Episode 4 Transcript

[00:00:28] Tina Dunbar, Host: Welcome back to another episode of “Educating From the Heart,” the Florida Education Association podcast that covers all topics related to public schools. I’m Tina Dunbar, along with Luke Flynt, my cohost. And he’s about to tell us what time it is. So, Luke, what’s the one thing that this time of year many educators and students are thinking about?

[00:00:53] Luke Flynt, Host: Well, you know, spring is in the air. So, it’s pollen season, Lovebug season. Is that what you mean?

[00:01:01] Tina: No. No, no, no. Let me give you a hint. Some consider it to be the most intense, pressure-packed, anxiety-ridden time of the school year.

[00:01:10] Luke: Ah, it’s testing season.

[00:01:13] Tina: You got it.

[00:01:16] Luke: You know, it has been almost a year since Governor DeSantis issued an emergency order to extend spring break for one week. That extension quickly turned into remote learning for the rest of the school year. And as we approach March of 2021, there are still hundreds of thousands of students who are choosing to learn remotely for their own safety.

[00:01:41] Tina: And some of our listeners may have heard, read about the growing concerns among parents and teachers over the state’s decision to move full speed ahead with statewide standardized assessments. Remember last year, the Florida DOE [Department of Education] waved testing? But this spring students are required to take their assessments in person. State leaders claim the data is needed because they need to know how Florida students are performing. But I’m going to tell you, Luke, that claim just doesn’t pass my smell test.

[00:02:14] Luke: No, no, nor should it. Because we know that schools have been engaged and monitoring student progress for the entire school year. And we know that they are required to submit that data up to the state. Look, here’s the reality. We already know how students are doing. And there would be no new data that we would get from these standardized tests. It seems like continuing with this idea of standardized testing in a pandemic is really more to benefit the testing companies than benefiting students.

[00:02:51] Tina: But not all testing companies. Recently, the organization that hosts a national test called NAEP, National Assessment of Educational Progress, canceled its spring test. And that might have encouraged the state to add a couple of extra weeks to its testing window. Could that be enough to ease concerns? I don’t know, but we have three parents joining us to dive in a little deeper on this issue.

Marie-Claire Leman is a Tallahassee parent and an outspoken advocate for Title I public schools. From Miami Dade, a recently retired teacher who has garnered national attention for her advocacy against misuse of testing data, that’s Ceresta Smith. And rounding out a group discussion, also from Miami, is Karla Hernandez-Mats. Karla is an elementary school teacher for students with special needs. She’s a parent, and she also serves as the president of the United Teachers of Dade.

[00:03:50] Luke: Well, that sounds like a really good lineup. Let’s jump right in. Karla, what do you think our audience needs to know about high stakes testing?

[00:03:59] Karla Hernandez-Mats, parent and teacher: Well, first of all, let me say hello to everybody that’s listening. I’m glad to be a part of this podcast. And, of course, to share as much information as we can possibly do to educate our community on everything that’s going on. You know, I think that the pandemic has brought out the best and worst of a lot of people. And we’re seeing how some lawmakers are really not interested in helping children at this particular time. You know, testing has always been controversial. Not that teachers are against testing because, at the end of the day, teachers are the ones that made up tests. We’ve always done pop quizzes and spelling tests and all kinds of things to assess our children.

So, we’ve always been in favor of testing, not to the detriment of students though, which is what it has become. It has really changed in how we help children, and it’s become something that’s punitive. And, you know, we know that research has shown how there are tests biases, and they’re bias towards race, towards culture. And, you know, there are all these other factors that also impact, you know, the accurateness of a test and what it measures. But as a parent, I’ll tell you this, my children do not test. I opt my children out of testing. I have two elementary age children. I believe that the testing that my teachers do or their teachers do in class, the way that they see them reaching benchmarks, how they grade them on their academic standards, and, of course, just their subjects. For me as a parent, that’s what I want to see. The person that’s working with them directly, how they feel the student is doing, how they’re progressing, and that’s what I take into account. I’m concerned with standardized tests because of the punitiveness, you know, that it demonstrates for communities. And when schools don’t get funding because of test scores, when teachers are evaluated based on test scores, you know, that’s something that brings just red flags and should bring red flags to people.

As a special ed teacher, which is what I am, I am a special education teacher. I have seen, you know, another side, right? I have seen how children that have worked really, really hard, have all this anxiety and have worked year-round to do well on a test and their angst. Some of them demonstrating it by, you know, throwing up in class right before taking the test, getting migraines, I mean, crying, I mean, all these different side effects that the test pressure brings. And then because they’re special ed students, and they already have a disability that they’re, you know, having to function with, seeing them not meet those standards and still being labeled as failing or being labeled as inadequate and what that does to their self-esteem. Even though I know that those students have progressed and have reached benchmarks, just not the ones that we want to standardize them to because they’re not standard children. That really also made me reflect back and look at things in a very different way.

[00:07:07] Marie-Claire Leman, parent and advocate: And I just want to add also that the idea of testing during this COVID time: it’s unworkable. I mean, those who think that it’s going to work are not in the classroom, and they’re not in the homes. There are schools that have more than 50% of their students still learning from home for a reason. Those parents, whatever their belief might be about testing, they would be taking a big risk to send their kids to school. And they’ve kept them home now at that point, they’ll have kept them home for eight months, more than that, right? Since last March, almost a year. And then we’re expected to just not worry for those many hours that it takes to test a child. And then on the school front, where we’ve really tried to be socially distant, we now have to crowd our classrooms to take these tests because not everyone is allowed to proctor them.

And so you’re going to have to have these tests done in the old style classrooms. That’s the only way to do it in the limited time and to be valid, you know, or whatever. And so not only are parents sending their kids back to an environment that they have not felt comfortable, their kids being in, but even the parents who have felt comfortable because they can, you know, see that the school has taken all the measures necessary. Well, those measures are out the window, when it comes testing.

[00:08:41] Ceresta Smith, parent, teacher, Opt-Out advocate: I agree, the testing, it’s ridiculous to even engage in that practice at this point. Nothing is consistent right now. Constantly during this pandemic you’ve had students removed, teachers removed. They’re flipping back and forth between remote learning and face-to-face learning. The vast majority of students really didn’t come back to the school buildings as well. The vast majority of them are on remote. You’ve had lost students, where we can’t account for where they are. They’re not showing up in either scenario. And I think to take resources and spend it on testing this year, when they could take resources and find the lost students.

Where they could take use their resources wisely to make sure everybody has the correct technology in their homes, the support they need, home visits. You’ve got communities [like] Hillsborough that did the home visits. They went looking for the kids. They provided the support. Resources are better used for that, as opposed to taking a test that’s just going to show basically the same thing it always shows, is that special needs, second language, people of color are going to score worse, far worse than those students that are in middle-class communities that are more stable, et cetera. It’s not going to give us any different information.

[00:10:02] Luke: One of the points that Karla made, that I think is a really good one. You know, the legislators say that we have to do the testing this year. Or else, how will we know what the students learn? But what I heard Karla say is my child’s teacher knows how my child is doing. And Ceresta and Marie-Claire, I’d be interested in your thoughts on that. And is, are the assessments that are actually teacher driven more formative, more beneficial, more of what students really need right now?

[00:10:37] Ceresta: Marie-Claire would you like to go first?

[00:10:41] Marie-Claire: Sure. One of the things that is clear in the executive orders of returning back to school is that progress monitoring has to happen and is happening, and it has to be reported to the state on a regular basis.

And if you talk to principals, they’ve worked hard, by necessity, to align their progress monitoring to the FSA (Florida Standards Assessments) over the years. Because it’s how they can make sure that their students, for better or worse, are going to pass those tests. And so that progress monitoring is telling us as parents, I’m a parent not a teacher, but it’s telling more importantly, the teachers where their students are at, and it is giving them in real time, the information they need to keep helping their students progress. And the information from the testing, in any case, comes so late, right? That it’s not what’s going to help the teacher, help the student right now in this really limited learning environment that we have.

[00:11:48] Ceresta: And really it doesn’t really assess a student’s achievement per se. It’s limited. You’re talking about two subject areas. You’re talking about reading, and you’re talking about math when there’s a whole diverse community of intelligence and subject areas that don’t even get looked at, which are just as important and are necessary for students to thrive in the communities in which they live, into the colleges and universities they can matriculate into or training programs. So, you’re very narrow focus that has a eugenics history. I mean, where did these tests come from? They came out of eugenics. They came out of Beckham using a standardized assessment to decide, well, they used it for World War I to decide who they want to throw out on the front line, you know, because their intelligence level was “lower,” quote unquote, than the others. And they used it to prove, in their minds, that Northern Europeans were the most intelligent, and people of color were the least intelligent. I mean, it’s rooted, firmly rooted in racism and false science, and when you look at these tests today. Look at all the years that, we’ll just look at No Child Left Behind. Look how many years it’s been in place. And do you see anything different with the data? Not really.

[00:13:09] Tina: But I think that’s the question that people need to have answered. What is it about this data? If teachers are able to ascertain the information they need in terms of student progress. We’re spending millions of dollars on this testing, and kids are emotionally distraught as a result of this testing. What is it that this state gets out of this, if it doesn’t help teachers and it doesn’t help students? And parents need to understand this.

[00:13:46] Karla: So this is about capitalism, and this is about industries making money. If you want to talk about what this, what it’s about and just like, you know, Mrs. Smith just said, how, you know, this is something that we spend millions of dollars every single year, and the data is not any different. Like we know what it’s going to say. We know that it’s going to be about social economics.

And so those that have come from areas where the social economics are much less, you know, are going to suffer more in terms of academic gaps. So instead of spending millions of dollars on test taking curriculum and materials, why don’t we spend millions of dollars, you know, injecting them into those communities to make sure that we can put the support systems and the resources that are necessary for these children to thrive.

This is not new. There have been research studies that are over 30 years old that have been talking about the achievement gap in communities of color, which is directly correlated to poverty levels. And so, if we want to, you know, talk about how we really make a change, it’s not through taking a test and telling us something that we already know. By the way, we’re all different, which is part of the beauty of, you know, mankind. We come with different abilities, some are academic abilities, some are emotional intelligence, some are, you know, just our craftiness, what we can do with our hands, right? And we are trying to predetermine. Or saying that all children are widgets, and that they’re all the same and that they should all reach the same standards and the same potential, which we know is not true.

Diane Ravitch, President of the Network for Public Education (NPE), just came out with a book last year, Slaying Goliath, and she mentioned, you know, Mrs. Ceresta Smith and the work that she did here in Florida. And she talks about, you know, how this testing monopoly, this testing industry has really deviated what we do in our education system and how it’s really hurting our education system, not helping our education system.

[00:16:10] Ceresta: Exactly. And Diane, let me mention that Diane Ravitch was a proponent of all this testing initially. She learned from the mistakes, she saw the evidence that this was worthless. It was useless to throw all these resources into this. She learned, and that’s why she’s been on this advocacy campaign against standardized testing.

She understands the use of NAEP, and I will never arguing saying NAEP is not necessary. Cause I think NAEP serves a purpose, first and foremost it’s random sampling. You’re not holding students accountable by punitively, by withholding down from moving from third grade to fourth, as in the state of Florida or requiring it as an assessment that has to be passed prior to achieving a high school diploma, as in Florida. And I think, at this point, nine other states continue to do this. NAEP does let us know where gains are being made or losses are being made, but it does it for a community. You can see overall in a particular community.

And when you look at initially during the Johnson administration, when they started Title I funding, it was to provide resources for communities that were at deficit. And NAEP is an assessment that can help determine some of those deficits. It doesn’t punish kids. It doesn’t punish educators. It doesn’t punish school districts.

I mean the whole concept of using test scores to close down schools, kick whole faculties out of a school. This supposed it’s shut down, turned around, handed over to a private managed charter. I mean, come on now, when I look at, just in Miami Dade County, when I look at when they started bringing testing in, in a more punitive manner and grading schools, grading teachers. To me, and I’m sure there’s other sociological factors involved in this, but when you started stamping kids at an early age as “failing,” and I would love somebody to do the research on this, it seemed like it escalated a lot of the gun violence that ended up occurring in particular communities. Because there’s nothing that would make me proud to know I was going to a school that was stamped with an “F” or a “D.”

Kids are very resilient. My daughter went to graduate programs and did an undergraduate year in the Middle East at American universities that had satellite campuses, and she went to school with a lot of Iraqi students. Now my daughter’s 25 years old, so we’re talking about the students that were little kids during the Iraqi Wars. Now they didn’t even have schools when they started bombing inside Iraq and started destroying that whole infrastructure. They had no schools, and so they had gap years, but they were resilient. And the same thing. I think our kids will be resilient as well, but if you’re stamping failure on them in the years they’re going through trauma. Because, let’s face facts, this is dramatic. What we’re going through, this is trauma.

[00:19:26] Tina: Yes, it is. There’s no doubt about that.

[00:19:29] Ceresta: No doubt. And if you stamp failure on them, while they’re going through this trauma, you’re escalating the problems.

[00:19:40] Tina: Right. Do you feel teachers have the resources they need, not just in terms of learning loss, but also the socio-emotional impact of this, the trauma that kids are going through from what may be happening at home?

[00:19:53] Karla: I think some districts are handling it better than others. Some districts are putting, you know, some resources around these areas. But I can say with certainty that no teacher feels they have the resources they need during this time. I can say that with a hundred percent certainty. The teachers that are in person don’t have all the resources that they need, and the teachers that are, you know, teaching in a virtual platform also don’t have them. I mean, we still see places where children need devices or they don’t have connectivity. They live in digital deserts, and we’re seeing all the inequities that exist just through technology.

And, you know, I think that one of the things that’s extremely important that we’ve talked about is being resilient. And I’m sure that Marie Claire, she can talk about how her children are being resilient during this time. I know I’ve seen it. I’ve seen teachers be resilient in how they are adapting to teaching during a pandemic, whether it’s in person or virtual. But I’ve seen my children too, which my children come to work with me every single day, because I have them on virtual school. And so I’ve seen them troubleshoot, troubleshoot when technology isn’t working. I’ve seen them help each other. You know, when something is off or one of the students hasn’t been able to get on and how they speak of so-and-so’s trying to get on and he can’t, he or she can’t get on. I’ve seen them just be very empathetic towards each other as well.

And those are all, again, things that are not tested. But if you follow the money, we know why certain things happen in education. And that is because people are making money off of our children.

[00:21:45] Marie-Claire: Even in normal times, right. COVID aside, test results feed a narrative in Florida of privatizing public education.

Because if you can demonstrate, as you both explained so well that, you know, the school is an “F” school and, therefore, why would you want to send your kids there? Then you have a captive audience for vouchers. And so the attack, especially on Title I schools, to be in turnaround and then be closed and then lose staff and then have only staff that stays for teachers that can only handle the pressure for a couple of years, and there’s so much more turnaround. That is all fitting in the narrative of public schools failing students, which we know from the inside is not the case. My kids went to only Title I schools, and they’re all through the elementary, middle and high school are serving the needs of the students very well.

But the kids come at a disadvantage from day one, and they’re not going to be able to do, you know, to always make up that difference just in the hours of school time. And so the tests are just so unfair, even at the best of times. It was so interesting that you brought up the NAEP because it’s so devious.

And I’m a parent and I know I speak kind of harshly, but it’s devious to me the way that the FSA is used to show that our schools are failing, but then Florida plays the game by retaining third graders and making sure that on the fourth grade NAEP test they’ll do well because they’ve had an extra year. So then the NAEP is used to show that Florida has an accountability system, and all that is doing great. And so they want to look good on the national level, but they are willing to make all of our public schools look like they’re behind and not doing well to feed the market for privatization.

[00:23:49] Tina: Exactly. They figured out how to game the system.

[00:23:51] Marie-Claire: Exactly. And I just wanted to say that, yes, my kids have been resilient, but you know, it’s easy for them to be resilient too, because we had devices, you know, so I don’t know if it took all that much resiliency. I mean, one thing that I will say, is that the relationship between students and teachers this year in this time is much more intimate, even for the kids that are online, or maybe, especially for the kids that are online, where the teachers are forced to take into account the living situation of these students. It’s great, right? And it’s something that you can’t measure and the bonds that are being created and the understanding and the empathy, like you mentioned, Karla, and at the same time, you know, what it also does is that the students are really aware of the stress level of their teachers.

They know when their teachers are having a hard time, whether it’s with technology or because their administrators are mentioning the FSA a little bit more, because they’re worried that it’s going to come up. And I hear it.

[00:24:54] Tina: And does that impact their performance?

[00:24:58] Marie-Claire: I’m sure that everyone’s on edge. I mean, more than their performance, it’s their mood, you know, and their wellbeing and their eagerness to be involved in participating in the class. I mean, this is such a fragile time for everybody. And when the teachers can do what they know is best, they’re best placed to help our children, right there. That’s I mean, the latitude to teach is one of the tools that is most important, and that is so easily taken away.

[00:25:37] Karla: And I think that what Marie Claire mentioned, and alludes to as well, is that, you know, during this time we should be really trying to engage in social-emotional learning. There are so many different variables and situations that students are undergoing.

And, you know, again, because it’s not something that is on a standardized test, you skip right over it because you know that there’s an executive order. You know that you have a commissioner of education that is not supportive to public schools and is going to continue to mandate these things that we know as parents are unnecessary right now.

But right now we should really be focused on social-emotional learning and making sure that children are well and that they’re happy and that they are surviving this pandemic. Because when things are better, when things are under control, we will be able to come back in. We will be able to assess children, make whatever strategies, techniques that we have to implement to try to help mitigate those learning gaps.

But we can’t do that if the kids aren’t there. And right now, what they’re trying to do is survive. They’re surviving a pandemic; all of us are. And, you know, I think that is a part of the empathy and the humanity that the Department of Education who is, you know, right now is being poorly led is taking us down that path.

[00:27:07] Luke: Yeah, and that’s a really good point. Thank you. I think we might be at a good natural break now to focus on the explicit advocacy. I think you all have done a great job of talking about the problems, and I really appreciate naming the racism, naming the capitalism as the problem, because those need to be said. And then for the second half, we want to talk about some of the ways that y’all are fighting back against it.

[00:27:44] Ceresta: Yeah, Diane Ravitch’s national organization, the Network for Public Education, as well as a lot of other organizations, nationally and within the context of the state and within our unions, we’re all doing, of course, the letter writing campaign to all our elected officials to put the test on pause and dump it completely, after this year where those letter writing campaigns are going on. And I still get a bunch of requests from parents to assist with opting out, just writing the letter, submitting the letters to opt out on the individual level. My granddaughter does not take any of these assessments either. She passed from third to fourth grade with a portfolio assessment where they collected her work. She didn’t have prom. I’m sure Karla is doing the same thing with her children. So, besides the letter writing encouraging. Now, Tony mentioned, our vice president for United Teaching, today mentioned that the federal level is recommending no testing.

[00:28:57] Tina: Even if the federal level recommends no testing, do you believe that Florida will follow that?

[00:29:00] Marie Claire: That’s the problem. We need a mandate.

[00:29:03] Tina: Yes. That’s the problem. We know that the tests for English language learners has been, the students have been given the option to opt out. And for those who choose to still take the tests, they’ve been given until the end of the year to take it. And this was done by the state. So, the commissioner can make an adjustment.

[00:29:29] Karla: Right. And so, to answer the first part of your question, it’s because of advocacy. If it was up to the state, there would be no waivers on any of those things. They were trying to have students that are English speakers of other languages, ELL students, come into the school sites and all take the test, because of advocacy workers, from, you know, LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens), LCLAA (Labor Council for Latin American Advancement) different, you know, organizations that care about how children are being measured.

There was also a letter writing campaign trying to bring or shed light to this situation so that, you know, the Department of Education could take different steps, and they did. So, I think that that also answers your question, which is we have to be advocates. We have to be loud. We have to get involved.

You know, we have to share information with friends because, if we do it, if we mobilize, if we are organized, then we can create the changes that we need. And a lot of those changes are obviously, I’m going to go back on my soap box, you know, we need a vote. We need a vote for people who care about public education and care about strengthening, you know, how our children are educated.

[00:30:44] Tina: That’s true. Do you feel enough parents understand or know about the portfolio choice?

[00:30:52] Marie-Claire: Yeah, no, you’re right that more parents need to know. I think it’s a pretty difficult environment still between parents and teachers at the third grade level, in terms of advocating for your child to have a portfolio.

I found it difficult as a parent, because I knew the other ramifications of the tests. So, my kids went to an elementary school that for many of the years that they were at the elementary school was the “D” school. And I wanted my kids to opt out, but I knew my kids would do well on the test. So, it was a real conundrum because I didn’t want my school to stay a “D” school, and their grade could help a little bit.

[00:31:40] Tina: Those scores were very important.

[00:31:43] Marie Claire: Right, and so the teachers knew it, and they knew where I stood and they, you know, had a lot of respect for me as a parent and as an advocate. But for parents to be pitted against teachers in that way, unless the portfolio is something that the teacher can truly advocate for on behalf of the family. Do you know what I mean? Like, I don’t think that you can pit the parent against the teacher when the child is in third grade, and you’re struggling so hard as a teacher to be a partner to that parent, and vice versa, at a really crucial time in a child’s education. And I feel like the passing of that knowledge, if it’s stigmatized in any way, really hurts that relationship, one way or the other. And people have to tiptoe around it. And I don’t think that parents understand that enough, definitely not. And I don’t think that parents, honestly, I don’t think parents understand enough what, how limited that school grade is.

And so I’ve had conversations with parents that say, “Hey, you know, like why would I send my kid to a ‘D’ school?” And I want to say, “well, did you visit it?” Because what you see at the school is not reflected in the school grade. That is your, especially in elementary school, your math and your ELA for only three grade levels. There’s so much more that goes into it. And when parents don’t understand that and make decisions based on such a limited measure, it really hurts entire communities.

[00:33:30] Luke: Yeah. So, we we’ve talked quite a bit about advocacy, and in terms of what parents, how parents can advocate, how teachers can advocate. I’m wondering at the upper grade levels, what role, if any, does a high school student have in advocating for the best testing conditions, the best learning conditions, I should say for themselves, instead of just being a test taker, actually being a student; any thoughts on that?

[00:34:00] Ceresta: Various different States you have seen a lot of students advocacy and a lot of student resistance. I can think of two in particular in California and in Michigan. Florida, I don’t think students…the best advocacy and activism that I’ve seen out of Florida students happened with Marjorie Stoneman Douglas. It took a tragedy to really get students, to organize and see and understand the power that they have. So, in Florida so many parents, and this has been a handicap, so many parents buy into the lie that these tests are necessary. “I want my kid to take that test. I wanted to see if the teacher’s teaching him anything,” which is not a reflection of what the teacher, it honestly, isn’t it. There’s a disconnect, I think, when it comes to students understanding that they don’t have to sit for it, particularly the older ones, don’t have to sit for assessment if they don’t so desire.

[00:35:08] Tina: Well, it seems like this might be the perfect time for a reset of some sort, like a time to reform our accountability system to something that really does work for students and teachers and parents also, you know. What would that look like? If you went to a legislator and said, “Hey, we need to change this. This is a perfect time. This is what you need to do.” Marie-Claire, what would you like to see happen?

[00:35:36] Marie-Claire: Well, I think you’re right that it’s the perfect time because, and I know I’m not answering your question exactly, but it’s the perfect time because you can bring people a little bit closer at this time.

And I think we can, you know, other people are taking advantage of the pandemic in other ways that are frustrating and feel undemocratic and unfair. And I think that we should be taking advantage of the pandemic. You know, I say that, you know, a little bit jokingly, but because it is highlighting the injustice of the test, the unfairness of the test, the unnecessary nature of the test, and the lost learning, everything like that is being highlighted.

And so it’s very interesting because when you have conversations with, you know, people, just district officials or administrators at schools, teachers, neighbors, whatever, a lot of people, you know, you’re either, you’re either like, “Yeah, there shouldn’t be high stakes.” And then others are a little bit further along where they’re like, “There shouldn’t be a test at all.” And then others are a little bit further along and like us here and say there should never be a test, you know, with this kind of test and this kind of high stakes attached to it, even in normal times. And so it’s like given us the opportunity to have the conversation in the first place, meet people where they’re at and move them along. Because if you are willing to say that it’s unnecessary this year, then you can, you’re pretty close to being able to understand that it’s unnecessary in normal times. Right?

[00:37:18] Karla: I want to take a stab at this too. So, a few things: I think that the timing is perfect right now because everyone in the entire planet is reevaluating how they do things just in general. How we shop, how we do work, how we communicate, how we educate. And so I think that even the way we see, you know, traditional education, there’s going to be a lot of innovation in all industries. And there has to be innovation in education as well. If I was asking a legislator for something in particular, I would say that we rethink, you know, what our education system, how we do it, right? How we innovate in this, you know, all the things that we’ve learned through the pandemic. And so, you know, how do we think of all these innovative things that we could do? And I would also say that we ask legislators to give public tax dollars to public schools that are governed by school boards that are elected. We have so much money that is going into private industry. We have so much of our public tax dollars that is going to make, you know, these private property owners money on our backs.

[00:38:37] Ceresta: So, I think one of the things that really needs to be done is working very hard to get a change up there in Tallahassee. We’ve been under this oppression for, what is it almost 18, 19 years now? And we see each year how the dollars are taken more and more away from [public education], and we see the negative impact [on our schools and students]. So, I think that [changing the legislature] is one area.

[00:39:03]Marie-Claire: I just wanted to add to that I think that all of our advocacy, and Karla mentioned it earlier, we always have to draw a link to voting. You know, every time we’re bringing this up, we need to remind people that we’re in this situation because of not turning out the vote and not helping people have access to the vote. And it’s very important to connect the two and to connect parents with parents. Tina, your point is well taken. I mean, I think that, you know, one of the things that I started throwing myself into sort of beyond doubt, was to organize our Title I community in Tallahassee into a Title I advisory council of parents predominantly and teachers representatively and administrators as well on a representative basis, so that those needs of Title I schools could have a voice, rather than just have parents pick up and leave their Title I school communities. And I think that, you know, so much work can be done from parent to parent and through those channels and organizing our communities and being supportive of our schools in all of the ways that we can be as parents. We have no strings attached, right? We have our jobs. We’re not teachers, our jobs are not on the line when we advocate for our schools.

[00:40:48] Luke: Wow. What a powerful conversation. It really seems like what happens next is up to us. To all of us.

[00:40:57] Tina: That is so true, but I want to be clear that our guests are not directing parents to opt out. Instead, we all want to make sure that parents recognize opt out is another choice option. Also, Florida lawmakers have filed the bill that, if passed, would shield students, educators, and schools from the punitive consequences of this year’s testing. We’ll see if legislators follow the DOE or respond to parent concerns, but we know some parents similar to our guests have already made the decision to choose safety over testing.

[00:41:34] Luke: Yeah, we’ll have to see if this trend catches on. Will this be the year that parents and students rise up and push back against standardized tests and the high stakes consequences associated with them? You know, I’m not a parent, but if I did have a school-aged child, I’d think long and hard before having them sit for their test, especially during a pandemic.

[00:41:55] Tina: And I’m so glad my kids are out of school, so I don’t have to make that decision. Well, that’s it for our show, and I want to thank you for listening. Don’t forget you can find out more information about all of the topics we talk about in our episode, by visiting the show notes page on our website, FEAweb.org/podcast.

[00:42:20] Luke: We appreciate your feedback, comments, and suggestions. Please keep sending them in by emailing heart@floridaea.org. That email address again is heart@floridaea.org, or you can call and leave a voicemail at (850) 201-3384 that’s (850) 201-3384. Hope to hear from you.

[00:42:50] Tina: Until we meet again, keep educating from the heart.

[00:42:56] Andrew Spar, FEA President: Hi, this is FEA president Andrew Spar. To stay on top of all the latest news and issues impacting our public schools, be sure to follow FEA on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. For more information on this podcast, visit FEAweb.org/podcast.

Educating From the Heart is a production of the Florida Education Association. FEA is the statewide educators’ union with more than 150,000 members, including teachers, education staff professionals, higher education faculty, graduate assistants, students preparing to become teachers and retired educators.

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