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Timothy D. Slekar Headshot

How to Boycott NCLB in 90 Seconds

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So it finally happened -- I was interviewed live on Fox and Friends by Gretchen Carlson about opting my son out of NCLB testing. It turned out to be quite an experience. There were lots of mix-ups, but in the end, not a bad experience. Let me explain.

My "opt out" co-conspirator, Michele Gray was contacted by FOX to be interviewed on Fox and Friends. After all, it was Michele who was featured on the CNN segment that documented our boycott of PSSAs (NCLB testing in PA). Michele was unable to do the interview, but I quickly asked her to pass my name on to the producer (Our grass is just starting to root). It worked. A FOX producer contacted me on Wednesday morning and explained to me that they were interested in doing a live interview. FOX wanted to ask more questions concerning our reasons for boycotting NCLB and they wanted to do the interview at 6:40 a.m. on Thursday (the next day). Never having been interviewed live on national TV, I had no idea of the process. How would I get to New York? Where was I going to stay? Who would teach my class on Thursday?

Those worries were quickly eliminated when the producer told me that they were going to send me to a local TV news station with a satellite hook up. This was actually a relief to hear. My only question -- Where was the station and how do I get there? Quickly answered. The producer would locate a local station with a satellite hook up, make the arrangements, and a car would pick me up at 5:30 in the morning to take me to the interview. Huh? A car for me? Really? Cool! All of this was confirmed with a detailed email from a car service. I was really going to be picked up at 5:30 a.m. on Thursday. My only responsibility was to be ready. No problem.

However, within two hours I received a phone call from FOX. My interview was being "bumped" to Friday morning. On Friday FOX called me again to tell me that my interview was going to be "bumped" again. Instead of Friday I was now going to be interviewed on Monday. I spent most of the weekend going through 2,000 different questions that Gretchen might ask me. I went to bed on Sunday night and tossed until about 4:30 am and then woke up at 5:00 and met the driver in my driveway at 5:30 a.m. We got to the local TV news station and the one person at the station had no idea who I was or why I was there. Finally Jody arrived. Jody was the engineer hired by FOX to set up the satellite link and wire me with a headset and microphone. He also told me to where to look during the interview and to listen to the instructions in my ear piece. Jody went out to the satellite truck and soon he called me through the earpiece. Jody said all the technical issues were set and that I should hear FOX and Friends in my earpiece. I did. Jody told me to relax for a few minutes. So I sat in my chair looking where I was supposed to look, listening to Fox and Friends when suddenly I hear Jody say, "Tim. 30 seconds." I started to count and just as I reached 40 Jody walked in the door and told me that I had been "bumped." Really? Again?

The driver took me home and I updated my Facebook status to let all my "friends" know that I was "bumped" again. I would be interviewed on Tuesday now. That night for some reason I had no problem sleeping. Maybe I was convinced this interview was never going to happen and therefore I finally relaxed.

On Tuesday morning, the driver was waiting in my driveway. "We are going to a different studio" the driver said as I opened the car door. The satellite truck at the previous station needed a part so I was going to be linked up at a different location. Again, at this point I really did not care. Just take me to the site. I'm sure I'll be bumped again.

This time I met Dan the engineer. The arrangement was a little different. He had a large director's chair set up for me surrounded by lights and in front of the chair was a large monitor. When I sat down I noticed that I could see myself in the monitor. Dan wired me up (ear piece and microphone) and told me he would be back. He was going to "link up" with FOX. Within minutes I could hear the show in my earpiece. I was listening to the show when all of a sudden I hear, "Professor Slekar?" Yes. "Can you count to ten?" 1, 2, 3, ... "Great. You've been 'pushed.' You'll hear Gretchen in 30 seconds." I had no time to ask the one important question that Jody had told me about right away yesterday. Where was I supposed to look? Something told me I should not look at the monitor, but I wasn't sure. Then I heard, "Professor Slekar your interview was cut to 90 seconds." Huh? I was supposed to have 3 entire minutes. Didn't they know that I had been rehearsing this interview for 4 days now? How in the world was I supposed to cut down all I was going to say?

I hear the director counting down. I don't know where to look and my interview time is cut in half. The rest is now history. Check it out for yourself. Try not to get distracted by my shifty eyes. Remember, I had no idea where to look.

So how did I do? Don't comment on the shifty eyes. However, considering all I had was 90 seconds, I think I was really able to jam in some important points. I'm sure this helped the NCLB boycott movement, because when I got back to my office I had a mess of emails from people all over America and 13 phone messages. All were positive and thanked me for taking a stand.

Well, even though this blog may seem a bit comical the reality is that our little movement against NCLB is really taking off. I just wished I would have had my other 90 seconds, because listed below are all of my "talking points."

  • The boycott of NCLB is in support of public schools.
  • My son is not a data point to be used by politicians and talking heads to prove that public schools are failing.
  • NCLB is a system designed to prove that public schools are failures.
  • Read Valerie Strauss, Diane Ravitch, Anthony Cody, and Alfie Kohn.
  • Punitive systems do not work.
  • We love our public schools. They are the bedrock of democracy in this country.
  • The system doesn't measure what it says it does.
  • Accountability is code for blame.
  • Control for poverty and our scores beat international scores.
  • High stakes testing seems to only be able to predict socioeconomic level.
  • The new reformers need to spend an extended amount of time in schools.
  • Tests weren't designed to evaluate teachers.
  • A College dropout like Bill Gates and a second rate basketball player like Arne Duncan in charge of education policy, really?
  • Where are the experts?
  • The tests have sucked the life out of teaching and learning,
  • NCLB is a failure. Achievement gap remains. NCLB narrows the curriculum. This is bad because a rich curriculum supports learning.
  • Research, evidence, research, evidence.
  • Finland.
  • Participation in a system designed to prove that public schools are failing is unethical and I would hope offensive to anybody's religious values.
  • Don't wait for superman. You already have super teachers. Support them!

So based on the interview and my talking points what did I miss or what do you wish I would have said?