“Sorry, I’m Not Taking This Test”

Kristina Rizga in “Mother Jones” explains why the Opt Out movement is becoming a national phenomenon.

She focuses on the story of Kiana Hernandez, a student in Florida. She made the decision on her own, but she was inspired by seeing TV coverage of students opting out.

“By her own estimate, Kiana had spent about three months during each of her four years at University High in Orlando preparing for and taking standardized tests that determined everything from her GPA to her school’s fate. “These tests were cutting out class time,” she says. “We would stop whatever we were learning to prepare.” The spring of her senior year, she says, there were three whole months when she couldn’t get access to computers at school (she didn’t have one at home) to do homework or fill out college applications. They were always being used for testing.

“Kiana had a 2.99 GPA and is heading to Otterbein University in Ohio this fall. She says she did well in regular classroom assignments and quizzes, but struggled with the standardized tests the district and state demanded. “Once you throw out the word ‘test,’ I freeze,” she tells me. “I get anxiety knowing that the tests count more than classwork or schoolwork. It’s a make or break kind of thing….

“Students in American public schools today take more standardized tests than their peers in any other industrialized country. A 2014 survey of 14 large districts by the Center for American Progress found that third- to eighth-graders take 10 standardized tests each year on average, and some take up to 20. By contrast, students in Europe rarely encounter multiple-choice questions in their national assessments and instead write essays that are graded by trained educators. Students in England, New Zealand, and Singapore are also evaluated through projects like presentations, science investigations, and collaborative assignments, designed to both mimic what professionals do in the real world and provide data on what students are learning.”

Rizga’s book “Mission High” was just published. I intend to review it soon. It is the story of a so-called “failing school” in San Francisco where students and teachers work hard to beat the odds against them.

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A good reason for a cool car: making kids smile.

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About two weeks ago my mentor, personal hero and friend, Ambassador Andrew Young, asked me to gather together some suits I don’t wear anymore and to donate them to some young men at the Walter & Andrew Young YMCA here in Atlanta, Georgia. This is something I was happy to do, but the bonus for them — and I didn’t realize it until I actually arrived — was them seeing my newly unveiled Mansory Lotus Evora GTE.

The young men got the suits, and half of them have already left for college, but as you can see from the photos in this post and in the Flickr album from the visit, here, the real pleasant surprise was seeing all of these young kids light up as if it were Christmas before the Evora.

The car totally captured their imagination, and most meaningful to me — brought a smile to the faces of some young people who in many cases, have had a pretty rough time growing up.

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This is our future, and they deserve all the inspiration and encouragement, and investment, that we can muster.  Thank you Ambassador Andrew Young, and you Dr. Walter Young, and you Ms. Diane Baker King — for making a difference.  Every day.

John Hope Bryant

 

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The Build: The Mansory Lotus Evora GTE

The new Mansory styled Lotus Evora GTE car, designed by John Hope Bryant

The new Mansory styled Lotus Evora GTE car, designed by John Hope Bryant

I fell in love with the Lotus Evora’s style, shape and passionate, aspirational design the moment I saw it.  It was like a high performance motorcycle with protective metal wrapped around it.

I purchased the car, as I do with all our family vehicles, from my friend Tony Marzullo, owner of Gas Motorcars here in Atlanta, Georgia.  Tony only represents the best cars, and this one certainly qualified in my book.  For 20 plus years I drove nothing but Mercedes Benz automobiles, but one look at the Lotus Evora, and all of that changed in an instant.

After purchasing a standard 2010 year Lotus Evora last year, I quickly began to learn more about the car, its Formula 1 winning Lotus racing legacy, and the incredible and visionary company founder Colin Chapman. The cars all to this day seem to live up to Colin Chapman’s original vision; light weight, nimble, low to the ground, quick, a drivers’s car, and for the most part, track or race ready.  And unfortunately, this is also true: Colin Chapman only wanted to sell enough cars to allow him to race. And today, that lack of focus on the ‘business’ of Lotus has hurt its racing program over the past 15-20 years.   The challenge was and remains how Lotus Cars was run as a business.

That said, the baseline design and build of its cars, is amazing.  It is particularly thrilling for those looking for what is commonly referred to as ‘a driver’s car.’

Mansory Lotus Evora GTE visiting Kinetic Motorsports

Mansory Lotus Evora GTE visiting Kinetic Motorsports

In honor of this rich Lotus history, and a tip of the hat to Lotus Cars founder, Colin Chapman, I designed my own version of a track ready Lotus racing car.  There is even a style nod here given to the Lotus racing legacy of the famed John Player Special Formula 1 car.

My Lotus Evora is modeled after the 2011, top 25 finish of the Lotus Evora GTE, #65 at LeMans. Why model a car that finished 22nd overall and 7th in its class, and 10 seconds off the race leader? Easy…

• Lotus had not raced competitively in Formula 1 (they are starting to come back now, but that is not a factory team) or in GT cars for many years.  They a man named Danny Bahir (the former Lotus CEO) decided Lotus would re-emerge ‘everyplace.’   It also appears that he wanted this ‘re-emergence’ to happen everywhere, and all at the same time. Well, there just were not enough resources to go around, and for a factory sponsored GT team that enjoyed modest factory support at best, the car (the Lotus Evora) did extremely well. Just imagine what would have happened if the race teams were strongly suggested from a strong company balance sheet, like all the other supercar manufacturers.

Here’s the summary of why I’m a fan:

* The car was underpowered in comparison to its peer group at LeMans.

* At 440HP or so it was NA (naturally aspirated); not supercharged like many of its peers. But perfectly tuned by Cosworth.

* It ran basically the same set up as a standard Evora.  The model I drive today.

* The car and the make is constantly under-estimated in the marketplace. And so was I, coming up as a businessman.  This appears to me.

* The car and the brand are both independent and a bit of a rebel. Just like me.

For these and other reasons, I dedicated my new car as the Mansory Lotus Evora GTE — in recognition of and modeled after the Lotus Evora GTE top group finish at LeMan, 2011. Well,here she is.

Her name: Freedom. Or the ‘Black Batman’ to you.

Rear wing of the Lotus Evora GTE

Rear wing of the Lotus Evora GTE

Major Modifications include:
* Komotec cold air intake
* Komotec Tune
* Custom exhaust from Buckhead Imports. One of a kind.
* Mansory front bumper (carbon fiber throughout)
* Mansory side fender vents
* Hong Kong carbon
* Side skirts (carbon)
* Air vents (carbon)
* Rear GT wing (carbon)
* A Pillars (carbon)
* Inside door handles (carbon)
* Pirelli P Zero tires (F: 225/40 ZR18. R: 255/35 ZR19)
* Alcantara and leather mix (black and oyster) throughout the car interior
* Recaro racing seats
* STiR Radar Detector and Laser Jammer

* Stilo carbon fiber racing helmet

Custom diffuser shot of my Mansory styled Lotus Evora GTE

Custom diffuser shot of my Mansory styled Lotus Evora GTE

This car — is my daily driver, and frankly, I simply love going to business meetings in and around Atlanta, Georgia driving it. Driving has become a dream.

While a professional photo shoot for the car has been scheduled,  you can find the complete and growing photo gallery for the new Mansory Lotus Evora GTE here on Flickr, and here on the Bryant Group Motorsports Facebook page.

I hope this story of Lotus Evora ‘renewed,’ inspires you as it has inspired me.

John Hope Bryant

 

Credit: A special thank you to Mike McConville, owner of Magnum Collision, who served as overall Project Manager for the build.  Thanks also goes out to Jason Cummins, owner of Buckhead Imports, Tony Marzullo, owner of Gas Motors, Dak Kinard, owner of CarTunes, Charles Wun of Hong Kong, who provided a lot of the custom carbon fiber work, George, owner of Difflow (provider of the custom diffuser), the team at Motorcars of Atlanta (Lamborghini/Lotus Dealership), and the others who helped to bring this special project to life.

 

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Murdoch’s Néw York Post Lambastes Bloomberg School Reforms

Mayor Michael Bloomberg left office in January 1, 2014. One of his legacies was the changes he made in the school system over 12 years of total control.

Today the Néw York Post says his “reforms” were disastrous, and the only hope for children in the city’s public schools is escape to a privately managed charter school.

The Post writes about the Bloomberg reforms:

“New York’s public-school system is an ongoing horror — one that traps hundreds of thousands of kids in schools that don’t work, “tracked” into dead-end “promotions” to equally bad schools that lead to worthless diplomas and limited economic opportunities for the rest of their lives.”

The Post has long–at least since Rupert Murdoch owned it–loathed public schools, their teachers and administrators, and unions.

So the editorial says that the “obvious solution”–based on a study commissioned by billionaire hedge fund managers who have the chutzpah to call themselves “Families for Excellent Schools”—is more charter schools.

Why not?

Let Eva do it! Let her open her schools to the children with severe cognitive impairments, the students who can’t speak or read English, the kids right out of the juvenile justice system! She should show what she can do.

She has a chance to demonstrate that her schools are replicable for all, not merely a triumph of skimming and attrition.

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Supercar eye candy on Pinterest. ‘Bryant’s Cool Car List.’

Mercedes 500 SLR GT1 Concept Car

Mercedes 500 SLR GT1 Concept Car

If you like exotic cars and ‘art that moves,’ then you will love this Pinterest board of mine.  And yes, I manage and update and add to this personally. These are my automotive picks!

You can follow ‘Bryant’s Cool Car List’ here on Pinterest.  And of course, let me know what you think. Hope it inspires you. It does for me.

John Hope Bryant

 

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Get a Free Copy of “Defies Measurement” and Show It to Friends and Neighbors

Shannon Puckett, the producer and director of the pro-public education film “Defies Measurement” is offering free copies to anyone who wants one.

She writes:

I would like people to know that I am offering Defies Measurement (for free) to anyone who would like to use the film as a fundraiser event in support of public education. All proceeds can be used to support public schools or organizations that support public schools. My website has a page dedicated to “how to host a screening” where anyone can learn more about planning a community event.

The film continues to get great reviews from supporters of public education. Articles have appeared in Daily Kos, Education Week, Inequality.org and Caflifornia Teacher. It is also being offered on KweliTv. (The mission of Kweli Tv is “To enhance knowledge, encourage self-empowerment, and promote positive change within the global black community through challening, inspiring and thought-provoking video content.”)

In the 5 months that Defies Measurement has been available for free online, it has reached close to 18,000 people in 92 countries. (you know as well as I do that that doesn’t mean all of these people have watched it, but I do know that nearly 6,000 people have played the film in 59 countries). It has also inspired passionate discussions within communities after screenings. Teachers unions, PTAs, teachers, parents, organizations and college professors have all used the film to create dialogue around the important issues facing public education.

This would be a great back-to-school party!

You can reach Shannon at shannon@shineonpro.com

See her website: http://ift.tt/1LLX2JF

You can watch the video there, for free

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Fred LeBrun: Elia Risking Her Future Because of Tough Stance on Opt Outs

Fred LeBrun of the Albany Times-Union warns State Commissioner MaryEllen Elia that she is making a huge mistake by her confrontational tactics with the parents of the 225,000 children who opted out of mandated state tests last spring.

He predicts that if she doesn’t change course, the number of opt outs will grow in 2016.

She assumes that the parents need a lecture (“it’s the law!”) or information (they just don’t understand how important these tests are).

Neither is true, writes LeBrun. The law days the state must give the tests, but the law does NOT say that students must take them.

And the opt out parents in Long Island and upstate New York are not uninformed. They know exactly what they are doing and why they are doing it.

LeBrun writes:

“Remember the state Education Department’s own statistical analysis of Opt Outers, the one-third of eligible upstate and Long Island third through eight graders who chose not to take the standardized tests last spring. Their families are white, solidly middle class, well educated, generally from low needs — that is to say, not impoverished — school districts. Regardless of what the new standardized tests might suggest about them — more would fail than pass — these students routinely grow up to hit the appropriate SAT benchmarks, graduate and go on to two- and four-year colleges.

“These are not the kind of parents who are likely to be intimidated by vague assertions that, as Elia now suggests, a reason to take the standardized tests is because, ”listen, it’s the law.” It may be the law that public schools must offer the tests. But nothing I’ve read even suggests it’s the law a student must take them. Parents do have rights. If anything, Elia’s tack is likely to throw fuel on the fire rather than quell it in terms of opting out. Likewise, any back handed attempt to paint the Opt Out movement as being fanned by teachers is as insulting to the legions of parental volunteers who are Opt Out’s core, and know it, as it is to teachers. Nor is Elia’s condescending suggestion that fuller knowledge of what Common Core is and these standardized tests are about will turn Opt Outers around.”

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Los Angeles: Teachers Will Fight Eli Broad’s Plan to Privatize Schools

Alex Caputo-Pearl, the head of the United Teachers of Los Angeles, announced that teachers would fight Eli Broad’s plan to expand the number of privately managed charter schools to include half the children in the city. The plan was announced recently and has the support of the rightwing Walton Family Foundation and the Keck Foundation.

The first point to be made about the Broad plan is that it is a direct affront to democracy. Who elected Eli Broad to decide what the shape of the LAUSD should be? Who gave him the power to redirect public funds to private entrepreneurs?

The second is that the union is a natural antagonist to the charter expansion because charters are almost always non-union schools. Their teachers have no job protections, work long hours, and can be fired at will. Of course, this is not an incidental feature of charter schools; it is central to their purpose to disempower teachers. That is why the charter movement is supported by the staunchly anti-union Walton Family Foundation of Bentonville, Arkansas.

The third is that the expansion will cripple public education, leaving the public schools with the students unwanted by the charters and removing resources and the best students.

““We’re going to make every effort that we can to organize against the expansion of what are essentially unregulated non-union schools that don’t play by the rules as everybody else,” Caputo-Pearl told LA School Report. “So we’re going to take that on in the public, take that on in the media, engage the school board on it. We’re going to try to engage Eli Broad. We’re going to try to engage John Deasy because we understand he’s the architect of it. It will be a major effort. It is a major concern.”

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