School testing makes kids sick

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Workers’ Correspondence

Last week our New York educator correspondent Maria Ortiz reported on three changes of toilet paper dispensers in school buildings while seats for special ed kids are being eliminated. This week she continues her on-the-ground report.

And what about the children? Well they are being tested until they vomit. No kidding. The Bush “No Child Left Behind” and Republican Mayor Bloomberg and the chancellor believe in testing children over and over and over again. Giving big publishing houses like McGraw-Hill a big fat contract. Why? It looks good for the elections when the inflated scores are printed in the city newspaper and the mayor gets all the credit.

This educator conducts workshops for 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students just days before testing. I take an assessment on how the children feel about the upcoming tests, and the responses are written on the board. “I get nervous,” one 8-year-old boy says. The girl sitting next to him says, “I get headaches,” and another says she gets stomachaches. I begin the “De-stress The Test” workshop to try to help children lessen their anxiety and put all this testing in proper perspective.

It is very sad to see that storybooks are being replaced by test preparation workbooks in the classrooms.

What the Republicans have done to education is this: they have killed the love of learning, the satisfaction of accomplishment and achievement, the imagination and creativity of young children, and the exploration and curiosity and wonderment of nature and science.

For teachers they have smothered the passion for teaching children. They have taken away the teachers’ special creative and motivating lesson plans and replaced them with published scripts. They have destroyed that very special bond that occurs each year between student and teacher — that of achievement, accomplishment and success.

We of the school community look at ourselves and see the “corporate model” Mike Bloomberg and company have created. We see the major publishing houses and computer corporations making all the money. We see the corruption every time we use the bathrooms and look at our third new toilet paper dispenser. We see the privatization of what was once a public domain. We see parents being pushed out of any decision-making. We see the attacks on unions. We see the speed up.

We see it will take a coalition of all the unions in the entire school community — the teachers, the custodial staff who make our surroundings bearable, the clerical staff who push the mounds of paperwork, the cafeteria workers who cook the food so children receive the nourishment they need in order to concentrate on the school work, along with the parents, to fight back to organize and get to the polls to defeat the Republicans in November.

— Maria Ortiz, United Federation of Teachers delegate