Monthly Archives: October 2014

Fighting Test Based School Reform is the Moral Imperative of Our Time

All across the nation, teachers are being asked to implement policies which violate their conscience, their professional training, their best practices and common sense, with severe penalties if they resist. This is a policy nightmare of epic proportions. It has to be described as such, attacked as such, and ultimately resisted as such. Fighting  Test Based School Reform is one of the great moral imperatives of our time. It destroys careers, it destroys lives, it erases the best features of childhood.

When Common Core Is Viewed as “Just War”- The NY State Ed Dept’s Politics of Cynicism

After seeing  NY State Regents Chair Merryl Tisch in action at the Bronx Common Core Forum without Commissioner King present, I am convinced the Regents are approaching the transition to Common Core as a “just war” in which they are willing to accept a very high number of casualties. The only way to stop them, since their own children will not be among the casualties, is to make the price of continuing the war even higher. The best ways to do that are the following:

1. Sharply increasing the number of children Opting out of State tests next spring.
2. Filing lawsuits against them for everything from illegal data sharing to promoting child abuse through excessive testing
3. Getting the medical community involved in examining the stress related trauma experienced by children as a result of high stakes testing and the Common Core standards.
4. Support candidates for office, and run candidates ourselves, who support a major overhaul of State Education policies, including removing current leadership of the Regents and State Education departments.
5. Deluging the media with stories of the stress experienced by children as young as 4 as a result of State Education Department policies.

We are already doing many of these things; but we have to ratchet up the pressure on all fronts

.  And we should also start holding fundraising parties to fund class action lawsuits

Voices from the Trenches; Teachers Respond to the Impact of NY State Tests on Their Students

From a Teacher in a Bronx Middle School

“The children were expected to sit in absolute silence for three hours! The older special emotionally disturbed children in the school started a riot in the cafeteria !! Direct result of over testing and frustration due to expectations that are outrageously unrealistic and necessary !! Excuse my vocabulary ,but this is absolute bull shit!!!”

From a Manhattan  Middle School/ High School Teacher

Tests at our middle school for students with emotional disturbance have led to major fights and aggressive behaviors. Yesterday, a student was taken to hospital on stretcher and another taken out of the school in handcuffs- middle school! This is an outrage. The tests are purposely impossible so next year, when tests are easier, the government can show ‘progress.’ They are using our children as pawns in their political schemes with zero concern for their actual educations or their overall well being

From a Brooklyn Teacher and Parent

The biggest hypocrisy of all is the DoE’s descrbing its mission as “Children First.” No, it’s testing first, It’s Data First. It’s bidding by publishers first. Children come last in this equation. It’s disgusting. And… as I’ve mentioned before, THE CHILDREN NEVER GET TO SEE THE RESULTS OF THEIR TESTS. They will not know which answers they got right or wrong, or if all the instruction on using graphic organizers and chunking text and all that made a difference. The tests will be shredded before kids (or teachers) ever get to see them. So they can not even be used as instgructional tools. Where’s the “Children First” in all of this?

Educational Malpractice and the Tragedy of America’s Teachers

Someday, though I don’t exactly know when or how, there will be a full account of the tragedy of America’s teachers being forced to commit educational malpractice and deciding between keeping the jobs they need to feed their families and jeopardizing the educational well being and emotional health of the children they teach.
Based on the messages and emails I have received daily since the founding of BATS,as well as book’s like Laurel Sturt’s “Davonte’s Inferno” this group may well encompasses millions of teachers. This malpractice consists, among other things, of administering multiple tests to children as low as Pre-K, pushing play out of the classroom, cancelling recess for test prep, putting up Data Walls which humiliate students and foster unhealthy competition; failing students for writing essays which do not conform to a script; administering developmentally inappropriate tests to ELL and Special Needs students; doing “close reading” of texts which should be enjoyed or viewed in historical context; denying students access to art, music and sports because they didn’t do well on tests; imposing Common Core aligned curricula without dissent even when they are less effective the curricula they replaced.
The sum total of these measures are test mad, creativity deprived, play impaired, and joyless classrooms which break students spirits at an early age.
Teachers are told their jobs depend on imposing these measures. Some resist and are fired, many retire, many feign compliance and try to subvert, but many end of implementing these policies with damaged consciences and broken hearts. More than a few end up going on medication,
What is taking place in our schools is the anti-thesis of Freedom. It has the stench of the authoritarianism that marks the worst dictatorships.
We have to stop it, reverse it, shut it down.
Free the Teachers.
Free the Students.

“Root Shock” Why the School Closings of Today Resemble the Urban Renewal of the Past

Several years ago, a Mindy Thompson Fullilove wrote a book called “Root Shock” on how the destruction of neighborhoods through urban renewal had a devastating effect on millions of low and moderate income people in America’s cities in the post World War II era Here is the description of her book:”They called it progress. But for the people whose homes and districts were bulldozed, the urban renewal projects that swept America starting in 1949 were nothing short of assault. Vibrant city blocks—places rich in history—were reduced to garbage-strewn vacant lots. When a neighborhood is destroyed its inhabitants suffer “root shock”: a traumatic stress reaction related to the destruction of one’s emotional ecosystem. The ripple effects of root shock have an impact on entire communities that can last for decades”.
Today, the same process is being repeated through school closings. Thousands of schools which have served neighborhoods for generations have been closed in cities all over the US, leading to mass firings of teachers and staff who grew up in or lived in those communities and disrupting the lives of hundreds of thousands of families. In some cities, the result has been exposing young people to greater risk of violence; in others, the process has promoted gentrification. But the disruptive consequences of this policy have been enormous and totally ignored by policy makers who have ironically claimed this strategy is promoting education equity
I will say this. Destroying neighborhood institutions and the historic memory invested in them is a form of psychic violence that should not be underestimated. School closings, and displacement of the people who worked in them are wreaking havoc with the lives of people who need stability, continuity and support more than continuous upheaval,