By Kelsey Kauffman, School Life Editor
Art by Emma Moore
Some teachers just aren’t going to take it anymore. They’re fed up with it, and are ready to take a stand. That is, a stand for their classrooms.
Badass Teachers (BATs) is an association for every teacher who refuses to be blamed for the failure of society to erase poverty and inequality, and refuses to accept assessments, tests and evaluations imposed by those who are far removed from the classroom (www.badassteacher.org).
Mark Naison, PhD, who worked with co-founder Priscilla Sanstead, founded this group. Naison is Professor of African American studies and History at Fordham University, and Sanstead is an education activist.
Some teachers here at Central are involved with this association. AP English Literature teacher Virginia Wyeth is one of these.
“BATs is a grass roots group of educators who began to rally for fundamental changes in education, specifically as a backlash against the overtesting of students, and the labeling of American schools as failures, the blaming of teachers, while simultaneously taking away the power of teachers to affect change,” Wyeth said.
There are 39,000 members nationwide.
“BATs really wants to put power back in the hands of the teachers to make the best decisions for their individual students and to eliminate high stakes testing,” Wyeth said.
BATs are also anti-Common Core. Common Core is a set of standards set at the national level that is supposed to replace the standards that individual states have put into place. It is also attached to a completely new system of high stakes testing.
The federal government has been slowly implementing this new set of standards over the last few years. They started in elementary schools, and Arkansas should be completely integrated into Common Core at the high school level by next year.
“The standards themselves are not the problem, the problem is everything that goes with them,” Wyeth said.
These problems will increase the number of tests students will have to take. Instead of being tested in just math and literacy, students will be tested in all subjects, including those such as art and music and social studies. Everything will also have to have two tests: a pre-test and a post-test.
Another problem BATs has with Common Core is that it has never been tested to see if it works. It is all very experimental, as the test that goes with it, The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), has not been created yet. PARCC is a consortium of 17 states plus the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands working together to develop a common set of K-12 assessments in English and math anchored in what it takes to be ready for college and careers. It will be available to administer for the 2014-2015 school year (https://www.parcconline.org/about-parcc).
“We are implementing Common Core before it is even solidified,” Wyeth said.
The PARCC test has to be taken on a computer, but Central does not have enough computers for every student. There are many logistical problems with how this will be implemented.
“A lot of the problems that exist in the classroom have to do with people very far away from the classroom making the rules about what goes on in the classroom,” Wyeth said.
Because of this, the teachers who are in the classroom say they have less and less control over what goes on in the classroom.
“One of the main fears is that the decisions are being made too far removed from the classroom, and now we are moving it from the state level to the federal level, which is even further away from the classroom and the individual needs of the student. Our district is doing a good job of implementation and keeping antonomy in the classroom. That is not happening in every district, and I feel very lucky about that,” Wyeth said.
With the implementation of Common Core, AP and pre-AP classes will not see much change. However, regular classes will see a big change.
“As a teacher, I am not sure how I am going to implement high order critical thinking in an English class when I know I have students who have reading deficiencies. How do I do what I’m supposed to do with regards to the requirements set down by Common Core, but still meet my students where they are,” Wyeth said.
BATs are concerned that teachers are not included in major education decisions, even when they are the ones with degrees in teaching.
BATs take part in political actions. For example, in Philadelphia, schools were being closed due to funding being cut. Members of BATs nationwide all helped and called legislators to say that they must fund education. Because of this effort, some of the schools were saved from being closed down.
BATs is full of highly educated people who are connecting with people who are in the classroom and trying to help and making a difference.