Parents, we have the power!

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:

“…stress…”
“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!

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9 thoughts on “Parents, we have the power!

  1. As a Florida teacher, I applaud the teachers and parents who are discussing this openly and developing a plan of action! Stand up! Fight back! They will only be children once. Their enthusiasm for learning and discovery will be destroyed with the testing that is being inflicted on students nationwide. We can’t let that happen!

  2. Excellent! I am sure that you would get the same response from teachers and parents from every community across the state. As a teacher who is currently working 60 hour weeks at a furious pace I don’t have the time to set up and run a meeting. I do regularly talk to teachers and parents about the cost of standardized testing and the negative impact the “education reform” movement is having on our children. Building the opt out movement and giving educational decisions back to parents and educators, rather than allowing business interests to dictate education policy, is vitally important. I would certainly attend a meeting in my area if one were organized by concerned parents.

    • I’m sure we’ll see this spread across the state, slowly but surely! Right now there’s not much organization in my area, so I would really like to thank the Opt-Out Geneva group for hosting this one!

  3. I had a union meeting today after school, and talked extensively about our meeting! Today was the FIRST TIME that a TEACHER asked me “Should we make our concerns known to the BOE and the public?” I feel a tiny glimmer of hope for the FIRST TIME in 2 years of talking!! It takes time, but we will get there TOGETHER!
    So, now, our Union is thinking about how we can present factual information about:
    * the amount of testing going on in our building
    *the dates of the field tests and all other tests
    *how RtTT and NY’s APPR are affecting our students
    I am thrilled beyond belief and like you am eternally grateful to Opt Out Geneva for hosting us!!

  4. Well, step one: We (the members of our Union) have an article going in the District Newsletter describing in very general terms the APPR. Our main point right now is that evaluations of teachers are not new – that we have had an APPR plan as part of our contract and teacher evaluations in our contract for two decades. We are trying to raise the awareness that THIS is NEW. We have decided that we need to be the experts that the parents and other community members can talk to about what’s going on. It’s a small start – but one that even the most squeamish teacher (when it comes to activism) can live with.
    My frustration is that I want to move at light speed – but many of my colleagues just aren’t there yet, so I will settle for SOMETHING over the eye rolling I got a year ago!

    • Thanks for keeping us updated. As a parent, I don’t get the same perspective on what’s going on WITHIN the system. There’s always an element of mystery there. so I always love getting your teacher’s point of view! Isn’t it always the case that the bigger things become, the more disparate the parts of it are? Then it becomes even more imperative that we communicate so that we can work together to achieve our goals. Thanks again for all that you do!

  5. Pingback: November 3rd Regional Opt Out Meeting: Press Release « The Plain Satisfactions

  6. Pingback: STAR Assessments, part 2 « The Plain Satisfactions

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