by Gilbert David Nuñez
Tired of increasing demands and constraints placed on classroom time, Colorado educators and students came together last week in Denver to launch the “Free Our Teachers, Value Our Students” movement. The initiative aims at asking state legislators to stop imposing new classroom mandates and high-stakes testing and instead focus on what matters most: students having teachers who can work with them and help them learn.
High school social studies teacher and Colorado Education Association (CEA) President Kerrie Dallman said:
The emphasis on excessive testing doesn’t benefit the student’s current experience in the classroom. Testing doesn’t help differentiate in the classroom now; it goes toward the next year’s instruction and planning instead. We are losing out on our ability to engage in creative learning for our students by instead preparing them for tests and then testing them.
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The state cut approximately $1 billion from the education budget in its 2008-2012 legislative sessions, and educators say they would like to see this hole filled without further cuts and without additional reforms.
CEA launched its movement on February 18 at a rally with educators, students, a superintendent, state legislator and community leaders. The kickoff event included a short video in which a classroom teacher is literally bound by red tape and unable to teach her students, who have test booklets piled in front of them.
- Teachers spend more than 30% of their classroom time preparing for and then testing their students.
- 60% of teachers said that high-stakes tests do not hold students accountable for the material they should be learning in the classroom.
- 80% of teachers doubted that the tests effectively evaluate teacher quality.
High school student and rally speaker Michael Coyne said, “We really need to refine our standardized tests so that they’re more focused to what we’re learning in the classroom, not toward a set standard that really doesn’t reflect the state curriculum.”
Colorado educators say they would rather see current regulations enforced and school funding restored before the state legislature hands down any more red tape that only further constrains teachers. Dallman said CEA “would love to see a study done on how all of the current mandates interact with each other and learn how to do things better and smarter before they just add more regulations.”
Rep. Dave Young of Greeley, a career junior high school teacher, said he would not choose to teach in today’s high-stakes testing environment.
“Teachers need to drive the instruction, and the sense I have now is, they’re not in control of that,” said Young. “Let’s think about how we can put teachers back in control of the instruction experience in the classroom.”
The “Free Our Teachers, Value Our Students” push seeks to open a conversation between educators, students, parents, community members and elected officials to share their stories about how restrictive mandates and excessive testing are affecting students in the classroom by cutting down valuable teacher-student time and keeping them fixated on test after test. CEA will air the ad more widely in the months ahead.