10 May 2006

Federal funding whacks Ms. Polacco.

This letter from Patricia Polacco was forwarded to the JWKC listserv. Check it out. And forward it to everyone you can!

> Urgent Notice....
> To All Educators, Librarians, and Media Specialists
> Regarding the cancellation of my appearance at the IRA in Chicago for May
> 2 and 3, 2006
> A few months ago I was approached by The Buchanan Associates in Dublin, OH
> to appear at the International Reading Association Conference in Chicago
> on May 2 and 3, 2006. I was to be part of 5 events. Speeches, 'meet and
> greet' and book signings.
> I was happy to accept the invitation which, I assumed, was coming from the
> I.R.A. and my publisher. It is always such an honor for me to speak and
> interact with teachers and librarians from around the country.
> But, then, a very disturbing turn of events transpired. My staff started
> receiving phone calls and emails from this firm in Ohio requesting that I
> furnish them with a detailed written outline of what I intended to include
> in my speeches. I assumed, of course, that this was asked so that a
> synopsis of my content could be included in a printed brochure furnished
> to the conferees.
> You can imagine my astonishment when I finally called this firm and
> learned that this was not the reason. They requested my written outline
> because their 'client' wanted to make sure that I would not discuss my
> deep concern about NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND MANDATE...as well as my concern
> that there is a link between this mandate and the SRA/McGraw Hill Company
> who manufactures, prints, and profits from the sale of these tests to
> school systems all over our country.
> It was then that I closely reviewed all if the emails (I had not up until
> this time because I had been doing school visits and was not home until
> now) I then realized that the "client" that this firm referred to, but
> never names, was indeed, SRA/McGraw Hill! I also learned from the
> Officials of the IRA that SRA/McGraw Hill was indeed sponsoring the event
> that I had been invited to. I was shocked!
> This "firm" insisted that my speech be "upbeat, non-controversial, and
> non-political"...I countered with the fact that the plight of the American
> teacher is far from "upbeat" and they are caught in the vice grip of the
> most controversial and political LIE that has ever been perpetrated on the
> American teacher.
> I was also quite mystified as to why SRA/McGraw Hill would even select ME
> and invite me to be a part of their program knowing how strongly I feel
> about this entire situation.
> My speeches certainly do inspire teachers...I truly believe they are among
> the last hero's we have in our country...but I always mention the
> destructive path that is laying wasted to our schools and that is the No
> Child Left Behind Mandate!
> I did mention to them that I considered this broaching "censorship" and a
> violation of my freedom of speech.
> Finally, after receiving numerous emails from this 'firm' that got more
> and more 'insistences'...I finally sent them a written refusal to alter my
> speeches in any way, Certainly I can moderate their length, but I refused
> to alter the content. I made them aware if they truly had a problem with
> this, then they could "un-invite" me to be part of their event.
> Needless to sat, SRA/McGraw Hill cancelled my programs within the hour!
> My main concern here, is that I very much fear the conferee's will be led
> to believe that it is I who cancelled this event. The cancellation was the
> choice of SRA/McGraw Hill and was generated by a blatant attempt to CENSOR
> my remarks and the content of what I say to teachers. Which is a clear
> infringement of my constitutional right to freedom of speech. I pride
> myself on being an advocate for America's teachers as well as being one of
> the most reliable speakers at conferences in our country.
> My lawyers and I have set a formal request to SRA/McGraw Hill through
> their representative, The Buchanan Associates in Dublin, Ohio, to post the
> following signs outside of each venue at the conference where I am
> schedules to speak.
> Call anyone you know that was either going to attend my events, or that
> did and were disappointed and tell them why this happened.
> I am very disturbed by this on may levels. It seems that we American's are
> losing, by leaps and bounds, our constitution "guaranteed" rights.
> I am insulted and very offended not only on my own behalf, but also
> because of these various organizations that seek to profit from the misery
> for our teachers and school children. Profits and money seem to matter
> much more that truly making changes to our educational systems that would
> truly help our children. I have to admit that I have a certain amount of
> pride in taking this stand on your behalf.
> Yours faithfully,
> Patricia Polacco

In my opinion, No Child Left Behind stinks.

Now I have to wait for the feds to show up at the door .... cripes.


Writerious said...

In educational circles, we refer to this fiasco of a law as "No Child's Behind Left," or "No Teacher Left Standing." The act makes the same error that most politicians who feel they have to "do something" about education make: it confuses test scores with educational reform. Several of its provisions are downright illegal (such as they way in which they force learning disabled students to take tests at grade level instead of ability level). And judgement of a school lies in the insane notion that the test scores for any particular grade should increase each year and every year -- not that each individual student should make progress, as one might expect, but that this year's fourth graders should get better scores than last year's fourth graders, and next year's should score even higher. If that made any sense, then in twenty years, first graders should be mastering differential calculus.

Add to that our local politicians and Department of Education, neither of whom can distinguish between norm-referenced and criterion-referenced testing, and you have a recipe for disaster. Every year, teachers get slammed because test scores aren't "high enough" (criterion referenced). But if scores increase, the politicians say, "Oh, hey, those tests score averages are too high, so the tests must not be hard enough" (moving to norm referencing). So they insist the tests be made harder. Guess what happens next year? Test scores drop, surprise, surprise. So teachers get slammed again because the test scores aren't high enough (back to criterion referencing, and the teachers are getting dizzy).

Melinda said...

Writerious, I totally agree with you. As a sub, I've heard teachers say nothing but bad things about NCLB. They're having to squeeze so much into the curriculum; there's no time to explore or discuss or take a tangent that interests the class. They have to teach toward the test.

I would have thought that Laura, as a former teacher, would have been whacking George, saying, "You go back in there and get that legislation changed right now!" Maybe I shouldn't be surprised at her silence, but still.

And then it's creepy how McGraw and Co. were trying to force Patricia to change the content of her speech. Even worse -- when you go on Patricia's website, you know those Google ads that pop up depending on the content of your page? They're advertising the McGraw reading materials. Evil!!

SRA/McGraw-Hill said...

SRA/McGraw-Hill welcomes the opportunity to present the facts about Patricia Polacco's scheduled appearances in SRA's exhibit booth at IRA on May 2 and 3, 2006.

SRA/McGraw-Hill and Ms. Polacco signed a very clear contract, which can be viewed at http://www.sraonline.com/index.php/home/statement/2094.

In the contract, signed by SRA on Jan. 10, 2006, and by Ms. Polacco on Feb. 8, 2006, Ms. Polacco agreed to be an SRA/McGraw-Hill exhibit booth speaker at four 30-minute presentations on two very specific topics: heroes who made a difference in her life and the real stories that inspired several of her books. In the two-page contract, SRA/McGraw-Hill was identified by name 14 times. She further agreed that her appearances at the SRA exhibit booth would be limited solely to these four presentations.

Ms. Polacco chose not to honor her commitment to SRA/McGraw-Hill. Shortly before the event, she began insisting that she wanted to use her appearances as a platform for expressing her personal views on public education policy. We respect her right to express her ideas; however, since the SRA educational presentations were focused on writing and children's books, SRA did not believe that its exhibit booth was an appropriate forum for a public policy speech. Ms. Polacco's statements about this event are inaccurate and unreasonable.

SRA's intention was to have Ms. Polacco deliver four presentations that would inspire the people who have the greatest impact on educating our children – classroom teachers.

Gregory K. said...

I don't if you've seen the new statement Patricia Polacco has up on her site (www.patriciapolacco.com). It makes the SRA/McGraw-Hill statement they posted on your blog (and mine) seem pretty much a blatant attempt at spin (other than the fact that Ms. Polacco should've known she had signed a contract with them). The two topics they "asked" her to speak on are actually two of her longstanding presentations. Videos available on her site, no less. Sigh. Spin instead of saying "whoops. we shouldn't have asked her to speak. our bad."