Writing as a Look in the Mirror – The Testimony Journey



Shared from commons.wikimedia.org

One of the real dangers of writing a blog surfaced for me this past week. Inspired by Jan Resseger’s blog that urged readers to action in reaction to an upcoming series of mandated hearings regarding the implementation of the new federal successor (ESSA) to NCLB and Race to the Top, I added my voice in support of the value of social activism. After pressing the “publish” button, it dawned on me that I was also speaking to myself.

I decided then that there would be at least one person who would respond to my challenge – me. I realized that I needed to testify in order to do more than simply pay lip service to a deeply important issue.

So here I was challenging others (and myself) to participate in a process that I had only seen from the other side – as the organizer of such testimony sessions or as the state’s representative at them.

My experience with this process wasn’t positive. Testimonies were recorded, questions were referred to the proper program officer, answers were crafted and attached to the record. Rarely did anything change. Those who provided testimony, either in support of or in opposition to the proposals under review rarely had the opportunity to address the department’s responses. But, from the department’s perspective the process had been completed, the boxes had been checked, the requirements fulfilled and life went on.

I was reminded of this process at a dinner with a close friend and former colleague whom I had told of my testimony plans. He shared with me the testimony he had provided in 2008 about the folly of continuing to invest in the standards/assessment solution in the face of what had been accepted as disappointing student achievement. He also shared with me a letter I had written (several years after having left the DoE) in support of his position.

The impact of that effort? Here it is 2016, we have more data to support the position that the direction of the so-called reform movement has been a failure. We have witnessed a pretty sizable rebellion by parents against PARCC. We are watching the federally supported challenges to our public schools through the support of privatized charter schools and we are still discussing where the deck chairs should be placed on the Titanic.

So why bother? How can we not? Perhaps getting the data, our position, and the harm this is doing to the very kids that we want to help the most is the first step in adding professional voices to those of parents who have seen the damage firsthand. Perhaps this is time to apply the lessons learned from previous ineffectiveness of the public testimony process and to acknowledge that this is a necessary FIRST step in a more aggressive strategy. Perhaps we have seen and experienced enough. And if not us, who?

Perhaps you would like to share your own activism experiences both to encourage others and to expand our exposure to best practices.

Upcoming blog topics:

  • Well, how did it go – a summary of the my experience on the other side of the podium
  • Let’s stop blaming teachers – they’re only doing what they’ve been taught to do.


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