Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Dear Joel Klein - Letters on Student Test Boycott

Thanks to Susan Ohanian for sending these letters along after putting a shout out on her web site. And don't forget to check out her new book.

Stephen Krashen writes: I have just received, and read, Ohanian's When Childhood Collides with NCLB. It is the kind of book that you read immediately, and easily. It provides an incredible amount of ammunition, at just the time we need it.

Hi Joel—

Thank god for principled teachers like Douglas Avella, who is teaching his students critical thinking. He is exactly the kind of teacher we need. And his students are the kind of students we need, who have seen through the farce that is the testing madness, and who know there are better ways to evaluate both individuals and programs.

Shame on everybody in your administration who discourages this kind of teaching and learning. Avella should be lauded as Teacher of the Year. You will be the laughing-stock of the country if you punish him in any way. Be a man; stand beside him to confront and resist the testing madness.

Susan Harman, Ed.D., CalCARE

Dear Chancellor Klein,

Rumor has it that the teacher, Doug Avella, whose students boycotted the test is about to be fired. If this is true, I would like to ask you to please reconsider. There are so many reasons to celebrate this teacher and the students in his class. Here is just one:

Hooray, they have broken the apathy barrier! Right or wrong (and weren't we there ourselves once?), right or wrong they have actually done something which will empower them for the rest of their lives. Will these students be among the 40 percent who do not vote? I bet not. Will they only look to others to take care of them? I doubt it. Will they go out into the world with excitement in their hearts and minds because they did something? Definitely.

Consider for a moment the course they may take if you fire this brave teacher. They will be given the message that it is not worth it to try. They may feel that peaceful resistance is ineffective. They may decide to let the achievement gap widen on their account to pay back a system which misunderstood and devalued them.

What do I know about this? I am the teacher who recently in Seattle refused to administer our state's test. Luckily, my district saw fit to only suspend me for two weeks. My place is in the classroom and so is your rebellious teacher's. Please show some wisdom and courage, and pay attention to your student's voices and the voices of concern from people who are supporting them and your teacher.


Carl Chew
6th grade science
Eckstein Middle School
Seattle, WA

Dear Chancellor Klein,

This is one educator who is proud of the direct action the students of the South Bronx Middle School. They see clearly that putting the cow on the scale AGAIN won't make them any smarter. The misuse of standardized tests are corrupting public education and THE only benefactor of testing is the test publishing companies.

It is sad to put the blame solely on their teacher. But even if he was the impetus for the idea, it was a good idea. However, as a professional educator, I know from first hand experience that middle schoolers aren't likely to be led in this action, but are much more likely to be the leaders. Perhaps they are tired of taking tests that do nothing but highlight their socio-economic status and fail to enhance the quality of their education in any way.

Perhaps when the leadership of the New York City schools recognize that schools aren't a worker delivery factory system, but rather a place of education to prepare students for participation in our democratic republic, then perhaps the requirements for teachers to commit educational malpractice will also cease.


Sean Michael Black, M.A., Ed.S.
Greeley, CO

Dear Joel Klein,

The fact that Douglas Avella from IS 318 may be fired for the decision made on the students' part to boycott the end of the year tests is unjustified and unconscionable. The fact is, the state and city of New York have mired these kids in an entanglement of testing that delves into the realm of sickening abuse. Twenty three standardized tests throughout the year, the loss of recesses, extra test practice time, the loss of physical activity in some cases, and the narrowing of the curriculum has created an educational nightmare for families. As an educational leader, you are supposed to lead the teaching community with CLARITY and WISDOM about what is BEST for kids learning, as they develop into creative human beings that will be adult citizens of this country. The broad stroke of NCLB, the collective pressure from profiteering test companies, and those who wish to privatize education has nearly destroyed our public school system. The fact is too many studies have shown that the NCL

But the law is NOT working, standardized tests do NOT improve learning, and that children, when faced with these test anxieties, have dramatic brain changes that block them from truly learning and RETAINING information. Those students at that school were tired of the testing and the military regimentation of the curriculum that they were facing. You need to realize this as these students were brave enough to say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. Do NOT fire this teacher for the actions of students in pain.

Joseph Lucido
Fresno, CA

Dear Chancellor Klein:

As a longtime middle school teacher, I applaud what happened at Intermediate School 318. When children of this age examine a problem and then organize to effect change, then we know that citizenship in a democracy is indeed alive and well. It is indeed gratifying to see students able to break out of the factory model for schooling and stand up for a good education. I would be proud to be their teacher. Our nation needs more teachers like Douglas Avella.


Susan Ohanian
Charlotte, VT

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I hope these writers will endeavor to place their incisive comments in larger media outlets, and that Douglas Avella will have access to these supportive words of praise and encouragement.