Standardized movie shown to 400 in Orlando

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An eye-opener: Orlando’s showing

of Standardized: Lies, Money, and

Civil Rights documentary

By Lourdes Pérez Ramírez, founder of PAA affiliate HispanEduca

More than 400 people and a nine-member panel made up of teachers, school board members, education advocates, and legislators gathered at Howard Middle School in Orlando, Fl on January 25 to attended the documentary Standardized: Lies, Money & Civil Rights — How Testing is Ruining Public Education.

The public had the opportunity to ask the panel about a myriad of issues including how parents can opt out of these tests without penalizing their children in the future, and even about the possibility of changing Florida’s law about high-stake tests.

Two of Florida legislators attended the event in clear support of addressing the negative consequences that the testing frenzy has caused in this increasingly Hispanic state. House Representative Karen Castor Dentel (D), a former teacher, is currently writing a legislation piece to require districts to give clear instructions for “Opting Out” of the mandated high stakes tests. Florida’s Osceola County Senator Dareen Soto (D), who represents a county where more than 50% of the population is Hispanic, also joined the panel and talked about the education needs of his county.

The crowd’s reactions to the documentary were the best evidence that the event was a total success.

“This is an eye-opener,” said Myrna Candelario, an education psychologist from Puerto Rico who came from Tampa to get “the gist of this testing issue and how it is affecting children from a psychological perspective.”

“These people put together a great event; I congratulate the organizers and the public for supporting this,” said a former UCF Emeritus professor who attended the event.

“Teachers and parents thought they were alone in this, [but they] realized that there is an entire community of people, folks who value teachers, fighting high stakes testing and in favor of authentic assessment,” said Cindy Hamilton, co-founder of Opt Out Orlando.

In addition to Dentel and Soto, the panel also included Mike Archer, a former Orlando Sentinel’s journalist, and national board-certified high school English teacher (NBCT) who participated on the Review Committee for the Common Core State Standards Initiative for English and Language Arts; Nicholas M. Cutro, a former elementary school teacher, a Nationally Certified School Psychologist and President of the Orange County Association of School Psychologists. Pat Deutschman; Royellen Moore, a former Assistant State Attorney; Jay Wheeler, an Osceola School Board Member, and Chairman of the Central Florida Public School Board Coalition who has served on FCAT Accountability Task Force; Becky Smith, former teacher and Opt Out Orlando co-founder; Rick Roach, the longest-serving school board member in Orange County School Board, and long-time advocate against high-stake testing; and Lourdes Pérez Ramírez, founder and president of HispanEduca, an education advocacy organization aimed at making education policy and reform accessible to Hispanic parents, were also members of the panel.

In 2011, Rick Roach, whose experience as a teacher has been instrumental in opposing, for many years, the incorrect use high-stake tests, took a legal version of the 10th grade FCAT—and failed. As Roach says, “If people are judged by these tests, then I am the dumbest school board member in the nation.”

Opt Out Orlando’s co-founders Cindy Hamilton, Sandy Stenoff, and Becky Smith, in collaboration with Orange County Public Schools’ board member Rick Roach, Save Our Schools, Classroom Teachers Association, and Orange County Democrats (the group) were responsible for organizing the event that was free for the public.

“We knew that OCPS School Board member, Rick Roach, was featured in the movie and we knew we needed to do what we could to bring it to Orlando,” Hamilton said. The group worked together for nearly six weeks promoting the film.

Upon becoming aware in November of 2013 that the documentary was scheduled for release, Opt Out Orlando began working intensively to share it with the public.

Rick Roach, Opt Out Orlando, Save Our Schools, Classroom Teachers Association and the Orange County Democrats sent out email blasts and posted on Facebook pages. They visited parks and MLK parades with flyers, tacked up posters everywhere they went to get the word out. The group also used Facebook page for the event itself to make it easier for others to invite friends.

About Opt Out Orlando

Opt Out Orlando rejects high stakes testing as meaningless and detrimental to the development of a creative, nurturing and supportive learning environment, and advocates for multiple measures of authentic assessments that are used to inform instruction and which do not result in punitive consequences for students, teachers and schools.

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