Murray Language Academy’s local school council is officially putting Chicago Public Schools on notice that it is tired of students and teachers being put through the ringer for the sake of a battery of standardized tests of questionable value.
Their opposition comes in the form of a resolution, so it is hardly earth shattering, but it may well be a harbinger of things to come. The question we have is whether Hyde Parkers are willing to support the local school council (LSC) at Murray, 5335 S. Kenwood Ave., and at other public schools, should they follow suit. And what, beyond passing resolutions, are we willing to do?
It is no secret that standardized tests are making schools joyless places. With all of the other challenges public school teachers and administrators have, stifling opportunities for innovation by forcing teachers to teach to one-size-fits-all tests seems completely out of step with the times. In the private schools where the politicians and policymakers who implement these rules send their children, emphasis is on freedom and inspiration. These, it seems, are qualities reserved for the education of the children of the elite few.
There are few teachers who will defend the current system of public education, but they will all tell you that it is going to take a well-orchestrated opposition to truly push back against the glut of standardized testing that even elementary school children are now forced to endure. We are hopeful that this step taken by Murray’s LSC will inspire other school councils.
Ultimately, however, it will take the whole community rallying around this brave stand in order for words to translate into action.
Local school council elections are in April. Hyde Park could begin a sea change in Chicago against standardized testing abuse by voting in critics of high-stakes testing. A test boycott in the president’s — and education secretary’s — home neighborhood would send a powerful message across the country.
Parents are understandably intimidated by the phalanx of professionals who warn them that they are jeopardizing their children’s future if they don’t test them every which way the federal government demands. It will take a lot of support to counteract that intimidation. Is Hyde Park willing?
In years past, our community has been at the vanguard of public education innovation. During the recent teachers strike, Hyde Park was outstanding in its support of the teachers. We can shine even brighter by standing behind the Murray LSC and encouraging other LSCs to adopt a similar resolution condemning high-stakes testing. And we can go further than that by supporting a boycott of unnecessary tests.
The most important thing we can do for the children of Hyde Park right now is to protect their right to be children – and not cogs.