Archives for category: Parents

Gary Rubinstein keeps a close eye on Teach for America and watches how it shows its true colors from time to time. That happened with the votes cast on amendments to the Senate bill called “Every Child Achieves Act.”

TFA lobbyists urged Senators to support the Murphy-Booker amendments, which would have retained the worst, most punitive features of No Child Left Behind. They also publicly opposed parents’ right to opt their children out of state tests, on the flimsy claim that this would hurt poor and minority children. In fact, poor and minority children are victimized by high-stakes testing, by a greater emphasis on testing, and by closing of schools located mostly in their communities.

Rubinstein writes that the Murphy-Booker amendment:

says that the states must identify the schools most in need of intervention, which must be at least the bottom 5%. It seems that the Democrats did not learn the lessons from NCLB about the danger of putting specific numerical targets into federal law and how those numerical targets can be abused. The fact that there is always a bottom 5% no matter how good the schools are in a state. Also, schools where the graduation rate is less than 67%, a magic number for ‘failing school’ that is not grounded in any real research (not to mention one that is easy to game with different ‘credit recovery’ schemes, but that’s another issue altogether). For schools like this some of the federally mandated interventions are to inform the parents that their child is attending a failing school, to establish ‘partnerships’ with ‘private entities’ to turn around these schools, and to give the states the ability to make, and for this I’ll use a verbatim quote, “any changes to personnel necessary to improve educational opportunities for children in the school.”

So where does Murphy’s Law come in? What could possibly go wrong with this? Well for starters, there would need to be an accurate way to gauge which schools are truly in the ‘bottom 5%.’ I admit that there are some schools that are run much less efficiently than others and surely the different superintendents should have a sense of which schools they are. But as NCLB and Race To The Top (RTTT) taught us, with all the money spent on creating these metrics and the costly tests and ‘growth metrics’ that go along with those tests, it is likely to lead to way too much test prep and neglect of some of the things that make school worth going to. Then those ‘private entities’, could it be any more clear that these are charter schools taking over public schools? And as far as “changes to personnel necessary to improve educational opportunities for the children in the school”, well, firing teachers after school ‘closures’ in New York City hasn’t resulted in improved ‘educational opportunities.’ My sense is that with enough of these mass firings, it will be very difficult to get anyone to risk their careers by teaching at a so-called failing school and the new staff is likely be less effective than the old staff. So you can see why the NEA wrote a letter to the Senate urging them to vote against it. Sadly nearly all the Democrats (and Independent Bernie Sanders!) ignored the plea of the NEA.

TFA’s leaders gave their approval to an article sharply criticizing parents who opt their children out of standardized testing:

In The 74 [Campbell Brown’s website], disgraced former Tennessee Education Commissioner and TFA alum (not to mention ex-husband of Michelle Rhee-Johnston) Kevin Huffman wrote a completely incoherent comparison of parents opting their children out of state tests to parents opting their children out of vaccinations. The title of the article was “Why We Need to Ignore Opt-Outers Like We Do Anti-Vaxxers.” Not that we need to ‘challenge’ them, but we need to ‘ignore’ them. Don’t bother learning what motivates them to do what they do, just assume you know and ignore whatever concerns are causing them to want to do this. Huffman is also a lawyer, though his argument is quite weak. He says that wealthy opt-outers are selfish since they are doing something that somehow benefits themselves while hurting the other, less wealthy people. But does he consider that many opt-outers are doing it as a protest against the misuse of their students test scores to unfairly close schools and fire teachers? Or to protest an over emphasis on testing and testing subjects so they opt out to say “Since I’m opting out anyway, please teach my child as you would have before all this high stakes testing nonsense.” Now I can’t speak for every opt-out supporter, but I believe that opting-out helps everyone, especially the poor since the way the results of the state tests have been used has hurt them disproportionately with school closures and random teacher firings so the idea that all opt-out supporters do so knowingly at the expense of less fortunate others is something that I find offensive. Both co-CEOs of TFA, however, tweeted their approval of this article.

High-stakes testing and punitive policies widens the market for privatization, drives out experienced teachers, and clears the way for more positions for TFA.

Paul Farhi, a veteran reporter at the Washington Post, wrote an article recently about Campbell Brown’s new “news site” called “The 74,” which is a vehicle for her ongoing campaign against teachers’ unions and tenure and for charters and vouchers. Brown, who has no experience as a teacher, scholar, or researcher, who attended a private high school (her own children attend a private religious school), has become the new face of the corporate reform movement since Michelle Rhee stepped out of the limelight. Last year, Farhi wrote about Brown’s transition from TV talking head to advocate for vouchers, charters, and the elimination of teacher tenure. (You will notice in the earlier article that Brown takes great umbrage to my having described her as telegenic and pretty; well, she IS telegenic and pretty, and I would be happy if anyone said that about me! I consider it a compliment.)

Farhi reports the funding behind “The 74″:

As it happens, Brown raised the funds for the Seventy Four from some of the biggest and wealthiest advocates of the restructuring that the Seventy Four appears to be espousing. The funders include the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation and Bloomberg Philanthropies, all of which have opposed teachers unions and supported various school-privatization initiatives. (Her co-founder, Romy Drucker, was an education adviser to billionaire and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg.)

This would be just another garden-variety profile of a controversial figure, but blogger Alexander Russo blasted Farhi as biased against Brown. Although Farhi does not quote another corporate reformer, he quotes Brown herself extensively. Russo questioned Farhi’s objectivity as a journalist. He complained that there was no outside voice supporting Brown, and that Farhi ended the article with skeptical quotes from Washington insider Jack Jennings and AFT President Randi Weingarten. Russo says that Farhi should have allowed Brown to respond to the critics, and he should have found “another outside voice — a journalist, academic, or education leader of some kind — to express support” for Brown. He also wrote that “the overview was inaccurate or misleading” by stating that Brown’s views are supported by conservative politicians and business interests.

In an earlier post, Russo candidly disclosed that he had hoped to join Campbell Brown’s “team,” but didn’t make the cut:

Disclosures: This blog is funded in part by Education Post, which shares several funders with The Seventy-Four. Last summer and Fall, I spoke with Brown and others on the team about partnering with them but nothing came of it.

The curious aspect of this particular flap is that Russo’s blog is jointly funded by the American Federation of Teachers and Education Post (which is funded by the Broad Foundation, the Bloomberg Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation).

Randi Weingarten tweeted:

Randi Weingarten (@rweingarten)
7/26/15, 1:14 PM
Russo’s criticism of Farhi is off base. Farhi’s piece is smart, effective journalism: washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/styl…

Also:

Randi Weingarten (@rweingarten)
7/26/15, 3:27 PM
@alexanderrusso do u really believe Campbell Brown is no longer ideological or are u acting this way b/c of funding washingtonmonthly.com/the-grade/2015…

Parents Across America has gathered documentation of the stress suffered by children due to the overuse and misuse of standardized tests.

“Parents Across America has gathered extensive evidence of an alarming
upsurge in student test-related stress, along with information that
prolonged stress is abusive, actually undermines learning, and may be
harming our most vulnerable children the most.

“PAA has taken the position that we must attack the cause of this problem
— the misuse and overuse of standardized tests — rather than expect
our children to simply deal with test pressure that we never had to
face.

“Position statement:
http://parentsacrossamerica.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Test-Stressposition7-25-15final.pdf

One-page fact sheet: Test Stress and our Children:
http://parentsacrossamerica.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Test-Stress-7-25-15final.pdf

“Documentation paper:
http://parentsacrossamerica.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Test-Stress-Documentation-7-23-15final.pdf”

For more information please contact Julie Woestehoff,
JulieW@parentsacrossamerica.org

Jeff Bryant recounts the story of Jefferson County, Colorado, known as “Jeffco,” where parents are battling religious zealots and charter advocates for control of their community’s schools.

 

Sprawling westward from the Denver skyline, where the front range of the Rockies sharpens its ascension to the peaks, Jeffco, as the locals call it, is experiencing an acrimonious debate about its public schools.

 

At scores of house parties…, parents and public school activists circulate flyers and repeat a well-rehearsed message of dissent. They complain of a new school board majority that is secretive, disrespectful to parents and teachers and irresponsible with tax dollars. They warn of the influence of right-wing groups, some with connections to evangelical Christianity. They complain of a powerful charter school industry, different from the “organic charters” Jeffco parents already send their kids to.

 

Behind every grassroots issue they identify lies a much “bigger thing,” as more than one parent will tell you.

 

It’s a complicated narrative that defies stereotypes and neat polarities. Although the fight is political, Republicans and Democrats are distributed on both sides of the debate. The argument is about education, but it’s not an argument over pro-charter school versus anti-charter. Jeffco has had charters for years, many of which are highly popular with parents. Neither is this a narrative about choice versus anti-choice. Jeffco already allows parents to enroll their children in any school in the district (although there are cases of selective enrollment), and many families do opt for a school other than their neighborhood one.

 

Jeffco is a mostly white, middle-class and suburban school district that hardly resembles the “failing” school systems you’re used to hearing about. According to the district’s website, Jeffco students “outperform the state in all grade levels and content areas” on state mandated achievement tests. Six of the district’s high schools rank in the top 40 of the 2014 Best High Schools in America according to U.S. News & World Report, and 11 elementary schools were listed as 5280 Magazine’s top public elementary schools.

 

And Jeffco is not a community where teachers’ unions are defending their turf from disgruntled parents. Parents, not union operatives, lead the numerous and frequent house parties like the one at Green Mountain Church.
What is also true about Jeffco is that the story unfolding here is one that is recurring across the country, as community after community becomes mired in debates about who gets to call the shots in education systems strained by unending financial austerity and an unremitting “reform” agenda whose intent is unclear to the people in its way….
Who’s Messin’ With Jeffco?

 

Over coffee at a Lakewood Starbucks, Kyle Ferris’ mother Barbara now dismisses the national media’s focus on her son’s activism as “the flavor of the day.”

 

For sure, Ferris supported her son’s actions. “When Kyle came to me saying he and other students wanted to stage a walkout, my input was to encourage him to clearly state his reasons for the walkout,” she recalls.

 

What she values most about the protest is, “It got a group of kids to demonstrate the critical thinking they were taught in class,” she says. “It increased their awareness of other big issues.”

 

What other big issues?

 

“A lot of the problems have risen from the new board that emerged from the recent election,” Ferris explains. “We now have a majority that is influenced by the Tea Party with an agenda right out of right-wing talk radio.”

 

Ferris also worries about the growing influence of charter schools in the district, pointing to recent actions the board has taken to send more money to charter schools at a time when neighborhood schools still haven’t recovered from the effects of the recession. She says parents are still reeling from the impact of fees, imposed after the recession hit, for bus transportation and other services, and she wonders why funding sent to charter schools isn’t instead being used to end the fees.

 

Ferris is quick to add that she is not opposed to the idea of charter schools. But the urgency to establish more of them now escapes her. “Jeffco already has a phenomenal choice system,” she explains.

 

Ferris, an Asian American who decided with her husband to move to Jeffco “for the schools,” now sees a troubling landscape in her community. “We’ve got great schools; we’ve got great teachers,” she says. “I don’t want things to get messed up.”

 

“Everyone believes they are doing the right thing,” she says. “But we don’t believe in the same things.”
Nothing Funny About This

 

One belief most in dispute in Jeffco is the role of community voice in running the schools. That issue is especially central to the parent-led house parties. Shawna Fritzler and Jonna Levine are two Jeffco parents who often lead those events. In some respects, they’re a collaboration of opposites. Fritzler is a lifelong Republican, while Levine is an avowed Democrat. Fritzler still has children in Jeffco public schools, while Levine’s children have graduated and moved on. The issue that initially brought them together was the chronic underfunding, in their minds, of Jeffco schools. They both actively campaigned for a countywide referendum — a “mill levy and bond” issue — to offset budget cuts from the state. The referendum passed.

 

But the target of their ire now is the new conservative school board majority, elected in 2013. In that election, a slate of three candidates— Ken Witt, John Newkirk and Julie Williams— ran together and branded themselves “WNW.” The three candidates got the backing of the Jefferson County GOP and an organization called Jeffco Students First, a state-based education advocacy group patterned after the controversial national organization StudentsFirst (founded and formerly led by Michelle Rhee, the former chancellor of Washington, DC public schools). StudentsFirst and its Colorado state version promote an “education reform” agenda that favors charter schools, vouchers, grading schools and educators based on student test scores, and drastically altering teacher compensation, performance evaluation, and job protection….

 

 

So who are the outsiders invading Jeffco schools, and what do they want?

 

Jeffco public school activists describe a strange combination of forces undermining their local control, from right-wing operatives and evangelical Christians to billionaire businessmen and charter school entrepreneurs. The declared intentions of these characters span the culture war spectrum: with some holding high the values of freedom and patriotism and others claiming to fight “the civil rights cause of our time.”

 

But the way these Jeffco parents and educators see it, their community is being picked over the way a glutton works the all-you-can-eat salad bar. He may start off with a small plate, but he’s quickly back for more.

 

The influence of outsiders, in fact, is one of the factors that doomed the new board majority to controversy even before they were elected.

 

Dougco Is Coming

 

As an article in the Denver Post documented in November 2013, days before the election, three wealthy businessmen contributed an out-sized quantity of money— more than $200,000— to school board races in Colorado, including the effort to elect Witt, Newkirk and Williams in Jeffco.

 

None of the three men appears to live in Jefferson County. The first, C. Edward McVaney is co-founder of software company J.D. Edwards and founding trustee of Valor Christian High School, an independent private Christian high school in Douglas County Colorado. McVaney has a propensity for donating to school board candidates around the state who favor school vouchers. The second is Denver businessman Ralph Nagel, president of Top Rock LLC, an investment firm. The third is Alex Cranberg, CEO of Aspect Energy, who Forbes describes as a “Texas oilman.” Cranberg’s notoriety stems primarily from his company’s venture into oil drilling in Iraq.

 

The reporters introduce the trio as, “Financial backers who want school districts to adopt the anti-union, pro-voucher, and school-choice model set by Douglas County.” Another wealthy man, also from Douglas County, hosted a fundraiser to elect the WNW team. According to reporters, the bash raised another $30,000….

 

 

Another major influencer in the public education system in Colorado has been Americans for Prosperity, the conservative organization founded by Charles and David Koch. As a report in Politico noted at the time of the Dougco school board race, “Americans for Prosperity is spending big” in support of candidates who favor an agenda of making schools “compete with one another for market share” and allowing tax money to go to religious education.

 

The reporter, Stephanie Simon, wrote, “Conservatives across the U.S. see Douglas County as a model for transforming public schools everywhere.”

 

Among those conservatives was former Florida governor, now declared presidential candidate, Jeb Bush, who donated $1,000 to each of the Koch-backed candidates in Dougco. Money raised for those conservatives dwarfed that raised for the challengers, ensuring a conservative win and establishing a theme that has been occurring throughout practically all of Colorado…..

 

 

Why Dougco?

 

There could be some justification for imposing the Dougco charter school model on Jeffco if there were real proof that model could generate genuine academic gains.

 

But based on analysis available at the Support Jeffco Kids website, there’s not much evidence it can.

 

One video posted on the site points out that the student demographics of the two districts are quite different, with Jeffco schools having a far more diverse spread of low-income versus upper-income students. Virtually all research shows that scores on standardized tests, the most commonly used metric for student achievement, are strongly correlated to family income, so taking student demographics into account is essential….

 

Another common argument for expanding charter schools is that they will bring innovation to a school district that has grown lazy due to “bureaucracy” and “complacent teachers.”

 

The influential charter school lobby in Colorado has promised that charters will be more “innovative” than public schools. But anyone who can’t find signs of innovation already in Jeffco public schools simply isn’t looking or has blinders on.

 

In fact, experts at the National Education Policy Center, a progressive education research center and think tank affiliated with the University of Colorado in Boulder, recently recognized two Jeffco high schools for being “Schools of Opportunity,” a designation for having “excellent practices designed to expand student opportunity and access to academic success,” according to the NEPC announcement.

 

NEPC’s School of Opportunity project analyzed schools in two states, Colorado and New York, based on 11 specific principles identified by experts as critical to closing “opportunity gaps” that exist between high-income school children and their lower income peers. Those principles include more and better learning time, a broader and richer curriculum, and attention to students’ individual academic, health and language needs.

 

The two Jeffco schools receiving this recognition were Jefferson County Open School, which received a Gold Medal, and Long View High School, which received Silver….

 

 

“I’m amazed and impressed at what we’re doing,” Fitzler says about Jeffco schools. “Is everything perfect? No. But you don’t tear down what’s working.”

 

Being a Republican, Fritzler initially needed to be convinced Jeffco public schools were being good financial stewards. She was also on the receiving end of the Republican messaging campaign that argued for budget cuts and more outsourcing to charter schools.

 

“So I looked for myself to see if there was any waste,” she says. “I didn’t find it. I was amazed at how far we were getting despite the cuts.”

 

So instead of tearing things down, what would Fritzler like to see instead?

 

“I want my school back,” she answers. “This is our community. We could leave if we want. But these are our schools.”

 

Levine adds, “They look at school governance like it’s a business decision. But it’s not a business decision. You can’t run a school district like a business … I want a board willing to treat community as partners. They go through the motions of doing this but they don’t do it….”

 

 

One thing parents in Jeffco believe for sure is they should have more of a democratic say-so in how their schools are run. Do their adversaries believe the same? Apparently, not so much.

 

*Correction: This article originally identified Lesley Dahlkemper as the current school board president; her correct title is in fact 2nd vice president.

 

Mercedes Schneider is one of the few people I know (outside of Congressional staff) who has read every word of the proposed legislation to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (now called No Child Left Behind).

In this post, she explains that both bills remove any penalties for parents who choose to opt out. It is up to the states to determine whether parents are allowed to opt out of testing, but there will be no federal penalties if they do.

In states that are either silent on the matter of opting out or that explicitly ban it, parents can still opt it. They are the parents, and they can decide what is in the best interest of their child.

Here is the roll call on the amendment offered by Senator Mike Lee to grant parents the right to opt put without penalty to their school, district or state.

http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=114&session=1&vote=00235

S.Amdt. 2162 to S.Amdt. 2089 to S. 1177 (Every Child Achieves Act of 2015)
Statement of Purpose: To amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 relating to parental notification and opt-out of assessments.

Grouped By Vote Position

YEAs —32

Ayotte (R-NH)
Barrasso (R-WY)
Blunt (R-MO)
Boozman (R-AR)
Cassidy (R-LA)
Coats (R-IN)
Cotton (R-AR)
Crapo (R-ID)
Cruz (R-TX)
Daines (R-MT)
Enzi (R-WY)
Ernst (R-IA)
Fischer (R-NE)
Grassley (R-IA)
Heller (R-NV)
Hoeven (R-ND)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Johnson (R-WI)
Lankford (R-OK)
Lee (R-UT)
McCain (R-AZ)
Moran (R-KS)
Paul (R-KY)
Perdue (R-GA)
Risch (R-ID)
Sasse (R-NE)
Scott (R-SC)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Toomey (R-PA)
Vitter (R-LA)
Wicker (R-MS)

NAYs —64

Alexander (R-TN)
Baldwin (D-WI)
Bennet (D-CO)
Blumenthal (D-CT)
Booker (D-NJ)
Boxer (D-CA)
Brown (D-OH)
Burr (R-NC)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Capito (R-WV)
Cardin (D-MD)
Carper (D-DE)
Casey (D-PA)
Cochran (R-MS)
Collins (R-ME)
Coons (D-DE)
Corker (R-TN)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Donnelly (D-IN)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Flake (R-AZ)
Franken (D-MN)
Gardner (R-CO)
Gillibrand (D-NY)
Hatch (R-UT)
Heinrich (D-NM)
Heitkamp (D-ND)
Hirono (D-HI)
Isakson (R-GA)
Kaine (D-VA)
King (I-ME)
Kirk (R-IL)
Klobuchar (D-MN)
Leahy (D-VT)
Manchin (D-WV)
Markey (D-MA)
McCaskill (D-MO)
McConnell (R-KY)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Merkley (D-OR)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Murkowski (R-AK)
Murphy (D-CT)
Murray (D-WA)
Peters (D-MI)
Portman (R-OH)
Reed (D-RI)
Reid (D-NV)
Roberts (R-KS)
Rounds (R-SD)
Sanders (I-VT)
Schatz (D-HI)
Schumer (D-NY)
Shaheen (D-NH)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Tester (D-MT)
Thune (R-SD)
Tillis (R-NC)
Udall (D-NM)
Warner (D-VA)
Warren (D-MA)
Whitehouse (D-RI)
Wyden (D-OR)
Not Voting – 4
Graham (R-SC)
Nelson (D-FL)
Rubio (R-FL)
Sullivan (R-AK)

This letter was forwarded to me by Long Island Opt Out. It is a model for other parents who object to high-stakes testing.

Dear Dr. Lonergan,

I received your letter dated June 22, 2015 regarding the NYS Assessments that was sent home with my third grader and was disheartened by its message. So much so, that I felt obligated to write a response.

Going into this 2015-16 school year, I will have three children enrolled in the Longwood Central School District. One in fourth grade, one in second grade and one in the universal pre-kindergarten program. I have been extremely pleased with their performance thus far. All of the teachers and staff that we have interacted with have been welcoming, encouraging and helpful both to myself and my children.

It was upsetting to receive a letter such as yours at the end of the school year. A letter that was not commending the staff of your district on a job well done or wishing parents and children a happy and productive summer, nor was it to thank the community for consistently approving the school budget or to show excitement about the new programs and staff that are being added because of passing that budget. Instead, this letter was a threat to parents that if they continued the opt out process, they would be hurting the district that we had just shown our collective support.

Opting out of assessments has not proven to hurt any district and to state otherwise to parents is to promote threatening propaganda. Opting out has proven to be an effective boycott, which has forced our elected representatives to hear the message we are trying to send. If I allowed my children to be involved in something that I do not feel has a place in their lives, I would not be doing my job as a parent.

My children have accomplished great things while attending school in the Longwood Central District. To state that a flawed assessment process is a necessary tool to show that growth is an insult. I have the utmost confidence in the highly qualified staff of Longwood.

By opting my children out of the state assessments, I believe that I am showing Governor Cuomo that I not only feel these exams have no place in my child’s learning, but that I wholeheartedly support the teachers that work with my children everyday. By opting my children out, I am clearly stating that:

• I will not support exams that look to punish those teachers.

• I will not support exams that will make up 50% of a teacher’s yearly evaluation.

• I will not support exams that require my child to sit for three consecutive days reading texts that are designed to be more challenging than their readability level.

• I will not support exams that require my child to sit for three consecutive days involved in math skills that they have not had the time to master.

• I will continue to opt my children out of these assessments and encourage others to do so if they believe it is the right choice for their child, regardless of what type of letter they receive from district administration.

I believe that changes will come. I don’t believe that I have to be forced to subject my children to a faulty system in order to change the as you stated, the “next generation of assessment.” I believe that the people with experience and knowledge of the educational field can get together and make the changes needed without subjecting current students to something developed to rank and dismiss hard working educators.

I sincerely hope that the district’s message at the beginning of the 2015-16 school year is a more positive and encouraging one than the message that was put out at the close of this school year

Sincerely,

Susan Sclafani

Arne Duncan asked for parent engagement. He got more than he bargained for.

Read the tweets. Arne should really stay far, far away from parents. They don’t like what he has done to their children.

Despite pressure from the big spenders at Stand for Children and other titans of corporate reform, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed the legislation allowing parents to opt out of state tests.

 

Federal officials had warned that the bill, which also reduces the consequences for schools where many students skip tests, could lead the federal government to withhold millions in federal education funding.

 

House Bill 2655, which was strongly backed by the Oregon Education Association, prioritizes the rights of parents to exempt their children from that one aspect of public schooling over the desire of school accountability proponents to get complete reading and math test results for all students each year.

 

But Brown said she wants Oregon educators to make the case to parents that taking part in state tests is valuable so that they will opt for their children to keep taking the exams.

 

The new law means that, beginning next spring, schools will have to notify every family at least 30 days before state testing begins about what the tests will cover, how long they will take and when results will be delivered. Those notices will also tell parents they can exempt their child from the tests for any reason.

 

Friends in Oregon: Forget the governor’s misgivings! Opt out is the best tool you have to protect your children from the current national mania for standardized testing. Opting out will curb the overuse and misuse of standardized testing. Former Texas state commissioner of education Robert Scott memorably said in 2012 that the educational industrial complex was out of control and that testing was “the heart of the vampire”

 

He also said:

 

The assessment and accountability regime has become not only a cottage industry but a military-industrial complex. And the reason that you’re seeing this move toward the “common core” is there’s a big business sentiment out there that if you’re going to spend $600-$700 billion a year in public education, why shouldn’t be one big Boeing, or Lockheed-Grumman contract where one company can get it all and provide all these services to schools across the country.

 

I mean, that’s really what you’re looking at. We’re operating like a business.

 

Mother Crusader opened her blog to this post by Sue Altman, who received a dual degree at the University of Oxford in International and Comparative Education and an MBA. In this post, she explains why critics of Opt Out are wrong, and what mechanisms are needed for Opt Out to succeed. She points out that the very mechanisms needed for success have been stripped away in many districts that serve predominantly African American and Hispanic students.

 

Privatizers (aka reformers) have scoffed at the Opt Out movement as a phenomenon of privileged white suburban moms, presumably pampering their children.

 

She writes:

 

For an opt-out movement to catch on, certain criteria must be in place— things like democratically elected school boards, open-minded and respectful superintendents, and teachers with job security. But, by design, these things have been removed, systematically, from urban communities, so that policies can be put in place that community members (mostly African-American or Hispanic) have no say in.

 

 

She has studied the successful Opt Out movement in New York, and the post explains how each one of these elements is crucial for the parents to participate in opting out. Where participation is low, it is usually because these ingredients (a democratically elected school board, a respectful superintendent, and teachers with job security) either don’t exist or have been systematically removed. The goal of the privatizers for the past decade has been to replace democratically elected school boards with mayoral or state control and to remove any job security from teachers. This stifles democratic dissent and reduces protests, which is why the students in Newark turned to the streets and to sit-ins to be heard since no one in power was listening. As Altman points out, black and Hispanic communities have been the targets of policies meant to silence their voices. This also discourages such bold actions as opting out.

 

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