In a few days school bells will be ringing across the country signaling the start of the new school year for millions of students.
This should be just another school year but because of the standardized testing requirements for both teachers and students it may turn out to be a year of protest more than of teaching and learning.
Standardized testing in schools is nothing new but over the years this effort has taken a life of its own in more ways than one.
A typical school teacher can easily find herself/himself administering several tests over the course of the school year.
Some teachers complain that this much testing takes up important time from their daily teaching while students complain about the constant testing that is both unfair in terms of academic standing and time consumption.
Bad scores can seriously affect a school districts standing never mind a teachers career and a students academic achievement rating, thus its any wonder that protests are beginning to take place across the country.
This week, for example, hundreds of teachers, parents and students took to the streets in Albany New York to protest standardized testing. Enter Lily Eskelsen Garcia, the new president of the National Education Association (NEA). Ms. Garcia is already using her powerful position to join the rapidly growing chorus against standardized testing.
In a recent interview Ms. Garcia said, Ill be damned if I will sit by quietly and play nice and say diplomatic things about something that has corrupted the profession I love.
Not since its inception over 157 years ago, has the NEA involved itself in such a controversial education forum.
The teachers union has long been criticized by conservatives for what they consider radical policies that support teachers at the expense of ensuring that students get the highest quality education possible. But this time around, traditional supporters of the teachers union are steering it in a different direction, i.e., tenure. Ms. Garcia sparred with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan over his support of the recent ruling by a Los Angeles judge that the States teacher tenure laws were unconstitutional. Needless to say, her work is cut out for her.
Its admirable to say the least to know that Lily Eskelsen Garcia rose from being a food cafeteria worker to becoming Utahs Teacher of the Year.
Hers is a quintessential American story, the daughter of a Panamanian mother and an American army veteran; Ms. Garcia grew up in Utah where she has lived for the majority of her 59 years.
She was the first in her family to graduate from college and is known for her blunt language not only about her educational stance and beliefs but also about her personal life. In her role as president of the largest labor union, no doubt school children everywhere will feel her presence.
Especially, noteworthy will be the impact she will make in the Hispanic community not only as a loud voice against standardized testing but also as a role model to millions of Hispanic children all across America.
Regardless of whether we agree or not with her tough stance against standardized testing and other teacher union issues, Lily Eskelsen Garcia has arrived in the nations capital, talking tough and speaking her mind, something not many leaders in America and especially in Washington, D.C. are known for.