On Wednesday Jia Lee, a teacher at The Earth School in New York City, testified at a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee about reforming the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. Lee, a fifth grade special education teacher, told the committee, chaired by Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), that over 50% of the parents at The Earth School refused to allow their children to take the Common Core aligned English/Language Arts and Math tests and said her school was not alone.
“Last year,” Lee told the senators, “I decided that I am obligated and accountable to my students and families, and that is why, as a conscientious objector, I will not administer tests that reduce my students to a single metric and will continue to take this position until the role of standardized assessments are put in their proper place.”
“We just celebrated the life of Martin Luther King Jr.” Lee continued. “In his Letter From a Birmingham Jail, King affirms that ‘one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.’ He quotes St. Augustine who said ‘an unjust law is no law at all.’ So long as education policy continues to be shaped by the interests of corporate profiteering and not the interests of our public school children, we will resist these unjust testing laws.”
She said that parents who complain about high-stakes testing have been accused of “coddling.” She challenged that assumption, saying that the focus on testing has taken time and resources away from the arts, social studies, and physical education.
Instead of focusing on testing, Lee said, classrooms should emphasize “the importance of fostering learning environments that value a culture of trust, diversity, and teacher autonomy.”
Lee joins other teachers in New York City who object to “market-based education reform” and are refusing to administer high stakes tests as an “act of conscience.” There is also a growing opt-out movement throughout the country that encourages parents to refuse to allow their children to take Common Core and other high stakes tests. Parents and teachers object to the testing for a wide variety of reasons. Nearly everyone thinks too much classroom time is devoted to testing and test preparation. And while parents are concerned about data collection related to the tests and the testing anxiety their children experience, teachers often object to having the tests tied to their performance evaluations as well as the corporate influence in test development and in the adoption of the Common Core standards.
You can read Lee’s written testimony here.