"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Saturday, February 24, 2007

On a National Day of Teacher Conscience

In an America I never knew that I could know, teachers quiver and quake for their jobs as national policymakers demand of them actions that, in fact, assure the destruction of children, of public schools, of their own profession. They cower in teacher rooms and whisper about getting fired for signing a petition that calls for the repeal of the Big Lie, No Child Left Behind. They move from class to class with their idiotic slides and "dittos" and mastery motivational talks provided by the testing/textbook company chosen for its willingness to pay the most to get the business. They angrily proclaim over lunch how they have learned years ago to keep their mouths shut and to do what they are asked to do (anger is always the self-selected moral choice when cowardice is the only perceived alternative).

They grind from one school day to the next, cajoling and saluting and marching their children along shiny hallways like prisoners at the correctional facility. They are preoccupied by the bonus pay they could earn from higher test scores, as they shop the real estate ads for an affordable gated community carved into some barren red hillside in South Carolina, a place where they may retire in peaceful repose, knowing they served well--knowing that the next generation will be in good hands.

What will you do on a National Day of Teacher Conscience? Go the Walmart? Walk out? Stand up for the Code of Ethics that your professional organization has apparently forgotten they adopted?

They may have something specific that is emerging in Virginia. Could it be, conscience? Will you support them?:

. . . . Denunciations of the No Child Left Behind law's testing rules are multiplying in immigrant-rich Northern Virginia. In Fairfax and Arlington County, educators are preparing to defy the rules even though they are at risk of losing federal aid; other area officials are moving more cautiously.

Federal officials have said repeatedly that grade-level testing is needed for immigrant students after they have been in U.S. schools for one year, a requirement they say will help hold schools to high standards. Most states, including Maryland, are following the rules. So are D.C. public schools, officials say.

U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings has criticized Virginia educators who are resisting. "It's time to remember that yes, Virginia, there is a Standards Clause," Spellings wrote recently in a caustic open letter.

Fairfax, with the region's largest school system, has led the state's rebellion. The county School Board voted in January to continue giving proficiency tests to immigrant students who have not progressed enough to take grade-level tests that assume language fluency. Fairfax school officials appear to be standing firm even though the U.S. Department of Education has threatened to withhold $17 million in aid if the county follows through with its plan. . . .

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