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The in box. Crazy or arrogant?

June 29, 2012

Fred,

Albert Einstein once stated, “A question that sometimes drives me hazy: am I or are the others crazy?”

The time has come to ask a serious question: Who is crazy? Those who are no longer willing to remain silent and blind to the counter-productive and suspect actions of the NEA, or those within the NEA who have placed public education, real student learning, and support for teachers second to partnering with those who are undermining these very concepts?

What should be done if the NEA does not strongly come out against policies that are destroying a healthy and rich learning environment for student learning and for the teachers who facilitate such learning? Students are having their curriculum slashed and their ability to experience real learning stripped from their schooling. Parents are fed up with the test-centric focus of schools and are demanding that the unique needs, abilities, and complex and year-long accomplishments of their children be recognized. Teacher morale is being decimated as the value of all that they do throughout the year is being erased and replaced by the results of single tests. Meanwhile, the national union leadership has issued only soft, hesitant, and passive objections to these policies, choosing instead to protect their ability to partner with those who are undermining public education at every turn.

We are not calling for the end of NEA- we are calling for its success. We strongly believe that an organization that protects our children and promotes the individual professionalism of teachers has great value. However, when NEA bases its policy and action on how it enhances their ability to partner with destructive entities, rather than on how it supports student learning, parental input, and the ability of teachers to meaningfully impact the learning of children, the world has, indeed, gone crazy. Or corrupt.

The nation is waiting for NEA to find the voice of those who it represents, not those who stand to profit from its weak resolutions and hypocritical actions. We want the NEA to succeed. We need it to succeed. However, we are not willing to redefine success at the expense of our children.

If NEA fails, it will be at their own hand and by their own choice.

-Laurie Murphy, United Opt Out National
It’s in print, Laurie. Your statement says that if the delegates to the NEA RA don’t approve your statement on testing you will be jubilant at the eradication of the union that represents over 3 million organized education employees in the United States.
Jubilant.
That’s crazy. Or arrogant. You pick.
Note to my readers: The NEA has already endorsed the FairTest statement on testing. They joined  more than 360 Texas school boards as of April 23, 2012. It was written by Advancement Project; Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund; FairTest; Forum for Education and Democracy; MecklenburgACTS; Deborah Meier; NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.; New York Performance Standards Consortium; Tracy Novick; Parents Across America; Parents United for Responsible Education-Chicago; Diane Ravitch; Race to Nowhere; Time Out From Testing; and United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries.

WHEREAS, our nation’s future well-being relies on a high-quality public education system that prepares all students for college, careers, citizenship and lifelong learning, and strengthens the nation’s social and economic well-being; and

WHEREAS, our nation’s school systems have been spending growing amounts of time, money and energy on high-stakes standardized testing, in which student performance on standardized tests is used to make major decisions affecting individual students, educators and schools; and

WHEREAS, the overreliance on high-stakes standardized testing in state and federal accountability systems is undermining educational quality and equity in U.S. public schools by hampering educators’ efforts to focus on the broad range of learning experiences that promote the innovation, creativity, problem solving, collaboration, communication, critical thinking  and deep subject-matter knowledge that will allow students to thrive in a democracy and an increasingly global society and economy; and

WHEREAS, it is widely recognized that standardized testing is an inadequate and often unreliable measure of both student learning and educator effectiveness; and

WHEREAS, the over-emphasis on standardized testing has caused considerable collateral damage in too many schools, including narrowing the curriculum, teaching to the test, reducing love of learning, pushing students out of school, driving excellent teachers out of the profession, and undermining school climate; and

WHEREAS, high-stakes standardized testing has negative effects for students from all backgrounds, and especially for low-income students, English language learners, children of color, and those with disabilities; and

WHEREAS, the culture and structure of the systems in which students learn must change in order to foster engaging school experiences that promote joy in learning, depth of thought and breadth of knowledge for students; therefore be it

RESOLVED that [your organization name] calls on the governor, state legislature and state education boards and administrators to reexamine public school accountability systems in this state, and to develop a system based on multiple forms of assessment which does not require extensive standardized testing, more accurately reflects the broad range of student learning, and is used to support students and improve schools; and

RESOLVED, that [your organization name] calls on the U.S. Congress and Administration to overhaul the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (currently known as the “No Child Left Behind Act”), reduce the testing mandates, promote multiple forms of evidence of student learning and school quality in accountability, and not mandate any fixed role for the use of student test scores in evaluating educators.

► To endorse this resolution, go to http://timeoutfromtesting.org/nationalresolution.
► For a printable copy of the Resolution, click here.
► For a copy of the resolution with a short supporting bibliography, click here.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. pablophil permalink
    June 29, 2012 1:45 pm

    NEA Resolutions are perfect examples of “Coming out strongly” on testing, and the idiocy of the current reform movements. I’ve been saying for decades that “making the lives of teachers better is good for students.” Hence, involvment with the union. We take positions on educational issues; but it would be MUCH more useful if the National Council of Teachers of English, or the math equivalent, or the art teachers equivalent (and so forth) called on THEIR members to boycott the tests, or engage in a pedigogy strike. Unions represent their members, and what this woman wants is for us to represent students. The correct NEA position is to have resolutions as we do, in my opinion.

    The silence of the professional issue organizations on the realities of educational reform and the testing regimens is cavernous. Send these people to those organizations to get their support, and commitment.

  2. June 29, 2012 2:03 pm

    One of the best things I’ve taken away from working with you over the years, Fred, are the times when you’ve pointed out to me that while my focus is in the right place, it’s the tactics that I have chosen that were wrong.

    Is NEA not and organization that made a joint statement with TFA? Are we not all wondering what DVR’s response to Rhee will be when he gets it? The early Obama endorsement?

    While the idea of fighting the leadership to more aggressively take on so-called reforms that are actually hurting children is intriguing to me personally, the idea of eradicating our organization is a radical one.

    I’d suggest stepping up and taking the IEA over from within. And isn’t that what we need in the IEA right now for sure.

    • Fred Klonsky permalink*
      June 29, 2012 2:21 pm

      Jerry,
      Our local association has always stood on three legs. So it never wobbles.
      We fight to defend the income and working conditions of our members.
      We fight for what we can agree counts as good teaching and learning.
      We fight to push our state and national union to do the same thing.
      We know that we win some and we lose some. But anyone who would argue that something must be done this way and done now or else? They will not achieve anything. They never have and they never will.

    • cornebiser permalink
      June 29, 2012 3:47 pm

      Yes, Jerry I agree with you. The rank and file membership needs to push for change and new leadership. I was interested in being a GPA to become more involved.

      “The mission of this program is to enhance local grassroots member involvement in political action and policy advocacy. Each IEA region and service area is allowed to have one GPA.”

      However, if you want to by a GPA for the IEA/NEA you must agree to promote their agenda so even though I was interested and was asked I turned it down. Because of the following statement on the application.

      “Do you understand that in this role, once an organizational position is taken, active support for this policy or political position is expected?”

      If our local association or I disagree with a position, I want to have the freedom to speak my mind and represent my local association just as Fred described above. It didn’t feel like democracy to me “by the people, for the people”. I was uncomfortable with the last statement because I would have never agreed with SB7.

      How did the CTU bring about change? How do we regain control? I believe in the IEA/NEA, IFT/AFT, and would never want to see it dismantled. However, I believe they need to be reminded of whom they represent and what they represent.

  3. Annonymous permalink
    June 29, 2012 5:40 pm

    I don’t want to see the union dismantled either, but I do understand the anger. I heard that Arne Duncan has been asked to come speak at the RA, and that DVR wants him treated with respect. Is there truth to that rumor? I hope not. If, however, Duncan does show up, I’m really hoping the delegates get up and walk out. I do feel that the NEA leadership is not representing its membership anymore. That needs to change.

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