Archives for category: Accountability

Two organizations–In the Public Interest and the Center for Popular Democracy–have proposed reforms for charter school accountability that would remove the most frequent criticisms of charter schools.


They recommend an 11-point agenda that would strengthen oversight, transparency, and accountability. There are a few missing points that I would add, such as, capping the salary of charter school executives to be no higher than that of the local superintendent; prohibiting for-profit management of charter schools; and barring the use of taxpayer funds for political lobbying or campaign contributions.



The Charter School Accountability Agenda An 11-Point Program for Reform


  • Require companies and organizations that manage charter schools to open board meetings to parents and the public, similar to public school board meetings.
  • Require companies and organizations that manage charter schools to release to parents and the public how they spend taxpayer money, including their annual budgets and contracts.
  • Require state officials to conduct regular audits of charter schools’ finances to detect fraud, waste or abuse of public funds.

Protect Neighborhood Schools

Protect Taxpayer Funds

       • Before any new charter school is approved, conduct an analysis of the impact the school will have on neighborhood public schools.

      • Ensure that neighborhood public schools do not lose funding when new charter schools open in their area.

  • Require charter schools to return taxpayer money to the school district for any student that leaves the charter school to return to a neighborhood public school during the school year.
  • Prohibit charter school board members and their immediate families from financially benefiting from their schools.
  • Prohibit charter schools from spending taxpayer dollars on advertising or marketing.
  • Stop the creation of new charter schools if state officials have not shown the ability to prevent fraud and mismanagement.
  • Require all teachers who work in taxpayer funded schools, including neighborhood public schools and charter schools, to meet the same training and qualification requirements.
  • Require charter schools to serve high-need students such as special education



This is one of the strangest political alignments ever: George W. Bush put annual testing into federal law, a practice unknown in the high-performing nations of the world. And Democrats–including President Obama, Secretary Duncan, and Washington State Senator Patti Murray–are fighting to keep George W. Bush’s policy in place. In the case of Senator Murray, her role is especially puzzling because Washington State has been a stronghold of opposition to high-stakes testing–from the Garfield High School teachers’ refusal to give the MAP test to the Legislature’s refusal to evaluate teachers by test scores, which led to Duncan withdrawing the state’s waiver from NCLB. Now, in accordance with NCLB, every public school in the state of Washington is a “failing” school, having not reached the goal of 100% proficiency on state tests of math and reading. But Senator Murray blithely defends the obnoxious annual testing policy that has so infuriated educators in her home state.


Here is the latest from


GLIMMER OF HOPE FOR NCLB?: No Child Left Behind’s spectacular sputter in the House last week overshadowed headway being made in the Senate: HELP Committee aides working to craft a bipartisan NCLB bill have been inching closer to an agreement on Title I, according to several aides and lobbyists. An announcement could come as soon as today. What will the compromise deal look like? Tough to say. But HELP Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray has been firm about keeping statewide annual tests and getting rid of the bill’s Title I portability provisions, so it’ll be interesting to see what the Washington Democrat is ready to give up to strike a deal.
- Of course, getting a bill through both chambers won’t be easy. Take last week’s House debate. Members approved an amendment from Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) that would allow local assessment systems but chose not to take a recorded vote. It signaled that Democrats and Republicans expected the amendment to pass easily, and potentially with ample Democratic support. And it’s a sign that even if the Senate preserves annual statewide testing, the House may rebel and demand more flexibility for local districts.
- One more testing note: Political advocacy group Education Reform Now, a partner of Democrats for Education Reform, is calling out the National Education Association for a video [] aimed at persuading lawmakers to scrap the annual testing mandate. ERN’s own video [] tries to “fact check” the NEA ad – and warns the union’s stance “could cost you your child’s future.”

Stephen Dyer of Innovation Ohio helped to create an excellent website that allows anyone to review and compare data about charter schools and public schools in Ohio. All the data comes from public sources. Know Your Charter is a product of Innovation Ohio and the. Ohio Education Association.


“When we started, some criticized us for only posting district and charter school data. They said the only “fair” comparison (even though it is districts that lose money from the charter school funding system, not schools) was to look at building-to-building data. We chose to look at district-level data first because it is districts, not individual schools in them, that lose money to charters.


“Well, today we posted the building data as well. So now it is possible to compare every Ohio school building — district or charter — with each other, as well as districts. This adds to the comparative data available at Know Your Charter. Including the building level data increases by 17 the number of data points now available for the public to compare. Adding those 17 points to the 26 from the original site and there are now 43 data points for comparing districts, schools and charters.


“Can we finally stop claiming Know Your Charter isn’t fair? Everything is there for all to see. And what you’ll see is that urban buildings more than hold their own with charter schools overall — outperforming them on proficiency tests while having higher levels of poverty. You’ll also see that less than 10% of charter school children are in buildings that outperform urban districts. Overall, urban buildings do better than charters, with a few exceptions in Cleveland and other places.


“The time has come to stop debating whether the Ohio charter school program is working. It clearly isn’t in the vast majority of cases. It’s up to the state to figure out how to make it work better for the kids in the charters without unduly hampering the educational opportunities for the 90% of Ohio children in local public schools.”

Teacher Philip Kaplan left the following comment on the blog:


The plight of Our Children, our schools and our nation



The ranks of special education students are swelling, and as the breakdown of society continues to impact the ability of public schools to deliver resources and services, the crisis deepens. Teaching today’s students is difficult by any definition, and as educators are blamed for the consequences of society’s collective abandonment and subsequent surrender of their young people to technological marvels, enter the government with their ridiculous plans to hold us, and only us, accountable. Enter the right wing politicians, desperate to discredit teachers to ensure funding for their political campaigns. They have blindsided us, stabbed us in the back, and have squarely pinned the blame for America’s problems on America’s teachers



There are dozens of variables in a child’s education, and to choose one variable, the teachers, and to choose two arbitrary points during the school year to measure that variable, is statistically speaking, unsupportable by any stretch of any imagination.



As I watched my ten and eleven year old children sit before their computer screens, as springtime weather called to them from outside the windows, as dozens of tests collected into one big massive distaste in their minds, I thought how absurd this whole picture looked. For two hours of silence, a highly unnatural condition for them to endure, I watched them struggle to do their best.



Two measuring points on a 180 day continuum was going to translate into my measurement as a teacher. Two arbitrarily chosen points on a wildly fluctuating line that changed as quickly as a child’s mood and their willingness and ability to focus and discipline their minds.



Now I fully understand the need to ensure effective educators. I fully understand that bad teachers exist and that the right wing agenda is to kill all the apples in the basket because of the one or two rotten ones. I fully understand that most teachers, most of the time, work hard to create a small oasis of hope and happiness if many of our most troubled areas. But most importantly, I understand, from the moment a child is born, that single event of lottery predicts and creates (perhaps a self-perpetuating lesson) an environment that leads one way or another. To believe otherwise is pure hypocrisy or self-delusion.



I even support the idea of accountability, but only when calibrated properly against the other variables that impact a child’s future just as deeply as we do. Start with the school’s ability or willingness to enforce a behavioral code, making the students accountable for their behavior. We will call that the Coefficient of School Effectiveness (COSE) Does the school itself create a calm and safe environment in which both students and staff feel that effective learning can take place. Then widen the circle and look at the school district’s willingness and ability to provide the necessary curriculum and resources that should lead to good learning outcomes (Assuming the district has the school’s “back” when it comes to behavioral accountability). Does the district provide enough adults in each school? We will call that the Coefficient of District Effectiveness (CODE)

Looking at the next layer of accountability, the school funding formulas that the states and districts use to purchase all the resource’s necessary to lead to good learning outcomes. Look at the average per student expenditure. Is that funding stream secure, or is it open to the vagaries of a whimsical legislature, intent on securing the necessary votes to remain in office? Is there flexibility built in to ensure that the five year old who enters school reading already at a first grade level is properly challenged? Is there flexibility built in to ensure that the five year old who barely recognizes letters and colors has the necessary interventions to quickly bring him or her up to an equal footing as their peers? Let’s call that the Coefficient of Funding (COF). Let’s not forget to mention the state’s scrutiny on a district’s suspension rates or dropout rates, and whether or not those numbers impact present or future funding. Oh, and the various organizations who sue districts for suspension rates or special ed rates for minorities that are out of line with what they believe they should be.



Of course, the home environment itself, out of fashion with the fantastic number crunchers and ivory tower academicians running education, has no impact on how well the young lady or man performs on those two arbitrarily chosen measuring points. Ask anyone making policy, and there will be a collective sigh and then the inevitable answer that goes something like this, “We have no control over the home environment and we can only control the school’s environment (Keep in mind the COSE, CODE and COF), so we have to have something to measure the success of our teachers.



Let’s take a collective pause in our discussion. Perhaps we need to clear our throats to rid ourselves of the collective crap collecting in our craws. The successful education of any community’s young people is the lynchpin for that community’s future success, but as anyone with more than a sliver of common sense can attest to, we are what we choose to immerse ourselves in. We are what we eat, and our most chronic sicknesses, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, have direct links to the choices individual people make on a daily basis. While the big companies that push GMO’s and sugar laced foods are doing what they are designed to do, create and market products, they are only as successful when we choose to buy their products.



Ok. back to education. Schools market a product. It’s called education. It’s called reading and writing and math and social studies and science. It is called college and career readiness. But most importantly, it’s called hope and dreams. It is the future we market. Or at least we used to. Nowadays, we’re forced to market high test scores and low suspension rates.

But if we are true to our convictions as educators (and not pyramid scheme salesmen) our product requires more than just a passive recipient mentality, the same mentality that laps up technology and sugar laced foods with impunity. Our product requires a mutuality of expectations and a relationship based on trust, responsibility and accountability. Successful schools mirror homes in which the people in that home are more involved with each other than they are with their own individual pursuits.



Let’s take another pause from education and examine oncology. Yes, oncology. An oncologist diagnoses, treats and hopefully rids the body of cancerous cells. If the oncologist is good, the average life span and quality of life of his or her clients improves, clearly a measurable outcome. Let’s take two randomly chosen days in the nine months that the patient is undergoing treatment and then create a test that measures that person’s quality of life. Should that person be throwing up or weak that day, that’s too bad, as the test was scheduled for that particular day, and to reschedule impacts other tests. Oh, and let’s make sure we only select patients for this test who follow all the doctors’ recommendations. That would make the numbers look really good, but in education, most caregivers do not follow our basic recommendations.



Returning to our nation’s classrooms, where education happens, relationships dictate outcomes. Good bad or indifferent, relationships build results, In a healthy environment, there are relationships with shared expectations between home and school adults within which a child benefits. It is that simple. In an unhealthy environment, the adults at home and at school have different expectations, little or no communication, and the child’s future suffers. It is that simple. If a child respects the adults in his personal environment, it is more likely they will respect the adults in the school environment. If a child is left to his or her own devices without adult supervision, it is more likely their behavior will challenge the structure within which a school must operate to be successful.



Let’s take another side trip, a corollary to this education essay, to look at the latest results from a test given every four years at the fourth, eight and tenth grade levels, a test that measures math and reading proficiency, as calibrated against the rest of the world’s industrialized nations. At all levels, across all demographics and grade levels, we are on the lower rungs, but digging more deeply, we are competitive at the elementary level, less so in middle school and by high school, are so far out in left field, that we are for all intent and purposes, not even part of the game any longer.



Again, the reason for this is simple. In elementary, children benefit from the village approach to education, where several people get to know and work with the students, where parent teacher conferences are more common, and where the home school connection is at its peak.



Suppose we all take a step into the kindergarten room, on the first day of school, where everyone is filled with excitement and where parents and guardians are the most involved. That enthusiasm and energy should be the norm as children move through the grades, so that by the time they reach middle and high school, home and school are irrevocably and positively committed to working together as a team. But something (or everything) runs amok of the goal and the goal of raising a child is bastardized until it resembles, of all things, a goddamn number. What’s the test score, what’s the numbers say, the numbers dictate everything but tell us nothing we do not already know.



But two things go wrong on the way to this ideal world. First of all, increasing numbers of our young people arrive at schools unprepared to learn in the school settings. So accustomed are they to the fleeting and momentary focus that screen time creates, their minds are literally wired contrary to what real world learning demands. So accustomed are they to a sense of behavioral entitlement that altering their behaviors to the currency of conversation and cooperation is difficult.



I recall a survey I gave students at my school several years ago, and of the 300 or so that replied, over 90% have a TV and computer in their bedroom. Over 80% have dinner with their good friend, Mr. Screen, a inanimate but strangely comforting friend who offers nothing but what the user desires.



What can we expect from a society that delivers their collective offspring to us with their minds already wired to expect instant gratification and immediate satisfaction and attention to their needs? Should there be any surprise that increasing numbers of our young people have no regard for behavioral norms.



The real surprise is that we, in public education, have managed to hold this crumbling infrastructure together for so long. As custodians for fifty million young people, we are the only institution with the ability to transform a nation and deliver it from its own nightmarish future. But there are some basic transformations that must take place, or we will become just another appendage to the unrelenting appetite of politicians, bureaucrats and business people whose credibility is dependent upon their ability to mislead, misdirect and otherwise confuse the vast majority of consumers that education’s maladies have nothing to do with them but everything to do with us.



Making a shift in education means a shift in checkbook policy. Take a look at a person’s checkbook and you understand more about that person than you can gather in conversations. It also means fundamentally altering the infrastructure that underlies most secondary scheduling. But most importantly, it means redefining and molding the home school partnership, so that as our young people move through the years, parents and caregivers are in constant communication with us, the educational experts.



At the end of the day, public schools can be the saviors of a nation. As the only institution in America that routinely sees 50 million young people a day, we have a chance to redefine our future. But instead of leading the way, we have lost our way and our mission, once clear as a bright sunny day, has become muddied and incoherent. Business and politics have so polluted our ranks that it has become increasingly difficult to distinguish among educational, political and business leaders.



Our leaders in education, at the district, state and national levels, have permitted the discussion to steer away from what is best for kids to what is best for funding, or what is best to avoid lawsuits, or what is best to hold onto jobs, or what is best to satisfy the incompetent meddlers. In other words, we have lost the voice of reason we once had, and we have lost the respect we once had and we have lost power to truly educate. Instead, we have become pawns in someone else’s game.



We give lip service to what is best for kids, but operationally, we don’t follow through. We are not allowed to. If we did what was best for kids, we would enforce behavioral codes uniformly, restructure our secondary schools to create a relationship rich culture, reform funding structures to ensure equality in opportunity, build strong home school partnerships and reestablish the teaching profession as the expert in all matters educational.



Until we regain our leadership role, public education will continue to be bullied and dragged into the mud. Teachers’ unions at all levels must reinvent themselves as leaders in best practices, and until that occurs, they will continue to loose footing with both the public and legal infrastructures of our country. Education leaders have embraced the conversation about single data point testing, instead of fighting against the flawed logic driving it. In backroom conversations, we all talk about the absurdity of it, but in public view, we refuse to take the lead, instead ignoring common sense and the legions of evidence that undermine its credibility.



Somehow, somewhere between common sense and now, yellow journalism in its most sinister form, has managed to shape our nation’s educational policy.



There over three million teachers in America, but somehow the shameful cases of a few scattered situations has been parlayed into a national image of incompetence, laziness and general indifference.



Real education requires an involved and active relationship between the teachers and students, and that active relationship in turn, requires ongoing conversations that mirror mutual respect and most importantly, a shared behavioral code. No one ever talks about the role students’ behaviors play in the education world, but that is the most important variable over which we pretend does not exist. Until behavioral codes are enforced across all demographics, in the busses that carry our students, in the cafeterias that feed our students, at the sports arenas that hold our students, in the hallways through which our students pass, and of course, in the classrooms in which learning must occur, nothing of lasting worth can occur. And until we, as public educators, take the lead in all things relating to a learning, and education, we will continue to lose those daily battles of attrition with which we are all familiar. And in the end, we will lose the war that profit hungry corporate America, aided and abetted by irresponsible members of the political establishment, is waging on all of us in public education. The children of America deserve better. They deserve our leadership, not our blind allegiance to an educational hierarchy intent on bartering with the enemy.


Problems with the new, computer-administered Florida Standards Assessments are widespread. At least a dozen school districts, including Broward, Hillsborough, Miami- Dade, Orange, Oskaloosa, Palm Beach, Pasco, Pinellas, Seminole, St. Johns, Sumter, and Volusia reported total breakdowns or significant testing delays.
According to Bob Schaeffer, a Florida resident who is Public Education Director of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, which monitors standardized exams across the country, “Florida computerized tests are clearly not ready for prime time. The reason is that they were rushed into place based on a Tallahasee-mandated schedule not technical competence or educational readiness.”
Schaeffer continued, “Parents, teachers, superintendents and computer experts all warned that such breakdowns were inevitable. Yet, policy-makers ignored the warnings as well as evidence of similar problems last year in Florida and a dozen other states.”
“Today’s fiasco once again demonstrates that Florida testing policy is being driven by politicians and ideologues, not educators,” Schaeffer concluded. ”Florida schools and the children they serve need a pause in testing insanity and a thorough overhaul of the state’s assessment system. Enough is enough”
FairTest Public Education Director Bob Schaeffer has lived full-time in southwest Florida for fifteen years. He works closely with assessment reform groups in Lee County and across the state.

Florida has a bigger problem than opt outs: early this morning many districts experienced major technological problems with the state exams.


Miami-Dade (the largest district in the state), Palm Beach County, Pasco County, and Okaloosa County have suspended testing due to computer failures.


Look for updates here on the Facebook page of Parents Across Florida.


Jeb Bush, the father of Florida’s punitive testing and accountability system, was expecting to get a big boost for his campaign from the Common Core testing. He is the leading proponent of computer-driven everything; his Foundation for Educational Excellence (now headed by Condaleeza Rice) is funded by major tech corporations who are heavily invested in educational software and hardware.


Here is the first story about the breakdown of state testing in major school districts.




Paul McKimmy, a professor at the University of Hawaii, tells the story of his two children, one of whom was a very successful student, the other–Noah– fared poorly.

What to do? According to reformers, Noah’s teacher was a failure; she should get a low evaluation, en route to being fired. The education college she attended should be downgraded for Noah’s failure.

McKimmy shows how absurd this approach is. In fact, both children had excellent teachers. One, his daughter, had been raised with every advantage. Noah, a foster child, had been raised in squalor.

“Noah’s lack of progress in school is easy to pin on the “failure” of his teacher, his school and the education system — until you look at him as a person and not a test score. Every dollar we spend to increase his academic success by testing him, evaluating his school, and making a show of holding the public education system accountable is a joke. Noah doesn’t need a standardized test. He doesn’t need a more highly effective teacher, and he doesn’t need us to spend another billion dollars tracking his test scores with the goal of holding the teaching profession accountable for his success.

“Noah needed preschool. Now he needs a bed with a roof over it. His parents need employment skills. His school may be the only public institution that has done right by him, and as far as I’m concerned his teachers are heroes. He needs you and me to prioritize our social service systems while investing in education. It is an absolute embarrassment, that instead, we continue defunding, attacking and blaming our public schools for his lack of success.

“You may believe that Noah represents just one case, but he’s not alone. Just drive by our Kakaako medical college and witness the tent city nearby — there are many, many kids living on the edge right next to our luxury condos.

“Nearly every study that examines the factors contributing to student success acknowledges that poverty has the greatest impact, and that teacher effectiveness is elsewhere down the list. So why do we continually gloss over this obvious point and rush to find new ways to try holding teachers and schools accountable for results? Because it’s easier than fixing the real problem, and because it suits political agendas to paint our education system as “broken” so that some group or company can sell us their program (quick-fix circumvention of quality teacher preparation), product (textbooks and software) or service (test preparation).”

Every so often, I run into someone who says that he or she cannot take seriously the claim that there is such a thing as a “privatization” movement. They think that charter schools are public schools (I do not) and they scoff at any concern about for-profit schools. They say things like, “There have always been for-profit businesses in education, selling tests, textbooks, supplies, etc., why does it matter if some corporations run schools for profit?” In their eyes, corporate reform is innovative and risky, and no one—not even the for-profit corporations—is trying to privatize public education.


To anyone who questions the existence of the privatization movement, I recommend Doug Martin’s “Hoosier School Heist.” Martin is a blogger who holds a Ph.D. in nineteenth century American literature. He is a native of Indiana who is deeply versed in that state’s school politics and its major (and minor) players. His book is eye-opening; actually, his book is eye-popping. It is a no-holds-barred critique of Indiana’s politically and financially powerful privatization movement.


Martin’s critique shows the linkages among the free-marketeers, the Religious Right, and the greedy.


A few examples of his snappy style:


“Academic progress is irrelevant to voucher supporters, for the goal is not to improve schools through competition, as they claim, but to completely dismantle traditional public schools altogether. In fact, those calling for school privatization don’t want to hold anyone with profit motives accountable, as Florida has proven.”


He recognizes that vouchers and charters drain funding from public schools, leaving the latter with fewer teachers, fewer aides, fewer programs—“so for-profit education management companies can take them over with temporary teachers or justify starting charter schools by deeming the neighborhood schools as ‘failing.’”


He sees why Wall Street is involved in the charter industry. “Making money from disasters is a Wall Street specialty, and investors have jumped on the opportunity for school privatization. Besides generating tax-exempt bonds, stocks, and other shady financial gimmicks, school privatization allows big bank CEOs, private equity firm honchos, and hedge fund managers to collect interest on loans to non-unionized charter schools which employ a temporary teacher workforce….Unlike traditional public school boards, charter school boards are unelected, undemocratic, and cloaked in mystery. Their conflicts of interest enable schemes like high rent to waste public education money.”


Martin challenges the corporate-sponsored claims that the public schools are failing to produce a good workforce. He says that Indiana’s newspapers and TV stations “advertise corporate school talking points, portray front group spokespeople as ‘experts,’ and seldom, if ever, question that profit motives and rigged research behind the corporate-sponsored statements that our schools are failing.”


The Republican-dominated legislature has taken steps to cripple the funding of public schools. “To sneak more politically connected for-profit charter schools into Indiana, in 2010 legislators cut $300 million annually from the public school budget and mandated tax caps to purposely ensure the destruction of public schools….Since the state controls the purse strings, Republican lawmakers have purposely bolted in place everything needed to start closing down Indiana schools and expanding for-profit charter schools.”


Martin shows how the overuse of standardized testing has benefited corporate politicians like Mitch Daniels. Not only do they stifle the critical thinking skills needed in a democratic society, not only do they send millions to testing corporations, but they demoralize and drive out good teachers. This too sets public schools up for failure.


One of the valuable aspects of Doug Martin’s book is his careful dissection of the sponsors of corporate reform in Indiana. A key player is called the Mind Trust, which Martin cites as an exemplar of “crony capitalism.” Martin writes:


“The Mind Trust typifies America’s counterfeit political Left. Mouthing the rhetoric of class warfare, civil rights, and female empowerment, the mock liberals at Education Sector, the Center for American Progress, and the New America Foundation, all supportive of the Mind Trust specifically or school privatization in general (and most bringing home six-figure salaries), attack teachers unions and public schools and connive to mount in place a school system based on corporate profit, one which disenfranchises the female teachers and minority and poor students they claim to be helping.”


Martin calls out the enablers of the school privatization movement, such as Eli Lilly and the Lilly Endowment, reliable funders of privatization activities, and of Teach for America and the New Teacher Project, which will recruit the temporary teachers needed for the charters. He cites the power of ALEC in the Indiana legislature, whose members pushed to evaluate teachers by their students’ test scores and to judge colleges of education by the test scores of students taught by their graduates. He provides overviews of the anti-teacher, anti-union, privatization agenda of Stand for Children, DFER (Democrats for Education Reform), the Christian right, the Bradley Foundation, the DeVos family of Michigan, and the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), which promotes charters and vouchers.


Martin doesn’t offer any suggestions about how to combat the well-funded, interconnected organizations that are advancing the privatization agenda. His book contains valuable information about the privatization movement, its goals, its major players, and its strategies. He leaves it to voters to figure out how to save public education in Indiana.


Whether or not you live in Indiana, you should read this book. The major players like DFER and BAEO operate nationally. The activities in Indiana follow a script that is being enacted in many states, probably including yours.


Hoosier School Heist is listed on, or you can obtain a copy by going to the website

Charter schools in Ohio collect $1 billion a year from the state. The charters on average have lower performance than public schools. Although Governor Kasich is a big fan of charters and vouchers and has received campaign contributions from charter owners, others think charters should be subject to accountability and should have open records.

Even the state Auditor, a Republican, thinks that the legislature must increase charter accountability.

Will it happen? We will see.

The New York Times is convinced that No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top have been a great success, and the editorial board urges Congress to stick with annual high-stakes testing. The editorial is couched in terms of the wonderful things that have happened to children of color, echoing the “reform” theme of testing as a “civil right.” This editorial is so out of touch with reality that it is hard to know where to begin. States are now beginning to test little children for 10-12 hours to see if they can read and do math; the amount of testing and the stakes attached to it are not found in any high-performing nation in the world, only here. The billions of dollars now devoted to standardized testing is obscene, especially when many of children who need help the most are in overcrowded classes and in states that have slashed the budget and/or opened charter schools and handed out vouchers to drain funding away from the public schools.


For a different point of view, read Carol Burris’s strong article about why it is time for civil disobedience, why parents should refuse to allow their children to take the tests.


Burris writes:


It has become increasingly clear that Congress does not have the will to move away from annual high-stakes testing. The bizarre notion that subjecting 9-year-olds to hours of high-stakes tests is a “civil right,” is embedded in the thinking of both parties. Conservatives no longer believe in the local, democratic control of our schools. Progressives refuse to address the effects of poverty, segregation and the destruction of the middle class on student learning. The unimaginative strategy to improve achievement is to make standardized tests longer and harder.


And then there are the Common Core State Standards. Legislators talk a good game to appease parents, but for all their bluff and bluster, they are quite content to use code names, like the West Virginia Next Generation Content Standards, to trick their constituents into believing their state standards are unique, even though most are word for word from the Common Core.


The only remedy left to parents is to refuse to have their children take the tests. Testing is the rock on which the policies that are destroying our local public schools are built. If our politicians do not have the courage to reverse high-stakes testing, then those who care must step in. As professor of Language and Composition, Ira Shor, bluntly stated:


Because our kids cannot defend themselves, we have to defend them. We parents must step in to stop it. We should put our foot down and say, “Do it to your own kids first before you experiment on ours!”


In contrast to the New York Times, which argues for the status quo on grounds of helping minority students, Burris sharply argues:


The alleged benefit of annual high stakes testing was to unveil the achievement gaps, and by doing so, close them. All that has been closed are children’s neighborhood schools. In a powerful piece in the Huffington Post, Fairfield University Professor Yohuru Williams argues that annual high-stakes testing feeds racial determinism and closes doors of opportunity for black and brown children.


Last year, Alan Aja and I presented evidence on how the Common Core and its tests are hurting, not helping, disadvantaged students. (The links to both articles are in Burris’s article.)


Burris concludes:


I am a rule follower by nature. I have never gotten a speeding ticket. I patiently wait my turn in lines. I am the product of 12 years of Catholic schools–raised in a blue-collar home where authority was not to be questioned. I was the little girl who always colored in the lines.


But there comes a time when rules must be broken — when adults, after exhausting all remedies, must be willing to break ranks and not comply. That time is now. The promise of a public school system, however imperfectly realized, is at risk of being destroyed. The future of our children is hanging from testing’s high stakes. The time to Opt Out is now.


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