The Weekly Newsletter of Educational Alternatives -
Nepal AERO Member Orphanage Devastated by Earthquake

AERO has been helping to support the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Orphanage for over ten years. They have 200 orphans and some mothers in three locations. Yesterday's 7.8 earthquake in Nepal was near their location and damaged or destroyed most of their structures, including their school and barn (see exclusive report, just in, below). Luckily none of them were hurt, a miracle! We're still trying to piece together information but there is no phone, electricity, or water.


Many of you know the story of how Ramchandra left Nepal at 12 years old, educated himself in India, and returned 20 years later to start the Sri Aurobindo Ashram/orphanage. It has now been running for 21 years. The buildings on the land were built with their own hands over that time. The record with their students is astounding. For example one boy who came there at three is now getting is Masters degree in Physics in Germany. It has been largely self supporting. For example, they sell the extra milk from their cows to Katmandu. Nobody pays for the orphans. Right now most of the children are sleeping outside. Ramchandra spoke at last year's AERO conference. 


We are raising funds to help the Ashram. Of course there is no insurance. If you would like to help, go here to the special site we just created to help the orphanage. Please give generously. All donations go directly to help the Ashram. 


Donations can be made here



Here is a report just received this morning from Ramchandra:



Dear Friends,


Update on the devastation caused by the  Earthquake (Sri Aurobindo Yoga Mandir Family)


Yesterday (25th April) there was a high magnitude earthquake

(epicentre Gorkha district, about 80 km away from Kathmandu) of the scale 7.9. Fortunately Ashram family was at collective work outside while the first major tremor was felt. The buildings were trembling and the walls came down rambling, making all of us and visitors run for life. As we rushed to the open space, we could see our buildings moving back and forth. We were devastated to see the walls of the building collapsing . We didn't know what was going to happen, we didn't know what to expect . We just sat praying for the safety of all the people in the affected area. Since yesterday noon we have been spending time in the open space, cooking, eating, sleeping outside. Gladly, no human life was lost despite of huge loss of property.




Old mud and stone house: Our first house is almost at the verge of collapse. A part of the roof is collapsed and along the mid of the building there is a crack which may collapse at any time. In order to reuse the house we have to reconstruct most part of its base as it is not anymore strong enough to hold even mild external force . The walls have deviated outwards from its original position.


Kitchen Complex:

Kitchen complex (6 floored building) which is still under construction has been in use since 3 years. Almost all the walls of the 6th and 5th floor have fallen on the ground in-front of our eyes. This morning we had a close inspection of the house and it was terrifying to see that almost all the walls of the Complex have crack and are not usable until we re-construct all the walls. Kitchen Complex includes a Theater, Show room, Dining hall and Kitchen, Rooms for the Guests and some rooms for the students. Sadly, All of it is not anymore usable because of safety reasons. This Kitchen complex has cost so far around 400,00 USD. As we estimate the loss along with engineers we have at-least the loss (SO FAR )of 180,000 USD, keeping the current rates in mind.


Boys Hostel Complex:

This Complex was built on the year 2003 with the estimated cost of 250,000 USD (cost calculated with inflation). It includes cow-shed and store room on the ground floor and first floor respectively. On the second floor we have boys hostel and a Pashmina shawl (cottage industry) on the final floor. This Complex is the most affected one, as the joints along the foundational beams have shifted from its

position. Experts suggest that we have to build extra structure in order to support the Complex and make it residential and usable. The estimated loss SO FAR is around  200,000 USD.


School Complex :

The walls of the school building has cracked and also has to be repaired at the soonest. The water reservoir (overhead tanks) and the unfinished walls have fallen down and caused water scarcity. The water reservoir has to be constructed at the soonest in order to fulfill the necessity of the water for the whole ashram family. At the moment we are carrying water from a distant for us and for the cows as well. The net estimated loss SO FAR has been around 100,000 USD.


The Guest House Complex ,

Mill building and the Main Building fortunately remained almost intact apart from some minor affects.


If you want to help or contribute please let us know.

Thank you all for you love and kind support .


P.S. Please forward this email to well wishers and your friends.


Ramchandra (Chandra Mani Bhusal)


Sri Aurobindo Yoga Mandir Trust

Thankot, Check Post

P.O . Box No 1993,


Tel: 00977- 1 - 4312157/




 Donations can be made here. 


John Gatto Needs Urgent Help
Janet Gatto, John Gatto's wife, suffered a stroke and in a hospital. She was John's main caretaker. John suffered a paralyzing stroke over two years ago and has been slowly recovering. Lately he has been able to do some writing again for a few hours a day. But he needs 24 hour care in his apartment. We need to raise funds to cover additional help. If you want to donate to his care you can do so on this site.

In thanks for donations John is offering a lost video, titled, 'The Hall of Mirrors,' to help raise funds for his medical fund.


"John Taylor Gatto was taught to pull his own weight from a young age and takes pride in being a productive person, rather than being dependent."


Please support John by donating at:


Then help yourself to watch his interesting and powerful talk:
AERO Conference Filling Up
The AERO conference is now less than a month away. For the next two days we are dropping the registration rate back to $250 for the five-day conference. It will be $325 at the door unless previous arrangements have been made, and if there is still space. The student rate, volunteer rate, and package deals for single and shared rooms are still at the same rate.

The AERO conference will be May 20-24 at LIU/Post in Brookville, NY. Right now the best deal to sign up for the AERO conference is to do the package deal of registration and either a shared room package  for $390 or a single room package for $450.  Those prices haven't gone up yet. They are for three nights in the dorm. If you need more days in the dorm you can add more individually. The student, presenter and volunteer price is $175 and also hasn't gone up yet. Regular registration is $275 for the 5 days. People can still use the 10% member discount for regular registration. 

If you still plan to register but need individual help or have a group please e mail  to let us know and we will do our best to help you. Or you can just reply to this e newsletter or call 516 621 2195.

Registrants will also be able to participate in any of the Times Square area events of NYDLA, including meeting at the Hard Rock Cafe, Microsoft's showcase  building and Polycom's "Experience Center" near Madison Square Garden with one of the most spectacular views of New York from the 48th floor.

The schedule of events and workshops is now available on the website.


Note From Amy Valens
Amy Valens, the film maker who made August to June and Good Morning Mission Hill, will be at the AERO conference to present the latter along with its subject, renowned educator Debbie Meier. Here is a note from her about NCLB:


"As congress is crafting a re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that purports to address No Child Left Behind disasters, but mainly just shifts testing to the states, the number of parents opting their children out of high stakes standardized testing is growing by leaps and bounds.  It is time for more attention to positive directions that public schools can take to build creative teaching, authentic assessments and meaningful learning.  We hope you will encourage your friends, colleagues and policy makers to watch our films!"
Long Island Again Has Over 60,000 Opt Out Of Common Core Math Test, Almost Half
For the Common Core math test this week Long Island again had incredible numbers of parents opting their children out of the test. They estimate more than 190,000 opted out state-wide. It seems that this extent of civil disobedience may be hard to ignore. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.  

Read More here
Educators Alarmed by Some Questions On Common Core Tests
By Valerie Strauss

I wrote a post yesterday saying education activists were reporting more than 175,000 New York students had opted out of Common Core English Language Arts exams given last week - and many more districts were still unheard from.  New York is at the center of a growing movement among parents around the country to protest new standardized tests aligned to the Common Core (or similar state standards) that they think are unfair to students and teachers because the results are used for high-stakes decisions against the advice of assessment experts. The post also mentioned some complaints from teachers about the composition of the tests, which are aligned to the Core and were created for the state of New York by Pearson, the largest education company in the world.


Here's a new piece, by Principal Carol Burris of South Side High School in the Rockville Centre School District in New York about educators' concerns with questions on the Common Core tests and the meaning of the opt-out movement.


Read the rest here

Sir Ken Robinson Has A Lot To Say About U.S. School Reform (It Isn't Good)

By Valerie Strauss  


The previous post is an excerpt from a new book by Sir Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica (available on AERO bookstore), titled "Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That's Changing Education." Changing education is what Robinson has been all about for some years, as a professor, author, and adviser to governments and numerous nonprofit organizations around the world. From 1985 to 1988, he was the director of an initiative to develop arts education in England and Wales that involved a few thousand teachers and artists. He served as the head of a national youth arts development agency in the United Kingdom called Artswork. Robinson was a professor of education at the University of Warwick for a dozen years, and in 1998, he was appointed by the British government to lead a commission to examine creativity and education. He has written several books on creativity and learning, and in 2003, Queen Elizabeth II of England knighted him for his life's work.


Robinson became famous worldwide in 2006 with his Ted Talk "How Schools Kill Creativity," which now has more than 32 million page views on the TED Web site, with millions more views on YouTube videos of the same talk. His life's work has been based on the belief that schools can and should nurture creativity in kids through instruction that is personalized and customized for the communities where students live. I talked to Robinson (who, incidentally, is very funny) about his book and his views of U.S. education reform. Here are excerpts of that conversation:


Read the rest here.
Push, Don't Crush, the Students



PALO ALTO, Calif. - PALO ALTO HIGH SCHOOL, one of the nation's most prestigious public secondary schools, is sandwiched between two stark and illusory paths. Across the street to the west, Stanford University beckons as the platonic ideal, a symbol of the road to Google, the White House, the mansion on the hill. To the east, across a bike trail, are the railroad tracks where three boys from the school district have killed themselves this year.


Suicide clusters are relatively rare, accounting for about 5 percent of teenage suicides. Startlingly, this year's is the second contagion to visit this city. Five students or recent graduates of the district's other high school, Gunn High School, killed themselves beginning in 2009.


Experts say such clusters typically occur when suicide takes hold as a viable coping mechanism - as a deadly, irrational fashion. But that hasn't stopped this community from soul searching: Does a culture of hyperachievement deserve any blame for this cluster?  


Read the rest here.
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Thank you for your ongoing support. With your help, we will make learner-centered alternatives available to everyone!


Jerry Mintz
Executive Director
Alternative Education Resource Organization

tensignsThe Ten Signs You Need to Find a Different Kind of Education for Your Child
Many parents don't realize that the education world has changed drastically since they were in school. Schools and class sizes used to be smaller, dropout rates lower, in-school violence almost unheard of, and teachers weren't terrified of showing affection to their students, or of discussing moral values. Of course, even then, school was far from perfect, but at least the teachers-and usually the principal-knew every student by name, something that is increasingly rare today.

Because our public school system has deteriorated considerably, many parents, teachers, and individuals have taken it upon themselves to create public and private alternatives to that system; and it is important for parents to know that they now have choices.

So how do you know that it's time to look for another educational approach for your child? Here are some of the signs:

1. Does your child say he or she hates school?

If so, something is probably wrong with the school. Children are natural learners, and when they're young, you can hardly stop them from learning. If your child says they hate school, listen to them.  

April 19th, 2015
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