The REAL Silencing of America’s Teachers!
By: Marla Kilfoyle, Executive Director of The Badass Teachers Association
A new trend has appeared on the horizon – laws that silence teachers! In most states teachers are not allowed to engage in political activity while in school but what has appeared in the last few months, thanks to lawmakers in Ohio and Mississippi, is frightening.
Two recent events disturbed me as an educator in America! Beware Teachers – silencing your voice is the just the tip of the iceberg
Example #1 – Ohio
HB 420 would harshly penalize teachers who even breath the word “opt out.”
Ohio School Board Member A.J. Wagner put it so eloquently on Facebook
“Amended House Bill 420 proposes to set into law these words, “No employee of a school district or public school shall negligently suggest to any student, or parent, guardian, or custodian of that student, enrolled in the district or school that the student should choose to not take any assessment prescribed by section 3301.0710 or 3301.0712 of the Revised Code.” Violation of this law is termination, loss of license, and a criminal record.
So, a teacher who says on Facebook, “These tests aren’t helping our kids;” a janitor who reports to his neighbor what he heard in the teacher’s lounge about the waste of time these tests are; a superintendent who honestly says to the PTO president who challenges the tests, “I’m only doing this because the state makes me do it, this doesn’t help your children;” a principal who testifies to a legislative committee that the tests are damaging our schools; a counselor who says to a parent of an anxiety-ridden child on the verge of a breakdown, “The testing pressure is too much for her;” a parent who works in the cafeteria and opts her son out of the tests; a school board member who votes for a resolution condemning the tests; all of these risk losing their job and can end up with a criminal record.
“Stop them before the public finds out what we’re doing!”
“Ruin their lives before they ruin our political careers with the truth!”
• These tests have had no real value, at least not for student performance. They have tremendous value to testing companies.
• They cost a lot of tax dollars taken from your house budget and given to testing companies rather than classroom instruction.
• They cost significant time. Last year teachers in Ohio spent as much as 8% of their classroom time on tests.
• They cause needless, harmful angst in children who understand the high stakes placed on the outcomes.
• They cost schools the loss of good, experienced teachers, especially schools in poor communities where teachers are blamed for the poor performance of kids who come to school, hungry, stressed, sick, and beaten.
• They cost discouragement and hopelessness in impoverished communities whose houses are vacant as parents move, when they can because they’ve been told, falsely, that their schools aren’t any good.
• They are telling us that our kids are stupid when they’re not. If the scores from last year’s tests are believed, about two-thirds of Ohio’s kids are not on track for college or a career. That’s not true. But just in case, you don’t get the message, standards are being raised for next year’s test to make that point more emphatic. TWO OF THREE OHIO KIDS ARE TOO DUMB TO GO TO COLLEGE!
• These tests aren’t timely. More than half the school year is gone, and we still don’t have final scores on last year’s tests! What is a parent or teacher supposed to do when they find out, in late February, that Junior didn’t do so well? Send him back a grade?
• Education Week has moved Ohio from a state ranking of 5 to a ranking of 23 in the past two years. Ohio hasn’t seen a meaningful increase in NAEP scores in more than a decade. Last year’s NAEP scores for Ohio moved us down.
• The test results are used to terminate local control by firing elected school boards and allowing outsiders appointed by outsiders to take control of our schools. They are not just burying the Constitution; they are ending democracy.
But, don’t blame legislators who set this madness in motion. Don’t blame politicians who cut school funding. Don’t blame leaders who overlook the impact of poverty. Blame teachers, principals, superintendents, and our not-so-bright children who are too lazy to learn.
And lest they complain, silence them.
Example #2 – Mississippi
Not one, but two bills to silence only K-12 teachers! No other “public” sector employees fall under the bills! Here is an excerpt from Mississippi Education Blog that explains the framework of these bills – “Both House Bill 958 (Snowden) and House Bill 49 (Moore) are attempts on the part of our Mississippi Legislature to silence educators, superintendents, and school board members from making complaints to their representatives and from voicing their opinions on education policies to the public. Answer me this: What gives the state of Mississippi the authority to take away our First Amendment rights, provided to us by the United States Constitution?” http://www.msedblog.net/2016/02/16/southern-penny-answer-me-this-a-mississippians-response-to-silencing/
Ironic that HB49 and HB958 are dropped after a huge fight by the Mississippi Association of Educators on “Initiative 42” (See Amanda Koonlaba’s description of 42 here http://badassteachers.blogspot.com/2015/10/initiative-42-and-attack-on-mississippi.html ).
Ironic that Snowden is a member of ALEC ((NOT))
We have seen this growing trend that is attempting to silence teachers. Diane Ravitch reported as early as 2014 that New Mexico teachers had to sign a pledge not to say anything bad about the PARCC test http://dianeravitch.net/2014/11/29/albuquerque-parent-speaks-out-against-testing-despite-efforts-to-silence-her-and-teachers/
If a drug was bad for patients, would doctors be expected to sign a pledge not to say anything about that drug and its impact on his/her patients?
The Silencing of America’s Teachers
A scary trend in America!
My colleagues - Will this wake us up?