teachers need to be more active in their unions. There needs to be a movement of ordinary teachers to challenge what we see, because we’re the ones who see it it happening in the classroom. I think we need to unite with parents and try to build a kind of social justice unionism that takes on not only questions of our working conditions, which are learning conditions, but also questions of curriculum and pedagogy. The group I’m a part of, the Grassroots Education Movement, gemnyc.org, is trying to do just that right here in New York. ---Brian Jones
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Selection from Brian:
BRIAN JONES: Well, to me, the students are cheated even before the test is taken. Look, the cheating, the real social cheating, happens in the way that the high-stakes standardized testing distorts school itself.================
Let me tell one story. I was doing a science experiment with a group of fourth graders. We were in the middle of a week-long science experiment, and we had—everyone had trays out on their tables, and they were pouring and mixing and investigating. We were having all kinds of rich discussions. And an administrator came in and said, "You have to stop what you’re doing right now," handed—put down a pile of workbooks and said, "You have to begin doing this right now." I begged her, in front of the students, "Please, let us just finish this experiment right now, in the next few minutes, and then we’ll do that." She said, "No, you have to put all this away right now and get working on the workbooks." So, the kids are cheated ahead of time. It teaches teachers to jump through these hoops, to not encourage critical thinking. It teaches all of us that knowledge is somewhere produced by Pearson or by one of these test companies, and you can’t create it, you can’t investigate it, you can’t do any of that. All you have to do is, more or less, remember it.
Here’s another way students are cheated. In elementary school, which I teach, we tend to go through genre studies. We take a genre of literature at a time and go through it. Well, now what more and more schools are doing is teaching the test itself as a genre—that is, studying the features of a test, as you would a novel, or as you would historical fiction or mysteries. You’re laughing, but this is very serious.
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