Parent activists Tim Slekar and Michele Gray have recently made headlines with their decision to publicly boycott that state's standardized testing of their children. In this guest post they offer some advice, and urge others to help our politicians understand what is happening to our children in the name of reform.
By Tim Slekar and Michele Gray
In the days since Anthony "misrepresented" the President's comments concerning high stakes standardized tests, the narrative is shifting. The opposition of parents and education professionals to the current school reform direction is finally being heard. Although I am not foolish enough to believe that the tide has turned, it is empowering listening to teachers, parents, administrators, teacher education faculty, and educational researchers shout out a pro-public schools massage while saying no to more testing. Anthony points out two examples -- Jon Stewart skewering the anti-teacher media and The New York Times finally admitting that there is a legitimate debate between the reformers and the parents and communities who support their local public schools.
Much more needs to be done.
Michele and I know the Save Our Schools March has rekindled the "Teachers' Letters to Obama" movement, and expanded it to include students, parents and citizens. We strongly encourage anybody that cares about the future of public schools to participate. To be even more effective, Michele and I would like to encourage supporters of public education to communicate with their state and local representatives which is what we did last week when we met with Pennsylvania Senator Robert Casey's aides.
Here are the cliff notes from our meeting with Senator Casey's aides.
• We heard the President's comments on testing loud and clear and we liked what he said! We also watched Duncan's Education Department essentially say, 'don't listen to that guy.' Senator Casey should know that we are unhappy with the retraction.
• We want the same education for our children as Sasha and Malia.
• If the Senator can't support our position understand that we will not support him in the upcoming elections. In fact the Senator should start to pay close attention to the voices of parents and teachers that value public schools. These traditional supporters are not likely to continue blindly supporting the Senator.
• We have heard from thousands of teachers and parents since we boycotted NCLB testing. These voices are telling us that restoring trust in teachers and public education, and valuing community schools and teachers is a make or break issue.
• If the Senator wants the support of pro-public school voters then he needs to start showing us he also values the Presidents comments on testing and does not support the position of Duncan's Department of Education.
• Parents and teachers are telling us that they will not vote for the 'lesser of two evils.' They are quite aware that the reformers destructive take over of public schools has been fully embraced by both political parties. And parents and teachers have had it. In fact, as an example of this angst the Senator should read what Shaun Johnson said on his blog.
As a dedicated Democrat, I volunteered for the Obama campaign in Indiana while in graduate school. I was extremely happy when Indiana went blue for the first time since the 60′s. But now, I'm done. Between his comments on testing...and of the many other disappointments as a progressive Democrat, I think the best and only option right now is abstention.... I have no other option.... So, that's it President Obama, I'm out.
Senator Casey's aides were completely blown away. They were surprised when we presented them with research about high stakes standardized tests and what these test are doing to children, teachers and schools. Casey's people were very alarmed and committed to pursue this issue. They had worked in public education years before but were not aware of the growing dissatisfaction.
Michele and I urge you to start talking to your local elected officials. Don't just express frustration, but work to educate them about what's really going on with testing and corporate reforms. There is a faint light beginning to glow at the end of this dark tunnel. Carpe Diem!
Timothy Slekar is Associate Professor of Teacher Education at Penn State Altoona and blogger for Huffington Post.. Michele Gray is a mom and public education activist from State College, PA. Tim and Michele organized a boycott of NCLB testing and were featured on CNN.
What do you think? Have you been to visit any elected officials? How did you present your concerns?