1). Schools in your district are suddenly closed because they are "under-utilized," but smaller charter schools pop up in their place?
YES, has happened quite a bit, especially in poor areas of Memphis despite parents loudly protesting.
2). Even top-performing schools, alternative and schools for the gifted, are inexplicably and suddenly targeted for closure or mergers?
Yes, in fact, we've had the largest school merger in history!!!
3). Repetition of the phrases “the achievement gap” and “closing the achievement gap” in district documents and public statements. Repeated use of the terms “excellence” and “best practices” and “data-driven decisions.” (Coupled with a noted absence of any proof.) The production of “data” that is false or cherry-picked, and then used to justify reforms.
Good grief, the whole state of Tennessee is being fed those key words and given skewed facts daily in the media! "Cherry-picked" is right about the false data, especially by the politicians who are up for re-election next year.
4). Power is centralized. Decision-making is top down.
Yes, both locally and state-wide. The TN Commissioner of Education and the TN Board of Education are all appointed positions by the Governor of TN. Decisions being made on public schools do not reflect the will of the public.
5. Local autonomy of schools is taken away. Principals are treated like pawns by the superintendent, relocated, rewarded and punished at will. Culture of fear of reprisal develops in which teachers, principals, staff, even parents feel afraid to speak up against the policies of the district or the superintendent.
Oh, Lordy, YES! But you won't find news about it because they are afraid to speak up for fear of losing their jobs like their fellow staff members already have.
6. Sudden increase in number of paid outside consultants.
Hello, Boston Consulting Group, Parthenon Group, and Proact Search Company (all affiliated with Gates, Broad, & Walton). Goodbye, millions of education dollars and our local control, to these wealthy consultants.
7. Teachers are no longer referred to as people, educators, colleagues, staff, or even “human resources,” but as “human capital.” Instead of "firing", new words are used such as "excessing" or "surplussing".
Oh, YES. They are treated like pawns around here, too, so much so that we Momma Bears wonder if they will rename the Department of Human Capital to the "Department of Human Cattle." It is that bad for teachers here.
8. The district leadership declares that the single most significant problem in the district is suddenly: teachers!
Yes. Evil tenured teachers who are really vampires in disguise. Which is totally ironic, because teachers don't make diddly-squat. Many teachers have to take on part-time jobs to support their families. Most of them spend out of their own paychecks for classroom supplies for their students. Teachers are hard-working and caring. We've yet to meet a rich teacher, have you? The REAL money-suckers are those who are demanding "accountability" and blaming teachers while cashing their 6-figure paychecks.
9. Teachers are no longer expected to be creative, passionate, inspired, but merely “effective.”
Yep. All that matters anymore is the student test scores. That expensive test that nobody ever gets to see the questions on. THAT is what determines if a teacher is good or not. Our children have been turned into little data points used to hurt teachers and schools. Sad, huh?
10. Excessive amounts of testing introduced and imposed on your kids.
YES!!! Except they don't call it testing. They call it fun names like: STAR Probes, DISCOVERY Education, Think Link, iStation, Compass Learning, CRAs, Accelerated Reader tests, etc. Our kids certainly weren't fooled. One child explained those tests as, "the tests everyone had to take to determine who the smart and dumb kids are for Intervention groups." The district says these are pre-tests to prepare them for the State TCAP (and PARCC next year) in TN. Whatever you call them, they take time away from real learning time. They take time away from recess. They take money away from important areas that have been cut, especially support staff and more teachers. Our student to teacher ratios have increased drastically as these expensive tests have been implemented. Coincidence? We think not.
Even worse, parents had to send in $15 to buy TCAP workbooks last year. Students did these practice tests in class for 45 minutes every day for a month. The whole book. Bubbling in answers to trick questions. We Momma Bears would rather them be reading for pleasure, and enjoying learning, than bubbling in answers for proficiency.
11. Teach for America, Inc., novices are suddenly brought into the district, despite no shortage of fully qualified teachers.
YES! There are hundreds of excessed teachers, and some are fired based on test scores, but we're paying for 350 unqualified college babies with zero experience teaching students! And there are plans to hire 250 more novices each year thereafter?!?? The Achievement School District thinks so highly of these unqualified, inexperienced teachers that they host Happy Hours with free alcohol on a school night at a local bar, courtesy of our tax money. Only 2nd year TFA & alumni are invited to the event for the free drinks, free appetizers, and a photobooth. (Note: I bet they won't advertise their future Happy Hours. Their original video went viral, and they removed it. Thank goodness some Momma Bears posted it on Youtube so we can all see the craziness.)
12. Strange data appears that seems to contradict what you know (gut level) to be true about your own district. There is a strange sense of sabotage going on. You start to feel you are trapped in the nightmarish Book Five of the Harry Potter series and the evilly vindictive Dolores Umbridge is running your school district. (Seek centaurs and Forbidden Forest immediately!)
Yes, and our TN Commissioner of Education is Lord Voldemort. Everyone in our state is terrified of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named because he punishes those who do not follow him. All the new policies and laws forced on us are just like the Decrees hung on the walls at Hogwarts. The new grading system at the Achievement District schools (schools that have been taken over by TN BOE) reek of dark magic to fool muggles. And one Charter School (who just happened to contribute to the Governor's campaign) gets preferential treatment by not having their TCAP scores count toward their grades, even though their school is failing. Not only that, they are being given another ASD to operate, too. How is that for accountability and democracy? (How's that for reading in-depth to a text?)
13. A rash of Astroturf groups appear claiming to represent “the community” or “parents” and all advocate for the exact same corporate ed reforms that your superintendent supports — merit pay, standardized testing, charter schools, alternative credentialing for teachers. Of course, none of these are genuine grassroots community organizations.
But, the names of the groups sound so lovely... Don't you want to put "Students First" or "Stand for Children"? Education "Reform" sounds so noble, doesn't it? Doesn't every human "Expect More, Achieve More" for students? Anyone who does not agree is labeled as a crazy extremist who kicks puppies. Even plain-jane Moms like us. We've never kicked any puppies.
14. Or, existing groups suddenly become fervidly in favor of teacher-bashing, merit pay or charter schools. Don’t be surprised to find that these groups may have received grant money from the corporate ed reform foundations like Gates or Broad.
Yes. Even our beloved PTA even drank the Gates kool-aid when it took Gates' money. The NEA chugged it down, too. The lure of money enticed some pretty powerful leaders, and now those leaders are ignoring the children and teachers they were elected to serve.
15. The superintendent receives the highest salary ever paid to a superintendent in your town’s history (plus benefits and car allowance) – possibly more than your mayor or governor — and the community is told “that is the national, competitive rate for a city of this size.”
Well, not the highest, but pretty darn close for a lawyer who has never taught before. It could be worse. Apparently, the Proact Search Firm couldn't find ANY candidates willing to work for our district because of this tumultuous merger that we did not want. (Actually, Momma Bear parents were so informed and vocal at the community forums, there was no way that Proact could put one of those Broad Academy Superintendents in that spot.) That didn't stop the lawyer-Superintendent from stacking his cabinet with Stand on Children & Teach for America's $$$ cronies.
16. Your school board starts to show signs of Stockholm Syndrome. They vote in lockstep with the superintendent. Apparently lobotomized by periodic “school board retreat/Broad training” sessions headed by someone from Broad, your school board stops listening to parents and starts to treat them as the enemy. (If you still have a school board, that is — Broad ideally prefers no pesky democratically elected representatives to get in the way of their supts and agendas.)
We Momma Bears have a feeling that this is coming soon, most likely after the suburban municipalities form their own school districts in 2014. It is rumored that Gates is dishing out more money, and there are even more strings attached to it than before. Our locally-elected school boards are losing their authority and control with the ASD and charter school vultures swarming. Unfortunately, the students are left vulnerable because a majority of our locally-elected school board members are generously supported by Stand For Children. These board members don't vote on issues without first consulting their sugar-daddies.
17. Annual superintendent evaluation is overseen by a fellow named Tom Payzant.
Honestly, we haven't had a superintendent around long enough for a yearly evaluation. We'll see...
18. Stand for Children appears in town and claims to be grassroots. (It is actually based in Portland, Ore., and is funded by the Gates Foundation.) It may invite superintendent to be keynote speaker at a political fundraising event. It will likely lobby your state government for corporate ed reform laws.
Honey, Stand on Children has been here for years. Stand on Children hires gullible parents to wear free t-shirts at school board meetings and political events. They've chartered buses and taken groups of brand-new-T-shirt-wearing people and adorable kids-in-new-t-shirts (who had no clue that they were props for a political agenda) to Nashville during the legislative session. However, Stand on Children was getting stale, and people were losing trust. Now, we have the vultures of "Students First" (or as we call them, "Stockholders First"). And we also have the vultures from Teach For America, The New Teacher Project, New Leaders for New Schools, DFER, etc. They just keep coming, smelling the fresh meat and Bill Gates' money-pit.
19. The Gates Foundation gives your district grants for technical things related to STEM and/or teacher “effectiveness” or studies on charter schools.
Yep. Lots of strings attached to his money. The school board has teachers & administrators jumping through hoops like trained dogs. Teachers & staff in the former (smaller school district) used to TRUST the leadership, and they were always treated fairly with respect. Now after the largest-school-merger-in-history, it is a much different world in our public schools in West TN. And now Gates has given a chunk of money to a school district in East TN. Another Momma Bear called it a "Teacher Holocaust" in Tennessee. Sad, but true.
20. Local newspaper fails to report on much of this.
Yep. They all think Gates is the bomb-diggity. Pass the pitcher of kool-aid.
21. Local newspaper never mentions the words “Broad Foundation.”
Nope. I had to connect the dots myself by using good-old google to find out that Broad Foundation has connections with all these consultants that we hired to make huge decisions about staffing, school mergers, school closures, charter schools, etc. (see above links)
22. Broad and Gates Foundations give money to local public radio stations which in turn become strangely silent about the presence and influence of the Broad and Gates Foundation in your school district.
Who hasn't heard this NPR tagline: "Support for NPR comes from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation." It is national. Since most of our media is owned by larger national conglomerates that are owned by or funded by Gates & friends, unbiased reporting is impossible. Thank goodness for social media and fellow Momma Bears who share the truth!
THE CURE for Parasitic Virus:
Vote your school board out of office.
Vote your mayor out of office if he is complicit.
Boycott or opt out of tests.
Follow the money.
Question the data – especially if it’s produced by someone affiliated with the Broad or Gates Foundations or their favored consultants (McKinsey, Strategies 360, NCTQ, or their own strategically placed Broad Residents).
Alert the media again and again (they will ignore you at first).
Protest, stage rallies, circulate petitions.
Connect and daylight the dots.
Thank goodness there is a cure, but the treatment isn't easy. It will take many, many Momma Bears and Daddy Bears to fight this illness. Please, join us to protect our children and their education. We're on facebook. Join our Momma Bears group. Network together. Together, we can rid these toxic parasites from our children's schools!