By Anita Gibson, AEA President
Would you allow a thief to come into your home in the middle of the night, let alone in broad daylight? Would you leave your home and family unprotected? Absolutely not. In fact, most of us are over insured and do everything within our power to ensure the safety of our loved ones and personal property.
I believe we should be just as concerned about protecting our profession. I contend that the educated professionals in our schools know what is best for our students. Yet, as educators we are forced to suffer with our students as more and more testing is demanded, and the results of those tests are increasingly being used to label our students, educators, and schools as failing. Curriculum changes are put in place, federal and state mandates are handed down, non-education professionals insist on determining when we are “effective,” and major corporate and foundation leaders decide the future of our public schools.
All of this is occurring with very little or no input from us, while our resources dwindle, our student populations become more diverse, and as more and more social ills and issues are being experienced by the students we serve.
As the debate over toxic high-stakes testing revs up, and we face the outcomes of another election, education employees begin to brace for the changes they know are sure to come our way. We also begin to wonder when anyone will listen to us. As educators, we are not afraid of tests. We invented them, and they were meant to be used to measure a student’s understanding of the curriculum being taught at determined intervals. They were to be used as a tool for educators to measure the effectiveness of their teaching and to determine the next steps to take to ensure students success. A test should be used as an assessment tool, not a blaming tool. That was before big business got involved in producing and marketing “the test.”
It is time for all the stakeholders to focus on the essentials of education and realize there is no magic bullet. If you study the history of public education, or if you have more than 10 years’ experience in education, you know that we deal with phases and fads as often as the political climate in this country changes.
As I engage in conversations with educators across this state, and the nation, the following issues seem to come to the forefront:
education employees want to play a vital role in any reform measures adopted;
we accept high standards and accountability measures, but must demand that our voice be included for true reform that is best for our students to occur;
once we have established the goals to be achieved, administrators and educators must be allowed to determine “how” we get there;
we must be able to determine student “growth” and provide opportunities for this growth to be demonstrated through higher order thinking skills as we rely less on paper/pencil “fill in the bubble” exercises; and,
toxic testing and the misuse of results must end, as well as the “blame” game associated with this practice.
The focus must be on what is best for all students. We must stop comparing apples to oranges.
While I am encouraged that this conversation has begun, I am greatly concerned about who will control it and the direction in which it will go.
Protect your profession and the students we serve now and those we will serve in the future – speak up for public education at every opportunity you are given.
Be involved in engaging parents, community leaders, and our elected officials in conversations about the positive things we are experiencing and the type of changes needed to ensure that every child has an opportunity to attend a great public school.