I am a Student, and I Stand Against Students For Education Reform (SFER)

 

“Empowering students to advocate for change.”

It’s as if this organization was made just for me–just read my headline! If you take a few seconds to search around my blog documenting my vision, my involvement with students through mentoring and being a teachers assistant, my aspiration to be a future teacher, and restless dedication to elevating the student voice, it is no doubt I have full faith in the students’ role in education policy.

As my blog was born out of my realizations of the inequalities in our education system, then continued further as I wanted to expose these silenced truths, this blog took me so far to revolutionizing my life. There is a never ending thirst for truth and knowledge, and the paramount responsibility I feel to share transparency for the sake of students’ futures.

I have a passion for the human capacity and potential, which is why I aim to be an educator who provides such opportunities for my future students. Which is why I fight hard against the push for more standardized tests, and teacher-evals that claim teacher effectiveness can be determined by a number. As I’ve stated multiple times before, “I want to leave this world knowing I did whatever I could to make the term “at-risk” one that is not so commonly associated with the term ‘school.'”

I have a restless drive for educational equity, which is why I stand against Students For Education Reform.

Students for Education Reform claim they have the theory to “close the gap.”

Pieces from their “What We Do” segment of their website:

Our Principles

1. High expectations

2. We believe that parents and students should be able to select excellent schools that enable students to become active, informed citizens… (emphasis my own)

3. We believe that great teachers and leaders are central to a thriving school, and as students, we value our teachers enormously…

4. Rigorous standards and meaningful assessment… (emphasis my own)

5. Fiscal transparency and accountability

“Why Target State Policies?

…Until we change restrictive state policies and create a system that empowers teachers and leaders, raises standards, and holds schools accountable for student learning, we’ll never have a nationwide system of schools like KIPP and others. (Emphasis my own)

Our Approach

…In each state we enter, we hire a full-time state program director who works relentlessly to recruit new chapter leaders, support their work, and help lift up student voices across the state

If one is not familiar with the reasons why I emphasized certain points, it is no doubt that their mission and goals could be easily perceived as flawless, which is why I’m creating this post.

SFER wants to create more schools like KIPP. For those unfamiliar with KIPP, KIPP is one of the largest Charter School chains. There are various views on KIPP, some students are calling it, “Kids In Prison Program,” and some don’t think KIPP stands up to its reputation. Just take a look at what students are saying on Twitter:

While on the other hand, one person asks on reddit, “Why all the hate for KIPP?” Even some students point out some good points about KIPP:

Well, it is evident where one of their main concerns lie. So who is proposing these views? Is it really the students who developed this program? Let’s take a look at their leaders.

via “TIME’s 12 Education Activists to Watch in 2012

Frustrated with the pace of educational change, Bellinger and Morin started Students for Education Reform (SFER) while they were undergraduates at Princeton in 2009. They set out to mobilize college students and get them to advocate for education reform in the voting booth and in state capitols. SFER has obviously tapped into something potent because the organization has grown to 71 chapters in 28 states.

SFER is growing so fast that Bellinger and Morin have, ironically, put their own education on hold so they can work full-time on it heading into 2012.

 

Interesting.

Why be questionable? The Assailed Teacher puts it perfectly. From his “Students for Education Reform and the War on Teachers” post:

Yes, I am sure they did this all on their own. This has nothing to do with all the hedge fund and Gates money pouring into every nook and cranny of the education system: school districts, political campaigns, unions, think tanks and teacher colleges. This has nothing to do with their professors who get generous grants with this money prodding them into creating astroturf organizations like SFER.

Yes, because normal college students from working families who are not being funded by a a billionaire apparatus have the luxury of “putting their education on hold” to go on political crusades.

 

Let’s dig a little deeper. We see who the on-screen leaders are, but could these two students be really funding this nation-wide organization all by themselves? As The Assailed Teacher pointed out, and I think any “regular” college student could agree, there is no way we have that kind of money to implement this strong of an org as much as we wish we could.

Thanks to Dave Russell (who is the teacher who led to my discovery of StudentsFirst’s true agenda), I always, always, always check to see who is funding programs\organizations. Why? The one in control of the money is the one who is controlling the org, because clearly, it wouldn’t exist without the funds. I think it’s safe to say the ones working for the one with all the money aren’t going to try anything to go against it. Even further, what are these corporate leaders’ experience with the education system? Have they sat through as many education courses as the teachers they are attacking have? Have they spent longer than the 2-years that Teach For America assigns their teachers they throw into classrooms to “close the gap?” Has their 5 weeks in training really made them an expert on what students want and need, and how to solve the inequalities in our current education system?

One analogy I love to use is, you wouldn’t want a chef as your surgeon, right? He or she may do a phenomenal job at cooking your dinner, but open-heart surgery isn’t this person’s profession.

So let’s see for ourselves.
SFER’s partners according to their website:

 

The two that stand out to me are “Teach for America” and “Stand for Children.” As I mentioned above, you already know how I feel about TFA (in short, I will never, ever believe that 5 weeks is enough for teacher preparation, especially in under-served districts). And you can read about how Stand for Children doesn’t stand for children by a former member and by Diane Ravitch.

In addition, their board members include:

    • April Chou (Chair), CEO of KIPP Charter Schools
    • Christy Chin, Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation
    • Matthew Kramer, President of TFA
    • Brion Olsen, Co-Founder of Viking Global Investors
    • Jonathan Sackler, Purdue Pharma (a pharmaceutical company, really?)

 

And according to their website:

“Our board members provide guidance each step of the way”

Well that’s reassuring.

So how strong is this particular “student voice?”

They already have chapters in 28 states, schools including: Princeton, University of Maryland – College Park, Stanford, Yale, George Washington University, Georgetown University, University of Florida, University of Miami, Northwestern University, Boston University, Wake Forest, Duke, Dartmouth, Rutgers (Ah!), Columbia, Cornell, NYU, Syracuse, UPenn, Brown, Temple, and many more.

I’ve addressed these specific points because each of these elements are fighting AGAINST equal opportunity to a quality education. Students For Education Reform are promoting and being funded by those who believe that “choice” of a good school is the best direction to go in order to “save our education.” When really we should collectively be working together to assure each and every public school in the United States is one that guarantees and provides quality education, making the need for “choice of schools” not even necessary. Receiving a quality education should not, under any circumstances, depend on luck, period. Instead of putting money where our education system needs it most, it is being flooded into astroturf corporation education groups such as SFER.

It is critical, now more than ever, to expose Students For Education Reform. We need to reach students across the country to give them the proper knowledge of what they are supporting.

Student voices at SFER are clearly being funded by money us “regular” students do not have access to, they can easily outrace us into getting more student support. That is why the only way we can beat them is by reducing and preventing student support by giving them the correct information–fast. Without support, SFER cannot exist. I can only hope that you see the detrimental forces SFER can have on ever achieving equal education.

They have the money, but we have the potential to have all the numbers.

For the sake of our education system, the direction it is going, and ultimately the fate of students’ futures, do not let these reformers use misinformed students as their puppets to fool you. I cannot speak for SFER students, but I can speak for myself. There is a difference when you organize together as students with an internal passion to create something truly “student-led” rather than one that just looks and seems good because there are big-corp names involved. Do not play their games.

“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Update 11\10 - I’m realizing that recently there has been a lot more traffic to this post than usual. Here are my updates after this post and a few others’ responses. In these updated posts you will find how SFER made changes to their websites after this post, how program directors wanted to meet with me, how someone posted this article on 4chan to get “trolls” to start commenting, and how one student started a campaign “Why I SFER” at his university.

—————————————-

Update 11\27: The alternative has been formed! Check it out: Students United for Public Education

105 thoughts on “I am a Student, and I Stand Against Students For Education Reform (SFER)

  1. Really nice, coherent and incisive piece. It’s always a good idea to see where an organization draws its support from, looks like you really did your homework here. I think education in this country, especially tertiary education needs a massive overhaul, but I’m not convinced by the charter school craze. Nice work.

  2. Pingback: When Students Awaken, Everything Will Change « Diane Ravitch's blog

  3. SFER came to our state during the reform battle. ConnCon (otherwise known as ConnCan) gathered 30-40 unsuspecting college students and gave them tshirts, free subway sandwiches and a bus ride to the state capital building. Reporters tried to ask questions, but they were unable to verbalize why they were there or what SFER stood for; it was very embarrassing, you would think. Most of the students were minorities. I don’t think our Governor would be too happy about an organization parading his three white sons around as pretend protestors.

    ConnCan, TFA, StudentsFirst, Stand on Children humiliated these students for their own purposes.

    Shame on all of you!

    • Hi Linda, thank you for your response. I actually think I may have seen a blog post\article about this. If not, something very similar. Even if you take a look around on some of their facebook pages, you will see students still are unsure of SFER’s efforts. Please keep in touch! Myself and other students will not rest until they are stopped.

      • Keep it up…what was most upsetting about the CT appearance is that they appeared to gather city students. All of them were of color…they had that deer in a headlight look. It is upsetting that these corporate reformers believe they are easier to manipulate and they use them.

    • Hi Brian, I actually tweeted about your response! Comments such as these are one of my favorites. Informing the public was my main goal of the creation of my blog, and I’m happy to see it’s doing its job. Will continue sharing knowledge through my writing, hope to keep in touch as we move forth with our efforts to stop SFER.

  4. Aloha Steph,

    I haven’t seen any SFER people on the UH campus (University of Hawaii), but tomorrow Michelle Rhee and Kevin Johnson will be speaking there tomorrow, Aug. 7th. I’ll be sure to talk with them regarding SFER if they are available. You have a great blog and I admire the work you do for public education while you complete your undergrad studies at Rutgers. Thank you.

    • Hi KuhioKane, great to see you on wordpress! And wow, Michelle Rhee in Hawaii…I need to hear how that goes. Thank you for your constant support on my work, I look forward to continue working on saving public ed together.

      • The fact that Rhee and Johnson are speaking about education and ethics is an all time low for the morality in our country. All questions had to be submitted ahead of time and they were filtered. The event was controlled by the moderator.

        Rhee, the TFA dropout who has lied her way to prominence, and her husband who is on tape, “apologizing” to a 16 year old girl he groped and fondled and then tried to “hush” with a payment of $1000 per month for life. Here are all of the horrific details: 

        Also, watch Rhee’s appearance in England…this Brit knocks her down a few pegs….watch the phony smile fade quickly. Notice she never appears publicy anywhere in the US where she will be debated or challenged:

        http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-18592185

  5. Thank you for speaking up and out against the education deformers who haven’t a clue. I’d love the corporateers who sponsor orgs like SFER to spend one day in my classroom, just one…

    With research like yours; with passion like you have; with your finger accurately on the pulse of education as you do, I’ve no doubt as to your future success!

  6. Pingback: Banned from the Students for Education Reform Facebook Page « NIKHIL GOYAL

  7. As a fellow student, I find it great to see that other students are getting involved with the education reform debate. However, I have to say that your words leave me troubled. (Before I go forward, let me say that I am not currently a member of SFER, nor have I been in the past.)

    Your assertion seems to be that SFER is not looking out for education equity but, rather, is simply an organization helping involved parents ensure access to better schools for their kids. This is pretty outlandish. SFER is working towards reforming education to include more assessment and accountability at ALL schools. While you may think that accountability is somehow bad, that’s a different debate. You can’t however say that it’s only fighting for charter schools, when it’s not.

    Your logic is also based around the fact that corporate icons serve on SFER’s board and that SFER was created by 2 Princeton students, and that, therefore, this means that SFER is only looking out for a corporate or elitist view of education. Let me address these one at a time:

    First, merely having executives on a board does not mean that the members are fighting for the interests of the corporations during their service on the board. A Proctor & Gamble executive serves on the board of the United Way. Does this mean that the United Way is somehow a bad organization? Absolutely not.

    Second, attending Princeton does not mean that you don’t look out for the social good of an education system, nor does it mean that you came from an elitist upbringing yourself. Sure, does Princeton have kids from Andover who had it a little easier getting in? Probably. But I think it’s totally unfair to blame ALL the people at these schools as having been born with silver spoons in their mouths. I’ll be attending an “Ivy League” school this coming year, but I came from a school that sends only about 20% onto a four year college, and I know some others (although not many, hence why I’m passionate about education equity issues) who are leaving lesser performing secondary schools and attending some of America’s great schools.

    Also, to respond to the KIPP argument. That’s sort of ludicrous, too. Yes, KIPP is structured, and I’m sure some kids get upset with it from time to time. But posting their twitter rants isn’t really great evidence to show that they HATE their schools. Afterall, in most cases, it was their (or their parents’ choice) to go there.

    Again, I applaud you in your attempt to express your views. But I think that, for the most part, you are very wrong.

    • Hi Jonathan,

      Thank you for taking the time to read my post, as well as submitting such a thorough and honest response.

      There are a few things I am going to address.

      1. Yes, I see where providing parents a choice to choose what school their child goes to seems like a good idea. Like having the choice of what doctor we choose to see, we all want the choice of what’s good. Why would anyone want a bad doctor, let alone, a bad school? So, please, just pause and think about that for a second. No one wants a bad school. But under law (please correct me if I am wrong, I am not a political science major), but isn’t equal opportunity supposed to be guaranteed? And again, correct me if I’m mistaken, but isn’t having a quality education the base to such opportunity to succeed? Isn’t learning the basic skills to write effectively, learn 21st century skills, access to pens, paper, books, etc. something needed to help students excel–heck–help students to just survive? Why should parents have to worry about if their students will be getting those basic necessities? Why should that even have to be a concern for parents and students’ in today’s day and age. It shouldn’t. As I said, getting a child into a quality school should not have to depend on luck, zip code, etc. Parents shouldn’t be so afraid of having a child because they don’t know if they’ll be able to afford to live in a district in which the school will address their needs. Please, do not get me wrong, I see the good intentions here, I honestly do. But believing that it is SFER and charter schools that are the ultimate solution to “closing the gap” is, “quite outlandish” if you ask me. From what I’ve studied through my blogging and research, through education courses, and working with under-served students, we cannot depend on schools alone to close the gaps. Poverty has to be looked at, and it has to be seriously battled.

      2. I am not pointing out these two girls because they are from Princeton. I know a few people in Ivy League schools, and they are absolutely wonderful. Two who come from impoverished backgrounds, I know that not all Ivy League students are wealthy. But coming from my standpoint, I cannot tell you how many times I have wanted to literally drop out of school–or do what they do, “put their education on hold”–and go into these high-needs area. But when I suggested this concern to my various professors, you know what they said? They said I need to learn first. I need to become experienced in what I want to fix. I cannot just let words on paper or in a book be the source of my motives, because that would be, “quite outlandish.” They suggested I am too young and too inexperienced to go out there and battle the issues in our education system, regardless of the evident passion I have. They ultimately said, if I want to make a serious change, learn what I am going to be battling first and do NOT drop out of school and ignorantly go into the field. I am sorry, but from what I understand, these two young ladies (who I am sure do have good intentions), do not know enough to be gearing SFER. Would you trust two med students who did just a few years of schooling, put their edu on hold, to go all of a sudden be a credible source to cure diseases?

      3. On KIPP schools, I agree. Tweets are not enough of a credible source, which is why I posted the additional articles. But what I was aiming with by getting the Tweets, is that those are students genuine outsource of their opinions. Sure, I could have easily messaged them and asked them, but don’t you think those answers would have been a little biased? My aim with getting Tweets was getting something honest. I’ll look into how I can possibly get something more honest than that for you.

      4. I am not simply attacking the corp holders of SFER or the organizers\leaders of SFER, I am attacking the SFER’s threat to the progress of educational equity and students’ voice. As I mentioned, I work alongside some incredible students. Their passion and drive to make a change fuels me to no end. I wish that you could understand how threatening it is to be at the point where we are. As a future educator and a student who works with students, my main goal is to empower students, to make sure their voices and concerns are heard. There are not enough words in the dictionary to express how threatening it is to know there is another “student voice” that could easily silence and outrace us because they have the perks to do so. It’s unfair and it goes against everything I believe in with not only empowering student voices, but humanity equality, and social justice. Our voices count too–don’t they? Why should those students’ voices be more valuable than ours?

      I believe I addressed the issues you brought up, and I really do appreciate and respect your opinion–I love when my opinions are challenged. It’s the only way to really learn, and I’m interested in what opposing viewpoints have to say.

      Let me know if I missed anything, or if anything isn’t clear. And if you come up with more arguments, please send them my way.

      Take Care,

      Stephanie Rivera

      • Hi Stephanie,

        Thanks so much for replying, and thank you for your continued civility during this debate.

        I want to address each of your 4 points one by one, if you will allow me:

        1. I completely agree that we need to be fighting for the betterment of education for ALL students, not just those who win the lottery or who were born into a certain zip code. In fact, that’s why I like SFER. Your post seems to focus on the charter school aspect of SFER, but it is crucial to remember that SFER doesn’t just work in the charter school realm of education reform. Rather, it also works to reform our current “regular” public schools by encouraging more measures of accountability (e.g. tenure reform). Therefore, you simply can’t say that SFER only focuses on increasing charter schools.

        However, for a moment, let’s talk about charter schools. Personally, I believe that we’ve seen incredible results from charter schools, like those part of KIPP. (I’ll address your KIPP concerns in #3.) I believe that charter schools are a GREAT, albeit TEMPORARY, solution. They shouldn’t replace all “regular” schools, but, as we work for more holistic reforms of the education system, they provide an outlet for students to succeed NOW. You mentioned that you didn’t like the “lottery” determining whether a kid succeeds or not. But there’s a way to fix this: open more charter schools so you don’t HAVE TO have a lottery.

        2. So, correct me if I’m wrong, your problem with the Princeton students creating an organization is not that they attend Princeton, but that they are too young and inexperienced to handle these issues. I find this interesting because you later contradict yourself in your fourth point (see below). In your second point, you attack the Princeton students because you don’t think that they are ready to start an organization and haven’t learned enough to express their views–but then in your fourth point you state that your “main goal is to empower students, to make sure their voices and concerns are heard.” If this was true, wouldn’t you be encouraging the Princeton students to become active and involved? I would have thought so. Their views maybe different from your’s and your peers’, but they are genuine student views.

        3. Again, I think that a lot of those articles are opinions, etc. Granted, some of that opinion is likely true; KIPP schools are not all perfect. But, still, if parents have chosen KIPP, it’s most likely a better option than the alternative–hence why they chose to send their kids to KIPP.

        4. I definitely think that your views deserve to be heard. But so do SFER’s. As I said in #2, I think that you unfairly attack them for what you perceive to be inexperience when you too could be considered to have the same experience levels of them. I think that youth have a lot to say, and I think that both you and SFER deserve to be heard.

        Cheers,

        Jonathan

      • Information on KIPP..also check School Matters and the NJ newspaper cited at the bottom.

        The Facts About KIPP That Kevin Chavous Ignores
        Posted: 06 Aug 2012 07:33 AM PDT

        The other day at Huffington Post, school privatization advocate, Kevin Chavous, gave a “shout out” to KIPP, Inc., the nation’s largest corporate chain of charter schools and certainly the most popular high-rolling philanthro-capitalists who would never send their own children to one of these total compliance lockdown schools.  As is customary for KIPP promoters, Chavous tries to portray the KIPP chain gang model as an outgrowth of the late Harriet Ball’s teaching method. 

        We know, however, from Jay Mathews’ saccharine tribute (Work Hard, Be Nice) to KIPP founders, Mike Feinberg and David Levin, Harriet Ball did not want her name associated with KIPP’s penal version of her own tough, yet loving, approach to teaching.  In fact, a former KIPP teacher whom I interviewed for an extended research essay on KIPP teaching, had traveled to Texas to get to know Harriet Ball; he found her distraught about KIPP’s misuse of her name for practices that she did not endorse and did not use.

        The other piece of Chavous’s pep piece for KIPP that requires correction is the claim that “80 percent of KIPP alumni have gone on to college.”  This is an old bit of propaganda first circulated by Jonathan Alter for a Newsweek pep piece for corporate education reform four years ago:

        The irony is, we know what works to close the achievement gap. At the 60 KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) schools, more than 80 percent of 16,000 randomly selected low-income students go to col­lege, four times the national average for poor kids.

        Suspecting hyperbole gone wild or just old-fashioned making it up, reporter Carolyn Grannan called KIPP’s home office in San Francisco to check the numbers and found that when Alter presented his outrageous “fact” in 2008, a total of 447 former KIPPsters were attending college.  

        As busy as he is during this election season, it is easy for me to imagine how Mr. Chavous could come to depend on discredited stories from old Newsweek’s for his “facts.”  As senior adviser and Board member of American Federation for Children, America’s leading school voucher advocacy group, Chavous is teaming this summer and fall with Rhee’s Michelle Students First to dole out millions to political candidates who sign on to support school privatization by voucher and/or charter. 

        If Chavous had checked with the KIPP home office or even done a Google search, he would have found this from KIPP’s own research:

        As of March 2011, 33 percent of students who completed a KIPP middle school 10 or more years ago have graduated from a four-year college.

        Now this figure would be more impressive if 33 percent of KIPP students who started at KIPP in 5th grade ended up graduating from college, especially since the completion rate for low-income children is less than 9 percent.  However, consider these facts:

        From 40 to 60 percent of children who begin KIPP in 5th grade leave before completing 8th grade, with the largest percentage of leavers being low-test performers and students who do not conform to KIPP’s total compliance demands.  From a 2011 study headed by Gary Miron: 

         . . . .The departure of low-performing students helps KIPP improve its aggregate results. Unlike local school districts, KIPP is not replacing the students who are leaving. When a student returns to a traditional public school after the autumn head count, KIPP retains most or all of the money (the amount depends on the particular state) allocated for educating that student during that school year.

        . . . KIPP schools enrolled a lower percentage of students with disabilities (5.9%) than did their local school districts (12.1%).

        . . . KIPP enrolled a lower percentage of students classified as English Language Learners (11.5%) than did their local school districts (19.2%).

        . . . Combining public and private sources of revenue, KIPP received, on average, $18,491 per pupil in 2007-08. This is $6,500 more per pupil than what the local school districts received.

        Even with these massive advantages, KIPP is able, then, to see approximately 17 percent of the children who begin KIPP in 5thgrade end up with a college diploma.  That would still be impressive, if it were not for the horrific fact that Chavous does not mention.  The thousands of children who do NOT make through KIPP, to college, or through college have all absorbed one important lesson before they are discarded, and that is that their failure to make it is no one’s responsibility except their own.  And so in the end, the “No Excuses” ideology applies universally to the children, as well as teachers, who are psychologically maimed by KIPP, even if it never applies to KIPP itself.  And for that atrocity, Mr. Chavous, there is no excuse.

        KIPP at Center of Corruption in Camden
        Posted: 06 Aug 2012 05:46 AM PDT
        KIPP, Inc. has joined forces with the most corrupt and ruthless charter school operator that Philadelphia has to offer, in a takeover bid for large chunks of one of the most vulnerable school communities in America.

        Find on this money train, too, a posse of political predators and hungry hangers-on eager to fill their pockets from bleeding dry the public funds for Camden schools. And don’t forget the other partner in this business deal, the Cooper Foundation, headed by George Norcross III, whose medical complex sits next door to where the planned KIPP incarceration camp is to be built.

         Norcross’s brother, Donald Norcross, sponsored the legislation in Trenton to make the whole deal possible.  Oh, yes, something not in the excellent report below–the “operators” behind the plan are offering $500,000 to the Camden Schools for this property, which is worth millions to a sprawling hospital corporation looking to expand.

        So if the whole deal goes bust after 5 years, which has been KIPP’s history in Camden, Norcross’s corporation will be standing be to do something with that property, yes?

        Here is a terrific piece of reporting by the Courier-Journal of Cherry Hill, just down the road from Camden, NJ.  The reporter is Kevin Shelly.

      • Here is the full article by Kevin Shelly:

        Like many charters, KIPP has a reputation for hiring young inexperienced teachers at modest salaries, but often being heavy on well-paid administration.

        Many of its teachers are graduates of the Teach For America program, which trains college graduates to be teachers in return for a two-year commitment to teaching, mostly in urban settings.

        TFA’s founder, Wendy Kopp, is married to Richard Barth, KIPP’s CEO.

        http://www.courierpostonline.com/article/20120806/NEWS01/308060010/Hope-Act-applicants-under-review

    • FYI, United Way gives a ton of money to the Boy Scouts of America, which as I’m sure you know is an organization that has an anti-gay agenda. I know that has little to do with education, but I would say that makes them a somewhat despicable organization. Ya know, if you happen to like civil rights and equality for all people.

      As for the rest of your contentions, I think you need to dig deeper into the issues, especially the issue of accountability. Parents choosing schools is only part of what SFER and other corporate backed education reform programs do. Accountability is another part and it’s pretty ugly.

      • Hi Rachel,

        By no means was my post an endorsement of the BSA, nor was it even an endorsement of the United Way. The reason I mentioned it was simply because it shows how other non-profit, for-good organizations utilize corporate executives on their boards. Lots of executives serve on the Board of Governors for the National Red Cross.

        I completely agree that SFER does quite a bit of work in ushering in other reforms–that was one of the things that I mentioned in my post. It sounds like we may have different opinions on how beneficial accountability reform is to schools. Personally, while accountability shouldn’t only consist of test score usage, I believe that there needs to be some form of evaluation for teachers.

        Cheers,

        Jonathan

    • Mr. Jeffrey: I’m afraid that you are the “wrong” one. You set up a strawman, attributed it to Stephanie, and then attempted to beat her up with it.

      She never said that “having executives on a board means that the members are fighting for the interests of the corporations during their service on the board.

      She also never said that attending Princeton means that you don’t look out for the social good of an education system, and that you came from an elitist upbringing yourself.

      YOU said these things. If you’re going to criticize her argument, I suggest you address HER argument. (Which is so solid and well-constructed, it’s no wonder why you have to make one up to attack instead.)

    • As a vice president of a SFER Chapter, and an avid ed reformer, I would like to make a point. The point i would like to make is that national doesn’t tell its chapters what they HAVE to do. I have never been told I cannot do something on my campus because the Board Members said no. Not once. I do not have to ask National for permission to put on a panel or advocate. The real goal is to get college students to stand up for what they PERSONALLY believe in. It is an encouragement of civic involvement that is missing on our college campuses nationally.

  8. Stephanie, if you REALLY want to make a difference, don’t just be against things. Be for something, and work toward it.

    I spend most of my days working FOR an educational future in which students have far more choices in their individual learning experiences, in which they can learn dance or music or latin or programming or small business no matter what school they go to; a future where not tests determine their grades, but what they do every day; a future where students are engaged and have tools and teachers who compel their interest.

    Diane Ravitch is not part of that future. She’s a bitter lady who makes a fortune stirring up resentment. She and her ilk have no vision of the future. (To her credit, though, she at least admits this freely.) Nursing anger is all she brings.

    Want to make a difference? Be a builder instead.

    Forget the pride of being an “activist”. Activists do not change the world. At best, an activist can inspire an engineer, and entrepreneur, a researcher, a worker somewhere to invent or do something that will change the world for the better. More likely and more often, activists inspire too-hasty, ill-thought laws. Activists too frequently cause more problems than they solve. The bulk of the big problems out there? Their root cause is bad law made up by people taking shortcuts through history.

    • How is Diane making a fortune by stirring up resentment? You sound like a bitter ignorant man.

      How exactly are YOU building? What are your affiliations with these profiteering faux reform agencies?

      • Linda, perhaps fortune it a term over-used, especially by those who profess activist credentials. Lets say she’s earning a lifestyle that fits her vision of non-retirement.

        Now, you might want to be careful who you call ignorant. They may be far more learned than yourself. Or, they may be learners themselves. We shouldn’t be in the business here of insulting and stifling learning.

        “Reform” I’ve come to see as an offensive term. Let’s call the people you’re asking about genuine but short-term attempts at “competency-based assessment”. I have no formal association with them.

        I just can’t live with 50% of our young Black males dropping out of school. Can you?

      • Interesting the 50% stat is the rate, in my state, of minority students who leave charter schools before graduation or sooner and then get dumped back into the public schools they drained them from? When you have a disability, behavioral issues and/or don’t test too well they are not that interested in you anymore. Some kids don’t respond too well to militaristic test prep. I wonder if that contributes to the drop out rate?

        I really don’t see these groups as reformers…plunderers, vultures, opportunists, greedy dilettantes, deformers. I wonder where their kids go to school? Rahm Emanuel, Obama, Gates, Jeb Bush….not public schools and not charters. People motivated by money don’t understand people motivated by human interactions and connections.
        They will not improve the overall educational opportunities in our country….they will and are further dividing the haves and have nots.

        We will pay the price eventually while they suck from the public trough. Funny how conservatives want less government but are willing to get in on the publicly funded education gravy train via testing, pointless data collection programs, cyber schools, profit charters, charter management companies, etc. Even Rupert is interested…God help us when the leader of a company responsible for hacking into the phone of a 13 year old missing/murdered girl is suddenly interested in our children. Guess who will be making a fortune?

      • Linda, without knowing your state, I can confidently say that the data you are citing is urban myth. Only 4% of students go into charter schools, so it would be pretty hard for charters to “dump” as many as you claim. You have a great deal of reading, learning to do before you’re ready to pass judgment on charters. Don’t take the establishment line; dig deep, find out what these schools really do.

        BTW, there is a brewing investigation of public school districts “deleting” absences by the hundreds of thousands. Not sure what’s happening there, but it doesn’t look in the students’ best interests. But, maybe it is.

      • Nope! Wrong again Ed. Charter schools in NYC and CT have lost 50% or more between 5th and 9th grade and 9th and 12th grade. They don’t like to make that public. You keep reading your “research”. No response for the judging ideas not people, eh?

    • Hey, “Ed”: You’re either an adolescent or an adolescent mentality. Which is it?

      Your post isn’t the most obtuse I’ve ever read. But it’s close.

      Stop the name-calling; it makes you look even less credible than you obviously are.

      • Jim, Ask good questions. Listen honestly. Be open to answers that don’t fit the establishment mold. Judge ideas, not people and their titles. Things won’t be so obtuse for you then.

      • Ed,

        Judge ideas not people….this is your advice? Were you not the one who called Diane Ravitch bitter and you stated she was making a fortune stirring up resentment? Bitter and resentment…I see that as judging. Practice what you preach or do not post your opinion.

  9. Pingback: “Get ready to get stomped on.” « Teacher Under Construction

  10. It saddens me that there is so much negativity and hostility in this blog. What good does it do to bicker back and forth with each other? It seems no matter what side of the issue you take on education reform you will always have someone who disagrees. There are obviously many intelligent and seasoned veterans who have posted comments on this page. Why isn’t everyone trying to work together? Is our main goal high quality education for all or to see who has the sharpest wit on a collegiate blog site? With all the problems that unfortunately plague our world it seems trivial to me that so much time and energy would be dedicated to bringing down a student organization. Are there not better uses of our time and resources? Is SFER really that bad? In the grand scheme of things is SFER really responsible for the detriment to our educational system? I think we all know the answer to this question.

    I would like to know what exactly were your intentions in writing this blog Stephanie? I have a hard time understanding what this organization did that was so bad to make you create this blog. It seems like this blog is very personal. Did the whole SFER organization disrupt your life in some way shape or form? Did you ask to be a member at your school and they denied you? Did you want to go to Princeton instead of Rutgers and you hold a bitter resentment towards this school? Maybe SFER was your idea and they stole and you’ve made it your life mission to bring down these girls? Call me cynical but I am hard pressed to believe that Stephanie’s motives and intentions are crystal clear.

    I commend you Catharine Bellinger and Alexis Morin for being positive leaders on your campus. As for any student who tries to be more civic minded. Let’s stop this negativity and move forward in making a better tomorrow for the kids!

      • Negativity and hostility? Personally, it seems to be more along the line of a direct and bold statement. In regards to “everyone trying to work together”, this post is about exposing SFER, and it did just that. Also, at the end Stephanie asks for contact information of those interested in helping her. This makes your argument invalid. Additionally, comments are just comments. You can’t expect participants from a comment box to work together–that is where the Google form comes in handy. Obviously SFER is not responsible for our terrible education system; however, it isn’t helping it either.

        I do believe that Stephanie’s intentions were quite clear. The title says it all, and her conclusion reels it all in. Personal or not, it was extremely ludicrous of you to even propose the question of whether the author was mad because she wanted to attend Princeton instead of Rutgers. Get off your high horse. While it is a prestigious and reputable school, it might not be for everyone. You seem to have the mindset of rankings and prestige to be the best options for students. As for the rest of your proposed inquiries–it disgusts me. You went from having semi-annoying questions to total ad hominem.

        What are *your* intentions? Did you expect her to answer all of those loaded fallacies?

    • Nick,

      You’re talking about negativity and bickering, yet ripped Stephanie’s intentions and motives? Are you serious? You’re really taking personal shots at someone fighting for what they believe in? You know nothing about this person. Furthermore, find me a chapter of SFER that isn’t at a prestigious private school or a well-known public school. Find me a SFER member who is from a place without major poverty. Find me someone in SFER who will shut me up. In the grand scheme of things is SFER really responsible for the detriment to our educational system? How about you answer that question and get back to us.

      I’m willing to bet you’ve had everything handed to you in your life. You probably drive a car (most likely foreign) that your parents bought for you. You probably attended the best private schools. You probably have a rosy view of the world with peace and unicorns and other cute things. Well, guess what? The real world doesn’t work that way. This isn’t about rubbing elbows with the elite. This is about fighting for what you believe in, even against a high to do foe. I don’t think you’ll respond to me and prove me wrong.

      If you’re looking for someone to take shots at, come after me. I’ll be waiting for the email to come back for more. I double dare you, you cynic.

      • It is good to see chivalry is not dead Brian. I am sure Stephanie will be eternally grateful for your valiant efforts to safeguard her reputation even if you did revert to a barbaric state. Stephanie is a big girl touting 20 whole years of life experiences. She knew what she was getting herself into when she started this blog. Unless she did not do the “extensive” research she claims.

  11. Nick,

    The reason I did not provide you with a thorough response as I initially intended to do, is because your presumptions are so far-off that providing you with my evidence would most likely be disregarded by you completely. You have made strong assumptions about who I am as a human being. How long have you been following my blog? Do you know my intentions for even creating this blog? For doing what I do? If you DID, you would understand why your comment is so bizarre and absurd.

    Do YOUR research on ME before you make those hard accusations. I did not simply read about SFER one day then write a post on their intentions. I thoroughly did as much work as I possibly could on my end, and taking it further by meeting with actual students in SFER. Please read my second response about SFER, and how I am willing to hear their side.

    I will most likely try and provide you with another elaboration on your questions, but right now I am exhausted and trying to put in as much energy as I have left to give you a response.

    If you’d like a real discussion, I’d love to chat. Even via phone to make my point clear to you. Just shoot me an e-mail: SRRivera92@gmail.com

    – Stephanie Rivera

    • I don’t think you answered Nick’s question but thats up to him to determine. He does raise an interesting question? Out of all the non-profit organizations in the ed reform business why SPECIFICALLY Sfer. Even if you did research the group something had to lead you to that group. What about this group makes you so angry opposed to other groups in the same arena. It sure seems personal to me. You did seem to lose your composure in your last response which make me think he hit a sensitive spot. Maybe the truth stings a little bit?

      • Hi Danyella,

        I don’t know if you read my post clearly, but I said I’d provide a thorough response when I’m not mentally drained. That wouldn’t be respectful would it? By not giving him my best answer? I did SFER because I am an advocate for student voices. With the work that I do, I came across the org, “Students for Education Reform.” Initially interested, seeing that they may align with what I do with other student-led\student focused groups, I thought there could be opportunity there assuming our goals were aligned. But, as I mentioned in my post, I know never to believe things on the surface (as I almost made the mistake with StudentsFirst–and in response to your accusations that I only wrote an article on SFER, I did one on StudentsFirst, too.) I agree that I lost my cool that I’ve been keeping all day in my last response, because his attack was not on my passion, but on who as I am as a person, and I refuse to stand for that (please see my post, “How Blogging and Social Media Changed My Life,” and you will see why).

        Thank you for your input, Danyella. As I responded to another comment by Jonathan Jeffery, I do respect and welcome criticism–it is the only way I can improve as a person, and assure my intentions are being clearly seen. But, there is a line between being walked all over and standing up for who I am. I hope that you understand. And as I said to Nick, if you’d like to seriously discuss this further, I am always welcome for a phone chat considering those usually flow better rather than going back and forth on a blog post–but whatever you prefer, I am ready for discussion, always. As long as you’re willing to listen and truly engage.

        – Stephanie Rivera

      • Danyella–

        When someone questions your integrity, it gets extremely difficult to remain composed. The feeling of indignation is probably the worst of them all. As I mentioned on my previous post, the attacks were on her, not her ideas.

      • SFER is a student organization. Stephanie is a student. Maybe that’s why she chose SFER. I know, there are so many out there to choose from. I think Steph made a good choice.

        Which lying piece of crap outfit do you think she should have outed?

  12. Stephanie,

    I wish you the best in your aspirations as a teacher and blogger. My only concern for you is the professionalism of the bloggers that support you. I think I have already witnessed several members threaten each other and use inappropriate language. Obviously you cannot control what they write but maybe you could comment on their posts (friends or not) and remind them of blogging etiquette? This is your chance to shine don’t let this blog be filled with trashy comments.

    • Hi Tina,

      I respect and appreciate your concern, but denying their first amendment would go against everything I believe in. Their opinions are theirs and theirs only. No one else represents who I am or my thoughts, and I am making that very clear in this statement right now.

      Thank you again, and I wish you the best.

      – Stephanie Rivera

      • Think of it like this. To respect my blog is to respect me. Many years ago I was a high school teacher. Sure my adolescents could yell out profanities during my instruction but did I allow it? No. Hold yourself to the highest standards. Would the NY times allow this? Let chaos happen and it will. Command respect and that will happen to :-) Just some advice from a old lady.

  13. Ms. Rivera, I believe this blog post was well researched and an honest deconstruction of an otherwise questionable organization. Mostly people who think you have a personal vendetta against the creators of SFER have clearly missed the point. This is an organization that seeks to be at the helm of the fight for education reform, yet from their very infrastructure there are holes. I can go into a huge mechanical breakdown of everything that needs to be addressed but I would mostly just be adding onto what you already said.

    I see some of the attacks have been directly aimed at your character, some even drawn to make you seem as though you are jealous of SFER’s “success” (lol @ success and SFER used in the same sentence) but these are obvious baseless attacks used to not only put you down but to silence your student voice. Never allow your student voice to ever be muddled or muted by those whose main purpose is to cause discord or personal cognitive dissonance to yourself. As Jon Stewart stated most recently, “I’m no going to censor myself to comfort your ignorance”

    Very nice work already and I look forward to any future blogs you may have.

    • I suspect most of them are TFA, ConnCon, Rheeject trolls who have been unleashed to control the exposure of their true intent…..this has nothing to do with teaching and learning. This is a well funded coordinated effort to destroy the public schools, the unions and turn it over to profiteering, privatizing vultures. Teachers are human capital and kids are cattle represented by test scores. Go reform!

      BUSINESS
      Private firms eyeing profits from U.S. public schools
      Thu, Aug 02 19:46 PM IST
      By Stephanie Simon

      NEW YORK, Aug 1 (Reuters) – The investors gathered in a tony private club in Manhattan were eager to hear about the next big thing, and education consultant Rob Lytle was happy to oblige.

      Think about the upcoming rollout of new national academic standards for public schools, he urged the crowd. If they’re as rigorous as advertised, a huge number of schools will suddenly look really bad, their students testing way behind in reading and math. They’ll want help, quick. And private, for-profit vendors selling lesson plans, educational software and student assessments will be right there to provide it.

      “You start to see entire ecosystems of investment opportunity lining up,” said Lytle, a partner at The Parthenon Group, a Boston consulting firm. “It could get really, really big.”

      Indeed, investors of all stripes are beginning to sense big profit potential in public education.

      http://in.mobile.reuters.com/article/idINL2E8J15FR20120802?irpc=932

  14. Pingback: SFER Post: 3 Days After « Teacher Under Construction

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  18. I think it’s always important to question the validity and motivations behind different organizations, because to blindly agree with everything is stupid. That being said, as a recent student joining SFER, I just want to emphasize that we are your peers. At our meetings, we don’t chant the SFER mantra and collect donations, plotting to take over the nation with our ideals and money. At our meetings, we’re constantly researching, reading, discussing, and critically analyzing current educational systems implemented in our city. We supplement our discussions with outside sources – in fact, based on recommendations from my chapter’s VP, I am currently reading “The Death and Life of the Great American School System.”

    And like a lot of fellow members, I agree with Diane Ravitch’s push for an improved curriculum. It just makes sense. Without specific standards for teaching, we can’t possibly reach a solid standard of education. That being said, I think that many problems still exist outside of curriculum. I don’t believe that one element can radically fix our school system, and I think you believe that as well. My ideas on education reform are constantly changing, because my goal is to educate myself as much as possible about what makes a great school.

    I joined SFER to further expand my knowledge. I think it’s fair for you to question the resources and funding of SFER – that’s a part of being a smart, well-informed individual. To take anyone or any company at pure face value is ignorant. That being said, I think your point that students in SFER are wealthy, privileged, misinformed kids without a real investment in education is a bit unfair.

    Some members of my chapter come from great schools, whether they be public, charter, magnet, or private; others come from failing ones. The powerful thing is that we’ve all ended up in the same place, and now we’re trying to figure out why these differences exist. If you take away the label of “SFER,” you would still find a group of impassioned individuals searching for solutions. We’re your peers. To attack us for joining an organization that has empowered us to take action, educate ourselves, and constantly question is ridiculous. I think that if every student dedicated to education reform (regardless of club or organization or affiliation) collaborated, we’d be an amazing power to be reckoned with – and we might actually make a difference.

    Thanks for your time, consideration, and passion. Good luck with everything in the future!

  19. Pingback: Response to Student’s Response on my TFA Post « Teacher Under Construction

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    • Hi Kris,

      Thank you so much for reading my post, it means a lot. It’s definitely been a unique journey and growing discussion. There is a post currently being written that takes the essence of this particular piece further. Would love to hear your thoughts once it’s up!

      Best,
      Stephanie

      • I look forward to it. Did you notice I wrote great “price”? Gotta love my “smart” phone–it can sure make me look dumb. :)

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  40. Pingback: Introduction to Students United for Public EducationSave Our Schools

  41. Amazing blog Stephanie, thoughtful, coherent, carefully drafted and very shocking all at the same time.,. after reading this article at 3am (its one of those endless nights of pleasure reading) I couldn’t resist and read many of your other posts. I’m particularly happy about UCF SLAP making it to your list of students protests of 2012. Keep up the good work..I want to read moooreee!

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  45. Pingback: Where I Stand – Standardized Testing, Civic Education, and the Bottom-Up Approach to Educational Justice | inspirEDucation

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