Failure Factories? – I Beg to Differ

Who is the real failure?

“Our students live in perpetual fear in the public schools. Fear from not eating enough, fear from being attacked on the way to school…Who’s worried about test scores? They don’t have time to worry about test scores because we’re not addressing the poverty and violence that literally populate their everyday lives.”  ~Dr. Yohuru Williams

Dr. Williams, associate vice president for academic affairs and professor of history at Fairfield University, gave a keynote address at the Call for Educational Justice Conference in New York City in November, 2015. In his speech, he discusses FDR and Dr. Martin Luther King’s vision for America and points out where we are falling short in public education.  He goes on to say, “They want to move the targets for our students and tell us this is what’s going to make them college and career ready…  See, the preamble to the constitution is pretty clear. We the People, not you the Ed Reformers, come in and dictate to We the People what our schools should look like. That’s why there were school boards, and they were locally elected. You guys remember those days? … Test scores aren’t the answer to solving our problems. Dealing with the poverty that impacts our schools is the answer to solving our problems. Fight for our schools. Those are our schools! This is the most important fight that we face in our historical moment. This is the most important fight that we face at this time… If we lose, then we bear the moral burden of having failed our youth by not being willing to stand up for what was right and just.  That’s just the truth.”

You can see Dr. Williams’ speech below.

As I watched this video, I couldn’t help but find correlations to the articles recently published by the Tampa Bay Times labeling five of our district’s public schools as “Failure Factories.”

Politicians, state leaders and the media seem to enjoy putting labels on our kids and schools. I have to ask. Who is the real failure? *HINT – It’s not the students, teachers, or even the schools.

I cannot help but think of these schools when I read this article as well, which points out the inequities in measuring teachers using standardized test scores.

It seems ridiculous and wasteful that Pinellas County Schools felt the need to hire a turnaround leader to get the standardized test scores up on these “so called under-performing” schools.  As if it was not shameful enough for the children in these schools to not be provided a good education; now, instead of getting a better education, they will be subjected to more test prep than children in other schools, just to boost the schools’ grades. Shameful!

Boosting the state-issued school grades of these schools by more test preparation is NOT the answer to improving the education of the children in these fragile communities. How are higher test scores to boost a school’s grade going to help these children?  They will not! All that is happening here is an effort  for the Pinellas County School System to be able to say that these schools are no longer considered “failure factories” by the media, the state, and the Federal Government. The USDOE, the FDOE, and state legislators need to take a good hard look at how purposeless and abusive these additional test prep programs are to minority and special needs students.  The needs of these children must be met with real answers, not just a turnaround leader who puts on pep rallies to get kids to score better on a test.

 “A thermometer never killed a fever”, says Seattle Teacher Jesse Hagopian who spoke in theTEDx Talk titled “More than a Score: giving students a solid chance” seen below.

You can stop these tests from being used in a manner that is abusive to children by opting out. Jeanette Deutermann, who heads the opt-out movement on Long Island gave this speech at an event sponsored by NYC Opt Out on March 4th, 2015. “What does it mean when you refuse the tests?”

Please refer to The Opt Out Florida Network for more information on how to opt out. Find your local opt out group and help put an end to this travesty. We have tried everything!  This is our last resort to get legislators to listen to us. Together we can, and will, be heard.  If a child has no score, they cannot use it to grade our schools or evaluate teachers.

Let this be our voice. Let yours be heard!

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