To Die Alone on the Hill… or Not

Hello hill, I knew we would face this day.

Tomorrow is a big day in my public education career with Tulsa Public Schools. As most of you know, in October I made a decision to stop administering the MAP test to my students. A lot of uproar occurred. Most often, the question is “What kind of push-back did you receive?” I HATE answering that question! What I want to tell everyone is that I had a lot of support and was able to continue on my stance of not administering a test. Because, well, I did. I did have a lot of support from all over the nation. That wouldn’t be forthcoming though. That would be a minuscule part of the story. There is a big middle section. Everyone knows the beginning. But, tomorrow marks the end of the story. I have a choice. To die alone on the hill… or not.

Just a brief MAP Testing Explanation: MAP testing is a benchmark test. It is awful. The worst of all 13 options that meet RSA testing requirements. I am certain it is designed to set children up for failure. Certain. It is adaptive in nature and the target score is constantly moving. So, even if a child is at or above grade level in reading, there is a very high chance the child will still fail the test. Failing the test means remediation plans, money, services, and labels. We LOVE labeling children in this country. For some reason, we have the mentality that if we tell children they are stupid, oh, I’m sorry… “limited in knowledge” or “Unsatisfactory” they will then improve. This is research based. We also love utilizing research.

If we take a good look at MAP, we know that it is common core aligned. We have laws in this state HB3399 that speak to the specifics of utilizing common core testing for evaluation of teachers or students. How is this even legal?! Try to get anyone to answer that question! I dare you! I can’t even get a returned e-mail when I ask that question. (Walk away from the edge, Nikki…. walk away and stay on topic.) 

Anyway… When people ask the question “What kind of pushback did you receive?” I would be deceiving if I didn’t lay it all out there. This has been the most difficult trial in my career. What kind of pushback did I receive?I placed myself on a limb with one other colleague. It was a lonely limb. We lost friends. We lost good administrators. We lost all support from our administration. We lost teacher autonomy.  We cried a lot. We slept a lot less. We put ourselves under a microscope and were/are called out for every single thing you can call out a teacher on. Our TLE scores have plummeted from 5’s and 4’s to 3’s and multiple minuses. We have to call in several representatives in all our meetings in order to have the slightest allocation of justice. My colleague is leaving the nation. Oklahoma is losing a highly effective teacher in the midst of a huge teacher shortage because of this injustice for children. I am searching for a new position. We are no longer welcome in the school we teach. So, yes, I would say I had some pushback.

One of my most memorable moments was when a supporter/mentor of mine through the process said in all seriousness “Did you expect to draw this line and not get your ass kicked?” The answer is, no. No, I did not. I knew I would “lose”. I knew that the money and power in my district was greater than me. I knew at the end of the day that they would choose testing over children or good educators. I knew that a lot of the people who held the power to save me would cower. It’s simply the nature of the system. It’s not really all that personal.  We are teaching/learning/testing in a system of fear. Everyone is scared! Everyone!

So, here I am… at the very end of the school year. If I do not give the test tomorrow, I will be fired. If not fired, I will be placed on a PDP. This PDP will be a result of a bad TLE score. Even though I have NEVER been docked on my teaching skills, they will fire me. The PDP will keep other principals in the district from hiring me. Nobody wants to take that on.  It is a ton of paperwork and a large annoying workload.

What is so disheartening about the whole thing is the perspective of the district. It would be more beneficial for them to fire me than to listen to my concerns or work with me. They played a good game. They put up a big show for the media. They told everyone that we were putting together a testing task force. And, we did. Us teachers met together weekly and worked hard to research all the assessments going on in our district. We voted and put together a recommendation. That was in February. Even after multiple follow-up emails, we have never heard the results of those recommendations. Nothing has changed. Nothing was done. Just one more giant middle finger in the face of all those teachers that worked after contract hours to make the system better for children.

They do not care. That is the bottom line. I don’t know an adjective that properly describes this level of heartbreak I feel for our schools. They will openly, without care, choose to be in the business of eliminating good educators in order to get the testing data. Testing is the MOST important thing in public schools. I am living this reality. Your children are living this reality. Every other teacher in the district is living this reality.

So here I am… left to die alone on the hill, the testing martyr, or not. I am forced to choose between labeling children, causing children to pee their pants, throw their chairs, scratch their faces, and cry; or, I can not administer and be fired. Here I am. Left to die alone on the hill… or not.

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37 thoughts on “To Die Alone on the Hill… or Not

    1. What can parents do? Parents can refuse the test. Parents can take back their parental rights against a system that thinks it owns our children and be the ones to stand up and say ‘Not with my child you won’t’. If every parent did that, these teachers could keep their jobs; these teachers would not have to be the ones protecting the kids because the parents would be there protecting their kids.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. That sounds like the BEST alternative of all. Pretty cut and dried! Hope parents all over see your comment and take action against this absurd torture of children and refuse to let their children be tested!

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    1. Roxanne Gurley Stickler : Why would you encourage cheating, particularly when a child is involved? Particularly when a teacher is involved? Exactly WHAT does that say to young minds? Win at all costs? Lie? Throw away morals, and ethics? I sincerely hope you are not teaching this to your own children.
      The writer is struggling with a tremendous dilemma and it’s doubtful that the solution is to cheat for the sake of the student scores.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Thank you for your brave and correct assessment of all that is happening. The poor children. The poor teachers… and I am sure there are administrators that just can not afford to lose their jobs and not make mortgage payments so they HAVE to treat you like dirt… and even tho they probably do care about the kids, they can not and keep their jobs… I pray that your story reaches people and media that will take up the banner and run with it.. We have to help the children, and the teachers. Take Back Our Country, Schools, and Government…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Administrators have to pay their mortgages so they have to treat teachers like dirt. Teachers also have mortgages. So who do they have to treat like dirt???

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      1. Administrators have to take the actions they do because they are responsible to their supervisors (directors of elementary/secondary education and superintendents). Admins are not inherently bad. They are trapped in this crazy system as much as teachers are right now. Admins get evaluated by their superiors, too.

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  2. You will be on that hill but you are nowhere near alone. You will be covered in prayer through this. Please stay strong Nikki, don’t fold. These kids need you to keep fighting. I love you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I want to hug you for all you have done for our children. As a parent of a SpEd child, I have fought, screamed, and kicked to protect my child from all this useless testing for years. I absolutely hate it. It says nothing about who she is or what she can accomplish in life. I opt out of every bloody test I can for each of my child. I wish we had more teachers and parents in this country who weren’t so intimidated by what the “establishement” tell us is best. Godspeed and God Bless.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What I wonder is, “where are the parents? Why have parents forsaken in their children for a test?

    Some parents are upset but not enough of them, and not for very long.

    We need every parent to step up or we must accept the fact that parents are willing to let the state and government do whatever it feels is necessary to their children.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Parents opted out a TON of kids in New York. I wish you luck, Nikki. Do what YOU feel is right. Do what you have to do. If that means giving in this time, then do that. Hate to see you sacrifice your career if your colleagues are not supportive. You’ve been extremely brave, and you’ve been put through a lot.

      “Teachers of conscience” are true heroes. What about the Seattle area teachers who did what you did? They are not losing their jobs. Perhaps you can be re-assigned and not actually have to administer the tests yourself. Your colleagues should be clamoring and making noise about the results of the testing task force’s recommendations. What happened to those? What were they?

      Will be thinking of you tomorrow, as will teachers all across the US. The national media needs to pick this up again………today! We can’t afford to be throwing away good teachers!

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  5. My heart is breaking, and while I know pity is not what you are seeking, I can’t help but feel soooo very sorry for you. It is so sad that you put yourself out there and yet there was NOT ONE person with power who had enough courage to stand beside you. It disgusts me, I am ashamed of our leaders and just as ashamed that we allowed our system to become what it has.
    But I do want you to know that you are not ALONE on that hill. I, a concerned parent am there holding your hand. I’m certain I’m not misspeaking when I say there are many of us there with you and while right at this moment we don’t have the power to change things, we ARE gaining in numbers and power to make change happen. We will forever be grateful for your sacrifice, concern and bravery. As we all know, the “punishment” for your act will be severe; it is my deepest hope that when you look yourself in the mirror you are proud of what you have done and the person you are. I doubt many of those in power can do that.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You are a HERO! I left teaching last year. I loved my kids, but I hated what testing was doing to them. Every year, I got emails the morning of “testing” informing me that 9 & 10 yr olds were throwing up before school, or were up all night due to anxiety over the test. That is NOT OKAY! I applaud you for taking a stand for the children. Amazing opportunities are headed your way! I believe it!

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  7. I SOOO appreciate your stand. Overused but appropriate, “When we stand for nothing, we will fall for anything”. I know this has been difficult, impossible, lonely, just know that in every major battle that has been fought there was the first to lay down their life. You may be one of the few, but you will not be the last to stand for our children. I pray your strength and peace of mind. You have done the right thing. You have done the moral thing. You have done the best thing for our children. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

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  8. There are so few people of conscience and principle left in public education that we will feel your loss sorely. Why is there no real outcry from educators themselves? Shame on the teachers and administrators in your district who disparaged you instead of supporting you. If we stand together in opposition we have more power to speak truth to power. Instead we bow down or bow out. We all owe it to the students and families we serve to take the same stand you have.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am sorry but I can’t agree. This is Nikki’s way OUT of the profession whereas she clearly is someone who would make the most marvellous difference within it. Ultimately if she takes this stand it is game over for her at least, and then what can she do, other than re-train and do something different? This might be better for her long term and no doubt earn her a great deal more money, but she chose to be a teacher. She is FAR from alone. And there are many ways of fighting for what is right, other than putting your head on the block. Are you going to pay her bills, her mortgage, her future living costs? Sorry this sounds personal and I don’t mean to be unpleasant. I just mean we shouldn’t be encouraging people OUT of the game. The only way to win is within. And she’s very young. Would you give this advice to your own, newly qualified, inexperienced daughter, because if she were mine, I’d be telling her that this pathway is not the right one. She is brave, strong and has integrity. But at her age she couldn’t possibly know all about life, and the decision she is taking could have awful consequences for her as a person.

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    2. There are people of conscience like Ms Jones and her colleague and others who are refusing to give tests or sit for them. The policymakers who insist on testing regimes, and their middle-manager supts. and principals who insist on them, are morally bankrupt. There is no persuasive research to show these regimes improve education –I’ve been researching this for 20 years. Thank you for the bottom of my heart, Ms. Jones.

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  9. Your courage is commendable; your legacy will not be known immediately. Per Diane Ravitch, “We are many, and they are few, and that is why we will win.” The price you pay is high. May the ultimate reward be as great.

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  10. The choices we make in life let us know who we really are, where we are willing to stand, and your stance is one I admire. Life will take you to the good place you deserve!!

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  11. You And Hendren are heroes, there are so many parents that do not know how to buck they system and they do not know how to work the system. ALL of the parents who agree with you and are against the testing should stand with you, maybe the ESC would listen if enough parents speak up. I’m just sorry you had to loose you job and Karen has to move to China, I know she is a excellent teacher and she really cares for her students, I have seen that first hand. Good luck to you both.

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  12. Do you remember the braclets WWJD, WHAT WOULD JESUS DO? I believe he would do what you are doing. I admire you, and believe in what you are doing. I teach first also. I have been for seven years. It has change so much in those seven years. I do not believe our kids are developmentall ready to learn what they are expected to do. With you in prayer. Frances Harper

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  13. My daughter is on a school board fighting with you and she too is in the minority. The harrassment, name calling and threats are constant. Hang in there as she is. People are waking up and if enough parents will opt out the money will not be there and it will fail. Wow do we appreciate people like you who have the courage to stand tall. You may feel alone but you are not!

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  14. Nikki, hope you were able to read my email from last night. I am Liz, an ex UK teacher. I am worried that at the end of the day you will throw away a career where if you stayed you could make a positive impact over years. Did you speak to your parents or someone who loves and cares for YOU? Some issues are worth fighting for to the end; on the other hand it you don’t administer the test that is it, Game over. As a newly qualified teacher myself I bore witness to all sorts of things which I thought/KNEW were wrong. But I did nothing to put my job on the line. In the thirty years I taught I know I was able to make a positive difference to the lives of certain individuals, even if I couldn’t always beat the system. Things change. Be part of that change and don’t for a minute think you are the only one fighting for what is right. People fight in all sorts of ways, and the most clever amongst us fight silently. They say and do what they can where they can, but they heed the dangers. And one of these might be frankly that someone above you (Who in reality might feel EXACTLY THE SAME WAY) might interpret your actions as such a young and recently qualified person as arrogant, inflexible and over assertive. I promise you this is well meant, and I just hope you believe me.

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    1. At what point are you complicit in the system though if you don’t disagree and advocate for your students? I admire Nikki for what she is doing and I hope she is at peace with her decision. At the end of the day, you have to look at yourself in the mirror and decide if you are proud of yourself that day or not. I’ve defied principals and parents by refusing to change grades because I KNEW it was wrong. Nikki is in the same place right now. Perhaps she won’t be able to live with herself if she administers that awful test. Hugs, Nikki. I don’t teach in a high stakes testing subject but I opted my kids out of their tests and I think if I was in Nikki’s position, I might do the same thing.

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  15. Thank you for your courage. You are doing the right thing, and these days it is so hard to do that. It ought to be your administrators who are supporting you, because they’re supposed to have the best interests of the kids at heart. Or at least your union should support you, but these days I am skeptical of how much of that you are going to get. I hope and pray that you will keep your job, because you are the kind of teacher kids deserve, but if not, I hope you will find a secure position doing something meaningful somewhere else.

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  16. I’m sure it feels lonely where you are, but stay strong! You are doing the right thing for the kids. I would be forever grateful for my child to have a teacher who loves them enough to do what you are doing for them. As a parent and fellow teacher, I stand with you!

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  17. I am so glad that by children and my grandchildren were not in this situation while they attended school. They grew up learning that they were capable of learning. I understand and support the parents who have pulled their children out of this situation and are home schooling
    them. My question is What can I do to support our teachers? Who do I contact ion the schools to help? Who do I contact in state governmemt? Is there a group of “concerned citizens I can join? I would love to help.

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