Summer 2010 CPS Backpack

Are You an Independent Thinker?
We need you to think and act for public schools!

By Lisa Guisbond

The Backpack | 2010 Summer Edition

Summer 2010 Edition The Backpack! [PDF]

Welcome to Citizens for Public Schools’ newsletter, The Backpack. CPS’s mission is to promote, preserve and protect public schools and public education. We formed in the spring of 1982 to oppose a Massachusetts ballot question seeking to divert public tax dollars to private parochial schools. Since then, we have broadened our focus to include a range of issues affecting public education in Massachusetts, including school finance, high-stakes testing, charter schools and re-segregation.

The Backpack is our way of reaching out to our members and friends and keeping you informed of important issues facing our public schools. It’s also our way of letting you know how CPS is working to protect and improve public education, by fighting for schools that are vibrant, healthy and equitable. It’s also our way of letting you know how you can join us in our efforts.

Citizens for Public Schools

Citizens for Public Schools

We know our readers are people who learned along the way to think for themselves, whether from their parents, a great teacher, or an influential friend or mentor. Well, in these difficult times for public education, we need all the thinkers we can get! Sometimes it seems, when it comes to education policy, there is a real shortage of independent thinking going on.

Just look at the federal Race to the Top program, which has succeeded in getting Massachusetts and most other states to make sweeping changes in education policy on charter schools, collective bargaining rights, teacher evaluation and other important areas, despite no evidence that RTTT’s prescriptions will improve things for public school students. In fact, there is considerable evidence that RTTT will worsen problems created by No Child Left Behind’s test-and-punish approach to schools, teachers and students, problems such as narrowed curriculum, teaching to the test, student disengagement and dropouts.

Massachusetts’s legislators were persuaded to push through an education reform package called the “Achievement Gap” bill in hopes of getting in on the RTTT action. The feds rejected the Massachusetts proposal and now we’re left with serious school budget crises as well as the consequences of a poorly thought out and flawed bill. (See the report for a summary of the bill.)

These are critical times for our public schools. Yes, we need to think critically about the policies being implemented on our behalf, but we also need to act! Will you join us?

In this issue, we tell you about a national “Postcards to Mrs. Obama” Campaign, reminding her of her strong words about NCLB and urging her to talk to the president about ending high-stakes testing. We introduce you to the influential scholar and author Diane Ravitch, whose new book has caused quite a stir and given new hope to parents and teachers looking for NCLB reform. We present the first installment of a regular column from the teacher’s perspective, from award-winning teacher Ann O’Halloran and guest authors. And we include a CPS statement on the recent news that almost 3,000 of our high school students risk being denied diplomas because they haven’t passed a Science MCAS exam.

We hope you enjoy this and pass it along to any friends who might be interested.

Lisa Guisbond is editor of The Backpack and a CPS Board Member.