Kyana Julian is tiny, but don’t let that fool you. She speaks with a big, powerful voice. She is a high school sophomore, one of a handful of students in Orange County who are helping to kickstart a student movement to take back their education at Opt Out Florida Students, a public Facebook group.
The group’s descriptions reads: “A place for students to learn about and discuss their own fight against high stakes testing. A forum to begin a student led revolution to claim their education as their own, guided by Opt Out administrators from across the country.”
Watch as she confidently addresses the board of Orange County Public Schools on February 11, 2015 in this video link: Education Is Not A Business and I Am Not A Product
Here is the transcript of her speech:
My name is Kyana Julian and I am a sophomore at University High School, I am here to address standardized testing. In the first week of school, teachers always go over the rules and expectations – they tell us that if we feel we are being bullied, that we are to report that to the school. Well, what if we feel that our school is bullying us? To be specific, what if the bully is the state by making the standardized test count for such high stakes? By making us feel as if we are just numbers on a data sheet? The test makes teachers run in fear and think, “If I actually teach the way my students actually need me to teach, I could lose my job.” It makes students question, but not in good way… it makes us question in sad way. We question if we will pass or fail, and from what I have been hearing the most from my friends and classmates is just “Oh, I am going to fail this test.”
Before I continue, I would like to make it clear that I come here on behalf of my fellow students. I’m talking about my friends who are not here because they are too afraid to speak and some who actually are so unaware of what is going on, because all their school lives they have been ignored and told to “just do what you’re told.” We feel very bullied.
Our education is a beautiful gift. In fact, I consider education an art. But my experience is that our school asks us to do things that are not in our best interest. The test isn’t used to improve how my teacher teaches me, so it comes down to politics. It’s as if all we care about is data, and who has the highest test scores. There is more focus on achieving “high test scores” than there is on actual learning. We have completely lost the value and meaning behind the word “education”. In my opinion, education is the most powerful weapon of all time against ignorance and it can help us change the world, but I think that our weapon against ignorance is just sadly collecting dust.
There is so much more to teaching than just teaching to the test and being judged by a single test score… and there is so much more to learning than just learning how to take a test. We are not being educated. All we are learning is how to take tests. My friends and I are not afraid of tests. We don’t mind taking tests that tell our teachers what we know and what we still need to know. But standardized tests don’t do that. We want to know why we have to take so many tests – more than the state requires. Benchmark tests include material we haven’t even been taught, but they are still being graded even though the district said they are not supposed to count for a grade. It is wrong for me to be used as statistical data without my parents’ knowledge or permission… to provide data that does not even help my education. I want to actually learn my subjects in depth, not just how to pass the test with a high test score. The practice tests for math test our computer skills more than our actual mathematical knowledge. We are forced to work quickly through Algebra 2 to get all the material in because the test will come well before the end of the year. Algebra 2 has so much wonderful mathematical information that we would like to learn in depth, but we won’t even have that opportunity, because of the test. This is unfair to us and to our teachers.
I know that tests are a reality of life… especially the ACT and SAT. Those tests are important, but they are optional and if I fail it, I still have other options. If I don’t pass the SAT or ACT, there are over 850 wonderful colleges that are test-optional and will still accept me, based on my transcript. I am a good student and my grades are not a concern for me, but I don’t do well on standardized tests and even though I am a good student, I could be denied my diploma. This is unfair to me and to the students who really need help to read.
I think a big problem is that important decisions are being made about education by people who mean well, but who do not really understand education. I would like our education system to be determined less by people who know nothing about education and more by teachers and principals, who know us and know what we really need, because no two students are the same. The majority of important decisions should be made by people who experience the education system and actually work with students in a classroom on a daily basis. Just because someone has been a student, does not mean they understand how to teach students and how students actually learn.
Education is not a business and I am not a product. I am a human being, with hopes and dreams and the willingness to work hard for that. My friends and I deserve more than our education is providing to us today.
Thank you for your time.