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Call for Action by Save Our Schools: Educators Unite

December 23, 2011

It seems that there is a movement afoot to fight against the over-turning of public schools by powerful and well-funded outside interests.  I think this is a good thing and it is way past due for action to be taken.

As public educators committed to democratic principles, we are charged to:

  • Advocate for authentic reform initiatives that support public education to ensure PK-12 students develop the critical thinking and process skills necessary to become informed citizens capable of supporting an effective democracy,
  • And, in support of this goal, resist, and support resistance of, forces that seek to connect standardized testing to teacher evaluation.

The current political climate is marked by powerful attacks on public institutions, including schools, colleges, universities and public employee unions. These attacks are dangerous because public education is an essential component of an effective democracy: for citizens to self-govern, they must be able to engage in the process of recreating society in meaningful, intentional ways.

Today, neoliberal policies threaten the ability of public institutions to foster critical, thoughtful, active citizens. Education is being viewed as a commodity and the labor of teachers and students – at all levels – is being exploited as a means to generate data for private entities which then, more often than not, use those data to confirm the perceived ineffectiveness of the public institutions themselves.

This is very well stated, education IS being viewed as a commodity.  I have coined it the “businessification” of our public schools.  Coming from a business background myself the similarities are numerous, especially the assembly-line model of testing.  I am all for assessing students, but the tests themselves have really gotten out of hand, there is so much pressure for a kid to perform on these bubble-in tests that many of the students lose interest in them by middle school, and their scores reflect this lack of caring.

As a public institution that prepares future educators, we must model the critical stance that we want our teacher candidates to develop. We must not simply comply with policies and regulations that we know are unjust, flawed, and designed to undermine and destroy the power of the public sphere.

These actions may seem unnecessary and excessive; however, the actions of neoliberal reformers are, in fact, far more extreme and debilitating to our society – especially to those who are least powerful. Moreover, if we can lead a movement that involves Schools of Education throughout the state and nation, our efforts could have a significant impact by harnessing the power of education for social justice.

If these actions seem misguided, consider the following question: what would we expect our students to do? We hope to graduate educators who advocate for democracy and social justice; therefore, we must demonstrate our own commitment to these values.

The new teacher evaluation system exploits the labors of students, teachers, and administrators in an endeavor that

  • shows no evidence of benefiting learners
  • enriches private entities who develop and distribute the examinations
  • is designed to prove that public institutions are deficient, setting the stage for privatization – a strategy that will deplete public schools and diminish the overall quality of education for all except the affluent, privileged classes.

In the new assessment system, the expertise and energies of students, teachers, and administrators are expended in order to provide data that enriches private entities and impoverishes public schools. This is not acceptable. Therefore, we recommend that school districts in states, (such as New York), that are subject to the damaging effects of evaluation systems based on standardized assessments should refuse to participate. Teachers and administrators should educate community members about high-stakes standardized assessments, and parents and their children should consider declining to provide data that only harm the quality of their education.

In New York State, this means that students in grade 4 and grade 8 should not be subjected to the respective state examinations.

To encourage this action, we pledge to:

  • Promote United Opt Out (http://unitedoptout.com), a grass-roots movement to end punitive public school testing;
  •  Petition political leaders at the local, state and federal level to end initiatives that do not benefit students;
  •  Endorse the New York Principals APPR (Annual Professional Performance Review) Position Paper (www.newyorkprincipals.org);
  •  Provide direct assistance to families and educators who wish to resist destructive reforms and advance positive, proven teaching-learning experiences.

There is a lot more information at the link posted above.  If you are a teacher I recommend that you look at the information presented to you with regard to the current trend to turn schools into businesses and decide accordingly what you will or will not support.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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