Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Teacher Assessments? Fine, But Let's have Some Assessment of Corporate America As Well

Teacher Assessments? Fine, But Let's have Some Assessment of Corporate America As Well

It has been more than a week ago since I stood in Times Square penned in behind barricaded fences in a sea of tens of thousands protesters at the Occupy Wall Street rally. As an education blogger, I was on the lookout for teachers when I saw a man with a large yellow sign that read, “Teachers Want Corporate America Assessed.”   [ Schools Matter)] In the past year, three newly established grassroots education movements have been organized as parents, teachers, and citizens begin to focus on ending the reign of terror in schools. The fight, however, is just beginning.

The message was loud and clear -- it is time for educators to turn the table on the corporations and politicians and begin evaluating, measuring and assessing their performance. Here are some well-known statistics: 25 million people are out of work or underemployed, 50 million people have no access to health insurance and one in five children in the U.S. is living in poverty, with four of every ten black children living in poverty. Everyone but the wealthy has become part of corporate America's collateral damage, and the country appears poised on the brink of calamity. So far the protests have been relatively peaceful, but unless the deep and widespread concerns jar loose some real change, if history is any guide, the anger and outrage will not remained contained.

Despite the potential consequences of joining in the protests (like being fired), teachers are also standing up and participating in the OWS movement. Teachers have finally had enough. After years of blame for students’ low test scores in a country that has no accountability for the perpetrators of endless wars and the economic meltdown that make teaching evermore challenging, teachers are beginning to loudly call out those in power and to reclaim their voices that have been muffled by years of threats and sanctions.

Since its inception in 2002, teachers have known that No Child Left Behind was bad policy, but no one was listening or even cared. In fact, anyone who voiced opposition was accused of engaging the “bigotry of low expectations,” even though today’s officialdom now acknowledges the criticism of impossible testing targets was, in fact, true.  

Four years ago, Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute summarized his findings on NCLB. Research showed the damage to American education by NCLB included

    Conversion of struggling elementary schools into test-prep factories;
    Narrowing of curriculum so that disadvantaged children who most need enrichment would be denied lessons in social studies, the sciences, the arts and music, even recess and exercise, so that every available minute of the school day could be devoted to drill for tests of basic skills in math and reading;
    Demoralization of the best teachers, now prohibited from engaging children in discovery and instead required to follow pre-set instructional scripts aligned with low-quality tests;
    Boredom and terror among young children who no longer looked forward to school but instead anticipated another day of rote exercises and practice testing designed to increase scores by a point or two.

What a difference a few years makes. OWS has catalyzed a long overdue conversation about the abuses of corporate power and, it is the spark that has also ignited the pent-up anger and frustration brewing in the education community for a decade. The pushback against corporate abuse in all areas of our lives, including education, is well underway and gaining momentum. ( continued at link).

Teachers do not seem to be as intractable about making changes as corporate America or the conservative apologists who play fake populist games while they protect the lazy financial elite. The Founders invested the power in the people not the country club set.