Today at 11 AM - Thursday June 7 - hundreds of New York parents and kids are taking to the streets to protest:
* High-stakes testing which crowds out meaningful learning, e.g., critical thinking, complex writing, reading actual books, exploring ideas, research, experiments.
* The excessive power and influence billion dollar for-profit company Pearson has over our NYS Education Department - the tests are eating up resources and taking up children's time. Meanwhile, NY SED and Pearson have no accountability as they refuse to ever release the tests, which had nearly 30 questions invalidated this spring due to errors and poor quality.
Come join us today if you're in midtown Manhattan - we're protesting in front of Pearson HQ at 53rd and 6th avenue - more info at www.parentvoicesny.org or below
ParentVoicesNY is a grass-roots organization of parents started in the last few months, partly in response to the legislation passed in the dead of night by Governor Cuomo in March. They have now made teachers' jobs entirely dependent on the test scores of their students - actually, on "value-added measurements" which are statistically meaningless and totally inaccurate. See this astonishing article to comprehend how crazy this system is. For parents, what this means is more teaching to the test, more narrowing of the curriculum and the loss of good teachers.
In April, our public school kids grades 3 through 8 sat for 6 days of state-mandated standardized testing. Each day had a 90 minute test, and the kids were not allowed to get up from the test even if they were finished. How developmentally inappropriate is this for kids as young as 8 years old? Some of the kids developed migraines from the stress. We are in favor of tests which have genuine instructional purposes for kids - but these tests are just for assessing schools and have nothing to do with genuine education. Over the next few weeks, our teachers disappeared from the classroom, as each school is required to take the teachers out of the class to grade exams (at other schools.)
At the same time problems started to emerge about this year's tests, provided by Pearson. The famous "pineapple and the hare" question eventually led to over 30 questions on the state tests with no correct answers, too many correct answers or just general incoherence. If it hadn't been for students blogging, we never would have found out about these problems - Pearson mandated in its contract with the state that teachers are sworn to secrecy and the tests will never be published.
Thus schools are being closed, students being held back, teachers being fired - all based on a test that no outside observer will ever see. It's a Kafkaesque situation. When the errors around the tests came out, Meryl Tisch, the Regents Chancellor, said this shows that "we're moving in the right direction." Accountability is something people like Tisch believe in for students and teachers, but not for billion-dollar testing companies or politicians like herself.
Needless to say, Meryl Tisch's children, like Cuomo's and Bloomberg's and Obama's, went to an elite private school where they would never have wasted time or resources on stupid standardized testing, because those schools are interested in real academic rigor, teaching children to be leaders, and not merely bubble-filling followers.
The hypocrisy is amazing.
A few brave parents "opted-out" of the state tests in April, keeping their children home, but for most parents, living in this system of fear, that was too risky. So when we discovered that Pearson was secretly planning to do a field test in June - another day of testing! - we decided it was an opportunity to organize. The field tests have no consequences for children or schools, but are merely research for Pearson. It was outrageous that Pearson, already being paid $32 million while our budgets are cut to the bone, was conducting its research on our children without our consent or knowledge. Here's why field tests are a bad idea in general. So ParentVoicesNY, along with Time Out From Testing and Change the Stakes as well as several other organizations, have organized a boycott of the field tests. We encouraged parents to write to their principals demanding a real educational activity instead. In just a few weeks, we have organized school by school, classroom by classroom, and received a tremendous response. Tomorrow we will announce how many schools are participating in the boycott - but we can say parents are participating from Rochester to Nyack to Scarsdale and all across New York City.
This morning at 11AM we're protesting - hopefully in the hundreds - outside of Pearson HQ on 53rd street and 6th avenue in midtown Manhattan. We will be there with our kids (public school is off today) with a marching band and giant puppets and special "pineapple and hare" races! We are angry and we are saying
Enough is Enough to high-stakes testing and the narrowing of the curriculum and teaching to the test
Enough is Enough to Pearson profiteering off our children while using the money to lobby in state capitals for more testing.
Enough is Enough to turning public school curriculum and public school education into the hands of for-profit companies, who are managing to create a dangerous monopoly on our education system.
Pearson is getting nervous. They hastily put together a shoddy facebook pageto try to put out their corporate PR; we keep making comments which they keep scrubbing; you're welcome to join in the fun!
The serious problem is that Michelle Rhee and Joel Klein have raised $50 million from their billionaire friends for their organization - StudentsFirstNY - that's a lot of money, and that will buy a lot of political support and faux-grass roots. But they don't have the support of the real New York public school parent. ParentVoicesNY has a budget of $0, but we have genuine parents who are determined to protect our kids and all kids, the public schools that we love and the idea of public education. If we can come together and unite and speak out, we can fight back, no matter how much money they have!