“Pro-Test” or “Protest”? The dash makes all the difference, making one word into two that, taken together, describe polar opposite worlds. If you are “pro-test,” you favor the Common Core State Standards tests. Remove the dash, and you are aligned with those urging families to opt-out and refuse to take the PAARC and Smarter Balanced Common Core tests, which will be administered in March.
Are you in one of these camps?
Or are there even two camps? It’s hard, maybe impossible, to measure the strength of the “protest” movement, if indeed there really is a ‘movement.’ It could be thousands and thousands of tiny, grass-roots organizations and loose gatherings, or it could be just a few hundred. If it is a national movement, it’s one that lacks a ‘command central,’ although three organizations, Save Our Schools (SOS), United Opt-Out, and Badass Teachers Association, do have modest national profiles. Every week FairTest publishes a report of anti-testing actions, but the list gets repetitive and sometimes includes newspaper stories and blogs that merely ask tough questions–hardly evidence of a full-blown revolt. Is there a genuine bandwagon, or is FairTest trying to create the illusion of a bandwagon where none exists? Hard to say.
In some places, local and state politicians are taking note. Colorado’s legislature is holding hearings, and there’s ferment in Philadelphia, for example. And Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker wants to stop the testing.
We know the protesters have different motivations. Some are upset about what they see as excessive testing in schools, while others are vociferously opposed to the Common Core State Standards, which they have labelled “Obamacore,” his plan to take control over public education.
Protest politics makes for strange bedfellows, with lefties and righties coming together to agree on this issue (and probably on just this one issue).
As for the other side, the “Pro-Test” camp has the appearance of substance. With unofficial “headquarters” in Washington, DC, the Common Core test defenders include the US Chamber of Commerce, the Business Council, the Education Trust, the Leadership Council on Civil and Human Rights, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and Arne Duncan, the US Secretary of Education.
The basic message: “If you don’t take the test, you won’t be counted–and you won’t matter.” The “Pro-Test” group has an impressive roster with money and power, but perhaps it’s mostly Chiefs and very few followers. Impossible to say now, but we will find out before long.
Just last fall, the establishment was agreeing publicly that we might be subjecting our children to too many tests. The President spoke out, and his Secretary of Education noted that testing was sucking the air out of classrooms. Now, they’re saying, “OK, perhaps schools do test too much, but these tests–the Common Core tests–are essential.”
I haven’t found overwhelming evidence that hundreds of thousands of students are going to boycott the Common Core tests, but people in Washington appear worried. How else to explain their going on the offensive to trumpet the importance of these tests?
What do they know that we don’t? Or are they seeing dragons under the bed at night?
In other states, educational leaders have been issuing threats: “Boycott these tests and you will suffer the consequences,” is the tone of these messages. “I know some of you have already received questions from parents who would like their children to be able to opt out of taking the test. Opting out of PARCC is not an option,” Illinois State Superintendent Christopher A. Koch recently wrote to district administrators, a message he expected they would share with their principals. Some schools are going to force kids who come to school but opt-out of the tests to ‘sit and stare’ all day long, instead of offering them alternative learning experiences. “Sit and stare”–Now that’s enlightened leadership, teaching kids what it means to live in a free and democratic society!! Teaching kids how power responds to principled action.
So, the establishment is dropping the hammer. Will that backfire?
We will find out in March, when the PAARC and Smarter Balanced tests are administered over a 2-3 week period.
The great Dinah Washington song I am riffing off, “What a Difference a Day Makes,” ends with the line, “And the difference is you.”
Care to make a prediction as to what will happen?