This is for every teacher who refuses to be blamed for the failure of our society to erase poverty and inequality, and refuses to accept assessments, tests and evaluations imposed by those who have contempt for real teaching and learning.
But instead we were host to many of these organizations individual members. Just how many people came to the Lone Star State for the summit? Thousands? Hundreds?
More like dozens.
Not only did the major civil rights groups neglect to send their leadership, but the bulk of our nation’s education activists also stayed away.
United Opt Out had just gone through a major reorganization on philosophical grounds. Only three of its long-time board members remain – Denisha Jones, Ruth Rodriguez and Ceresta Smith. They have since been joined by five new directors – Gus Morales, Zakary Rodriguez, Erika Strauss Chavarria, Deborah Anderson and Steven Singer (me).
The directors that left the group did so for various reasons, but some of them split along ideological lines. Some thought United Opt Out shouldn’t work with labor leaders or civil rights groups that weren’t perfectly aligned with all of UOO’s goals. So they left. Those who stayed are committed to working with almost anyone to push forward the cause, piece-by-piece if necessary.
But it was far from somber. In fact, the board’s vision was vindicated in the most amazing way during the summit.
As Jesse “The Walking Man” Turner discussed the importance of reframing school policy to include students basic humanity, Gus looked up from his phone and announced, “The NAACP just ratified its moratorium on charter schools!”
We all stopped what we were doing and went to our phones and computers for verification. Denisha found it first and read the resolution in full.
We cheered, laughed and hugged each other.
This was exactly the kind of change we’ve been talking about! In fact, Julian Vasquez Heilig, education chair of the California and Hawaiian NAACP chapter, had originally been scheduled at the summit as a keynote speaker. When the resolution that he had been instrumental in crafting came up for a vote at the national NAACP meeting, he understandably had to cancel with us. Clearly he was needed elsewhere.
And now one of the largest civil rights organizations in the country has taken a strong stance on charter schools. Not only does the NAACP oppose charters as a solution to inequities experienced by children of color, they’ve now gone beyond mere ideology. They’re calling for action – no new charter schools.
Let me be clear – UOO did not achieve this triumph alone. It took many people, some of whom probably have never heard of us. However, activists supporting our movement such as Julian were strongly involved.
And if we had listened to the naysayers who proposed only working with perfectly like-minded groups, this might never have happened.
In fact, this is why we were there together in Houston in the first place. We wanted to make our case to these same civil rights organizations.
They may not have sent their leaders, but their members were already here. And we spent the time working together to find ways to make our case.
It was really quite amazing.
Audrey Amerin-Breadsley, professor and author of the blog Vamboolzed, gave us an incredibly accessible and informative keynote on value-added measures (VAM), the practice of using students test scores as a way to evaluate their teachers. For instance, did you know this common practice was originally based on a model for the cattle industry? It’s junk science and has little relation to education, teachers and students. All it does is pit students and teachers against each other creating a culture of fear where educators can be unfairly fired at any time – not the best environment for learning. Yet ignorant, lazy and/or corrupt bureaucrats still champion it across the country as a solution to improving schools.
There are many struggles ahead. But we have made real progress toward our goal of providing an excellent education for all children.
No longer can our governments be allowed to keep discriminating against them based on the color of their skin, their parents bank accounts and other factors. We’re standing for all students, because we don’t see them as consumers or data points. We see them as children, as human beings. And we stand together to protect and preserve that shared humanity.