Saturday, February 1, 2014

Refuse the Tests in 2014 - The Tipping Point

In my district, our students come from over 130 countries and speak more than 120 languages. I am proud to be a part of this district. I am so proud of these students - these students who can tell me more about the world than I could possibly ever know.

70% of the students in our district receive free or reduced lunch. 

51% are considered second language learners. 

10% receive exceptional student services (SPED).

18% percent of our population is Black. 55% is Latino. 17% White. 5% Asian. 

In New York last year, only 3% of the second language learners passed the common core test. In New York only 5% with IEPs passed. In New York 80% of Black and Latino failed. 

I can already tell you what will happen to my district in 2014-2015 when the national common core tests arrive. But I can't tell you what will happen to each individual child, who will suffer under mandates that have been intentionally designed to fail them. I fear for all of them.

I am ashamed of my country. We - all of us - are allowing these children to be harmed, abused and denied their right to a creative, innovative, humane and democratic education.  We are denying children the opportunity to BE children. We are denying these children their futures. We have helped create this, due to trust, due to not knowing, due to lack of support, due to many things - but we must take responsibility for it, and together, stand up and make it right.

As we head into the abuse and fear that swallows our schools during testing season, we must reflect on our part in this madness. 

Teachers must reflect,

As we watch children test daily and lose precious learning time, 

As we watch children say, while shuddering, "I am scared that my score will harm my teacher - I am afraid I will get her fired," 

As we watch children pull their hair out, bite their nails to the quick, throw up, and cry,

As we hear parents say, "My child cannot sleep at night, my child is scared of the test," 

As we watch children look up at us during the test and smile, or ask questions, while we silently remember the agreement we signed, which stated we would remain "non-emotional" during testing time,

As we proctor the test for IEP students and second language learners and watch them sit for longer periods of time to test, while some cry, while some simply randomly fill in the bubbles and put their head down with frustration, and failure,

As we watch children finish the test and sit for the remainder of the time, denied the opportunity to draw or read - for fear that they might rush through the test to enjoy their books and free time,

As we watch all this, we must look in the mirror and ask ourselves, what did we do to stop this?

We are all responsible for this. Myself included. I am not brave enough. I need more people standing with me. Many more. I would do so much more if I had a hundred teachers standing beside me.

We need educators, parents, and citizens, standing together - now - to stop this. We cannot do it alone. And the silence is deafening.  There is nothing left to fear as we have lost it all. 

We have pockets of resistance. We have swellings of resistance. We must have mass resistance. And we must not compromise. Common core and high stakes testing, both must go, if we truly plan to stand up for children and demand that they receive all of the resources, all of the authentic teaching and learning received by Obama's children at Sidwell.

Please remember, this year, 2013-2014, is the tipping point. Next year, it's over. Please reread the demographics from my district.  If the swelling does not become a full on revolt, it is over for my students.  

For all of us. 

And we must ask, what will happen to the children? 

Try to imagine that now, as we each look in the mirror.

We have nothing left to lose. Please reach out and grab the hands of your community. Parents - grab the hands of your teachers and have their back - give them the strength to march forward.  March into the fear, take hold of it and render it powerless. Then demand what is rightfully owed these children. Our society. Our country. Demand it and take it.


  1. Thanks for blogging Peggy, Bruce

  2. Amen! I feel like I could have written this. I have a group of inclusion students who will take the same test as my honors class. My own children hate school now because it is all data driven test prep and has nothing to do with their classroom instruction. Soldier on!

  3. I'm with you. I've thought a lot about how alone the teachers in my building feel, wondering what we can do.... and keep our jobs. Frustrated.

  4. Your Peg with Pen email list include many and can serve as a list for Petitions on behalf of schools students and teachers. Need to get your blog "out there" so old fuddies like me [70] who remember "good teachings" and demand reality and compassion in learning. Do you have any guide pamphlets you could post on your blog?

  5. I am a teacher as well. The first thing I thought when I saw these new common core standards was "WHY?!?!" There is no rational explanation. And the way that teachers are implementing these new common core standards is ridiculous! Instead of spending time on topics that matter, teachers are making students do worthless project-based work, like creating a huge poster board with snippets of information about a text. And they call that "common-core-itizing" the curriculum. It is disgraceful to our students. They deserve MUCH better. And most of all, they DO NOT deserve the common core!!

    1. There is a good reason WHY: profits for the .01%, short-term and long-term (online testing). There is no other reason I can think of.

  6. I am with you. I am at your side.
    Reposting at

  7. Peggy Robertson, you speak for me.