stephanie jones

Archive for July, 2011|Monthly archive page

Ecojustice = Social justice = Ecojustice?

In Uncategorized on July 27, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Or should we begin routinely referring to a fight for a better life for the natural world (including humans) as sustainable justice?

Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle has been a huge http://itsgettinghotinhere.org/2008/04/09/sustainable-justice/, and it looks like her partner and she have ventured into the restaurant domain to create a local business that benefits as many local people as possible. The Slow Food movement isn’t called slow for nothin’ though – and weaving this kind of sustainable justice business into any community might take longer than some guess.

I’ve posted other links in the past for sustainable justice – here’s a blog I just came across…certainly worth taking a look for yourselves and for teaching ideas at all grade levels.

The unemployed need not apply? Jobs, workers, and workers’ rights…

In Teaching Work, work and workers on July 26, 2011 at 1:13 pm

Is this another move – unwittingly or not – to maintain status quo in the U.S. by only allowing those who are currently employed apply for another job? To protect those who “have” and forget those who “have not”?

When stories started coming out about employers making potential employees submit to a credit check, I was stunned. To get a job you need a credit check?

But neoliberal ideals and policies would point directly to this – where businesses or employers have every right and workers have fewer and fewer rights, including maintaing privacy over their home financial matters. This is exactly the “business-friendly” environment neoliberal economic thinkers push for – it’s all about making sure business owners are happy. They decide the rules. Workers are nothing but interchangeable cogs who can be held up to any kind of irrelevant “qualifications” (good credit score; currently employed; ——- read: comes from a middle-class background with financial safety nets to keep the bill collectors away, and is probably white since unemployment for African Americans and Hispanics is much higher right now at about 30%).

Come on NYT writers – get to the analysis of these practices – where do they come from? Why are we seeing them now? Get beyond “It’s a buyer’s market” for workers. Maybe it’s the perfect “market” for workers to coalesce around some basic rights, protest against businesses with such discriminatory employment practices, and start banging on the walls of legislators who are eroding workers’ rights from the north to the south and across the middle.

 

Merit Pay and Bonuses Are Not the Answer to the Testing Question…

In Uncategorized on July 25, 2011 at 3:43 pm

…Ending high-stakes testing is the answer.

Check out this new study on bonuses in New York, posted by Maureen Downey at the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

How much money are we spending on these investigations? Get OUTRAGED!

In high-stakes tests, NCLB on July 20, 2011 at 2:12 pm

Accusations and evidence of “cheating” on state tests is rampant. Check out this article in the Huffington Post to get a sense of the tip of the iceberg.

What is the real story here?

We know corporate testing companies receive billions from public schools for testing materials, test prep materials, corresponding textbooks, etc.

But how much additional money is being used for personnel to secure tests in schools; special training for handling tests; investigations into cheating?

Sometimes I am outraged by things that don’t seem like a big deal to other folks…and I get that. But I have a hunch that if everyday citizens knew how much money was being spent to support the testing frenzy, everyone would be outraged. Especially ordinary parents who have to shell out $50 – $100 for a supply list this August, figure out transportation to and from school since many districts have eliminated bussing within 1-2 miles and sometimes altogether (see this; this; this; this…there are too many news reports about this in the past month across the entire U.S. to fit in a blog post), and get barraged weekly with requests for money for this and that fundraiser because the school doesn’t have the money it needs to operate.

THIS IS AN OUTRAGE!!!!!

Public schools are supposed to be publicly funded. Forcing working and unemployed families to subsidize public education is a crime when billions of dollars are flowing freely to testing companies (and who knows how much more is flowing to the investigations of testing fraud).

 

Why I love writing op-eds

In Uncategorized on July 19, 2011 at 3:48 am

Sometimes I work for years on an article or book chapter.

Literally – years.

I’m revising an article right now that has been written, re-written, revised, thrown away, crumbled up, lost, re-theorized, re-analyzed, and finally submitted once I had some idea of what in the world the data had to say that was worthwhile to anyone other than me.

It took six years.

And while I would argue it’s one of the most important pieces of scholarship I’ve produced (I’ll put the link on the blog when it’s published), I imagine a mere few dozen or so people will read it in the research journal where it will land.

And out of that small group of people, I imagine a few of them will find it useful and cite it in their own research.

And out of that even smaller group of people, I imagine I’ll be lucky to receive one or two personal email messages that say, “Hey, thanks – that was good.”

The academic world just doesn’t work that way.

But op-eds do.

My last one took about a week to write: five days of thinking and talking and false starts, one-half day to muster up the courage and decide to actually write it, and one-half day actually hunched over the computer. (okay, fine, i have been reading, living, and preparing for writing on this topic for many years – but i’m not counting that here)

And the feedback is immediate, albeit not all positive (I’ll post about that another time – I’m stickin’ to the positives here).

Though I don’t usually put myself through reading the online comments – they are an immediate stream of opinions about my writing and me. And, surprisingly, the ones I quickly browsed this time were overwhelmingly positive.

But the personal emails and telephone calls are really amazing (only a few people are angry enough to look me up and contact me personally…most of the personal communication I receive is supportive and inspiring).

I get a range of messages of parents, grandparents, students, teachers, administrators, and professors:

Thank you; This is so important; Write more; Send this to every politician and magazine; You hit the nail on the head; Thank you for speaking out because we don’t feel like we can; What can I do to help change this?

The messages are amazing – so thank you for taking the time to find me.

And that’s one reason I love writing op-eds – they actually make me feel like my words can matter.

Unacceptable

In Uncategorized on July 16, 2011 at 6:54 pm

Thank you to so many people who have reached out to me through email and the telephone about the AJC op-ed.

One message has been clear: teachers are fully supportive of the ideas in the piece and they are afraid. They are literally afraid of losing their jobs if they “speak out against testing.” Their personal and collective power as workers and professionals is diminished in this context and it’s simply unacceptable.

One teacher (who I don’t know and who contacted me only after reading my piece in the AJC):

“If I spoke against testing, I would not have a job and lose the ability to purchase food, shelter, and clothing. Face Book is discouraged in our district. Teachers have no power and no union. There would be a need for parents to mobilize, but they won’t. They moblize on nonsensical issues. Educators who would not be penalized, would need to inform law makers and pray that these representatives would be rational or just continue this madness.”

I can’t believe we are living in a time where teachers cannot speak out against this insane practice going on in their own schools, districts, and forced onto them in their classrooms.

It’s true that those of us who can absolutely should speak out against these practices – but I still don’t know if that’s going to be enough (it certainly hasn’t been enough up to this point in the struggle).

What does it take for change to happen when the most important people in the struggle are paralyzed by fear and intimidation?

I’m still working on that…

In the meantime, parents and (higher?) educators can and should do what we can.

Op-Ed in the Atlanta Journal Constitution

In Education Policy, high-stakes tests on July 15, 2011 at 1:04 am

Thanks to Maureen Downey at AJC for posting this on her Get Schooled blog and getting it into print in tomorrow’s AJC!

Stephanie Jones

July 13, 2011

The Multi-Billion Dollar Testing Industry has done it again. The industry continues to usurp precious resources out of local schools when districts are forced to lay off teachers, discontinue programs for children, and eliminate field trips. But beyond the fiscal crimes inflicted on schools that restrict children’s opportunities, the industry makes a mockery out of the whole education enterprise.

And they’re laughing all the way to the bank.

The latest, but certainly not the last, scorned school district is right here in our back yard. The Atlanta Public Schools “cheating scandal” is scandalous, but not necessarily for the reasons spewed from mouths of people not looking beyond their noses. The embarrassment and shame comes from the fact that multinational private testing corporations are determining the fate of our children, youth, educators, and future.

It is widely known in educational research that the tests are poorly written, often scored incorrectly and by non-educators, and often evaluate pre-existing knowledge rather than content learned in school. It is also well documented that textbooks and other materials written to prepare students to take the tests are low in educational quality and experience but very high in price, often costing millions of dollars for a school district to adopt a new textbook.

I am not talking about any kind of test you may have taken as a student prior to the year 2002 when the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation was implemented. Many of you may have taken an annual standardized test in school that was used at the state and national level to document trends in achievement, not your individual fate as a student, the fate of the teacher, or the school. I recall being told the night before my annual Iowa Test of Basic Skills to “get a good night’s rest,” and “eat a good breakfast.” The morning of the test we would receive two brand new Number 2 pencils and get to work. No pressure. No anxiety. No life-altering consequences for the performance on one test on one day.

George W. Bush’s bipartisan legislation ended all that and the only ones who have benefited are those in the testing industry.

Now Georgia kindergarteners know about the CRCT and students take practice tests all year long. Children vomit. Parents cry. Teachers vomit and cry. Some youth and educators have even taken their own lives as a result.

The stakes are unbearable, and the tests are not a good measure of the best teaching and learning.

But states keep sending millions and billions to the testing industry, giving the industry carte blanche in determining the academic and psychological fate of our children and schools.

What can be done?

  1. Opt-out of testing: Parents have started opting-out of state testing all over the country, sending the message that they disagree with the high-stakes nature of the tests and how the tests have distorted teaching and learning. I could not locate an opt-out procedure for Georgia, but if hundreds or thousands of parents kept their children out of school during state testing, surely someone would pay attention.
  2. Talk to other parents and caretakers in your school and neighborhood: Most people are suffering in silence – handling anxious and depressed children at home on their own without talking to others who are likely experiencing the same thing. Families know the damage done to their children and grandchildren by the testing environments at school. Organize yourselves and make your voices heard.
  3. Tell your legislators it is time to end high-stakes testing.
  4. Tell your legislators merit pay for teachers based on test scores will only make things worse. This is important if you are in a Race to the Top District that will begin using some version of merit pay this year.
  5. If you are a teacher or administrator, consider organizing other educators (and families) to end high-stakes testing. Without union protection this can be risky, but folks in other countries have done so successfully.
  6. Join the Save Our Schools grassroots organization of parents, educators, and concerned citizens. SOS will be marching on Washington D.C. on July 30th demanding four fundamental changes to education, including the end of high-stakes testing. (Saveourschoolsmarch.org)

The APS cheating scandal is being touted as the largest one in the country, but let’s not fool ourselves into thinking Atlanta (or Georgia for that matter) is the only place facing serious accusations of cheating on high-stakes tests and abusive behavior towards teachers and children. Cheating on tests has increased significantly over the past several years. This was an entirely predictable trend since test scores started being used to evaluate schools, teachers, and students with unbearable consequences.

In 2002 the multi-billion dollar testing industry gained control over our schools, educators, and youth. We may be witnessing the education equivalent to the foreclosure crisis, where high profits and compensation in private multinational corporations take priority over the children filing into public schools every day. But we can stop the madness before another generation suffers.

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