22 May 2008

jeez louise

Published on Thursday, May 22, 2008 by New York Daily News
New York 8th-Graders Boycott Practice Exam But Teacher May Get Ax
by Juan Gonzalez

Students at a South Bronx middle school have pulled off a stunning boycott against standardized testing.0522 03 1

More than 160 students in six different classes at Intermediate School 318 in the South Bronx - virtually the entire eighth grade - refused to take last Wednesday’s three-hour practice exam for next month’s statewide social studies test.

Instead, the students handed in blank exams.

Then they submitted signed petitions with a list of grievances to school Principal Maria Lopez and the Department of Education.

“We’ve had a whole bunch of these diagnostic tests all year,” Tatiana Nelson, 13, one of the protest leaders, said Tuesday outside the school. “They don’t even count toward our grades. The school system’s just treating us like test dummies for the companies that make the exams.”

According to the petition, they are sick and tired of the “constant, excessive and stressful testing” that causes them to “lose valuable instructional time with our teachers.”

School administrators blamed the boycott on a 30-year-old probationary social studies teacher, Douglas Avella.

The afternoon of the protest, the principal ordered Avella out of the classroom, reassigned him to an empty room in the school and ordered him to have no further contact with students.

A few days later, in a reprimand letter, Lopez accused Avella of initiating the boycott and taking “actions [that] caused a riot at the school.”

The students say their protest was entirely peaceful. In only one class, they say, was there some loud clapping after one exam proctor reacted angrily to their boycott.

This week, Lopez notified Avella in writing that he was to attend a meeting today for “your end of the year rating and my possible recommendation for the discontinuance of your probationary service.”

“They’re saying Mr. Avella made us do this,” said Johnny Cruz, 15, another boycott leader. “They don’t think we have brains of our own, like we’re robots. We students wanted to make this statement. The school is oppressing us too much with all these tests.”

Two days after the boycott, the students say, the principal held a meeting with all the students to find out how their protest was organized.

Avella on Tuesday denied that he urged the students to boycott tests.

Yes, he holds liberal views and is critical of the school system’s increased emphasis on standardized tests, Avella said, but the students decided to organize the protest after weeks of complaining about all the diagnostic tests the school was making them take.

“My students know they are welcome in my class to have open discussions,” Avella said. “I teach them critical thinking.”

“Some teachers implied our graduation ceremony would be in danger, that we didn’t have the right to protest against the test,” said Tia Rivera, 14. “Well, we did it.”

Lopez did not return calls for comment.

“This guy was far over the line in a lot of the ways he was running his classroom,” said Department of Education spokesman David Cantor. “He was pulled because he was inappropriate with the kids. He was giving them messages that were inappropriate.”

Several students defended Avella. They say he had made social studies an exciting subject for them.

“Now they’ve taken away the teacher we love only a few weeks before our real state exam for social studies,” Tatiana Nelson said. “How does that help us?”

jgonzalez@nydailynews.com

1 comment:

Linda said...

If I had 2-3 wishes…. this story would spread like wildfire among two
groups:
(1) the supposedly strong teachers' unions [local, state, and national levels] and the NEA would rise up as a whole and say NO MORE to NCLB and the whole testing industry,

…and

(2) among students through text messages, emails, facebook and word-o-mouth and the students would rise up as a whole and say NO MORE to NCLB and the whole testing industry … and

(3) once emboldened by their successful boycott the students would further boycott any military presence in their schools and would refuse to allow the predatory recruiters to harvest any more of their fellow students for their corporate protection racket.

shhhh….. spread the word… make it happen
here’s the link to the article. http://tinyurl.com/5bdegt
Pass it around to any teachers or students - with the wishes.

As they say in the IEP world…. what’s the baseline? Currently [5/26/08],
google news shows this story is on 2 news
sites [Huffington Post & New York Daily News] and 311 blogs.

Downside? It is the very end of the school year. Of course, considering how email jokes and virus warnings work, there may be benefit to doing it now, again before school starts AND later, a couple months into the school year.

ready… set … go

[and copy save and calendar it for a future date]