Public education, teachers, and unions have been under attack ever since the report entitled “A Nation at Risk” came out during Reagan’s presidency. Most lay people–those not directly involved in K-12 education– simply assume what they hear in the media is true–that our schools are failing our children and that, as a country, we are falling behind the rest of the world. As a result, we have poured massive amounts of money into creating a “fix” for this problem. The fix–standardization and mass testing of children–is failing everyone–teachers and children alike– and creating a culture of despair in our schools and our children.
The latest incarnation of this so-called reform, courtesy of Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education under Obama, is called “Race to the Top.” In order to receive federal education funding, states were coerced into adopting the now notorious Common Core State Standards, and the new tests that are “Common Core aligned.” These standards were written from the top down starting with high school graduation requirements and ignoring the research on human development, especially in the early years. A cry went up from early childhood professionals across the country but the alarm was ignored by the U.S. Department of Education.
Here is a large banner I painted with the Artists Rapid Response Team of the Union of Maine Visual Artists to bring to Washington for a national protest of U.S. education policy. The protest was organized by a group calling itself the Badass Teachers Association, or BATs. You can see the National BATs logo on the right side of the banner.
We held our rally and protest in the U.S. Department of Education Plaza. We were over 500 strong, teachers from 38 states converging on Washington D.C. with our families in tow.
We sang, we spoke out, we danced, and we chanted. We celebrated the creativity and passion and love of learning that brought us all into the teaching profession. We raised our collective voices to call out the falsehoods of the corporate reformers and demand accountability from Arne Duncan and the U.S. Department of Education. Here is a link to a short video that will give you the flavor of that amazing day:
Public schools are being closed across the country. Charters and other for-profit schemes are replacing neighborhood schools with no evidence that they perform better than what we already have in place. Many teachers are not speaking up about the abusive culture of testing, fearing they will be viewed as insubordinate by their administration.
We are fed up with being called “bad teachers” and having our schools be labeled as failing. We are sick about the suffering we see every day in our students both from the impoverished conditions in which many of them are struggling to live and about the abusive “teach to the test” practices that make so many children feel like failures, starting in kindergarten.
Now, arts teachers are being asked to pilot new arts standards and aligned assessments in their K-12 classrooms.
These new arts standards are called “Core” but the core is rotten when they are linked to standardized tests. So many schools have already lost their arts programs in favor of more test prep and technology to administer the tests.
October 5, 2014
PS Here I am with preschool teacher Rita Clement, a fellow peace activist and colleague from Augusta at the Greater Brunswick Peace Fair, August, 2014.