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

Monday, December 05, 2011

CALL FOR ACTION: EDUCATORS UNITE!

CALL FOR ACTION: EDUCATORS UNITE!

As public educators committed to democratic principles, we are charged to:

    Advocate for authentic reform initiatives that support public education to ensure PK-12 students develop the critical thinking and process skills necessary to become informed citizens capable of supporting an effective democracy,

    And, in support of this goal, resist, and support resistance of, forces that seek to connect standardized testing to teacher evaluation.

The current political climate is marked by powerful attacks on public institutions, including schools, colleges, universities and public employee unions. These attacks are dangerous because public education is an essential component of an effective democracy: for citizens to self-govern, they must be able to engage in the process of recreating society in meaningful, intentional ways.

Today, neoliberal policies threaten the ability of public institutions to foster critical, thoughtful, active citizens. Education is being viewed as a commodity and the labor of teachers and students – at all levels – is being exploited as a means to generate data for private entities which then, more often than not, use those data to confirm the perceived ineffectiveness of the public institutions themselves.

As a public institution that prepares future educators, we must model the critical stance that we want our teacher candidates to develop. We must not simply comply with policies and regulations that we know are unjust, flawed, and designed to undermine and destroy the power of the public sphere.

These actions may seem unnecessary and excessive; however, the actions of neoliberal reformers are, in fact, far more extreme and debilitating to our society – especially to those who are least powerful. Moreover, if we can lead a movement that involves Schools of Education throughout the state and nation, our efforts could have a significant impact by harnessing the power of education for social justice.

If these actions seem misguided, consider the following question: what would we expect our students to do? We hope to graduate educators who advocate for democracy and social justice; therefore, we must demonstrate our own commitment to these values.

The new teacher evaluation system exploits the labors of students, teachers, and administrators in an endeavor that

    • shows no evidence of benefiting learners
    • enriches private entities who develop and distribute the examinations
    • is designed to prove that public institutions are deficient, setting the stage for privatization—a strategy that will deplete public schools and diminish the overall quality of education for all except the affluent, privileged classes.

In the new assessment system, the expertise and energies of students, teachers, and administrators are expended in order to provide data that enriches private entities and impoverishes public schools. This is not acceptable. Therefore, we recommend that school districts in states, (such as New York), that are subject to the damaging effects of evaluation systems based on standardized assessments should refuse to participate. Teachers and administrators should educate community members about high-stakes standardized assessments, and parents and their children should consider declining to provide data that only harm the quality of their education.

In New York State, this means that students in grade 4 and grade 8 should not be subjected to the respective state examinations.

To encourage this action, we pledge to:

Promote United Opt Out (http://unitedoptout.com), a grass-roots movement to end punitive public school testing;

Petition political leaders at the local, state and federal level to end initiatives that do not benefit students;

Endorse the New York Principals APPR (Annual Professional Performance Review) Position Paper (www.newyorkprincipals.org);

Provide direct assistance to families and educators who wish to resist destructive reforms and advance positive, proven teaching-learning experiences.

Public education is the foundation for developing the minds, attitudes and values of students to become informed decision-makers able to engage in effective democracy in meaningful ways. A system organized around teaching to the test will not provide students with the skills and dispositions necessary to have a meaningful voice in a democratic and just society.

Please join us as we speak out against and boycott examinations that will be used only to reinforce conditions of injustice and corporatization and undermine the quality of our public education system. Education is neither a business nor a competition. People are more than data points; education is more than a number. Tell your school district officials that children should not take part in the destruction of public education, and encourage others to do the same.

To add your name, please email Julie Gorlewski at gorlewsj@newpaltz.edu.

In solidarity,

Julie Gorlewski, State University of New York at New Paltz
Spencer Salend, State University of New York at New Paltz
Judith Dorney, State University of New York at New Paltz
Eileen Murray, State University of New York at New Paltz
Gowri Parameswaran, State University of New York at New Paltz
Rachel Mattson, State University of New York at New Paltz
Laura Dull, State University of New York at New Paltz
Terry Murray, State University of New York at New Paltz
Tom Meyer, State University of New York at New Paltz
Sue Books, State University of New York at New Paltz
Rosemary Millham, State University of New York at New Paltz
Nancy Schniedewind, State University of New York at New Paltz
Kate McCoy, State University of New York at New Paltz
Paul Thomas, Furman University
David Gorlewski, D’Youville College
Ken Saltman, DePaul University
Henry Giroux, McMaster Universiy

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