Saturday, December 8, 2012

A Warning to the Nation's Parents

School Reform is coming to a town near you, quite possibly to the school your children attend. Perhaps it is already there. It promises better results for your children through increased testing, evaluation of teachers based on test results, merit pay for teachers, closing of allegedly failing schools, and increasing the number of charter schools and on line learning options. ******It sounds very progressive, using the language of equity and national renewal. It promises to make our country more competitive in a global economy, give new opportunities to children from low income backgrounds, and to make communities where it is implemented more likely to experience economic growth. ********Unfortunately, the actual impact of these policies can be very different that what is promised. Here are some of the things that education scholars and parent/teacher activists have observed in communities where School Reform policies have been implemented *** A sharp ratcheting up in the number of tests in all grades, and in all subjects *** A reduction in the number of school counselors, along with rising class sizes *** The elimination of art, music, history, recess and gym to make room for test-prep *** The marginzalization and humiliation of Special Needs Students and English Language Learners. *** A rise in stress related symptoms ( depression, anxiety etc) among students and teachers. *** The departure and/or early retirement of the districts best teachers as competition between teachers is promoted and mentoring and collaborative practices are discouraged. ******Because School Reformers depend on Fear, Intimidation, Competition and Material Incentives to achieve results, and only value results that can be tested and measured, the result is that the joy, creativity and imagination will be squeezed out of students and teachers attending and working in the schools they create. ******To put it bluntly, these reforms will make your children HATE GOING TO SCHOOL. *****Do not lest this happen to your children and the children in your community. Protest, resist, Opt Out of State Tests, and reach out to teachers who are organizing to resist these soul-destroying measures.


Melanie Williams-Smotherman said...

Mark, thank you for this summary of what is happening to destroy children's love of learning and teachers' love of teaching. I want to add a couple more comments to your observations:

Another so-called "reform" that is being pushed in the name of "education" and "opportunity" is the prosecution of parents and children who are absent from school for any reason. In other word, the term "truancy," with its original negative connotation as the definition of children who are skipping school without their parents' permission, has been replaced with "excessive absences."

The backers of this tactic - with the simple goal of getting more children's butts into seats for test prep and to increase attendance numbers for financial incentives - still use the term "truancy" for public support, because they know what the general public thinks that means.

The state of Nebraska passed a law that made 20 "unexcused" absences in a school year a crime - regardless of the reason for the absences - which hits special needs families and the poor hardest. Law enforcement, prosecutors and judges are turning sick children, kids with special opportunities, kids with fewer resources, and kids with various disabilities as "truants" and their parents as child neglecters.

The results are threats of court interventions, charges of neglect and status offense, and even child removals. (Nebraska is already second in the nation for removing children from their families in the name of child protection).

Within your list of those subjects and activities being cut to make more room for test prep is also lunch. Lunch periods for children have been cut so severely, that some children only get between 10 -20 minutes of time to eat each day. I have heard reports that within that time, children are not allowed to talk with friends (there's no time), kids are forced to stop eating before they are done, and in one first-hand report I have heard, test prep has even been brought into the lunch room (kids are made to eat quietly while prep for spelling is forced upon them).

This feels like war.

Autumn Foster Cook said...

Mike, thank you for your accurate portrayal of what's going on with "school reform." Have you researched the role of the Common Core State Standards in this movement? The Common Core must be opposed by those who believe in "education with a soul" - it intensifies the testing gauntlet, sets up the collection and reporting of unbelievable amounts of personally-identifiable information on each and every student, reduces high school students' literature exposure to 30% of what they read - with 70% of what they read being "informational texts" - and puts the good teachers in a straight-jacket that already has them trickling out the doors.

There are citizens' groups all over the country fighting it. Check out "Dump Duncan" and "Utahns Against Common Core," two groups with very different political ideologies on many things, but agreement on the evils of Common Core and the school reform behemoth.