[Susan notes: Here's a strong appeal to teachers from a concerned parent.]
Published in Baltimore Sun
Comments from Annie: Following the Maryland State Secretary of Education’s attempt to place Baltimore City schools under state control. I had hoped to appeal to the teachers who, at least in this case, had the opportunity to substantiate their concerns about the effects of NCLB on their schools and in their classrooms.
I find their silence, in the face of such drastic measures, a reminder about their state of oppression and fear.
Every single teacher who still values their profession must act now to stop the systematic destruction of our public school system. Your strength is in your knowledge and passion, and in the sheer numbers of you. You alone understand the defeat of policy that ties your hands and then tells you to perform. The testing model, as you know, does not substitute for teaching, does not address the academic needs of any community. You have stoically conformed to the restrictive policies of what you believed was yet another trend, and many of you believed that this too would pass. Now you realize the magnitude and intent of this coercive trend. This is not going to pass; not without your help.
The NEA has itemized the following serious shortcomings of the NCLB law:
• It imposes invalid one-size-fits-all measures on students, failing to recognize that different children learn in different ways and with different timelines.
• Its vision of accountability focuses more on punishing children and schools than on giving them the support they need to improve.
• It favors privatization, rather than teacher-led, family-oriented solutions.
As educators you know that the measurement of student achievement should not be based solely on the results of standardized tests. In counties where living conditions are better, students generally enter the educational system with higher skill levels. Consequently they test better. You are told to teach lower-performing students to pass tests of basic skills, and you know what has been lost in the process of compliance with these policies. What has been lost is the opportunity to learn meaningful important lessons; lost to a standard that in the end will be the demise of our public schools.
In neighboring counties, there is greater flexibility in a number of statistical manipulations to "adjust" for “adequate yearly progress” (AYP). In Baltimore City, with large numbers of disadvantaged students, schools are labeled "failing" for not meeting statewide proficiency targets even if their students are making dramatic progress. The rhetoric of equal opportunity has been corrupted to benefit of communities which would not accept the kind of dramatic measures being considered in Baltimore City.
As teachers, you understand that by forcing lower-performing students to focus on "basic skills," you are perpetuating the poverty of knowledge that already exists. You are told to participate in the oppression of the already disadvantaged, furthering their alienation from society, and finally you are told to accept the manipulations of corporate opportunists who will finish the job. Who will stand up for these students and their community? You, as their teachers, know that they are the least prepared to fight the oppressive powers of their own demise.
Unfortunately, NCLB has left you no time to educate low-income students about the concepts of economic and political repression. The students hardly have the skills to ponder their own demise. They and you are the victims of this atrocity and only you have the ability to speak out about it.
Anne E. Levin Garrison
Advocate for the survival of our public schools.
Letter of OP/ED to the Baltimore Sun, not, as of yet published.
Anne E. Levin Garrison