Three Letters: Back-to-School Supplies for Parents
It has become fashionable to write open letters to the President, First Lady, and billionaires who have extraordinary power to make decisions and enact policy that affect our children's education and future. Teachers, education activists, parents, and students have been doing it for years, but the monied elite don't listen. If they did, public schools would be shining beacons of learning, teachers would be revered, and all children would come to school well-fed, rested, and ready to learn. After a decade of writing letters to the likes of Bill and Melinda Gates, the Obamas, and more recently Mark and Priscilla Zuckerberg, it's time to recognize that this strategy is never going to work. So, I'm writing this open letter to ordinary parents across this nation. I'm asking that we re-examine a process that clearly is ineffective and do something different.
As parents, we are giving away our power every time we appeal to those at the top to stop the educational abuse of our children.
The wealth prefer private schools for their children. And now, it seems they prefer private schools for our children, too -- charter schools. Charter schools are not public schools although politicians and the people with the wallets will tell you they are. Charter schools are private schools. Austere, crowded facilities staffed by minimally or untrained personnel delivering canned curriculum and imposing zero tolerance polices, privately run charter schools are the answer. But they bear no resemblance to neither Lakeside, the elite private school attended by Bill Gates and his children nor Sidwell Friends, the school of choice of the power elite, including the Obamas. Even Altschools that are currently little more than a glimmer in the eyes of Mark and Pricilla promise to be both private and pricey. The rich and powerful know all too well what an excellent education looks like for their children, but not for ours.
We plead with them to give us schools that more closely resemble the schools their own children attend. We write letters, make phone calls, protest, march, we chant. Still we are not heard.
Now is the time to STOP. Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity. Clearly, writing plaintive letters is not working. We are giving away our power every time we appeal to those at the top to stop the educational abuse of our children.
Now is the time to STOP the insanity!
Instead writing letters to the wealthy and powerful as politicians and the business community loots our public schools, let's write three letters to our own schools -- to be placed in the school file of each of our children:
a letter opting out of high stakes standardized testing;
a letter requesting student data privacy information; and
a letter requesting limits on screen time on electronic devices in the classroom.
The process is as easy as 1-2-3.
Print a copy of each of the three letters.
Fill out each one the old fashioned way with a pen and make copies to keep for yourself.
Take the letters to school, ask that your requests be honored, and that the letters be placed in your student's file.
Oregon has passed legislation making it unequivocally legal for parents to refuse the test. The above Opt Out template is a modified version of the Oregon state sanctioned form. It has been edited to reflect truth, remove intimidating statements, and updated for the 2016-2017 school year. You may want to modify it to suit your situation. Other sample letters may be found at Fair Test (by way of the recently compromised United Opt Out) along with information about your rights as a parent.
The Data Privacy letter is based on a template created through the efforts of Cheri Kiesecker and Leonie Haimson at Parent Coalition for Student Privacy. For expert information on the topic of student data privacy, visit their website. "FYI, the state cannot force you to come to their office to see your child’s data if that would be a hardship – as it would for most parents. And while they can charge a minimal fee to make copies, they cannot charge you for the search and retrieval of these records. If they try to charge you more than a minimal fee, you can appeal that decision."
The template offered above is a slightly modified version from the book, Glow Kids, and reproduced by PAA with permission from its author, Nicholas Kardaras . PAA is speaking out for balanced, healthy classrooms for our children. While we do not oppose appropriate use of technology, we reject the misuse and overuse being forced on our nation's schools by corporate interests and misguided politicians. We strongly oppose the push to increase student screen time, replace teachers with packaged lessons delivered by digital devices, and continuously test students, data-mining the results. We are very concerned that the massive and growing use of EdTech is displacing valuable elements of schooling without providing clear benefits, and threatening our children's right to a healthy and educationally-appropriate school environment. For more information, read our position paper and review the evidence: Our Children at Risk and Background and Documentation for EdTEch Report.