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Grassroots Advocacy for Local Public School Districts

August 23, 2017

Public education advocates across the nation are awakening to the fact that traditional public education is under serious attack and thus are gearing up to fight privatization efforts. Traditional public school advocates can overcome well-connected privatizers when they join together and get involved.

District-level advocacy groups are indispensable. If there isn’t a school district-level advocacy group in your area, start one. Gather some friends and start your own public education group to focus on supporting students, teachers, and education professionals in your local public school district.

Here are five easy steps to get you started:

  1. Find fellow organizers in your school district. Speak to your friends and family, professional colleagues, community leaders, and others who might be interested in joining you to help organize public education advocacy efforts for your school district.
  2. Meet to decide on your group’s focus. Your group may want to show how the neighborhood schools are affected by things like the overuse of standardized tests or inequitable charter school funding. Most importantly, your team should extensively promote the schools in the district and the children and families they serve.
  3. Become informed. Research and find out everything you can about the public schools in your district, and learn about current issues in Ohio public education. Check social media to see what other grassroots advocacy organizations (like Public Education Partners) are writing about public education, and consider attending activities that are presented locally or in other areas of the state.
  4. Decide what you can do. Will your group members want to attend school board meetings? Speak to elected officials? Write letters to the editor of the local newspaper? Attend pro-public education meetings and rallies? Host public education documentary screenings and panel discussions in your community? Connect through social media, or have face-to-face conversations with members of your community? If you’re not sure, start small and see what works.
  5. Create a Facebook page for your group, and start connecting with other people within your local school district community to learn more and share what you already know.

After you’ve figured it out, get involved and jump right in. Stay positive. Stay strong. Support your local public school district!

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Melissa’s Story

I am Melissa Marini Švigelj-Smith, a parent activist from Cleveland who’s very concerned about excessive testing- so concerned that I spoke to the Board of Education of the Cleveland Metropolitan Schools and requested that the board adopt a policy that accommodates families who refuse to allow their children to participate in high stakes standardized tests. Without hesitation, I conveyed this sincere message to the Board:

As evidenced by the easy passage of the last school levy, this community and its parents support Cleveland schools, and that respect and support deserves consistent reciprocity. I don’t believe that I need to rehash recent media reports in order to justify bringing attention to this issue.

As I briefly share some reasons why families have refused to allow their children to participate in high stakes standardized tests, I hope that you will consider adopting a policy that is respectful and supportive of families who express the desire to direct their children’s education, as protected by the 14th amendment.

This is why we refuse…

Because children should not have to attend a school labeled “failing,” or labeled anything at all.

School buildings shelter children with vast amounts of untapped potential. Not failures.

FAILURE should never be the name of a monster hovering over a school building making children afraid of how they will do on a test.

Children shouldn’t have to be afraid of how their teacher will be hurt by their performance on a test.

Or how their school or community or city will be labeled because of how they do on a test.

What sort of sane society that supposedly cherishes its children puts that sort of pressure on a child?

We refuse because without the data, they can’t label our children or anyone else’s children.

We refuse…

Because we know that standardized test scores have only been good at proving one thing: children’s life experiences and backgrounds far outweigh the impact that a school or teacher has on their test performance.

We refuse…

Because we don’t want our children’s privacy violated, and we don’t want test companies profiting from our children.

Because we know that things like art, music, gym, and recess have been shown by research to increase academic success and shouldn’t be reduced or eliminated because kids need to take or prepare for more standardized tests.

We refuse…

Because we know that the emotional and social growth of children in school is not measured on a standardized test.

Because the teacher who delivers groceries to a family in need, advocates for a student, or becomes a student’s confidant, counselor, or role model will never have that data show up in test results, and we trust our children’s teachers to assess their progress.

We refuse…

Because struggling students should not be made to feel like less than the developing human beings that we ALL started out as, because tests are used to label.

We know that the long term consequences of labeling and retention are profound.

NONE of our children are “limited,” “basic,” or “common.”

Words that label can and do. Hurt and Divide.

We refuse…

Because over 2000 education researchers, experts, and professionals signed a letter pleading with our President and Congress to stop relying on high stakes standardized testing to improve education – we have a decade of data proving that it doesn’t work.

Because there are mountains of research that provide more effective and research proven methods to educate our children and to evaluate teachers and schools.

We refuse…

Because when we look at our children, we see their smiles, their talents, their goofiness, the crumbs around their mouths, the dirt on their skin, and the hope in their eyes.

And when we look at our kids,

We never see them as data or test scores…

And neither should you.

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