Won’t Back Down: Myth-Making Can’t Stand Up to Real Life Education Heroes” (Beacon Press Blog)

Here’s an essay about the movie Won’t Back Down  from Nancy Schniedewind (Professor at SUNY New Paltz and co-editor with Mara Sapon-Shevin of Educational Courage: Resisting the Ambush of Public Education) and Julie Woestehoff  (contributor to Educational Courage):

Walden Media’s Won’t Back Down portrays the heroism of one parent and one teacher fighting harmful educational practices by taking over their school. Their victory is as mythic as it is misleading. Those who should be celebrated by such media attention are the real-life heroes at the grassroots who have been fighting for meaningful educational change day-to-day, year-to-year.

You can read the rest of the story online here.

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“School reform’s propaganda flick” (salon.com)

More about right-wing funded corporate propaganda disguised as a major motion picture:

The first thing to know about Friday’s opening of the school-choice drama “Won’t Back Down” is that the film’s production company specializes in children’s fantasy fare such as the “Tooth Fairy” and “Chronicles of Narnia” series. The second thing is that this company, Walden Media, is linked at the highest levels to the real-world adult alliance of corporate and far-right ideological interest groups that constitutes the so-called education reform movement, more accurately described as the education privatization movement. The third thing, and the one most likely to be passed over in the debate surrounding “Won’t Back Down” (reviewed here, and not kindly, by Salon’s own Andrew O’Hehir), is that Walden Media is itself an educational content company with a commercial interest in expanding private-sector access to American K-12 education, or what Rupert Murdoch, Walden’s distribution partner on “Won’t Back Down,” lip-lickingly calls “a $50 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed.”

You can read the rest of the story here.

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Won’t Back Down: Why do teachers’ unions hate America?” (salon.com)

Andrew O’Hehir’s column on Salon.com describes this movie as ” … an offensive, lame, union-bashing drama, which somehow stars Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal.”

Here are a few excerpts from this article:

So teachers’ unions don’t care about kids. Oh, and luck is a foxy lady. This is what I took away from the inept and bizarre “Won’t Back Down,” a set of right-wing anti-union talking points disguised (with very limited success) as a mainstream motion-picture-type product. Someone needs to launch an investigation into what combination of crimes, dares, alcoholic binges and lapses in judgment got Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal into this movie. Neither of them seems likely to sympathize with its thinly veiled labor-bashing agenda and, way more to the point, I thought they had better taste. Maybe it was that actor-y thing where they saw potential in their characters – a feisty, working-class single mom for Gyllenhaal, a sober middle-class schoolteacher for Davis – liked the idea of working together and didn’t think too much about the big picture.

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Doonesbury tackles Louisiana science education (16 September 2012)

Doonsbury 16 September 2012

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“School vouchers are only beginning” (shreveporttimes.com)

More info on Gov. Jindal’s so-called “education reform” measures:

Of Louisiana’s 700,000 public school students back in class, 7,000, 1 percent, are attending private or church schools on state-funded vouchers. The proportion suggests that for all the commotion, from the Legislature to the courts, Gov. Bobby Jindal’s scholarship program will do neither much good nor much harm to the great mass of schoolchildren.

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“When public schools answer to markets” (Salon.com)

Why move to market-based incentives in public education if the results are not better and there is less public accountability?  Here’s what we’ve discovered so far about market-based education reforms:

There are several problems with this model from the perspective of both efficacy and, more importantly, democracy. First, despite the grand intentions behind marketized programs, they do not get better results on average than traditional public schools. A study conducted by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University found that 17 percent of charter schools reported academic gains that were significantly better than traditional public schools, 46 percent showed no difference from public schools, and 37 percent were significantly worse. Additionally, introducing supposedly tough-minded material incentives to improve teacher performance, such as giving higher “merit” pay to more successful teachers and threatening to fire less successful ones, has yielded no measurable benefits for children and, instead, tends to divide and demoralize teachers.

Other studies have found that the competitive incentives designed to drive innovation in the classroom are not operating as intended. Instead of improving teaching and learning practices, market incentives have driven an increase in schools’ marketing and promotional activities – that is, advertisements that better sell their products. And as marketing is most effective when aimed at specified groups, schools usually beef up their academic achievement statistics by targeting families of higher-achieving students, thereby contributing to increased student selectivity, sorting, and segregation.

Efficiency considerations aside, the real problem with championing marketized models in education and other areas is the damage it does to democracy. We should not be upholding a model based on turning citizens into consumers. Democratic citizenship does not simply involve an individual’s choice from a platter of options. Rather, it requires active participation in collective decision-making.

The problem with marketized models is that in the process of providing individuals with private “choice,” citizens are necessarily deprived of public choice – that is, the opportunity to discuss, deliberate, and act in concert with others. While advocates of marketization claim that it eliminates many of the protracted disputes that currently impede the effectiveness of schools, disputes aren’t always such a bad thing from the standpoint of democracy – especially when they deal with matters of genuine common concern like the education of future generations. Even if conflicts do arise, the opportunity to debate and engage in a democratic give-and-take with neighbors is a vital aspect of political education and empowerment. As Alexis de Tocqueville observed in the 1830s, it is only through participation in the exercise of power over collective outcomes, and the practice of thinking about and acting on public issues in public arenas, that people can develop the skills and commitments necessary to be citizens. Removing public education as a site for political education simultaneously removes yet another stake citizens have in our democracy.

You can read the entire article here.

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Stop Governor Jindal’s Creationist Voucher Program ( Repealing the Louisiana Science Education Act Blog)

This what Louisiana taxpayers get with no public accountability and a political culture that doesn’t value church-state separation:

Stop Governor Jindal’s Creationist Voucher Program Before Governor Romney Takes it Nationwide

Update: Superintendent White removed Eternity Christian Academy from this list, but the other 19 remain. Eternity was not removed for curriculum issues, so it may be returned to the program while keeping a creationist curriculum.

According to the Associated Press, there are 750 creationist voucher slots which are worth more than 4 million dollars approved for this year.

These numbers will grow as the voucher program continues, and will easily be able to reach the numbers I’ve posted below. The numbers below represent the number of voucher slots originally requested by the creationist schools, and the maximum amount of voucher money that the state allows.

Also note, the numbers below would be the final numbers if not for the public outcry over how backwards this voucher program is. We need to keep pushing on the Governor and the Superintendent to remove the remainder of the creationist schools.

Louisiana is preparing to spend over $11 million to send 1,365 students to 20 private schools that teach creationism instead of science as part of Governor Bobby Jindal’s new voucher program. It is time to halt the implementation of this creationist voucher program.

You can read the rest of this article here.

The “Repealing the Louisiana Science Education Act Blog”  was started by Zack Kopplin.  Zack is a freshman at Rice University and a recent graduate of Baton Rouge Magnet High School.  Zack grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and he is working to make sure that he and other Louisiana kids will be able to get jobs after they graduate.  Since June, 2010, Zack has led the effort to repeal the Louisiana Science Education Act, Louisiana’s misnamed and misguided creationism law.  He is organizing Louisiana students and citizens in support of his repeal.

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Louisiana Revelation: School Voucher Funding – It’s Not Just For Christians Any More (Americans United for Separation of Church and State)

An unintended consequence for the voucher law … vouchers supporting religious schools may support religions other than Christianity and why it’s good to have a “wall of separation” between church and state:

A member of the Louisiana House of Representatives who eagerly supported Gov. Bobby Jindal’s plan to fund private schools has had an epiphany: Muslim schools might start getting taxpayer money!

Rep. Valarie Hodges, a Republican who represents East Baton Rouge and Livingston, now says she wishes she hadn’t voted for the Jindal voucher bill.

“I actually support funding for teaching the fundamentals of America’s Founding Fathers’ religion, which is Christianity, in public schools or private schools,” Hodges told the Livingston Parish News.

“I liked the idea of giving parents the option of sending their children to a public school or a Christian school,” Hodges added.

The newspaper reported that she “mistakenly assumed that ‘religious’ meant ‘Christian.’” (The article is password protected, but if you want to read the whole thing, you can sign up here for free.)

You can read the rest of this article online here.

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Motion to join suit against La. school changes on Rapides agenda today (Town Talk – Alexandria LA)

Another challenge to Gov. Jindal’s school voucher plans …

The Rapides Parish School Board today will consider whether to join a lawsuit seeking to undo Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s voucher program.

The Louisiana School Boards Association and 34 school boards, including Concordia and Evangeline in Central Louisiana, filed suit Thursday.

The Rapides Parish School Board has called a special meeting at 5 p.m. today (July 3) to consider a motion by board member Janet Dixon to “join other school boards in Louisiana in litigation and protest against Act II.”

The voucher program, approved by the Legislature in April, allows children who attend public schools graded C or worse to attend a qualified private school at taxpayer expense. Families must meet income guidelines tied to the federal powerty level, which is about $58,000 a year for a family of four.

Lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the program have been filed by the states’ two major teacher unions and by the Louisiana School Boards Association.

Opponents allege that Jindal and lawmakers are improperly paying for the voucher program, home-schooling, online courses, college tuition and independently run charter schools that won’t be affiliated with local school systems. They claim the state Constitution bars the use of the state education funding formula, known as the Minimum Foundation Program, or MFP, for anything besides public school financing.

You can read the rest of the story online here.

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Louisiana state library funding has been eliminated (LA Times)

Well … this won’t help education at all …

Citing budget concerns, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has signed a $25-billion budget that eliminates almost $900,000 in state funding for its libraries. In a statement, the governor’s chief budget aide, Paul Rainwater, said, “In tight budget times, we prioritized funding for healthcare and education. Operations such as local libraries can be supported with local, not state dollars.”

On Thursday, Library Journal took a look at that assertion. What they found was that while some local parishes may be able to cover the funding gap, others will feel the loss. Rural parishes will face a particularly daunting challenge.

You can read the rest of the story online here.

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