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My Testimony @ MA Joint Committee on Education Hearings (mcas-related)

May 10, 2013

On April 9 I had the pleasure of testifying for the very 1st time at the Joint Committee on Education’s hearings on bills related to MCAS. The following is my testimony from the hearings. I hope they were effective.

My name is Jill Conroy. Last Monday I resigned after 14 1/2 years teaching in the BPS.

I am here today as a teacher, & also a mother of 3 boys who are in a boston public 3rd, 1st, & K, in support of H489, as well as H504, & any other bill that’s designed to negate the power that MCAS wields.

While this was something I’d considered more and more over the past 2 years, I wasn’t prepared to do it when I did. But if I hadn’t done it, the BPS was going to do it for me otherwise, effective tomorrow.

I received a letter of “intent to dismiss” in mid-March, stating that I had “failed to provide BPS adequate notice of my absences” during a 7day stretch.

My doctor faxed a note, & for each of those 7 days listed in the letter, I have documentation showing I was in contact w either my principal, AP, or the automated sick line that BPS teachers call in to, or both.

But that didn’t matter to my administration. I was still seen as a liability in their eyes, & today that’s all that matters to them. Gone are the days when school staff had compassion and empathy for one another. Gone is the human & even humane emotion in the schools, & not just regarding the teachers, but the students, too. Gone is the collegiality & unity; gone is the sense of “family” that I vaguely remember knowing once, what feels like a lifetime ago.

& while I know I could’ve easily fought this and won, the reality is, I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to fight to keep my job, bc my job isn’t what I signed up for almost 2decades ago when I started my Masters program.
Teaching is no longer about the students; it’s about the scores & scores alone. Nothing else matters.

My commute to work each day was like walking the gangplank. Knowing I was headed to a school that was on the fast track to closure or other extreme government sanctions meant walking into a pressure cooker of stress and tension that can truly only be experienced to be fathomable. Especially when I – like every other teacher in the building – knew that at the end of the day, we had VERY little control over the factors that would (or will) result in closure. In other words we entered the building each day, worked as hard as we could to educate these children who lived smack dab in the middle of
The “circle of promise”, knowing that frankly our efforts were all for naught. Words cannot begin to adequately describe what that feels like.

I can, however, tell you what it feels like to realize WHY our efforts are all for naught. It’s because we have non-educators as the sole decision-makers about how best to educate. & just as teachers have no place telling a doctor how to diagnose or treat a patient, or tell a firefighter how to enter a burning building to save lives, or tell a lawyer how to defend or prosecute, businessmen, billionaires, & the government have no place telling a teacher how to teach.

The MCAS test has so many flaws in it’s theory as a worthwhile & valid measurement tool for students academic success and teacher ability that they couldn’t possibly be explained in 3 minutes. But the overarching problems – which are driving record numbers of teachers from my generation and before out of the classroom – are 1st the lack of recognition as to the impact socioeconomic status and family life have on a child’s academic success. Teachers in poverty filled neighborhoods are not bad teachers; those schools are not bad schools. Nor do they cause the children in those classrooms to become “bad students”; only their home lives are responsible for that distinction.

2nd & more importantly , teachers are being told not just what to teach, but when to teach it and even HOW to teach it. & no matter how much we KNOW the methods & techniques we are mandated to employ are ineffective & frankly, bad, we still comply. & while each passing year brings new evidence of the devastation caused by this “reform”, the problems persist. & they become more alarming and pervasive with each passing month. Yet we still comply. & because we comply, we serve only to exacerbate the problem. & I am no longer willing to be part of the that.

I am also here today as a mother of 3 boys, the oldest of whom is in 3rd grade & recently had his 1st MCAS experience. & while I can’t connect with you as a teacher, I suspect I can connect w some of you as a parent. & if you are as invested In the education of ur own children as I am mine, then for their sakes I will promise you that NOT voting in favor of this bill today – & any other related bill – will only continue to deny them the right to the high quality education they deserve. Let the teachers provide that; let the teachers teach.

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