For several years now, our children have been forced to produce test scores for their teachers, schools, and districts. They also work tirelessly to produce data for the testing and curriculum corporations, who then turn around and use our children’s data to garner future profits. As if this is not enough, the state has recently forced our schools to give up weeks of valuable instructional time so our children can “field test” the latest version of the Florida Standards Assessment and “load test” the technological infrastructure. Simply put, our children are being used – by the schools, the state, and the corporations – to make sure all the kinks are worked out prior to the official test dates.
The International Labor Organization’s definition of child labor is, “work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development.” Child labor also “is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children”; it “interferes with their schooling”; and it requires them to “attempt to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work.” Does this sound familiar?
Thanks to high-stakes testing policies, corporations, states, districts, and schools across the country are engaged in child labor practices: our children work and test so adults can profit.
According to state law, “Florida labor laws require employers to grant a meal period of at least 30 minutes to employees under the age of 18 who work for more than 4 hours continuously. Florida Stat. 450.081(4).” Most of our children don’t get a full 30 minutes for lunch. Furthermore, in most good companies, employees are typically provided a 15-20 minute break when they work more than 6 hours.
If corporations, states, districts, and schools are going to continue to require our children to labor like this, then shouldn’t they also be required to uphold good labor practice? Let’s call it what it is: high-stakes testing is child labor.
And if they are going to continue to harvest our children’s data, then we should demand that this inhumane system give our children a 30 minute lunch break and a 20 minute recess every single day.