- A Reading Affair to Remember - September 19, 2014
- What Do the Green Shoe Laces Mean in Educational Reform? - January 31, 2014
- The Current State of Education in New York: "The Hunger Games" (Part 3) - May 17, 2013
- The State of Education in New York: "The Hunger Games" (Part 2) - May 16, 2013
- The State of Education in New York: "The Hunger Games" (Part 1) - May 15, 2013
In The Hunger Games Katniss becomes an unwitting symbol of the revolution when she uses the nightlock berries as a strategy for survival. She takes the power out of the hands of the Capitol and the Gamemakers. Throughout the next two books, the reader discovers that a revolution was brewing the entire time, a revolution that the Capitol fights against.
Similarly, a movement is growing in education today. It is a revolutionary movement that aims to claim back the hallowed halls of public education. Parents, educators and students have been moved to action in the form of their own revolution. The movement to fight back against the current educational practices looks as follows from unitedoptout.com as per the mission statement:
"Members of this site are parents, educators, students and social activists who are dedicated to the elimination of high stakes testing in public education. We use this site to collaborate, exchange ideas, support one another, share information and initiate collective local and national actions to end the reign of fear and terror promoted by the high stakes testing agenda."
Students who chose to opt out of the state exams have an opportunity to practice civil disobedience. The truth is, such a heavy burden should not need to be placed on the shoulders of children. In the month of April, students in New York took the English and math assessments over the course of 6 days, and sat for testing for 540 minutes. That is nine hours of testing. To be entirely transparent, the 540 minutes devoted to testing in April is not the full picture, as this does not include all of the state and local assessments administered to the students in a year from now in order to assess students as a means to evaluate their teachers. These 540 minutes also do not account for the hours that students spend working on the assessments that have relevance upon their actual grades. It is interesting to note that while students in grade three through eight sit through nine hours of math and ELA testing, the SAT is only three hours and forty-five minutes long.
In the second installment of The Hunger Games trilogy, Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, rebellious acts are rewarded with repercussions as severe as whippings and in some cases, death. Rebelling against the Capitol is simply not allowed. Potential rebels against the state of education toady are being informed, that much like in the Capitol, this rebellion is simply not allowed. Children could potentially be hurt.
“Contrary to the claims of some anti-testing advocates, there are potential consequences for students and districts when students fail to participate in state testing. First, in accordance with NCLB, New York State requires each district to have participation of at least 95 percent of a school as well as subgroups of students that are evaluated in the state’s accountability system. If a district does not reach this level of participation, it will not make “Adequate Yearly Progress” (AYP), and a district’s Title I funding will be affected. In addition, there may be intervention consequences for districts that fail to meet AYP . . .
Furthermore, districts’ policies and procedures for determining enrollment and promotion may be triggered. For example, a district’s procedures for promotion to the next grade may be based on a student’s level of achievement on a state assessment. In addition, districts may make determinations for enrollment into honors courses/programs or gifted and talented programs based on students’ performances on state assessments (Keany).
After Katniss’s stunt with the berries, President Snow and the Capitol grew worried. President Snow pays Katniss a special visit at her new home in the Victor’s Village to warn her against taking action.
Just like Katniss, the teachers of New York state received their own warning from NYSUT President Ianuzzi who wishes to "protect and warn" his membership about the Opt Out movement that is gaining momentum has this to say about it:
“It truly is parents' choice, based on what they believe is best for their child. With that said, as local leaders you should know and share with your members as needed the following:
Locals and individual union members who advise parents or students to ‘opt out’ of state tests may face risks.
A teacher who, in conversations with students or parents, takes a position on testing contrary to the school district's educational program may potentially be charged with misconduct or insubordination and could be subject to disciplinary action.
A local speaking as a union or an individual member speaking as a parent or citizen about educational concerns over standardized testing for instance, in a letter to the editor or in a statement to the Board of Education is protected as long as they are not encouraging parents or students to opt out from a scheduled test.”
Much like the starving residents of District 12 who so desperately need food to survive that is withheld by the Capitol, most school districts need the money from the State in order to survive. Much like the people of Panem who rose against the government in The Dark Days we are being told we will receive retribution if we do not do as told, and if we do not force children to do as they are told. Katniss at first felt uncomfortable as the symbol of the revolution, but she came to embrace her status as the mockingjay. Together, the Districts fought for what was right, even though grave risks were involved.
The truth is that no matter what, teachers will be evaluated by administration. This is not a novel concept created by politicians; this is the way it has always been. It is tremendously sad to see children being the pawns (the tributes) in this political arena, and it is a shame to see so many wasted minutes of valuable instructional time taken over by exams, that in reality have do nothing for the kids themselves. Exams that are making test making companies such as Pearson and McGraw Hill very, very rich. Exams that are so cumbersome they are falling off of the hand trucks our custodial staff is using to drag them through the halls. Exams that are so top secret they are opened on the morning of the test and then each school district is responsible for making sure they are sent to a test destroying company.