[ProgressiveEd] Monday's virtual demonstration

Linda Levy [email protected]
Thu, 27 Feb 2003 20:47:39 -0500

Dear Friends,
At our meeting on Wednesday night, we agreed that on Monday, March 3 we
hold a �virtual demonstration� through e-mail messages to the Department of
Education.  We chose this date because it is the due date for the waiver
applications.  We are asking that in addition to sending in your waiver
applications, you also send an e-mail stating �We support the statement of
the Progressive Education Network of New York� � or words to that effect.
In other words, we are NOT asking you to write your own letters, but simply
send in a statement of support for our letter.  If you have a mailing list
staff and parents at your school (or other supporters) please encourage them
to join in the �virtual demonstration.�
Below  is a draft of the letter PENNY will be sending to the Department of
Education on Monday, which  we are asking others to reference in their
�virtual  demonstration� e-mails.  Please let us know of any issues or
changes which you feel MUST be addressed to enable your support.  If we
hear from you, we�ll assume it�s ok and you will proceed to send out your
Dear Chancellor Klein,
The Progressive Education Network of New York (PENNY) is an organization
was formed in response to the overhaul of the Department of Education.  Our
membership � small, progressive public elementary, middle, and high schools
in New York City � can be found throughout the five boroughs of the city.
Our concern is that, whether due to our size, our innovative approaches to
education, or our perceived lack of political power, your office has failed
to acknowledge the value of our schools.  We� the parents, children, and
staffs of these schools � know how important the work we do with our
and their families is.  We need to know that our work will not be
by your important efforts to fix what is wrong with the public schools of
York City.
The common characteristics of our schools are
n small size
n peer staff development
n diversity of student body and staff
n authentic methods of assessment
n encouragement of students to think creatively and become activist citizens
in our democracy
n strong parent participation
n collaborative partnership of all staff to create a clear philosophy and
vision dedicated to the education of our students
Our schools do not reflect any single income bracket, race, or ethnic group.
None of our elementary schools was on the list of 209 exempted schools.  We
are all applying for waivers to the mandated mathematics and literacy
curricula today.
The diverse, democratic nature of our schools leads us to reject the notion
of a �List of 209� as a basic premise.  Beyond this premise, however, we
feel strongly that using results from standardized tests to measure a
school�s success is faulty at best, and for our progressive schools,
offensive at worst.   For many of our students, the state-mandated  standard
tests may be the only tests they will take during their years at our
 We measure our students by a different yardstick.
In our classrooms, the focus is on knowing each student as an individual and
the teacher�s understanding of each child�s abilities and needs.  In most of
our schools, a child is with the same teacher for two years, encouraging
knowledge and understanding.   As a result of our individualized approach,
the concept of �failure� is unacceptable.  We assess our students through
projects, exhibitions, observation, and portfolios.  Instead of judging
whether or not a child has met an abstract standard, we look at the child�s
thinking and effort in each piece of work and encourage each child to do
her/his best.  Our goal is to create a dialogue of ideas with our students
and to teach each child to develop tools for self-expression.
Our schools are very successful if measured by the achievements of our
graduates (we have strong records in acceptance to next-level schools).  We
are very successful if measured by the level of parent participation in all
aspects of our schools.  We are very successful if measured by the diversity
of the student body within each school.  We are very successful if measured
by the level of staff development and commitment.  We are very successful if
measured by creative and engaging curricula.  We are very successful if
measured by the relationship of trust between  teachers and students.
You have spoken frequently of your desire to see small libraries in every
classroom.  Our classrooms have these already.  You have also spoken of
equity and choice.  Our students are not �assigned� to our schools; they and
their parents have chosen us.  Many of our schools have lengthy waiting
lists.  Due to our commitment to diversity, we are reflective of our
communities in our selection/application processes.
In fact, not granting waivers to our schools would eliminate the choice and
equity that it took us so long to create.
If what you envision for our school system is an educational experience
children are treated with respect and dignity, where they develop minds open
to exploration and inquiry, where teachers are dedicated and fulfilled,
all children are engaged and challenged , and where children who have
historically been excluded from opportunity are deliberately included � then
our schools are the embodiments of your vision.  We hope that you will do
in your power to enable us to continue to do this unique work, and to create
more schools like ours.   The first step would be to grant our waiver
Bruce Kanze
For the Progressive Education Network of New York
------ End of Forwarded Message