Urgent Issues, Including Teacher Activism, Underscored

Urgent Issues, Including Teacher Activism, Underscored

CEA Summer Leadership conference gets underway

Jonathan Kozol at CEA's Summer Leadership Conference

Educator and author Jonathan Kozol today called on teachers to be "vocal, politically aggressive, and fearless" in raising their voices about public school policy as he opened CEA's Summer Leadership Conference attended by nearly 500 teachers. Kozol said it is time for teachers to have a decisive role in deciding public school policy. But, in contrast, public school teachers have become scapegoats for "politicians who know almost nothing about children and corporate CEOs who know even less."

Kozol said, "Teachers have a right and an obligation to be more politically active than ever before because children have no one else to speak for them."

Introducing Kozol, CEA President Sheila Cohen called him one of her heroes, "a true champion of children." Cohen praised all of the participants at the Summer Leadership Conference for the hard work they do going into the trenches each day, building bridges to success for their students. "You are incredible," she told the CEA members.

Kozol also had enormous praise for public schools teachers, pledging to continue defending the dignity of teachers despite "the mindless attacks of too many mindless politicians and corporations."

Kozol decried the test-obsessed culture that has created "a state of siege in many urban schools. What he calls "relentless testing" has created great anxiety for students, making it hard for teachers "to probe children's curiosities. Kozol described schools where "outcomes are mandated for any given point in the morning" and teachers don't get to understand what is in "children's hearts."

According to Kozol, tests have a diagnostic role but should never be used to judge teachers.

"Using test scores to judge teachers is an absolute atrocity, even as one element of a teacher's evaluation. It's unfair to schools, teachers, and young children," Kozol said.

Kozol has written that very poor black and Hispanic children continue to be locked into nearly absolute racial isolation in underserved and underfunded schools. He said today that many inner-city schools are more segregated than anytime since 1968, and that situation, along with the relentless focus on test obsession, deepens what he has called the "savage inequalities" for the children whose lives he has chronicled.

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