From Mark Naison – Parent Strike!

 This is from Mark Naison, an author and professor at Fordham in NYC — gfb
Mark Naison
July 23 at 4:51pm
What Our Children and Grandchildren Deserve: No Compromise With Current Education Policies

Every post I get from around the country suggests that the attack on teachers, students and public education shows no sign of letting up. Students are being tested more than ever; great teachers are being given low ratings and driven out of the profession; and whole cities are being turned into all charter districts without evidence that this will do anything to empower students, while at the same time funneling profits to consulting firms and real estate developers. While the worst of the attacks are hitting high poverty schools, no districts are immune from the scripting, the micromanagement and the obsession with test results. This nightmare is occurring in states with Republican governors and states with Democratic governors.

Anyone who thinks that the new ECAA legislation being passed by Congress is going to bring relief is being extremely naive. Those who think than any Presidential candidate will make things better is living in Never Never Land. The momentum of current policies on the state and local level is powerful because it is driven by Billionaire dollars. The same people who are controlling the political process in DC are driving privatization and profiteering in public education at the local level.

The only way to fight back against this is civil disobedience. Parent strikes, Student strikes. Teachers strikes. Test Refusal. And innovative tactics to bring the pressure on those who would destroy students lives and teachers careers. Disrupt meetings. Picket peoples houses. Make those who would make students and families pay the price pay a price themselves.

This is why I am very excited about the formation of the group ParentStrike. And the refusal of United Opt Out to compromise at all with ANY federal legislation that uses standardized testing as the basis of school evaluation and uses federal funds to punish schools, school districts and entire states on the basis of test scores.

Now is not the time to compromise. We are already losing badly. It is the time to disrupt. To confuse. To undermine, To resist

Our children and grandchildren deserve better. Much better.

OPTING OUT: One Way to Combat the Corporate Take-Over of Public Schools

Many parents of school children understand that the weeks and weeks of standardized testing being foisted on the public schools by both Republican and Democratic federal and state administrations are an utter waste of time and money. These tests provide no useful information, but they do so at an enormous cost. The tests have zero import to the students’ career and are being used merely as an excuse to rip the guts out of public education via a number of clever schemes cooked up in various think-tanks funded by billionaires – not by skilled, trained, accomplished veteran educators.
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(It’s also the case that most kids finish the tests in a small fraction of the time allotted, and must sit there silently, not reading, not even drawing or writing or singing or sleeping, for the rest of the time, bored out of their skulls. And the questions themselves? Please — they are written by unskilled temps for minimum wage, and it shows. The questions do not come close to ‘measuring’ anything useful to anyone.)
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(What’s more: We all know that the children of the hedge-fund managers, billionaires, and politicians who foisted this testing regime on us, both Republicrat or Democan, pay serious tuition every year so that their own children actually get a REAL education that involves sports, arts & crafts, drama, projects, foreign languages, real math & science & social studies & creative writing and much more — but NO week-long standardized testing sessions repeated multiple times per year. No, that sort of useless testing regime is solely reserved for kids who can only afford public schools, regular OR charter. And if the students are mostly black or brown, they might ONLY get “English” and “Math” that is nothing more than test prep, for huge fractions of the school year – whether they are in a charter school or a regular public school. And the results track the parental income and education levels with an amazing degree of accuracy — the correlation is close to 100%. Anybody with any life or educational experience could have predicted that: the more educated and wealthy the parents, the better the children do in school, in any country on earth, and vice versa. Duh.)
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A number of parents in various places (but not enough IMO), even in Texas, are beginning to rebel. Entire school boards, and even superintendents of county school districts or principals, or entire faculties of some schools, are saying enough is enough. Bob Schaeffer has a lot of information on this. I think this is something that Tea Partiers and old lefties like myself can agree on.
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I would like to encourage parents in Chevy Chase and in Brookland to OPT OUT.*
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In principle, opting out here in DC and neighboring counties is simple:
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1. Look at the school calendar.
2. On those mornings where your children will be otherwise wasting their time doing the DC-CAS or DC-BAS or whatever acronym they are using this year, you simply don’t send your kid to school until the testing is over.
3. When they come to school, mid-day, they come with a note from home explaining why.
4. Or, if you prefer, you can send the note beforehand, explaining why you are opting out, and get into good discussions with your children’s teachers and administrators, and your child can discuss it (or not) with his/her classmates.
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However, one big problem obviously remains:
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What do the kids do instead of going to school on those days?
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Sitting home playing video games is not such a wonderful idea. Kids do too much of that already, and their social and physical skills are not getting the stimuli they need.
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It occurs to me that more parents would opt out of testing if they had some interesting and organized thing that their children could do during those mornings.
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Opting-Out activities would NOT have last all day long, but they WOULD need to be organized.
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If parents (and others) could get it together, their children, the opting-out students, could:
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1. Play outdoor, organized games (volleyball, soccer, softball, basketball, what-have-you) or
2. Go on field trips or hikes or bike trips of all kinds:
a. the Zoo
b. here in DC we have loads of free museums on science, history, art, and much more
c. go watch courtroom trials or debates on the Senate or House floors
d. nature walks
e. bike to Great Falls or Little Falls or Hains Point or whatever
f. visit parks and historic sites…
3. Plant or tend vegetable or flower gardens
4. Make stuff (an accurate scale model of our solar system, using a kickball or volleyball for the sun, will prompt a nearly mile-long walk, each way…)
5. Make art, music
6. Improvise or read skits/plays
7. Do hands-on math and science
8. Make music
9. Go canoeing…
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Exactly the stuff that kids are very seldom allowed to do in public schools any more.
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[I’m not exaggerating: at some charter schools I have visited, the children are essentially locked into a single room from 7:30 AM to 4:30 PM, only leaving to go to the bathroom or to pick up packaged lunches out in the hallway. What are they training the kids for? Life in the Big House?]
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If any group of parents feels like doing this, I am hereby volunteering to help out, gratis. As a retired, 30-year veteran, award-winning DCPS math teacher** with a grandchild on the way this summer, my pension is adequate (not a golden parachute, but we eat ok and pay the mortgage) so I’m not doing this to earn extra cash. I help run a similar, science-oriented, program on Saturdays called “First Light”, housed at the Carnegie Institution for Science at 15th and P Sts NW, so I know more than a little about such interesting, active, hands-on opportunities.
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If we succeed in organizing this, parental help would be needed so that the student : adult ratio would at most five to one. We would need to coordinate transportation back to the various schools after the end of testing for that day. Other things to decide on: what to do about lunches, snacks, and breakfasts, release forms, legal clearances, and so on.
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Thoughts?
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*I pick those two locations because I went to JHS, and later taught math, and still run a telescope making class, in Chevy Chase, and I’ve lived for 30 years in Brookland, where my wife and I raised our kids — who went all the way through DCPS and are productive and innovative, college-educated citizens, thank you very much (not hedge fund managers or other sorts of parasites).
**Photos of a pile of those awards (for me and my students) available on request. One of my teams even got mentioned in the Congressional Record by our non-voting DC delegate!
Published in: on March 17, 2013 at 2:53 pm  Comments (1)  
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