The quality of public education is progressively more threatened in the United States as the free market right wing corporations are lobbying for, and implementing their neoliberalism’s corporate education reform agenda. Yet, parents, educators, students, and social activists are taking a stand.
From kindergarten onwards, children get burdened with high stakes standardized tests to measure ‘success’. These are tests which are not used as a diagnostic tool to support real learning – rather, it hampers and destroys learning by creating a narrow curriculum and consequently a daily test prep environment. Additionally, the test scores become the weapons that corporate reform policies use to privatize public schools, standardize curricula, break teacher unions, and pick winners and losers in the “competition” it creates among schools. (From: Alternet by R. Bliss)
To eliminate high stakes testing, resist corporate-run education, and demand improvement of quality and accessibility of public education, parents and teacher activists in the US have launched the ‘United Opt Out’ campaign in 2011. The campaign educates students, teachers, and parents across the country on strategies and protocols for opting their children out of state testing as well as supporting teachers who refuse to administer the test. They share their knowledge and resources through their website, which has been used to compile years of research, with and archive of guides and tutorials for opting out taking into consideration the various US state policies.
The movement has been growing organically in rapid speed as parents began talking to each other about how testing was affecting their children. The grassroots, parent-led opt-out initiatives build on the community mobilizations that have snowballed since the Bush administration launched No Child Left Behind. The protests and petitions recently culminated in a City Council resolution opposing high-stakes testing, backed by teacher unions and national education and civil rights groups. (From: The Nation by M. Chen)
This does not mean that ‘opting out’ is an easy road to take for parents and educators. According to OOU, ‘this past week has been an especially harsh week for some parents who are attempting to protect their children from high stakes testing. You see, as the stakes increase, educators will bully parents in order to get the data – principals and teachers know that without the data they may lose their jobs or their schools may be shut down – they work in an environment filled with fear.’
Despite intimidation and setbacks, such as the ‘Sit and Stare’ policy implemented in some school districts across the country, and the malicious way the UOO website had been hacked, the movement is continuing to gain momentum. Students and teachers are joining, and the UOO platform on Facebook is booming with more than 10.000 active parents, educators, students and social activists. It is mainly ‘dedicated to providing ongoing avenues for grass roots collective actions where you will find opportunities not only to share and learn but to ACT’. Moreover, last month, over 100 teachers, students, and parents from across the country gathered in Denver for the United Opt Out National Spring Action aimed at growing the resistance.
Opting Out has become a well-known political act across the country, and might show us that the education revolution is well on its way.