National Teacher of the Year: 'The revolution begins with us'
By Donna Krache and Jamie Gumbrecht, CNN
(CNN) - The United States is obsessed with high-stakes testing that doesn't show whether teachers are masterful and students are knowledgeable, National Teacher of Year Rebecca Mieliwocki said to nearly 8,000 of her colleagues at the National Education Association annual meeting Thursday.
"When we help a child reach proficiency at any grade level, we have changed the quality of that child's life and that community forever," she said. "But aiming for proficiency means we aim to create generations of children who are average."
Instead, she said "people who haven't set foot in a classroom" should not be making decisions and policies about teaching, and teachers should be aiming to take all students - whether hungry, homeless, in the midst of their first crush or celebrating the big game - beyond the test.
"We have got to stop talking about testing and start talking more about developing, supporting and celebrating teachers," she said. "Teachers are the architects of the change we've been waiting for. We've forgotten what a teacher can do that a standardized test can't."
Standing before the delegates as “one teacher, symbolizing millions,” Mieliwocki told the assembly: “We may have forgotten how important our teachers were in restoring America's public education system but it's not too late to shift our focus to what really matters.
"If we want real change, lasting change, if we want back the power, the pride, the soaring achievement that is an exceptional public education, then the revolution begins with us."
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Mieliwocki, an English teacher at Luther Burbank Middle School in Burbank, California, was honored by President Barack Obama as 2012 National Teacher of the Year in a White House ceremony in April.
"You have been born with a gift for teaching and you've been given the gift of working with children. You have a front row seat to the future,” Mieliwocki said in her speech. “You build that future one child at a time.”
In an e-mailed response to Mieliwocki's speech, Robert Enlow, president and CEO of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, said testing remains an important tool for taxpayers - and teachers.
"The teachers unions should do more than talk the talk when it comes to accountability and education; they should walk the walk," Enlow said. "There is certainly more to accountability than just testing, but that doesn't mean we should not be accountable for test results. Testing students is a critically important tool for teachers, and one of the most transparent ways that parents can discover whether their children are learning and whether taxpayers are getting their money's worth."