Uproar in Denver as principals purge teachers who oppose test-driven corporate 'reform'... Has teacher union deal aided and abetted purging of teachers?

Every day more news is coming in from reliable sources that principals in Denver, Colorado who are promoting corporate school reform have been given a green light to purge teachers who have spoken out publicly or even at the local school level against test-drive problems in the schools. While Substance continues to investigate how much of this purge was given the green light by the corporate funding of contract deals with the Denver teachers union, an end of the year update is in order.

The issue also has historical roots, partly in Chicago. In July 2008, two years before the leadership of the Chicago Teachers Union changed, the American Federation of Teachers met in Chicago and promoted Chicago "reforms" that allowed principals, with the assistance of the Chicago Teachers Union, to fire tenured teachers under a program that the union had agreed to. The program was also featured in the promotional video that began the AFT convention and was slated to be feted as well during an Arne Duncan speech to the convention. In response to protests from CORE, however, Duncan failed to appear at the convention, and Mayor Richard M. Daley delivered a speech full of the usual platitudes in Duncan's place.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Teachers Union leadership collaborated with the Board of Education in firing four tenured teachers -- who became known as the "Wells Four" because all were from Wells High School. The collaboration of the union and the Board in attacking tenure (tenure has been weakened but still exists in 2013 in Illinois) was part of what resulted in the fate of the Wells Four. In June 2010, Marilyn Stewart and her administration were unseated in the upset by CORE, led by Karen Lewis and many of the teacher unionists who had protested at the AFT convention two years earlier. The Wells Four, however, had had their careers ruined under a program that the union had bragged about helping invent to rid the schools of so-called "bad teachers."

Even after the program was purged from Chicago, some officials of the American Federation of Teachers have been joining with administrators in several states to abolish tenure and make it easier for principals and school boards to purge teachers who object to corporate "school reform." Here is the update from Colorado:

Monty Neill of Fair Test circulated the following on the Fair Test ListServe (ARN) on June 7, 2013.

"Note that some teachers were fired (they say) for protesting test-driven education. The general question of principal authority has been raised in light of reform proposals to give unfettered authority to principals, in this case in context apparently of Colorado ending tenure rights and of course in the general context of test-driven 'reform.'

FROM THE SOS IN DENVER. The following was circulated from SOS Denver, which still exists in what is left of the SOS movement that staged the Washington conference and march three years ago.

Help Denver School Teachers who have been unjustly fired. (Melody W Jun 07 12:50AM -0600, 6/7/13)

Dear New York,

Congratulations. You all are making huge progress in the anti high-stakes

testing movement. Today, was a great accomplishment. Over the past

months, I have been enthusiastically reading about your endeavors through

this listserve. Thank you for all that you have been doing to strengthen

public education for the students. Your work is inspirational and


Today, I am writing you about an issue in Denver and hope to garner your

support. In DPS- we have a policy called “Do Not Rehire”. When teachers

are “Non Renewed”, not only are they fired from their schools, they can’t

teach in DPS for the rest of their careers. In addition, this non-renewal

is an incendiary mark on their record, and many teachers can’t locate jobs

in other districts in Colorado.

On May 16th, about 100 people testified at the DPS School Board meeting in

outrage to the non-renewals issued by DPS principals. This year 220

individuals have been non-renewed and blacklisted. As parents, students,

and teachers stated for 7 hours, these are educators who deliver high

quality instruction, have positively impacted students, their school

communities, and have made fantastic gains in student growth. Their

achievements are exemplary. Unfortunately, the majority of teachers have

been targeted by one individual- their principals. Right now, principals

have free reign to fire any probationary teacher, and have specifically

targeted teachers who ask questions, challenge DPS policies, fight against

the corporate reform movement, and who do not conform to a static

curriculum. In one school, 4 teachers were fired mostly because they spoke

out against implementing a pilot program of *Driven by Data, *a book

written by Bambrick Santoyo, that hails the Uncommon Schools philosophy of

assessing and more assessing and creating a testing culture in the schools.

Since tenure has been abolished in Colorado, many more teachers’ voices

will be silenced in DPS as they fear for their livelihoods.

In Denver, we are asking educators, parents, community members, and

education activists from around the country to sign our petition. We want

the “Do Not Rehire” policy changed so that dedicated and talented

individual, teachers who have stood up for their students and risked

everything for them, have the chance to continue to teach in DPS. Without

their voices, DPS schools, communities and students will lose so much.

Please sign this petition in support of teachers who have been non-renewed

and deserve a second chance at teaching within Denver. Please help empower

the teachers so that they can use their voices to protect our students.

Please forward the petition along to other friends and colleagues. Thank


Two news articles about the teachers who have been fired.

Schmitt Parents keep their students home to protest the firings

DPS and Schmitt and Non-renewals

-- Melody

Colorado Information Coordinator

Save Our Schools


June 18, 2013 at 12:24 AM

By: Kimberlee Guzman

Denver teachers' union fought cuts

I am on the Board for Denver Classroom Teachers Assn, and I can assure you. We did not make a deal or do we support what is happening to our teachers.

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