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

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Some Talk, Some Act: I'll Go With Those Who Act

from United Opt Out:

“The revolution I want is ‘proceed until apprehended.’ Whether they [reformers] have sinister motives or misguided honest motives, we should say, ‘We are not going to listen to you anymore. We are going to do what’s right.’” -NEA President Lily Eskelson Garcia
We at UOO agree.

Recently the CEA legal services center wrote an opinion piece about Opt Out in the October issue of the CEA Journal. The legal team reviewed state law and Supreme Court cases and ended the piece with a recommendation that teachers should not directly encourage parents or students to opt out.

K-12 public education is now an 800 billion dollar industry. High stakes testing allows for immense profit – using our children. This year the PARCC test will be administered in Colorado. It is already predicted to fail 70% of Colorado’s children, setting up the perfect storm for privatization, using the open door policies found in the Race to the Top mandates and No Child Left Behind waivers. We at UOO act in accordance with the urgency needed to stop the dismantling of our public schools; we respond to Ms. Eskelson Garcia’s call for a revolution and we shall proceed until apprehended.   Civil disobedience and non-violent protests are necessary in times of crisis. Such actions can bring to the forefront the inequities and injustice occurring in our country. Such action can demand change. Simply, opting out is “do[ing] what’s right.”

We at UOO spend a lot of time reviewing ed. statutes. In fact, we have reviewed the ed . statutes of all fifty states in order to create effective opt out guides per state.   At times, a state’s ed. statutes can provide a loop hole that allows for a “legal” opt out. However, in most cases, opt out is simply an act of civil disobedience, an act that is necessary when unethical laws fly in the face of science, teacher experience, student experience, and simply, in the face of doing what is right.

CEA legal services state, “The taking of statewide assessments is required of students and the Colorado Department of Education’s regulations applicable to teaching licenses require that teachers do not set an inappropriate example for children or youth whose ideals the educator is expected to foster and elevate.”

We cannot imagine a better example for children or youth than an educator who stands up to policies which harm children.  

In order to “foster and elevate” children we must first do no harm. A high stakes environment which thrives on testing and denies children resources essential to their mental and physical well-being is not only harmful, it has been labeled “child abuse” by Dr. Gary Thompson, a Doctor of Psychology, who speaks nationwide on the abuses inflicted on children in the name of high stakes testing. Peer reviewed research on high stakes testing clearly shows that such testing causes illness, anxiety, decreased motivation, and heightened levels of stress.

We at UOO have helped thousands of parents refuse tests for their children. Dr. Thompson states that approximately 20% of children will be successful on the common core high stakes PARCC test. The other 80% include children of poverty, children of color, children with exceptional needs, and children who suffer from emotional stresses such as anxiety, OCD, and suicidal thoughts. Opting out is “do[ing] what’s right.”

We believe that setting children up to fail, in the name of the almighty dollar, is indeed, child abuse.

We must also factor in the effects of poverty on brain development. In Colorado, the number of homeless school children has more than tripled in the last decade. The poverty rate of black children stands at approximately 40 percent while the poverty rate of Latino children is approximately 30 percent. Colorado also has the third fastest growing rate of childhood poverty in the nation. The stresses of poverty can change the development of the brain.  CEA has called the current testing in Colorado toxic. We would agree. Such toxic testing should not be inflicted on children of poverty – toxic stress already exists in their lives. Adding toxic testing will further increase the damage done to the pre-frontal cortex – the part of the brain which deals with problem solving. Such toxic testing is guaranteed to increase the school to prison pipeline.

Teachers and parents nationwide have shared story after story with us regarding the emotional and physical stress placed on children in high stakes testing environments.  We at UOO cannot fathom any reason, whatsoever, to place any child in these abusive situations. Opting out is “do[ing] what’s right.”

In order to protect children, it is essential to refuse to comply with unethical laws.

The PARCC test is an experiment. There is no peer review research to demonstrate that this test is valid. There is no parental informed consent for the PARCC experiment. Experimentation requires informed consent.

The PARCC is not our only concern. We believe parents should also refuse common core tests and curriculum inflicted on our youngest children (grades K-3). Early childhood health and educational professionals agree; they wrote a joint statement in 2010, demanding that the K-3 standards be withdrawn. They state, “The proposed standards conflict with compelling new research in cognitive science, neuroscience, child development, and early childhood education about how young children learn, what they need to learn, and how best to teach them in kindergarten and the early grades.” 
We take our cue from the experts, those who work with children in multiple capacities, to determine what course of action is necessary to halt the harm – the toxic common core curriculum and testing – occurring in our public schools. Opting out is “do[ing] what’s right.”

CEA legal services state, “…it is important that educators do not directly encourage parents or students to violate the law; to do so might result in potential disciplinary action.”
We state…

Thank you for the legal advice CEA, but we agree with Ms. Eskelson Garcia. “We are not going to listen to you anymore. We are going to do what’s right.” We will lead this revolution, and until we are apprehended we will encourage parents, teachers, and students to ignore an unethical law that is being used to harm children, the teaching profession, our school communities, and ultimately, our democracy. Join us and stand on the right side of history.

What can you do?

We recommend working with like-minded individuals in your community to determine how best to share opt out information. In some districts, it is best to share opt out information off school campus. In other districts, you might find like-minded individuals who are willing to help you disseminate information in ways that protect teachers. We personally have worked with superintendents, administrators, teachers, union members, parents, students and community members to find creative ways to educate and take action. The First Amendment guarantees us the right to express our political views.

We also recommend that teachers find like-minded local union members to shift the momentum in our unions starting at the grassroots level.  Corporate money buys corporate ideology – and unfortunately, many of our unions have succumbed to the idea that getting a seat at the table will save our public schools. The privatization movement offers no seat at the table for teachers or students. The end goal is profit – our children’s well-being is not of concern.

The R.A.V.E. caucus (Re-igniting Association Values for Educators) is an excellent group of teachers, AFT members, NEA members, parents, students and community members who support opt out in Colorado. Their vision and mission statement can be found here
- United Opt Out Team

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