Posts Tagged 'labor'

Friday 5: Testing the tests

Show some love to public education

Students with signs at a rally for public education in Harrisburg. February 2012

This is fight for the soul of public education,” says Brandon Johnson, an organizer with the Chicago Teachers Union.
One of the focal points of the Chicago Teachers Strike that began Monday is Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s demand to have teacher evaluations and pay based on students scores on standardized tests. In corporate ed. reform this is known as the “value-added” model, and it’s being pushed across the country.

Without falling into the “good teacher/bad teacher” trap or debating the need for effective teacher evaluation, I think it’s important that we ask ourselves what we actually know about standardized tests before pegging their results to the pay of millions of people. Here are some starting questions.

  1. Who actually writes standardized tests?
  2. Do the tests encompass the full range of content and skills teachers should be imparting/encouraging in students?
  3. Who scores standardized tests? (And how often are the scores wrong?)
  4. Who is profiting off test creation/delivery and all of the remediation programs schools buy to improve student scores?
  5. What forces outside schools stand to benefit from linking teacher pay to student test scores?

If, as I suspect is the case, most Americans don’t know the answers to these questions, we ought to start thinking a little more critically before making employments decisions based on these tests.

And finally…GO CTU!

This is a much more important fight than any sports match.

November BAND Discussion: Reading for a cause

Amy of Opinions of a Wolf, asks this month’s BAND question: Do you read nonfiction to support a cause?

Similar to what Amy writes in her response,  the phrase “doing it for a cause” immediately evokes my college life. I went to a school full of idealists and do-gooders, in a city brimming with non-profit organizations. Pick your cause and you could find an outlet for it on campus or off. Attend a speaking event about any social issue and you were sure to hear audience members ask, “What can we do?”

In my experience, the answers to that question are more complex than the “action steps” model suggests, but understanding a problem you’re aiming to change is always necessary. That’s where I think the idea of “reading for a cause” can be considered. Study must inform social struggles; It’s vital to understand the conditions people are experiencing and the powerful forces that shape those conditions. Action without these components is fighting without a weapon.

In college I read lots of nonfiction on political violence in Palestine and Guatemala, though I can’t say I was particularly connected to the actual causes associated with those issues beyond awareness-raising and college-y activism.

Nowadays, I’m reading a range of materials to get a sense of what problems are affecting Pennsylvania, who’s benefiting from the way things are, and who’s organizing to change things. I’d also like to read any books I can find on movements that have existed in Pennsylvania (most likely ones being labor-related), because knowledge of the past can be a tool for engaging people and strategizing.

Working People’s Solidarity at Occupy Wall Street

As I wrote in my Friday 5 post two weeks ago, the most promising thing I heard about when I visited Occupy Wall Street was participants’ efforts to make connections between the frustration that brought people there and other struggles that people have been organizing around (e.g. labor issues, access to health care, environmental hazards) throughout the country but in NYC particularly. In an article on Common Dreams today, I detailed some of how the Labor Outreach and Support working group developed the relationships with unions that led to last week’s 20,000-person march. The story also includes voices from participants describing the value of the occupied space as a place to listen to one another and brainstorm the kind of world they want to live in.

Check it out at Common Dreams.

Words to Live By

I’ve heard the question, “Were you scared?” a lot in the past few years. Like so many questions about my experiences in the West Bank, Honduras, et. al, I struggle to come up with an answer that fully reflects the tangle of answers coming from my brain and my heart. Lately I’ve been listening to Mother Jones’* autobiography on WMMT Radio. Ever wise with words, she had an awesome response when someone asked “Weren’t you scared?” about organizing miners at Latimer:

I’m not afraid to face anything if facing it may bring relief to the class that I belong to.

Autobiographies are an inspiring book genre! What’s your favorite autobiography?

*Mother Jones, once called "the most dangerous woman in America," was an active and effective labor organizer of the late 1800's and early 1900's. She worked for the Knights of Labor and the United Mine Workers.

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