The Opt Out Orlando (OOO) Facebook membership climbs steadily as the message spreads across Florida! We welcome your participation in this exciting movement. And more importantly, we welcome this precious opportunity to share information and perspectives about public education. The new school year begins in just over two weeks. As district test schedules are released for the upcoming year, there is growing anxiety in our communities. Through Opt Out Florida, we are supporting parents in local districts, across the state, as they start their own opt out groups in order to push back against the onslaught of all the new testing to come. We are growing, so now is the time to clarify the purpose of OOO.
We fight for public schools.
Why? Because public schools are worth fighting for. One of the most crucial points – all too often neglected in mainstream discussions about education – is that public schools belong to the public. They belong to us. You and I, our neighbors, parents, grandparents – all of us – have paid for them. We sustain them with our tax dollars. For the last thirty years, an assault on this public institution has been waged, and the assault has come in the form of privatization.
So, what does the privatization of public schools mean to your children and you? It can be described in two ways:
- “…importing of ideas, techniques and practices from the private sector in order to make the public sector more like businesses and more business-like” (Ball & Youdell, 2008, p. 9).
- “…opening up of public education services to private sector participation on a for-profit basis and using the private sector to design, manage or deliver aspects of public education” (Ball & Youdell, 2008, p. 10).
Simply put, privatization means that our schools are being managed like businesses, our children are being used to create massive profits for businesses, and our tax dollars are being siphoned out of public schools and funneled straight into the pockets of the corporate, private elite.
All those things that parents, students, and teachers have come to despise about public schools… are the symptoms of corporate intrusion and privatization.
- Parents, teachers, and students are not making decisions about how and what children learn. Instead, the most important decisions are being made by corporations – curriculum, textbook, and testing corporations. These wealthy business owners and CEOs are closely linked to governors and politicians. Our state and federal government leaders in both parties have strong financial ties to education profiteers.
- Untested subjects such as art, music, and social studies, are disappearing from the school day. Unstructured play, recess, centers time for young children, and joyful learning are disappearing from the school day. Our children are served a steady diet of test prep and testing, for as many as 90 out of the 180 school days in a year (read a principal’s account as he speaks out here and here). They are left with a narrowed, mundane curriculum. This dampens their motivation and kills the joy of discovery.
- Our children are tested nonstop. Vital decisions about their education are made from a single score, from one day, a score that comes from a test, that no one is allowed to see.
- Public schools are losing building space and vital resources to for-profit charter schools. English language learners and students with special needs are being denied access to those for-profit charter schools, which are funded with public money.
- Classroom teachers and students in colleges of education should be encouraged to use student-centered teaching practices or teacher-created assessments, such as portfolios, project-based assessments, and performance-based assessments. Research tells us that students learn in many different ways, including engagement and collaboration. The continued misuse and overuse of standardized testing works against what research tells us is best for children. It turns schools into test-prep centers, and limits student potential.
- Teachers are losing their power to protect healthy learning conditions inside schools. Corporations have teachers under constant attack, essentially forcing them to teach to the test. The power to negotiate fair wages and working conditions fit for teaching and learning is being jeopardized. Teacher pay and job security are now tied to children’s test scores, and a teacher’s right to due process has been whittled away to nothing. The loss of academic freedom and job protection guarantee that no teacher will be able to speak out against any wrongdoing in schools – without fear of losing their livelihood. This creates oppressive working conditions and is dangerous for our children.
The crushing impact of privatization rolls like a bulldozer over our students, their teachers and schools. And what fuels this destructive machine?
Your child’s test score is the fuel that drives the privatization machine. Poor scores mean that your child’s school may be closed, opening the door to for-profit charters to come in promising much and delivering little. A low score will harm your child far more than no score would. A high score guarantees more testing – more narrowing of curriculum.
The test in no way serves your child. It does nothing to help your child learn. It does nothing to help your child’s teacher to improve. It exists merely to assign a number to both of them. In this culture of toxic testing, your child and your child’s teacher become numbers. Nothing more.
Today, schools do not hesitate to tell parents that their child’s test score is valued and needed by the school. That’s right… Your child’s test score, not your child.
Unlike the corporate world, which sees our children as profitable, Opt Out Orlando sees all children as valuable, and valued. And because we believe that ALL children are valuable, we also believe that they and their individual gifts cannot be measured or demonstrated by a single test. We, therefore, seek an end to high-stakes testing and any policy that ties test scores to student, teacher, or school evaluation.
Opt Out Orlando advocates for multiple measures of authentic assessments that can be used to inform instruction, and which do not result in punitive consequences for students, teachers, and schools. We advocate for creative, nurturing, and supportive learning environments that can be supported and shaped by their communities. We value our teachers and their expertise, and we support our local education associations and unions because they support our teachers. Good working conditions for teachers are good learning environments for our children.
We opt out. We boycott state tests.
The single most important thing we can do to take back OUR public schools is to deny the data – the test score, the fuel.
Join us. Shut down the machine… Opt Out. OPT OUT.
Ball, S. J. & Youdell, D. (2008). Hidden Privatisation in Public Education. Brussels, Belgium: Education International. Retrieved from http://download.ei-ie.org/docs/IRISDocuments/Research%20Website%20Documents/2009-00034-01-E.pdf