Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Power of the Parents

Tonight's piece is short. So much has been happening in the fight against education reform, encompassed in part by Common Core and PARCC, that the New Jersey activist scene has been blowing up. Groups are forming all over the place, new Facebook posts are flowing every 30 seconds, discussion threads have hundreds of comments, editorials are appearing all over the state from top to bottom, and there's one thing that stands out among all of these things: much of it is at the hands of the parents.

Yes, the parents. The angry mommies and daddies and grandparents and guardians.

So much has been able to happen - and will continue to happen - because the parents are stepping forward to fight for the education their children - OUR children - deserve.

Don't get me wrong, this fight has to be a collective effort: that includes parents, teachers, students, community members, and taxpayers. But parents hold so much more power than many of them realize: they have nothing holding them back. They are not seen as having a "vested interest." The power to ignite this movement is in the hands of the parents.

The PARENTS are researching all they can get their hands on about Common Core and PARCC.

The PARENTS are spending hours upon hours reading, writing refusal letters, sharing concerns with other parents in Facebook groups, writing responses, and saying "I'm doing that too! I had that experience too!"

The PARENTS are attending board of education meetings in record numbers and testifying during public comment to superintendents and local boards of education.

The PARENTS are planning their own meetings: gathering a few other friends and discussing education in the kitchen over some [*much needed wine] research. Gathering community members for a discussion at the local community center and handing out pamphlets of information. Gathering community members - teachers, other parents, and students - for movie screenings, most popularly to see Standardized: Lies, Money, and Civil Rights: How Testing is Ruining Public Education. Gathering parents and attending State Board meetings to testify on the dangers of these reforms.

Parents, the message is short, simple, and to the point: Do not stop. Keep the pressure on, keep the research going, keep collecting more and more parents, and keep making your voices louder and louder.

Because you can't fire a parent. You can't silence a parent (and they for damn sure will try, but nothing is going to stop parents from advocating for their children). You simply can't stop a parent once they have this knowledge. 

The power of the parents must never stop. 


source: http://www.mdalegal.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/refusal-to-test-sign.jpg

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

PARCC RESPONDS - And It's Exactly What We Wanted to Hear

It's a big day for education activists in New Jersey. These photos are making their way around social media this morning - a New Jersey parent contacted PARCC seeking clarification on a part of the testing manual which states [in part], "...non-testing students... are prohibited from entering the testing environment." Below is a picture of that page from the official manual, which can be found here. 



This New Jersey parent asked: "Could you please clarify the definition of a non-testing student. The [sic] seems to be confusion surrounding what that means. If a student's parents refuse to permit their child to take the test is that student considered a non-testing student?"

PARCC customer support responded with the following: "I do apologize for the confusion. If a student is not taking the test for any reason, they are considered a non-testing student. This includes the parent refusing the student to take the test."



This response from PARCC customer support echoed the same language, with the addition of a note regarding security: "A student would be considered a non-testing student if the student is not taking the test. If a parent like yourself refuses the test, your child is considered a non-testing student. For security reasons, the non-testing student or students should not be in the same room as the testing students."




Then, we see another response from PARCC customer support, and this one is even more specific: "Any student, not participating in the PARCC Assessments, is considered a non-testing student. Any non-testing student should not be in a classroom where tests are being taken. For further information/clarification [this part, we are guessing, was in response to a question about refusal coding] on your school's/state's policy regarding non-testing students, please contact your local school system/district leaders."


This is a huge step in the right direction about seeking alternative placement/educational activities for students who refuse the test, rather than being forced to "sit and stare" - which, as we can see from PARCC's own words, appears to be against their policy.

I just received another email that includes the following: "My understanding is that you would like to know if a non-testing student is allowed to be in the room while the PARCC Assessments are being taken. Please be advised that any student that is NOT testing, can not be in the same room with the students who are taking the test." 

In addition, this one clarifies specifically the definition of a non-testing student: "Also, a non-testing student is defined as the following: Any student not participating in the PARCC Assessments, is considered a non-testing student. [this is a repeat] Any non-testing students should not be in a classroom where tests are being taken."



A question was also raised to PARCC in regards to coding for refusals. Here is the response:



Best part of all? I, along with another parent advocate, called each of these numbers, and all three mailboxes are FULL and NOT accepting messages at this time. 

Again, this is a start. We should all collectively seek confirmation that this is, in fact, the official policy of PARCC (those who have looked closely have stated this answer is nowhere to be found in their guidelines). We should send this to every local board of education, the state board of education, and the department of education. This is step one - the next is looking for even further clarification from the department of education, and if not from them, our local boards.

Another small victory in New Jersey today.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: It would now seem as though PARCC is beginning to change it's tune, possibly because they are being bombarded with questions/know the responses are being shared. Here is the most recent response: "Please ferer [nice typo PARCC] any questions regarding opting out to your school district or state. Each state has their own policies and procedures regarding non-testing students."

EVERYONE PLEASE SAVE YOUR ORIGINAL RESPONSES - THEREFORE, WE HAVE EVIDENCE OF THE DIFFERENT RESPONSES FROM PARCC. I will be following and updating here as necessary. 






As discussed on the "Opt Out of State Standardized Tests - New Jersey" Facebook page, there is a possibility that "ask the district" is for what to *do with the non-testing students* as it still states in the manual that "...non-testing students... are prohibited from entering the testing environment." This is all happening live, and we are all working to seek clarification on these issues. PARCC is clearly changing its tune now from the original responses they were giving to the responses they are giving now - now they are saying "talk to your district/state." It is important to ask this questions because many parents are looking to fight the "sit & stare" policies that districts are looking to implement. If these responses can be used to counter the sit & stare argument at the local or state level, then they are important to have. It is actually quite eye-opening to see the changing responses from PARCC, which I am guessing is in response to the outcry they are being bombarded with now. We don't need to obsess on this topic, but I think it is important to be sharing these responses, therefore putting more pressure on the NJ State Board/Department of Education and local district to clarify and/or put out guidelines or a policy as to what happens with non-testing students.

Latest update (2:33pm) - this response was just shared, and includes an update on PARCC's response regarding coding: Any student, not participating in the PARCC Assessments, is considered a non-testing student. Any non-testing student should not be in a classroom where tests are being taken. There is no code need [sic] to identify a non-testing student. For further information/clarification on your school's/state's policy regarding non-testing students, please contact your local school system/district leaders."


Update - At 2:52pm, this response was shared:


Appendix C of this URL was checked (it is the guidelines for the state of New Jersey, and can be viewed here). The document was searched for any mention of the words "sit and stare" and no results were found. The document does include the following, which is along the lines of the responses that have been received today.


Update - at 4:21 pm, a response was received in regards to the question, "Can you please specify where sit and stare is mentioned in the manual? I searched the entire site and was unable to find anything pertaining to this. Thank you." The response states the following: "As quoted from the manual: 'Visitors, including parents/guardians, school board members, researchers, reporters, non-testing students, and school staff not authorized to serve as Test Administrators or Proctors, are prohibited from entering the testing environment. Visits by state assessment monitors, LEA monitors, and PARCC Inc. observers are allowed based on state-specific policy, as long as these individuals do not disturb the testing process. Refer to Appendix C for details about observation visits for your state."




At this point, PARCC seems to be saying in response to questions about sit and stare: sit and stare is not allowed because non-testing students are not allowed in the testing environment. Again, we must all collectively seek confirmation on this, and push for answers from the New Jersey Department of Education/State Board of Education and local boards of education.

Update - at 5:44pm, this response was received: "My understanding is that you would like to know if sit and stare is allowable. Please be advised that, any student, not participating in the PARCC Assessments, is considered a non-testing student. Any non-testing student should not be in a classroom where the tests are being taken." So, no *direct* response on sit and stare, but I think we can all get the message they are sending - student refusal = student as non-test-taker = student not allowed in testing environment = student must have alternative placement = no sit and stare. As stated many times, we all need to seek clarification and guidance on this from the Department of Education/State Board of Education and local school boards.



**If you would like to share your response, please post either the text or a screenshot of the response in the comments section so we can gather all of the responses. At this point it appears most are very similar responses, but still important to gather!

Read Ani McHugh's post here that provides information to those who are new to the discussion, developments from today, and more overall guidance and detail!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Response to the NJ PTA President

Response to the New Jersey PTA/New Jersey PTA President re: State Board of Education Testimony

Wednesday, January 7th was the monthly State Board of Education meeting, and about 100 parents, teachers, and students attended to give testimony during the open-topic session. Most spoke on the dangers of PARCC and high-stakes testing, but one testimony stood out to me - that of the New Jersey PTA president, Debbie Tyrrell. About halfway through typing responses to her points, I realized this got really long (stick with me on the length of this one), so I’ve focused on breaking down her main points and addressing some of the facts left out of her testimony. That in bold is the original statement (her full testimony can be read here from the Department of Education Website) and what follows are my responses, all of which are backed up with articles/evidence.

"We are also cautiously hopeful that the new PARCC tests will be a fair assessment against the standards and give parents and teachers the information that they need to help their children succeed."

Ok... take a breather, Mel, take a breather. First of all, standardized tests are unfair to many students for a slew of reasons. FairTest chronicled some of those reasons here:
1) High-stakes tests are unfair to many students.
Some students simply do not test well. Many students are affected by test anxiety or do not show their learning well on a standardized test, resulting in inaccurately lower scores.
Many students do not have a fair opportunity to learn the material on the test because they attend poorly-funded schools with large class sizes, too many teachers without subject area certification, and inadequate books, libraries, laboratories, computers and other facilities. These students are usually from low-income families, and many also suffer problems with housing, nutrition or health care. High-stakes tests punish them for things they cannot control.
Students with learning disabilities, whose first language is not English, or who attend vocational schools fail high-stakes tests far more frequently than do mainstream students.
Some people say that it is unfair to students to graduate them if they have not been adequately educated. But if students do not have access to an adequate and equitable education, they end up being held accountable while the system is not. States must take responsibility and be held accountable for providing a strong educational opportunity for all.
Classroom surveys show most teachers do not find scores from standardized tests scores very useful. The tests do not help a teacher understand what to do next in working with a student because they do not indicate how the student learns or thinks. Nor do they measure much of what students should learn. Good evaluation provides useful information to teachers.
See, it's kind of hard to say it will "give parents and teachers the information that they need to help children succeed" when the teachers (and parents, for the matter) don't even see the tests. When there is authentic, teacher created assessments, the story is different: teachers not only see the tests (well, duh, they make the tests), but this allows for them to see where students succeeded, where students are performing well, and where students may need more assistance in. If my whole class gets #3 on my test wrong, then that's a heads up to me, as the teacher, to know that hey, maybe I didn't cover that subject as well as I should have. Now I can go back, tailor my instruction moving forward to make sure I'm covering the previous topics students need more help on, and therefore creating a stronger foundational understanding for them when moving forward onto the next topic.

The part of the statement that says "give parents... the information that they need to help children succeed" reminds me of when David Hespe, the New Jersey Commissioner of Education, stated (paraphrasing) that he hopes the data from PARCC will be useful in parenting. Yes, please, I need detailed data reports on how dinner tasted (with a breakdown of each item on the plate) - otherwise my children may never be college and career ready! I need more detailed data for folding laundry perfectly according to the standards - otherwise my children may never be college and career ready! I need even MORE detailed data on *any* of the discussions I have with my children - here is where I would really appreciate the use of a rubric so I can look back on where I need improvement - otherwise my children may never be college and career ready! How is my content knowledge on "parenting issues" such as *the talk,* speaking about safety, drugs, and just the casual conversations of "how was school today?" How is my professionalism rating in dealing with my child?

"In states that are further along in their implementation of the standards and assessments we've seen year-over-year improvement in test scores which gives us a reason for optimism."

WOAHHHH there... now let's take a minute a slow the train. Stop the bus. Let me out of the car. In all honesty, I had to read this statement maybe five or six times before it really got into my head. I'm still kind of staring at it in disbelief. Let's get back on the train, on the bus, and into the car, and take a short ride over to New York.

Anthony Cody wrote one of the best summaries ever in his article “Common Core Standards: 10 Colossal Errors” (which I reference all the time, and everyone should read over and over). In that article, he discusses the results of the first round of Pearson-aligned testing in New York:

Given that we have attached all sorts of consequences to these tests, this could have disastrous consequences for students and teachers. Only 31 percent of students who took Common Core aligned tests in New York last spring were rated proficient.  On the English Language Arts test, about 16 percent of African American students were proficient, five percent of students with disabilities, and 3% of English Learners. Last week, the state of North Carolina announced a similar drop in proficiency rates.  Thus we have a system that, in the name of "rigor," will deepen  the achievement gaps, and condemn more students and schools as failures.
Because of the “rigor,” many students—as many as 30 percent—will not get a high school diploma. What will our society do with the large numbers of students who were unable to meet the Common Core Standards? Will we have a generation of hoboes and unemployables? Many of these young people might find trades and jobs that suit them, but they may never be interviewed due to their lack of a diploma. This repeats and expands on the error made with high school exit exams, which have been found to significantly increase levels of incarceration  among the students who do not pass them—while offering no real educational benefits.

Fewer than a third of students in public schools passed the new tests, officials reported. And, in a twist that could roil education policy, some highly touted charter schools flopped particularly badly.

Other states are expected to face similar reckonings next year and in 2015, as they roll out new tests aligned to Common Core. Already, Kentucky has reported high failure rates on its Common Core tests.


Why would policymakers create tests that are designed to mark as failures two out of every three children?  For the second year in a row, that is the question that New York parents are asking. The 2014 New York State Common Core test scores were recently released, and there was minimal improvement in student performance. Proficiency or “passing” rates went up 0.1 in English Language Arts (ELA) and 4.6 percentage points in math,despite the rollout of the $28 million, taxpayer funded curriculum modules, and greater familiarity with the tests. Proficiency rates continued to be horrendous for students who are English Language Learners—only 11 percent “passed” math, and 3 percent “passed” the English Language Arts tests. Results were equally dismal for special education students, whose “passing” rates were 9 percent in math and 5 percent in ELA. 

Whether there are modest increases or decreases in scores, however, is inconsequential. Whether or not these tests are appropriate and fair evaluations of student learning is far more important. High-stakes tests, despite denials, always have and always will drive instruction. That is why bad tests based on inappropriate standards matter.

So, it is really misleading to say “we've seen year-over-year improvement in test scores which gives us a reason for optimism” when all else suggests otherwise.

"High standards and fair assessments ensure that every child gets the opportunity of a high-quality education system that prepares them for college and career."

Ok, so let’s just ignore that forever elephant in the room *poverty* that no one in the “reformy” world wants to talk about, because high standards and fair assessments are clearly the answer to *solving poverty.* HOW DID NO ONE COME UP WITH THIS IDEA BEFORE?!?!?

I’m sure that high standards and fair assessments are the answer to the students and teachers who go to school in Camden with no heat in their buildings. Stephen Danley reported on his blog, Local Knowledge Blog, “Last night I received this comment from a teacher at Camden High: I teach at Camden High and spent the entire day in a building without heat. This is not unusual. We wear our coats and are advised to wear “thermals.” When a cold snap hits, it is brutal.” Well, why don’t you just wrap those kids and teachers in some high standards and quality assessments to keep them warm?

We must ask ourselves (and this bold statement here are my words): Is every child really getting the opportunity of a high-quality education system that prepares them for college and career when we, as a society, are ignoring the inequities that only plague our schools and our students? And are we really going to say that high standards and fair assessments are the answer to ensuring this “opportunity?” I am personally outraged at the original statement that "high standards and fair assessments" - and ONLY the mention of those two factors - "ensure that every child gets the opportunity of a high-quality education system that prepares them for college and career."

Let’s look even further. Because of the high-stakes nature of these tests, teachers are being forced to “teach to the test.”  
3) High-stakes testing produces teaching to the test.
The higher the stakes, the more schools focus instruction on the tests. As a result, what is not tested often is not taught. Whole subjects may be dropped; e.g., science, social studies, art or physical education may be eliminated if only language arts and math are tested. Important topics or skills that cannot be tested with paper-and-pencil tests – such as writing research papers or conducting laboratory experiments – are not taught.
Instruction starts to look like the tests. For example, reading is reduced to short passages followed by multiple-choice questions, a kind of "reading" that does not exist in the real world. Writing becomes the "five-paragraph essay" that is useless except on standardized tests.
Narrowing of curriculum and instruction happens most to low-income students. In schools serving wealthier areas, teachers and parents make sure most students gain the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in college and life. Too often, poor kids in under-funded schools get little more than test coaching that does not adequately prepare them for further learning. In some schools, the library budget is spent on test prep materials, and professional development is reduced to training teachers to be better test coaches. All this further limits educational opportunities for low-income children.
These tests are forcing our teachers to teach to the tests - they don’t want their students to fail, and their own evaluations are tied to these test scores - and I for one do not think that is “fair.” Many students do not have that “fair” opportunity to learn the material on the test because, as FairTest writes (which I want to emphasize again), “they attend poorly-funded schools with large class sizes, too many teachers without subject area certification, and inadequate books, libraries, laboratories, computers and other facilities. These students are usually from low-income families, and many also suffer problems with housing, nutrition or health care. High-stakes tests punish them for things they cannot control.” 

"The skills that PARCC will assess are also the critical thinking skills that today's employers 
demand... PARCC challenges students to apply what they are learning in the classroom so teachers can focus on building these kinds of skills, teaching them how to think, not what to think."

PARCC sure does challenge students, but it doesn’t challenge them apply any real knowledge. PARCC does challenge students with difficult questions, strangely worded responses, new technology that requires our youngest students to manipulate words and equations they’ve never done before. Ask any of the parents who have attended one of the “Take the PARCC” events happening around the state, and they will echo the same. Listen to this video from Delran's "Take the PARCC" event

As far as those “critical thinking skills…” This is one of my favorite arguments because I chuckle to myself every time someone throws out “the Common Core and PARCC make students think critically.” This argument is phrased in a way that suggests no one ever taught/did any sort of critical thinking. So yes, if you are any of the millions of people who graduated before the implementation of the Common Core State Standards and PARCC tests, you clearly have no ability to think critically. How are we ever going to make advances in society when you’ve all been failures up to this point?

I will once again reference FairTest for a hint into their reasoning on this issue:
Are standardized tests fair and helpful evaluation tools?
Not really. On standardized exams, all test takers answer the same questions under the same conditions, usually in multiple-choice format. Such tests reward quick answers to superficial questions. They do not measure the ability to think deeply or creatively in any field. Their use encourages a narrowed curriculum, outdated methods of instruction, and harmful practices such as grade retention and tracking.
"It's no surprise that kids don't like tests, not just PARCC, any tests - the anticipation, the self-doubt, the margin for error. Transitioning to a new test will be challenging, but as parents, we need to not breed fear in our children by being fearful ourselves in the face of uncertainty. Instead I see this transition to PARCC as an opportunity to better support my child."

Transition and change are a part of life. But transition and change under the pressure of high-stakes is not how it should be done. I am personally against the Common Core State Standards and PARCC (no secret there), but the least we could have done while implementing these changes is have no high-stakes attachment during the transition process. To the point about fear: no parent who is arguing against this is giving into fear or breeding fear in their children - in reality, they are doing the exact opposite. Parents are taking a stance against these reforms that they know will only harm their children and are fighting to protect their kids and their education. There is nothing fearful in that - that is heroic. And those same parents are setting the best examples for their children by showing them you stand up for what you believe in, you fight for what you believe in, and you never let anyone tell you otherwise. That is why there will be a refusal movement in New Jersey - because those heroic parents aren’t giving into any “fear” of change; they are fighting for change they believe in.

"I was pleasantly surprised when the principal has two students sit with each parent and help them work through the problems that were presented. The students easily handled the computer and worked through the answers. When asked how they felt about PARCC, both sets of students said they liked having the tests computerized, feeling it was more user-friendly."

Of course there are going to be some students who like using the computers, but there is a whole other side to this conversation. Maybe some kids are "great with computers" - there will always be some who excel with certain changes but there are a lot of students - like in our more urban districts - who will first be exposed to extensive time on a computer to take the PARCC test. Some don't have computers at home and don't have the exposure to technology that students in more affluent districts do, and therefore lack that "technology fluency" that I think many are too quick to assume that *all* students have. Computers or computer labs in schools and in the school libraries are now dedicated to testing and taken away from students. Rather than getting to learn useful technology skills, many kids - who don't get to regularly use computers - are solely focused on test prep like learning how to drag and drop to understand the interface of the PARCC test. And that's not even discussing the issues around students with disabilities. Again, I just think many are too quick to assume technology fluency. If the students are struggling with the computers/whatever technology the individual district has chosen to use, then the actual performance on the test is compromised in that students aren't focused on the questions themselves but how to input the answers/navigate the system. I am lucky to be surrounded by tons of technology and I struggled with the layout of the practice PARCC exam - parents felt the same. Watch the video from Delran's Take the PARCC and listen to those parents speak. The revolution against high-stakes standardized testing such as PARCC is in the hands of the parents. Take hold of what you think is best for your child, their peers, their schools, and their education.



Sunday, January 11, 2015

A Future Teacher's Fears: And Why They Don't Stop Me

I have been on winter break for the past month, but I’m gearing up to go back to school in another few weeks. I’ve ordered my textbooks, began communicating with professors, and mainly started preparing myself mentally to get back into a college-schedule (I have a 6-week break, which is part incredible/part problem because I rarely change out of my pajamas). While I’ve been working independently almost the whole break (because I am an adult trapped in a teenager’s body!), I have taken a lot of time to reflect on college, student-activism, and what lay ahead (reminder: I will be entering my fourth semester/ spring semester of sophomore year, of a 5-year Masters program).

I was reading through some old posts I had written, and decided I wanted to condense them into one post with some new thoughts - as I wrote these last summer, and a LOT has changed in the ed-universe since then - in reflection on last semester/in preparation for a new semester.

I love and I hate being a college student. I love it because of the freedoms I have, but I hate it because I am so ready to get into the classroom (I know, I know, college are the best years of your life, enjoy them while you can, blah blah).

But in all honesty, I want to get into the classroom now because I don’t know what my classroom is going to look like in five years - and in all honesty, I fear what my classroom is going to look like in five years. I don’t know what my student teaching classroom is going to look like in even two or three years. I don’t even know what my field placement classroom is going to look like this spring semester with the upcoming PARCC testing in March and May. I can’t imagine myself doing anything other than teaching, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not scared of becoming a teacher.

That doesn’t mean that I’m not scared of being a part of an education system morphing into something that I don’t believe in - and in many ways, already something I don’t believe in.

That doesn’t mean that I’m not scared of being let go because I’m an active student with a voice (and we all know that isn’t going to stop once I’m a teacher).

That doesn’t mean that I’m not scared of being let go because, as an aspiring urban education teacher, my students’ test scores may be lower than the state desires them to be (while continuing to ignore the outside factors that play a much greater role in the equation here). For example, read a report from Bruce Baker on Student Growth Percentiles:

“Teachers in high poverty schools are dealing with children who have initially lower performance as defined by their test scores. Based upon this measure, they will have lower SGP’s, and now we begin the reform process of telling the narrative that these teachers are failing their students and must be replaced with new Teach for America grads who will be sure to magically turn things around and get those scores up!

“There are three ways the state plans to use SGP’s: rating schools for interventions, employment decisions, and evaluating teacher preparation institutions such as colleges and universities. In all of these cases, the use of SGP’s is inappropriate. SGP’s are not designed to determine a teacher’s or a school’s effect on test scores; again, they are descriptive, not causal, measures. Further, the bias patterns found in SGP’s provide a disincentive for teachers to teach in schools with large number of low-income students.”

Pursuing a policy of dismissing or ‘detenuring’ at a higher rate, teachers in high poverty schools because of their lower growth percentiles, would be misguided. Doing so would create more instability and disruption in settings already disadvantaged, and may significantly reduce the likelihood that these schools could then recruit “better” teachers as replacements.

These fears are real, and I imagine many of my fellow-future teachers are feeling the same way. But I wouldn’t be really committed to this profession, to my students, and to teaching if I didn’t have any fears: I wouldn’t have anything to work on and work towards changing; I wouldn’t have anything to strive for; I wouldn’t have anything to better myself in; and I wouldn’t have anything pushing me to better the profession.

But I truly believe that, despite my fears, nothing can stop me. Nothing can stop me from advocating for what I believe is in the best interest of my students. Nothing can stop me from fighting for a better system that I imagine myself being a part of. And I also truly believe that if all my fellow-future teachers banded together - especially in partnership with current educators - nothing could stop us from taking back the profession we love, the vision we have for what education should and can be, and resolving our fears of what lay ahead for many of us.

To me, first and foremost, it is crucial that we (*and by “we” I mean future teachers in conjunction with our mentors and current teachers*) become familiar with what is going on - every single reform is going to impact us, from our students to our students’ parents to other teachers to the communities teach in. At the end of the day, we are in this for education, and in it for the students. But, it is impossible to *completely* close the door to the policies/politics/reforms happening in education. Though the happenings in Trenton, Washington, D.C., etc. may seem so far removed from the actual classroom, everything that happens in those places - the meetings, the laws written, the policies implemented - can be traced right back to the individual classroom and the individual student. Common Core, PARCC, changes to teacher evaluations may seem to have come from some evil monster far away in an unknown place, but at the end of the day it is our classrooms and our students being impacted by these changes. That is why it is our duty to fight back. That is why we must involve in grassroots organizing, where resistance and change happen from the bottom up - from the individual classrooms all the way to the people far away (and far removed from the classroom, in many cases) in places like Trenton and Washington, D.C. We must let go of our fears.

We must go beyond just becoming familiar - being an informed and active teacher and member of society require doing independent research on the history of American education, the history of the reform movement, the current reform movement, and reading education scholars and philosophers. There are so many amazing books out there to read, and with the internet one can research almost any topic in education history or reform that is of interest (I suggest *starting* with Diane Ravitch’s “Reign of Error” for future teachers). We must let go of our fears.

We must - and I stress must - take the opportunities we have as a college students and run with it, as being in college provides a lot of freedoms. I have always said that I am in a strange, yet amazing in-between stage in my life, having recently graduated from a public K-12 school system, involved in education, yet not teaching. We must go even farther beyond that independent research and experience all that is happening first hand by going to local board meetings, attending legislative hearings in Trenton, meeting with legislators, and getting involved in student organizations focused around education. Those policy makers that seem so far, far away really aren’t, especially for my fellow TCNJ students - they’re actually about a 15 minute drive away. We must let go of our fears.

I think it’s so important that we all take the time and reflect, as I’m trying to do here, and to think about what kind of teacher we want to be - education is political, especially in today’s environment, and there is no denying that. We are entering a profession that is under attack from all sides. I always say to my fellow education majors/future teachers, “When someone asks you why you want to teach, saying that you want to be a fun teacher isn’t good enough; saying you want to make a difference is also not enough anymore. Tell people how you want to make a difference - and then do it. I want to teach my students about social justice and equity. I want to make change within my own classroom, within the community I teach in, and work to address the deep issues in society that impact the classroom such as poverty, income inequality, and children’s home lives.” Words are no longer enough; action is required of all of us, individually and collectively. We must let go of our fears.

At the end of the day, if teaching is our calling, then it is also out calling to get involved, be active, fight for what we believe in. Most importantly, we must never let anyone convince us not to go into education - we are the next generations of teachers. The opportunity to reclaim public education from philanthropists, big businesses, and reformers is right in front of us, and it is imperative that we do so. We are the next generation. The students of the future and the classrooms future are going to be in our hands. But they are only going to be in our hands if we recognize they are being pulled out of our hands, and we do everything it takes to gain back control. We must let go of our fears.


The teachers who stay in the profession have realized that they are in the fight of their life. Teachers can no longer do what they love, what they spent years being educated to do; they have to fight for their students, their parents, their colleagues, and their selves. They have to fight against the education reformers who have never been teachers but somehow are allowed to make policies that impact other people’s children while their children go to private school. They have to fight against democrats and republicans who take money from corporations hell bent on privatizing public education and treat education like it is zero-sum game. They have to fight against a society that expects teachers to make miracles happen every day but does not respect them, value them, or pay them enough to do it. If they want to stay in the classroom and make a difference they have to fight. Because if they do not fight then they will no longer love what they do.

We - the future public school teachers - must come together and educate one another on what is going on. We must band together collectively, in partnership with current public school teachers, parents, students, and community members, and reclaim our education system and our future profession.

And beyond this collective partnership, we must fight for ourselves. We must fight for our profession. We must fight for our future students.

To those of you reading this who are yet to enter the profession, really ask yourself: why YOU want to go into education. Why do YOU want to become a teacher?

Think long and hard about this. As I've said before: when someone asks us why we want to teach, saying that we want to be a *fun teacher* (whatever that is) isn’t good enough; saying we want to make a difference is also not enough anymore. As the future, it is now our job to tell people how we want to make a difference - and then we must do it. I want to teach my students about social justice and equity. I want to make change within my own classroom, within the community I teach in, and work to address the deep issues in society that impact the classroom such as poverty, income inequality, and systematic issues, etc. Words are no longer enough; action is required of all of us, individually and collectively. We can’t afford to let our fears stop us.

Current and future teachers must, must, must get involved, be active, fight for what we believe in, and most importantly never let anyone convince us future teachers not to go into education - we are the next generations of teachers.

Because, at the end of the day, we - the future teachers - currently have a voice that no one else has - we have nothing holding us back once we let go of our fears. We are obligated to take this opportunity and voice our opposition to the attacks on our profession. We are obligated to take this opportunity and voice our opposition to the reforms we know are not in the best interest of students, but rather only for those who can line their pockets off of our students backs.

For the future of the teaching profession, we cannot afford to have future teachers who are anything less than passionate, dedicated, and ready to fight.

Our fears must be what drive us to fight for a better tomorrow, and tomorrow we must also let go of our fears to achieve what is better.

So when we're sitting in class on the first day and a professor asks, "Why do you want to go into teaching?" please do me a favor (so I don’t lose my mind!) and rethink the response I want to be a fun teacher! Our future profession is under attack. We have to take the initiative to educate ourselves regarding the attack on public education, and then do something about it. Organize with our peers. Spread the message. Stand up. Fight back. And never - ever - let fear stop us.

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