Friday, April 29, 2011

Social Studies...NYC's Sad Casualty of Standardized Testing

This morning, during independent reading time, I was discussing a book with one of my students....and he was a little confused. It was "Dust Bowl", a poetic account of a little girl living through the Great Depression. I asked him, "Vinnie, have you ever heard of the Great Depression?" He said, "Ummm, noooo....".

Feeling very discouraged and trying my hardest not to show it, I sat next to him and quietly gave him a quick explanation of that time period.  I ended my little lesson with, "The great Depression ended in the late 1930s under the presidency of FDR, his New Deal really helped. Soon after, World War II began." By now, three other boys had put down their own books and were candidly eavesdropping with great fascination, and it dawned on me that none of then knew about the Great Depression, either. I know this because they had their I'm-hearing-new-information faces on.

Andy, one of the listeners, piped up, "Is World War II still going on?" Poker-face. For a second, I thought he was joking.
I kept a poker face, too, but I'll admit, it was difficult to hide my shock. I said, "No, Andy, dear. WWII ended in 1945."

He frowned, deep in thought for a second, his big preadolescent brown eyes shifting. "Well, is it WW III now, then?"

Again, I responded calmly. Mind you, it takes years of experience with children to master this skill when inside, you are bubbling up. I was actually bubbling up with sympathy and frustration. It was bubbling up so much that I closed my eyes for a second, took a deep breath, and then pushed on. This helps me to be sure the right words come out, and I don't say anything that may insult my students. "No, there is no WW III."

(Hmmmm...I seem to be overusing the word "bubbling"....coincidence?)

The boys went back to their books. I tried to recover. Andy is a very bright kid. He is a talented dancer, artist, and poet. Although he lacks self-control, he is respectful to adults and puts a good effort into his academics. Vinnie excels in math, is reading above a 6th grade level, and is very well-spoken and as sensible as a twelve year old boy can possibly be.

And yet, one of them knows nothing about WWII and the other knows nothing about The Great Depression. NOTHING. In addition, until I informed them myself, a large majority if my class did not know that our country is at war. At the beginning of the school year, we were reading a passage about Anne Frank. Just to assess my students' prior knowledge before reading, I asked, by show of hands, who had heard of The Holocaust. About half of my class raised their hands.

I mulled over this during my lunch period, finding myself distracted from the massivle pile of papers I was attempting to grade while eating my bologna sandwich. Recently, I have (obviously) been writing and reading a whole lot about about Education "Reform". I know this "reform" focuses primarily on Language Arts and Mathematics because the NYS Standardized tests supposedly assess childrens' abilities in these TWO areas of academics, denouncing Social Studies, Science, Art, Music, Enrichment, Conflict Resolution, and Creative Writing.  Although Social Studies and Science are testing sbjects as well, they are only tested every few years, usually on fourth and eighth grade levels. Teachers, such as myself, who teach either ELA or math on the sixth-grade level are under a microscope that Social Studies teachers, for example, are not. Don't worry, I'm not blaming them. Their passion and inspiration is being stifled as well. In fact, the Social Studies teachers at my school MUST take an ELA test-driven approach to teaching their content. The research projects and engaging activities that involve the use of technology and art supplies in the classroom have been replaced with DBQs (Document-Based Questions) and multiple-choice passages based on the Social Studies curriculum.
So, what happens to History? Do our students grow up without the information that teaches them empathy? Will our students grow up only to repeat history's disasters because they were deprived of understanding the key elements of humanity? How is this system going to shape them into thoughtful adults? It isn't. The education they are entitled to today is meant to turn them into drones.

As and English teacher, I have found ways around this. We read historical fiction. We research and discuss the non-fiction passages in test prep books that are related to history.  I do what I can. But I am not equipped to teach both subjects, because I am not allowed the time to do so. They have a Social Studies teacher, and his pedagogy is being squelched as well.

This is an emergency!!

My own students are clueless about crucial eras in American History, WORLD history, because their elementary teachers had to focus on the subjects that are tested as per the policies of education "reformers". Suddenly, in the past 10 or so years, history and social studies have been placed on the back burner. The proof is in my students. How could we, as NYC teachers, let this happen? Are we so afraid of the system's repercussions on us as professionals that we have compromised our own pedagogy?

Our NYC students are being robbed of a Social Studies education. Are suburban children deprived as well?

My son is in the third grade in a suburb outside of the city. He has learned, on top of test prep of course, a decent amount in Social Studies this year. He has studied economics, the Bill Of Rights, Native Americans, The Great Wall of China...the list goes on and on. His teacher is doing a great job teaching the subject so that it is engaging, and as a result, my son has learned about current events, who he is as an American as well as the value of other cultures.

Do you see a marked inconsistency here? Students who live in fairly affluent areas seem to have more of a right to a decent Social Studies education than those who live in poor areas of NYC. Yet, my students NEED this education more than anyone! Learning about History and Social studies is a vital element to self-discovery. My kids have no idea who they are. We don't even have to time to educate them about their OWN communities or cultures!

When I was a little girl, I learned about the Holocaust in Elementary School. I can't remember which grade. I learned about the Incas, the Myans, Ferdinand Magellan, The Chinese New Year. We did projects that not only involved writing, but arts and crafts as well. We built mini pueblos, constructed dioramas.

Every Friday, I would climb onto a school bus with my 5th grade class and volunteer at a Senior Center. I'd sing and dance and play cards with my senior citizen "buddy". I learned to dance the Charleston from the 1920s, and the song, "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime" from the Depression Era. I heard firsthand accounts of soldiers and survivors, and reacted emotionally. This is how  learned the history of the 20th Century.

I remember turning in my homework and speaking to teachers respectfully. That was very important. I remember taking Enrichment class and building a cardboard robot with a tape recorder inside her, and recording my voice so she could talk. I invented a velcro book cover and grew plants and painted murals. I remember in 4th grade, writing a 60-page novel while my teacher encouraged, inspired and supported me, telling me that one day I could publish my own book. She never stopped me to fill in a bubble sheet or asked me to identify the Most Relevant Details in my writing. I did take a standardized test here and there, but I don't remember them being all that important. And when I did take them, I panicked during the test, because I am not a good test-taker. It was understood that the tests didn't define my true abilities.

I went to NYC Schools until the sixth grade.

Guess what? I turned out rather nicely, if I do say so myself. I grew up and went to college and earned a masters' degree and became a teacher in the very same school system that educated me when I was little. What a rude awakening. It was like stepping into a completely different world. What haaaapened??? It was unrecognizable. Gone were the rainbows of my childhood. They were replaced by the gray clouds of Corporate Education Reform.

It's mind-boggling. Bloomberg and Klein and GWB and Arne Duncan and Michelle Rhee managed to single-handedly DEMOLISH the education of MILLIONS AND MILLIONS of children, exploiting their parents by keeping them poor and misinformed, WHILE bullying teachers into completely dismissing the most valuable components of education (History, Social Studies, science, music, and art) that are so obviously vital to the intellectual growth of their students. Innovative teaching practices that have been proven effective by numerous research studies, professors of education, and scholars have been thrown to the wind. It's terrifying. What will become of our democracy if our students don't even know what democracy means?

That's all, folks. I've worked myself up. I'm too furious to write. It's Friday night. No more stress.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

My rebuttle to an article, "The Joys of Jargon"....this not how we choose to speak, write, or plan.

Dear Mr. Murrow,
I am an educator. Upon reading your article about educational jargon, , I feel the need to clarify a very important point: it's not the actual teachers who enjoy using jargon such as "academic rigor" (whatever that means, really) or "data-driven instruction" (looking at test scores and basing our teaching on it as if it were the Holy Bible) Please understand that we hate it just as much as you do, but are forced to use it by "reformers" and administrators. Please allow me to quote your article:

"Do some educators obfuscate because they think it makes them sound more professional? Are some educators so deep in the weeds of their profession that they have forgotten how to communicate with ordinary folks?"

 Please don't think we actually feel validated educationally or professionally in any way using this repetitive, ambiguous language. It sucks the life out of my planning and teaching. You may want to consider revising your article and replacing every word "educator" with "reformer". As much as I agree with your outlook on jargon, I feel that you tone is very anti-teacher, counterproductive, and a little ignorant of the fact that teachers are in the MOST precarious position in this fight against Education Reform. It is surprising to me that you would use this language when you have been interviewing educators for 35 years. American Citizens, especially parents (I'm one, too and I am very careful not to blame my child's teacher for the idiotic educational practices and rhetoric of today) need to stop blaming us for what we are being blackmailed into and look to the real source of  the tyranny: Corporate Education Policy Makers. You know, those disgustingly rich CEOs and politicians who impose high-stakes standardized testing on our students to the point that they are so stressed out that middle schoolers are drinking vodka in school and hiding feces in classrooms three days before the test. Those same "reformers" who sell their expensive testing materials to public school districts and pocket millions in the process of violating our childrens' right to an interactive education.

Please, do not put myself or my comrades in the same intellectual category as the Corporate Education Deformers.  Trust me, most of us politically informed teachers want all of them to go to Hell, too.

All The Best,
Mrs. ChalkDuster

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

ChalkDuster's Future: The Inside Story

So, Spring Break has come to an end. I know I won't sleep well tonight. Anxiety sets in. Sometimes, my loved ones say, "Why do you worry so much? Remember, it's just a job."

As much as I love my loved ones, I have to admit, sometimes they just don't understand at all. No, it is not just a job. Teaching is a way of life. Even when I'm not actually in the classroom, my mind is. My mind is thinking about whether or not my next lesson will be sufficient to teach my kids to the standards yet still leave them with the sense of wonder and creativity they should have as sixth graders. .My heart is wondering if my students are safe right at this moment. My stomach is in knots over the next meeting with my principal to review an observation or my dreaded "professional portfolio". WAIT! Definition time!

Professional Portfolio (pro-fess-shun-al port-foh-li-oh): A rather large binder full of three years of formal and informal observations, lessons, community contributions, student work, letters, and, of course, TEST DATA that NYC teachers hired in 2008 need to put together RIGHT NOW so we may be reviewed for tenure.

I was informed in March that I had to put this portfolio together for my tenure. One would think that I would have been told three years ago, when I was hired, so I would have been able to gather the items needed for my portfolio over the years. Just this year, the state has changed their tenure evaluation process. We now need to prove ourselves worthy of the Due Process that tenure entitles us to.

So, essentially, in the past six weeks I have tried like hell to have this portfolio ready for review. Of course, this was dropped on our heads two short months before the state test, and the due date for the portfolio is right before the test. You would think the Bigwigs would see that our priority is our students at this time, but I suppose we are expected to use every second of our personal time constructing this professional portfolio. Teachers have families and lives outside of our jobs, and this is not considered whatsoever. The common misconception is that we have tons of time off. We don't. If we're not grading papers or planning (or putting together last-minute portfolios) at home, we are thinking about our students, lessons, and administrators.

To compound this frustration and pressure, I found out just how drastically tenure guidelines have changed. The most monumental "adjustment" aside from the professional portfolio is that the three years of probation that precedes tenure can now be extended....FOREVER. So, my question is...what's the point of tenure at all if a principal has the power to never grant it, but also does not have to fire the teacher if she won't grant it?

This basically means teachers can be led around on a stick for as many years as the principal sees fit, will always be disposable and exposed to subjective scrutiny without the protection of Due Process.

My future as a teacher seems quite unstable st the moment. Anxiety sets in. I have a family to support.

Good night.

Teacher Dies While Preparing Students For Standardized Test...NO JOKE!!!




Sunday, April 24, 2011

The "Hold-Overs": Suspended in Time

This post is dedicated solely to my "hold-overs". My sixth-should-be-seventh graders. I believe some of them may even be sixth-should-be-eighth graders. They are, in no particular order: Sashaya, Ray, Steve, Andrew, Rielle, Kara, and James. The "veteran" eight in this class of thirty. So, you may think to ask, how does this happen? We thought no children were "left behind"?! This post will describe the educational experiences of one of these children, Sashaya. I'd love to write about them all tonight, but my fingers might fall off from typing so much.

I have a true teacherly affection for Sashaya. She's not one of those girly-girls, more of a tomboy. She wears baggy cargo pants, no makeup, no big earrings or piercings. It's evident that her family doesn't have much in the way of finances, she wears the same two or three shirts, doesn't have a cell phone, and is entitled to free lunch. She has long bangs that hang down her face, hiding beautiful, dark-brown eyes. I often fight the urge to push her hair away from her eyes, and I wonder how those bangs don't tickle her cheeks and eyes. Her hair is always a mess. She has a loud, boisterous personality, speaks her mind honestly, and asks profound questions at random times. She's funny, dramatic, intelligent, and I will never forget her.
Well...this is how repeating grades works. State tests, mainly. The kids are made to think that if their math or English teacher fails them, that would be the cause of the delay in their educational career. But really, it's all about the state tests, of course. I mean, why take my word for it? If a student of mine is failing my class by not producing any work or flunking the tests and quizzes I (or the ELA department) create, one would think that I would be involved in the process of deciding if they should repeat the sixth grade. That would just make way too much sense. Instead, this life-altering decision (and repeating a year IS really life-altering for students) is based on their math and ELA scores.

So, here is Sashaya's story. Last year, when I was not her teacher, she passed the ELA exam. Not with flying colors, mind you, but enough to "show" that she is barely "proficient" in the subject. Although she was reading below grade level, she managed to get a 2 (out of 4).  She fails the math exam. Miserably. So, they send her to summer school for math. She takes the math exam AGAIN in August, and fails it again, therefore causing her to repeat the entire year for sixth grade: math, ELA, social studies, and science. She may not have failed anything but math, however.

This means that Sashaya COULD and SHOULD be learning seventh-grade material in every subject BUT math, but I suppose it's just easier for the system to waste her time. I think this is a completely asinine way to try to improve a students' performance, but I saw in Sashaya what the administration did not see: a student who really wants to learn, who really struggles in math, and who, after years and years of rigorous standardized testing (Sash is not a good test taker, she freezes up) has completely lost her drive and confidence as a learner.

I began the year with Sashaya by assessing her reading level with a running record (please see previous post for definition) and wound up discussing her reading abilities. She "tested" at a high fourth-grade level.

Sash:  "The words just swim around on the page. I hate reading, I can't focus. I read and read and don't understand any of it."
Me: "Well, what are you reading? Does it interest you?"
Sash: "No, it's totally boring."
Me: "Well, let me help you find a more engaging text first. then we need to figure out how to keep you focused. What else may be causing you to be distracted while you read?"
Sash: "I have lots of trouble sitting still. It's really hard for me."
Me: "Ok, well, during independent reading time, you may get up and stretch, or take a short walk around the room."

What was crucial for Sashaya was for her to realize on her own what was preventing her from focusing. Now, when she takes a reading test in my classroom, I allow her to stand at the back table while she takes the test, She can choose to stand, crouch, kneel, sit in a chair, sit on the floor if she pleases. having the ability to move freely actually helps her focus. Although this is far from the case for many students, it's what works for her. The problem is, during the state test, the ones that dictate if she will repeat the grade yet again, the one that "measures" my teaching ability, she has to sit still at her desk, two days in a row, for waaaay too long. Hours.

In December, I had another reading conference with her. We are now in the nonficiton unit, where I am to teach kids test-prep: basically how to understand a text based on the details presented, and the careful analysis of the relevance of said details as it relates only to that text.

She was clutching a book called Chew on This (sorry, author slips my mind). This is a book (I believe it's 6th or 7th grade level)  that explores what is REALLY in food, especially fast food.

Me: So, how's this book going for you? What have you learned?
Sash: "The chickens!!! I can't BELIEVE what they do to the poor CHICKENS!! Mrs G, I gotta tell you, I'm never, ever eating at McDonalds AGAIN!!" Her face is twisted with rage.
Me: I'm trying to hide my amusement, because the last thing I expected Sash to become passionate about was chickens. She does not like animals, unless it is a cute furry kitten or something. She's really skittish. "What do you mean, Sash? What happens to the chickens? Why are you so upset?"
Sash: "OMG. They keep 'em in tiny cages so they can't grow. They keep baby chicks away from their mommies. They chop their heads off and the chickens can still FEEL THE PAIN afterwards and they run around without their heads. Then they grind up their bones and cartilage and everything...and that goes into the CHICKEN NUGGETS they have at McDonalds. That is so so so sooooo gross and I am never eating them again. Those poor chickens!" She is close to tears.
Me: "Ooooh, now I see why you didn't have to get up while reading. You were really engaged. You know, some people choose not to eat meat for that very reason. Apparently, this book has helped you form a strong opinion on animal and consumer rights in this country."
Sash: "The author is trying to tell us what is really in food, so we can make healthy choices."

I won't go on with the rest of that conversation, but my point is, in a few short months, my student realized there was a very profound purpose to reading. Reading to learn facts about life that helps us shape our own choices and convictions. She was able to conclude by gathering facts and details that the Fast Food industry is feeding her complete crap and has now made a conscious decision, at thirteen, not to buy into it. Now, THAT'S learning. You would never see this type of text, a RELEVANT text, on the state test.

Sashaya's reading and writing abilities have improved dramatically this year. I do not care what any state test will say, because it is not a fair or accurate measure of her hard work or ability to comprehend a text.  I am not her math teacher. I can't be sure if she will pass the sixth grade this year, but what I can do is try and fight for her to be in an appropriately challenging, seventh-grade ELA class next year. I do not feel there is any need to hold her back any more. This year, she has grown socially because she is a leader in my class (being one of the oldest girls, and probably the most outspoken when it comes to her convictions) emotionally (she now expresses her personal suffering through poetry) and academically (she is self-aware as a learner). but then again, who am I to assess, to make decisions? Oh, I'm just her teacher. What do I know?

Friday, April 22, 2011

High-Stakes Testing...the Measurement of our Worth as Students and Teachers.

Hello, I'm back! I apologize to my meager number of readers for my three-month silence. I'm fighting the anger and frustration that causes writer's block. So much to say, I'm all backed up!

Recently, I have made a wonderful, inspiring discovery. Tons and tons of concerned citizens like myself are starting to fight--engage in battle, an all-out-war-- the ruthless attack on the Public Schools of America. It is so relieving to know I am not alone in this battle, as a teacher and a parent. It also helps me to feel more secure about publishing my opinions about the subject on the may of us Ed Advocates are now using blogging as our outlet to exposing the very ugly truths about corporate-driven education policies. Some even have called it Education "Deform". How creative!

To me, the most monumental part of this battle is the fight against high-stakes Stanzardized Testing. Many parents and students in many states, particularly Pennsylvania, are "opting out" of standardized testing. Parents have had enough! We feel that we are losing autonomy over our own childrens' education. We feel it is a form of neglect. Some of us will even go as far as to say we feel it violates child labor laws in states where merit pay is involved.

Wow I wish the parents of MY inner-city students would consider that...but the sad fact is they are in the process of being brainwashed by this system. They are made to believe these tests are GOOD for their children. Also, they are so busy trying to survive (you know, keep a roof over their kids' heads, put food on the table, and protecting their kids from gangs and stray bullets) that fighting this good fight is a mere intellectual morsel in the backs of their minds. After all, it is so easy to brainwash people who are distracted by the fact that they need to work 50 hours a week at a minimum wage job in order to feed and shelter their familes. It is even easier to distract those who (understandably) want their children to have a better life than they do...and college is the goal. And how do we get into college? WE SCORE WELL ON TESSSSTS! Wahooo.

What many parents fail to realize is that exposing their beloved offspring to high-stakes, developmentally INAPPROPRIATE mindless testing that focuses on strategy rather than content and rich literature is not the ticket to this "better life". It's a one-way ticket to their child becoming another oppressed member of this society, forever bound to serving a corporate rich man (ok...or woman...must be PC here...) who does not question authority, has no real-life skills such as project-buliding, problem-solving, conflict resolution, teamwork, compassion, or creativity. And yes, I believe compassion is a SKILL.

So, in this post, I will explore these pressing questions:

Is this an accident? A big ooopsie on the blip of modern education? Are today's educational leaders aware of the grave mistakes they are making, numbing the minds of the lower and middle-class children of America? Is high-stakes testing just an easy way to measure schools and teachers?

NO, it is no accident. Think of it this way, it is so much easier to keep the wealthy rich and the poor SERVING and impovershed if the kids who go to underfunded public schools are forced to "learn" this way, and teachers are forced to teach to a test, rather than to the intellectual, mental, emotional, and individual needs of her students.

Private schools do not emphasize high-stakes testing. Private schools implement cooperative lessons, interactive units and project-based learning. And although public schools in wealthy areas of the counry are still required to test, they have more resources (money) to make the experience much more well-rounded for their students. Meaning, students can achieve high test scores through innovative education, regardless of wether they are taught "to" the test, through accountable talk, skill-building, and the implementation of Bloom's Taxonomy.

Upon graduating, wealthy students have these important skills that are needed in the business world. Their parents either can afford to send them to private school or live an area (predominantly white, like Bronxville or Scarsdale) where schools are properly funded because of the rediculously high taxes in those towns.

The kids that go to underfunded urban and rural public schools (hopefully) graduate High School armed with reading strategies like finding the "main idea" and "relevant details" within a text, or discovering the "authors purpose". Great, wonderful reading strategies, but there are only four answers to choose from. In many questions, two of these answers are so close to "right", or it seems none of the answers are right, and it becomes more about multiple choice strategy than the actual text itself. Because there is such an emphasis on this "testing strategy", and we spend 90% of our instructional time teaching this way, students will not graduate armed with the REAL strategies they need to survive in the work force, in college, or in adult life, where one needs to learn how to be creative, problem-solving, compassionate and build strong relationships.

That's only for the children of wealthy people.

(Funny, though, compassionate wealthy people barely exist, anyway--how ironic)

See, it's no accident that I have no time to teach important life-skills. I have a test-prep course to teach my 11-year-olds. Fill in those bubbles all the way with your #2 pencil, do not form opinions when you write,and regurgitate text details. The only reason why I need these skills now as an adult is becuase I have to teach them to my students.

Just to clear it up, there is a writing portion on the NYS English Language Arts test--it is very unfairly timed and does not involve any sort of persuasion, problem-solving, creative, or opinion-based writing. It's still all based on texts the students read, and they are rushed through it. I KNOW for a FACT that if my students were given more time on these portions of the test, they would be more successful.

Sure, it's important be armed with reading strategies. I'm not knocking the NYS standards, although I think some key educational components are missing (such as compassion). I'm knocking the way I am forced to teach them. I run a test-prep course. The skills and strategies outlined in the NYS learning standards CAN be taught differently. Hey! I have an idea! How about reading a REALLY GOOD book with my students ---

(For example....hmmm...Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli--a fantastic historical fiction on the 6th grade level book that eloquently tells the story of a little boy living in the Warsaw Ghetto.)

---and actually DISCUSSING the book? Having debates on the deep issues of hatred and prejudice the book stirs up? But no. I have been repeatedly told by admin that a whole-class book is out of the question. But, IF, I aquired the all-coveted PERMISSION of my supervisor, and was "allowed" to read a whole-class book, If I REALLY want to be an effective test-teacher, I would make up tricky multiple-choice questions about the book and have my students explain why they chose their answer. In other words, I'd suck the joy right out of the experience of reading (and teaching) great literature.

So, no, it is no accident. Educational leaders ARE aware of the grave mistakes they are making, and do not care. Are these "educational leaders" listening to the advice offered by other countries who are on top of the Education World, such as Finland or Thailand? No. Are they cutting funding to public education while demading unrealistic test scores in the most poverty-ravaged areas of this country? Yes. Are they making it impossible for ELL students and Special Ed students to go to (uuuuugh) Charter Schools (ie test prep factories)? Yes. Is that blatant discrimination? Yes. Is any of this an accident? NO.

OK...on to the second portion of the question : Is high-stakes testing just an easy way to "measure" schools and teachers? OF COURSE IT IS!!! Measure me, please! Measure away! Why not? It's just one test that my students take on one day of the school year, regardless of the fact that they may be sick that day, or may have had a fight with their mom, or their dad may have walked out that month and they are sad, or that they didn't eat breakfast or dinner the night before, or they may have been distrated by the random rucous noises in my Middle School or that they simply cannot sit still for the amount of time it takes to fill in the little bubbles, or, the most likely option, they've been under so much pressure all year long to perform on this test that the day came and now they are ----literally----frozen with fear. I have no conrol over ANY of these factors. So, please, why don't you JUDGE my teaching abilities, based on this test.

After all, my family's livelihood and the carrer I worked so hard for (and still am paying student loans back for) depends on it. And while you're at it, judge my school, my collegues, my supervisors, my district, and my city. Send that bubble sheet right through the computer, and measure my worth as a public servant. Sure, you can judge me, but you will NEVER keep me quiet about the manner in which you choose to do so. Remember, folks...that's the beauty of America, we have Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press, and Freedom of Assembly.

Moving on, much of education funding depends on the test results of your specific school or district. That's why underperforming schools are underfunded--it's a viscious cycle. Remember that corporations are now in full control of much of the country. The CEOs at McGraw-Hill Corporation are making a killing selling their mindless tests to public school disticts.  So, high-stakes testing is a simple and very economic way to measure "teacher effectiveness" .

Hey, corporate leaders of America...I'm sure your teachers taught YOU this when you were in school: the simplest way is NOT always the most efficient. It's just the quickest way to put more hard-earned taxpayer money into your already overflowing pockets.

The saddest part is, somehow in this fight, we have lost sight of who we are fighting for, not for ourselves, or our money, or our benefits, or our unions or political parties. We are fighting for our students, who have been brainwashed to the pathetic point that they think they are represented by a number. "Yay, I'm a 4."  "Oh, I suck, I'm a 1."  "Do you think I will be a 2 again this year?" It's very sad. I have actually taken the risk of telling my class that they are not definable by a score, and that a number cannot truly represent who they are as students, as people, as children. I was met with gaping mouths. Do their parents not tell them this? Do their parents not see that this is how society is measuring their childrens' intellectual "worth"? Well, I'll tell you what, not MY kid. There are many parents who are aware and educated who have their eyes open to these injustices. However, as I stated prior, may are not, becuase they are too brainwashed, or too busy trying to survive in these impossible economic times.

Final mental picure for you, dear readers:

Me: OK, everyone, the test is soon, be sure to review the notes and strategies I gave you during your spring break. Don't forget to do the 15 pages I assigned you in your test prep book!

Aisha: Miss, what do we do in May, after the test? Does school still count? Is school over then? Do we get to come here and do nuthin'?

Me: No, school still counts after the test. We're going to have Book Clubs and write poetry. We have a WHOLE MONTH to do that!

Class: (Reallllly noisy, rucous joy) YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAHHHHHHHH!!!

They are just dying for a REAL education. True Story.