Saturday, February 02, 2013

Heroic maestros. Chief Theresa. A reading.

Thanks to Melinda Palacio for the following:

Hello Publishers & Writers,

This is Chiwan, from Writ Large Press, a downtown L.A. small press that’s been around for about five years. We are partnering with The Last Bookstore to run a pop-up bookstore at the new Grand Park on Saturday, March 2nd. If you haven’t been to it, it’s a park that stretches over three blocks, between the Music Center/Dorothy Chandler Pavilion to City Hall. It’s a big, beautiful space with a lot of grass, a giant fountain and a performance stage.

One of the first projects that the Park has scheduled is a day-long book and literacy festival. They have scheduled the acts for the main stage, but have asked us, along with The Last Bookstore, to set up and run a huge, about 2000 sq. ft., bookselling tent.

So, we want to sell your books. It won’t cost you any money. We’ll provide table, tent, umbrella, seats, cash register, everything. It will be a 70/30 cut of sales of your books. We just need you to respond ASAP and get the books to the park that morning. We will be setting up seats and a “stage” so writers can read from books we have available for sale.

These are the things we need:
Commitment: If you are IN, let me know ASAP, by 2/4/13, whether you will have books there. This way, Grand Park can put your names on their PR material.
Books: Tell me what titles you are bringing and the price. Make the price simple so it will be easy to sell. The books themselves should be brought to the park on the morning of the fest so we can set it up.
Readers: If your writers are in town and you can send them out to read, that will be awesome. Let me know who can be there ASAP so we can create a reading schedule.
Volunteers: Not necessary, but if you can have people out for a little time during the day, you can work the floor to hustle your own books. Feel free to pass this email along to publishers you know.

Chiwan Choi, Writ Large Press
To supporting Tejano and New Mexico music in Denver!

More on Chief Theresa's hunger strike

Following up on last Saturday's post of Chief Theresa Spence's (Chief Shining Turtle) hunger strike, go here to read her Open Letter to My Non-Aboriginal Neighbors.

You can also follow her here.

Teachers take a justifiable stand against testing

As with Chief Theresa, in recent posts I seem to have developed a "heroes" theme of people who have taken desperate or courageous action in support of their beliefs, sometimes endangering themselves or their standing in society.

As a former, tormented, bilingual teacher in the Denver area, I heartily add teachers from Garfield High School in Seattle who've refused to administer a standardized test at their school. (They've since been joined by other schools in Seattle and opposition to standardized testing is spreading. 

Here is the teachers' original statement, who're threatened with loss of pay and censure. I provide the entire piece because it is one of the clearest, most justified and alarming descriptions of why you too should support the movement to take back our schools. Below there's more about joining these heroic teachers.

"We, the Garfield teachers, respectfully decline to give the MAP test to any of our students. We have had different levels of experiences with MAP in our varied careers, have read about it, and discussed it with our colleagues. After this thorough review, we have all come to the conclusion that we cannot in good conscience subject our students to this test again. This letter is an objection to the MAP test specifically and particularly to its negative impact on our students. Here are our reasons:

*Seattle Public School staff has notified us that the test is not a valid test at the high school level. For these students, the margin of error is greater than the expected gain. We object to spending time, money, and staffing on an assessment even SPS agrees is not valid.

*We are not allowed to see the contents of the test, but an analysis of the alignment between the Common Core and MAP shows little overlap. We object to our students being tested on content we are not expected to teach.

*Ninth graders and students receiving extra support (ELL, SPED, and students in math support) are targets of the MAP test. These students are in desperate need of MORE instructional time. Instead, the MAP test subtracts many hours of class time from students’ schedules each year. If we were to participate this year, we would take 805 students out of class during 112 class periods. The amount of lost instructional time is astounding. On average students would EACH lose 320 minutes of instructional time. This is over 5 hours of CORE class time (language arts and math) that students are losing. We object to participating in stealing instructional time from the neediest students.

* In an appeal of the Board’s 2010 decision to renew the MAP contract, a parent group raised concerns about the negative impact of this test “on non-English speakers, Special Education students, and minority and low income children.” These concerns were never addressed nor were the claims refuted. Imagine a native Somali student with limited English skills, sitting in front of a computer taking an evaluative reading test that will no doubt be confusing and overwhelming to the student. The test is supposed to determine the student’s reading level, but without taking into account the student’s language challenge or the student’s limited time in the United States, which makes it almost impossible to understand the context of some passages. For these students and our students with IEPs, the test does actual harm. The students feel stupid yet are being forced to take a test that has NO benefit to them or their educational goals. We object to a test that may violate the rights of groups of students for whom schooling already constitutes an uphill battle.

* In addition to students losing class time to take the test, our computer labs are clogged for weeks with test taking and cannot be used for other educational purposes. For example, students who have a research project no longer have access to the computers they need to further their exploration into their research topic. This especially hurts students without computers at home. We object to our educational resources being monopolized by a test we cannot support.

* We see that our students do not take the test seriously as they know that it will not directly impact their class grade or graduation status. They approach it less and less seriously the more times they take it. Therefore, we see achievement scores go down after instruction. We object to spending scarce resources on a test that is peripheral to our students’ education.

* The MAP test was originally introduced by then superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson while she was a board member of the Northwest Evaluation Association, the company that sells the MAP. When Dr. Goodloe-Johnson was fired, the MAP somehow survived the housecleaning. We object to having to give a test whose existence in our district is the result of scandal.

* Even the NWEA itself, the parent company to MAP, has advised districts to carefully restrict the use of the test and its results. NWEA also cautions to ensure 100% random selection of students enrolled in any course if the test is used for evaluation and to take into consideration statistical error in designing evaluation policies. NWEA says that problems become “particularly profound at the high school level.” None of these or other criteria urged by NWEA has been met. We object to being evaluated by a test whose author suggests extreme caution in its use and warns against valid legal action if the test is used in personnel decisions.

* The Seattle Education Association passed a resolution condemning the MAP test that reads, “Whereas testing is not the primary purpose of education…Whereas the MAP was brought into Seattle Schools under suspicious circumstances and conflicts of interest…Whereas the SEA has always had the position of calling for funding to go to classroom and student needs first…Be it Resolved that…the MAP test should be scrapped and/or phased out and the resources saved be returned to the classroom.” We object to having to give it after such an opinion from our collective voice has been registered.

" We are not troublemakers nor do we want to impede the high functioning of our school. We are professionals who care deeply about our students and cannot continue to participate in a practice that harms our school and our students. We want to be able to identify student growth and determine if our practice supports student learning. We wish to be evaluated in a way so that we can continue to improve our practice, and we wish for our colleagues who are struggling to be identified and either be supported or removed. The MAP test is not the way to do any of these things. We feel strongly that we must decline to give the MAP test even one more time."

You can sign a letter in support of the Seattle teachers here.

Read here about another Seattle high school joining their Garfield colleagues.

You can watch this interview with Jesse Hagopian, Seattle high school history teacher and union rep at Garfield High School in Seattle, Wash. and Wayne Au, former high school teacher. (Also editor of Rethinking Schools and assistant professor at the U. of Wash., Bothell Campus. He is author of Unequal By Design: High-stakes Testing and the Standardization of Inequality and the co-editor of Pencils Down: Rethinking High Stakes Testing and Accountability in Public Schools.)

(Modeled on the resolution passed by, as of Oct. 2, 2012, and endorsed by 819 boards representing 80% of the districts and 88% of the students.

Garcia author reading, et al, Today in Denver

I'll be giving out sets of my infamous, super-absorbant drink coasters at this reading, and you can get a copy of my debut novel at a special price. Oh, and there's others reading.

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 2, 3:00  -- We welcome a fabulous trio of debut novelists, all of them friends, students and/or mentees of author Ed Bryant:

Sean Eads, The Survivors -- The aliens have landed, and this time they're not hostile. They're just rude. Coming in waves of rocket ships, the aliens not only refuse to acknowledge the existence of Earth's cultures, they refuse to acknowledge the existence of humanity itself. The aliens by means of their bulk block entry into cars, grocery stores, even elevators….without malice or even purpose.

Rudy Ch Garcia, The Closet of Discarded Dreams -- A young Chicano battles insanity in a surreal world where everyone endlessly relives humankind's abandoned dreams. Except for him. Will VN vet fraggers, Lenny Bruce, a Midget Godzilla, vampires, Neanderthals, a Black leper, Marilyn Monroe, Che, and Chrisie the Bruiser prove foes or allies?

Carter Wilson, Final Crossing: A Novel of Suspense -- When the sadistic Preacherman stole the last bit of Rudiger’s already troubled childhood soul, Rudiger lost himself forever. Rudiger has committed atrocities even he cannot explain. God has told him he must crucify The One to bring about the Final Judgment. But who is The One?

Broadway Book Mall, 200 S. Broadway, Denver
303-744-BOOK (2665)

Raza Rocks w/Rick Garcia!

Before the Super Bowl, listen to Denver public radio KUVO 89.3 fm, or online at 1:00 pm on Sunday, Feb. 3rd. Rick Garcia will assist Pocho Joe to encourage you to support tejano / nuevomexicano music and La Raza Rocks.

Es todo, hoy,

1 comment:

Thelma T. Reyna said...

Rudy, thanks for sharing this. Unfortunately, this is happening all across our nation, stemming in large part from the failed, unwise No Child Left Behind (NCLB)federal education law passed by Republicans (GW Bush) in 2000. It was a boon to corporate test-creators, who made billions of dollars off their unnecessary testing of our children. Thank goodness that Pres. Obama has realized the harmfulness of such testing and has put NCLB on the path to extinction. Hopefully so.

As a public school educator for 34 years (16 as a high school teacher, 18 as an administrator), I know the Seattle teachers are right. I saw it also with our California kids and teachers. Imagine if the millions and billions our governments have invested in test companies had gone instead to computers, better textbooks, more instructional aides, more teachers! How much better would our education have been now after 12+ years? I signed the Seattle petition.