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

Saturday, July 09, 2011

New York City Parents Organize to Save Education

Ht to Monty Neill:

The Grassroots Education Movement is in the early stages of forming city-wide campaign against the high stakes use of standardized testing in our schools. We would love for you to be a part of creating and strengthening this campaign. Please join us at our first...

     High Stakes Testing Committee Meeting
     Monday, July 18th, 5pm
     CUNY Graduate Center
     Room 5414
     5th Ave and 34th St.
     1/2/3/B/D/F/M/N/Q/R to 34th St.

     Newly inspired individuals and seasoned activists are all encouraged to
     attend. Parents, teachers, students, and other concerned citizens are
     welcome. If you are a member of a group that does education-related work,
     please consider sending at least a representative to become active with this
     campaign. We are hoping to gather as wide-ranging a committee of concerned
     folks as possible in order to build an effective campaign for the coming
     school year.

     Below is a letter from a New York City parent who explains passionately why
     fighting against the excessive and high stakes use of standardized testing
     in our schools is an absolute necessity at this juncture.

     Hope to see you there on the 18th.

     The Grassroots Education Movement

  Dear Parents, Education Advocates, Teachers and Concerned Friends,

     As we are coming off what appears to be an attack on our public schools
     through the threat of losing 6,000 teachers to budgetary layoffs, we are
     left with 4,100 teaching positions saved, but no positions replaced due to
     attrition. It is clear that as our children's libraries and art and music
     programs are being compromised, millions of dollars are being diverted into
     increased testing and data collecting, neither of which is actually serving
     to better educate our children. The most positive outcome of this
     experience has been the mobilization of parents and teachers and the
     ignition of what can become an engaged parent/teacher movement for real
     reform in our schools.

     Many feel that our schools have become testing obsessed, forgetting to focus
     on what is most important to children by giving students quality teachers,
     small class sizes and a more hands-on experience. Instead, our policy
     makers are taking money out of meaningful programs like the arts and
     physical education in order to increase the funding of high-stakes testing
     that inadequately tests both students and teachers, reduces the time spent
     on actual teaching in the classroom, and adds undue stress to the total
     school experience. Parents and children are bearing the negative effects of
     these tests, and we see that our children's natural curiosity for learning
     is being turned into lethargy and a general lack of interest in school. How
     can our policy makers expect children to be engaged in their education when
     they deplete what many believe is most essential to learning?

     The research is clear: "Data from interviews reveals that teachers
     experience negative emotions as a result of the publication of test scores
     and determine to do what is necessary to avoid low scores. Teachers believe
     that scores are used against them, despite the perceived invalidity of the
     tests themselves. From classroom observations it was concluded that testing
     programs substantially reduce the time available for instruction, narrow
     curricular offerings and modes of instruction, and potentially reduce the
     capacities of teachers to teach content and to use methods and materials
     that are incompatible with standardized testing formats." 1

     We find it disconcerting that those who have the most experience with our
     children's education, teachers and parents, have been left out of the
     decision-making process around what is needed to increase learning. Most
     feel disempowered or disenfranchised, feeling as though their voice does not
     matter and that their children's education is no longer in their hands. If
     a parent gets involved through their PTA, SLT or in the classroom, they are
     quickly discouraged by the bureaucracy that ensues on behalf of their
     school, finding teachers and principals reluctant to address their

     If the tone of this letter resonates with you, you may be relieved to know
     you are not alone in your experience. Hundreds of families are feeling
     stranded and stressed by their experience with our public schools. Many
     have turned to charter schools in the hope of finding a solution to this
     situation. This experience often proves to be an even more limiting place
     to express parental concerns or become intimately involved with a child's
     education. We are seeing the trend of charter schools expanding while our
     public schools are being compromised, both of which are becoming a sick
     experiment affecting our children at the hands of private interests. Is
     this what you envisioned your children's education to look like?

     We feel there are alternative ways to assess children and teachers --
     innovative, creative and meaningful ways that will serve our children's
     needs and help guide the performance inside the classroom. Being "college
     ready" does not have to mean being tested to death. We believe educating
     the whole child is what prepares them for the world beyond school and adds
     meaning to their life and our society. Narrowing their experiences through
     teaching to the test flattens their learning and consequently the society
     they will become a part of after school. We believe our schools can have
     culturally rich, rigorous curricula that prepare our children for college
     and the workforce without the external control of high-stakes testing. The
     excessive focus on testing is hurting our kids and our schools, and we must
     demand and put forth an alternate vision.

     Over the summer, the Grassroots Education Movement would like to explore
     other options and build parent power to oppose the forces that seem set on
     pushing an agenda of high-stakes testing on our teachers and children. We
     are planning a campaign around testing next year that will begin with
     education about what high-stakes testing is and how it negatively affects
     our children and schools. We will educate and organize around alternative
     experiences. As well, we will explore the notion of opting-out of these
     tests, which may be a giant first step in regaining the power that parents
     can have in their children's education. We are encouraging the mobilization
     of such an opt-out campaign that would be strategically crafted and targeted
     to a few schools for one of the local or interim assessments. If you are
     interested in becoming involved in this movement, please contact Janine Sopp
     or Bill Linville to learn more at janinesopp@gmail.com or

     Our first major organizing meeting will be held on July 18 at the CUNY
     graduate center at 5:00pm. We hope to involve as many organizations and
     parents in this process as possible, knowing that the larger the movement,
     the stronger the impact. These recent attacks on our public schools are
     only the beginning. So a stronger parent/teacher force will be needed to
     influence the next wave of intensity.

     We look forward to hearing from you and working with you.
     Janine Sopp
     Public School Parent

     1 Put to the Test: The Effects of External Testing on Teachers, Mary Lee
     Smith, Professor

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous5:01 PM

    I am also a concerned parent and educator. How can we opt out our children from these horrible tests? Do you have a group forming in the western NY area?