As Americans watch the "Arab Spring" revolutions that are redefining governments in the Middle East, is it not time to call for resistance to the tyranny in education right here in America?
If a people can stand up against those who kill by bullets, then certainly we can stand up against those who are killing our students’ spirits in the public classroom.
The list of violations to student and teacher dignity is long and growing.
High-stakes testing and test-prep has replaced professional teaching.
Lessons not leading to higher test scores are often prohibited.
A teacher who dares address an off-standards topic risks being charged with insubordination.
The curriculum has narrowed, reducing or eliminating student time in subjects not tested. This last generation of students was anemic in science, social studies, art, music and physical education. The next generation will suffer even more academic starvation.
Teacher professional decision-making in K-12 grades has been decimated.
Some of the best teachers who most valued their professional discretion have fled.
Our best college candidates have seen the assembly line test prep that teaching has become, and many are electing to not join the test-prep factory.
Student teachers are no longer trained to develop curriculum; test-maker’s now determine curriculum.
Big testing companies drain our educational budgets.
Our students get physically sick under the pressure to perform.
Two out of three drop-outs quit because of boredom; there is nothing more boring than material taught-to-the-test.
Defenders point to math and reading test scores that appear to gradually increase. But NAEP scores for these same fields remain flat, putting the lie to that claim. The increase in scores—the purported "closing of the achievement gap"—is nothing but what is expected when teachers hone in on preparing students for a specific test while the students’ overall academic ability declines—as most college professors can attest.
Our gridlocked government fails to take action as the NCLB "100%-by-2014" requirement approaches, each year ensuring that more solid schools are declared failures. More solid teachers are proclaimed incompetent. More administrators are fired. More schools are sanctioned.
Enough is enough. It is time to take action and that action is surfacing across the United States.
If fewer than 95% of a student population takes the mandated assessment, the data are considered incomplete under NCLB. Regardless of the students’ genuine performance, the school will not make AYP. A "6 percent movement" is now underway. Dr. Yong Zhao, currently Presidential Chair and Associate Dean for Global Education in the College of Education at the University of Oregon (and a distinguished invited speaker this spring at Emporia State University) notes that if 6 percent of parents opt their child out of the assessments, they can shut this system down.
Another effort, "The Bartleby Project" begins its website by inviting 60,000,000 American students to peacefully refuse to take standardized tests.
In many states including Kansas, parents have the right to opt their child out of the spring assessments. In Kansas, this is not civil disobedience but merely exercising a right.
But some states do not allow opt-out. Some even base course grades on high-stakes tests. In those cases, it will be up to the students themselves to lay their pencils (or mouse) down.
The pressures to conform are tremendous. But if the Arab Spring was propelled by Facebook and Twitter, we can use social media here as well. For the sake of our students, the future of our schools and the teaching profession, it is time for an "Academic Spring."