A group of activists is planning a four-day protest event starting next week called “Occupy the DOE in D.C.” that is aimed at alerting the Obama administration to growing unhappiness with its education reform policies.
The event includes seminars, led by professors, activists and others, as well as marches and speeches that together are designed to express opposition to the education policies of President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, which critics say have, among other things, increased the importance of high-stakes tests and promoted charter schools at the expense of traditional public schools.
Unlike some other Occupy protests, the organizers of this one got the required permits to stage all of the planned events.
“Occupy the DOE” is being organized by United Opt Out, an organization of parents, educators, students and social activists seeking to end the high-stakes testing regimen in public education today and create a balanced accountability system.
United Opt Out encourages parents to use “opt out” rules in their school districts that allow students to stay home when standardized tests are given. They say that the focus on high-stakes standardized testing in the No Child Left Behind era — and now the Race to the Top program — has failed to improve student achievement and instead has narrowed curricula, wasted public resources and caused anxiety and fear for students and teachers.
It remains unclear just how big a crowd “Occupy the DOE in D.C.” will draw, but it is worth noting that people from different walks of life who oppose federal education policy are taking increasingly public stances against it.
Last summer, a protest march called “Save Our Schools” was held near the White House; thousands of teachers from across the country attended and listened to speakers including Diane Ravitch and Matt Damon.
More recently, there have been other public displays of dissatisfaction with the path of school reform, which many see as promoting corporate interests.
In New York, for example, school principals organized a protest against the state’s new educator evaluation system, which ties the evaluations and pay of teachers and principals to students’ performance on standardized tests. Currently more than 1,418 principals in New York and nearly 5,000 other people have signed an open letter of concern about the assessment system.
In California, Gov. Jerry Brown said in his 2012 State of the State address in January that he wants to reduce the number of standardized tests students take.
And in Texas, the state education commissioner, Robert Scott, cheered anti-testing activists when he said last month that the notion that standardized testing is the “end-all, be-all” is a “perversion” of what a quality education should be. And school districts by the score are passing a resolution calling for more balance in assessment and a move away from the high-stakes testing that now consumes as many as 45 days of a high school student’s 180-day school year.
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