Publication Date: 2005-11-27
This op-ed appeared in the Greeley Tribune November 27, 2005. As an elementary teacher in Greeley, Don refused to give the state test. Along with a few other resisters he founded the Coalition for Better Education. Membership in this group now nears 400. They are accomplishing great deeds, such as getting test opt out signs placed on bus stop benches. Not the least of their accomplishments is getting pieces like this into local papers.
Use Don's piece as inspiration and information to go foth and do lockwise. We must get out there and invoke "we the people."
A FEW YEARS ago, my elderly aunt, a World War II veteran, sent me her copies of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. I am always impressed by the calligraphy of the Constitution's first three words, "We the People," and a goal of the people to establish justice.
Are we as parents, grandparents, citizens and educational leaders accepting the responsibilities required by those three words and that goal? Recent events in our local schools point to attitudes and actions of our educational leaders which run counter to the concept of "we the people."
Greeley-Evans School District 6 administrators and school board members panicked recently when they learned that our schools were on a "state watch," which translates to "improve CSAP scores or else!" Or else, we can all guess, the sword of Damocles will fall on our collective hearts and the state bureaucrats will take over our schools.
Did local administrators raise their collective heads to invoke our state Constitution, Article IX, Section 15, which states that local school boards "shall have control of instruction in public schools of their respective districts"? No, administration bowed its collective head in compliance.
And since administration complied instead of invoking the democratic principle of "we the people," it looked to its constituents to force their compliance. On Oct. 10, the school board issued a resolution designed to deny parents their right to have the last word in their children's education. The resolution reads in part: "WHEREAS, the Board of Education of Weld County School District 6 has determined that it is in the best interests of the school district to ensure that its students comply with the statutory requirements concerning CSAP ... (thus) a refusal on the part of any student and/or his/her parent/guardian ... shall result in a 'no score' ... reported on said student's final report card and shall be made a part of said student's permanent record."
Such punitive edicts create toxicity in classrooms as teachers shift their energies from teaching children to conforming to a rigid prescribed formula. Let's note that the resolution reminds us that compliance is "in the best interests of the school district" but makes no mention of what is in the best interests of our children. In fact, last year's memo from district headquarters to teachers reads in part: "If the child needs to throw up in the middle of the test, pull the trash can by his/her side, let them do their thing, and encourage the child to finish the test." How draconian!
How did we stray so far from nurturing our children to requiring their slavish surrender to a contrived testing regimen? The trail starts with McGraw-Hill Publishing Co. Its profits have gone from $49 million in 1993 before the advent of high-stakes standardized testing to a staggering $321.5 million in 2003. McGraw-Hill manufactures not only the Colorado Student Assessment Program and similar high-stakes testing programs, but also the preparatory material. Which do you think is more important to the company: the needs, talents and interests of our children, or corporate profits? Do you think that CEOs at McGraw-Hill have read and digested the literature that educators know about the myriad abilities children possess? And who suffers more in this greed motivated scheme -- schools like Christa McAuliffe or schools like Billie Martinez? Billie Martinez recently lost much of its effective bilingual education program at the CSAP altar.
This educational agenda founded on corporate greed is shameful! We the people not only need to prepare our children for the world, but we also need to prepare the world for our children.
Don Perl teaches Spanish at the University of Northern Colorado and is a co-founder of www.thecbe.org