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Petitioning Governor Chafee

You said no to the Iraq war, say no to zero tolerance education

The people of Rhode Island need your help in encouraging Governor Chafee to take the lead in saying no to the top-down, zero-tolerance, corporate-backed take over of public education. Achievement First (AF), a Charter Management Organization (CMO) that embraces a zero-tolerance education model, is currently trying to expand into Rhode Island.  AF, like other zero-tolerance CMO's, supports the use of shunning and harsh discipline to control students, hurts the development of student voice and critical thinking skills, limits parental involvement in teaching and learning, creates high levels of student and teacher attrition, serves few high need students, and drains needed financial resources from traditional public schools (see for blog postings, testimonials, and the facts about AF).  

AF has also received large financial backing by national corporate education “reformers” such as the Broad Foundation ($1 million grant) to fund their expansion and lobby public officials to support their application in RI. In addition to money, the Broad Foundation has exerted its influence in RI (and across the country) through the graduates of its academy.  In RI two of those influential graduates, the Providence school superintendent and RI Commissioner of Education Deborah Gist, strongly support AF’s proposal.

Fortunately, RI has a governor with a history of standing up to powerful forces with questionable claims as he did when he was the lone Republican U.S. Senator to say no to the Bush Administration and the authorization of the Iraq war.  However, with the commissioner and AF’s lobbyists spinning the “truth” about AF, he needs your knowledge and encouragement to once again be an example of courage and leadership by saying no to the spread of zero-tolerance, resource siphoning, corporate-backed education "reform" through his rejection of AF's application to operate charter schools in RI.

If you've had a poor experience with an Achievement First school or similar CMO, or have seen education policies pushed through against your community’s wishes, or simply believe that the public voice is vital in public education, please sign this petition and share why you're signing with Governor Chafee.

Letter to
Governor Chafee
I just signed the following petition:

Dear Governor Chafee,

In 2002, you were the lone Republican member of the U.S. Senate to oppose authorizing the war in Iraq, something that history has shown was the right choice to make. Even in the face of pressure from colleagues and the marketing machine of the Bush administration you found the courage to say no when the facts didn’t support the assertion that war was necessary.

Today you are once again needed to take the lead in standing up against powerful forces who are making questionable claims about what’s best for RI and the country by saying no to Achievement First’s (AF) application to operate charter schools in RI. AF embodies the “zero tolerance,” top-down, business model of education that is being pushed on communities across the country by corporate-backed education "reformers" and Charter Management Organizations (CMOs).

AF, like other zero-tolerance, business-model CMOs, supports the use of harsh discipline to control students, hurts the development of student's college readiness skills, limits parental involvement in teaching and learning, creates high levels of student and teacher attrition, serves few high need students, and drains financial resources from traditional public schools.

Achievement First (AF) follows a strict disciplinarian “zero tolerance” behavioral model that attempts to raise academic achievement through severely punitive measures including the use of shunning. This model creates a learning environment that AF students strongly believe is unfair, results in large numbers of detentions and suspensions, and contributes to high rates of students leaving AF schools, especially in high school.

According to reports from charter authorizers in NYC, the highly controlled, test-focused, one-size-fits-all learning environments at Achievement First schools also mean that students are not being presented with enough opportunities to develop their own voice, to learn the critical thinking skills necessary for college, or to receive proper support if they get ahead of or fall behind their peers.

Like other “zero tolerance” CMOs, Achievement First also has a documented record of under serving students with the most needs. All Achievement First schools have lower rates of ELL students, students with disabilities, and students living in poverty compared with their surrounding districts. Not only do AF schools not serve similar numbers of these high need students (students who also traditionally score lowest on standardized tests), they base their record of academic success on comparisons between themselves and their surrounding districts who do serve those high need students.

Achievement First will also pull significant, needed resources out of Providence and surrounding school districts by creating a publicly-funded, privately-operated school district managed by an out-of-state company which takes a 10% management fee to operate its schools. If AF's application is approved, its schools will pull significant numbers of children from already underfunded traditional public school districts, leading inevitably to neighborhood schools needing to be closed.

The lobbyists promoting AF's corporate reform agenda in RI can sound very convincing, especially because they have the financial backing of national corporate education “reformers” such as the Walton Foundation and the Broad Foundation ($1 million grant). In Rhode Island, the Broad Foundation has two graduates from their academy in positions to influence decision-making about AF, the Providence school superintendent and the RI Commissioner of Education, both strong supporters of AF’s proposal.

As someone who values dialogue and takes time to listen to people, I hope that you will also take the opportunity to hear from those most effected by “zero tolerance” corporate reform, like the disillusioned and profoundly disappointed parents, students, and AF staff members who have been part of AF schools in NYC and Connecticut.

I share your sense of urgency to improve public education but children’s voices, their ability to think critically and creatively, and the opportunity for parents and communities to have meaningful input in their children’s education shouldn’t be lost in the name of the corporate reform agenda.

I encourage you to once again embrace the opportunity to provide leadership in challenging a flawed policy. I implore you to reject Achievement First’s Rhode Island charter school application and instead work with parents, teachers, students, and communities to create lasting change and improve education for all young people enrolled in public schools.

Sincerely, ~ started this petition with a single signature, and now has 387 supporters. Start a petition today to change something you care about.