Visit to Sudbury in Paris
New Book by Nikhil Goyal
Yong Zhao, Keynote Speaker for the 2016 AERO Conference.
Zhao TEDx Talk
 Conference info here. Portland AERO Registration is only $225, but will rise soon. Workshop proposals now accepted here
Peter Gray will also keynote
See his TEDx talk here

Registration Rate Goes Up Monday at Midnight
The conference rate will go up from the $225 early bird rate to $275 at  midnight Monday Pacific time on February 22nd. 

Get more info or register here!

NEW Room Reservation Info
To reserve a room it is best to call the hotel toll free at 1 855 642 6271 Monday through Friday from 8 AM to 4 PM Pacific Time. Mention the AERO conference to get the $119 rate. Otherwise it is over $200! However you can now also go to this site which automatically brings you to the online booking page for the AERO conference with our special $119 a day rate. You can also just go to their booking page and type in AER which is our code. 

There are still good rooms available. It makes sense to reserve your room soon. You can cancel up to 48 hours before the conference. We already have three groups that are planning training programs that include the AERO conference, so we may start filling up fast. Let us know if you have a group you plan to bring so we can give you a group rate. 

We have negotiated something with the Holiday Inn Portland Airport which saves you even more money. There is no food package. So you can eat at the hotel restaurant, go out, or bring your own food. 
Workshops List and Application
The workshop list is nearly complete but we are still taking proposals. When the list is complete they will be on a waiting list or could be put into the daily schedule at the conference. You can see the workshops summarized here. You can apply to present a workshop here.

On the 3rd of August we plan to have school visits and trips. The main conference starts on the 4th. 
First Day Mini-Talk Form
We now have a form to submit a proposal for a 15 minute TED-like presentation on the first day of the AERO conference. These will be presented to all the conference participants. Some may be stand alone, but may also be introductions for people doing other workshops. Some will be eventually available on Youtube. To apply to do a mini-talk just click here
Patron Registration
As you know, AERO has always had a policy of working hard to find a way for low income people to participate in the conference. Sometimes we arrange volunteer slots, give fundraising advice, etc. Now, in addition, we are featuring a new patron registration, which allows people to register at a higher rate, half of which is tax deductible. Register as a patron  here. 

You can now reserve a vendor table  here. 
Schools on Trial Released!
This week AERO author Nikhil Goyal's latest book,  Schools on Trial: How Freedom and Creativity Can Fix Our Educational Malpractice, was released by Doubleday. Hailed by Temple Grandin as a book that "will force you to think deeply about problems in today's schools," this is one I think you'll want to add to your library. Order a copy of Schools on Trial  here.

Nikhil's first bestseller One Size Does Not Fit All: A Student's Assessment of School, was recently given a fresh edit and new cover, and is as relevant today as it was when he wrote it at  only 17. As Howard Gardner said, "It's high time to learn the views and recommendations of a thoughtful young person." You can buy a print version for only $14.95 here and ebook version for only $9.99 here.  
You can watch an interview with Goyal here.
England's Charter-Style Schools on Rise

Without a doubt, the biggest change to the educational landscape in England over the next few years will be the growth of so-called academies and free schools, both modeled at least in part on U.S. charter schools. 

Prime Minister David Cameron has said he would like every government-funded school in England to be a free school or academy by 2020. At present, they represent 60 percent of the country's roughly 2,000 state-supported secondary schools.

Read the rest here.
John Thompson: Opt Out is Frightening the Politicians

John Thompson, historian and teacher, writes that parents have shaken up the education landscape:

"February has always been a time when blizzards keep blowing across the nation but, too often, it now marks the end of meaningful learning in our classrooms. Long before Spring arrives, the test prep season begins, followed by the annual testing ordeal. During the last few years, however, the grassroots Opt Out movement has risen to the occasion, and fought to restore authentic teaching and meaningful learning to public schools.

The refusal of parents and students to participate in the test, sort, reward, and punish season has knocked the corporate reform movement back on its heels. It has undermined the imposition of Common Core and value-added evaluations, which were top-down mandates enforced by High Stakes Testing. The assertion of families' democratic rights to choose engaging and respectful instruction, and reject soul-killing teach-to-the-test, has predictably prompted some reformers to retreat, while it has angered others. The second response by blood-in-their-eyes reformers may prove to be one of their most consequential mistakes. They are inviting an even more effective counter-attack by the Opt Out movement.

Read the rest here.
Free-Range Education: Why the Unschooling Movement is Growing
By Stephanie Hanes
(Christian Science Monitor)

On a late Monday morning in this rural New Hampshire town, Dayna and Joe Martin's four children are all home. Devin, age 16, is hammering a piece of steel in the blacksmith forge he and his parents built out of a storage shed in the backyard. Tiffany, 14, is twirling on a hoverboard, deftly avoiding the kaleidoscope-painted cabinets in the old farmhouse's living room. Ivy, 10, and Orion, 7, are sitting next to each other using the family's two computers, clicking through an intense session of Minecraft.  

It looks a lot like school vacation, or a weekend. But it's not. This, for the Martin kids, is school. Or, to put it more accurately, it's their version of "unschooling," an educational theory that suggests children should follow their own interests, without the imposition of school or even any alternative educational curriculum, because this is the best way for them to learn and grow. 

Read the rest here.
Wylie Visits The Dynamic School In Paris, France!
Hello all! I am safely back home from my European excursion!

While I was in Paris I visited the Dynamic School. It's a Sudbury School. The school has democratic meetings and the meetings are not compulsory. 

The school has about thirty students ranging from ages three to fifteen. It's very focused on community and social interaction. There is one thing that the teachers of the school do that I have never heard of another school doing.  Each teacher has a day when they come in and don't do any work. They just hang out and interact with the students. The teachers also have a meeting once a week to discuss their experiences with the students, and how the teachers can improve themselves.

The philosophy of the school is that everything should be student driven. It shows! The students are all engaged in activities and with one another constantly.

Students of all ages interact. The staff believes that this accelerates social development and helps students to learn from each other.

While I was there I sat in on a meeting of the student-organized cinema club. They are currently doing a series on Charlie Chaplain. Afterwards they have an in-depth discussion about each film.

Because the school just moved to the current space it is still being furnished but it's a large space with tons of room for anything the students could want to do.

Overall the school seems excellent and the staff were very knowledgeable about the philosophy of the school and are dedicated to fulfilling that vision. I would highly recommend them.

Are KIPP schools Racist?
I follow Whitney Tilson's blog. He is a hedge fund manager who also sits on the board of KIPP schools. I disagree with much of what he posts but agree with other parts. And I'm always searching for common ground in the movement. He is a strong supporter of KIPP and the charter school movement. He gave me permission to post his blog in response to an attack on him by a teacher at the Calhoun School, a progressive private school in Manhattan. My response to him is at the end. 

Things like this make me groan and hold my head in my hands. Steve Nelson, the head of Calhoun, an elite, highly progressive Manhattan private school, in an essay he published in HuffPo (that I agree with!) decrying racism in this country, attacked me and "no excuses" charter schools, naming KIPP, Success and Democracy Prep:

A prominent hedge fund manager in Manhattan is a leading advocate for "no excuses" charter schools, such as KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program), Success Academies and Democracy Prep. Well-documented reports reveal that children at KIPP have been punished by being labeled "Miscreants," students at Success Academies have wet their pants due to stress and the refusal to allow them to go to the bathroom, and children at Democracy Prep have been shunned, branded by wearing yellow shirts and literally forced into silence, with other children and adults forbidden to speak to them. This "reformer" is on the record saying that these means of discipline are necessary because these children, nearly all of color, "need it." His own daughters attend Nightingale-Bamford, a highly selective, expensive, majority white, girls school on Manhattan's Upper Eastside. Please indicate the way you believe he might respond if any of his daughters reported such experiences during their school days.

Nelson is someone who should be our ally because he clearly cares deeply about the vast racial inequalities in our country, especially in education (in which we have a K-12 system where the quality of the school a child attends is primarily determined by two factors: the color of their skin and their zip code). Yet instead of championing high-quality charter schools that are addressing this very issue, he attacks them for being racist. Ya can't make this stuff up!

What he writes is so wrong-headed in so many ways

Read the rest of the blog and Jerry's response  here.
Two Letters to Editor Published
Recently Newsday published a letter by Jerry Mintz supporting the continued funding of a Long Island Public School for the Arts, and AERO member Joel Schlosberg had a letter published in the Queens Chronicle critiquing standardized tests.

The worries that removal of time limits from standardized tests will leave their takers ill-prepared ("Time limits nixed for standardized tests," Feb. 4) would be better applied to the tests themselves.
While the real world's financial, environmental and other crises are urgent, they have no clear endpoints and require new ideas rather than selecting from prefabricated ones. The assumption of the compartmentalized, clockwork industrial-age model that it can deal with all problems is in large part what caused them.

Joel Schlosberg,   Bayside, Queens
Links and Calendar
Thank you for your ongoing support. With  your help, we will make learner-centered alternatives available to everyone!

In Service,

Jerry Mintz
Executive Director
Alternative Education Resource Organization

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