Saturday, February 7, 2015

My Response to John Merrow - Will YOU Be the One to Tell the Truth?

As one who tends to believe more in a confluence of events than in coincidence, the events of today were no exception. Earlier in the day a meme on Facebook reminded me of the impact of corporate influence on what is shared in the media. Although this certainly doesn't fall under the category of new information, it was a powerful reminder of why the media reports what the rich and powerful want reported. As always, it is a case of following the money, and the news about education has been a prime example of this. Anyone not living in a cave has been exposed to claims that public education is failing, that teachers need to be more accountable, that we can test our way to greatness and fire our way to better teachers and privatize our way to better schools. Any illusion of truthful and unbiased reporting has been surrendered  to the reality that those who profit from these false claims about education control the media.

Shortly after I saw this meme, I came across a Facebook post discussing John Merrow's blog, "What a Difference A Dash Makes" in which he discussed the "protest" movement against corporate education reform, vs. those who are "pro-test" and support those so-called reforms. A barrage of comments followed the blog, and I could not find one that was from a "pro-test" commenter. The eloquent, well-informed and passionate comments from testing "protesters"  appeared so rapidly that even John Merrow himself tweeted about the discussion.

Encouraged by the momentum building with these comments along with Twitter activity that had my cell phone buzzing with notifications, I decided to join the conversation and add my input. I was impressed by a common underlying theme of concern for children, expressed in a slightly different manner by each contributor. I wanted to add to those putting a human face on the suffering caused by our climate of testing in our schools. I wanted to invite Mr. Merrow to be the person who forgets who owns the media, the person who reports the truth.                                                                                                                                                   
The following is my comment on Mr. Merrow's blog: 

Others have done an eloquent job of explaining the agenda behind what is happening in education in comments before mine. I have to wonder whether anything we are sharing will be taken to heart and will make a difference when the media is so totally working on the side of the ed reformers. The "protesters" are not some fringe group engaging in small acts of resistance. Our numbers are extremely large and growing as the ed reformers double down on policies that are harming children. We are teachers, parents, grandparents, and concerned citizens who understand that a free, equitable public education for all children is a right, and cannot be sold off to the highest bidder because it can generate profits and campaign donations. Our children are not for sale and are not just data points or numbers for discussion around a corporate table. Children matter, not because they take tests and provide data - they matter because they are children, because they are our only hope for a better future. 

We "protesters" outnumber the reformers, but we also know that they can outspend us. They own the media. Reports about education are biased against teachers, against public education, and are based on half-truths and blatant lies. Journalists KNOW how to dig for the truth, so when the truth is distorted, it can be nothing less than a deliberate act. Our children deserve to have their stories shared. Those in the media owe it to children to put a human face on what reform policies are doing to our children, to speak to educators, and to hear our stories. When will this side of the story be told and who will tell it? Will you be that person who steps up and lets the truth be heard?                                                               

Here are a few examples for you to consider. I have seen nine and ten year old children vomit, urinate in class, break down and sob and shake uncontrollably, and have nosebleeds during these tests. I have heard children call themselves stupid, give up and hang their heads in shame because they can't make sense of questions which in some cases, don't make sense. None of these were students who had any previous history of these behaviors outside of the testing situation. I have seen teachers break down and cry at the end of testing because they are heartbroken watching their students, the children they love, devastated because it is impossible to finish tests that include inappropriate embedded field test questions that are included so Pearson can see where they should place them on future tests. THIS is what happens to children when they are forced to sit for hours taking developmentally inappropriate, poorly written, high-stakes tests. Pro-test? I defy ANYONE who is pro-testing to come witness what these children go through and say this child abuse is justified. This is why we protest!                                                                                             
A couple of years ago a young boy in my school became so stressed during a state test that he experienced a nosebleed during the test, which splattered his test booklet. He had no prior history of nosebleeds in school, and was an excellent student. The directive from the state was to have the boy return to class when he could, give him the amount of time he had already used to copy his test into a new booklet, and then proceed with the remaining time he would have had to complete the test. Pictures had to be taken of the blood splattered test and sent to the state education department to justify the "missing" test booklet. The blood stained booklet was to be "medically disposed of." This is the "procedure" when children compromise a test booklet due to illness.                                    

Are you aware that in the interest of protecting Pearson's ability to reuse test questions in other states, these books are kept so secure that they must be counted and sent back to the state for destruction? Are you aware that teachers are told, under threat of disciplinary action which includes dismissal, that we cannot discuss the contents of the tests with each other, with our students, or with anyone else? Think about that. WE CANNOT DISCUSS THE TESTS WITH OUR STUDENTS. How is there ANY value in a test that cannot be discussed with the very population it was supposedly written to assess? How are these tests of any value when we can't see them after they are administered? In fact, we are cautioned not to look at them while the children are testing. If this does not make the agenda clear, what will? This is supposed to improve education? This is supposed to help students or make teachers more effective? Obviously not.
Millions of children are being harmed. We speak out for them every day when we protest. We will continue to protest because we are NOT "Pro-test". We are pro children. We are pro public education. We are pro teacher. This huge corporate funded "gotcha game" needs to be reported for what it is. Someone has to start telling the truth about this story. So I will repeat my question. 
                                                                                                                                             When will this side of the story be told and who will tell it? Will you be that person who steps up and lets the truth be heard?                                                                                                  

I am hopeful that Mr. Merrow has opened this dialogue with the intent of balancing the false reform narrative with the truth. Only time will tell.