Thank you so much for coming tonight. My name is Michael Kaminski, and I am the president of the Delran Education Association, the organization that sponsored tonight’s showing of Standardized: Lies, Money, and Civil Rights: How Testing is Ruining Public Education. I am so thrilled that you were able to brave the weather and skip the Flyers game to help us fill the theater tonight – that speaks volumes about the level of concern – or at least curiosity – that people from all walks of life seem to have about the increasing number of high-stakes tests that are being forced upon children, teachers, administrators, and boards of education all across the country, and of course, right here in New Jersey.
Before we get to the film, I need to thank some people for their help with tonight’s event. First, my wife Jennifer, who is both a mother and an educator – without her support for what I do after school hours, my feeble attempts at “saving public education” wouldn’t be possible. Like many of your spouses, she often plays the role of both parents for my two daughters. I also need to thank NJEA’s PRIDE in Public Education for helping to sponsor this event, as well as the many local members who assisted with tonight, particularly those who worked the sign-in table tonight including UniServ’s Tricia Fair. I also need to thank Delran’s famous blogger, Ani McHugh – you might know her as TeacherBiz31; truth be told, it’s Ani who really did all of the legwork to get this event to happen, and like most organizations, its the individual members who are responsible for making me look good. Finally, the film’s co-director, Dan Hornberger, who offered to come tonight to host a Q & A after the film thank you both so much for giving of your time.
So, why are we all here to watch a film about standardized testing? Well, it’s no coincidence that NJ ASK testing is about to begin and then end and then just as quickly get replaced by PARCC. But, has anyone ever thought to ask the question WHY? I know – it seems like testing is “what students do” – they go to school and they take tests. But, WHY? Why are they taking so many tests? What are the tests being used to measure? Do they really measure what they claim to be measuring? You see, most of us are here tonight because we are concerned about the quality of education that our children receive. We’re concerned about how and where our tax dollars are being spent. We’re concerned about our children being used as guinea pigs to pilot new tests and to supposedly measure the success and failure rates of their teachers and their public school systems. Many of us wonder if these tests are really necessary.
All across the country, tests are being used to evaluate teachers. I want to be very clear here…the message tonight is not that teachers don’t want to be evaluated. I’ll tell you right now that as a union leader, as a teacher, and as a parent, I want the best possible teacher in every classroom, and I want to know that my children’s administrators are doing the best they can to ensure that that happens. That means supporting struggling teachers to help them improve, and making the tough decision to use the tools that administrators have always had to remove those few teachers who don’t improve. However, I don’t understand why our children need to be a part of this process. I fail to understand how days upon days of standardized testing are needed to determine what good teaching looks like. Don’t we all know it when we see it? And, if that’s true, why are we forcing so many tests upon our kids? The simplest and saddest answer is to follow the money. That’s what the push for Common Core and new testing is all about – making money through the privatization of public education.
When this film is over, we’ll go through some Q & A and I’ll ask you to take some action to get involved in this issue back in your own local school districts. But, if you’re like me, you’re probably wondering – where are the previews? Half of the reason why I come to a theater is to see what the coming attractions are. Well, in the case of Standardized, you won’t see any previews tonight. But, if you’ve been on Facebook and Twitter, if you get the Courier Post or the Philadelphia Inquirer, you’ve already seen them. Just ask the residents of Philadelphia, Newark, and Camden. They’ll tell you what the end result of all of this “testing” is – to label public schools as “failure factories” and to have them shut down so that private, for-profit corporations can then move in and take them over and then determine what kind of clientele they would like educate. Once these leeches occupy the buildings of those districts that were the “easy targets” – the large urban ones, there’s no doubt that they’ll be coming for us, too. That’s why the struggles in our neighboring urban communities need to be our struggles too, and that’s just one more reason why this film – and this issue of testing is SO critically important.
So, without further delay, here is Standardized.