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Summing Up the Work of the NPE Grassroots Network: 2020

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Marla Kilfoyle, director of the Network for Public Education’s Grassroots Network, summarizes the work of the 160 or so organizations across the nation in 2020, that used their energies to promote, defend, and improve public schools.

Marla begins like this:

The NPE Grassroots Education Network is a network of over 160 grassroots organizations nationwide who have joined together to preserve, promote, improve, and strengthen our public schools. If you know of a group that would like to join this powerful network, please go here to sign on. If you have any questions about the NPE Grassroots Education Network, please contact Marla Kilfoyle, NPE Grassroots Education Network Liaison, at [email protected]

Notes from Marla

Needless to say, 2020 was a very difficult year.  Despite the many hardships that individuals and organizations in the network have faced, we continued to rise up to help others.  As you read the year-end roundup, you will see organizations and individuals ravaged by the impact of COVID and social injustice continue to organize with impact. The NPE Grassroots Education Network 2020 roundup is a testament to a small sample of work that has had a lasting impact on our nation. The 2020 roundup is organized into regions. I know that  2021 will be a year of continued solidarity and respect for the work we each do every single day.  

National Front

The Network for Public Education was very busy this year. In August of 2020, NPE published Broken Promises: An Analysis of Charter School Closures From 1999-2017.  Thereport provides the first comprehensive examination of charter failure rates over time—beginning in 1999 and ending in 2017. By following all charter schools from the year they opened, we were able to determine how long they lasted before closing down. We also determined how many students have been displaced by failing charter schools and where those closures are most likely to occur. In November 2020, NPE exposed that charter schools took between $1-2 Billion in PPP COVID funds meant for small business owners. To read that report, go here. Mark your calendar for the new date for the NPE/NPE Action National Conference. Due to the ongoing dangers posed by COVID-19, the National Conference has been rescheduled to October 23/24, 2021. The conference will still take place at the same location, the Doubletree Hotel in Philadelphia. NPE  will be sending more information to registrants shortly. Know that your conference registration is secure, as is NPE’s commitment to speakers and panels.  FairTest launched a petition in late 2020 to call for the federal government and states to suspend high-stakes standardized testing in spring 2021.  Please make sure you sign and share the petition. Bob Schaeffer, interim Executive Director of FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing, sent a great update on what Fair Test is working on. “In part due to COVID school closings, 2020 was a surprisingly good year for the testing reform movement.  By the numbers: Colleges and universities with ACT/SAT optional policies for fall 2020 applicants were at 1,070.  In 2021 colleges and universities with ACT/SAT optional policies increased to 1,685. States waiving federal standardized testing requirements in spring 2019 was at 0. In 2020 that number increased to 50. Jurisdictions requiring seniors to pass high-stakes exit exams to graduate in spring 2019 was at 13. Jurisdictions requiring seniors to pass high-stakes exit exams to graduate in spring 2020 fell to 0. Pages viewed by visitors to fairtest.org in the calendar year 2019 was at 995,000, and by 2020 that number increased to 1,637,000.” Defending the Early Years has had a successful year of working toward and accomplishing their mission by providing resources for parents and teachers of young children, advocating for appropriate early childhood education, and fighting for the rights and needs of young children. Here are their 2020 accomplishments…by the numbers! Published one COVID-19 resource to help parents and teachers in the early days of the pandemic, published two comprehensive reports, produced three videos, broadcasted three webinars, announced seven policy priorities, awarded thirteen mini-grants, wrote eighteen op-eds, articles, and blogs, had sixty-two advocates sign up for DEY’s Working Groups, had five hundred and fifty-nine parents and teachers participate in their DEY survey, one thousand twenty-one people registered for the DEY Summer Institute, reported over four thousand subscribed to their DEY  monthly newsletter, and have over ten thousand followers on social media. In the Public Interest is a research and policy organization that studies public goods and services.  They have published so many powerful newsletters that the list would be enormous.  Please head over to their website to see all that they did in 2020.  The Journey for Justice Alliance’s powerful Equity or Else campaign highlighted the demand that schools are opened safely and equitably. Schott Foundation and Journey for Justice Alliance were two organizations that co-hosted the Democratic Presidential Candidates in a Public Education Forum in December of 2019. Rethinking Schools book Rethinking Ethnic Studies was named 2019 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year. Here is a list of some of the other outstanding 2019/2020 accomplishments.  Rethinking Schools made effective and powerful use of their important book Teaching for Black Lives by hosting webinars for thousands of educators, parents, and community activists to enhance anti-racist teaching. They expanded The New Teacher Book webinar into a series of bi-weekly workshops to apply the book’s themes to teaching in the pandemic and to build ties with one another. They also produced new teaching guides to give educators practical, hands-on strategies for bringing social justice teaching to life. They published Teacher Unions and Social Justice, an anthology of more than 60 articles documenting the history and the how-tos of social justice unionism. Together, they describe the growing movement to forge multiracial community alliances to defend and transform public education. Rethinking Schools also redesigned and strengthened their digital infrastructure to bring social justice teaching stories to the fingertips of thousands of more educators to better serve their readers. They expand their focus on climate justice education work through their Teach Climate Justice campaign with the Zinn Education Project, and regular articles in the magazine. Finally, they published four issues of Rethinking Schools magazine — including an expanded “Teaching and Learning in the Pandemic” issue — and launched a new feature in the magazine of contributions from a diverse selection of education activists.

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