June 9, 2014. Dear Editor,
Below is my effort to expose the corporate threat to our public school tradition. Since NC students have been mandated to take these harmful tests by law and opting out of them hurts the student, teacher, and school, I have written the following alternative “Taking the Test Under Protest” form as a way to educate the public as to who is really to blame for America’s “failing schools.”
Taking Corporate-Made, State-Mandated, Standardized Test Under Protest
In the course of America’s history, when corporations use their wealth and power to strategically scapegoat its nation’s devoted school teachers as cover for their own efforts to destroy our American public school tradition so as to privatize it for profits. Then it becomes necessary to question the corporation’s motives and hold them accountable for systematically degrading our vulnerable schoolchildren on a global stage. The corporately controlled politicians demanded “accountability” of its schools, teachers, and students using corporately designed standardized test as a weapon to slowly poison the school’s public image with misrepresented numbers. It is now time to expose the corporations and the politicians who do their bidding and to hold them accountable for what they have done to America and its children.
- Whereas, the corporate plan to “fix” America’s educational system is to discredit and destroy our public school system and replace it with a privatized voucher system worth $600 billion a year. In short, the corporation’s ultimate plan is to hire less qualified teachers at private schools for less than the cost of hiring more qualified public school teachers and to pocket the difference as their profit. http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/education-uprising/why-corporations-want-our-public-schools
- Whereas, there has been a war against public education since the 1980’s when those interested in downsizing all forms of government structure (including public schools) and replacing it with corporate structure introduced the idea of using vouchers of public money for private charter schools and issued a report entitled “A Nation at Risk“, which declared,
“…the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people.” and “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.”
Then the government downsizers/corporate reformers began to undermine society’s educational foundation themselves by misrepresenting the corporately made standardized tests scores to mischaracterize the nation’s teachers as mediocre and by constantly bad mouthing them in the mass media. http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/education-uprising/the-myth-behind-public-school-failure
- Whereas, numerous educational legislations over the decades have enacted ever increasing “accountability” measures on public schools, while at the same time promoting private schools that are held to a lesser standard, despite the growing evidence that “accountability” testing drives student learning down and that 73% of North Carolinians don’t want standardized tests used as “accountability” measures. http://deutsch29.wordpress.com/2014/01/29/alecs-extensive-plans-for-education-restructuring-in-your-state/
- Whereas, the democratic structure that was designed to represent “We the People” in the constitution is obviously no longer working because it has been replaced with an unconstitutional corporate structure to represent “those with special interest” like ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NXUPDAMc_6o
- Whereas, unlike any other state, North Carolina’s new lawmakers decided to legislate every single educational reform measure written by ALEC. Despite the wishes of its citizenry, ALEC passed laws that: http://dianeravitch.net/?s=ladd+and+fiske
- Shifted the tax burden off of the wealthy, by reducing corporate taxes and eliminating the inheritance tax. Meanwhile, the teachers (and others in the middle and lower taxes class) took on more of the state’s expenses with a higher sales tax on everything else.
- Eliminated extra pay for teachers getting a master’s degree and by cutting 80% from educational supplies so that the purpose-driven teachers will inevitably spend more out of their own pockets for the children they are trying to help.
- Eliminated career status (right to hearing before possible dismissal) for new teachers and phased it out for the older ones in exchange for competitive contracts.
- Reduced teacher training and eliminated the state’s nationally acclaimed Teachers Fellows program, designed to steer bright young minds into education and diverted the funding to the corporately sponsored Teach for America program that trains people to be teachers over a summer and whose graduates typically leave the profession after two or three years.
- Eliminated class size limits and drastically reduced funding for teacher assistance.
- Enacted a new grading system for public schools (A to F scale based on student standardized test scores) designed with a high cut rate so that more public schools will officially “fail.”
- Enacted “Opportunity Scholarships” for parents who are dissatisfied with their “failing” public school. This voucher system provides $10 million of public education funds to parents who then use the money to help fund the child’s tuition at a private school of their choice (including religious). These private schools are allowed to “charter” their own standards (only half of the teaching staff is required to have a college degree), select which students they admit, and they get to choose which standardized test suits their purposes best.
- Eliminated 2,500 early childhood program slots from very successful preschool programs such as Head Start. (ALEC’s lawmakers originally tried to get 10,000 slots cut from the program.)
- Whereas, the “accountability” tests themselves are failures and should be held accountable themselves. http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/edweek/staiv.htm
- The more that standardized tests are used as accountability measures, the worse the student’s scores get, yet the US is testing its students more than any other time in history and more than any other nation.
- Standardized tests were never intended to measure the quality of learning or teaching, the tests main objective is to rank the students, not to determine how much they have really learned throughout the year.
- Preparing for standardized tests takes time, energy, and money away from the arts and other subjects that students need too.
- Standardized tests are better at measuring and therefore encouraging superficial thinking (memorizing facts), than they are at measuring how actively engaged the students are (what they need for the real world).
- Experts (including the companies writing the tests) condemn the practice of giving standardized tests to children younger than 8 or 9 years old and of basing important decisions, like promotion on a single test score.
- Standardized tests are being used to blame “bad” teacher and to divert attention away from the real problem, growing poverty and inequality. http://images.dailykos.com/images/80367/large/PovertyData.jpg?1398571727
- The strategic scapegoating role of these tests is causing many of our nation’s experienced teachers to leave the profession, thus eroding away the state’s educational foundation.
- Whereas, only the overall averages of the corporate made tests are down. https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/book-reviews/reform-reform
- Each subgroup (race, income, etc) of the corporate made tests have shown steady gains. (But that part of the results were delayed and under reported.)
- Other standardized tests show American students at all time highs, such as NAEP which is made to measure critical thinking skills.
- Graduation rates are at an all time high.
- The racial achievement gap has gotten better.
- But, the income achievement gap has gotten worse.
- The corporations are spending big money on mass media and politicians (Democrat and Republican) to manipulate the public into thinking that “bad” teachers and their unions are to blame for the declining tests scores. The more Americans they can fool the into thinking that poverty is not to blame, the more money they can extract from the middle and lower classes as profits and big bonuses for their CEOs.
- Whereas, it is important to recognize that we are now near the end of this 30 year war on public schools, not the beginning, and that we are at a moment of decision as to what America stands for and who we are going to be in the future. Are we a nation that looks out for its children’s future by dropping the counterproductive “accountability” tests and by teaching to the child instead, like the other top-ranking nations? Or are we the nation that sells out its children for additional corporate profits?
- Whereas, I the parent, understand that NC’s lawmakers have flagrantly ignored educational professionals and other top-ranking nation’s who advise against using standardized tests as accountability measures and have imposed them anyway, despite their bad results. I also understand that you, the educator, have to follow the orders that you have been issued by your superiors and can not offer your personal and professionally trained opinion on the matter. Or that you have been so busy jumping through the government downsizers “accountability” hoops for the past few decades that you are just now figuring out what the corporate reformers have really been up to and that you are not actually to blame, but just have been “set up” for blame.
- Whereas, Diane Ravitch, the former Assistant Secretary of Education that implemented No Child Left Behind, and then changed her mind about its effectiveness after she saw its bad results, is calling on parents to opt their children out of the corporately-made, state-mandated, standardized test that have obviously been designed to slowly poison America’s public schools to death. She says if enough people opt out of the tests, they will lose their effectiveness, and their expensive cost to the state can no longer be justified.
- Whereas, I the parent know that my child can’t opt out of state test in North Carolina because our new lawmakers have mandated that our children must take these poisonous tests by law. And that if my child were to opt out of taking the poisonous tests, it would harm his grade, and his teacher’s and school’s “accountability.” I say “poisonous” tests because that is what they are, poison. They were invented by corporations and misrepresented by corporations to poison America’s public school tradition. The corporations and their crony politicians have abused their entrusted authority as testers to bad mouth America’s children for decades and have succeeded in diminishing our younger generations reputation and therefore future around the world. These tests have poisoned America’s youth, their global competitiveness, our nation’s public schools, and America’s example of democracy to posterity.
Therefore, my child will still take the mandated poisonous corporate-made, state-mandated, standardized tests, but will do so under protest with the hope of exposing the corporate threat to our American public school tradition and who is really to blame for our nation’s “declining” tests scores.
Submitted by David R. Phillips
Now living in Victoria, BC, Canada Phillips is a retired science teacher from Watauga High School that decided to leave the profession early because of the way teachers are being treated by the politicians who are trying to destroy America’s public school system. It turns out that 2012, the year I left, experienced the largest exodus of teachers in the state’s history.