Friday, January 30, 2015

Dear Senator Alexander,
Thank you for hearing the pleas of teachers, parents, and students in regards to "education reform" that has had damaging consequences for our children, communities, and states. We find ourselves in a difficult position, in regard to the Reauthorization of ESEA, but we are grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the discussion. As an organization of over 53,000 members who are educators and parents, we live the impact of the decisions made at the Federal level.
Reauthorization of ESEA evaluation must address the fundamentals: the appropriate role of the Federal Government in education policy and the best use of increasingly scarce dollars to educate our children. We are not best served by punitive and restricting Federal policies that tie the allocation of Federal money to demonstrating accountability through expensive means of annual testing. We can improve public education in our country but only by investing in what we need and what we know works, rather than increasing money and time on false measures of accountability.
As practitioners in the classroom, we see daily the detrimental effects that testing and accountability have on our children, families, and communities. We remain concerned that many choose to ignore the prevalent research that shows how poverty and inequality play defining roles in the achievement of our children in school.
For us, as educators, neither option address the real problems that we see plaguing our schools: Poverty and inequality. No matter what tools used in a school - such as grade span testing, accountability, technology, or merit pay, children still walk through the door poor, marginalized, and in need of resources that are becoming increasingly scarce in our schools (specifically our children of color). Neither Option 1 nor Option 2 are solutions to us because they continue to rely on "testing" as a measure in which to gauge the health of a school. Although we support grade span testing, using random sampling provides statistically valid results with less time, and money, spent on testing.
We cannot support either Option because the bill continues to support the overuse of overreaching Federal standards, punitive tests, merit pay, evaluating teachers and schools based on a flawed rating system, charter/voucher expansion, and ultimately a move away from locally controlled public neighborhood schools. Both Options 1 and 2 contribute to the marginalization/elimination of Arts education programs (art, music, dance, and drama) in lieu of training students how to take a test. Tests that have little, if any impact on student progress, but a great deal of influence in the funding formula for schools. We agree with the words of Carol Burris that you cited in your remarks - public education is the foundation to our democracy, and the role of the Federal Government is to provide reasonable guidelines and limits but not to function as a national school board.
We must move away from the model of Federal control of education and expensive false measures of accountability that in anyway ties annual testing to the support schools need to succeed.
We proudly partner with United Opt Out in opposing ANY state level measures that sanction the following:
1. Increase standardized testing even if it's under "state control"
2. Support using high stakes to make decisions about students, educators, school buildings, or communities
3. Use of sanctions such as "shuts downs" or "turn overs" based on test data of any kind
4. Display favoritism toward increased charters and state voucher programs
5. Facilitate data mining and collection of private student information
6. Engage in sweet insider deals between state policy makers and corporations or testing companies using tax-payer dollars and at the expense of safety, quality and equity in public education
Therefore, we support the United Opt Out statement in demanding greater safety, equity and quality for ALL schools and that includes the elimination of ALL standardized -paper based or computer adaptive testing – that redirects tax-based funding for public education to corporations and is punitive or damaging to children, teachers, schools, and communities.
We proudly support United Opt Out in not accepting ANY bill until the following criteria are included:
1. Increased resources for the inclusion of local, quality curricular adoptions devoid of "teaching to the test"
2. Quality, creative, authentic, and appropriate assessment measures for general students, special needs, and English language learners that are sustainable and classroom teacher-created
3. Smaller teacher/student ratios
4. Wrap-around social programs, arts, physical education programs, and creative play recess
5. Career-focused magnet programs
Additionally, we support United Opt Out in demanding legislation that supports a broad and deep system-wide examination of the power structures that perpetuate poverty-level existence for millions of Americans.…/united-opt-out-public-letter-to-…/
To conclude, Senator Alexander, as practitioners in the classroom, retirees, parents, grandparents, and students, we find ourselves torn between, not supporting Option 1 and remaining silent. If we remain silent, we support the continued ignorance that poverty and inequality are what plagues our schools. We ask that you consider the United Opt Out directives above and our partnership in sharing these ideas, when putting forward any legislation. We look forward to meeting with your office this summer.
The Leadership Team of The Badass Teachers Association


  1. Testing students to close the achievement gap is like constantly measuring a five year old and assuming that will make him grow.

  2. Countless and senseless hours are being spent on test preparations when they could be put to better use in creative and innovative authentic learning sitations.

    Betty Skrzypek
    School Library Media Specialist, retired
    New York

  3. ESEA (NCLB) and its related Race to the Top are abject failures and should be completely thrown out--not left in place in any form that provides the a lever with which to coerce states or districts into compliance with policy that is rejected locally.

  4. There is no scarcity of dollars. This myth is a result of a failed tax policy on the national, state and local governments, all unwilling to perform their constitutional duty to tax and spend for the common welfare. Accordingly, I will not sign your letter however well-meaning you intended it to be.

  5. I disagree with your statements that refer to a scarcity of dollars and scarce resources. There is no scarcity of dollars. The purported scarcity is caused by the failure of our national, state and local governments to perform their constitutional duties to tax and spend for the general welfare of the people. Therefore, however well meaning your letter, I cannot endorse the sentiment that endorses a phony crisis created by a government that is shirking its constitutional duty to raise money and spend it wisely. If you take those parts out I will reconsider. If not, I may need to write my own letter. Yours in the struggle to preserve public education. Peace.

  6. Senator Alexander, No Child Left Behind and Race To The Top are the biggest education reform failures in American Education history that diverted needed Title One resources from services to struggling children to new testing and standards. Not only am I endorsing this letter, but I am requesting hearing on where the United States Department of Education spent the 1.2 trillion dollars allocated under NCLB.
    Dr. Jesse Partick Turner (Connecticut)
    Central Connecticut State University

  7. Our educational priorities are a mess. Attack poverty and you get to the heart of the problem. Everything else is window dressing, and potentially counterproductive like excessive standardized testing and Charter School.

  8. This applies so well to the similar encroachments on post secondary education. I'm working on a higher ed statement to blog and recommend for National Adjunct Walkout Day (which, given the vulnerability of precarious academic labor, will be more symbolic than literal).

    Tentatively, here's what I have so far ~ please let me have your feedback and suggestions

    "Therefore, we support demanding greater safety, equity and quality for ALL public schools, colleges and all post secondary institutions of learning or vocational training. That includes the elimination of ALL standardized paper based or computer adaptive testing – as well as programs, departments, service outsourcing, learning management software and platforms, etc that redirect tax-based funding for public education to corporations and are punitive or damaging to learners, teachers, institutions and entire communities."

  9. I agree with everything in this statement but I'd like to add something to number 4 - Numerous studies have show the benefits of a well funded school library media center staffed by a certified teacher librarian. Along with art, music & P.E.teachers, many school librarians and library programs have also been cut much to the detriment of our students.

  10. Please redirect federal dollars towards healthy support for more equitably funded public schools with full-time nurses and librarians. The punishing nature of High-Stakes testing is expensive, stressful, and invalid. It punishes students with learning disabilities, those who are learning English as a Second Language, and poor children. The te$t cart is driving the education horse, and you have the power to change that. Schools can share student progress through smaller, more appropriate, humane, and valid measures. Please read Diane Ravitch: The Reign of Error....We need a course correction yesterday.

  11. Amy Bahena-Ettner
    1st grade teacher
    Green Bay, WI

  12. Resolving to fight the inequities of the educational system, including the fight for a living wage for all workers to alleviate the effects of poverty on our students, while preserving the rights of our students to a free and appropriate public education free from abusive testing practices must be our mission and our greatest life's work.
    Amy Bahena-Ettner
    1st grade teacher
    Green Bay, WI


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