Teachers Talk Back

| June 15, 2011

Does anyone remember Central Falls high school in Rhode Island? In February 2010, the state education commissioner Deborah A. Gist and the school board voted to fire all of the school’s 93 teachers because of low test scores.  U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan applauded the move, saying that it was in the best interest of the children. Really?

Student upset by decision of Central Falls' school board

I know this event is now far behind us, but I like to think of Central Falls as the moment many teachers began to realize that, no matter how dysfunctional the community and no matter how little support students get from families, teachers are being held responsible for their students’ failure to learn. Some may say that it is solely the teacher’s responsibility to put knowledge into a child’s head. Arne Duncan would probably say so. But since when were students and families not accountable for learning?

Arne Duncan standing with real live children!

The No Child Left Behind Act, thrust into life in 2001, with support from the “well-educated” Bush the second, set us on this path of metrics, testing and teachers-as-funnels pouring knowledge into awaiting sponge-students’ brains. Now, thanks to Arne Duncan and President Obama, we have Race to the Top, a program designed to cattle-prod teachers and school administrators into scrambling just a bit more out of desperation to keep test scores up, retain their tenuous positions and push knowledge into their students’ awaiting and testing-exhausted brains.

Do I sound annoyed? Well, if so, its because I am. As someone who will be graduating with a teaching degree in one year, I feel slightly disgusted with the way education reform is headed in this country. Don’t get me wrong, I still want to teach. In fact, I feel even more that I want to teach so that I can show my students that even though tests are ruling their lives right now, school and learning can be so much more than that.

Joy of learning

If you feel like me, you may want to consider attending the Save Our Schools march on Washington, DC on July 30, 2011. Here’s an excerpt detailing why this group is marching:

Numerous efforts have been made to get federal education officials to listen to usthe teachers, parents and students who experience the effects of these policies every day – because we know that NCLB is not working. Since the passage of No Child Left Behind, schools have experienced unprecedented levels of stress and pressure as educators have narrowed curriculum, decreased the time spent on actual instruction, and even resorted to “gaming the system” and cheating in order to meet the law’s stringent testing requirements. The quality of instruction has suffered as the emphasis on rewards and sanctions based on test scores has increased.

The marchers will descend upon Washington, DC in order to let the nation’s capital know that there are many teachers out there who have grievances with the state of our education system.  Many have realized that the only way to have their voices heard is to speak up. I plan to march. Do you?

Weigh in below in the comments section. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the march and education reform today.