Shut Down the Corporate Machine that is Being Used to Destroy Our Public Schools

“Let’s shut down the corporate machine that is being used to destroy our public schools and ultimately, our democracy.”
~ Peggy Robertson of United Opt Out National

A Response to Derek Briggs and the Denver Post re: Opt Out Propaganda

Posted May 17, 2015
My comment in response to the Denver Post piece titled: PARCC adviser: opt-out ‘propaganda’ mischaracterizes comments
I heard about Dr. Briggs’ comments via Facebook and I believe that the email he references was forwarded to me as well. But honestly, I didn’t read it because I have been too busy answering what I consider to be my priority emails – the emails from parents who are asking for helping refusing the tests which are destroying authentic learning and any chance for a whole and equitable public education for all children.
As a teacher in the public schools today, as well as one of the founders of United Opt Out National, I am privy to what these tests truly do to our public schools, our children, and the teaching profession. I checked out the curriculum vitae of Derek Briggs and it appears he has never taught in a public school. He has also received some hefty grants from Pearson and DPS where corporate reform is loved. I also checked out the video he linked to in the post above. At around 38 minutes you can hear him talk about opt out (in which he states Title 1 schools can lose funding. This is not true. See here: http://unitedoptout.com/optout-refusethetest-without-fear-of-federal-penalty-to-your-school/ ). And I recommend also listening as he shares info on the DLMs (alternative assessment for PARCC) at around 33 minutes. He shares an example of a “testlet.” The DLM is composed of multiple small tests that are an incredible waste of time and in no way inform a special education teacher’s instruction. DLMs should be refused by all parents as should PARCC.

Having spent the entire year watching children test in lieu of actual learning, I am continually stunned that the Denver Post, Derek Briggs, or anyone for that matter, actually believes that these posts about the values of PARCC will somehow halt the opt out movement and/or cause the public to suddenly embrace PARCC and any other test that is being used to erase learning from our classrooms and drive corporate profit sky high on the backs of children and teachers.
I sat in a meeting on Friday in which teachers were asked to list their greatest successes this year. The clear success we all agreed on at my table was our ability to survive. We have survived by far the absolute most horrific year of testing I have ever seen in my 18 years of teaching. I can count approximately 3 weeks of the year in which my work with students was NOT interrupted by a test.
The first half of our school year was filled with district testing, READ Act testing and MAPS. The PARCC and CMAS (social studies and science) tests consumed the second half of the year. In addition, because I teach in a high poverty school in which approximately 40 languages are represented, we also get to administer ACCESS to many of our students. In addition to that, because we are a high poverty school and many of our children lack literacy rich environments within their homes, we have many children who were placed on READ plans (thanks to the READ Act which will be used to retain children in third grade -regardless of the fact that research on retention clearly shows that not only does retention NOT work, it causes students to drop out of school and fuel the school to prison pipeline). The children on READ Act plans get an additional layer of testing via PALS mandated at a minimum of twice a year. Furthermore, children on IEPs must also have READ plans which means that the kids who must do alternative PARCC testing and/or receive accommodations for PARCC testing also get to be tested via PALS too. Never mind the fact that there is also district testing which must be completed for all students, such as DRA2. Never mind the fact that we also must administer TS Gold (data mining extravaganza) in our kindergarten classrooms. I’m sure I’m forgetting a test but just wanted to make it clear that whatever happened with Derek’s comments at the SBE meeting is the least of our worries re: any potential opt out propaganda.
Our current worries right now as teachers are simply keeping our head above water while being told to keep our mouths shut about what’s really happening in the public schools. Our current worries right now include figuring out a way to provide wrap around services for our schools while testing proponents continue to push forward tests that once again tell us zip code. Yet, these testing proponents do nothing to actually address these issues of poverty discovered via zip code, because it’s more profitable to ignore the true problems within our public schools by continually feeding children tests. In Derek’s video he does say something about opt out that is actually worth discussing here. He asks that if we are opting out, what are we opting into? I’m happy to answer that question.
We opt into a public school system that is equitably funded, democratically based, anti-racist, and desegregated for all children – a public school system that prepares students to exercise compassionate and critical decision-making with civic virtue. We demand social policies that protect children from poverty and lift communities up so that teachers can focus on teaching and students can focus on learning. We demand an end to a test and punish system that is used to rank, sort and order our schools and label them as failing when in reality they are under-resourced.
I recommend that the Denver Post and the legislators and Derek Briggs turn their attention to figuring out how to help schools such as mine fill 180 food bags every Friday for our children who have no food at home. I recommend examining why there is always money for chrome books and testing, yet we have no funding for a librarian or small class size? I recommend allowing teachers, the actual professionals who teach in the public schools. to be given the autonomy to determine which assessments support their instruction and allow us to actually do the assessing, evaluating, planning and finally – teach. We are so busy giving all these high stakes corporate assessments that we have no time to teach and the majority of the assessments we are required to give do NOT inform our instruction. Heck, we can’t even look at PARCC?! And if I did actually look at it I wouldn’t be allowed to tell you that it’s developmentally inappropriate nor would I be allowed to tell you that it’s racially and culturally biased.
Those who love these corporate tests would love to keep the conversation centered on the tests. So, let’s quit wasting our time discussing the pros and cons of a test that is simply being used to keep the public from focusing on the real societal issues that plague our public schools. As long as we place our attention on the test and punish system, our legislators will be allowed to continue to point their fingers at the public school system. The public schools and the teachers are NOT the problem. (And that little jab about movie days that Derek refers to in his video – seriously, movie days? We are barely allowed to give the children a 15 minute recess let alone a movie day.)
Our society’s failure to protect children from poverty and provide equitable funding to our public schools must be the focus. The true problem is that our legislators, mainstream media such as the Denver Post, and PARCC promoters such as Derek Briggs continue to scurry around promoting and tweaking a test and punish system that does nothing to help children and does everything to support corporate profit, and political and career gain for certain individuals. PARCC was never about the kids – that’s PARCC propaganda 101. For support with opting out, the grassroots revolution for the people by the people, see our website at www.unitedoptout.com as well as my blog at www.pegwithpen.com. Let’s shut down the corporate machine that is being used to destroy our public schools and ultimately, our democracy.