Recently I wrote a post entitled "It's Time to Break the Rules." I intend to keep my posts over the next few months focused on the common core aligned tests that are now coming to fruition in 2015. As we reach the tipping point - breaking rules - acts of civil disobedience - are a necessity.
At our fourth annual UOO conference this past weekend in Ft. Lauderdale, Barbara Madeloni reminded us of the importance of grassroots organizing as she stated: "Look down here. That's where the vectors of power are." We must gain our strength and power from the local grassroots movements that surround us. UOO's FB page has been soaring in numbers over the last six months as the word of opt out continues to spread through the nation. As all of us spread the word of opt out we are increasing the power of the masses - we can reclaim our democracy, by beginning with the cornerstone of our democracy - our public schools. No data = no profit.
This weekend, Ira Shor reminded us of the importance of protecting our children. As an adult it is our job to stand between our children and those who wish to project harm on innocent young minds - children - who come to school to learn, to create and to express themselves in a safe environment which should allow for risk-taking.
I question how we can stand by and watch the danger of high stakes testing mandates permeate our schools, and our children - without standing up for action - without standing between our children and those who wish to project this harm upon them.
I can promise you - if anyone dared to harm either one of my boys - I would stand between that harm and my boys - and I would project the greatest amount of power I possessed physically and mentally to stop that harm from touching my children. And I would ask for help from others if need be - and I can promise you - I would win. As I say this, I must state that I feel the same way about the children within my school. The time is now for us to harness this power within our schools as we bring together parents, citizens, students and teachers to create strategy to stop the cold and hard cruelty of corporate education reform.
We must stand between the children and the harmful mandates that are being used to fail them mentally, emotionally, and physically. Colorado's suicide rate has increased 16.7 percent from 2012 to 2013 alone. We must question why countries, such as China and Japan, where high stakes testing is rampant, have such high suicide rates. We must question - what is becoming of our country? And do we care enough to stop it? Or have we been placated by the consumerism that surrounds us?
The majority of our public school children live in poverty - yet we feed them tests?
At #UOO15 in Ft. Lauderdale Krashen continued to focus on the need for nutrition, health care and books for our children living in poverty. Krashen asks - does anyone really believe that as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, that test scores will improve?
Does anyone really believe that this achievement gap is "new" information that could only be gathered via NCLB and RTTT? We have had the NAEP since 1969 - enough said. And as we test our way to the bottom, our achievement gap continues to tell us the same thing again and again - we have under resourced schools - we have abandoned schools - we have poverty and no equitable funding.
It is time to stand between our children and these unjust laws. How we choose to take that stand will vary, based on our ability to gain strength from our local unions, based on the support we receive in our individual school buildings, and based on our own fortitude.
Teachers - the time is now. As Krashen states, the K-12 budget is 800 billion - most of it is for teacher salary, retirement and benefits - and Bill Gates wants it. The elimination of the teaching profession is in the works. We must speak up now.
It is not enough to simply shut the classroom door. It is not acceptable to ignore what is happening around us and walk on by. It is not acceptable to remain uninformed. It is not acceptable to say, "This too shall pass." We must gather out strength, on the inside and outside - we must use our words, our increasing numbers as we work together, our creativity, and our fortitude to move forward and stand between our children and those who wish to harm them.
I look forward to the day when I can go to work at my school, knowing that we, as teachers, simply refuse to allow this harm to take place. We refuse to be a part of it. We refuse to allow it. And we stand together with our parents, our children, and our communities as we opt out of high stakes common core aligned testing and as we opt into democracy. Everything is possible. We simply must harness our own strength. And we must shift our own narrative; as teachers we must take the lead as we inform the public about the wrong-doings of these district, state and federal mandates.
The power of fear will be weakened as we hold hands. Fear will be extinguished as we find our voices and we claim the conversation. Fear becomes obsolete when we realize that together - we hold the power. The time is now.
Many thanks to all who attended #UOO15 and sent me back to Denver replenished, and ready to fight. Solidarity.
The wind at your back.