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NCLB Outrages

Living for Change: Teens Re-Invent Education

Gary Doyle Comment: Dear Friends of Public Education:
The article below, written by Grace Lee Boggs, gives me hope. Grace describes a group of eighth graders who challenged the NCLB insanity. These
students did what our so-called educational "leaders" across the country
have failed to do.

By the way, Grace Lee Boggs is a Detroit-based activist, writer and speaker who has been challenging the system much longer than most people have been alive. Grace will be celebrating her 93rd birthday on June 27, 2008, and,according to a good friend who knows her, she is showing no signs of slowing down. I hope Grace is around for many more birthdays, as we
desperately need more people like her.

By Grace Lee Boggs

On Thursday, May22, students at a South Bronx middle school pulled off a stunning boycott against the standardized testing mandated by Bush’s "No Child Left Behind" Act.

The May 22 New York Daily News carried Juan Gonzalez' story about the well-organized action and it was reprinted on Common Dreams.

"More than 160 students in six different classes at Intermediate School 318 in the South Bronx—virtually the entire eighth grade—refused to take last Wednesday’s three-hour practice exam for next month’s statewide social studies test.

Instead, the students handed in blank exams.

"Then they submitted signed petitions with a list of grievances to school Principal Maria Lopez and the Department of Education.

"The school system's just treating us like test dummies for the companies that make the exam,." said Tatiana Nelson, 13, one of the protest leaders.

"School administrators blamed the boycott on a 30-year-old probationary social studies teacher, Douglas Avella.

"'They’re saying Mr. Avella made us do this,' said Johnny Cruz, 15, another boycott leader. 'They don’t think we have brains of our own, like we're robots. We students wanted to make this statement. The school is oppressing us too much with all these tests.'

"The afternoon of the protest, the principal ordered Avella out of the classroom, reassigned him to an empty room in the school and ordered him to have no further contact with students.

"A few days later, in a reprimand letter, Lopez accused Avella of initiating the boycott and taking 'actions [that] caused a riot at the school.'

"Avella denied that he urged the students to boycott tests. Yes, he holds liberal views and is critical of the school system’s increased emphasis on standardized tests, Avella said, but the students decided to organize the protest after weeks of complaining about all the diagnostic tests the school was making them take.

"'My students know they are welcome in my class to have open discussions,' Avella said. 'I teach them critical thinking.'

"The students say their protest was entirely peaceful. In only one class, they say, was there some loud clapping after one exam proctor reacted angrily to their boycott."

"'Some teachers implied our graduation ceremony would be in danger, that we didn't have the right to protest against the test,' said Tia Rivera, 14. 'Well, we did it.'"

Comments by Common Dreams readers were overwhelmingly in support of the students and Avella.

"I hope the idea spreads from this school to others."

"The students and their teacher are an inspiration. May their example spread like a prairie fire across this dim and oppressive land. As a former teacher I know about the totalitarian strictures of standardized tests. Virtually every teacher I know hates them. The testing companies are making billions. It is a scam. Critical thinking is stifled, which is just fine with the powers that be. Teachers have tremendous power if they only had the courage to exercise it. A nation-wide strike against standardized tests would be a start. Standards, yes! Standardized testing, no!"

"He was teaching them to think for themselves. How will they be able to work at Mickey-Ds if they do that?"

"The testing serves to monitor young people—to track them into acceptable roles as adults or into the prison system."

"I hope the idea spreads from this school to others. It’s not like the kids aren’t going to hear about this and think about going on strike rather than taking a meaningless test."

"FCAT (Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test) was a test program that came from a company owned by Neal Bush (yes, former Gov. Jeb Bush and moron Pres. George Bush’s brother). How nice it was to have your brother JUMP on-board using taxpayer dollars to implement HIS companies program in the state school system!! "

"Everyone should read John Gatto, a teacher in NY who won the 'best teacher of the year' in both New York City and New York State."

"The whole No Child Left Beyond Act is just another way of robotizing education and kids. Think of the moron-in-chief who is its chief proponent. You can’t test creativity. You can’t test imagination. Like Einstein said 'Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.' It is time to revolt against this revolting trend in education to turn our kids into testing machines. And now kids are thinking for themselves. Praise to the eighth grade kids!"

— Grace Lee Boggs
Michigan Citizen


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