SILENT NO MORE: Why this Former Teacher Opted Out of the AzMerit
Those of us in the anti-Common Core/AzMerit/High Stakes testing movement have long explained why teachers don't speak out against the insane nationalization of our K-12 Education System. Mostly, it's because they don't want to risk losing their jobs. Even former teachers don't speak out, for fear they will never work again in the public school system. Ms. Debra Jo Borden, a former Arizona teacher, bravely went public in late April 2016 . She is silent no more about the gagging of teachers, AzMerit, the data mining and psychoanalysis of our children, and much more. Please read what she has to say:
1) I disagree with the contracts teachers are required to sign that force them to remain silent.
2) I can be brave and I will speak up.
If you've ever been a teacher in this country, you will know that a teaching contract actually takes away your right to speak up about your opinions regarding educational laws and political choices that influence education. When you sign a contract you have the impression that you will lose your job if you EVER cross this line, so you train your self to be tight lipped about the way you feel.
THE DAMAGE OF BEING SILENCED
You know what? This is wrong and it's extremely damaging to individuals. It also creates a negative environment to work in that stifles creativity and expression. The damaging effects of this restriction is actually something that lasts in your life far longer than the last day you have a teaching contract. For me, the damage has lasted for 7 years.
Now don't get me wrong - I can definitely understand the importance of being neutral in the classroom so the children can formulate their own opinions, and to allow them to skip out on controversy when they need to focus on reading, writing, & arithmetic. But to force an adult to remain silent in staff meetings and in the community on issues that are closest to their heart is detrimental not only to these amazing educators as individuals, but it's detrimental to our educational system. The way I see it is that differing opinions can tug and pull to find a happy middle ground that can benefit everyone. The way it works now is that instead of having the tug and pull of differing opinions of individuals who are IN THE TRENCHES of education, they are SILENCED and instead, all of the decisions are spoken about & influenced by outside sources who are not involved in the daily effects & consequences of all the political decisions that rule the classroom.
I also have seen from experience that not everyone completely follows this rule to remain silent - especially not in staff meetings, and especially not as union members. Typically I have seen that people who agree with the political ties affiliated with educational change will speak up of their approval, and I have also seen them to paint individuals who might disagree as "haters of education". Politically this usually translates into - "if you vote for Democrats, we like you, if you vote for Republicans you must not care about children". In the classroom setting you must tow the line very carefully. In the classroom setting all of this contractual business translates into, "if you promote liberal ideology that's okay, but if you hint at conservative/moral principles, you'd better watch out." For example, in a social studies lesson a long time ago, a student asked me if abortion was the same as miscarriage and I responded, "Miscarriage happens naturally, but abortion is a choice." I got called into the principal's office over this - a parent complained - apparently not everyone views this topic that way. I've never forgotten that because it made me feel like in the classroom you're not even allowed to give clear definitions - and THAT is insane.
SILENT NO MORE
As a Conservative Republican and LOVER of EDUCATION, I am going to "fly my freak flag" & explain why I chose to "Opt Out" of the Az Merit.
I am not against Standardized Testing. I am against the data-mining that is allowed for psychoanalysis of our children. I am against the way this test allows personal information to be stored on our children & sold to third parties, but that everything is hush-hush if the parents want to know. This data mining of information on our children means that the test results can be used FOR OR AGAINST them for any reason under the sun at any time of their life.
No, I'm not crazy.
No, I don't hate children or education.
As much as I believe that Big Brother needs to get out of my life, and as much as I wanted to stand up for this, I have to say that I was very scared to do so. I was more afraid to face my peers than I ever have been in my life. I was afraid to stand up for what I believed and opt out of this test because I didn't want my colleagues to demonize me as a hater of education. There are so many people I respect who have different opinions than I do, and I was afraid of what they would think of me. So to ease this conflict, I stifled my feelings and I put my son on the bus on the 1st day of the AZ Merit testing. My friend Laurie, who was also conflicted about the test was going to send her son to school also, and we were texting back and forth. As I watched him get on the bus and as I thought about the reasons I was choosing to do what everyone else was doing and ignoring what I believed about this test, I thought, "Am I choosing the easier wrong instead of the harder right?" In my heart, I knew that the answer was yes - for me and my family and what I knew about this test and for the cowardly reasons of not wanting to face my peers with my true opinion, the answer was yes. I rethought my decision and was going to go down to the school to pick my son up, but by the time I called it was too late to pull him out on that first day of testing.
My friend Laurie was super brave. She was the first one in the history of the public school our kids attend to ever stand up against the AZ Merit. Unfortunately she received a lot of heat for her decision - including a grueling 45-minute conversation with the principal. I'm proud of her, because she forged the path, and she made it easier for me to stand up for what I believed in. After some things my son said when he came home from the testing I knew I couldn't do that again, and after the feeling I had when I sent him, I knew I needed to stand up for what I believed in. So I wrote a letter to the principal, and even though I knew what I needed to do, I had a really hard time taking this stand.
I probably stared at the send button for about an hour and a half before I chose to send it. Not kidding.
"Hi (Principals' Name)!
I have been conflicted about the AzMerit Test. I am not against standardized testing, and I recognize the need to have a benchmark standard & assessment. I have even viewed the sample questions and am fully aware that the content of the test is grade level appropriate and in line with what the kids have been learning at school. However, I am not happy with the way our children's constitutional rights & privacy are being ignored with this test.
There are many statements by those who created the test that my husband and I both find worrisome. They talk about data-mining with the test results--storing the results for years and allowing outside companies access to our children's information even though parents are not allowed access to their answers. By executive order, some of the data that is allowed to be stored can include hand writing samples and other bio-metric information of our children. They can even perform psychoanalysis on the test results for whatever reason they so choose. I feel that the government has absolutely overstepped their bounds in respect to their control of the educational system, the rights of our children, and the rights of the parents.
On Tuesday, I almost did not send Tyson to school, but I put him on the bus anyway. In the following half hour I was rethinking my decision & planned to come pick him up from school to opt out of the test. When I called the school shortly after 9am, however, I found out the test was already being administered, so I chose to not make a ruckus.
When he got home from school, I asked him how the day went. I also asked him about the test. I asked him if he was asked to write on a controversial topic or just a normal topic. He gave me vague details, and it sounded like an age-appropriate/grade level sort of writing exercise. But then he said, "We should be careful about talking about the test, because one of us could get arrested."
I wondered why he would have that impression.
I know impressions like that don't come from either you or (his teacher). (She) is one of the most supportive teachers of parents & family that I've ever encountered. She's been amazing. (She also provided the website for the sample questions, which I appreciated.) I've also seen you in action as the Principal in meetings, at events, & assemblies and know you exemplify quality character for my kids to see, which I absolutely appreciate.
The impression my son got that he's not allowed to talk to his parents about what happens at school came from whatever he was told in the testing instructions. We discussed the importance of not talking to friends about test information because that's called cheating & it's wrong. But at the end of the day, no matter what happens at school - a test, an interaction, a lesson, whatever it may be - if a child feels like they aren't allowed to talk to their parents about it, it's overstepping the boundaries & purpose of the educational system. It's wrong, and we don't need to be a part of it.
With all of that being said, Tyson told me that he has to pass the Reading portion in order to move on to 4th grade, but I also heard the schools don't get the test results until after the next school year begins, so I need to know which of those is true. If Tyson doesn't take the Reading portion of the AzMerit, please let me know what other provisions are in place to ensure he will move on to 4th grade?
Lastly, please also let me or my husband know if we need to send Tyson to school to read in the front office or some other location while the testing happens or if he needs to just stay home.
Thank you so much!..."
To read more of Ms. Bordon's public statement, click HERE. To read more about other teachers who have spoken out, see below: