TO: New York State Education Department
CC: Board of Regents
To whom it may concern,
There is no need to stand on ceremony – below you will find a short list of grievances:
- Two days ago (June 13th, 2017) I proctored an exam for English as a New Language (ENL) students until 8:30 at night. They had been taking exams since 8:30 in the morning. I didn’t take common core math, but I still know that’s 12 hours of coloring in bubbles and completing other people’s idea of an authentic assessment. I say again: ENL students were taking paper-and-pen standardized tests for 12 hours straight, in a language other than their own, with graduation on the line (I’ve had, in the past, proctored from 8:30am until past midnight). If the students fail, they will be sentenced to another year of school. For perspective: if a parent were to homeschool their adult son or daughter, and forced them to sit and do an activity of the parent’s choosing for 12 to 16 hours, then made a decision whether or not that child could leave the house and go to college based on the outcome of this arbitrary assessment, then you would take the CPS call seriously. Consider this grievance my CPS call on you.
- Requiring students to take these tests fits the definition of bullying, that is, the use of superior power or influence to force someone to do something they don’t want to do. In the case of the latest Common Core English Regents, specifically Part 2 (the argument essay), students were prompted to agree or disagree with this statement: Should school recess be structured play? Students then had four texts to read and were instructed to use three out of four of these texts to support their position for or against structured play during recess. Three out of four of these texts were biased towards structured recess, and the text that supported unstructured recess was the shortest of the four. Students were bullied into taking this test, and pushed towards putting into writing that they’d prefer their only free time in the day to be commandeered by adults. Students are told what to do with their minds and their bodies all day long, with the exception of recess. Students have no opportunity to make decisions for themselves, not even to use the bathroom, without the leave of a teacher, and now they are being threatened with not graduating if they don’t write down, and cite with evidence, that they want even less control over their own destiny. This is the equivalent of an oversized bully pushing a smaller kid’s face in the dirt and threatening not to stop until they write, in blue or black ink and with proper citations, why this is for their own good.
I have a suggestion for the argument essay on next year’s English Regents: Is it ever ethical to break the rules? The infringement on individual sovereignty can only go so far and last for so long before the people eventually fight back, and I have the sense that this time is soon.
I also feel that it would take very little for students to win against you – one or two sets of five students or more will withdraw from school, form groups, put themselves through their own courses of study, and be accepted to any college a traditional High School graduate would be accepted, probably in less time and definitely with a better set of experiences. Once the community starts to see that this is possible, more students will withdraw, and your system will become unsustainable.
Please know that I write this with love in my heart.
National Board Certified Teacher, AYA/English Language Arts