We Are Chicago Students, and We are Here to Save Our Schools!

I'm a senior at Paul Robeson high school, and I'm an organizer with Chicago Students Organizing to Save Our Schools (CSOSOS). We are led by students from across Chicago in 25 different high schools and we believe in justice and equality for all. Today over 300 Chicago students are boycotting, including 100 juniors who are boycotting the state exam, to tell Chicago Public Schools and Mayor Rahm Emanuel that we are over-tested, under-resourced and fed up!

Mayor Emanuel and his Board of Education want to close 54 grammar schools around the city, all of which are in black and Latino communities: this is racist. These schools are also being judged based on assessments and tests given throughout the year: this is foolish. These school closings will leave neighborhoods dismantled, parents lost, students unaccounted for, and more importantly, will put children in harmful situations: this is dangerous.

My alma mater, Benjamin Banneker elementary, is one of the 54 schools on the list. But Banneker built a community around the school and around me. Although I started at Banneker as a troubled inner city child, growing up in this school taught me the transition into the real world, and how to be a man. Even now, four years after receiving my 8th-grade diploma, I still routinely visit the school to show my appreciation for what they did for me and many other students in my neighborhood.

But this boycott is about more than just Banneker, and more than just me. It's about every child in every neighborhood. Mayor Emanuel and the Chicago Board of Education are supposed to make the CPS system work for all of us. But instead they are putting too much pressure on standardized testing and threatening to close schools that don't have high test scores. When schools are under so much pressure to raise test scores it leads to low-scoring students being neglected, not supported. This is what happened when 68 low-scoring juniors were demoted to sophomore status at a southwest side high school in Chicago last month, right before the state test.

We are the Chicago Students Organizing to Save Our Schools. If you are ready to fight back, then join our boycott and make history with us.

For those of you across the country sharing similar beliefs, we ask that you choose a standardized test to boycott too as we fight against this unjust and excessive testing. We would also ask that you reach out to us, so that this movement can become even bigger. The day will come when students will finally have our voices heard. School board officials will finally realize that we as students can assemble in a professional manner to accomplish a goal. And we will have the power nationwide to assemble, and fight against any injustice we are subjected to and create the school system we all deserve.

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