One Voice Rally Speakers and Songs

The One Voice Rally gathered a large crowd of students, teachers, and parents protesting the over-testing of our children,  It also had some wonderful speakers and singers who eloquently expressed the problems we all had with the absurd testing regime masquerading as "education reform."  You can watch the entire video here or click on each speaker’s name below to jump to their speech/song.

One thing to note: I can’t possibly cover all of the speakers here. If I skip a few, it’s not a reflection on their speech but on the length of a reasonable blog post.  The entire video might be nearly three hours long, but it is well worth the time spent watching.

Dick Iannuzzi, president of NYSUT, spoke, among other things, about how State Education is trying to spin protests from parents and teachers over Pearson field tests.  Field tests are tests given not to assess a student’s knowledge, but to test the questions themselves.  Are they too confusing?  Are they too easy?  Can students answer them properly without taking too long to figure out the answer?

In any other circumstance, people taking field tests would be compensated for their time and effort.  Our kids, however, are being REQUIRED to take these tests.  In many instances, parents aren’t even being told that the tests their kids are getting are field tests.  And the kids aren’t paid anything.  They aren’t compensated at all.  All they get is the added stress of more tests to take.

State Education Commissioner King tried to claim that the protest was the union trying to "create a more tense environment around testing."  Now, I don’t know about you, but when my kids are given tons of difficult tests and then get MORE tests snuck in just to give the big business making the tests some free assistance in doing what they’re being paid to do, I feel tension and my kids feel tension.  The union doesn’t NEED to create any tension.  State Ed and Pearson created enough on their own.

Ricard Ognibene, from the Fairport Educators Association, spoke for the New York State Teachers of the Year.  He related stories of students who have begun hating school thanks to the tests, teachers who found that the testing regime has taken up all of their testing time, and parents who were told that their kids wouldn’t get additional math instruction because they needed to spend more time on the computer getting ready for next year’s standardized tests.

Jeremy Dudley rocked us with his rap song "Stop This Madness."  While this got the crowd chanting (and NHL screaming the title phrase), it also contained many very important points.  For example:

out of touch and out of tune we under teach and over test,
while cutting funding in the very places that we should invest,
everyone including kids can’t help from feeling over stressed,
So tell us how and why with kids in mind this system is what’s best,

In those four lines, Jeremy Dudley summarizes the entire problem.  By focusing so much on testing and cutting funding for anything else, we keep teachers from doing their job and students (not to mention parents and teachers) wind up over stressed.

Perhaps his best point, though, was this:

And if we walk along the money trail,
There’s profit to be made when we perceive that schools fail,

Pearson is being paid to create and administer these tests.  What happens if students don’t do well, though?  In that case, Pearson will get more money for textbooks, teacher education, additional testing, and much, much more.  If students do well?  Not as much money flows to them.  In other words, it is in Pearson’s economic interests to have the students do poorly.  And since the testing isn’t being done in a transparent manner, there’s no check to make sure they don’t abuse their position to generate more money for themselves.

Joyce Powell came from New Jersey.  Even though this rally was for New York’s educational system, she reminded us that this isn’t just a problem in New York.  New Jersey and many other states are facing this test abuse.

Nikhil Goyal, author of One Size Does Not Fit All, was different from most of the speakers.  He was the youngest speaker, by far, having just recently graduated from high school.  He decried the "drill, kill, bubble fill" culture.  He pointed out that standardized tests aren’t effective.  During a test, he left the Scantron blank and left the room in protest.  He even was given a multiple choice test for gym class.  (I’d like to see those questions.  You have a jump rope, do you a) crawl under it, b) jump over it, c) throw it in a hoop, or d) pineapple.)

Nikhil reminded people that young people are always at the forefront of social change and, to that end, is organizing a student rally next year.  He encouraged more students to either refuse the tests or walk out of them outright.

Tom Chapin, singer and songwriter, came onstage to first sing his song "Not On The Test" with Michael Mark.  In this song, he consoled a third grader that he’ll do fine on the test if he just forgets anything that isn’t on the test.  He told the student not to get stressed because that might make him do worse and then his teacher would suffer.  He also pointed out that, thanks to a lack of funding, his school has removed art, music and anything that isn’t on the test.

Next, they sang an anthem that Tom wrote for the rally.  "One Voice", spoke directly to State Ed about how parents, teachers, students and districts were united against over testing, under teaching, and unfunded mandates.  They even included a humorous line about an acronym for parents/teachers/students/districts:  "PTSD… Just like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – it’s what we’re all going to have if this keeps going on!"

There were so many more wonderful speakers that day.  They all energized the crowd and helped us realized that we’re not alone in our disgust for this situation.  The problem is far from solved, but the rally helped to focus everyone for the fight to come.  And if State Education thinks that we’ll back down, they’re sadly mistaken.  After all, our kids’ education is at stake.