“The Other PARCC:” A New Short Film Of Refusal In New Jersey

The Education Activist

The activist movement in New Jersey, as a coalition of parents, students, teachers, and community members, has culminated in some of the most incredible grassroots organizing in the country. As Diane Ravitch has reported, new legislation in New Jersey has been coined “a ray of hope against PARCC” and state and national writers have been covering the happenings in local towns all across New Jersey (there are just too many links to post, but please look around online). All of this work in New Jersey has culminated in a new short film to be released tomorrow – “The Other PARCC: Parents Advocating Refusal on High-Stakes Testing,” a short documentary film by Michael Elliot.

The video is set to be released nationally at 5:00pm tomorrow, Sunday, Match 1st, 2015 and will launch the already inspiring grassroots activist movement in New Jersey into the national spotlight, highlighting the stories of…

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The Lego Movie Sequel Has a Director and a Completely Unsurprising Title


The Lego Movie sequel now has a title, and it’s… The Lego Movie Sequel. But in less obvious news, the upcoming animated film has also found a director, who will be making the jump from television comedy to the big screen.

Rob Schrab, known for his work on The Sarah Silverman Program,Community, and The Mindy Project, will make his feature-film directorial debut with The Lego Movie Sequel, the Guardian reports. But you’ll have to sit through two other Lego-related films before the direct sequel arrives in 2018. A spin-off movie starring Lego’s ninja figurines, Ninjago, is slated for a 2016 release, while another spin-off movie about the Batman character from The Lego Movie will hit theaters the following year in 2017.

[time-brightcove videoid=4075421220001]

[The Guardian]

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Today’s referendum: A case study in Optimism v. Nilhilism

Image result for optimism

So today we have the state’s 2 largest district seeking affirmation from their communities to take more taxes from them in order to strengthen and preserve the most sacrosanct public trust we as a state and nation have: the education of our children. It is the conclusion of much consideration from elected school boards and the sole way in which Delaware code permits its local share of education dollars to be modified: direct election.  I love democracy, and the vote. Today we receive our truth and I am A-OK with that; however, the General Assembly is directly elected and they control  taxes as well. Why not the school taxes? Perhaps they feel it is best to keep the decisions truly local and not burden their colleagues with provincial battles? Perhaps they are just enamored with selective direct voting? Perhaps they are cowards, afraid to preserve this public trust over their precious jobs? Honestly, we’ll never know what the feckless wonders who have presided over the destructive policies of the last 6 years have done to school funding because they don’t seem too interested in searching their souls nor revealing them.

Here’s what I know: this is a tough referendum for a ton of reasons. The economy is not what our Governor tells us it is: it’s tough, and people continue to struggle… so asking for more money is a difficult sell. The state has spent a tremendous amount of energy in the past six years making public education an arena for labeling, shaming, fighting. I’m talking about schools, students, teachers, parents, school boards, and even communities. Test driven accountability and the unfavorable coverage it’s “alleged” results begets has fractured the public trust in public education. We now bicker (yes, me too. Actually me first much of the time) constantly over results, salaries, tests, special education, elections, FOIA, charters, magnets, PZ schools, Priority Schools, Focus Schools, Common Core, DCAS, SBAC, educator evaluations, ELL/ESL delivery, class sizes, etc., etc.  All of these are important things and the opinions on these subjects vary greatly, but the opinions all gather into one place and become a cacophonous, out of tune, symphonic disaster that leaves many parents and taxpayers deeply skeptical of how the educational establishment in Delaware functions well, or even at all. They are right to be affected by the discourse in just this way.

All of this brings me to my argument for the referendum. I’m hearing the NO voters loud and clear: they seem to believe there is no accountability for results, pay is too high for administrators, kids are out of control behaviorally with no consequence (schools are not safe). When added to the reality of not being able to afford additional taxes, it leads them to a visceral NO vote.  I understand this position and why it is a very sincere belief despite not sharing it.

I also hear the YES voters: we cannot move forward without adequate funding, I value my child’s school and teachers, my school has a great community and I will do anything to support it.

In the middle, and who I hear loudest, are the MAYBE voters, or the I’M NOT SURE voters. They are drawn to the opinions of the NO voters because they see many of the same things, but they know that without adequate funding there is no hope for the future. It is a classic case of embracing the nihilism of saying I want to stick it to the schools to teach them a lesson in being better and I don’t care if my children, your children, charter children, TPS children, children with special needs, gifted children have no resources VS. the optimism of belief that we, as a state and community, must provide resources to this effort so that we can make better decisions tomorrow than we did yesterday.

I know this is a difficult decision. Only one vote, a vote for nihilism and the selection of NO will box Red Clay and Christina in a corner with our children. If you have deep and sincere reservations about how to move forward, but also deeply believe we have a moral obligation to do so, vote for optimism, vote YES.

That’s YES… and get involved. Come to board meetings, join PTA, vote in board elections, RUN for school board! If you want to have the money to allow your district to make change, vote YES.

If you want to force us to change in a way that reduces our ability to serve children while you make your point, then vote NO, and shrink back into your world and pretend you didn’t take money from schools, students, and literally fire your neighbors.

Dover’s inability to produce a school funding mechanism that is equitable or flexible has put us here, along with the Governor’s draconian cuts. If you want Red Clay and Christina to have chance of honoring this public trust, then join me at the polls. Without funds, there are no option to improve, only shrink, reduce, and comply.

I’m voting yes, because I have optimism and faith in public education, community, and the provision of opportunity to our students.

Who wrote the Common Core Standards? The Common Core 24

Seattle Education


We have all heard stories about who decided on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) that are now holding students and teachers hostage to a narrow curriculum and an endless testing regime.

Mercedes Schneider decided to find out who the twenty-four people were that determined the Common Core Standards.

Here is an excerpt from her post Those 24 Common Core 2009 Work Group Members:

NGA (National Governors Associaiton) and CCSSO (Council of Chief State School Officers ) (and, by extension, USDOE) undeniably meant for CCSS to be something done “to” teachers. NGA’s and CCSSO’s concentration of individuals versed in standardized assessment on their CCSS work groups speaks to the purpose of CCSS to both financially benefit education testing companies and usher unprecedented, nationwide standardized testing into the classrooms of those very professionals purposely excluded from the CCSS work group table.

2009 CCSS Development Work Groups

CCSS Mathematics Work Group


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Newark city councilman Todd Ruckle gets his Tom Cruise Navy Lawyer on. #CSDreferendum

Todd Ruckle is voting no on the CSD referendum. That is most certainly his right. Here are some quotes from him:


Ok folks in the Christina school district, I along with 4 other citizens attended the referendum seminar at Christina high school and here is the results. The district wants 50 million dollars to maintain being almost the lowest ranking school district in new castle county. The superintendent was proud that Christina will not expel major problem students that completely disrupt student who want to learn. I highly recommend we vote this referendum down and get the community and local leaders together to create an major action plan to correct this ship before it sinks. 2/24 you need to vote or this referendum will pass without any action plan to bring this district back to being the best. It is truly time to get involved.


Since 2000, the district has held six referenda, four of which received favorable results.

Newark Councilman Todd Ruckle was one of only a handful of people who attended last week’s forum at Christiana High School. He voiced strong opposition to the proposed tax hike.

Much like the city’s financial planning, he said, an important part of crafting a budget is making cuts. He questioned what the school district has done to cut corners before asking the public to cough up more cash.

“Right now, I haven’t seen one cut,” he said. “I’ve seen expansions.”

Williams defended the proposal and argued that Christina is using all of its current available resources. If the referendum fails, he said, the district is prepared to make cuts.

“It’s not a scare tactic,” Williams said. “It would be painful, but it would be appropriate, and we would do it if we have to.”

Ruckle said he is worried how the tax hike will affect the senior citizens in his district, many of whom live on fixed incomes.

“I’m going to tell you right now, what I’m seeing, they’re not going to back it,” he said.

Mr. Ruckle is a supporter of Newark Charter School, where he has at least one child in attendance. Again, his choice, his right, no argument here. However, I think it is fair to make a few comments in response to his concerns:

  • Public education is a sacred social contract and is designed to work for all, not just those that win a lottery
  • Traditional school districts are not permitted to throw kids out of school indiscriminately or arbitrarily and have an obligation to educate all and keep our students in school in spite of behaviors than many feel warrant suspension/expulsion. We do not always do the right things along these fronts, but our calling demands we aspire to them, always.
  • CSD, along with many other districts are routinely victimized by DOE’s label, shame, and punish politics which erodes public confidence, like yours.
  • Proving a point to your local school system by not supporting it financially will only serve to further fracture our community and expose all schools, including NCS, to a weaker operational landscape and poorer opportunities for all children
  • NCS receives local share of funding for almost every single child from CSD. An increase in our funding will send MORE monies to NCS to further enhance their excellent programs.  Failing to support the referendum could mean less money for more children and cost NCS monies.
  • Back to the issue of Dr. Williams pride in serving children by refusing to kick them out: is that really a position you want to take as a public servant, that children be denied access to their schools, teachers,a nd ultimately their education? We are not NCS. We serve all children, no matter how they come to us, no matter where they come from, no matter what their parents don’t choose for them.

Your arguments remind me of a famous movie scene:

Mr. Ruckle, please support our students, programs, and schools on February 24th. Don’t continue down this dark road you are showing us.

You can believe what you want, that’ll never change it…you’ll have to come around…eventually.

Priority Schools BREAKING NEWS!!!!!!!

Interesting e-mail.

The most important thing NOW, NOW, NOW, is to let parents and students and teachers KNOW what these 3 schools will look like for 15-16 school year. CBA based deadlines and personnel decisions are imminent and our schools need stability and information to make good decisions…not the DEM House Caucus pounding their chests.

Do. Your. Job.

Sent: Thursday, February 12, 2015 4:48 PM
Subject: Memo on Behalf of House Leadership regarding Christina School District


To:                  House Democratic Caucus Members


From:             Representative Pete Schwartzkopf

                        Representative Valerie Longhurst

                        Representative John Viola

Date:              2/12/2015

Re:                  Christina School District Priority Schools

During the past two days, several caucus members have contacted leadership expressing concerns about the Department of Education’s letter to the Christina School District (which is attached). Thank you for contacting us. We wanted to update you on what actions we took and where the situation currently is.

On Tuesday, Secretary of Education Mark Murphy sent a letter to Christina School District saying that the district’s Board of Education is not in compliance with the Priority School program. As a result, Secretary Murphy gave district leaders until February 27 to decide on one of following options for its three priority schools: closure or restructuring, either as a charter school or under an education management organization. The letter also detailed the Wilmington Education Advisory Group’s recommendation to redraw Christina’s school district lines and close the noncontiguous Wilmington portion of Christina’s district in the city. The suggestion was that doing so could have an effect on “the planning process for Christina’s Priority Schools moving forward.”

Caucus leadership held a conference call with staff to discuss this issue and the concerns that several of you raised about this letter. We had multiple conversations with the governor’s office about the issue and had decided to send a letter to the governor asking that the Department of Education to extend the fast-approaching February 27 deadline. In part, the letter would have noted that forcing a short turnaround for Christina to make a decision would not result in a productive outcome, and it could have a negative impact on school referendums that are taking place. We also planned to ask the governor to convene a group of district, DOE stakeholders to reach a decision on this issue. The letter would have requested that the Chairs of the House and Senate Education committees be included in the negotiations to help facilitate the discussion, and to ensure that each caucus received accurate accounts of the progress of the negotiations. 

Late Wednesday evening, we learned that the Christina School Board voted at its Tuesday meeting to support the Wilmington Education Advisory Group’s recommendation to close the Wilmington portion Christina’s district (a copy of that resolution is also attached). When they learned of this, the governor’s office told us that the February 27 deadline no longer applied because Christina had pledged to work with the state to implement the WEAC redistricting recommendation.

Currently, we are communicating with the governor’s office about what they foresee as the next steps. Here’s what we do know:

·         Any redistricting process will require action by the General Assembly.

·         Any redistricting process will take multiple years to implement.

·         Any redistricting process is a complicated process that will involve a lot of discussions about finances and revenue, and it may require a significant amount of state money to implement.

Most importantly, we need to recognize and remember that when we talk about redistricting these Christina School District schools, we are talking about not just the physical schools, but hundreds of teachers who will be unsure of their future, and thousands of students whose educational future is at stake. Whatever we do in the coming weeks and months, our focus must be on what’s best for all of them, as well as the state of Delaware.

Please do not hesitate to contact any of us in leadership if you have questions, concerns or suggestions.