'Educator Roundtable' holds first meeting in Atlanta... Loud 'No!' to No Child Left Behind

While the nation’s news media attempt to claim that the range of opinion on the federal “No Child Left Behind” law ranges from “modify it” to “keep it as is,” there is a growing movement to abolish the law entirely.

The Educator Roundtable, a group organizing resistance and gathering signatures to petition the U.S. Congress to dismantle the No Child Left Behind Act, held its first national meeting on March 17, 2007, in Atlanta. Over 60 teachers, parents, education researchers and writers from Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, New York, Vermont, Illinois, Minnesota, Tennessee, Alabama, Colorado, Louisiana, and California attended the conference at Georgia State University.

The Educator Roundtable has been working online, through discussions on the Internet, and on its website since its inception in November 2006. Phillip Kovacs, University of Alabama at Huntsville professor and chair of the Educator Roundtable, told Substance that it was a relief to meet with others in person.

“Being in the room with the physical bodies convinced me what we are doing is correct,” he told Substance. The conference participants were also glad for the connection with other teacher activists.

“Here in Florida, we were way ahead of the ‘standards and accountability’ curve with FCAT and Jeb Bush’s A+ Plan,” said John Perry, a fifth-grade teacher from Tampa, Florida. “I’ve been so preoccupied and diverted by concerns at the state level that I’ve paid less attention to NCLB. This conference was the first chance I’ve had to really feel connected to what’s going on outside Florida, and that was very energizing.”

Rand Bissell, a teacher from Gwinnett County, Georgia, and the founder of the Teachers’ Alliance of Gwinnett (TAG), who participated in the conference reported on the TAG web site:

“The presenters brilliantly articulated the regional and national attempts by corporate leaders to destroy public education as a prerequisite to privatizing it for profit.”

The speakers included Marion Brady, a former teacher and Knight Ridder/Tribune columnist, Jack Gerson and Steven Miller, Oakland, California high school teachers and union activists, Deron Boyles, Georgia State University professor, Ken Goodman, internationally renowned reading authority and University of Arizona professor, and Susan Ohanian, Substance national resistance editor, longtime teacher and author.

Brady, spoke about a system problem in education — a dysfunctional curriculum. He presented the problems with the traditional curriculum in place in schools today, stating “there will be no significant improvement in student performance until school subjects become functioning components of the brain’s holistic, seamless, systemically integrated system for processing information.” He stressed that NCLB makes innovation impossible.

Brady’s Power Point presentation and many newspaper columns are available on his web site.

Teachers Jack Gerson and Steven Miller presented information about the Eli broad Foundation’s influence in California education. They spoke about the effect of “results based budgeting” on the Oakland schools, which created small schools that have had to eliminate foreign language, music, art, custodial and security staff in their schools. They spoke about the privatization and charterization of the schools in California creating “a cycle of instability.” They detailed the fight of teachers in the California Teachers Association and their Oakland local to overturn the NEA’s position on NCLB.

Derren Boyles offered the scenario of taking NCLB to its extreme in “the quest for certainty.”

Ken Goodman spoke about the financially and ideologically corrupt federal Reading First program. He spoke about the DIBELS tests (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills), “a set of silly tests that misrepresent pupils and demean teachers … a pedagogy of the absurd.”

Susan Ohanian closed the conference by talking about the real needs of children and urging teachers to speak out against the abuses of NCLB.


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