One Wednesday afternoon, after a policy battle with her principal, Assistant Principal Kathleen Jasper walked out the door, effectively abandoning her career as a K-12 educator.
On the weekends, she was an activist, bringing key education issues to the table through her blog and podcast, ConversationEd, but during the week she felt she was contributing to the problems in education by “enforcing bad education policy.”
“I could no longer hurt people like you with bad evaluations and high-stakes tests,” she told me one day.
She left to grow ConversationED and start discussions she said were long overdue.
ConversationED started as a small website with a podcast where Jasper featured educators and articles about important topics in education. Soon, though, a pattern emerged–she was bringing together people who were forward-thinking and wanted to do something to solve the education problems they were discussing. Many of them felt their hands were tied.
One of the largest problems to come to light, Jasper discovered, was high-stakes testing. It was a phenomena that rendered many educators and parents helpless, thinking they had no voice. ConversationEd began to give it that voice.
In May, Jasper made her first appearance on Glenn Beck’s network, The Blaze, explaining the finances behind standardized testing. She traced the money from the district level to the policy level, outlining unfunded mandates that hurt and crippled districts, keeping students as young as kindergarten sitting in chairs for days on end. In the end, she told Beck, some students were spending between a third and a half of their time taking tests–time where electives and classroom instruction are lost. Beck and Jasper, two people who might otherwise have been seen on opposite ends of the political spectrum, coalesced on the issue of high-stakes testing.
The two brought the message to the public, working together to organizing the July 22nd “We Will Not Conform” event headquartered at Beck’s Dallas studios and simultaneously broadcast at theaters across the nation.
Jasper’s mission is to educate the public about the enormous amounts of money funneling into standardized testing at the expense of the nation’s students. She discovered the more her message got out to the public, the more people grew angry–at a time when many programs were being cut and the bottom line was tight, standardize tests were costing their states millions.
People began to mobilize. The idea of a boycott emerged.
“Can you ‘just boycott’ the test?” It’s a question many people ask Jasper. Parents are afraid there will be consequences for their children, and teachers fear for their jobs.
“Yes,” she says, stating people need the real information. They must know their legal rights. Many feel they don’t have the right to decline testing, when, in fact, they do. Parents have far more rights than they know. Jasper began looking for ways to get this information out there. She designed a webinar to help people learn those rights. The Boycott webinar is free and will be hosted this Sunday, August 24th at 4PM EST.
Jasper feels there are better alternatives to testing. Ultimately, she states the only way to get the message to key policymakers is for parents and districts opt out of the testing.
She encourages people to attend the webinar even if they are on the fence. “Even if you don’t boycott in the end, you should have the information,” she says. The August 24th Boycott webinar will teach parents and educators how to boycott district and state tests and explain their rights.
Jasper has witnessed week-long tests where students opting out had to sit and do nothing while the other students tested. She has also witnessed good students being held back a grade because of test scores. Parents need to know these things and what they can do in this situation. Although Jasper is in Florida, where high-stakes testing holds a lot of power, she states the information in the webinar will be universal. She hopes people from all across the nation will sign up. She says it looks like the turnout will be large.
Ultimately, Jasper hopes her Boycott webinar will spark a movement. She has already been successful in getting an entire school committee to support boycotting standardize testing in their district, as Florida’s Lee County school board unanimously expressed concern about the fiscal and educational effects of testing. Now, Jasper aims to give parents and teachers the grassroots power to take their student’s education back into their own hands.
Is high-stakes testing an issue that concerns you, or would you simply like to learn more about the nuts and bolts of forming a grassroots education movement to get the issues you find important to light? Sign up for Kathleen Jasper’s ConversationEd Boycott the Test webinar here, and think about the issues that really matter to you in education today–whatever they are.
You can be a part of the solution.