Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Teacher Hero -- Nikki Jones

Nikki Jones is a first grade teacher in Tulsa Public Schools. 

She recently won the National Association of Early Childhood Teacher Educator’s “Outstanding Practitioner” award. She’s also very involved in the national Opt-Out movement. As such, she and her colleague wrote an eloquent letter to their parents, talking about all the testing that even first graders are mandated to complete…before she wrote her letter, she wrote this:

“Teachers, turn your voice into actions. Don't just complain. It's past time for everyone to start taking back their profession.

I care about the children and parents that I serve. They deserve the right to know the types of questions being asked. They deserve the right to participate or refuse to participate in this biased, data-mining, invasive exercise.

As for evaluating me, I trust my administrators to do their job adequately. They frequently visit my classroom. They attend meetings specific to my grade level and classroom. They review my lesson plans. They meet with me on specific kids. They have even came in and taught little mini-lessons. My administrators know that I am an effective teacher.

I will not participate in this financially wasteful, classroom community killing, time wasting exercise. Excuse me while my classroom is busy learning.”

The letter went viral, and was picked up by Valerie Strauss. With context, here is the letter.

Now, every teacher in the Tulsa Schools has received this email. I fear for my friend Nikki. This attack hurts my heart. Nikki is using her professional judgment, her skills and talents and training, to make the best decisions she can, for her students – not her administrators, or the testing companies, or the reformers. For. Her. Students.

Please keep Nikki in your thoughts. I’m also sharing her response to her administration’s letter to all personnel:

”Today was a learning curve for me. I learned that in a time of need, you learn who your true friends are. I learned that when someone has no evidence, they turn to personal attacks, threats, and plagiarism. I learned that in advocating and taking a stance, you must stay true to yourself... no matter what.

Here is what's REAL: Character matters. Stand up for those who can't stand for themselves. Don't let immature tactics overpower the true message. David defeated Goliath. Good will prevail. If you are someone that cannot risk your job to stand up for children, then you don't deserve to work with children. Shame. On. You.

The system is not ok. Over-testing children is not ok. Standardized, computer based testing in early childhood years is NEVER developmentally appropriate.

Show me the research! Administration is COMPLETELY disconnected from the classroom and trapped in the echo-chamber of admin land. When your admin cannot dig down and pull the research, the REAL research, on testing in early childhood and take a stance... well, they don't deserve to make to decisions on the students in their building. They are a disgrace to our future. When they stay silent to keep their job and earn their pay, they are a disgrace to our future.

I was told to be quiet. I was told to wait this out and focus on the children. I seem to be one of the few that is focused on the CHILDREN. It is a sad day in education when we focus on saving face over saving children. Shame. On. You. Get some guts and do the work. When research is handed to you to promote, it is most likely biased.

We are paid in peanuts. You can work at QT for more money. If you are more concerned about our finances, then get AWAY from children. Shame. On. You.

Today... I learned, even more that I thought, that the system is warped. Education is about money and politics at the sake of our children... our future. I refuse to jolly in that nonsense. If you want to work in education, then stand up!

We joined education in the quest to inspire students to pursue knowledge. If you are being spoon fed by higher ups with padded pockets, then you forfeit your rights to have a say. You are the downfall of the system. Shame. On. You. I am angry. I am not going to pretend to be happy and innocent and ignorant in order to keep my job.

As stated in an email sent out to my entire district tonight by my main boss, I am "young". I am only in my third year of certified teaching with the district. So, what?! That says to me that I have not been beaten down by the broken system. I'm not a horse that needs to be broken. I am an educated person that strives to meet the needs of children.

I am thankful for the supporters and utterly disgusted by the silenced. This is about CHILDREN. So... sorry to the union, to the attorneys, to everyone trying to protect me (truly, I appreciate you and value your LOVE for children)... I cannot go to bed tonight thinking I did the right thing in being quiet. I am burdened by my "friends" and "leaders" that have chosen to take the stance of silence. I find myself in tears for hours...literally hours over them. My heart truly aches for them. However, I cannot join them because I want to protect my job.

 At the end of the day, I want to protect children. My hope and prayer is that they will rise up and be David. Until then, please advocate for these kids. They do NOT need any more tests.

Do the research. Ask the questions. Find out where the data is going. And, by all means, do NOT trust the administrators. They aren't prepared to tackle the giant. They have NOT done the research. They are plagiarizing Gates and his foundation. They are not intelligent enough to come up with their own wording. Do NOT trust the GIANT. Do your own research.

Shame on you, administration. You had the floor to do the right thing. You need to stand FOR children, not for the district.”

Update: the story has been picked up by Diane Ravitch, also. Very supportive comments! 

So, do we join the silenced or join Nikki? 


  1. We are here! We are here! We are here! Dr. Suess almost always says it best. We are here behind you and the other teachers!

    1. LOVE your literary allusion. Thanks for being there for kids and teachers

  2. Nikki deserves the thanks, gratitude and complete support of all educators, as well as the parents of the children for whom she is fighting. I am with her 100% and will do whatever I can to help in this struggle.

  3. The majority, if not all, of this is a result of Ballard's arrogance, refusal to not only listen, but ACT on what his educators tell him (ad nauseam), as well as his apparent obsession with ANYTHING Harvard or Gates related. His lies reach the point of not only the unethical, but the criminal. Nikki, Karen and Patti are driving the bus, however, the seats are still relatively empty. Let's load up and get this convoy on the road!

    1. Thanks for the clarification. We can see Gates' fingerprints on the concept of student surveys. It's part of his MET teacher evaluation process.

  4. His letter to the district's teachers was obnoxious. Acting like they were too new to understand and use the "data" collected really got my hackles up. Like great teachers need an inappropriate standardized test to tell them their students' strengths and weaknesses. Snort! They already know without wasting a million days of instruction on the dumb tests!

    1. That made me sad, too...obviously Nikki and her colleague are highly skilled, accomplished teachers with research on their side.

  5. Aysha Prather I don't know much about Superintendent Ballard. Was his response what you would expect? I was really dismayed by the tone of it. I found it patronizing. And i agree with Nikki, it does seem like many teachers have been beaten into submitting to a broken system. It's disappointing that more aren't speaking up. And, yes, it's easy for me to say that--i'm a parent, not a teacher who risks her job--but if the teachers are conveying acquiescence by their silence, we're not going to be able to fix what's broken.