Ryan Wherley: Wisconsin cannot afford apathy, excuses, or more Walker. Vote Burke Nov. 4

My friend and frequent MoD contibutor Ryan Wherley has an important message for Wisconsinites:  VOTE.

With the final Marquette poll prior to Tuesday's upcoming election having been released and Walker showing his largest lead of the past several months, things aren't looking so hot for Mary Burke. But we can win if we just turn out and vote. And for those of you who despise Walker but say you'd rather sit out this election because you're just too apathetic and think it won't make a difference, or dislike both Walker and Burke, or refuse to cave on your idealistic litmus test of what makes a candidate worthy of your vote because you say that you're done voting for the "lesser of two evils," please spare me the whiny bullshit.

Try spending a day in my job talking with the people in Wisconsin who are struggling and receiving public assistance, most of them working, many of them toiling at or near the $7.25/hour.minimum wage that the GovernEr refuses to raise, because in his words the minimum wage "doesn't really serve a purpose." Many of them are young adults, or children, or elderly, or disabled. Some have had their unemployment insurance benefits cut, or have seen their FoodShare allotments slashed and burned because of callous, political decisions by our ideologue GovernEr. My *favorite* of his recent unconscionable decisions was his move to turn down a $54 to $1 return on investment from the feds by declining to increase energy assistance payments to needy families this winter, ending Wisconsin's participation in the "Heat and Eat" program and costing some individuals more than $100/month in reduced FoodShare, solely for Walker to score political points with his extremist-right wing base.
image courtesy Citizen Action of Wisconsin

Better yet, I'd like you to have to break the news to someone that they're losing their BadgerCare or ineligible upon application because we verified that they make 100.2% of the Federal Poverty Level. I've done it. In person. Over-the-phone. While processing documents with only myself and my computer around. It's terrible, it's heartbreaking, and I feel sick to my stomach every time. I'd like you to explain it to them without politicizing it, when you can literally feel their disappointment, fear, panic and desperation upon learning they no longer have health insurance. We know that virtually every person kicked off of or kept off of BadgerCare because their income is between 100 and 138%, has Scotty to thank for being without health insurance as a result of his cold, heartless decision to reject billions of dollars in federal taxpayer money for the Medicaid expansion. Mary Burke would take that money, covering tens of thousands more adults with affordable health insurance, saving our state hundreds of millions of dollars a year, creating thousands of jobs, and undoubtedly saving lives.

I go to work every single day and deal with the reality that there is a MAJOR difference between a fascist sociopath like Walker who drops off truckloads of flaming brown bags of bullshit on every doorstep, park bench, couch and street corner every morning for the poor in our state...and Mary Burke, who has actually worked to help those in need in her lifetime and would make decisions that would save lives, prevent hunger, and protect the health of individuals and families across our state.

So the next time you think to yourself that it doesn't matter who wins next Tuesday because there's no difference between Scott Walker and Mary Burke, think again. Try to view the world through an empathetic lens, and put yourself in the shoes of the poverty-stricken, working poor, unemployed, disabled, elderly and children in our state. It's clear that the two major candidates couldn't be further apart.

VOTE for Mary Burke. No excuses. VOTE. It's only Wisconsin's future on the line. VOTE. Because I can't fathom how we'll get through four more years of Fitzwalkerstan if Democrats, socialists, liberals, progressives, and independent anti-Walker moderates stay home. VOTE. NOVEMBER 4th. Forever FORWARD.

Editor's note: Polls are open from 7am to 8pm on Election Day, Nov. 4.  In-person absentee voting continues through Oct. 31 at your local clerk's office.  Click here to register, see a sample ballot, and find your polling place: https://myvote.wi.gov/.

Voting for Mary Burke isn't the only way to support Wisconsin families.
Do you think Wisconsin should accept available federal funds for BadgerCare?  If you live in the City of Kenosha or the following counties: Dane, Milwaukee, Eau Claire, La  Crosse, Outagamie, Jefferson, Rock, Wood, Portage, Oneida, Dunn, Chippewa, St Croix, Lincoln, Bayfield, Douglas, Clark, Iron, & Florence you can vote directly on Nov 4th!

Mary Burke sold home to help struggling families: the difference is clear

The following letter appeared in the Sun Prairie Star last week.  Every single person in Wisconsin needs to read it. 

If you're looking to put your finger on the difference between Mary Burke and Scott Walker, you can find it right here:

​I have worked with or known Mary Burke for 28 years.  I am also a 25 year resident of Sun Prairie.  Friends and family often ask me questions about Mary.  They wonder if I think she would make a good Governor.

They wonder why she is running.  They simply want to better understand exactly who she is.

In early 2011, I read a brief article that said Mary Burke donated $450,000 to build apartment homes for struggling families.  I happened to see Mary a short time later and asked her about this.  She said that someone told her about this project to build housing for families that needed help getting back on their feet.  She heard that the funding ran dry and that the project was being cut.

She said her current home was much bigger than she needed and decided to downsize her house and give the excess equity to this organization.

I recall her saying, “What’s better, me with a house much bigger than I need, or eight families with homes and an opportunity to get ahead?” She said this like it was a decision anyone would make.

There are many other similar stories that I could share.  I think this story says a lot about how Mary Burke lives her life.

Mary has a history of identifying a problem that she is passionate about and then doing something about it.  She simply has never sat back and said, oh here is a problem, I really hope someone does something about it.

So when people ask me if I think she will make a good Governor, I say no…I think she will be an exceptional Governor.
                                                                    - Mike Hietpas, Town of Bristol​
Mary Burke is a unique candidate.  Unlike Walker, she's not a career politician, but she is a career change-maker.  She has a long resume of innovative projects she's started that make huge impacts on local communities and create jobs.  She has an advanced degree from Harvard Business School AND real-world business experience.  Walker, who didn't even graduate from college, has no "real world" business experience beyond his youthful employment at McDonald's - his entire career has been motivated by political ambition.

Mary Burke cares about Wisconsin.  She cares about people.  
Scott Walker cares about his political future.

Mary Burke sold her home to help people less fortunate than she is.

Scott Walker sold out the hard working taxpayers of this state to promote a narrow political agenda.  

Mary Burke worked in the real world, made real money, and put that money to great use helping others.

Scott Walker has worked in the public sector his whole career and jokes about making "real money" while Wisconsinites continue to struggle under his massive cuts, crony tax breaks, and refusals to accept - or even apply for - federal funds paid for by the hardworking taxpayers of this state.
Who do you want leading this state?

The choice is clear. 

And the polls are open 7am-8pm on November 4.  In-person absentee voting continues until Oct. 31 at your local clerk's office.

From Capitol Square to Grassroots Circles: Democracy in a Box

#turnoutforwhat #WIready Photo: WI AFL-CIO
Dear friends,

I keep hearing the same concern from people I talk to: that people who were so outraged in 2011 over Scott Walker's bait-and-switch won't show up to vote. 

I'm more optimistic.  I have great faith in the power of grassroots movements that have been building momentum since 2011 and directing their efforts into all sorts of productive and progressive projects.

I'm optimistic because I know these people.

And they haven't gone anywhere.  They've been working hard this whole time.  And they'll be there to vote on Nov. 4.  They're already proving it.

Our struggle to protect our rights, our schools, our environment, our communities might have moved from the spotlight surrounding the Capitol square to the kitchen tables around the state, but the struggle did not end with the recall.  It was channeled into lasting connections and organizations that have been working locally to enact real change. It was channeled into running for local offices, attending school board and city council meetings, starting local watchdog groups and civic organizations to put a local focus on issues that impact all of us. It was channeled into being vigilant and forming networks that make it more and more difficult to blindside people who trust those in power to look out for the interests of the common good.

So if you need to get reinspired or remind yourself why this election matters so much, I encourage you to revisit these stories, from real, regular people all over the state who shared their stories of why they worked so hard to protect the communities they love so much:

Of all my blog posts, this is hands-down my favorite and the most meaningful (even moreso than the letter to Brian Williams). I am so thankful to all who opened up their worlds for us to see, and share these deeply touching stories of where their concerns and motivation came from.  May your stories continue to inspire, and may your work continue to impact the lives of your communities.

I'll see you at the ballot box. And I'll see you where you live: rooted firmly to the grassroots actions that move things forward.

In solidarity,

 "Everything I did to be able to carry that box, I did for the future of my children."
- Sarah Hammer

"The box was justice. It was not the final chapter of justice, but the beginning of the end of a long battle that while some have become weary, some have given up,
has continued to become stronger as each day went on."
- Mike Tapia

"The whole process for me was a journey of love. Love for my State, love for my neighbors, love for the poor and love for volunteers all over the State that I have come to know as family. The journey took me to communities all over my County where I met people I never knew existed. I found I had courage to stand up to huge men who put my volunteers down, I found I had strength when my involvement was put down in our local papers, I found I had unceasing support from my family.
I discovered many amazing things about myself on this journey. I discovered that I am Wisconsin and as long as each one of us comes together to fight for what we believe in, apathy has no life. I found that one person can educate many and many people can educate the world.
- Robin Transo

The Governor's Baldspot: Has the Blame Game finally gone too far?

Scott Walker has been playing the blame game forever - most notably in blaming former governor Jim Doyle and/or President Obama for everything that happened, ever, either before, during, or after he took office.

But his latest, most bizarre claim, might be the tipping point for Wisconsinites who've had enough of his failure to take responsibility for his administration's many failures.

And it's all about The Baldspot.

Apparently, the governor is so insecure about this that he felt strangely compelled to compensate for it by drawing attention to its dominant appearance in the cartoons of Phil Hands.  However, rather than laugh it off in a self-depreciating way, as he apparently intended, Walker instinctively launched into an elaborate story about how the bald spot isn't his fault:
The bald spot, he said, was the result of a repair incident in the kitchen when he banged his head on an open kitchen cabinet door while making repairs requested by his wife, Tonette.
She kept telling him to go to the doctor to get the scar on his head looked at, he said. When he finally did, the doctor said his hair would never grow back in that spot, the governor explained.
Tonette still points to the bald spot as a reminder that he should always listen to his wife, he said.
Now, first of all, WHO CARES IF HE IS BALDING?!  Why are even talking about this totally inconsequential matter when half a million Wisconsinites are uninsured, our state is dead last in jobs growth, our public education system is under direct attack, and hundreds of thousands of families are barely making ends meet?

And yet...I can't help but fixate on this moment - not because I care about The Baldspot, but because I can't help but wonder:

How pathological a liar do you have to be to blame a cabinet,
and, in a passive-aggressive way, your wife - for your bald spot?  

If she hadn't made him fix that cabinet, he could be Fabio right now.  Or at least Paul Ryan.

And in case you're giving the Governor the benefit of the doubt here, I present Exhibit A:
The Baldspot

Blaming a cabinet - and by extension his wife for making him fix it - for this um, "scar," is outrageous.

But it's par for the course in Walker's blame game.

Governor Walker blames a cabinet for his bald spot like he blames workers for not being "skilled enough" to have jobs.  When the myth of the "skills gap" has been disproven time and time again.

Like he blames teachers for the failings of underfunded schools.  When his cuts to public education are the largest in history.

Like he blames students in poverty for not "performing" and says the only solution is to privatize public schools.  When his demands for "accountability" prevent educators from focusing on the students who need the most help, and his voucher expansion is destroying the very fabric of the social contract that provides an equal playing ground for all Wisconsinites.

Like he blames the uninsured and underemployed for not being enterprising enough to get "good jobs" that pay a living wage. When he laughs about the $144K salary he earns as governor not being "real money" and insists that the minimum wage "doesn't serve a purpose."  And the insurance companies who contributed to his campaign are seeing massive paybacks from his decision to reject OUR federal taxdollars in Medicaid funds to keep people off BadgerCare.

Scott Walker is not new to the blame game.  It comes very naturally to him.

But when you blame a cabinet for your bald spot, people have to stop to wonder.

If we can't trust him to be honest about such a trivial matter, how can we trust him on anything?
The short answer is: we don't.

At least half of us, who've been paying close attention for the past 4 years, have been calling out the governor's fabrications all along.  Even on the right-leaning Politifact, 68% of his statements that have been put to the test have not passed the lie-detector.  And yet: the governor's success in "dividing and conquering" this state during an already divisive national political climate has been enormous: people on Team Walker are now assumed to be so firmly entrenched in their belief in him that they won't question any of his prevarications.

But maybe, just maybe, a little white lie will be big enough to wake up "the believers" and plant some seeds of doubt.  And maybe, just maybe, people who haven't been paying much attention - or who've been dismissing the he said/she said as more partisan bickering will start to see the light. 

It's a matter of principle.

And Wisconsin deserves better.

What Democracy Looks Like: An Open Letter to JB Van Hollen

When the US Supreme Court ruled last night to block Wisconsin's Voter ID law from being implemented for the Nov. 4 election, I was thrilled.  My initial response was to thank the ACLU of Wisconsin for the work they do to advocate for voter rights and civil liberties for all. As an election official, I had thought this battle was lost and was so dreading the chaos and confusion of the November 4 election - and especially dreading knowing we'd be turning eligible voters away from the polls and effectively disenfranchising them from the right to vote. I was also excited that this decision has the power to restore some faith in the system and encourage people to really wake up to how important it is to exercise their right to vote.
Then I read this from Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen:
"I believe the voter ID law is constitutional, and nothing in the Court's order suggests otherwise. Instead, the Court may have been concerned that even with the extraordinary efforts of the clerks, absentee ballots that were distributed before the 7th Circuit declared the law valid might not be counted.
We will be exploring alternatives to address the Court's concern and have voter ID on election day."
I called Mr. Van Hollen's office (608 266-1221) first thing this morning, to ask a few questions about what he meant by "alternatives" (and how much that would cost us) and to beg him to respect the SCOTUS ruling.  And guess what?

J.B. Van Hollen - and the office of the Department of Justice - is not exactly "open" to the public.

Despite the fact that I was civil and very polite, I was treated with extreme rudeness and hostility by the person who answered the phone.  Worse, she never recorded my name or concerns and I was informed that the ONLY way I could get any of my questions answered would be to send a fax or snail mail request, in writing. They "don't have a public email" and won't answer any questions over the phone. 

So I wrote a letter.  And I call on you to do the same.  Feel free to copy/paste what you want, and let the Attorney General know that tampering with an election that is already in process (and has been in process since before the initial ruling - ballots had already been printed and mailed), is undemocratic and unacceptable.  You'll find his contact info below.

Office "policies" like this are intended to limit or stifle public input - a wholly undemocratic move - just like practices like Voter ID are intended to limit or stifle voting by specific groups of people.  That's not what democracy looks like.

Don't let them silence your voice.
Don't let them stop you from voting.

Let Mr. Van Hollen know what you think today.  And let the whole world know what you think on November 4.  Show them what democracy looks like.

Wisconsin Attorney General
PO Box 7857
Madison, WI 53707-7857
FAX: (608) 267-2779
10 October 2014

Dear Mr. Van Hollen:

As an election inspector and taxpayer, I was greatly relieved by the Supreme Court’s intervention into the Wisconsin Voter ID implementation and applauded their decision last night to block the law prior to the pending Nov. 4, 2014 election. 
Given the impossibly unrealistic timeline and prohibitive costs of notifying voters of the change to the law, it is obvious that implementation at this late stage (with no allocation of resources or a solid media campaign to educate voters) would effectively disenfranchise untold thousands of eligible voters on Election Day.  I have already seen for myself the impacts this law has had on our most vulnerable voting population – homebound seniors – and with 20% of the public unaware of the change, it was inevitable that we’d be turning voters away on Election Day.

Whether or not the law is overturned in the long-run, this decision means that these voters will have the opportunity to exercise their legal right to vote, and we will have ample time to educate the public for the next election if the law is ultimately upheld.

Needless to say, I was shocked and appalled when I read this morning that you intend to “explore alternatives” that would allow you to implement this law on November 4, and I ask you to please provide, immediately, and in writing, an explanation of what exactly you intend to do and what the cost and impact will be on Wisconsin voters and election officials and how you think it reasonable to tamper yet again with an election already in process.

I call on you to respect the decision of the highest court in the land and desist your efforts to find a way to implement this unrealistic requirement whose constitutionality is still in question nationwide and whose implementation on November 4th would be catastrophic for both those of us who work the polls and those eligible voters who will be turned away on election day because the politics of the few stood in the way of their right to vote.

I would also like to add that when I called your office today to get clarification on your statement and your plans, I was treated so rudely that I wondered for a moment if I’d actually called the Department of Justice – certainly no one on the public payroll should be allowed to treat constituents with such a tone of scorn and disdain.  Your office’s policy of refusing to record calls, collect contact information from callers, or answer any questions not submitted in writing by FAX or snail mail is not only out-of-date but yet another effort to disenfranchise people from participating in the democratic process by discouraging them from communicating with elected officials and forcing them to wait who-knows-how-long for a response.

The fall election is 25 days away.  Your antics in prolonging the “debate” over voter ID only sow confusion and chaos and serve to suppress voter turnout on Election Day.  If this is not your intent, you will respect the ruling of the Supreme Court of the United States and resume your battle against democracy after the fall election.  And if this is your intent, the people of this state are being willfully disserved by their Attorney General.

/s/ Heather DuBois Bourenane

PS. For those who live in the faxless modern age, you can send the e-fax equivalent of an email by saving your comments as a pdf and faxing them for free online. I use http://faxzero.com/

"Taking Advantage:" How High-Stakes Testing Guarantees Gaps

Why I Don't Care How My High-Scoring Kids Do on Standardized Tests, and Why I Do Care about How they Score with their Teachers

A couple of friends and I were talking about standardized testing when I shared a new Huff Post article by Dr. Yohuru Williams,  "Common Core Kills Curiosity," which I thought contained the zingiest of zings in its conclusion:
"[T]his is the real crime of the education reformers hell bent on quantifying success in the very limited confines of standardized test scores while tearing down schools, slashing budgets, and working feverishly to eviscerate the teaching profession. They are not only killing curiosity but slaughtering the dreams and prospects of millions of students nationwide -- whose very lives may soon be reduced to a test bubble."
A friend of mine followed up with a great question - one that I think bothers most parents when they think about this issue:
This is being asked in sincerity--do you have suggestions that would allow teachers the flexibility to teach in ways that nurture critical thinking, meet student needs AND provide accountability to show student progress? Other than having to make subjective grading of portfolios?
This was my response, with links to evidence supporting my position on high-stakes testing:
There are so many ways to do this [provide authentic assessments], and many of them are ALREADY being done by our teachers! The tests and inflexibility of one-size-fits-all standards just get in the way of those more accurate, more honest formative assessments. It's a total and disproven myth that standardized testing provides "accountability" with any accuracy - just as it's a total myth that standardized tests are a truly OBJECTIVE measure of progress or achievement. ALL grading is subjective. The tests have implicit biases and measure little more than relative affluence and/or the ability to test well. The time restraints, the external stressors, the lack of preparedness and the gap between what is being taught and how that is being tested are all variables that ensure the test cannot provide an objective measure of learning. But even worse, the tests don't measure knowledge. They don't measure critical thinking. They don't measure potential. But our teachers can and do measure those things every day - if we trusted their professionalism and objectivity as much as we trust the tests, our schools would be a much different place.

If we want to follow a model that works, we should look to Finland, where they ONLY do formative assessments and not high stakes testing, and as a result they have time to TEACH and their students are the top scorers on the PISA test they take every 4 years. Here's a great article I read recently on how they grade, and why it works: http://www.mwera.org/.../v25n1-2-Hendrickson-GRADUATE.

One of the main things teachers have told me in the years since my kids have been in school is that the tests NEVER tell them anything they don't already know about their students, and that the students' performance is predictable: they know what smart students will score low (or high) and what mediocre students will score high (or low). The tests just get in the way of the formative assessments they WANT to do to help them meet each kids' needs. And then they have to watch as the scores are then used to "track" the kids into programs, and that tracking is done largely along lines that just make the gaps wider and wider. The TESTS are the problem - these false assessments are what are actually cause the very gaps the reformers claim they can help us erase. I'm not buying any of it. All I want is the teacher's assessment: the teacher is the person trained to evaluate my child's learning and that is the only assessment I am interested in receiving as a parent. Period. I don't give two shits how my kids do on tests that will be used to sort, judge, penalize, and promote inequity in our schools. And it makes me furious that my kids' teachers pay & professionalism is being compromised by my kids' performance on those tests.

Also as a college English teacher, I am 100% in favor of portfolio grading for classes where it's appropriate and am curious as to why you dismiss it from your choices. It's the only way I grade and I have a very formal set of criteria for assessing student work from a holistic perspective that seeks to measure progress and critical thinking as well as the "finished product". I'm not how sure HS/MS teachers do portfolio grading, but in my own experience it's the only assessment that's fair or productive for students.
[end rant]

I'd like to provide some context for where my "rant" was coming from.

This is a question that has been bothering me for many years, as I've seen first hand how kids break down under the pressures of high-stakes tests and I've heard so many stories from parents and teachers as been involved with so many groups and organization committed to supporting public schools.  But mostly, it's my experience as a parent, seeing my own kids go through this testing (and their teachers twist their educational lives around it), and my concerns about how teachers are forced to assess their work that troubles me the most.

Let me illustrate with one, terribly telling, example.  As a parent of a "high scoring" kid who's been placed in the so-called "Talented and Gifted" (TAG) program, these scores have been presented to me as if they are The One True Indicator of my child's success or potential. 

Which is a total joke.  Because here's how my kid measures "success" on his tests [actual conversation from 4th grade, 2013-14 school year]:
Me: How'd the test go?
Kid: Great!  I finished fast enough to read for 45 minutes!
Me: Do you think you got all the questions right?
Kid: [Shrugs, gives look that says "how is that relevant to your first question?"] I don't know. Maybe? Probably.
Me: Well, I'm glad you got some extra reading time. What were you reading?
Kid: Roots.
I don't even know how he scored because when they sent me the scores in the mail I didn't open the envelope.  It's probably around here somewhere.   But I do know that he did really well [Success is doubled! Bonus reading time AND a decent score!] because a couple of months later we got a letter in the mail from something called NUMATS (Northwestern University's Academic Talent Search).

Turns out the kids who score in top 5% all get this letter, which our district sends out to let high scoring kids know about the additional opportunities available to them.  So at first we were like "Yay! More challenge! More rigor! A fun extracurricular that's actually academic, which we love,  instead of sporty, which we hate!"  But it turns out that the "opportunities" being offered were just THE OPPORTUNITY FOR MORE TESTING, which would "prepare him" to take more tests later and provide a "more accurate" assessment of how "advanced" he is.  I kid you not.  The entire program is set up so that high-scoring kids go through this series of additional tests that they otherwise wouldn't take for years - EXPLORE, ACT and SAT - that will allow them to practice and prepare to be better and better at test-taking (and presumably, though this was not stated, to confirm and validate what everybody already knows about these kids: that they're smart good test takers). According to NUMATS, "After students test, parents receive comprehensive information about how their student measures up to other gifted students. This valuable feedback helps families plan for the future."

I cannot even begin to express to you how revolting this idea is to me. Let's break down the "offer" my child was presented:
  • You are a great test-taker, kid! Congratulations!  You are one of the smartest kids best test-takers in our district!
  • As a reward for being a good test-taker, we would like to offer you the opportunity to PAY to take more tests! (If you're poor, we might be able to help with fees).
  • If you do well on those tests, you can take even MORE tests (that are above your level and will test things you haven't been taught yet).
  • Taking these tests will give you an additional advantage so that when it's *really* time for you to take the test, you will do way better than all the kids who did not get this special offer because (1) you're probably so smart! and (2) you will have had a lot practice taking the test and other kids will be taking it for the first time.
In a nutshell:
The kid who is already pretty likely to do well on future tests is being solicited to participate (for pay) to receive a [totally unfair] advantage that will better prepare him to take those future tests than any of the other children in the school.
This advantage will put him in a position that will (much to the pleasure of his parents, I'm sure) guarantee or at least improve his "success" on future tests.  

Success means he scores as high as possible.  Success means he "outperforms" his peers.   Success means he was good at taking the test.  Success means his advantage paid off.
Why, I ask?  Why would we give this advantage to the kids who need it least instead of the kids who need it most 

Why would we not send letters home to the lowest scoring kids inviting them to join a learn-how-to-test camp or something to help raise their scores?

Why would we not invite kids who are doing really well on tests to get involved in a program of actual substance that actually involves teaching and learning?  I know our district does list such opportunities, but they're prohibitively expensive, and we've never been "invited" to participate in them.

Why are we investing in perpetuating the very system that ensures that we will never, ever overcome the gaps that confront our district, our state, our nation?

Why are we not taking seriously the professionalism of our teachers and their ability and expertise to assess and evaluate the performance of our children?

Why are any of us ok with this?

Needless to say we did not "reply now" to "take advantage" of that "opportunity" to further increase the achievement gaps in our district.

And here I was, so naive, thinking it was going to be an opportunity to learn or be challenged beyond the curriculum offered at school.   Not so much.  I'd also like to add that I never heard one word all year about how freaking amazing it was that my kid finished Roots in one week, at 9 years old, devouring it, and followed it up by reading all the slave narratives and historical fiction he could get his hands on.  That's the sort of stuff I wanted to hear about.  But his teacher didn't have time to discuss that with me, because his teacher wasn't assessing that.  And from what I could tell, it was all he could do to keep up with the stuff he "had to" assess.

My younger child is in 2nd grade this year, which is when the testing really begins, now now my worrying begins anew: will the tests be as "low-stakes" for her as they are for her brother, or will she be one of the kids throwing up in the bathroom on test day?  And my fingers are crossed that she won't give a crap, like we don't give a crap, if only to spare her the anxiety, and to remind her that she's worth so much more than a score on a test, no matter how low or how high that score might be.

That's where my perspective is coming from.

So when the question of assessments came up again today, I couldn't help but rant a little on my many reasons for opposing a system where "taking advantage" of opportunities means "taking advantage" of our most vulnerable students and perpetuating our already shameful (and growing) gaps.

The Superintendent of Public Instruction in Wisconsin, Dr. Tony Evers, has been talking a lot about these gaps lately.  He gave his State of Education address last week, calling for more attention to our gaps. He praised schools that take seriously the impacts of poverty and talk frankly about racial inequities.  He says he has a plan for addressing the gaps - "Promoting Excellence for All."  But the plan depends on the same old "accountability measures" that just measure how well kids take tests.  And nothing about how schools need to get creative about addressing the classroom impacts of the opportunity gaps facing our students. Our district calls constantly for the need for equity in our policies and practices - our new slogan is "Futures depend on us...every child, every day."  Every child.  Every day.  And yet: we continue to place our faith, our hopes and our decision-making on a system of high-stakes testing that we know only guarantees that the gaps between "high-performing" and "low-performing" students will widen.


300,000+ people united to fight for climate justice last week.
This was their slogan.
I love it.
And when do parents, students, and educators stand together and say: Enough!?

All over the country, people are starting to stand:

Parents are opting their kids out of standardized tests.
Teachers are refusing to administer tests on ethical grounds.
Students are walking out on a system that values how they score more than who they are, what they know, where they can go with their lives. In Seattle. In Long Island.
School boards are fighting back against political pressures and federal mandates that force our schools to fight for funding and status based on student performance on high stakes tests.

I have been on the "opt out" fence now for several years.  Because one person opting out two kids doesn't send much of a message, even if they are "high scoring" kids and even if I make a big noisy fuss about it. Because I'm afraid of potential backlash on my kids, their teachers, our schools.  Because I love our public schools and don't want to send mixed signals by being the only person waving the banner.

But it's a message we have to send.

It's a message that we have to send together: Parents. Teachers. Students. Community members.  School Board members. Politicians. And every administrator who is brave enough to say:

Teaching matters more than testing. 
Students matter more than scores.

The value of an education cannot be measured in points.
The value of a child cannot be measured.

And every child deserves an excellent education.

It's a simple message.

And it's a message that needs to be sent.
Are we ready to send it?

I love this, too. It's the most coherent, simple, perfect summary I've seen of why we ALL need to join the fight to save public schools. It will only happen through the collaboration of parents, students, educators & community members.

Watch the video and get inspired to get involved. If we don't fight this now, we lose:

The Fight for Public Education: Coming to a School Near You! from Media Mobilizing Project TV on Vimeo.

Public schools are under attack!
What do we do?
Stand up!
Fight back!