Florida Teacher Resigns Over Standardized Testing: ‘I Can’t Make My Students Cry Anymore’ (VIDEO)
How much standardized testing is enough?
“I had no idea that this many people identified with the way I felt,” Wendy Bradshaw told WUSF News after her Oct. 23 resignation letter to the Polk County, Fla. School Board went viral. “And that really disappoints me and makes me sad at the direction that our school system has gone.”
She adds that the intense standardized testing and constant preparation that’s taken over our nation’s schools is especially hard on her current classroom of kindergartners, first and second graders. As Bradshaw explained to WUSF:
“It just hurt to see the frustration on all the children’s faces. Five-year-olds are not allowed to play, they’re not allowed to talk. They don’t know the names of other kids in their classroom because they’re not allowed to talk to them.”
Bradshaw specializes in education for young children with special needs but finds today’s requirements rough on so-called “typical” kids as well. In her letter, Bradshaw insists today’s emphasis on standardized testing and so-called “reforms” are not only hard for kids and detrimental to learning: They’re flat-out harmful.
Like many other teachers across the nation, I have become more and more disturbed by the misguided reforms taking place which are robbing my students of a developmentally appropriate education. Developmentally appropriate practice is the bedrock upon which early childhood education best practices are based, and has decades of empirical support behind it. However, the new reforms not only disregard this research, they are actively forcing teachers to engage in practices which are not only ineffective but actively harmful to child development and the learning process.
And if you think Bradshaw’s some lightweight with a case of sour grapes who can’t cut the mustard, you’d be wrong. She has a masters degree and a Ph.D. in Special Education, and she’s consistently met her goals and been rated as “highly effective” by the very school system she opposes. But really, Bradshaw just can’t bear to make her students cry any more over those damned standardized tests.
This letter is also deeply personal. I just cannot justify making students cry anymore. They cry with frustration as they are asked to attempt tasks well out of their zone of proximal development. They cry as their hands shake trying to use an antiquated computer mouse on a ten year old desktop computer which they have little experience with, as the computer lab is always closed for testing. Their shoulders slump with defeat as they are put in front of poorly written tests that they cannot read, but must attempt. Their eyes fill with tears as they hunt for letters they have only recently learned so that they can type in responses with little hands which are too small to span the keyboard.
She also sadly explains how standardized testing makes some children so miserable and frustrated they start acting out.
The children don’t only cry. Some misbehave so that they will be the ‘bad kid’ not the ‘stupid kid’, or because their little bodies just can’t sit quietly anymore, or because they don’t know the social rules of school and there is no time to teach them.
Bradshaw insists there’s nothing wrong with the children and a lot wrong with the system. And she should know, she studied behavior disorders for her master’s degree:
My master’s degree work focused on behavior disorders, so I can say with confidence that it is not the children who are disordered. The disorder is in the system which requires them to attempt curriculum and demonstrate behaviors far beyond what is appropriate for their age.
The final straw came when Bradshaw went on maternity leave and realized there was no way in HELL she’d put her baby daughter in that school when she’s ready for Kindergarten.
On June 8, 2015 my life changed when I gave birth to my daughter. I remember cradling her in the hospital bed on our first night together and thinking, “In five years you will be in kindergarten and will go to school with me.” That thought should have brought me joy, but instead it brought dread. I will not subject my child to this disordered system, and I can no longer in good conscience be a part of it myself. Please accept my resignation from Polk County Public Schools.
Standardized testing isn’t about ‘reform,’ it’s about destroying public education.
Bradshaw’s right to oppose standardized testing, as it’s applied today: It’s not about educational “reform.” It’s about destroying public education as we know it, and turning our nation’s schools into compliance factories that will either force children into submission or destroy them. Today’s “reform” movement sets up teachers, students and schools to fail, and then punishes them for it. As public schools grow more and more intolerable, middle-to-upper income families with resources will take their children out and put them in private or charter schools, leaving the most vulnerable students behind.
And if you want to see who really benefits from “educational reform,” look at the corporate family names behind the “nonprofits” funding it: Gates, Broad, Walton, Ford, Hewlett, Annenberg, and Milken, to name a few. These people don’t care about children growing, learning and getting an education. They want future employees with the skills they need. And if the skills they need change, these future employees will be shit-out-of-luck.
President Barack Obama has finally admitted standardized testing’s gotten out of hand and called for reform, but that won’t do much good given all the money involved. Over the past dozen years or so since high-stakes testing took hold, states now spend an estimated $1.7 billion on these tests. That’s a hefty chunk of change and doesn’t even include the $13.1 billion frantic parents spend on test prep, tutoring and counseling. Plus, the Common Core curriculum is a God-send to various types of “education” start-ups that can now create products for a huge mass market no longer fragmented by differing state standards.
We can point out that high-stakes testing and the new “reforms” discourage students and drive away good teachers until we’re blue in the face. It won’t do any good because those outcomes aren’t an unintended consequence; they’re the desired end result. Corporate America wants children trained to shut up, sit still, and do what they’re told, no matter how stupid, immoral, or pointless the task at hand. Low-income children whose parents can’t get them out of public schools won’t need a real education, because where they’re going, they won’t need to think.
Bradshaw, an activist and opponent of high-stakes standardized testing knows the score: OptOut Florida‘s Facebook page posted a meme with this very apt quote from her:
Business interests are saying we should prepare our children to become their employees. I say how dare they presume the most our children could accomplish is to work for them?