The most amazing thing is happening. The Common Core tests were made so “rigorous” that most students were expected to fail, and they did. Less than a third across the state “passed” the tests because the passing mark was set very high and the content of the test was so challenging that many students couldn’t finish the test.
But parents didn’t get angry at their children’s school or their children’s teachers. They got angry at the New York State Education Department, which set the cut scores or passing marks. They got angry at Pearson, which constructed the tests.
And as a result, the opt out movement is growing by leaps and bounds. Parents are outraged, especially in the suburbs, where the local schools are an integral part of the community. Suburban parents know that their children are not “failures,” and they reject the labels that the state put on them.
And the movement to boycott the tests next spring is growing.
Even in Buffalo, not a leafy suburb by any means, the local community is furious. A few days ago, an amazing 2,500 people turned out to protest the tests. The audience included parents, teachers, administrators, and scholars from local universities. It was not just parents from Buffalo, but also suburban parents. They joined in common cause.
Here is a quote from the article about the event:
Reform of high-stakes testing for schoolchildren, a groundswell movement of lawn signs and small-scale protests, became an earthquake Wednesdayevening.
The Summit for Smarter Schools, organized by a group called the Partnership for Smarter Schools and hosted by State Sen. Tim Kennedy, D-Buffalo; Assemblyman Sean Ryan, D-Buffalo; and State Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane, filled Kleinhans Music Hall with more than 2,500 parents, teachers and school administrators.
Cheers erupted as Kennedy and Ryan called out the names of districts represented in the audience. It sounded like a school closing list in the middle of a blizzard, encompassing schools from Barker to Allegany-Limestone, with a couple from the Rochester area thrown in for good measure.
“We’ve had a lot of quote-unquote educational reform in the past decades aimed at poor schools in the cities,” Ryan said before the session started, “but now all schools are feeling the pain, regardless of their previous performance. This is why you see a lot of suburban parents here tonight. They’re all being treated poorly. They’re mad about these tests.”
The stage, decorated with a banner that read, “Get Testing Right,” looked like a Western New York State Legislature roll call. In addition to the hosts, there were Assembly Members Ray Walter, R-East Amherst; John Ceretto, R-Lewiston; Michael Kearns, D-Buffalo; and Jane Corwin, R-Clarence. State Sen. Mark Grisanti, R-Buffalo, was in the front row of the audience.
After the introduction by Kennedy, Ryan and Amherst principal Mike Cornell, a succession of speakers laid out the case against standardized testing in a series of 12-minute speeches that were followed by standing ovations.
West Seneca School Superintendent Mark Crawford charged that the tests fail to provide a diagnosis of student strengths and weaknesses.
“They only create a lot of anxiety for students and parents and teachers,” he said. “Why do we want to bunch children into groups of 1, 2, 3 or 4?”
Tonawanda Principal John McKenna argued that testing doesn’t take into account differences among students and communities, a point illustrated by Naomi Cerre, principal of Buffalo’s Lafayette High School, who talked about the difficulties of getting resources to work with and test students from 30 nations who speak 45 different languages.
Jaekyung Lee, dean of the University at Buffalo Graduate School of Education, gave a PowerPoint outline that showed how high-stakes testing does little to improve student performances and how high-achieving nations like Japan and Korea are de-emphasizing testing and encouraging creative thinking.
Maybe I am overly optimistic, but I feel the ground shifting. I feel the tide turning. I feel the beginning of a grassroots rebellion that will sweep away the bad ideas that are ruining the lives of children, teachers, principals, and communities.
Get ready, friends. The Common Core testing may be the death knell for corporate reform.