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Let Teachers Teach

In May of this year, more than 160 students in the South Bronx staged an insurrection by refusing to take a three-hour practice exam. Rather than submit themselves to yet another diagnostic test, the students turned in blank exams. As one of the eighth grade students put it, “The school system’s just treating us like test dummies for the companies that make the exams.”

Today on GRITtv we talk with teachers about why students are rebelling, what’s wrong with our public schools, and why they’re under-funded. Megan Behrent, an English teacher at Brooklyn New York Public High School, says that no child left behind has “flattened education to what can be testable.” A typical third grade class can expect to fill out 46 bubble tests a year. In such a climate it is increasingly difficult to teach kids to like books and literature. But that’s exactly what Behrent and our other panelists, Brian Jones a public elementary school teacher in Harlem and Martina Meijer, an elementary school teacher in the Bronx do day in and day out.

It’s not easy and attrition rates are high. And the federal government isn’t helping. This past weekend the National Education Association endorsed Barack Obama. But they criticized his support for merit pay, an often divisive policy that pits teachers against one another and encourages teaching to the test. They also made it clear that the problems public schools face go much deeper than money or books.

So school’s out—at lest for now. But the corporate model corrupting our public schools, a testing mandate, and crowded classrooms will all be back in the fall.

CommunityLaura Flanders

Let Teachers Teach

In May of this year, more than 160 students in the South Bronx staged an insurrection by refusing to take a three-hour practice exam. Rather than submit themselves to yet another diagnostic test, the students turned in blank exams. As one of the eighth grade students put it, “The school system’s just treating us like test dummies for the companies that make the exams.” 

Today on GRITtv we talk with teachers about why students are rebelling, what’s wrong with our public schools, and why they’re under-funded. Megan Behrent, an English teacher at Brooklyn New York Public High School, says that no child left behind has “flattened education to what can be testable.” A typical third grade class can expect to fill out 46 bubble tests a year. In such a climate it is increasingly difficult to teach kids to like books and literature. But that’s exactly what Behrent and our other panelists, Brian Jones a public elementary school teacher in Harlem and Martina Meijer, an elementary school teacher in the Bronx do day in and day out. 

It’s not easy and attrition rates are high. And the federal government isn’t helping. This past weekend the National Education Association endorsed Barack Obama. But they criticized his support for merit pay, an often divisive policy that pits teachers against one another and encourages teaching to the test. They also made it clear that the problems public schools face go much deeper than money or books.

So school’s out—at lest for now. But the corporate model corrupting our public schools, a testing mandate, and crowded classrooms will all be back in the fall.  

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Laura Flanders

Laura Flanders

Laura Flanders, author, and host of RadioNation on Air America Radio, has built a reputation for courageous investigative journalism coupled with compassion and a sense of humor. In writing her last book, Blue Grit, she traveled the country reporting on grassroots success stories and broadcast live to over 150 radio stations from community centers in places including Helena, Salt Lake City, New Orleans, Miami, Las Vegas, and Milwaukee. In her television appearances (Lou Dobbs, Larry King Live,) on radio and in her many books (including Bushwomen: Tales of a Cynical Species) and articles (The Nation and others,) Flanders calls for a new politics of fairness, equality and citizen action. Articulating the human dimension of American communities in trouble, her programs have become destinations for those seeking the skills and the will to make a difference. Flanders is a regular contributor to the Nation Magazine and CNN. Before joining Air America, where she was part of the original lineup, and hosted “The Laura Flanders Show” for three years, Flanders was the founding host of the award-winning “Your Call” weekday mornings on public radio, KALW in the Bay Area and CounterSpin, the radio show of the mediawatch group, FAIR.