The Geneva gathering was empowering. Yesterday in Geneva, NY a group of concerned parents, educators, and students came together for an amazing exchange of ideas concerning the excessive testing permeating our schools.
Everyone had something important to say, like the parent who had serious concerns about the 7th grade math curriculum being forced on every school in her district. The same lesson comes to all the teachers at the same time, and they must teach it without much say in the matter. Her son, who excels at math, does not receive the challenge he needs. When this parent inquired she was told that there was nothing the teacher could do… she had to stick to the curriculum.
A teacher of 27 years described how the entire classroom day must be scheduled and approved, and that it was 4 weeks before her 1st graders got any play time! She added that the STAR assessments that her school chose to use cost more than her district gets from the RTTT grant.
We heard from 2 undergraduate students who are one day hoping to enter the profession of teacher and they both had serious concerns about what that profession would be like when they got there.
Parents across the state are concerned about the classroom time spent for test preparation and test taking. And we are concerned about the government keeping a database with our children’s information.
Another teacher described a colleague who has always been an extraordinary teacher. But since the implementation of teacher evaluations being tied to tests, he has noticed her lesson plans changing; she is spending more time focusing on the test.
There were a number of teachers in attendance. And they talked about the fear they all felt. Many were instructed (from the top down) NOT to attend this gathering. Talk about demoralizing! Some of what they said was this:
“Teaching is not fun.”
“We’ve lost the freedom to be creative.”
“I don’t know why anyone would want to go into teaching anymore.”
“… a feeling of hopelessness never before seen.”
“We feel powerless.”
“The policy pendulum has always swung and we’ve always adapted, but right now we just can’t figure it out.”
“Teachers are waiting for someone to do something. No one listens to teachers.”
But what we all agreed on was this:
“Parents are the key!!!”
We have the power! Parents, it’s time to be in control. Be involved and ask questions. The government does NOT have control of us. They can NOT force an agenda on us. We CAN say no. Voice your concerns with your PTA or your BOE. Talk to the administration. Talk to your child’s teacher. Write letters to NYSED or to your representatives.
I know that opting out of everything is a heavy proposition, but I urge you to consider opting out of the field tests. Perhaps you read the NY Times article about parents who were sick and tired of their children being used as guinea pigs, who stood up and opted out. But field tests aren’t just being administered in NYC. Field tests are being administered in different grades at most schools across New York State. Demand to know a test schedule. There is little risk by opting out of field tests. These tests are meaningless for students, meaningless for teachers, meaningless for the schools. They only serve the for-profit testing companies that create them. We have the right to know how companies are using our children, and we have the right to say “NO WAY!”
The grant money our schools are receiving is minimal and short-term. And who do you think will end up picking up the bill? The benefits of opting out are long-term!