Trust Only The Trustworthy

Ten thousand students in seventeen schools were in lockdown in the Fairfield , Connecticut Public Schools on October 23rd because the two high schools and one elementary school received threatening phone calls. The caller, according to the Fairfield Police, proclaimed that he was on his way to those schools with pipe bombs and an M16 rifle. When those calls came in, the two high schools and one elementary school went into immediate lockdown, and, within four minutes, all of the other fourteen Fairfield Public Schools were also in lockdown.

All 10,000 students were in the care of their teachers and school administrators.

Word went out fast. The news outlets put the state on alert. Police and fire departments from neighboring towns, including Newtown, sent assistance. Some parents gathered near the schools; others heeded the advice of the police chief who asked parents to remain away in case emergency vehicles needed access to the schools. Speculation was rampant. Anxiety was everywhere. Those whom the parents treasured most in the world, their children, were in those schools. A generation of the town of Fairfield was in those schools.

With all of the speculation and all of the anxiety, none of the parents interviewed and none of the reporters, talking about the increasingly tense situation from every possible angle, expressed one single doubt that the students were in good hands.  And they were in good hands.

Teachers in all of the classrooms locked their classroom doors and committed themselves to caring for their students for whatever lay ahead. Some of the students were not in classrooms when the lockdown occurred but were in unlocked areas of the schools. Teachers in all of those situations thought quickly and made heroic decisions to create places as safe as possible for those students. Those teachers put themselves in vulnerable positions in order to protect the students if the threats became real. The students could not have been in better hands.

About two hours after the first call, the police determined there was no danger. The lockdown ended, and the students were dismissed early from all the schools. As students were leaving one of the high schools, reporters interviewed them. All of the students said that their teachers had kept them calm and that they all knew what to do because of the lockdown drills held regularly at the school.

The Fairfield teachers and administrators proved on Friday what most parents know about their children’s teachers and their children’s school administrators: They are the best of us. We trust our kids to them. And they earn our trust every day.

If we can trust our children’s safety, their very lives, to them, we certainly can trust them to design English, math, social studies, science, world language, art, music, and physical education programs and reliable ways to assess what students learn in those programs.

Let’s stop leaving the education of our children to people who have never taught even one class and have never spent even one day as a school principal.

Bill and Melinda Gates have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to develop the Common Core standards, which are neither intellectually sound nor based on any research, and to influence promotion of those standards through their financial support of major media outlets and educational and civic organizations. It’s just money talking.

Arnie Duncan and Dan Malloy have established rewards and punishments for students, teachers, and schools, based on the unreliable measures of standardized tests. It’s just political power talking.

David Coleman, chief architect of the Common Core and now president of the College Board, has mandated how reading and writing will be taught in kindergarten through 12th grade, based solely on his own preferences. One of his preferences is that students read much less literature. David Coleman’s Common Core standards demonstrate that he does not understand at all how students develop as readers, writers, and thinkers. It’s just arrogance talking.

None of them know how kids learn. None of them know what real learning is. None of them know what real assessments are.

Those people who mistakenly call themselves “reformers” joined together to tell us that learning is only what can be measured on standardized tests and that good teachers are those whose students are good test takers. But what standing do those people have? What do they really know? Why should we trust them with our children’s education?

Let’s, instead, opt out of the misguided, damaging, and misnamed “reform” and put decisions about the education of our children in the hands of educators. Let’s ask teachers and administrators who love and care for our children every single day what good learning is and how to assess it. It is educators, working together, who can best set standards and design assessments that are in the best interests of students.

On October 23rd, the people of Fairfield knew whom to trust.

Let’s do the same.

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