Monday, October 31, 2016

She Doesn't Fit the Mold
By Robyn Brydalski

This was written by an upstate NY parent and teacher. 

She doesn’t fit the mold.”
My soon to be six-year-old daughter is a vivacious ball of energy. In my eyes, she is my diva, and I say this with every ounce of love and adoration possible. She loves to color, draw, create, build, explore and wonder. Hiking, swimming and building fairy houses out of sticks and stones make her happy. Her favorite music is currently the “Hamilton’s America” soundtrack. She asks questions about each song, which character is singing and what is going on. She dresses up as one of the many Disney princesses and has tea parties with her little sister. She makes her own Barbie furniture out of empty shoe and tissue boxes and just created a bee killer out of an empty toilet paper roll. She writes and creates her own stories using invented spelling explaining how a mermaid gets her tail or her writing about her recent field trip to the farm with her class. Her sense of style is eclectic; she prefers to wear brightly colored knee high socks over an entirely different color pair of leggings. At night, after her father and I have read to her, she reads to her sister, with a flashlight in her hand and sings songs until they both fall asleep.
As I look at all that she does and the things that make her who she is, I am surrounded by an overwhelming feeling of guilt.
My daughter does not do well in school. Sure, she is kind to her friends, helpful to her teachers and has a generous, loving personality but she struggles in school. In Kindergarten, she could barely contain herself on the rug as she preferred to roll, fidget and bounce. She doesn’t focus during math lessons and her writing is all over the place. Now, another year deeper into Common Core and we are again getting the same reports. She lacks the stamina to focus for her 30 minutes of independent reading, she must sit with an adult during math to keep her focused and regularly falls off her chair. Even with the fabulous teachers she has been blessed with guiding her on her educational journey and despite coming from a middle-class home with two educated parents, a home with well over 200 books, writing, arts and craft supplies, she is reading below grade level.
Am I a horrible parent for starting my daughter too early? She is, after all, a young first grader, turning 6 in less than two weeks. Am I to be shamed for refusing to push practice work and additional reading when she is tired from a day that is goes too long and too late? Should I be sentenced to mommy jail for letting her color rather than write letters?
As a third-grade teacher with seventeen years of experience, in the same district, I refuse to respond with “Yes” for any of those questions that haunt me on a daily, sometimes hourly basis. If my husband and I could afford a private school for our daughter, so that she could thrive and grow without the constraints of the Common Core and its curriculum, we would. But we can’t. Like many families out there, we have put our faith and trust in public education but right now, the common core curriculum is stagnating the creativity, imagination and curiosity of many young children. I see in my third grade class a dozen students that are exactly like my daughter. As a teacher expected to comply to the local and state mandates, I struggle. I continue to find better ways to do things, despite losing precious planning and prep time due to an extended student day. I spend hours awake while my family sleeps redoing horrendous lessons that expect children to sit for absurd amounts of time because I think of my daughter and many other children out there who “don’t fit the mold”. I wonder when the call will come from the school psychologist requesting testing for ADHD/ADD. I think about the number of children I have taught who have had to be medicated because they lack stamina and the ability to meet the demands of the academic rigor they are faced with.
In my eyes, she doesn’t need to fit the mold.
This morning, as my daughter and I danced in our kitchen to Christina Perry’s “Thousand Years”, I held her tight and made her promise to always be true to herself and to not let anyone tell her how she should be. I whispered in her ear, “You are my dreamer, don’t ever stop dreaming.” She replied, “I won’t mommy, I promise.” I pray that she keeps this promise.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

This Week in My Career
By:  Patte Carter-Hevia

A couple of days ago, I was talking to a union official about my teaching assignment, Life Skills, with a decision to emphasize leadership. I teach in a leadership academy that for years has not taught a leadership class. When presented with the opportunity to teach Life Skills again, I jumped at it. The focus of leadership has been in my brain for years.
This person asked me about my curriculum. I told him there wasn’t one as far as I knew.. He said it was problematic. He talked about instructional council. Getting something approved could take over a year. There was an approval process that involved reviewing the curriculum and the teaching materials to make sure that no copyright laws were being violated, a budget, a pre- and post-test for teacher-evaluation purposes.
I get it.
Sort of.
I’m the teacher who for years has used toothpaste to teach my kids that their words matter so choose them carefully. I’m the teacher who was moved to Track 3 (minimally effective), accused of stealing instructional time from students last year, and placed on an improvement plan for teaching that lesson in these days of high-stakes testing. I had to scratch and crawl to be rated effective at the end of the school year.
I have been teaching Life Skills on and off for years. I have never been given curriculum. I have never been given teaching materials. I have never been given a budget. To be honest, I never asked. I don’t want to be scripted or pigeon-holed by someone else’s definition of Life Skills and Leadership.. As long as I have been teaching I have considered lesson planning (what materials to use, how to use them, what to say, how to evaluate student learning) to be part of my job. Standardized sucks the life out of authentic teaching and authentic learning.
I scavenge. I find. I develop. I buy. People who know I spend my own money and who believe in what I do help me when they can.
I teach.
Students learn.
I am a work in progress, even after over thirty years working in education, twenty-five of them as a certified teacher. So are my students.
How do you measure self-esteem? Self-confidence? Responsibility? Decency? Respect? Communication? Listening? Stepping outside one’s comfort zone and possibly making a difference? Integrity? Motivation? Common sense?
Pre- and post-test be damned. Are we so far gone in education that if we can’t measure it on a test, preferably a standardized one so that a company can make a profit, then we shouldn’t be teaching it? Is it really the educational version to the question, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, did it make a sound?”
This year’s Minty Fresh Day had three takeaways for students. I used toothpaste to teach them that their words matter so choose them carefully. I used their assignment papers to teach them that apologizing doesn’t put things exactly back the way they were before so choose their actions carefully. Apologize anyway. Every time. And I used apples to teach them that people may look fine on the outside and have deep bruises on the inside.
Then this past week I spent two of the most gut-wrenching days I have ever spent in any classroom in my entire teaching career.
I showed the movie “Bully” to my students. In my opinion, it’s an unflinching look into bullying and the effects it has on the victims and their families and friends. No actors. Real-life situations. Kids saw parents who had lost a child. They saw actual bullying take place. They saw grief. They saw reactions from school officials. They saw the snippets of the Stand For the Silent rallies that took place, one of which took place in Lansing, Michigan -- their city. I watched their reactions as they met Tyler’s and Ty’s parents and families. I watched their anger as they saw what happened to Alex. I watched as they felt sympathy for Kelby while admiring her spirit and determination and optimism. I watched as they acknowledged their understanding of why Ja’meya did what she did and celebrated her homecoming.
I warned my kids that I would be a mess by the time the credits rolled. As they watched me go through the tissues, they knew I wasn’t kidding.
And I did it five times.
One of my students asked me if I didn’t get bored watching the same thing multiple times. I told him that I wasn’t worried about that; I had been bored before and I would be bored again and I knew what to do that was socially appropriate when/if I ever was bored.
I told him that I would be worried if I didn’t react. Not reacting would mean that I had somehow become desensitized; becoming desensitized would mean that I didn’t feel. I told him that I didn’t worry about being bored. I would worry if I didn’t FEEL.
I shared that with every class, every student. I didn’t try to hide my emotions. I told them that this movie affected me on every level: as their teacher, as a parent, as a human being, as a victim.
I gave my students the challenge to sit alone in the cafeteria at lunch one day and become an observer. Who sits alone? Does anyone come along to sit with that person or invite that person to a table with others? Is anyone being harassed? If so what is the harassment? How does the person who is being harassed respond? Does anyone else notice? Do adults notice? If so, what do they do? I warned them not to evaluate, just observe behaviors. The discussion of their observations comes next week.
I invited a wonderful friend, a retired teacher, to come to my class for moral support because teachers don’t get “tears” timeouts and the show must go on.
After I turned off the movie, I stood in front of my students, fought through the tears, and said something like this to every class.
“At the end of the movie, Tyler’s dad wore a t-shirt with a delta sign that said ‘Be The Change’ and said that everything starts with one. It does. Change starts with one. It’s how we make a difference. In the movie, Kelby realized that it would take multiple people in multiple places across time to make things happen.
“I believe everything starts with one. And bullying stops with each one of you. It stops every time you make a choice to not make that comment about someone you don’t like. It stops when you squash the rumor. It stops when you stand up for someone instead of ignoring what is happening to him or her. It stops when you step out of your comfort zone to meet someone new. It stops every time you are kind to someone. It stops when you include someone you might normally exclude. It stops when you find out what you have in common with people rather than teasing them or putting them down for the differences. It stops every time you reach out to help someone or reach out for help because you need it. It stops with one act, one kind word, one choice at a time.
“I understand that some of you got this before you walked in here to see this movie. I understand that some of you get it a little more, maybe for the first time, by seeing this movie. I understand that some of you still don’t get it and you might not ever get it until it affects you or someone you love personally. Just like Kelby’s father said he didn’t understand that depth of hate and ugliness that exists in the world until he was the father of a gay child. I also understand that some of you might not get it ever.
“And I understand that some of you are going to walk out that door and laugh at me. I’ll be okay. Everything starts with one. Bullying stops with each one of us. Be the change.”
I got a lot of silence. I know kids were processing both what they had seen and what I had said. The two spontaneous hugs from kids were nice. Gave me hope.
Next week as we wrap this up, I will give my students a pebble to remind them that something small can make a big difference just like that pebble when dropped in water makes ripples that spread out. I hope they don’t end up on the floor. Or worse.
I have been told that my class is a semester-long class. That means that next semester I will do this all over again.
Lest anyone go there, no, I don’t think I’m all that. I have wonderful students, I work with some amazing people, and I am blessed beyond words to have people who love and support me.

Patte has been working in education for over thirty years, twenty-five of them as a certified teacher. She started out teaching adults who were either studying for the GED, taking high school completion classes, or learning to speak English. She now teaches middle school students in Lansing, Michigan
Each week of this Bullying Awareness Month the BAT QWL along with the National Workplace Bullying Coalition will share a story from the upcoming NWBC anthology of workplace survival stories.  This is the third of those stories.  Please read Anonymous Story #1 and Anonymous Story #2. 

          I was teaching as an ESP at a place for approximately one year. In the beginning, things seemed to be going very well or so I thought. The entire second half of the year things were just not adding up. The administration started having me do things out of my grade level, and not letting me have any contact with the students I had been teaching for the entire first half of the year. The administration began the bullying with name calling and excluding me from school activities. I sought out the advice of the school union rep. They told me that this treatment was common-place. I went to a field representative (luckily I had paperwork to document my claim). After speaking to the field rep I decided to grieve the administration- and I'm so glad I did!
          I learned that it comes to this: Listen To - and USE YOUR INSTINCTS-That's why you've GOT them! If things are NOT adding up to you wherever you teach, DOCUMENT EVERYTHING (time, date, place and parties involved); Believe In Your Abilities; Remember you CHOSE this field and you wouldn't have CHOSEN it - if you didn't TRULY LOVE what you do; Seek advice from your building reps; Seek support from your field reps out there ( They are there to give you the CONFIDENCE you will need to successfully navigate your way through the experience. Finally- Pay Attention To Your Work Environment; You can inspire others as well by the standards WE set NOW - and we are giving hope, inspiration, and courage enough- to do the right thing because whatever the right thing IS for you will be a stronger person-FOR it. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said it best: " The time is ALWAYS right-to do what is right."

1.       Pay Attention to Your Work Environment
2.       If things do NOT add up in your work environment,Get Advice From Your Building Delegate or Field Representative
3.       DOCUMENT EVERYTHING (Time, Date(s), place, and party / parties involved
5.       Use Your Professionalism, Positivity, and your Courage - to inspire those who will learn- from the legacy we create in the present- to build upon -for years to come.

This story and many others will be included in the NWBC upcoming anthology.  Find out more about this anthology and the other work of the NWBC by visiting:

 There is still time to submit your story for possible inclusion.   You can do so by following this link:

          I was a public middle school teacher in a large city district with a few years of experience under my belt when the bullying began. The bullying began in earnest after being elected by my colleagues to a staff representative position but even after my tenure ended the bullying did not.   There are no laws against workplace bullying in my state and within my school system there is no explicit language that prohibits principals from treating teachers the way I was treated by my principal.  The principal had come to power during a time period when politicians had dismantled previous accountability structures and principals were being treated like mini-CEO’s with full autonomy and discretion over all matters, which turned many of them into petty tyrants that ran their buildings like small fiefdoms. There were no longer any supervisory channels to seek relief in this new culture. You were stuck with the choice of either trying to survive and somehow not lose your job or trying to find a position in a different building, which was nearly impossible.  Most people targeted just gave up and either retired early or completely switched careers while still young enough to do so. Neither of those options was available to me.                I was officially observed at 3x the amount of my peers.  In addition, I was unofficially observed on an almost weekly basis, on days immediately before and after days off and sick days, on half days and during parent/teacher conferences.  On average, I was brought into discipline meetings a minimum of 2-6 times per year, while most teachers make it through entire careers with maybe having suffered through one.  I was expected to follow strict administrative mandates that none of my colleagues were subjected to.  I was required to do 5x the amount of emergency duties as my peers and was denied access to basic materials needed for my job.  My administrators ignored me except when I was being reprimanded. I was excluded from meetings, events and information and chosen for the most unwanted assignments. My social media accounts and work computers were monitored regularly. I was switched between subjects/grades/rooms almost every year.  Parents were allowed to monitor my class upon demand, scream and curse at me without intervention and kids would naively explain to me that everyone knew how “easy” it was to get me “in trouble” with my administrators.  Secretaries screamed at me, colleagues threatened/sexually harassed me and friends secretly shared words of encouragement because they often witnessed what was happening but were too fearful to know how to help and I think secretly afraid that the same thing would happen to them.
          My position was eliminated every year for 7 years in a row.  I was lied to and gaslighted at every opportunity.  It was a living hell and I cried almost every morning in my car before entering the building.  At one point, I came very close to a nervous breakdown.  I did not seek medical help because I was afraid that the only solution would be medication and that would just dull the symptoms and not cure the causes.  I belong to a teacher’s union but despite public perception they have become neutered entities that are no longer able to intervene in any significant way unless something blatantly illegal or not contractional had occurred.  Nothing that ever happened to me was illegal or against the terms of my contract.  Despite it all, I never lost my love of teaching but the only reason I did not leave the profession entirely was because I support myself and could not afford to abandon a career that had taken so long to achieve.
          The bullying only stopped because I got lucky.   Information had been shared with me regarding two potentially illegal acts my principal had taken to defame me that clearly fit the legal definitions of libel and slander.  I used this information to make sure that this principal could not put any obstacles in my way to prevent my chances of finding a position in another building, which I had long suspected might have been occurring.  I was able to finally find a position in another school and that is the only reason the bullying came to an end.  I thank god every morning.
          I am firmly convinced that I have experienced after-effects of the bullying similar to PTSD.  I have terrible anxiety and I don’t trust anything or anyone.  I am always afraid the other shoe will drop.  I have nightmares in which I relive what I used to go through.  I make choices at work that are based on trying to avoid punishment at all costs but come across as paranoid to my new colleagues.  I try to stay to myself because I’m terrified that anything I say to anyone will be reported back to my new admin and be used against me.  I jump when anyone comes into my classroom unexpectedly and I am never really relaxed and always on edge.  My new bosses have taken to reminding at the end of every conversation that I’m not getting “in trouble” because I think they recognize that I am terrified every time we have to interact.
          I don’t know if I had any special qualities that gave me the ability to weather this horrific storm but there did come a time when I finally accepted that I was not causing it to happen because I am not that powerful and I wasn’t going to doubt myself anymore.  Because of the power imbalance between a boss and an employee I was limited in how I could respond to any given situation but I made it clear that I would not be broken. I have a very happy home life and that provided the comfort and safe haven I needed to survive the daily onslaught of abuse.  I also love teaching the more I do it and I was not going to let this principal get in the way of what should always be the highest priority—the kids and their education.  If they were going to try and take me down I wasn’t going to go down without fighting the good fight.  And despite my efforts to take different approaches each year hoping to dodge the latest mode of attack, I can only recognize now that you can never win a game when the person in power keeps moving the goalposts on purpose in order to trip you up.
          I gratefully made it out and am more committed to my teaching than ever.  But there are many others like me that have not been as lucky.  My advice to others would be the following:  remember that it is not you and you are not causing it; stop trying to figure out what the person bullying you might be thinking or feeling or saying and judge them by their actions and that will provide the evidence you need to see that you are not going crazy; never lose your cool and protect your self-respect; recognize that you’ve been put in a position where the intention is to unfairly make your job unstable so you might as well fight back because they’re already trying to get rid of you, so don’t make it easy for them; find a shoulder to cry on and allies to support you and if you need any other tools to cope, use them, because workplace bullying is meant to harm the victim so protect yourself in any way you can; document and keep copies of everything; and finally—get out if you can because it’s not going to stop until you do or we decide as a society that the laws should change.
          This is a real thing happening to more people than you realize.  It is the product of a toxic corporate culture that has infiltrated spheres in which it does not belong and needs to be put back in its place.  The private powers that be silently and implicitly encourage and condone these tactics for it is a means to their ends and no successful society should accept that development.  It is a sickening symptom of what we are allowing ourselves to become as a people and it is the example being set in front of millions of kids.  We need to do better because we all deserve better. 

1.       Documentation/record keeping
2.       Never acting less than professional
3.       Finding outside opportunities to enhance my career as evidence to contradict the "official" record
4.       Never stopped looking for another position
5.       Refusing to agree to let it affect how I feel about myself or teaching my heart out for the kids

This story and many others will be included in the NWBC upcoming anthology.  Find out more about this anthology and the other work of the NWBC by visiting:

 There is still time to submit your story for possible inclusion.   You can do so by following this link:

Friday, October 28, 2016

Standardizing Whiteness: the Essential Racism of Standardized Testing

By Steven Singer, Director of BATs Blogging and Research

Originally published on his blog here
“As a method of social production, as well as social reproduction, standardized testing has had serious cultural implications, not the least of which has been the eternal question of American identity. Consistent with notions of American identity, standardized testing, as an opposition to a cultural other, represents the normalization of whiteness, richness, and maleness.”-Andrew Hartman
“In this country American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate.”
-Toni Morrison
We talk about standardized testing as if we don’t really understand what it is.
We say we want No child left behind!
And then we pass a law named after that very sentiment that ensures some students MUST be left behind.
We say we want Every student to succeed!
And then we pass a law named after that very sentiment that ensures every student will NOT succeed.
It would be absurd if not for the millions of children being forced to endure the harsh reality behind our pretty words.
It’s not these ideals that are the problem. It’s standardized testing.
Researchers, statisticians, and academics of every stripe have called for an end to high stakes testing in education policyParents, students and teachers have written letters, testified before congressional committees, protested in the streets, even refused to take or give the tests. All to deaf ears.
The federal government still requires all students in 3-8th grade and once in high school to take standardized tests.
But these assessments are graded on a curve. A certain amount of students are at the bottom, a certain amount are at the top, and most are clustered in the middle. This would be true if you were testing all geniuses or all people with traumatic brain injuries.
It doesn’t matter how smart your test takers are. There will always be this bell curve distribution. That’s how the tests are designed. So to talk about raising test scores is nonsensical. You can raise scores at school A or School B, but the total set of all test takers will always be the same. And some students will always fail.
But that isn’t even the worst part.
Standardization, itself, has certain consequences. We seem to have forgotten what the term even means. It’s defined as the act of evaluating someone or something by reference to a standard.
This socket wrench is a good socket wrench because it most closely resembles some ideal socket wrench. This McDonald’s Big Mac is good because it resembles the ideal McDonald’s Big Mac.
That’s what we’re doing to people – children in fact. We’re evaluating them based on their resemblance to some ideal definition of what a child should know and what a child should be.
But children are not socket wrenches nor are they Big Macs. It is not so easy to reduce them to their component parts and say this is good and that is bad.
When you try to abstract them to that point, it is impossible to remove various essential factors of their identity – race, gender, socio-economic status, etc. Nor would it be admirable if you could, because you would have abstracted to the point where the individual is no longer visible or valued. A child raised in poverty is simply not the same as a child from a privileged upbringing. A child from a culture that values cooperation is not the same as a child from a culture that values individual achievement. And that’s often a good thing.
But when you define a standard, an ideal, you make certain choices – you privilege some attributes and denigrate others. Since the people creating the tests are almost exclusively upper middle class white people, it should come as no surprise that that is the measure by which they assess success.
Is it any wonder then that poor kids and children of color don’t score as well on these tests? Is it any wonder that upper middle class white kids score so well?
We’ve known this for almost a century. Standardized tests do a poor job of assessing intelligence or knowledge. Those things are too complex and the tests are too simple. If you’re evaluating something equally simple like basic addition and subtraction, these tests can work alright. But if you’re trying to get at something complex like critical thinking or creativity, they end up doing little more than prizing the way some people think and not others. In short, they elevate the thought processes most associated with rich white kids.
It doesn’t mean poor and/or black children are any less intelligent. It just means rich white kids have the things for which the test designers are looking. Some of this is due to economic factors like greater access to private tutoring, books in the home, parents with more time to read to their kids, coming to school healthy and more focused. However, a large portion is due to the very act of taking tests that are created to reflect white upper class values and norms.
Think about it. Almost all the questions are field tested before they become a permanent part of the exam. Students are given a question that doesn’t count to their final score, but test makers tabulate how many kids get it right or wrong. So when most white kids answer a field tested question correctly and most black kids get it wrong, it still becomes a permanent test question because there are so few blacks relative to whites. Maybe it’s a question that references sun tan lotion, something with which darker skinned people don’t have as much experience. Imagine if a question referencing the hair care practices of  black people became a test item. White people would have difficulty with it because they can’t easily relate. But the field testing process doesn’t allow that because it normalizes whiteness.
So black kids stumble while white kids have an easier time. We even have a name for it: the racial proficiency gap.
Many well-intentioned progressive voices have bemoaned this problem and wondered how to solve it. But it’s not the scores that are the problem. It’s the assessments. They are doing exactly what they were designed to do.
That’s right. You cannot have such obvious, historical problems perpetuated year-after-year, decade-after-decade, and still think they are mere unintended consequences.
This is how the system was designed to work. This is how it’s always been designed to work.
If you were going to create a racist and classist school system from scratch, what would you do? How would you go about it?
You’d need the lower classes to have SOME mediocre education so they are able to do the menial work that keeps society running. But only so much. Education as a social ladder is all well and good as propaganda. But you don’t want that ladder to lead out of the basement for more than a few.
You need a biased sorting mechanism – something that allows you to put students into privileged and unprivileged categories but that will look to all the world like it was doing so fairly. It would have to appear like you were choosing students based on merit.
You’d need something like standardized test scores.
This is how these assessments have functioned from their very beginnings.
When Carl Brigham and Robert Yerkes, U.S. Army psychologists during WWI, designed the alpha and beta intelligence tests to determine which soldiers deserved to be officers, they were creating a pseudoscientific justification for white privilege. They used biased and unfair assessments to “prove” that rich white folks were best suited to give orders, and the rest of us belonged in the trenches.
Brigham and Yerkes were drawing upon eugenics, also called “racial hygiene” or “scientific racism.” This was a radical misreading of Gregor Mendel and Charles Darwin. Eugenicists thought positive traits such as intelligence were widespread in Northwestern European races and almost nonexistent in others. Moreover, negative traits such as laziness and criminality were common in nonwhites and almost absent in those same Northwestern Europeans.
“We should not work primarily for the exclusion of intellectual defectives but rather for the classification of men in order that they may be properly placed,” wrote Yerkes.
THIS is the basis of standardized testing.
After the war, Brigham took the same principles to create the Scholastic Aptitude Test or S.A.T. – in principle the same exam still taken by 2.1 million teenagers every year to ensure they get into their chosen college.
The test was further refined by fellow eugenicist Lewis Terman, Professor of Education at Stanford University and originator of the Stanford-Binet intelligence test. Together these three men created the foundations for the modern field of standardized testing. And make no mistake – its axiomatic principle is still that some races are genetically superior and others are inferior.
“A low level of intelligence is very common among Spanish-Indian and Mexican families of the Southwest and also among Negroes. Their dullness seems to be racial, or at least inherent in the family stocks from which they come… They constitute a grave problem because of their unusually prolific breeding.”
After WWII, the eugenicist brand suffered from comparison to the Nazis who had been inspired by the findings of Brigham, Yerkes and Terman among others. In the post war years, we’ve discarded the overtly racist language but kept the assessments. Yet they still function the same way – sorting out blacks and the poor while prizing the rich and white.
This information is not secret. It is not kept under lock and key in some hidden military base somewhere. It’s accessible to anyone with Internet access or a library card.
We ignore it, because otherwise it would destabilize the current power structure – the corporate education policies that drive school practices in our country. We close our eyes and pretend it isn’t happening.
But it is.
“Standardized tests are the last form of legalized discrimination in the US,” said Education and Psychology Prof. Phil Harris.
With them you can give rich and middle class whites every advantage while withholding the same from students of color. And we don’t call it racism or classism because we pretend the whites earned their privileges by their test scores.
“We are using the testocracy as a proxy for privilege,” said civil rights theorist Lanni Guinier. Test scores are the excuse for prejudicial and unjust practices that would be impossible without them.
For instance, if you really wanted to help someone who’s struggling, you might offer extra help. But low test scores are used as the reason for withholding that help. We actually use these invalid scores as a means of demeaning and firing poor black kids’ teachers – as if anything they could do could completely overcome biased assessments and poverty. In this way, we not only remove those already in place to help these kids, we ensure few people will volunteer to take their place.
And when you have a teacher shortage in these poor urban neighborhoods, you can use that to justify further deprivations. Instead of teachers with 4-year education degrees, you can hire lightly trained Teach for America temps – college grads who’ve taken no coursework in education beyond a six weeks cram session.
And if the parents of these children complain, you can open charter schools to pull a quick bait and switch. Make them feel like they have a choice when really you’re pulling the rug out from under them. You provide them with a school with none of the safeguards of a traditional public institution – no elected school board, no transparency on how tax dollars are spent, little oversight, a right to refuse any student they wish, etc. And when the school goes belly up, these kids will be pushed back to their former traditional public school that has had to make due with less funding and now can provide even fewer  services than it could before students jumped ship.
Using standardized test scores to judge not just students but whole schools, you can destabilize the entire system of public education. Charter schools and traditional public schools fight over ever-dwindling funding, one required to prove everything it does, the other able to do whatever it wants until it closes with little to no consequences for charter operators who take the money and run.
The US Supreme Court ruled in Brown vs Board that we can’t have “separate but equal” schools because when they’re separate, they’re rarely equal. But somehow that doesn’t apply to charter schools.
Somehow we’ve stopped caring about integration – one of the central victories of the Civil Rights movement! This plays right into the hands of the corporate education reformers. They have done everything they can to increase segregation because it makes it so much easier to privilege rich white kids and crush poor black ones.
They don’t want an equal mix of black and white, rich and poor in our schools. That would make it much harder to select against one class of student while boosting another.
They need to keep the races and classes as separate as possible. Charter schools help in this regard, but they would be insufficient without the help from many white families who flee from these “other” darker complected kids. It’s just another way to send more funding to white kids and less to poor black kids. They say it’s based on local property taxes. That way they can pretend it’s all fair and above board. Rich folks have a right to be able to give their kids the best, and if poor folks can’t afford to do the same, who do you expect to pick up the tab?
Oh! And let’s not forget setting “high academic standards” while all this is going on. They throw out everything that’s been working and come up with a Common Core of knowledge that all kids need to learn. Don’t include black and brown history, culture or the arts – just the stuff the business community thinks is valuable because they know so much about what’s really important in life. And have the whole thing written up by non-educators and non-psychologists and don’t bother testing it out to make sure it works.
Your rich white kids will have no problem jumping through these hoops. But your poor black and brown kids will stumble and fall – just as planned.
This is what has become of our public schools.
This is corporate education reform.
This is our racist, classist school system.
And it’s all based on standardized testing – a perfectly legal system of normalizing rich whiteness.
Depression at Work by Stephanie Murray

Each week of this Bullying Awareness Month the BAT QWL along with the National Workplace Bullying Coalition will share a story about workplace survival and bullying.  This is Stephanie's story told through her amazing gift as an artist! 

“There is no tired like teacher tired.” We all know that this is true. But what about when your career choice starts to really impact your personal life? What happens when you are not supported by administration when you need it to make your classroom the best it can be?  We put our all in to every day to do the very best that we can for our students...many times at the sacrifice of our own lives.

Schools can become toxic environments when ruled by a top-down administrative team that neglects the collaborative process of involving all stakeholders in decision making decisions. Sometimes, a move to a new building gives teachers a fresh start to find a more compatible work environment. But when the atmosphere replicates itself, this starts to become a systemic issue that needs to be addressed.

Searching for a better work environment sometimes leads teachers to take positions that are not necessarily their first choice. In the end, this can cause more internal tension for a teacher, people who just strive to give the best of themselves to their classroom and to the children they teach.

As stress builds, teachers can become caught in a downward spiral of self-doubt and internal strife, knowing that they cannot live like this but unwilling to abandon the classroom and the children they may leave behind - the very children they swore they would advocate for and protect.

Internal stress caused by outside factors can begin to make a person question their own worth. Teachers can begin to doubt whether they are really suited for the classroom. Many will leave, seek to find another career, or even any other job that will allow them to survive financially, making waste of the years that they spent on their own education, on their own dreams.

Stephanie Murray taught for five years at a charter school company. She recently resigned from her position at a public school to pursue a career in the arts and also to be an advocate for mental health. She currently resides in Michigan

Monday, October 24, 2016


While most of the political news in your social media feed and in news broadcasts may revolve around the upcoming presidential election, there is so much more at stake...and we have run the risk of neglecting that.

So many of us have become disenchanted with the process that, in some areas, the risk of low voter turnout has become very real.

Regardless of how you feel about our current offerings of presidential candidates, it is important to remember that this election is about so much more. Below we have listed some of the state items that relate to our mission and viewpoints. (Direct education issues are in bold print.)

  • Amendment 8 would create right-to-work language in the state constitution

  • Proposition 206 will raise the minimum wage

  • Proposition 51 allows the state issuing $9 billion in bonds to fund improvement and construction of school facilities for K-12 schools and community colleges.
  • Proposition 58 will allow non-English languages to be used in public educational instruction.
  • Proposition 55 renews the income tax on the super wealthy in order to fund education.

  • Amendment T would remove part of the Colorado Constitution that allows forced, unpaid labor by convicted criminals
  • Amendment 70 will increase minimum wage

  • Amendment 1 would authorize the state to form an Opportunity School District that would govern certain elementary and secondary schools determined to be "chronically failing."
  • Amendment 2 would provide penalties for court cases involving certain sex crimes in order to allocate the generated revenue for the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund.

  • Amendment 2 would add bond and pension payments as alternative dispositions of excess general fund revenues.

  • Amendment 2 would allow college boards to establish tuition and fee amounts for their respective institutions without legislative approval.

Maine: adding a section to the Montana Constitution that would give crime victims specific rights to ensure their interests are respected and protected under the law.
  • Question 2 would approve an additional 3 percent surcharge on the portion of any household income exceeding $200,000 per year. Revenue would be earmarked to fund public education.
  • Question 4 would increase minimum wage.

  • Question 2 would raise the cap on charters schools and authorize the approval of up to 12 new charter schools or enrollment expansions in existing charter schools by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education per year.

  • CI-116 would add a section to the Montana Constitution that would give crime victims specific rights to ensure their interests are respected and protected under the law.

  • Question 2 would allow adults aged 21 or older to possess, consume, and cultivate some marijuana for recreational purposes. The initiative would create a new 15 percent excise tax, with revenue from the tax being spent on enforcing the measure and schools.

New Jersey:
  • Public Question 1 would allow the state legislature to pass laws allowing for two additional northern counties to each have one new casino.
  • Public Question 2 is a proposal to dedicate all revenue from gas taxes to transportation projects.
  • *Special note - Atlantic City has a local ballot issue that would allow school vouchers and tax credit for home-school families. Linwood has a ballot vote to change the current appointed school board to an elected school board model.

New Mexico:
  • Bond Question B would issue no more than $10,167,000 in general obligation bonds for academic, public school, tribal, and public library resource acquisitions.
  • Bond Question C would issue no more than $142,356,000 in general obligation bonds for higher education, special schools, and tribal schools capital improvements and acquisitions.

North Carolina:
  • Public Improvement Bond would issue $2 billion in bonds for economic development and infrastructure projects in 76 counties - including $980,000,000 in funding for various building renovations and construction at several University of North Carolina universities and $350,000,000 in funding for construction, repairs and renovations at various North Carolina community colleges

North Dakota:
  • Constitutional Measure 2 would authorize the legislature to allocate excess revenues from oil extraction taxes from the foundation aid stabilization fund for education purposes.
  • Constitutional Measure 3 would incorporate existing state statutes related to crime victims' rights into the state constitution.

  • Measure 97 would tax the largest corporations with $25 million or over in Oregon sales to fund schools, health care, and elder services.
  • Measure 99 would create an "Outdoor School Education Fund," sourced from state lottery proceeds, to fund outdoor school programs for all Oregon students.

Rhode Island:
  • Question 4 will approve issuing $45,500,000 in general obligation bonds to invest in higher education related projects.
  • Question 7 will approve issuing $50,000,000 in general obligation bonds to fund affordable housing and urban revitalization.

South Dakota
  • Constitutional Amendment R would allow the South Dakota Legislature to determine a separate entity, board or procedure to run technical schools and preventing the South Dakota Board of Regents from running such schools.
  • Constitutional Amendment S would expand the rights of crime victims.

  • Amendment B would modify certain provisions and language relating to distribution, investment, and expenditure for the State School Fund and the Uniform School Fund.

  • Right to Work Amendment would add a section to the constitution that would make it illegal for workplaces to require mandatory labor union membership for employees as a condition for employment, making it nearly impossible for future legislators to change current right to work laws.

  • Initiative 735 would urge the Washington state congressional delegation to propose a federal constitutional amendment that reserves constitutional rights for people and not corporations.
  • Initiative 1433 would raise the minimum wage.

While these are not all of the state ballot initiatives that are up for your consideration this year, these are ones that stood out to us. We urge you to research these issues and decide your vote before going to the polls. For a more comprehensive look at what issues you will need to decide upon, visit Ballotpedia at and get ready to VOTE!