testing a drop of water to assess the ocean. So too, we can use these three PARCC prompts to glimpse how the high stakes accountability system has deformed teaching and warped learning in many public schools across the United States.
In this sample, the system is pathetically failing a generation of children who deserve better, and when they are adults, they may not have the skills needed to engage as citizens and problem-solvers. So it is up to us, those of us who remember a better way and can imagine a way out, to make the case for stopping standardized tests like PARCC from corrupting the educational opportunities of so many of our children.


The Internet Defense League


Among The Dead And Wounded Her Darling Boy She Found

There was a wealthy merchant, in London he did dwell
He had a Beautiful daughter, the truth to you we'll tell
Oh the truth to you we'll tell

She had sweethearts a plenty, and men of high degree
But none but Jack the sailor, her true love ever be
Oh her true love ever be

Jackie's gone a sailing, with trouble on his mind
He's left his native country and his darling girl behind
Oh his darling girl behind

She went down to a tailor shop and dressed in man's array
She climbed on board a vessel to convey herself away
Oh convey herself away

Before you get on board sir, your name we'd like to know
She smiled on her countenance, they called me Jack-A-Roe
Oh they called me Jack-A-Roe

I see your waist is slender, your fingers they are small
Your cheeks too red and rosy to face the cannonball
Oh to face the cannonball

I know my waist's to slender, my fingers they are small
but it would not make me tremble to see ten thousand fall
Oh to see ten thousand fall

The war soon being over she went and looked around
among the dead and wounded her darling boy she found
Oh her darling boy she found

She picked him up on in her arms and carried him to the town
she sent for a physician to quickly heal his wounds
Oh to quickly heal his wounds

This couple they got married so well they did agree
This couple they got married so why not you and me?
Oh why not you and me?
Oh why not you and me?

Grateful Dead - Jack-a-roe Lyrics @ LyricsTime.com

War Is A Racket (Repost)

So much for the dead – they have paid their part of the war profits. So much for the mentally and physically wounded – they are paying now their share of the war profits. But the others paid, too – they paid with heartbreaks when they tore themselves away from their firesides and their families to don the uniform of Uncle Sam – on which a profit had been made. They paid another part in the training camps where they were regimented and drilled while others took their jobs and their places in the lives of their communities. The paid for it in the trenches where they shot and were shot; where they were hungry for days at a time; where they slept in the mud and the cold and in the rain – with the moans and shrieks of the dying for a horrible lullaby.

But don't forget – the soldier paid part of the dollars and cents bill too.

Up to and including the Spanish-American War, we had a prize system, and soldiers and sailors fought for money. During the Civil War they were paid bonuses, in many instances, before they went into service. The government, or states, paid as high as $1,200 for an enlistment. In the Spanish-American War they gave prize money. When we captured any vessels, the soldiers all got their share – at least, they were supposed to. Then it was found that we could reduce the cost of wars by taking all the prize money and keeping it, but conscripting [drafting] the soldier anyway. Then soldiers couldn't bargain for their labor, Everyone else could bargain, but the soldier couldn't.

Napoleon once said,

"All men are enamored of decorations...they positively hunger for them."

So by developing the Napoleonic system – the medal business – the government learned it could get soldiers for less money, because the boys liked to be decorated. Until the Civil War there were no medals. Then the Congressional Medal of Honor was handed out. It made enlistments easier. After the Civil War no new medals were issued until the Spanish-American War.

From War Is A Racket, a book written by the only two-time medal of honor winner in history, Major General Smedley D. Butler. Check it out.


From A Murderer's Mouth To A Neo-Nazi's Ears

This was written back in 2009. A fellow blogger linked to it, so I figure I should let you see it.


I am only posting this because I find it revealing and prescriptive.

I also have a rather intimate connection with the place this man shot up and murdered and injured people--people I know.

However, it is a warning of sorts from a man who seems to know what he did. I am glad he is in jail, and he needs to stay there forever. His letter to teabaggers and right-wing fanatics/terrorists seems pertinent in light of the right's desire to spread fear, hate, and soon maybe even lead.

For those who don't know or don't remember, Buford shot up the North Valley Jewish Community Center back in August of 1999. He killed a postal worker and wounded three children and the receptionist. I know the receptionist. I used to work there. I went there as a kid. My niece was there when it happened.

I present this letter from Buford to my right-wing visitors as a reminder of what racism, anti-semitism and hate will bring you (jail and a ruined life). Be careful, haters.
Convicted murderer Furrow says his mind was full of sickness

Los Angeles Daily News

Attn: Kevin Modesti

21860 Burbank Blvd., Suite 200

Woodland, CA 91367

Mr. Modesti,

Hello, I was sorry to hear that we couldn't speak during your earlier interview request. Today, I received the paperwork of the denial of that request. I have filed an administrative remedy in response to this unconstitutional refusal of your visit.

I did want to speak to you for the simple reason that I feel deep remorse for my crime. About 5 yrs. ago I threw away my racist books, literature, etc. and took up a new leaf. I now publicly renounce all bias toward anyone based on race, creed, color, sexual orientation, etc. and am a much happier person. I feel a life based on hate is no life at all.

Those people I hurt, and the man I killed that day in 1999 will probably never forgive me, but I am truely (sic) sorry and deeply regret the pain I caused. My mind was filled with sickness and unfortunately I acted on it. But, I am now a "model" inmate who has shunned criminal activity and spend my day with exercise, art, and learning prison civil law. I can't change the past, but I can damn sure change the future, and my future will never include Neo-Nazi activity again. That is all I can do. [emphasis mine]

(Unrelated paragraph removed)

Well, if you wish you may reprint or distribute this letter to anyone. I'd hope to have you write about my change of heart and the evils of hate but I guess it's not meant to be. Thanks for your interest though, write me if you wish at this address.


Buford Ocq Furrow
Who knows if Buford has really reformed? Personally I don't give a shit. But his point ought to be taken by the KKK wing of the Republican soldiers of fortune haters who may just end up Buford's bunk mate.

h/t DWT


A Confederacy of Reformers

The following is from Crazy Crawfish's Blog

I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t feeling overwhelmed by all the rapid changes happening in the education sphere. I’m positive I’m not alone in feeling this way based on the feedback, articles and correspondence I’ve been receiving from local and national groups and individuals. As I struggled to zero in on a topic where I could help or enlighten the most, something else even more screwed up would be sent to me. I’ve started and stopped work on several pieces, which may make their appearances later, but I feel the need to get my bearings again. All this crazy “stuff” (not my first word choice) needs to be sorted out and organized before I can make any more forward progress. I think the mistake I was making, and many others are probably making, is not connecting all the dots and figuring out what kind of picture they reveal.

Right now hundreds and probably thousands of disparate groups polishing their individual pieces of the puzzle and identifying a few corners and straight edges here and there . . . maybe the occasional face piece. All of us are focusing on our own small pieces of what is actually a very complex puzzle. If we could put them all together, it would surely show a grand scheme, but we’re all convinced we’re holding the key. I can’t solve this puzzle on my own, but what I can do is show you the pieces I’ve managed to put together, and what I think I’m starting to see. These are my pieces:

Intentionally Flawed Teacher Evaluation Systems

A scourge of questionable teacher evaluation systems and Value Added programs has surged across Louisiana, but across dozens of other states as well. While all these systems are referenced as “Valued Added” or “Teacher Evaluation” systems, they all have very different methods of operating and degrees of crappiness. Every one I’ve reviewed or seen reviewed by unaffiliated evaluators all of them have been revealed to be questionable at best, and outright absurd such as in the case of Louisiana’s Value Added system. Despite all these studies and findings, reformers and their allies still tout these kangaroo court evaluation systems as valid and necessary, and tie tenure and continuing employment and compensation to them. When the public starts to recognize just how absurd the metrics are, Reformer headed DOEs change the formulae, either in small ways or even quite dramatically. Sometimes this makes the systems even worse – for teachers and in terms of accuracy, but this change is only meant to fool the masses. Changing these systems gives the appearance of reasonableness, and shifts the conversation to one of getting data from DOE’s to prove their new systems are more accurate. Of course reformers like John White refuse to provide this data except to sympathetic patsies. The clamorings of researchers unable to get data without lengthy lawsuits is never covered by the mainstream media. Ultimately what happens is experienced teachers are driven from the profession in droves to make room for poorly trained, easily manipulated, inexpensive temporary recruits, teachers unions are dissolved and public education is diluted and destroyed to make way for privately held charter schools. These systems are a farce and are simply a tool to evict experienced teachers from their schools, so those schools can be handed over to private companies, who make campaign contributions to anyone who will further their destructive agenda.

Vouchers and Charter Schools are better for “Choice” although not a better choice

John White and his ilk routinely defend unvetted voucher schools and unregulated charter schools in the name of “choice.” John White has claimed he doesn’t need to monitor and evaluate these programs because parents are in the best position to know what is best for their children. He and his allies actively fight any attempts to evaluate these programs receiving public dollars by the same standards he evaluates public schools, student performance and teachers. The routine claims that are made is that such evaluations are cumbersome and interfere with learning (which is true and why they are foisted off on public schools). However it is also true that most charter students and voucher students perform worse than their peers, in many cases much worse. Initially reformers encouraged this type of comparison, until the results came back overwhelmingly negative. Since they can no longer claim these schools are “better” by their own standards, they have shifted the argument away from quality to one of “freedom” allowing these schools empowers parents by providing them “choice.” However without any information, or guidance, most children (and probably most adults) would choose chocolate chip cookies over carrots. Without nutritional information, calorie content, and high blood sugar readings which would you choose?

It’s Okay to segregate our schools by class, race, disability as long as we claim to be doing it “for the children”

Since desegregation didn’t work, it’s okay to re-segregate our schools. It doesn’t matter how this is accomplished. You can create shadow schools (multiple campuses miles apart that are racially segregated and reported as a single school to disguise that fact), you can create charter schools that through sheer coincidence only enroll white students in a majority minority district, you can split your school district into as many different school boards and zones until you get your preferred racial mix, you can refuse to hire Special education teachers to serve disabled students so they are forced to enroll somewhere else, you can banish all your low performing students or discipline problems to alternative schools (ideally done after the funding date but before the testing date.) As a side note, you can say or do anything to anyone as long as you end your suggestion with “for the children.”

Student data is a commodity that can be handed over to private entities as long as they claim it is for an educational purpose

Several years ago the Federal Department of education secretly made an exception to allow vendors, states and school districts to ignore FERPA and provide as much private student data to whomever they wish and use it for whatever purpose they see fit, regardless of whether parents consent or not. This data will be very valuable to these companies, and potentially very harmful to the children. This data can be used for non-educational purposes; there is no oversight as to how this data is used or protected, and no way to correct data that may be erroneous. This data will be used by employers, credit agencies, insurance companies, and marketing companies to direct market products to children throughout their lifetime.

History and Science are negotiable and can be rewritten to suit conservative agendas

Creationism and biblical teachings are being substituted for true Science curricula. Schools teach children that humans probably herded dinosaurs just a few thousand years ago, and they probably still exist in hidden enclaves such as Loch Ness or off the Japanese coast. Students are taught that evolution is impossible (because it seems complicated) that Climate change is either not happening because God would not allow it, or if it is happening it is part of God’s will and plan and not caused by burning rainforests or manufacturing everything in Chinese coal powered factories. Schools are teaching slavery was just a misunderstood part of our nation’s history, and not a very bad one. They are being taught that hippies and liberals are Satan Worshipping amoral communists trying subvert all that is great and decent in society.

Virtual Schools with virtually no attendance compliance, or any compliance, and universally poor track records for preparing students are exploding in every education market

In every study I’ve seen, Virtual school students do worse than their demographic equivalents in physical settings. Virtual school classes have been known reported having in excess of 500 students per teacher. These schools are being offered to students of all grade levels (k thru 12). It is clear that these schools are money makers as in most states they earn a sizeable portion of the funding that goes to a traditional student (in Louisiana it ranges from 90% to 100% of MFP) with less than a tenth of the cost. Often these students withdraw and return to a traditional setting, but the virtual school gets to keep the entire funding for the year, and the traditional school has not only the uncompensated cost of the student to cover, but also takes a hit on their “scores” (in Louisiana it’s called an SPS or School Performance Score) as well as the additional cost of trying to get that student caught up. Many of these students enroll in virtual schools simply to dropout without getting hassled. They get a free computer and internet connection and never have to log into school or complete an assignment. This is especially true in Louisiana where virtual school operators are forbidden by the Louisiana State Department of Education from exiting students that stop logging in, or fail to ever log in.

Teach for America has been converted into a temp teacher displacement and replacement organization

Teach for America originally had a noble purpose but it has been corrupted by billionaires and special interested and serves as little more than a temp agency for school districts and a training ground for new education “leaders.” These leaders are often political science and marketing/media majors that preach the Reform gospel. TFA now even establishes staffing contracts and demands placement fees from states for bringing in a constant pool of new, 5 week trained teachers that rarely stay longer than their 2 year commitment and often leave sooner.

It’s better to close schools and spread the students around to higher performing schools to mask the problem.

Rather than trying to fix the schools which have poor students who are performing poorly, Reformers believe it’s better to close the doors and shove all those kids into higher performing schools, no matter how high the class size gets. Just this past week Rahm Emmanuel closes 54 schools in Chicago and shuffled all those kids to other schools. I have not seen any studies that show this strategy works. I have seen some that show these students are more likely to feel disaffected by school, by the longer bus rides, the cramped classrooms, by the loss of all their friends and teachers, and tend to perform worse the next year and even drop out. You won’t see any studies showing this is effective, because it’s not. What you will see is “school” scores which Reformers point to and say things are going swell. What they don’t tell you is they routinely change these formula from year to year to make them say whatever they want to say. Pre-school closing and privatizing they say how horrible the scores are. After a few years of destructive policies they boost the scores by adding points or changing the test and say all is going well and pat themselves on the back. For the schools that even the most generous boosts are insufficient they simply exclude from the rankings. You can’t be disappointed by what you can’t see. To make sure you can’t see it they usually stop providing data to researchers and remove all traces of historical or current school data from their websites, as Louisiana has done.

So what’s my point do you ask?

I could go, and maybe I will later when the fancy strike me, but I hope this is enough for you to start seeing the picture I am. What I am seeing is a purposeful plot to destroy public schools, and to profit from the destruction. These folks say they are data conscious and want to rely on “data driven decisions” but if that were true the data already readily available shows that everything they are doing is having the opposite effect of what they are purporting to provide. There is too much coordination for this to be accidental, and they are too successful for me to believe they are simply not competent enough to understand the data that disproves everything they claim. These groups have gone out of their way to spin the data, falsify the data, or simply hide or destroy the data to prevent people from seeing what is going on. These groups are fully aware of what they are doing – destroying public education in our country. Some of them are doing it purely for profit driven motives, but there is more going on here. These are some of the puzzle pieces I have and what I see. Now if we allow this to continue, what do you see?



Poverty, Homelessness, Fear and Insecurity: They Creep Up On You

This is personal.

All my life I have been well-fed, housed, and confident. I always had a job, health insurance, and a decent place to live. I was a typical middle middle-class guy. I could afford to visit my mom a state away, pay for my son's bar mitzvah and his extra-curricular activities.

I was a teacher for 13 years, which was sort of a second career--I had always worked with kids as director of programs for non-profits, camps, and schools. Kids are my life, especially my own kid who happens to be awesome and doing well in 10th grade.

I was a teacher when NCLB kicked in. I watched as things that once were of no value become the focus--test scores, what was on the bulletin board in my classroom, test scores, and test scores.

Teaching had become, over the course of my 13 years, not something I did FOR kids, but rather something I did TO kids. Spontaneity was out the door as lesson plans were required and sticking to them became the measure of good teaching. Any soldier will tell you about plans and how they are often not followed as the situation changes constantly, leaving your plans useless. This is what teaching young students is like--they are not static. Their interests shift. What moves them shifts, often mid-lesson. A good teacher is able to meet these changing needs on the fly, and that means abandoning whatever isn't working, not trying to force it.

Teaching was becoming less about kids and more about "accountability" to management. Well, I have talked about all this before, so I won't bore you with what you can probably figure out from a quick look at this blog, or listening to the many radio shows I have done on BTR.

A few short years ago I was diagnosed with cancer. It's a rare form, called GIST and it attacks the gastrointestinal tract. A patient like me has two options: 1) Get the tumor removed and hope it never comes back, or 2) die of it. I was lucky and got number one.

The surgery was a big deal, as they had to open me up and cut out half of my stomach; the tumor was attached to my stomach and cutting off the half to which it was attached was simply insurance against any spread. We are pretty confident they got it all.

The recovery was long, and I have never really been the same; my appetite changed, as did other 'things' involving my digestive tract. It prevented me from returning to the classroom.

I began working with kids with IEPs and 504 plans as a content specialist/tutor while waiting for my gut to heal, which it never really has, though I could probably get back in the classroom now, some 5 years later.

Then dad died of cancer. Then my big brother killed himself. Mom has never been the same.

I started this blog way back in 2006 as a way to vent about what was happening to teaching that I mentioned above. I gained a small following. I argued with people. I still do.

I realized that I could not end poverty on my own, and it seemed (seems) that few are ready to help now. But poverty is the reason so many kids struggle in school. I realized what I could do to help ameliorate the stifling effects of poverty on young kids--I could open a preschool.

After I lost my home to foreclosure (because I couldn't afford it due to losing the teaching gig) I moved into a fantastic place that I decided could become the greatest preschool in town.

I got a fiscal sponsor and started asking for donations to help make it happen. One foundation did indeed help me out. I formed a non-profit corporation and am constantly asking for donations, which rarely come. We have been turned down for every grant we have applied for. I have lots to say about all that, but not here, not now.

I got licensed to open the school, bought all the stuff a preschool needs, and started advertising for kids, and got one who would have started next month. Then I got slammed.

The lease, up in a week, was not renewed, and for no reason. I must move.

I found a great place and rented it. I am still going to make it happen. But, we spent everything on the deposit and must get the license transferred and can accept no kids until the transfer is done.

This all means I have no more money and no income until we enroll some students.

When the 'job creators' as they erroneously call themselves take about certainty, they are talking not about certainty of housing and food, but certainty of profit.

I now understand the true meaning of certainty and instability; impoverished families live with insecurity of food and housing, and the fear the lack produces.

And that is why I am asking for your help. I am asking you to help me get through the next couple months so that I can open the school and help at-risk families. I can't do it without you.

This is about money. It's the country we live in. There is no sugar-coating it.

You can help with donations, and there are two ways to do it.

1) You can donate over there on the sidebar at the Paypal link. That money goes to me, TFT and will help me eat and pay for the son's health insurance. It is NOT deductible.

2) You can go to the school's website and donate at the Paypal link there. Those donations ARE deductible and go towards the costs the school must pay, like rent, supplies, advertising and subsidizing tuition for families who need the help.

I have found that very, very few people donate money, especially to a cause that isn't already established. I get that.

I am a simple man with a son and an elderly mother who will need me very soon. I am the greatest teacher you ever saw. I ran into some bad luck and need your help. Your help will allow me to create a school that will serve the under-served. It will give me a job, one I was built to do.

I will make you proud.

Please, instead of Lattes this month, send that money to the school, or to me. It will be paid back when the kids I serve get what they need at the school I am creating where they will get the background knowledge, love and care I have spent my life providing to kids for the last 30 years.

It does indeed take a village.

Please, give what you can.

I am happy to talk with anyone who wants to hear more. I will even call you. Send me an email and ask me anything.

--Rich (TFT)


Help A Guy Out (Updated)

My lease was not renewed, so I have to move. Work has been sporadic. I am need of help, like I have never needed it before.

All my money has gone into the project that is now on hold until I am in the new place, which is happening next week, if I can afford to eat and feed the boy until then.

I was in the process of opening a non-profit daycare for at-risk little ones when I got slammed with the surprise of non-renewal of the lease. This put the whole thing on hold. You can make a tax-deductible donation there if you want, which will go towards rent at the new school site.

I found a new place, but had to stop accepting kids until the license gets transferred  which might take a few weeks.

It cost me everything I had to make the move. I am therefore reaching out for help.

If you want details, email me and I will give them to you.

Please, donate what you can at the Paypal link on this blog (to me, not the school) or follow the link above in this post to make a tax-deductible donation to the school.

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