The Weekly Newsletter of Educational Alternatives -
AERO Conference Starts in 10 Days!
The AERO conference is now 10 days away! We are printing the attendee badges and the schedule soon.  AERO attendees will be able to participate in the New York Distance Learning Association conference and vice versa. If you don't go to the school visits on Thursday, the 20th you could visit their conference in Manhattan. They will meet at  Microsoft Headquarters, 11 Times Square. You can stay in the dorms on the 19th if you need to. 

Remember to get your Uber credit (see below). Also, Microsoft will be giving software to AERO registrants.  


If you still want to attend 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.     

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 priceis $175 and also hasn't gone up yet. Regular registration has been reduced to $250 for the 5 days. People can still use the 10% member discount for regular registration. 

This might be a very rare time to see Sugata Mitra in the New York area. He is a professor in England is from India.  He is famous for his "Hole in the wall" experiment, putting a computer in a wall in a slum area in India. The children taught themselves how to use it and do speak English! He won the Ted Award for that. Other keynoters will include Debbie Meier, Amy Valens, Zoe Weil, and Jeremy Stuart, who made the unschooling video "Class Dismissed."


AERO registrants who use the link below will get $20 worth of free Uber transportation and $40 if they send their e mail to conference partner NYDLA to connect with their conference. If you sign up using this NYDLA invite link below, Uber will credit your account for $20 off your first ride: 


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.


Our Nepal Quake Fund Passes $7500 But Much More Needed to Repair Buildings.

The good news is that we've raised over $7500 for the earthquake recovery for the Sri Aurobindo Arshram/ orphanage in Nepal. The bad news is that yesterday a volunteer brought an engineer to asses the damage. The dairy barn alone will need $100,000 in repairs. And sales of the excess milk is one way the orphanage sustains itself Furthermore, many of the teens were sleeping in the building on the second floor. Now there is no place for them and they will be using tents until the repairs are made. So we are continuing our fundraising effort for them. Also, a volunteer is working on a wider crowd funding event.    


The volunteer at the Ashram sent us this story:


"Of course, the miracle is that a truckload of hay arrived at lunchtime and everyone was employed to help unload it to the school building, which circumvented the disaster that would have occurred if everyone had been eating lunch at the designated place and time, as the brick walls that fell from 3 and 4 stories up landed on the outside lunch area where many people sit enjoying the sun."  


Last week we received this e mail from Ramchandra, the founder:


"We are overwhelmed by the kindness that you have shown towards us at such a difficult time. We feel grateful to be alive and unhurt despite severe loss to our infrastructure.  We have heard some of the kindest words of concern, care and willingness to help us to recover. Since we did not have access to electricity, clean water, internet and other commodities for a very long time, we were unable to reply to your messages. We were also unable to write to you in detail or provide to you with a concise mail. ...We also have had kindest contributions made by some of you already.  Please do write to us for any further information.


 Respecting your colossal hearts


Swami Ramchandra Das and all the children of the Ashram"
Ramchandra (Chandra Mani Bhusal)
Sri Aurobindo Yoga Mandir Trust
Thankot, Check Post
P.O . Box No 1993,
Tel: 00977- 1 - 4312157/ 4312085
Please send donations to the Ashram/orphanage here. 100% goes to their recovery. Type in the amount you wish to donate.

A school that shows what is possible for children

Filmmaker Amy Valens and education pioneer Debbie Meier, mentioned in this article, will be at the AERO conference.   


By Emily Gasoi


When I was growing up my mom always discouraged my brother and me from celebrating Mother's Day, arguing that special appreciation days are for those members of society who are taken for granted the other 363 days of the year. As I contemplate how to respond to Teacher Appreciation Week (May 4-8), it occurs to me that mothers and teachers are held in similar esteem in American society, both placed on a proverbial pedestal while simultaneously being blamed for everything from failing the children in their care to threatening the fortitude of the nation state.


This insidious dichotomy in how teachers are perceived has never been quite so stark as it has become under the high-stakes accountability climate that has been relentlessly ramping over the past 15 years since the initiation of No Child Left Behind legislation. While there has been a loud and steady battle cry around attracting excellent candidates to the profession and inducing them through extrinsic rewards to stay, too many teachers feel, to varying degrees, disrespected, fearful, and overwhelmed by demands for endless testing and the production of data, along with the usual stresses that accompany this notoriously difficult job.

Read the rest here.
'Opt-Out' Push Gains Traction Amid Common-Core Testing
By Andrew Ujifusa

The push by activists of various stripes to have parents opt students out of state exams this spring has transformed skepticism and long-running anger over the direction of education policy into a movement with numbers and a growing public profile. Whether those activists can craft a durable and effective political movement remains an open question.


Advocates, standardized-testing opponents, and observers continue to debate the movement's true goals, the disparity between the proportion of opt-outs and their broader importance, and how much the demographics of participating parents hurt or strengthen the cause.


Recent events in New York state, where disputes over the fiscal 2016 budget ratcheted up tensions over the role of testing in state policy, show how the opt-out campaign can gain traction. After years of negotiations and disagreements with the state over evaluations, the 600,000-member New York State United Teachers called on parents to opt their children out of exams aligned with the Common Core State Standards, and tens of thousands reportedly have done so.


Read the rest here.  

Why the movement to opt out of Common Core tests is a big deal

By Carol Burris


New York opt-out is reverberating around the nation. The pushback against the Common Core exams caught fans of high-stakes testing off guard, with estimates of New York test refusals now exceeding 200,000.


It was evident that the state would be far below the 95 percent federal participation rate as soon as the 3-8 English Language Arts tests began. When math testing started, the numbers climbed higher still. In the Brentwood School District, a 49 percent opt-out rate for ELA rose to 57 percent during math tests. These rates defy the stereotype that the movement is a rebellion of petulant "white suburban moms." Ninety-one percent of Brentwood students are black or Latino, and 81 percent are economically disadvantaged. Brentwood is not unique-Amityville (90 percent black or Latino, 77 percent economically disadvantaged) had an opt-out rate of 36.4 percent; Greenport (49 percent black or Latino, 56 percent economically disadvantaged) had an opt-out rate that exceeded 61 percent; and South Country opt outs (50 percent black or Latino and 51 percent economically disadvantaged) exceeded 64 percent. New York's rejection of the Common Core tests crosses geographical, socio-economic and racial lines.


Read the rest here

Personalized graduation: a right of passage



All over America thousands of students will soon engage in "rites of passage" to adulthood. Dressed in caps and gowns and with school orchestras playing "Pomp and Circumstance," students will be awarded diplomas to verify they have completed the compulsory course work.


Our Utah public education system is typical of 49 other subject-oriented systems wherein the curriculum is predetermined and subjects are specified. Credits are given for completion. Much like other states, Utah requires 25 credits across seven subject disciplines.


In sharp contrast to these mass production graduation ceremonies, there are a few places where students will participate in small, personalized observances. Each student will deliver a "valedictorian" speech and show how s/he has prepared to be a contributor to society - how s/he has earned the "right" to graduate - the right to be accepted as an adult.

Read the rest here.
"Old School" School (Special to AERO) 
By Howard Karlitz, M.Ed, Ed.D

I was an inner city school teacher for twenty-two years, and then left the classroom to begin a career as an educational administrator.  For the next seventeen years I worked as a principal, a school director, a private school headmaster and various other titled positions, each requiring particular tasks associated with particular job descriptions.  What was not particular, what was universal in terms of leadership style and philosophy was consistently reminding teachers that what they were doing was among the most important jobs in the world, that the point of teacher-student interaction is ground zero in the learning process.  And that perspective does not simply mean a student's academic development, but social development as well.  It denotes a positive and healthy self image as well as positive and healthy relationships with others.  But sadly, it is in both domains, the academic and social, that learning is being crushed by current instructional methodologies.


In regard to academics, I envision a school that has turned the clock back.  I envision a school where there are few, if any computers in classrooms.  I envision a school where creative teachers interact with students on a face-to-face basis, where verbal give and take is the norm, where teachers are not distracted by a toxic concern regarding how well students perform on a standardized test that looms like the proverbial elephant in the room even though it is months away. This concept is alien to me, alien to my generation of educators. 

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.  

May 10th, 2015
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