Archive | January, 2013
30 Jan

Portland Student Union

The PPS and Portland Student Unions will be teaming up in organizing an Opt-Out Campaign in which students are encouraged to opt-out of taking their standardized OAKS tests. The Student Unions want to send a strong message against to the standardized testing system as we believe that standardized tests scores are an inaccurate depiction of a student’s knowledge, have an extremely high correlation to a student’s family’s income, have a high correlation with race, are expensive, and in all are taking up class time that we could use learning things that are more applicable to our lives, as well as be developing better relationships with our teachers and peers.

The goal of the campaign is the send a strong message to Governor Kitzhaber, the Oregon legislature, Dr. Rudy Crew and the Oregon Department of Education about the importance of not standardizing our education system. “We need more community based schools…

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More Schools Join the Boycott!

29 Jan
Here is the updated list of participating schools from the Scrap the Map  site.
Teachers at the following Seattle schools have joined the boycott of the MAP test:
  • The Center School
  • Chief Sealth International High School
  • Garfield High School
  • Orca K-8 School
  • Ballard High School
Teachers and/or staff at the following Seattle schools have sent statements of solidarity:
  • Franklin High School
  • Roosevelt High School
  • Salmon Bay K-8 School
  • Sanislo Elementary School
  • Schmitz Park Elementary School
  • Seattle Substitutes Association
  • Thornton Creek Elementary School
  • West Seattle High School
Here are some suggestions for what you can do to add your school’s name to this list!

National Call in Day and National Day of Solidarity

29 Jan

Re-Blogged from Scrap the Map:

GET READY! THIS WEDNESDAY, January 30 is a national call/phone/fax day to tell Seattle Public Schools that you, your organization and your union stand with the teachers in the MAP test boycott. Send your message to Seattle Schools Superintendent José Banda:

Phone: (206) 252-0180
Fax: (206) 252-0209
Email: superintendent@seattleschools.org

If you send an email, share it with us here in the comments!

Next week, WEDNESDAY, February 6 will be a National Day in Solidarity with the Seattle Test Boycott. This can be an opportunity to gather petitions, pass resolutions and take solidarity photos that, again, can sent to http://scrapthemap.wordpress.com/.  Other possible solidarity activities could include a press release or press conference outside your local school district office with parent/teacher/community groups. If you are near the offices of one of the corporate education “reform” groups or education profiteers like test publishers, you can have a press conference or picket line.

Email us at scrapthemap@yahoo.com or use the “Contact Us” link to tell us about your plans!

Healing not Control: Confronting Rape Culture in the Classroom

22 Jan

Stephanie Rivera wrote an excellent blog post about the need to create space in the classroom to talk about trauma, self-harm, and rape.  She mentioned recent suicides and mass shootings across the country and the horrific rape case  at Steubenville High School.  How can teachers and students make classrooms into places where we can heal from this trauma, and where the underlying causes of mass trauma and oppression can be examined and confronted collectively?

We can only do that if we confront the sexism and rape culture that permeates so many schools, making them unsafe places for young women, gender non-conforming, and LGBTQ folks.   That requires creating intentional space for solidarity, healing, and power.  And that takes time and trust.

Rivera writes:

It is disheartening to hear some education professors say, “it’s a shame there may be no chance for you to implement these tactics in your classroom because of the raising emphasis on high-stakes testing.” If I won’t be able to implement something as simple as a classroom structure based on discussion where my students sit in a circle, what can I do?

What a twisted system to be investing in an education that is teaching me how to teach, only to enter into a system where such skills aren’t even valued.

Today’s education is so strongly associated with academics, that we often forget this is a place where our youth come to learn how to be. Our youth spend majority of their “growing-up years” here. Yet, for some reason, education is not our country’s top priority. For some reason, so many people still want to look at school as a business, a place to train obedience, a place where students are led to believe that only importance of school is getting good grades, passing tests, and going onto college.

This is why I fight.

That’s also why we fight.  The struggle against standardized testing here in Seattle should also be about opening up space to heal from trauma and to confront gendered violence and all forms of oppression and control.  We need time to do that, time we will not have if we waste it on preparing to take standardized tests.

Folks from around the country are also coming together to try to do something about the rape at  Steubenville.  This blog is part of an effort to make  demands on the Steubenville High School administration to drastically change the culture at the school.  The goal is to raise the consequences for rape in order to prevent future violence, not just there but in our own communities across the country.

If you support this effort, please indicate your support in the comments section of their blog.  But more importantly, please organize in your own school and community to create space to have these discussions, to heal, and to confront rape culture.  This doesn’t just happen in Midwest towns like Steubenville, it also happens here in “liberal” Seattle, and we have the same responsibility as anyone else to stop it in our own communities.

 

 

Creativity Not Youth Jails

22 Jan

We are inspired by the Garfield teachers who refused to administer the MAP standardized test.  This action, coming only a few months after the Rainier Beach High School Walkout, is a sign that struggles in the Seattle Public Schools could be heating up.

Garfield High School is also located in the historically Black Central District, where community activists have been struggling for nine months against the creation of a new Juvenile Detention Center. Here is an article  about that struggle, by folks from the neighborhood.

Testing is a tool for sorting students by caste – along lines of race and so-called “criminal history”.   Some students at Garfield and other schools are tracked toward high paying jobs in the region’s tech industry and other students are tracked toward that new Juvenile Detention center and eventually onward to prison and a lifetime of low-wage labor in jobs that discriminate against ex-convicts.

The Garfield teachers’ resistance to testing and the anti-jail struggle happening down the street are two parts of the same freedom struggle.

Creativity Not Control

20 Jan

Creativity, Not Control
Learning for Life, Not Labor

Human beings are naturally creative.  Instead of adapting to our surroundings, we have adapted to changing surroundings.  Our brains developed to learn and create in a state of almost constant motion and change. We have the capacity to create, together, in ways that grow and transform nature, our minds, and our bodies, instead of destroying them.  We are constantly learning by acting; for us, learning and creation are part of the same process.

However, it is easy to forget all of this when you are trapped inside a classroom doing boring lessons preparing to take standardized tests in which you compete with the person next to you.  Everything is controlled.  Instead of creating knowledge together, the teacher is handed a chunk of knowledge which she is expected to deposit in her students minds, so they can regurgitate it on a future test.  Those who regurgitate most efficiently rise to the top.

Meanwhile, the infrastructure we use to collectively create – from music and art programs to labs and texts and computers – are deteriorating due to austerity budget cuts, especially in working class schools and majority non-white schools.  

The School to Work to Prison Pipeline

Some of these schools feel like prisons, with security guards and cops stepping in to reinforce school discipline. Students who are written up or expelled get channeled toward juvenile detention, prison, and the second-class citizenship that comes with having a criminal record.

Our creativity has been turned into dead labor and our learning has been turned into a system of control.  Instead of preparing students to create together, our schools prepare students for dead-end jobs making money for rich people – or unemployment, hustling, and prison.  In these jobs, young people will not be expected to question, to think critically, to collectively create new possibilities, so these qualities are not prioritized in America’s classrooms.

The Thinking Classes and the Working Classes

Of course, creativity is prioritized in a small number of schools or elite programs within schools  that train the future thinking classes – the ones who will write the new computer programs, start new biotech companies, or administer the state and corporate bureaucracies.

Education “reform” is about raising a small number of youth into these thinking classes, while the rest are left in the working classes, where all you need to know is what bubble to fill in, and some math and reading skills so you can read the threatening memos or instruction manuals your bosses will use to convey their orders.

We are taught that we can’t be thinkers and workers at the same time. The great traditions of working class intellectual life are cut off, when they could be recreated in  new ways.  We forget about Malcolm, Assata, and Gramsci reading and writing from prison; we never practice writing for freedom like Gloria Anzaldua, Joe Kadi, or Tupac.  We never find our own voices, which could go even farther.  Youth today are cut off from a chance to become that rose that grows from concrete, the next generation of organic intellectuals.

The “Achievement Gap” is Really Apartheid

This divide between the thinking classes and the working classes is created and re-created in our school systems, and it often falls along racial lines.  Some people call it the “achievement gap”, and wring their hands about why students of color are not succeeding at the same rate as white students.  Yet, while they market new products, motivational speeches, and diversity programs aimed at ending this achievement gap, it just doesn’t get better.

Some blame the parents. Others blame the teachers union.  Some blame both.  But no one is looking at the root cause: our system sorts youth through a vicious division of labor that is created and recreated in the schools.  The schools teach us one thing:  your class is your destiny, and it is often color coded.  That is the main objective of the curriculum, and it is drilled into you at a young age.

Sure, there are success stories of students from working class, non-white backgrounds rising into the ranks of the college educated and going on to “middle class” lives.  But this only happens enough to maintain the myth of upward mobility that covers up what is really going on:  apartheid for everyone else.  When the markets crash and everyone becomes downwardly mobile, the programs that  youth of color use to pull themselves up by their bootstraps are the first to be slashed.

It Doesn’t Have to be This Way

Many teachers, parents, and students  know we are capable of a lot more, and this is confirmed by waves of research coming out now.  Study after study has shown that teachers need to  build relationships with students, respecting their agency and collective autonomy.  Learning should be student-centered, not  test-centered.  We need to encourage cooperation and creativity, tapping into student interests, facilitating student self-awareness (“metacognition”), and purposeful, fascinating discussion. This research seems to point toward models of collective learning that are much more dynamic and revolutionary than what we have right now in capitalist classrooms.  For example, Vygotsky’s social learning theory is very popular right now, which is ironic since Vygotsky developed it in the context of the Russian Revolution.

These kind of creative learning methods cannot be implemented within the confines of capitalist classroom control, especially control enforced by standardized tests. The contradiction between what it is possible to learn and what is necessary to test has become so unbearable that many schools across the country seem to be at a breaking point.

Beating the Odds: This is not Freedom Writers

Every once in awhile, teachers and students will come around who “beat the odds” and classrooms of working class youth will unleash their creativity to write books, perform Shakespeare plays, or initiate gang truces.  Then someone will make a movie about it.

This is all inspiring.  But when the system celebrates these teachers as exceptional individuals, it covers up the real lessons here: that the actual  heroes are the students, that they are capable of a lot more than what society has assigned them, and they are only capable of creating this when they cooperate instead of compete with each other.  Focusing on the myth of the exceptional teacher who rises above her colleagues undermines the cooperative spirit that makes this success possible in the first place.  The exceptional teacher is held up as a prop to get other teachers to feel lazy and guilty if they are not working 70 hour weeks and destroying their personal lives and mental health in order to excel in the classroom.   The reality is,  for these kinds of successes to become the standard, instead of the exception, we need creativity not control, and we need collective learning that prepares us for life, not labor.

Learning History by Making it Together

When students at Rainier Beach High School walk out demanding funding to renovate their dilapidated school facilities, they are pointing in this direction.  When teachers at Garfield High and Orca K-8 refuse to administer the MAP standardized test, they are pointing in this direction. When community members organize to  Collective resistance to the regime of control is real learning, in motion.  Instead of just learning about history to regurgitate facts on a test, we start to make history, together.

We know there are a lot of people out there who want creativity, not control.  We hope this blog will help us find each other so that we can organize and mobilize in our schools and neighborhoods, learning from each other in the process.  We welcome collaboration with fellow teachers,  fellow parents / family/ guardians, fellow students, and anyone who the schools have assigned to the working classes.

We will post updates about local organizing we are doing  in Seattle, as well as crucial developments in other cities.  If you would like to contribute, please contact us at CreativityNotControl@gmail.com.

What Can You Do To Fight MAP Testing?

19 Jan

Garfield teachers and some teachers from Orca K-8 have refused to administer the MAP test.   MAP testing should end because:

  • Teachers don’t know what the test covers and get no results back.  The test has NO RELATION to what is being taught.
  • SPS administrators admitted that the margin of error for the test is greater than expected gains.  The test proves nothing.
  • Ninth-graders cannot afford to lose classroom time.
  • Scores are low because students don’t take the test seriously.   
  • Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson was on the board of the corporation that sells the exam – a clear conflict of interest.
  • No standardized test accurately reflects a student’s creativity and full potential. 

 

What can YOU do?

Parent/Guardians:

  • Tell your teachers, principal, PTSA, and Seattle Public School District staff and board that you oppose standardized testing in general and the MAP specifically
  • Tell your teachers that you will support them if they refuse to give the MAP
  • Opt your student out of the MAP.  It is NOT REQUIRED
  • Make copies of THIS FLYER and circulate at your school.  (please email us at dontbuyanything@gmail.com and let us know what school you have covered) 

Students:

  • Let your teachers, family/guardians, and friends know you oppose the MAP
  • After family discussions, refuse to take the MAP
  • If you do not feel comfortable overtly refusing to take the test, ANSWER EVERY QUESTION ON THE MAP WITH A “C” for CREATIVITY.  If enough students do this, it will invalidate their data, making it harder for them to use the test to control teachers and students. 

Teachers:

  • Unite with your colleagues and refuse to give the test.  
  • Tell other teachers that you will back them if there are retaliations against those refusing to give the test.
  • If your ENTIRE staff does not refuse to give the test, consider having a PORTION of the staff refuse to give the test.
  • Support students opting out or answering “C” for CREATIVITY.

 

STANDARDIZED TESTING KILLS CREATIVITY