stephanie jones

Archive for April, 2013|Monthly archive page

Are you opting out of high stakes tests this year?

In Education Policy, high-stakes tests on April 21, 2013 at 9:19 pm

The national opt-out movement is gaining traction, but I have yet to hear from Georgia families who are opting out of high-stakes tests this year.

Check out the national website

And here’s an excerpt from Maureen Downey’s Get Schooled Blog on the topic:

“While Georgia doesn’t have an organized opt-out movement, Robertson said she’s been fielding more queries from Georgia parents. “I had three potential Georgia opt-outs this week. None of them followed through, but I have feeling next year will be a different story,” she said.

The state Department of Education told me that the CRCT is mandatory and there is no opt-out policy, but Robertson contends that parents can simply decline to have their kids take the test, then follow up with a hearing to see that their children get promoted to the next grade based on teacher input and grades.

“What is interesting about Georgia is that this hearing process would become so cumbersome — quite honestly, impossible — if a mass opt-out occurred. In New York, there was one middle school with close to 250 opt-outs,” she said. “Georgia simply couldn’t find the resources and/or time to perform 250 committee hearings for one school. Which, of course, proves the point once again that opt-out places the power in the hands of the parents, if they would recognize this…”

If you are opting out, or considering opting out, I would love to hear from you.


Dear New Teacher…

In Uncategorized on April 5, 2013 at 1:12 am

What should desperate early career teachers do when they realize they have agreed to a job where they are not allowed to do what they know is best for children, young people, families, and learning?

Here’s an open letter to a teacher who wrote in to a blog about Reggio Emilia practices.


Dear (any teacher who is already desperate and angry and frustrated because you are forced to do inhuman things to kids in your classroom),

You are definitely not alone, and while I agree that I see very creative spaces opening up outside of public schools, I don’t see the end of these “data-driven” practices any time soon. Testing companies are making billions of dollars, and legislators have literally bought into a dehumanizing corporate model of teacher/school/child accountability that will destroy everything in its path. Public education is one of the last “markets” to be exploited and there are trillions of dollars to be made in the accountability movement – and when that much money is at stake, what is best for children is not likely to carry a lot of weight.

However – you are not trapped, and you can make a difference, and millions of teachers all over the country feel exactly the way you feel. Thousands of them are speaking out.

From my vantage point, it seems that you can:

1) Run like hell. You might have landed in a worse-than-typical data-driven school where you literally don’t have any elbow room at all. If you see teachers getting punished, humiliated, “written up”, etc. you may just need to find another school.

2) Find colleagues in your school who have found some “elbow room” for doing things differently in their classrooms. Ask your colleagues how they make space to give their young students opportunities for painting, exploring, playing, creating. You might be surprised – there might be some revolutionaries behind closed doors.

3) I don’t know what region of the country you are in, but find local people outside your school that are doing creative things for kids. Hang out with them, inspire one another, and organize yourselves to let your friends, families, neighbors, and legislators know what’s happening and why it’s wrong.

4) Connect yourself with the larger national movements. SOS (Save Our Schools) is one that is definitely gaining momentum:

5) Be smart. In these times teachers don’t only need to understand the learning/teaching process deeply, but you/we also need to understand the political movements against public education. Follow Deborah Meier’s blog, Diane Ravitch’s blog, Paul Thomas on the Daily Kos, etc.

6. Steal the moments in-between for now. Put those water colors on the tables and use them! Force yourself to make room for exploration and play and creativity every single day – before you know it, you might have a really different classroom and others may be pointing to you as the model for how to do things that are right for kids in the middle of the national educational “deform” we are living through right now.

Good luck, take a breath, and find your center. What matters most is what you do with/for/to that child who is looking at you right now.


Child Labor for Teacher Pay and Family Resources

In Uncategorized on April 4, 2013 at 4:25 pm

In 2010 I wrote a piece about merit pay reinstating child labor, making the point that if an adult’s salary was in any way determined by the labor of a child (e.g. his or her test scores), then the child becomes an unwilling/unknowing laborer for the economic benefit of an adult. Others added to my claim, making the argument that children are required by law to attend school, and therefore are more similar to forced slave laborers for the economic benefit (or liability) of educators, schools, and districts.

But now the state of Tennessee is attempting to take this a step further into the abyss, into the unbelievable hell of education “reform” – or deform – that we have witnessed in the last decade or so. The poorest children in the state, those whose families receive state assistance, could now be under surveillance and held accountable for those very services.  Miss school, perform poorly on tests? Your family’s state benefits could be cut.  

There are no words for the ignorance and inhumanity behind such an idea. Our country seems to be spiraling out of control into a deep sense of irrational cynicism, blame, punishment, and criminalization of those who have been most violated and exploited among us. 

Where else in the world would a government do such harm to their most vulnerable citizens – children and the poor? I am deeply troubled, ashamed, and saddened – and just when I think it can’t get any worse, it does.

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