In May of this year, more than 160 students in the South Bronx staged an insurrection by refusing to take a three-hour practice exam. Rather than submit themselves to yet another diagnostic test, the students turned in blank exams. As one of the eighth grade students put it, “The school system’s just treating us like test dummies for the companies that make the exams.”
Today on GRITtv we talk with teachers about why students are rebelling, what’s wrong with our public schools, and why they’re under-funded. Megan Behrent, an English teacher at Brooklyn New York Public High School, says that no child left behind has “flattened education to what can be testable.” A typical third grade class can expect to fill out 46 bubble tests a year. In such a climate it is increasingly difficult to teach kids to like books and literature. But that’s exactly what Behrent and our other panelists, Brian Jones a public elementary school teacher in Harlem and Martina Meijer, an elementary school teacher in the Bronx do day in and day out.
It’s not easy and attrition rates are high. And the federal government isn’t helping. This past weekend the National Education Association endorsed Barack Obama. But they criticized his support for merit pay, an often divisive policy that pits teachers against one another and encourages teaching to the test. They also made it clear that the problems public schools face go much deeper than money or books.
So school’s out—at lest for now. But the corporate model corrupting our public schools, a testing mandate, and crowded classrooms will all be back in the fall.