Diane\'s Blog

Donnan Stoicovy

Dear Ms. Ravitch,

I would like to introduce myself to you and share a little about our school and me.

First of all, I would like thank you for all that you are doing to support educators and public education. Many of us have read your book. It is a fascinating read of all that is going on to undermine education. Your disclosure of your years realizing that the culture that has been nurtured by our politicians and the billionaire boys club had a hidden agenda that was bigger than just making schools accountable for learning.

Just as our democracy is not perfect, so goes education. With that said, not being perfect is not a good reason to abandon public schools or to build a competitive model of education. I greatly appreciate the stand that you have taken with in the national conversation. I have read your book and have passed it along to parents and teachers in my school. You have become a most admired person. I recently saw the trailer about the new movie Schools Are Not a Business. Thank you for making it. Ironically, a friend and I were talking about the need to have a movie sharing the opposing voice to Waiting for Superman (which has not come to State College yet but I hear that it will be coming soon). We have talked about going to see it although I really dislike contributing to their revenue for it). I would love to host a viewing of your new movie here at my school or encourage the State Theatre to show it (to redeem themselves from showing the other one ;->).

I am the Lead Learner in a K-5 510 student elementary school in State College, Pennsylvania. Until this year, we have been “successful” in making AYP. This year, in a special education category we missed the cut-off by .255 and the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) refused to “round up” that slight amount. They said it was “no big deal” to be in “Warning” and not to make AYP. I have a friend in PDE who tried to talk sense into them and they got really sarcastic with her. My friend said that the person making the decision is not even an educator but a staff assistant. My friend tried to explain that I am one of her model school for environmental education and that we recently received (one of 20 schools) the Schools of Success Award from the Education Commission of the States (ESC) and National Center for Learning and Citizenship (NCLC). We have been recognized for the meaningful student involvement that occurs in our school as a result of service learning, civic engagement, inquiry, etc. Fifth graders (our Salad Girls) from our school are featured on the recent cover and as the lead article for Social Studies and the Young Learner (a great story that I could send you a copy of the article). Our students are very involved with community partners from a local nursing home and our Centre House (Housing Transitions for homelessness) addressing their needs through service learning. We also are greatly committed to environmental education and have many things going on at the school where students drive the process through their voices – composting of lunch waste, recycling of many items (if it recycles, we are probably doing it), gardening, etc. (NOTE: these are not the things that the PSSA tests.) Last year, we had one of our largest (and safely to say toughest) groups of special education (and for the most part low socioeconomically disadvantaged students who left here as great human beings but not having the highest PSSA scores.

We have received numerous other awards and grants but apparently do not make “the score” when it comes to the PSSA statewide assessment or whatever NCLB/ESEA is looking for in achievement. I have told my teachers that since all schools are going to fail under the current ESEA, we might as well do the things that we believe are right for kids and lead the way!

Additionally, I have a fifth grader who is very interested in making a movie about our school, “a great school in warning”! He is developing the storyline with me. He would truly impress you. Film-making passion and talent impresses me.

This past fall, I began to engage our school community in discussions about about what they want from an education – what kind of people that they want their children to be. I’d be glad to share my powerpoint with you. It has been inspired by our National League of Democratic Schools (NLODS). I was amazed by the conversation. I have used the powerpoint with parents, community members, children at our school, teachers and our Professional Development School (PDS) interns – we have a partnership with Penn State University. The overlap is amazing. I’d be glad to share if you are interested.

Anyway, I am writing to you because I would love to continue communicating with you. I also would love to figure out a way to get you to State College – no funds at the moment, just lots of hope! I am inspired by you and have been writing and rewriting this email to you for several weeks! You are amazing and I want to dialog with you.

All the Best!

Donnan Stoicovy