Parents and Teachers say “NO!” ~ Testing Resistance Continues to Grow

Resistance to over-testing and high stakes testing continues to mount across the country. Here are some inspiring examples:

Karen Hendren and Nikki Jones are two first-grade teachers from Tulsa, Oklahoma. These brave teachers have written an open letter to parents explaining why they are refusing to administer the MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) test to their students. Here is an excerpt from the letter that illustrates one child’s experience:
Student 1: This is one of the sweetest students a teacher could ask for. This student is gentle, calm, and collected. This student is learning English, but does not yet have any academic English. The student sat in front of the computer screen and tried his very best.  We watched his eyes well up with tears. We watched the student nervously pull at his hair.  Eventually, the student scratched red marks down his face in distress over the test.  He is the oldest of the siblings. He can cook, clean, and take care of a baby better than some adults. The student knows all of his alphabet and the letter sounds in English now. This student loves writing books and can dance like no other. He is now comfortable enough to get up in front of the class and perform a talent or recite a poem. This student scored in the 1% range.

Read more about their story in Valerie Strauss’ recent column Your children deserve better than this, first-grade teachers tell parents and read their full letter here.

In other news, our friends at FairTest shared these recent actions:

More than a ScoreAnd there is the just released More Than a Score edited by teacher and activist Jessie Hagopian:

More Than a Score is a collection of essays, poems, speeches, and interviews—accounts of personal courage and trenchant insights—from frontline fighters who are defying the corporate education reformers, often at great personal and professional risk, and fueling a national movement to reclaim and transform public education.

Along with the voices of students, parents, teachers, administrators, and grassroots education activists, the book features renowned education researchers and advocates, including Diane Ravitch, Alfie Kohn, Wayne Au, Nancy Carlsson-Paige, Karen Lewis, Carol Burris, and Mark Naison. (from the website)

DEY’s Nancy Carlsson-Paige will be joining Hagopian and some fellow contributors at the upcoming event on December 4th (see details below).

Thursday, December 4, 2014 – 7:00pm

First Parish Church at Harvard Square

1446 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02138

Join us for an exciting evening of discussion with . . .

Monty Neill, FairTest Executive Director
Alfie Kohn, Author/Activist
Nancy Carlsson-Paige, Early Childhood Education Expert
Barbara Madeloni, Massachusetts Teachers Association President

and editor Jesse Hagopian, a leader of the successful Seattle Teacher Test Boycott

Sponsored by Citizens for Public Schools

Support the ISAT Boycott in Chicago!

My head is spinning after two incredible days at the Network for Public Education national conference. It was their first conference – and plans are already forming for the next one. This gathering of education activists from around the country was inspirational and energizing.

We met folks who have had incredible successes – such as the Providence Student Union’s campaign to remove the requirement for passing the NECAP test for graduation in Rhode Island and TAMSA’s successful reduction of high school high-stakes testing from 15 to 5 exams in Texas.

We also met folks who are deep in the struggle right now. In Chicago Public Schools the teachers at two elementary schools have joined together to boycott the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT). You can read more about what is happening in blog posts by CPS first grade teacher Michelle Gunderson here and here. Gunderson writes, “Educators and parents in Chicago joined forces this week to boycott the ISAT at two schools, Maria Saucedo Elementary School and Drummond Montessori. There are also over 1,000 parents at 37 other Chicago schools who requested to opt their child out of ISAT. They are supported in their decision by the Chicago Teachers Union and the Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE).”

The teachers have the support of President of the Chigaco Teachers Union Karen Lewis and AFT President Randi Weingarten – who were both at the NPE conference and have publicly stood up for the teachers in Chicago. The teachers also have the support of many parents. The school district has threatened to revoke teacher licenses (which they have no authority to do).

At DEY we encourage you to show your solidarity for this act of civil disobedience with the boycotting teachers in Chicago by signing their petition at Moveon.org. The petition states:

  • We support the teachers who refuse to administer and the parents who opt their students out from the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT).
  • We call on Chicago Public Schools and the Illinois State Board of Education not to give the ISAT test this year.
  • There should be no retaliation by the Chicago Board of Education against the parents, students and teachers who have taken action to improve students’ education.

Top tips for activists

Today’s guest blogger is Karel Kilimnik. Karel is a recently retired early childhood teacher in Philadelphia, PA. Karel has spent her life working with young children and their families in some capacity. She earned her early childhood degree at Temple University and began working at the School District of Philadelphia where she found a home learning and teaching for over 20 years. Karel was active in the union and had a firm commitment to infusing everything with a sense of social justice and peace. When she retired a mere four years ago Karel became a full time education activist working to save public education. Karel says: “Every day I woke up to find something else evil being announced as private interests seek to take over public education from closing 32 schools to outsourcing almost 2,000 Head Start placements, to laying off all school counselors. I co-founded an activist organization, the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools (APPS) with another retired teacher. We have been relentless in following the money in Philadelphia. Decisions are getting made behind closed doors with little pretense of involving the public. These decision makers are the only ones with any money to spend as the governor of Pennsylvania has stripped $1 billion dollars from the state K-12 education budget during his first years in office (as he somehow found $400 million to put into building a new prison right outside of Philadelphia).  Corporate interests masking themselves as philanthropic entities are helping themselves to our public schools and seeking to destroy public education. We must organize ourselves to fight back.”

At our session for early childhood activists at NAEYC’s Annual Conference in November, Karel shared her top tips for activists. We asked Karel for permission to share her tips here:

Tips for Activists

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”  – Margaret Mead

  1. Find like-minded people
  2. Food always helps people connect so bring in muffins or cookies.  Have tea & coffee readily available
  3. Do something fun together. Go see a movie or to a concert or an art exhibit.
  4. Put one foot in front of the other – take small steps and always, always celebrate your wins no matter how small they may seem.
  5. Do your research so that you are prepared.
  6. Support each other. Kindness begets more of the same.
  7. Be persistent. Do not give up. Oftentimes your opponents will respect you for your integrity and persistence even if you are always opposing them. Do not mistake attempts to subvert you for respect – a fine line to walk.
  8. Be positive. Look at what is possible. For this you need to know what you believe in.
  9. Talk with people. Collect business cards. Talk with the reporters who cover education.  They may come to see you as a reliable source of information.
  10. Change the conversation. For example, instead of their talk about high performing schools, change it to, “Every school a great school.” Instead of choice always meaning a charter school, change it to choice meaning good neighborhood schools. Act like a toddler and repeat this over and over and over again.

Thanks to Karel for sharing her strategies! To learn more, check out Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools on Facebook. You can also view a powerful video. Activists and the Media Mobilizing Project TV in Philadelphia, PA have produced the video Our Schools Are Not For Sale. “This is the story of Philadelphia’s teachers, parents, students, and communities who are fighting for public schools that are well-resourced, high-quality and available to all. Watch how local communities are responding to a year of unprecedented attacks, including the closing of 24 schools, layoffs of hundreds of teachers and counselors, and the elimination of school libraries, art, music, and sports programs.”

Resistance continues to grow

Today we share more examples of resistance to the current education “reform” movement…

In New York City, parents at the Castle Bridge School organized a successful boycott of a new standardized test for the K – 2 students at their school. Principal Julie Zuckerman supported the parents and cancelled the test when 90% of the parents opted out. Learn more here from this video from The Real News.

Award-winning principal Carol Burris of New York has written an eloquent piece in Valerie Strauss’ The Answer Sheet:  A ridiculous Common Core test for first graders. Burris reports that NYSUT (New York State United Teachers) has called for a three year moratorium on high-stakes consequences of testing.

Activists and the Media Mobilizing Project TV in Philadelphia, PA have produced the video Our Schools Are Not For Sale. “This is the story of Philadelphia’s teachers, parents, students, and communities who are fighting for public schools that are well-resourced, high-quality and available to all. Watch how local communities are responding to a year of unprecedented attacks, including the closing of 24 schools, layoffs of hundreds of teachers and counselors, and the elimination of school libraries, art, music, and sports programs.”

The Badass Teacher Association (BATs) – which formed just a few months ago – already has almost 32,000 members on Facebook. “MISSION: Badass Teachers Association was created to give voice to every teacher who refuses to be blamed for the failure of our society to erase poverty and inequality through education. BAT members refuse to accept assessments, tests and evaluations created and imposed by corporate driven entities that have contempt for authentic teaching and learning. GOALS: BATs aim to reduce or eliminate the use of high stakes testing, increase teacher autonomy in the classroom and work to include teacher and family voices in legislative decision-making processes that affect students.”

What other examples of resistance are happening in your area?! Please share.