A national group promoting opting K-12 students out of assessments has put together an extended platform for the "Occupy Wall Street" movement. With the blessings of Dr. Timothy D. Slekar, Head of the Division of Education, Human Development, and Social Sciences at Pennsylvania State University at Altoona, I am distributing their following proclamation.
"We, administrators of United Opt Out National, wish to collaborate with the Occupy Wall Street Movement and offer our vision for CORPORATE-FREE PUBLIC SCHOOLS.
We believe that QUALITY PUBLIC EDUCATION is a democratic right for all persons. It is through vibrant and fully funded school communities that all children have the opportunity to develop and grow into happy, successful, free, and active citizens. High stakes testing functions in opposition to QUALITY PUBLIC EDUCATION, as it is used to punish children, to malign educators, and to provide financial gain for testing corporations and their political sponsors.
THEREFORE, WE DEMAND AN END TO THE FOLLOWING:
ALL high stakes testing and punitive policies that label schools, punish students, and close public community schools;
ALL high stakes testing that ties teacher evaluations, pay, and job security to high stakes test results;
Corporate interventions in public education and education policy;
The use of public education funds to enact school "choice" measures influenced and supported by the corporate agenda;
Economically and racially segregated school communities;
"Model" legislation that provides special rules to charter schools that are forced upon public schools;
Corporate run for-profit charter schools that divert public funds away from public schools; and
Mandates requiring teachers to use corporate approved, scripted programs that sublimate and negate authentic and meaningful learning experiences imparted by varied and rich curricula.
FURTHERMORE, WE DEMAND RESTORATION AND/OR IMPLEMENTATION OF THE FOLLOWING:
Libraries and librarians to all schools and communities;
Teaching force educated through accredited college teacher education programs only;
School buildings in ALL neighborhoods that meet health code including clean drinking water, heat and air conditioning;
Developmentally appropriate, problem-based, literacy-rich, play-based and student-centered learning, with the return of nap, play, and snack time for kindergartners;
Smaller student to teacher ratio (25 or fewer to one);
Wrap around services for schools that offset the effects of poverty and social inequality, including but not limited to: school staff such as nurses and health providers, social workers, community organizers, family counselors, free quality community daycare and preschool programs, healthy food availability, safe and healthy housing options, community social facilities, and after school programs to enhance learning and provide safe recreational spaces for all students;
Fully funded arts and athletics programs;
Recess and adequate time allotted for lunch;
New national funding formulas that ensure EQUITY in funding to ALL public schools regardless of zip code;
Requirement that textbooks or testing company PROFITS go BACK TO public education;
Requirement that all DOE positions are filled with qualified and experienced educators; and
Requirement that Superintendents and school administrators have exceptional, extended teaching and school-based experience."
The above manifesto expresses the sentiments of many Kansas teachers. However, how you say something is often as important as what you say. And "Occupy Wall Street" is a movement that does not fit the Kansas style, nor may it have much duration on the coasts. Nor do we listen kindly to the word "demand" although that is precisely what the federal education policies do.
Nevertheless, a large number of parents and teachers for whom the above rings true should certainly check out the website www.unitedoptout.com. Our Washington legislators have failed to end the No Child Left Behind overtesting. Indeed, the new waiver plan and national science curriculum extends testing even further. Enough is enough. This coming spring is the time for Kansans to join parents in other states and pull their students out of the assessments—and bring this test tyranny to a halt for the sake of our children.