Carol Burris, high school principal in Long Island, New York, writes here about the sudden shift in tone of the high-stakes testing cheerleaders.
Arne Duncan throws his support to the Beltway groups that say that there is too much testing and there should be less. Don’t believe it, writes Burris.
Of course, they hope to pacify and quiet the growing movement against high-stakes testing.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan must believe that those “suburban moms” he talked about back in 2013 are an awfully gullible bunch. In response to continued pushback on testing, Duncan and the Council of Chief State School Officers are now saying that they, by golly, are against excessive standardized testing, too.
Duncan recently wrote an op-ed published in The Washington Post in which he expressed support for a statement issued by the Council of Chief State School Officers along with the Council of Great City Schools saying that it was time to rethink standardized testing.
Readers may recall how Duncan characterized pushback on the Common Core as coming from “white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were” when he addressed the State Chiefs last year. His disdainful dismissal of the genuine concern of parents fueled the already growing anti-testing movement.
So now Mr. Duncan and the Chief State School Officers need to convince parents that they are listening, too. Their strategy is to say that “we are only for good tests, not the bad tests, and we will make all the bad tests go away.” It is disturbing that they believe that parents would not see through the ruse.
Parents are not protesting weekly spelling quizzes. The tests they do not like are the very tests that Duncan and the Chiefs want to save. In his recent op-ed, Duncan refers to “high-quality tests” as ones for which, “the Education Department has provided $360 million dollars.” The money went to two multi-state consortia, PARCC and Smarter Balanced, designing new tests to align to the Common Core State Standards. All the while, both Duncan and the Chiefs were careful not to mention the Common Core in their statements. The Common Core is now their Voldermort–“he who cannot be named.” Instead they declare themselves the warriors of the bubble test, as though answering multiple-choice questions with a mouse is a game changer.
Perhaps the most bizarre declaration in favor of annual testing came from Louisiana’s Chief John White who said that it is “an absolutely essential element of assuring the civil rights of children in America.” Meanwhile, 40 of the 70 districts in White’s state are still under desegregation orders, having not achieved unitary status after more than 40 years. When the U.S. Justice Department sued Louisiana to block 2014-15 vouchers for students in schools under federal desegregation orders, John White characterized the order as “a little ridiculous.”. The heck with Brown v Board of Education—as long as kids have the civil right to be tested each year, social justice is served.
Imagine that! Kids don’t need desegregation, but testing is a “civil right”? Yes, he really said that.
Burris concludes that Duncan and the cheerleading Chiefs don’t believe in democratic control of schools. That’s why they love standardized testing. Teachers and principals can’t be trusted to do what is right for children.
And that really sums up the thinking of Duncan and his cheerleading Chiefs. Their distrust of public schools and the democratic control of schooling run deep. It colors every solution that they propose. They have no idea how to effect school improvement other than by making tests harder and making sticks bigger. When punishing the school did not work, it morphed into punish the teacher through evaluations based on test scores. The reality that no country has ever improved student learning using test and punish strategies is lost on those who refuse to address the greater social issues that we who do the work confront every day.
When one argues that testing 8-year-olds for nine hours is the way to give a child his civil rights, then moral authority is surely gone. The public knows it. Moms, of all colors and neighborhoods, are a heck of a lot smarter than Mr. Duncan and his reform supporters believe.