Earlier this week, Sean Kitchen reported that several teachers from Feltonville School of Arts & Sciences in Philadelphia were called to “investigatory conferences” and may face disciplinary action for informing parents of their legal right to opt-out of PA’s high-stakes, standardized tests.
That action followed a bombshell report by Dan Denvir in the Philadelphia City Paper, that 17% of parents of children attending Feltonville School of the Arts & Sciences had opted their children out of the test. Sixth grade Feltonville teacher Kelley Collings told Newsworks that “over 100 parents at the school have decided to opt their children out of the testing this year,” which dwarf the percentage of parents opting their children out of the tests at other Philadelphia schools. Newsworks reported that in 2012, only 16 students were opted-out of high-stakes testing in the entire city of Philadelphia.
Collings is one of the six teachers facing possible disciplinary action due to their campaign to push back against the high-stakes testing regime. In an interview on the Rick Smith Show earlier this week, Amy Roat – another Fentonville teacher facing disciplinary action – explained why she thinks it’s so important to talk frankly with parents and community members about the impact of standardized tests on education and their legal rights to opt their children out of the tests:
I think it’s so important that parents can trust that teachers are having an open dialogue with them about all issues around education – especially this dominant issue of standardized testing. If we don’t have that, I think we are losing a piece of our democracy and I don’t think we can afford to do that. I think we should be doing everything we can to ensure a democratic process at school.
If the goal of calling Feltonville teachers to disciplinary hearings was to get them to do what US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and the Obama administration want teachers to do – to shut up and teach to the test – that tactic has been a miserable failure. Instead of keeping their heads down and playing ball with the high-stakes testing regime, the Feltonville Six and the Caucus of Working Educators are expanding their efforts of informing parents and community members of the negative impact of high-stakes tests on public education and their legal rights to opt their children out of these tests in Pennsylvania.
Next Thursday, February 6th, the Caucus of Working Educators and the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools is holding an Opt-Out Organizing Workshop at Liberty Choice Diner, 1947 Front St. in Philadelphia. If you are in the Philadelphia area and are interested in learning more, you can find out more about the workshop by checking out the Facebook event page or by visiting the workshop page over at the Caucus of Working Educators.
You can also learn about the Opt-Out movement across Pennsylvania at United Opt-Out. United Opt-Out is one of the national organizations coordinating the opt-out movement across the country. United Opt-Out also has state specific resources including a very useful guide for opting-out of high-stakes tests in Pennsylvania.
The Caucus of Working Educators is also calling for parents, students, community members — in short, anyone who thinks that teachers should be able to discuss the impacts of high-stakes tests on childrens’ education and inform parents of their legal rights — to show their support for the Feltonville Six through a series of solidarity actions such as sending tweets to Superintendent Hite and SRC Chairman Bill Green; posting “solidarity selfies” to social media and forwarding them to Feltonville teacher, Kelley Collings at firstname.lastname@example.org, for wider circulation; and, of course, attending the Opt-Out Organizing Workshop to learn how to set up an Out-Out campaign in your school or community.