GOOD

For the Good of All Students: Why I'm Marching for Education Justice

We don’t have to eradicate a person’s soul in order to make them a great leader and thinker.

This weekend, I have the honor of speaking and marching with thousands of concerned educators, parents, and students at the Save Our Schools March and Conference. We’ll have local events across the country, but the main event happens in the nation’s capital with folks like Diane Ravitch, Linda Darling-Hammond, Matt Damon, Jon Stewart, and plenty of other concerned citizens making a statement about the state of our country’s public schools.


I’ve taught in the NYC Public School System for six years in a predominantly Latino neighborhood with students of all types. I mainly concentrate on English Language Learners (ELLs) and students with individualized education programs (IEP). Frankly, I couldn’t see myself in any other profession. No matter how frustrated I get, this job called me in ways others didn’t. However, as an educator, a product of public schools, and a math instructional leader, the flaws in our system become more apparent every year I get a set of kids brimming with promise and burnt by this current version of schooling. This is why I march.

This past April, my eighth graders were two months from worrying whether they were graduating. I remember feeling anxious when I shouldn't have. I believed that I prepared them to do well and gave them critical thinking skills—akin to reading them a list of precautions before strapping them into a rollercoaster ride. Yet, much of that security goes away when the rush sets in, when you know you're climbing closer to the edge, about to make the precipitous drop.

That's what testing is like for the kids.

In this era of high stakes testing, my students are constantly told that their scores are a reflection of the content of their character, when in fact the score is merely a reflection of what they may have learned throughout the year.

If you're a "regular" NYC school student, you take an English-language arts (ELA) test and a math test at the end of April and beginning of May, respectively. If you're a fourth or eighth grader, you're also taking a science test in mid-June—an assessment that checks whether they can work in practice, as well as their knowledge. If you're an English Language Learner, you're also taking the New York State English as a Second Language Assessment Test, which tests speaking, listening, reading, and writing, and is often harder to pass than the ELA test.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your point of view), they did away with the social studies exam usually taken by eighth graders in June. But that didn't stop NYC from giving select schools a “Field Test” for both ELA and math in order to assess whether the questions are indeed viable for the next year's students. Also, if the students are taking any Regents classes, they'll have a living environment and/or integrated algebra Regents exam soon after the science exam.

If you’re keeping score at home, you’ll notice that for eighth graders, it can feel like there’s a test once per week. That’s one time a week when they’re mandated to sit in single-row, single-column arrangements and asked to keep silent for anywhere from 90 minutes to three hours, depending on the modification. Many of my students might have found the math exam easy, but for many others, they confessed how many clumsy mistakes they made throughout their exam. They got questions wrong that they usually got right. They lost confidence in one answer, and they tripped over the others. They got tired of the testing nonsense and just guessed so they could be left alone.

These are my students.

While they may not be meeting any Carnegie units, they’re most certainly learning. They’re learning that school is going to be exactly like this for the rest of their education. They’re learning that teachers will increasingly narrow what’s taught in class the more that they see their students don’t “get it” quickly enough to cover a more comprehensive curriculum. They’re learning that the countdown to the test begins the minute they step onto campus—government officials would prefer to waste as little time as possible on making students better people so long as they can churn out high test scores.

That is also why I march.

I have a laundry list of things I would love to see changed in our public school system, but in the end, it’s really about making students better people, because from what I can tell, we are in dire need of this. When I was in school, the one thing I was granted was the opportunity to become a better student and a better person. We don’t have to give up one to get to the other. We don’t have to eradicate a person’s soul in order to make them a great leader and thinker.

Some call this principle of caring “radical.” So be it. I march for them, too.

Vilson will share his post-SOS reflections with us on Monday. In the meantime, you can follow the SOS March on Twitter here.

photo via thejosevilson.com

Articles
via The Howard Stern Show / YouTube

Former Secretary of State, first lady, and winner of the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton, sat own for an epic, two-and-a--half hour interview with Howard Stern on his SiriusXM show Wednesday.

She was there to promote "The Book of Gutsy Women," a book about heroic women co-written with her daughter, Chelsea Clinton.

In the far-reaching conversation, Clinton and the self-proclaimed "King of All Media" and, without a doubt, the best interviewer in America discussed everything from Donald Trump's inauguration to her sexuality.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics
Pixabay

Offering parental leave for new fathers could help close the gender gap, removing the unfair "motherhood penalty" women receive for taking time off after giving birth. However, a new study finds that parental leave also has a pay gap. Men are less likely to take time off, however, when they do, they're more likely to get paid for it.

A survey of 2,966 men and women conducted by New America found that men are more likely to receive paid parental leave. Over half (52%) of fathers had fully paid parental leave, and 14% of fathers had partially paid parental leave. In comparison, 33% of mothers had fully paid parental leave and 19% had partially paid parental leave.

Keep Reading Show less

Bans on plastic bags and straws can only go so far. Using disposable products, like grabbing a plastic fork when you're on the go, can be incredibly convenient. But these items also contribute to our growing plastic problem.

Fortunately, you can cut down on the amount of waste you produce by cutting down on disposable products. And even more fortunately, there are sustainable (and cute) replacements that won't damage the environment.

Coconut bowls


Cocostation

Who says sustainable can't also be stylish? These cute coconut bowls were handmade using reclaimed coconuts, making each piece one of a kind. Not only are they organic and biodegradable, but they're also durable, in case your dinner parties tend to get out of hand. The matching ebony wood spoons were polished with the same coconut oil as the bowls.

Cocostation Set of 2 Vietnamese Coconut Bowls and Spoons, $14.99; at Amazon

Solar powered phone charger

Dizaul

Why spend time looking around for an outlet when you can just harness the power of the sun? This solar powered phone charger will make sure your phone never dies as long as you can bask in the sun's rays. As an added bonus, this charger was made using eco-friendly silicone rubber. It's win-win all around.

Dizaul Solar Charger, 5000mAh Portable Solar Power Bank, $19.95; at Amazon, $19.95; at Amazon

Herb garden kit

Planter Pro

Put some green in your life with this herb planter. The kit comes with everything you need to get a garden growing, including a moisture meter that helps you determine if your herbs are getting the right amount of food to flourish. All the seeds included are certified to be non-GMO and non-hybrids, meaning you can have fresh, organic herbs right at your fingertips.

Planter Pro's Herb Garden Cedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazonedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazon

Reusable Keurig cups

K & J

Keurig cups are convenient, but they also create a ton of plastic waste. These Keurig-compatible plastic cups are an easy way to cut down on the amount of trash you create without cutting down on your caffeine. Additionally, you won't have to keep on buying K Cups, which means you'll be saving money and the environment.

K&J Reusable Filter Cups, $8.95 for a set of 4,; at Amazon

Low-flow shower head

Speakman

Low-flow water fixtures can cut down your water consumption, which saves you money while also saving one of the Earth's resources. This shower head was designed with a lighter flow in mind, which means you'll be able to cut down on water usage without feeling like you're cutting down on your shower.

Speakman Low Flow Shower Head, $14.58; at Amazon

Bamboo safety razor

Zomchi

Instead of throwing away a disposable razor every time you shave, invest in an eco-friendly, reusable one. This unisex shaver isn't just sustainable, it's also sharp-looking, which means it would make a great gift for the holidays.

Zomchi Safety Razor, $16.99; at Amazon

The Planet