Opt-Out Movement Is Growing

PHOTO: Geoff Decker A protest in 2014 at P.S. 321 in Park Slope against the state English exams. The number of families at P.S. 321 who opted out of the tests increased dramatically this year.

As students wrapped up this week’s state English exams, advocates said more city parents than ever refused to let their children take the tests at schools with active “opt-out” movements, while other parents brought the boycott to schools that are new to the cause. In District 15, Brooklyn’s opt-out hotspot, P.S. 321 saw its refusal rate rocket from about 4 percent last year to 36 percent this year, and P.S. 58 went from one boycotter to 50, parents and teachers said. Meanwhile, in southeast Brooklyn, an area not usually associated with anti-testing fervor, 10 students for the first time handed in opt-out letters at P.S. 203. “It’s small,” said parent Charmaine Dixon, “but it’s big for us, because it’s never happened before.” Advocates were still gathering city opt-out numbers Thursday, and while some predicted an increase from last year’s total of about 1,900 families that formally refused the exams, they will still represent a tiny fraction of the roughly 420,000 city test-takers.

‘Teach Philosophy In Primary Schools,’ Says Academic

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“If we leave questioning the models children have been taught until later in life, it could be too late,” warns Professor Angie Hobbs. “That is why we need to start teaching philosophy in primary school.” By this the professor means that children should be taught from a young age that there are other ways of seeing the world to the one they are exposed to by their family and social circle. It’s a pertinent and timely point to make, especially considering the current debate around the risk of ‘radicalisation’ facing young people. Hobbs is currently the only professor of public understanding of philosophy in the world. She believes that just one philosophy class a week could benefit children’s intellectual and social development. Her department at the University of Sheffield – along with organisations such as The Philosophy Foundation – are currently pioneering the teaching of ancient Greek philosophy in UK primary schools.

We All Need To Keep Our Eyes On Mumia

Free Mumia protest

On Thursday Mumia’s wife Wadiya Jamal visited him. She shared with us that his weakened state continues, and she is deeply concerned that he still has not had the appropriate care and diagnosis– and in fact has been returned to the environment that allowed his chronic but treatable conditions to nearly kill him. We demand that: 1) Mumia’s chosen private physician has immediate regular phone access to Mumia in the infirmary. Phone access is limited in the infirmary, and Mumia and his physician need to be in conversation throughout each week. 2) His doctor be allowed to communicate freely and regularly with the prison infirmary physicians who are currently overseeing Mumia’s care. . .

The Tax Trap Of Student Debt Cancellation

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There’s just one catch. Under current federal tax rules, when student debts are cancelled, millions of families will get blindsided by a staggering tax bill. It will force many folks into sudden, unexpected financial ruin. Many people will lose their homes or be forced to sell. Many will go bankrupt. And many will trade student-debt collectors for even more powerful IRS debt collectors. Without a change in tax rules, it could be “out of the frying pan, into the fire” for cash-strapped families. The problem: Uncle Sam treats forgiven debt as income. Under normal circumstances, this policy helps prevent tax fraud. Imagine, if any forgiven debt were tax-free, your employer could “loan” you your salary.

Montreal Police Disperse Hundreds Of Protesters W/ Tear Gas

Photo from a tweet by Shawn Carrié

Riot police in Montreal used tear gas and flash-bangs to disperse hundreds of students rallying in the city’s downtown in protest against the Quebec government’s austerity measures. Following dispersal, barricades have been put up at Montreal’s Carré Phillips and protesters are regrouping, according to various reports on the ground. The march began downtown as demonstrators gathered at Dominion Square on Friday night. The rally was declared illegal at 9:15 p.m. local time. Within the next 30 minutes, the riot squad was dispersing students from St. Catherine Street. Tear gas and stun grenades were repeatedly used, prompting students to scatter and run away.

With Sit-Ins Around Country, Students Escalate ‘Divestment Spring’

Some of the 48 students occupying Yale administrative offices. (Photo: Fossil Free Yale/Facebook)

With campus sit-ins taking place in several states, and more direct actions planned for the days and weeks ahead, a new generation of climate activists is taking the reins in an escalating fight for fossil fuel divestment that’s sweeping the nation this spring. As a group of environmental leaders wrote in an open letter published Thursday atCommon Dreams, “By taking strategic action this spring, students are posing a . . . crucial question to the public and their institutions’ leadership: whose side are you on?” Close to 50 student members of Fossil Free Yale entered the university’s Woodbridge Hall on Thursday morning, vowing to stay until the administration publicly commits toreconsidering the case for divestment. Yale, which at $24 billion has the third-largest university endowment in the world, said in August that it wouldn’t sell its holdings of oil, gas, and coal stocks.

Occupation Of University Of Amsterdam Defies Market Education

People march in participation with the Maagdenhuis occupation, March 13, 2015. (Photo: Guido van Nispen)

When students kicked in the door of the main administrative building, the Maagdenuis, at the University of Amsterdam on February 25, the “New University” – or “De Nieuwe Universiteit” – movement introduced a new aesthetic dimension of protest. The Maagdenhuis occupation, a protest against the financialization of higher education and against the concentration of decision-making power at the university, disrupted the everyday flow of doing, changing the normal organization of human sense experience on campus. By taking a building and reorganizing human activity inside, with emphasis on dialogue, deliberation and shared decision-making, occupiers created new aesthetic conditions necessary for a new politics, as philosopher Jacques Rancière, who recently visited the Maagdenhuis to show solidarity with UvA students, suggests.

Decriminalize School Discipline; Black Males Matter

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Recent events in Ferguson, Mo., Cleveland, and New York City have ignited a series of debates about the lives of black males in the United States and how they are viewed in the larger society. Regardless of what anyone believes, however, the reality is simple: Black males are disciplined and punished disproportionately more than any other group. The historical narrative often depicts black males as violent, anti-intellectual, and resistant to authority. What needs to be understood, however, is how schools contribute to building this narrative, and what can be done to help change that. In many ways, young black men have a much lower threshold for engaging in inappropriate behavior while at school than their peers; overwhelming data show that black male students experience school in a very different way than do their nonblack peers.

Arizona School Officials Protest Ed Cuts, Protests Made Illegal

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Some of the most vocal critics of Ducey’s education policy have been school board members, district superintendents and teachers, which does not please the governor. Early on, when his budget was being debated, 233 superintendents signed and sent a letter to the legislature asking them to stop their boneheaded budget slashing. After Ducey’s draconian budget passed, Dr. Michael Cowan, superintendent of Mesa School District, the largest in the state, sent an email to teachers and parents that was critical of the governor’s plan. Ducey’s response was swift: his “dark money” backers (Koch of course), with the governor’s knowledge, organized a robocall campaign to smear Dr. Cowan. The message to school employees was clear: shut up or we’ll shut you up. Well, they did not shut up.

‘Corinthian 100′ Ask Education Department: What About Us?

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 18: Education Minister Arne Duncan speaks during the 'Let's Read. Let's Move' summer reading event series at the Education Department on July 18, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images) | Kris Connor via Getty Images

Fourteen federal student loan borrowers refusing to make their monthly payments to protest the U.S. Department of Education’s shoddy oversight of for-profit colleges met with senior government officials on Tuesday to share their stories and learn about the department’s plan to help them. The Education Department’s answer, in short: Keep on waiting. The borrowers are part of the so-called Corinthian 100, a growing group of roughly 100 former students of schools once owned by Corinthian Colleges Inc., the troubled owner of what was once one of the largest chains of for-profit campuses, and are now struggling with their debts.

Revolt Against Student Loans Growing

(Photo from Flickr user thisisbossi)

Remember those 15 people who refused to repay their federal student loans? Their “debt strike” has picked up 85 more disgruntled borrowers willing to jeopardize their financial future to pressure the government into forgiving their student loans. And the government is starting to listen. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has invited the group to Washington on Tuesday to discuss their demand for debt cancellation. Although the CFPB doesn’t have the power to grant that request, the agency’s overture shows that the strike is being taken seriously. It’s been a month since 15 former students of the failing for-profit giant Corinthian Colleges said they would not pay a dime of their student loans because the school broke the law.

Teachers: How PARRC Testing Affects Our Classrooms

(AP Photo/Ty Wright)

We are teachers at Barbieri Elementary School who want to make clear what is happening in your children’s classrooms as a result of decisions made in offices far away. This year, 3rd-8th graders in Framingham Public Schools will be taking the test known as PARCC, which will be replacing the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS). PARCC was created by the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, one of two multi-state consortia given $360 million in federal funds to design new standardized tests to hold students, schools and teachers “accountable.”

C.H.E. Supporters Occupy Cafe At UC San Diego In Protest

Photo by Angela Carone Students and community members are pictured protesting the closure of the Ché Café on UC San Diego's campus, March 24, 2015.

Members of the C.H.E. Cafe Collective demonstrated outside of the cafe’s premises on Tuesday, March 24 in protest of an eviction order from the administration. Members of the Collective have not abided by the joint resolution of A.S. Council and Graduate Student Association following a series of meetings held over the past few weeks. Instead, the members decided to rally against administration’s order, marching around the facility with megaphones and picket signs. According to Cameron Hughes, a press committee coordinator of the Collective, they don’t know how long the demonstration will last. it is unknown how long the demonstration will last.

Growing Movement To Save Public Ed From Corporatism

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All over the country, a growing movement of parents, teachers, and students is rising up against over-testing, school closings, and shady schemes that channel public funds into private schools. Saving public education is shaping up to be a key issue in the 2016 Presidential campaign. In a front-page article this week, The New York Times described Hillary Clinton’s dilemma on so-called education reform. On one side, charter school operators and hedge fund managers are urging Hillary to adopt their teachers-union-bashing, pro-privatization agenda. On the other side, communities all over the country are experiencing education “reform” as a major threat to their local public schools.

Cuomo Protested Over Billionaire Backed Education Scheme

The crowd outside New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's Manhattan office as parents, teachers, and students rallied for public education. (Photo: United Federation of Teachers/ Facebook)

The protest follows weeks of actions targeting the Cuomo administration as lawmakers weigh the governor’s proposal to tie more than $1 billion in school aid to an overhaul of the teacher evaluation system, which places extra emphasis on standardized test scores. Hundreds of people rallied at the Albany Capitol on Thursday and last week teachers from upstate New York delivered the governor 1,000 apples—each representing “a local teaching position unfilled because of years of underfunding for public education.” Groups say that the hedge fund and Wall Street billionaires, which “bought control over the New York State Senate this past election,” are seeking to starve the public school system “through subsidies to private and parochial schools and through privately-run charter schools.”