Is the Tide Turning? An Update on Opposition to the Wrecking that is Called Reform

From the Save Our Schools folks, we learn: “Many activists went to Washington, DC on a “Journey for Justice” to protest the school closings that are targeting our children of color living in impoverished communities.” These RealNews videos (“Journey for Justice” activists rally in DC to DOE; Chicago Parent and Activist Jitu Brown; New Orleans Parent and Activist Karran Harper Royal) are important. Of note is the activists’ emphasis on the right to education, their “no illusions” approach and most importantly, their emphasis on being a real part of the decision-making process. Also significant is their assertion that the “tide has turned” so to speak.

And, Bob Schaefer of Fairtest agrees: “From the Pacific Northwest to New England and from Chicago to Austin, the grassroots push back against high-stakes testing overkill is rapidly expanding across the nation. And, there’s even more evidence that school ‘reform’ driven by standardized exam results is not supported by either academic research or real-world, classroom experience.” Fairtest provides a useful compilation of test-related news items, which I reproduce at the end of this article.

Susan Ohanian has posted yet another important piece in DailyCensored regarding Bill Gates and the Common Core, and guest blogger Gerald Coles (from the Coalition for Justice in Education in Rochester, New York) for “Living in Dialogue” at Edweek, suggest other important developments. Common to both is a clear emphasis on rejecting the aim of competing in the global economy, an exposure and opposition to the narrow and self-serving rendering of “critical thinking” by CCSS advocates, and a call to unabashedly defend the humanity, dignity and joy inherent in the education project. In their own way, each also targets the undemocratic governance arrangements connected to reforms of both the past and the present.

Possibly most revealing is this article by Sam Chaltain. It has the tone of someone reluctantly joining a rebellion that they knew they should have joined years ago, but never did. Now, faced with growing peer pressure, they cave. But they have one trump card left to buffer any uncontrolled enthusiasm: to effectively oppose high-stakes tests, one must have an alternative!

Yes, of course that is true, but not in the sense I believe Chaltain and those commenting mean. Of course many educators, researchers, students and parents, have ready-to-try and some even ready-to-use alternatives for how assessment should function in schools.

But without a broader notion of an alternative, these micro policy suggestions will die, failing to address the core issue: we can come up with all the alternative we want, but if decision-making power is increasingly removed from the hands of educators and those they directly serve (as current “reforms” are removing at record breaking speed), good ideas will die on deaf ears. The fact is, there has never been a shortage of good ideas. The alternative for assessment, for standards, for curriculum — the alternative to all the wrecking — will need to include a renewed focus on democratic control over schools and democratic control over the purposes those schools serve.

But I don’t think people’s growing opposition to the wrecking of education and their willingness to take action under very difficult circumstances should be stifled because we haven’t written the new assessment handbook, or the new constitution.

Testing Resistance and Reform News (via Fairtest)

High-Stakes Testing and Opting Out — Recording of recent, oversubscribed Parents Across America webinar with FairTest’s Monty Neill, Garfield High teachers, and other leading activists

Why I Support the Garfield Teachers Boycott — by one of the school’s students

NEA Supports Seattle Teachers Protesting Standardized Exam — The AFT issued a similar statement last week

Portland Students Organize Standardized Test Boycott

Providence Students Protest High-Stakes Exam

Newtown Conn. Schools Seeks Testing Waiver Due to Student Trauma — How Will Arne Duncan and the “No Excuses” Gang Respond?

Chicago Teachers Union Launches Anti-High-Stakes-Testing Campaign; Endorses Seattle Teachers Boycott

A New Way of Testing — FairTest Helps Chicago Assessment Reform Activists

“More Than a Score” — Chicago Parents Campaign

Texas Senators Grill Schools Chief Who Admits State Gave 8 Million Tests Last Year

Texas Moms Are Fed Up with High-Stakes Testing

Texas in Retreat From High-Stakes Testing

Pearson Seeks $12/hour Test Scorers Via CraigsList — No Accountability for Test-Makers

High-Stakes Testing Hurts Learning Disabled Students — fine letter-to-the-editor example

New Reasons to Dislike Multiple-Choice Testing

Testing Fixation Squeezes Out Learning Time — a view from rural New Mexico

Value-Added Testing Policies Adopted Before Research Documents Flaws


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