December 29, 2014 1:45 pm

NPE’s Top Ten “Why We Will Win” Stories of 2014

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Top Ten Graphic

2014 was a year filled with substantial stories, with more than a few seismic shifts in the public education landscape.

At the 1st annual conference of the Network for Public Education in Austin, Texas in March, NPE President Diane Ravitch delivered a speech titled “Why We Will Win.” She told the crowd of over 400 public education activists from around the country that everything the “faux reformers” are doing is failing or has already failed, and that “students, teachers, parents, and communities” are organizing to fight back.

In that spirit, here are the Top Ten stories of 2014 (in no particular order) that highlight the pushback to the failed policies of the faux reformers, and the crumbling foundation of the reform movement.

These stories can carry us into the New Year with a sense of hope and purpose that together we will save our schools.

Top Ten “Why We Will Win” Stories of 2014

Multiple states drop out of Common Core, PARCC/Smarter Balanced

Click on the link above for an informative map of where each state currently stands on Common Core, and whether they are in or out of the PARCC and Smarter Balanced consortiums. The interactive map also includes an analysis of which states are contemplating measures against the standards and the standardized tests that accompany them. The smart money says 2015 will see more states dump either or both.

Race to the Top defunded in 2015 omnibus bill

Race to the Top has been the signature education reform program of the Obama administration and Education Secretary Arne Duncan. RTTT began in 2010 with $4.35 billion dollars to distribute to state that were still crippled by the recession. States were forced to compete for federal education funds, with winners coerced into adopting the reforms favored by the administration, such as the Common Core standards and aligned PARCC and Smarter Balanced tests. The complete defunding of the grant program is quite a blow to the Obama education agenda.

Collapse of inBloom

In a true win for grassroots advocacy and student privacy rights, data management behemoth inBloom was toppled in 2014. Fortified with 100 million dollars from Bill Gates, and toppled by parent activists in New York City and beyond, the demise of inBloom is a righteous example of parent power.

First Annual NPE Conference

2014 marked the first annual Network for Public Education Conference in Austin, Texas. The powerful event brought together education activists from around the nation to talk about the issues of the day, with livestreamed panel discussions and keynote addresses from education luminaries Karen Lewis, John Kuhn and NPE President Diane Ravitch. You don’t want to miss the 2015 conference in Chicago, April 25-26!

Pro Public Education Candidates elected

Education issues were the central focus of numerous high profile, big money races around the country in 2014. The election of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Newark, NJ Mayor Ras Baraka focused not only on the pro-public education views of the candidates, but on the failed policies of their corporate reform predecessors Michael Bloomberg and Cory Booker. Also critical was the California State Superintendent race, where incumbent educator and legislator Tom Torlakson kept his seat despite an onslaught of corporate reform money backing his challenger, Marshall Tuck. Tuck, a Broad Residency graduate and former Wall Street and charter school executive, was eager to uphold the Vergara decision, which declared tenure unconstitutional in California. Visit our website to learn more about other successful pro public education candidates endorsed by NPE.

Michelle Rhee leaves StudentsFirst

When Michelle Rhee founded StudentsFirst in 2010 she boasted that she would raise $1 billion to create a public school system that conformed to the policies she favored. Not only did Rhee never accomplish her fundraising goals, she fell far short on her policy goals as well. StudentsFirst’s National Report Card became somewhat of a joke too. The Report Card gave high performing states like Massachusetts and New Jersey D grades, and low performing states like Florida and Louisiana B grades (the highest score any state achieved on the report card) for their willingness (or unwillingness) to submit to the StudentsFirst policy agenda.

Louis CK takes Common Core opposition mainstream

Lois CK, a New York City public school parent, took to twitter to express his frustration with Common Core and how the increased focus on standardized testing is impacting students and teachers alike. His tweets led to articles about his criticism of Common Core and standardized testing in Salon, Politico, and the Huffington Post, and was even part of his appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman.

Pro public education books hit the shelves

Make sure to peruse the list of books written by pro public education bloggers, teachers, administrators, professors, activists and NPE Board Members. The list includes the book Diane Ravitch named “the most important book of the year,” Bob Herbert’s Losing Our Way: An Intimate Portrait of a Troubled America. And don’t miss the book by NPE 2015 conference keynote speaker Yong Zhao, Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon? Why China Has the Best (and Worst) Education System in the World. In her review for the New York Review of Books, Diane wrote that “Barack Obama, Arne Duncan, members of Congress, and the nation’s governors and legislators” need to read Zhao’s book.

Teach for America to shut NYC training site

Facing declining recruitment in New York City, TFA will close the city’s only training site. The Executive Director of TFA in NYC attributed the low recruitment numbers to “a contentious national dialogue around education and teaching in general, and TFA in particular.” TFA has been called out, both by critics and alumni, for placing recruits with only 5 weeks of training into some of the most challenging schools in the country, with a commitment of only 2 years, adding to high turnover and instability in the communities that need the most support.

Two Oklahoma first grade teachers refuse to give the MAP test

First grade teachers Karen Hendren and Nikki Jones wrote a poignant letter to the parents of their students explaining why they would refuse to administer a mandated standardized test know as the MAP (Measures of Academic Progress). In their letter they point out that the increased focused on testing has “gradually squelched the creativity and learning from our classrooms.”

Possible end to yearly standardized testing?

Education Week reported that a draft bill reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind Act would drop the federal requirement for annual standardized testing. This would leave the decision to the states to either continue with annual standardized testing or to return to grade span testing, which would require testing once in elementary, once in middle and once in high school.