When Wendy Bradshaw resigned from her job at the Polk Country, Florida, school district, she posted her resignation letter on Facebook, criticizing education reforms that emphasize standardized testing over individualized learning. In the days since, the teacher’s resignation letter has gone viral, garnering almost 62 thousand “likes” from parents, fellow teachers, and other supporters who agree that there’s something critically wrong in our education system.
In her letter, Bradshaw, who holds a PhD in education, explains that she’s passionate about teaching:
I love teaching. I love seeing my students’ eyes light up when they grasp a new concept and their bodies straighten with pride and satisfaction when they persevere and accomplish a personal goal.... I wanted nothing more than to serve the students of this county, my home, by teaching students and preparing new teachers to teach students well.
Bradshaw’s not afraid to say that she’s good at her job, writing, “I not only love teaching, I am excellent at it, even by the flawed metrics used up until this point. Every evaluation I received rated me as highly effective.”
Bradshaw goes on to explain that, despite her love for her work, she’s resigning because of “misguided reforms taking place which are robbing my students of a developmentally appropriate education.” She adds that these reforms, which include a heavy load of standardized testing, “are actively forcing teachers to engage in practices which are not only ineffective but actively harmful to child development and the learning process.”
Bradshaw’s ultimate motivation for her resignation is very simple: “I just cannot justify making students cry anymore.” She continues,
They cry with frustration as they are asked to attempt tasks well out of their zone of proximal development. They cry as their hands shake trying to use an antiquated computer mouse on a ten year old desktop computer which they have little experience with, as the computer lab is always closed for testing. Their shoulders slump with defeat as they are put in front of poorly written tests that they cannot read, but must attempt. Their eyes fill with tears as they hunt for letters they have only recently learned so that they can type in responses with little hands which are too small to span the keyboard.
A recent study found that the average student has taken 112.3 tests by the time he or she graduates from high school, a number that includes approximately eight standardized tests a year. Bradshaw isn’t the only one to be up in arms about this increasing move toward standardized education. In 2014, for example, veteran kindergarten teacher Susan Bowles risked termination by refusing to administer the Florida Assessments for Instruction in Reading to her students. Students have fought back as well, with more than 200 thousand New York state students opting out of standardized exams this year, and 9-year-old Florida student Sydney Smoot speaking out against excessive testing to her local school board in March.
In her resignation letter, Bradshaw claims that some students begin to show behavioral problems in response to an educational system that doesn’t allow for teaching customized to their needs or time to move and play. She explains,
My master’s degree work focused on behavior disorders, so I can say with confidence that it is not the children who are disordered. The disorder is in the system which requires them to attempt curriculum and demonstrate behaviors far beyond what is appropriate for their age. The disorder is in the system which bars teachers from differentiating instruction meaningfully … The disorder is in the system which values the scores on wildly inappropriate assessments more than teaching students in a meaningful and research based manner.
Bradshaw writes that her feelings about these trends in education came to a head when she had her daughter in June. Thinking of her child participating in this educational system filled her with “dread,” she says, adding, “I will not subject my child to this disordered system, and I can no longer in good conscience be a part of it myself.”
You can watch Bradshaw discuss these issues at a recent Florida State Board of Education meeting below: