“An Act of Conscience”: Teachers at New York’s Earth School boycott Common Core Tests!

Teachers at the Earth School in NYC who protested in support of the Seattle MAP test boycott in 2013

Last spring I was invited to the Earth School in the East Village of New York City to speak at a forum about the lessons of the MAP test boycott that I helped to organize in Seattle. Earth School 4th and 5th grade teacher Jia Lee, along with insurgent teacher union activists in MORE and parents in Change The Stakes, helped organize the event and a powerful conversation about organizing test resistance ensued.

Now, a year later, you can imagine my elation when I received an email from Jia announcing that three teachers at the Earth School declared to their administration and public schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña that they will not proctor Common Core state standardized tests this year — or ever — saying in a letter that they “can no longer implement policies that seek to transform the broad promises of public education into a narrow obsession with the ranking and sorting of children.”

 

http://jessehagopian.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/3b2df-screenshot2013-04-12at1-57-55pm.png?w=286&h=369

Flyer from my visit to the Earth School last year to talk about resisting standardized testing.

They go on to write, “As an act of conscience, we are declining the role of test administrators for the 2014 New York State Common Core Tests. We are acting in solidarity with countless public school teachers who have paved their own paths of resistance and spoken truthfully about the decay of their profession under market-based reforms. These acts of conscience have been necessary because we are accountable to the children we teach and our pedagogy, both of which are dishonored daily by current policies.”

They are joining a wave of boycotts and opting out of standardized tests from parents, students and teachers—including the teachers at Saucedo Scholastic Academy and Drummond Elementary School in Chicago who are refusing to administer the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT).

Earth School Teacher Jia Lee

Teachers at the Earth School have helped form the organization Teachers of Conscience, a group of public school teachers in New York City concerned about market-based reforms and the future of public education. Teachers of Conscience has authored a remarkable letter and position paper that powerfully unravels the lies behind the standardized testing craze, explains the authentic assessment alternative, and demonstrates exactly why educators should be the people consulted about education policy before billionaires.

 

Read the letter below. Sign the petition in support of these teachers. Then join the movement.

Teachers of Conscience

April, 2014

“The ongoing wars, the distortions of truth we have witnessed, the widening gaps between rich and poor disturb us more than we can say; but we have had so many reminders of powerlessness that we have retreated before the challenge of bringing such issues into our classrooms. At once, we cannot but realize that one of our primary obligations is to try to provide equal opportunities for the young. And we realize full that this cannot happen if our students are not equipped with what are thought to be survival skills, not to speak of a more or less equal range of literacies. And yet the tendency to describe the young as “human resources,” with the implication that they are mainly grist for the mills of globalized business is offensive not merely to educators, but to anyone committed to resist dehumanization of any kind.”

- Maxine Greene, In Search of a Pedagogy

Dear Chancellor Carmen Fariña,

We are teachers of public education in the City of New York. We are writing to distance ourselves from a set of policies that have come to be known as market-based education reform. We recognize that there has been a persistent and troubling gulf between the vision of individuals in policymaking and the work of educators, but we see you as someone who has known both positions and might therefore be understanding of our position. We find ourselves at a point in the progress of education reform in which clear acts of conscience will be necessary to preserve the integrity of public education. We can no longer implement policies that seek to transform the broad promises of public education into a narrow obsession with the ranking and sorting of children. We will not distort curriculum in order to encourage students to comply with bubble test thinking. We can no longer, in good conscience, push aside months of instruction to compete in a city-wide ritual of meaningless and academically bankrupt test preparation. We have seen clearly how these reforms undermine teachers’ love for their profession and undermine students’ intrinsic love of learning.

As an act of conscience, we are declining the role of test administrators for the 2014 New York State Common Core Tests. We are acting in solidarity with countless public school teachers who have paved their own paths of resistance and spoken truthfully about the decay of their profession under market-based reforms. These acts of conscience have been necessary because we are accountable to the children we teach and our pedagogy, both of which are dishonored daily by current policies.

The policies of Common Core have been misguided, unworkable, and a serious failure of implementation. At no time in the history of education reform have we witnessed the ideological ambitions of policymakers result in such a profound disconnect with the experiences of parents, teachers, and children. There is a growing movement of dissatisfied parents who are refusing high-stakes Common Core testing for their children and we are acting in solidarity with those parents. Reformers in the State Department of Education are now making gestures to slow down implementation and reform their reforms. Their efforts represent a failure of imagination — an inability to envision an education system based on human development and democratic ideals rather than an allegiance to standardization, ranking, and sorting. State policies have placed haphazard and burdensome mandates on schools that are profoundly out of touch with what we know to be inspired teaching and learning. Although the case against market-based education reform has been thoroughly written about, we feel obliged to outline our position at length to address critics who may see our choice of action as overstepping or unwarranted. You will find a position paper attached to this letter. We are urging you, Chancellor Fariña, to articulate your own position in this critical and defining moment in the history of public education. What will you stand for? What public school legacy will we forge together?

Sincerely,

Colin Schumacher, 4th/5th Grade Teacher, P.S. 364, Earth School

Emmy Matias, 4th/5th Grade Teacher, P.S. 364, Earth School

Jia Lee, 4th/5th Grade Teacher, P.S. 364, Earth School

 

 

13 responses

  1. […] post first appeared on the author’s blog, I Am an Educator, TLB Highly Recommends you visit Jesse’s blog for more great/pertinent articles and […]

  2. […] post first appeared on the author’s blog, I Am an Educator, and appears on Common Dreams with […]

  3. […] “An Act of Conscience”: Teachers at New York’s Earth School boycott Common Core Tests! […]

  4. Why is the heading “Teachers of ‘Conscious'” when the story and embedded letter are all about “Teachers of ‘Conscience'”? Did I miss something?

  5. […] A group of New York City teachers is taking a stand against standardized testing–and asking the city’s new chancellor of schools to do so as well. Jesse Hagopian, one of the teachers at Garfield High School in Seattle who organized a successful boycott of the MAP test last year and the current reform candidate for president of the Seattle Education Association, explains the issues involved at Earth School, in an article written for his I Am an Educator blog. […]

  6. […] speaking out on testing! How about a shoutout 2 brave teachers boycotting Common Core test in NYC? iamaneducator.com/2014/04/07/an-…— Jesse Hagopian (@JessedHagopian) April 28, […]

  7. […] At the Earth School in New York City, three teachers recently told their principal that they would no longer proctor Common Core tests, or any other standardized tests, ever, as an act of conscience.  In their […]

  8. […] Seattle, to Chicago, to New York City, teachers are defending their students and reclaiming their humanity by refusing to be reduced to a […]

  9. […] for the next two years,” I take that to mean they have sided with our movement and activists like Jia Lee of the Earth School who is refusing to administer a CCSS test. I can only assume the Gates Foundation is getting ready to sign the petition and cut a check to […]

  10. […] for the next two years,” I take that to mean they have sided with our movement and activists like Jia Lee of the Earth School who is refusing to administer a CCSS test. I can only assume the Gates Foundation is getting ready to sign the petition and cut a check to […]

  11. […] proponents and Gates critics, anti-standardized testing skeptics right and left — all are lining up to pillory a policy that counts Randi Weingarten, Jeb Bush, and the […]

  12. Great post but I was wondering if you could write a litte more on this topic?
    I’d be very grateful if you could elaborate a little bit further.

    Kudos!

  13. […] “Teachers of Conscience” and written the Chancellor of the school system to say that they could no longer administer the state tests to their […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,022 other followers

%d bloggers like this: