Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Telling The Children They Are Failures

Governor Corbett has labeled my child a low achieving failure
The unfair labeling of our city schools as "low achieving" or "failing" is demoralizing to the students, parents, teachers, and concerned citizens who  work hard every day to improve our schools. Our city schools do more than educate, they are also community centers. Some schools provide food, clothing, and medical care to homeless students and needy families. When our local "newspaper" misinforms and repeatedly reports  on our schools in a negative light in order to stir up controversy, fear, or to sell papers, this damages our community. Property values decrease, and our neighborhoods become undesirable. 

My child attends a failing school. He is an honor student, and performs in the school orchestra. His school has been labeled "failing" based on one flawed standardized test. Governor Corbett looked only at reading and math PSSA scores and used this formula to unfairly label schools as "low achieving" failures. This is an injustice to students and teachers who work hard despite Corbett's deep education cuts, and the overwhelming personal struggles some students face every day. 

Children and schools are so much more than test scores. Teaching is about relationships built on trust and love. Many teachers at "failing" schools spend hundreds even thousands of dollars of their own money to purchase supplies because budgets have been slashed. Public schools provide meals for kids who come to school hungry. They provide after school activities and enrichment opportunities. They are PTAs where parents, teachers, and other citizens come together and volunteer to help children. Our city schools partner with local businesses. Our regular public schools accept ALL students, and provide services for kids with special needs, and children with behavior problems. Schools celebrate students through performances and art exhibitions. Look these school children in the eyes Governor Corbett, since you have labeled them as failures.

The only thing AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress under the No Child Left Behind Act) measures is SES (socio-economic status). Schools that serve suburban or affluent children do not have low test scores. Schools that serve poor children do. Poverty negatively impacts learning. That's a fact. The effects of poverty, like malnutrition and stress, even impact cognitive development. Standardized testing does not improve learning or benefit children. See the National Academies of Science study, or go to FairTest  for the facts on NCLB and testing. There are many studies that show NCLB has been a massive failure, yet we are still testing. I have seen the damage first hand as a teacher and as a parent of a child who has been part of the experiment for 7 years.

How about fully funding city schools, meeting the needs of students, and  protecting children from the devastating effects of poverty? How about living wage jobs so moms don't have to work two jobs and be away from kids? How about Investing in early childhood ed, providing access to books, nutrition, health care, and a well rounded curriculum, instead of testing and more rigorous standards? These are proven methods that help children learn.  

Competition and vouchers will not improve public education, equitable funding will. We have a poverty problem, not an education problem. But both political parties, and school boards are not addressing the real problems. It's time to resist education mandates that don't work. It's time to boycott useless testing that is being used to destroy public education. We have a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws that harm children. Excessive testing harms children. Denying children recess, play time, the arts, library, and physical education, harms children and stunts creativity. Teachers in Seattle are resisting. And we must stand with them. Speak up. BOYCOTT PSSA, NCLB is the real failure, not our kids.


Noel Hammatt said...

Your points are poignant, and powerful! Thank you. To see more about why "failing schools" may not be failing please take a look at a piece I did on the truth about these claims of "failing schools."


Mrs. Dottie said...

Thanks Noel, that's a terrific article. I put up a link to Educators For All at my sidebar. From the article: "The current accountability system labels schools as failing in spite of no evidence that it is the teaching that is failing. The labeling is done on the basis of test scores alone, which have more to do with the incredible poverty faced by the students than with any evidence of poor teaching. So many high-poverty schools in the Recovery School District and across the state receive the Letter Grade F, eroding public confidence and desperately needed community support for our neediest public schools, yet the grades are assigned by computer, with no one going to the schools to actually see what is happening in the classrooms! This does a great disservice to teachers, to students, and to parents who more than anything else, simply want to have their children in schools where teachers meet their children where they are, and then teach their children well."