It’s already more than a week since I drove down to Fresno with 3 dynamic women to join the Freedom in Education meeting the father and son team of Rog and Joe Lucido had put together. Rog is a retired high school physics teacher. Joe is a middle school science lead teacher. A few years ago they founded an organization called Educators and Parents Against Testing Abuse. That group started the Cesar Chavez Education Conference at Fresno State University that I have been to twice. This time they were bringing together a small but dedicated group drawn from the larger conference and contacts that has led to. The 22 people in the room included retired and active college professors, high school, middle school, elementary and special ed teachers, and even a retired principal, Lynn Stoddard, who had come all the way from Utah to join us. While we represented a range of approaches and philosophies, what united us was our opposition to high stakes testing, and a desire to find ways to enlarge the effectiveness of our individual efforts.
Going round the table, hearing what each person had done (and why they were ready to spend a beautiful summer Saturday inside a conference room) was inspiring. Several people had risked their livelihood to speak up against practices they felt were harmful to children. Several belonged to groups I had never heard of that were working for change. Seeing each other face to face was a real plus.
We talked about what direct action meant to each of us, about how to listen to and involve parents and community members. From Rosemary Lee I learned that there is a hemispheric education organization doing work in these areas, the Tri-national Coalition for the Defense of Public Education, and that both Mexican and Canadian educators have gotten the ear of their policy makers with ideas that we could learn from!
I think I was most touched by a middle school teacher from the Tahoe area who was just getting her feet wet in being involved outside of her school community. The action she was thinking about was to use the TGIF get together her staff has away from school, to bring up some of her concerns in a low key way. She personified making gradual change that has long lasting consequences. I was probably most energized by Stephen Krashen, whose letter writing campaign is starting to bear fruit, with op eds and letters to the editor not only getting published (mine never have) but responded to online. What I can’t tell is if we can reach beyond the circle of the already convinced. Will AUGUST TO JUNE be a way to do that? I hope many of the ways presented in Fresno will be.
For more about getting active to eliminate high stakes testing, go to www.stopnationalstandards.com