Moms Not Welcome.

I remember, vividly, the first time I learned that my presence wasn’t welcome in official public policy debates.

I had spent hours researching proficiency-based education, and for the first time in my life, I’d gathered enough courage to head to our state house to testify before the education committee.

My plan was to tell them what was plainly obvious: that this method of learning was devoid of evidence showing it was best for kids; that it was designed by investors and ed-tech developers rather than educators; and that by mandating we award proficiency-based diplomas, we were effectively using the children in our state as guinea pigs in a grand, unethical experiment.

I thought for certain that when I told the committee my credentials – a public school teacher with masters degrees in both special education and developmental psychology (one from Columbia, even) – that they would listen in earnest.

I thought for certain that my testimony would be met with questions from the committee members.

Perhaps I would even get some follow-up emails – maybe even a request to sit down with some legislators and share more of what I knew?

Instead, I got cut off.

Speakers before me – those wearing suits and fancy shoes, who told the committee they were from this partnership or that – were given time well beyond their allotted three minutes to speak.  Our education commissioner at that time (he only lasted a few months) spoke, incoherently, for a full fifteen minutes.

But I was told to stop speaking.

One legislator rolled his eyes at me.

And I got but one question from the committee: had I considered that maybe it wasn’t all such a conspiracy after all?

I’m not much of a crier, but I left the meeting in tears.

On Friday, a friend and fellow activist tried to attend a meeting on the “reinvention” of public education at the Union League in Philadelphia.  She’s a mom with daughter in public high school, and she – like me – has spent hours studying the current state of education reform.  She’s probably one of the most knowledgeable people in the country on education policy.

But she wasn’t allowed in, because she was wearing jeans.

Do you remember when Arne Duncan criticized “white suburban moms” for disliking Common Core because we thought it might show our kids weren’t as “brilliant” as we thought they were?

Do you remember how completely and utterly offensive, sexist, and wrong that was?

That type of attitude is endemic among education reformers.

And that’s because they have a plan that they don’t want anyone getting in the way of.

It goes like this: they set performance standards for our schools, loan us money to meet the standards, pillage us for data, and then demand money back with interest when we “meet” the standards they’ve set for us.

It’s a plan that they stand to get very, very rich of off.

When my friend was told she wasn’t allowed into the meeting because she was wearing jeans, she did something radical.

She just sat down.

Just right down.

Right in the middle of the Union League entry way.

People had to step over her on the way into the meeting.

I keep wondering what public education policy would be like today if more people had her courage. Maybe it’s time we all get up the same kind of nerve?

It’s clear that they don’t want to hear from us.

But maybe if enough of us just sat right now like she did, they wouldn’t be able to get around us?




Author: Emily Talmage

My name is Emily Talmage and I teach fourth grade at Montello Elementary School in Lewiston, Maine. In addition to teaching in Lewiston, I have also taught special education and general education in New York City, including one year at a “high-performing” charter school in Brooklyn. I also have two master’s degrees; one in Urban Education from Mercy College, and another in Developmental Psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University. I have also worked as a research analyst and assistant at the National Center for Children and Families at Columbia and Oldham Innovative Research in Portland.

9 thoughts on “Moms Not Welcome.”

  1. Emily,

    First, thanks for the work you do! Concur 100% with “It’s clear that they don’t want to hear from us.
    But maybe if enough of us just sat right now like she did, they wouldn’t be able to get around us?” Except that I might replace the question mark with an exclamation point.

    Now, not only have the edudeformers been pushing, yes as in pushing drugs, complete claptrap policy on true educators/teachers for years now, they have also determined that we haven’t been implementing those malpractices with enough fidelity and are failing. And guess what? Now they have to come in and “fix those failures”. I attended the edudeformer conference “Failures to Fixes” in KC, MO last May, many of the usual suspects involved-Rick Hess, Jay P Greene, Michael McShane, Martin West and more. Out of the dozen or so hosts and panelists there were two, count em two, who had actual K-12 teaching experience for a total of 7 1/2 years. Unlike Alison, I was allowed to enter. More insanity from the deformers to follow for sure!
    P.S. Did I send you a copy of my book? (I’m truly losing track-and mind)


  2. Emily, I’m a former teacher and principal, and also served 8 years in the legislature, 4 years of which were on the Ed Committee. I know most of the people still on the Committee. I’m sorry to hear that you were not well treated. Who was the person who rolled his/her eyes at you? This is ill treatment for anyone, and should not have happened. As for Commissioners, they all get as much time as they want, no matter which committee and no matter how dysfunctional they are. The Legislature gives them deference since, in general, though not always, it will be their department that will be tasked with administering whatever laws are passed. Regards, Bruce MacDonald Boothbay, Member, Boothbay-Boothbay Harbor CSD School Committee

    Sent from my iPad with apologies for any crazy grammatical changes made by this machine



  3. I did a Google search on Proficiency Based Education. At first, I could only find stuff in the Northeast. However, doing a further search, I found that there was some kind of Proficiency Project launched by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Oregon Business Roundtable several years ago (the stuff started being worked on way back in 2002.) So it appears that this PBE stuff is tied to Bill Gates, which, of course, means it’s Common Core.


  4. You’re statement “they cut me off” hits close to home : once NCLB and test score fanaticism entered into our city’s lowest-income school buildings (and into my life as a teacher working inside a lowest-income building) I could hardly believe, over the years, how often my voice as a well-educated and years-dedicated educator was not only denigrated but “cut off.” I understand the tears. Tears of anger, tears of frustration, tears of fear — and, now that I am no longer allowed to do what I loved — tears of yearning and grief.


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