After 45 states adopt educational standards, many have second thoughts
EDMOND, Okla.—Educators in this Oklahoma City suburb jumped into action when state leaders in 2010 adopted the Common Core academic standards that were sweeping states across the country.
The Edmond school district has a big military population that moves frequently, so officials liked the idea of using the same standards as other states. They also saw Oklahoma’s old standards as inferior. They spent about $500,000 preparing teachers and students, collaborating with educators in other states and buying materials and computers for a new Common Core test, finishing a year in advance.
Then state politicians backtracked, for reasons both financial and political. They dropped plans to give the new test, and during an election campaign in which the standards were hotly debated, they repealed Common Core. Edmond employees came in at the end of the summer last year to rewrite their curriculum again.
“The cost for me in time and training was phenomenally huge,” says Tara Fair, Edmond’s associate superintendent. “That’s one of the things that made me really sick when we went back to the old standards.”
Five years into the biggest transformation of U.S. public education in recent history, Common Core is far from common. Though 45 states initially adopted the shared academic standards in English and math, seven have since repealed or amended them. Among the remaining 38, big disparities remain in what and how students are taught, the materials and technology they use, the preparation of teachers and the tests they are given. A dozen more states are considering revising or abandoning Common Core.
But politics isn’t the only reason for the turmoil. Many school districts discovered they didn’t have enough money to do all they needed to do. Some also found that meeting deadlines to implement the standards was nearly impossible.
Obama’s regret: “Taking the joy out of teaching and learning”
Obama’s call to reduce testing to 2% of the school year still requires students to take standardized tests for an outlandish twenty-four hours. And it isn’t even all the time directly spent taking the tests that’s the biggest problem.
The real shame, which Obama never addressed, is that as long as there are high-stakes attached to the standardized tests, test prep activities will continue to dominate instructional time.
In a stunning turn of events, President Obama announced last weekend that “unnecessary testing” is “consuming too much instructional time” and creating “undue stress for educators and students.” Rarely has a president so thoroughly repudiated such a defining aspect of his own public education policy. In a three-minute video announcing this reversal, Obama cracks jokes about how silly it is to over-test students, and recalls that the teachers who had the most influence on his life were not the ones who prepared him best for his standardized tests. Perhaps Obama hopes we will forget it was his own Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, who radically reorganized America’s education system around the almighty test score.
Obama’s statement comes in the wake of yet another study revealing the overwhelming number of standardized tests children are forced to take: The average student today is subjected to 112 standardized tests between preschool and high school graduation. Because it’s what we have rewarded and required, America’s education system has become completely fixated on how well students perform on tests. Further, the highest concentration of these tests are in schools serving low-income students and students of color.
ELECTED REPRESENTATIVE SCHOOL BOARD—THIS IS OUR MOMENT!
UPDATE! ELECTED SCHOOL BOARD—
THIS IS OUR MOMENT!
This is a game changer.
The popularity of an elected representative school board in Chicago (2 advisory referendums with close to 90% of voters in favor) and CPS’s chaos and damaging policies have spurred the Democrats to introduce House Bill 4268 to end mayoral control and give Chicagoans the same right as every other Illinois school district to elect our school board. HB 4268l has 5 chief sponsors in the Illinois General Assembly; 50 State Reps have signed on. We are beginning work with the State Senate. This is OUR BILL (school bd members elected from geographic districts representative of Chicago’s majority Black and Latino voters). Grassroots Education Movement (GEM—city-wide coalition of community orgs, parent orgs, TSJ, CTU) is working closely with Rep. Martwick who is chairing the ERSB task force. We need a veto-proof majority in the Assembly (71 votes) and comparable in the Senate.
WE CAN GET THIS BILL PASSED SPRING 2016! WE need to mobilize to make sure it happens.
WHAT WE NEED TO DO:
* attend town hall meetings across the city to show support and make sure the elected officials follow through (see schedule below. Sign up to testify in favor. MAIN THING TO DO NOW.
*hang a window sign at your house and work and distribute window signs (coming soon)
*help with phone baking (just one hour makes a difference)
*participate in a door-door canvas to mobilize support
*contact your elected official to ask if they are supporting. Thank them or tell them to get on board.
*come out to mass rallies in Chicago and Springfield when we need to demonstrate mass support
*donate to our crowdfund campaign for a lawsuit for an elected school board https://rally.org/ChiElectSchoolBoard
Email email@example.com to let us know how you will be involved. Check TSJ website for updates.
Will we get more testing status quo from Presidential Candidates?
Many were recently disappointed by the lack of conversation about K-12 education in the recent Democratic debate in Las Vegas. The Progressive Magazine asked me to reflect on the dearth of coverage. I wrote.
The recent Democratic Party presidential debate in Las Vegas left many observers scratching their heads. Why did the candidates and their CNN hosts ignore K-12 education?
Is education not important enough to merit discussion as a top national priority in 2016? The public clearly cares about education. US News reportsthat education is the third ranked search term on Google. When Gallup askedan open-ended question on the most important issues to voters in the 2016 campaign, education came in sixth.
We know that education is important to the public. What issues do voters identify as most important? A recentpoll found that “less testing” was tied with “parental involvement” for the most important issue.
High-stakes tests came to the nation with the passage of No Child Left Behind during the presidency of George W. Bush. The tests were framed as education reform. However, high-stakes tests were born in China to sort and stratify society. Thus, high-stakes testing is not a new educational reform. China has used tests to sort their society for more than 1500 years!
Closer to home, for about 100 years, high-stakes tests have been used to sort and track students in the United States. Tests were spurred early on by the racist Eugenics movement. The Seattle NAACP recently quoted W.E.B Du Bois, Co-founder of the NAACP
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