Organizers of a protest action scheduled to start late last week at the U.S. Department of Education aimed to make a statement against high-stakes testing and to push a grassroots movement for those with similar views, with the goal of building on last summer’s Save Our Schools event.
“This is a sister event, or a continuation,” said event co-organizer Ceresta Smith, a teacher from Miami, who co-founded United Opt Out, which advocates an end to high-stakes testing and encourages parents to “opt out” of having their children tested. “The difference is our major focus on the high-stakes testing.”
Timothy D. Slekar, an associate professor of teacher education at Pennsylvania State University’s Altoona campus and one of the event’s organizers, said, “High-stakes testing is being used punitively for schools, for teachers, and for children, and there’s not a single piece of research with credibility in the testing world that condones this type of use of testing.”
The “Occupy the DOE” organizers built the event around rallies planned at a plaza near the Education Department over the past weekend, as well as a march to the Capitol scheduled for March 30. Also on the agenda: a series of movies, workshops, and talks, all keyed to the event’s themes.
While borrowing a moniker from the nationwide Occupy movement, which has called attention to income inequality in the country, the protestors did not adopt that movement’s strategy of camping out in public spaces overnight.
Also, unlike their Save Our Schools counterparts, the organizers had no plan to meet officially with representatives from the Education Department.
The goal, in Mr. Slekar’s view: “To make sure anybody who attends leaves with a deep understanding of what the Opt Out movement is about—understanding the nature of punitive high-stakes testing and realizing that the only way to stop it is to demand that it stops.”
A version of this article appeared in the April 04, 2012 edition of Education Week as ‘Occupy’ Action Critiques Testing, Targets Ed. Dept.