Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Teachers and Parents of Puerto Rico Launch Historic Strike & Boycott Against Standardized Testing

Mercedes Martinez and the FMPR teacher union's resistance to privatization is the subject of this Jesse Hagopian piece. Ed Notes and ICEUFT has supported the FMPR for 10 years since their pullout from the AFT and their subsequent strike though Angel Gonzalez, who was one of the founders of the pre-cursor of GEM along with myself and John Lawhead. (Use the search box on the sidebar to read background pieces going back go 2008.) In recent years, MORE has been a big supporter of the FMPR.

Teachers and Parents of Puerto Rico Launch Historic Strike & Boycott Against Standardized Testing

Spread the word: “We want a just, equitable world for our children.”

Today, my third grade son is supposed to take the Common Core high-stakes test, “Smarter Balanced,” at his school here in Seattle. He decided, however, that he would rather do a research project about a leader who has helped to make the world better. So my wife and I are writing the opt out letter and letting our son know that he will be allowed to continue with real learning today about an issue he cares a lot about.
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I am going to suggest to him that for his project he research Mercedes Martinez, the president of the Teachers Federation of Puerto Rico (FMPR).

I conducted an extensive interview Mercedes that I will publish soon about her union’s massive struggle to defend the schools from an all-out neoliberal assault. The Financial Oversight and Management Board that was imposed on Puerto Rico by the United States has control of the island’s financial policy and is imposing disaster capitalist policies that are destroying working people’s lives and public schools. The austerity program that they are assaulting Puerto Rico with includes closing nearly 300 schools, laying off some 7,000 teachers, converting 10% of schools into privatized charters, and cutting public sector pensions.

Another part of the disaster capitalist approach to schooling has been to impose the same high-stakes standardized testing regime that we have in the mainland U.S. on the Puerto Rican education system.   High-stakes testing is being used to punish schools, students, and teachers. With teachers living in fear of the consequences low scores, they are forced to teach to the test, not the student, and it is causing a narrowing of the curriculum to what the corporate test makers believe is important to learn (For example, I don’t think the lessons of how to organize your community against corporate education reform will be on the next test). These tests are used as exit exams in high school and are denying thousands of students the chance to graduate. Perhaps worst of all, the testocracy has trained people to believe that wisdom is the ability to eliminate wrong answer choices on a multiple choice exam, rather than to be creative, empathize, or solve real life problems.

But a mighty movement of parents, students, and teachers has risen up to boycott and opt out of these tests as a way to reclaim public education and fight for authentic forms of assessment.

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