It’s Officially Hopeless

My original first post for the new year was more hopeful than this will be.  I might finish it and post it later when I recover from the utter disappoint I am feeling right now.  Today was the first day back to school after the holidays and my friend and I just dropped off our sons at Pre-K.  On the walk home, she told me about a conversation she had with her cousin who teaches 3rd grade at our school.

My friend asked her, “What do you think about the testing?”  She paused for a long time, and my friend laughingly added, “Are you thinking of the PC answer to my question?”

“Yes, I was,” she admitted.

“Come on, I’m your cousin.  You don’t have to be PC with me.  You can tell me what you really think,” my friend said.

Her cousin answered, “I can’t.  Right now I have to answer like I’m faculty.”

Despite pleading from my friend, she would only give the faculty-based answer.  She promised to give her opinion after she gave her original answer.  Her PC answer was:

The tests are a good way for me go gauge the progress of my students.  I can figure out in the beginning the level of my students, and then half-way through easily figure out what we have to work on… whether it is reading comprehension or something else.  The tests {she is referring to the STAR assessments in this conversation} are easily done on the computer.  They aren’t a big deal.

She never did give her opinion, but she did have this to say:

There’s one parent who disagrees with the tests {that would be yours truly} and we’ve been discussing her at faculty meetings trying to figure out why she would be against something so helpful.  We all know who she is through process of elimination.  No one understands why she is so against them.

Then my friend asked, “But what about the tests that are used to evaluate teachers?”

She answers, “But don’t you think teachers should be held accountable?”

I don’t know how to feel right now.  In my heart of hearts, I always felt like even though the teachers couldn’t (wouldn’t) speak out publicly, that they supported me, or at least understood where I was coming from.  And I have honestly always been supportive of our teachers.  I can’t describe my feelings about this right now, but betrayal comes really close.  And I am taken aback because my whole plan of action depended on the security of knowing that even though this fight against education reform was tough and uncomfortable at times, that there were those who were (at least secretly) cheering me on.

Many parents just aren’t aware of how public education is changing, and I expected that it would be difficult to change a deeply engrained mindset of simply trusting our governments and schools.  But teachers… I always thought, how could anyone support this system after working inside of it and experiencing it firsthand?  Maybe you are afraid of speaking out, but how can you actually agree with this?  I never expected that.

I don’t know what else I can do at the local level, except for continuing to opt-out.  My son’s teacher is aware of my reasons.  Apparently the rest of the faculty know who I am and what I’m doing.  The principal received my original opt-out letter and we’ve discussed my decision in great detail.  I have attended her informational meetings and have been very critical of testing and the Common Core.  I wrote each member of the board of education asking them to pass a resolution against high-stakes testing.  I have yet to receive a response.  I wrote to our superintendent asking him where our school stands on the issue of high-stakes testing.  I have yet to receive a response.

It was my intention to try to talk to various teachers one-on-one and person-to-person, not parent-to-teacher.  But where do I start when it seems that as a collective they’ve decided I’m difficult for no reason.  Other parents have yet to speak out.  There are a few that empathize, but no one else seems as outraged as I am.  It’s easy to start to doubt one’s self when you stand alone.  I start to wonder if maybe I am the one who is misguided.

Parents, I ask, how do you deal with the fact that you’re an extreme minority when it comes to being critical of education reform and testing?

Teachers, I ask, are you a minority in your schools when you are critical of education reform and testing?

And to everyone, how do we change that?

Maybe it’s not officially hopeless, but I’m definitely feeling a bit downtrodden at the moment.  Being unique in one’s opinion is a beautiful thing, but try it in one of the smallest of small towns and it gets to you occasionally.  Sometimes I wish I could be blissfully ignorant.  But that will never happen!

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14 thoughts on “It’s Officially Hopeless

  1. Your story is my story – and the story of many education activists across the country who continue to stand up and speak the truth in the face of those who walk on by, those who protect their own, those who drank the Koolaid, and those who simply would prefer the bliss. Keep doing what you are doing – but be strategic in your actions – look for intense pockets of those who are awake or are ready to wake up! Continue to blog and use social media to network with all of us – we need you! I understand the feelings of betrayal and honestly – in my case – downright anger – I still struggle with that. But I have now gotten over the shock factor that comes with sharing this information and then watching people continue to feed the corporate education machine. We have a long road ahead of us, and sadly, it requires the vultures landing in their backyards for them to see what is currently in front of them. I wish it weren’t that way – I wish that everyone cared about our neediest children (who are currently suffering the most at the hands of corporate education reform) enough to refuse the mandates and take action to end this. But the harsh reality is that most protect their own, and if it’s not that bad yet, they won’t make a move. But, when the vultures settle in their backyard – and they eventually will – they’ll be knocking on your door asking for help. Guaranteed. The good news is you’ll be ready 🙂

    • Thank you, Peggy Robertson. It’s great to know there are allies like you out there! My district is just what you described, “… it’s not that bad yet,” with an emphasis on ‘yet!’ I’ll hang in there and keep fighting the fight. I’ll get over the shock factor soon. And if most people do indeed protect their own, I will do the same, for my children are MY children and I have a definite idea of what kind of education I want for them!– and it has nothing to do with the corporate education machine!!!

    • This is exactly the type of speech tenure was designed to protect and the mind control the corporate reformers are intent on eliminating. When teachers loose tenure they loose the ability to freely exchange ideas, they loose the rights to engage the public in discourse, and loose the ability to advocate for their students.

      In totalitarian societies those in power always targeted dissidents and academics first by killing them, imprisoning them, or expelling them. By shutting down information they quell challenges to their power. The corporate reformers methods are different but the intent is the same. Obey or be fired. Eliminate institutional memory and in 10 years no teacher will remember that tenure protected them for speaking out against authority.

  2. As you know, I was “silenced” in a previous “life” because what I was saying was getting to the community. I know how you feel. I felt that way too …and I allowed myself some self-pity for a few days. I’ve had to change my tactics, but dammit – I won’t stop talking about the mess!
    Just had a conversation today with some colleagues about the testing, the progress monitoring, the nonsense of EVERYTHING! There is hope – more and more faculty members are talking to me about opting their OWN kids OUT of testing! It takes a LOT of TIME, and you are a voice that needs to be heard.
    You know what, you have more courage and determination in your pinky than most administrators have!! That’s what it would take – for administrators to say “NO – WE DON’T WANT YOUR MONEY!” Until then – keep talking, keep fighting, and keep on doing what is RIGHT for you KIDS!! YOU are one of my heroes!!

  3. Sorry to all concerned if this sounds harsh but teachers acting like spineless cowards is not in the best interests of the kids we are charged with educating. Anyone so far down the reformer’s rabbit hole that they can’t see the true purposes of this testing blizzard has all ready surrendered their integrity and their say in the discussion. These tests are being used to break teacher’s unions because teacher’s unions are THE main impediment to total privatization and corporate usurpation of our public schools. If you can use the testing to score a teacher “inneffective” for two years — any teacher, especially one who isn’t swallowing this 1984 version of education– they can then be put up for dismissal. Secondly these tests are used to collect data which is then handed onto vendors like Pearson who can turn around and unload a bunch of overpriced useless, time wasting stupidity inducing worksheets, checklists and god only knows what all else. None of this is for kids or intended to benefit kids, it’s to further enrich adults who seek a way to avoid paying union salaries to highly educated professionals. It’s so much easier to hire TFA “trained” 20 somethings who will do as they are ordered and spend their entire 2 year career in terror of being found “ineffective.” If you still think any of this is for kids or even more hilariously for the good of educators I submit you are too stupid to teach any of my kids. Peace.

    • I completely agree. I can see no good in this testing craze. When things start going really terribly wrong in my district then maybe they will realize how bad the corporate influence on education is. Although the STAR assessments at my school are not (yet) used to score teachers, they are still a form of standardized multiple-choice tests. And furthermore they are completely developmentally inappropriate for young children, like my son. Thank you for speaking up and for your truthful comment! I’ve always tried to be honest and transparent to the teachers and administrators at my school and have shared my blog with them…. I’m not sure anyone reads it, but hopefully they do and hopefully your comment helps to make them think! Thanks again!

  4. I’m a parent, teacher and president of my local teachers’ union. I am very much opposed to this fixation on testing. However, I get frustrated because even though a lot of teachers express their frustration of the amount of time that is taken away from learning with this focus on testing & test prep, we often “assume” that parents must be okay with it. I’ve yet to see a parent speak out about this over emphasis on testing at our school board meetings. Politicians need to hear from parents because they only seem to hear it from teachers, so then the assumption is that it must only be teachers that have an issue with it. At least that is how it is often played out where I live & work.

    • I’ve addressed each level of my local school, and written to politicians at all levels. I am actively involved in various groups and speak openly about my disdain for testing to whoever will listen. At my school, I wish there was a teacher willing to speak out openly so we can work both sides of this miserable playing field. At the same time, I understand your frustration with parents… there aren’t many here that are willing to speak up. But I think if their child’s teacher would just say, “look, we have to do this but it is absolutely wrong…” then perhaps the parent might start asking questions. It’s a vicious cycle. Teachers think parents are ok with it, and parents assume all is well at school because teachers aren’t saying anything. How to break this? The few parents that have questioned the STAR assessments at my school are quickly placated by the teacher’s heavy praise of them. I get that they might be a useful tool for a teacher, but they are still a corporate standardized test required by the state. Thanks so much for your comment! I hope we can both figure out a way to engage teachers AND parents in this battle.

  5. Teachers are afraid of losing their jobs now because so many are being terminated in school district’s where the greatest desire is to save money and cut expenses. Using testing is the simplest way to point at a teacher and say “You have to go”. Even a teacher who speaks out about it is putting a big red circle on their head that says, “Let me go. I’m the one who will be easiest to fire.” Testing is not about educating children or evaluating teachers. It’s about cutting payroll while pretending to be interested in the student. In the USA the one thing that matters most is cost…period. Welcome to the culture of fear, alive and well in America of all places!

  6. Pingback: Hope Resurrected « The Plain Satisfactions

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