News Analysis: Public Agency Against the Common Core Testing Regime

Over the past several weeks, a growing array of reports regarding the opposition to the Common Core and high stakes testing have appeared. Recently, Buffalo’s WIVB did this report, which is one of the best major media reports regarding the opposition to the Common Core testing regime, suggesting some of the governing class is having doubts about “education reform”.[1] These reports coincide with growing numbers of meetings organized by groups of parents and educators across New York State[2] and across the country, in opposition to the Common Core and high stakes testing.

These developments have generated a great deal of discussion, both appearing on independent blogs and major media outlets. Here’s my thinking regarding what should and should not be taken up for discussion.

One of the key trends worth exploring is the growing recognition of the connection between increasing emphasis on standardized tests and the imposition of the Common Core. That is to say, popular consciousness, as reflected at a recent meeting of parents and educators in Lancaster, NY last week, is this: Common Core = Punitive Testing + Data Theft + Privatization. Elaborating the links between the three elements and the Common Core (really “Career and College Ready”) is key.[3]

In the course of this some folks have raised the issue of whether or not current tactics are sufficient to stop the wrecking. While this is an important discussion, what is key now is the informing and organizing of the public as an agent; tactics that serve this aim are key at this time, as there is great enthusiasm for “finding out” and working together right now. Detached academic debates about whether these developments represent a “revolution” or mere “push back” are not helpful.[4] Again, the key category in which to place these events is in the domain of the public and defense of the general interest.

Thus we are seeing the activation of the public. Note the role of parents in the WIVB report. This is properly understood as the forming of public opinion and public agency. Parents, educators and many others are actively and enthusiastically informing themselves and each other about what is going on, and they are increasing their ability to organize themselves as a public force. This invigoration of the public is key and should be discussed. Even if school board resolutions and test refusal have not forced state and federal authorities to yield to public demand, these actions have served to strengthen the unity, conviction, confidence and knowledge base of school boards, parents and educators. This I believe is a key development and it should be assessed further.

Another key feature of these developments is that they are, broadly speaking, non-partisan. By this I mean that they are not narrowly framed as either “right” or “left” politically speaking, but rather aimed at defending and asserting the general interest. People are not uniting on the basis of ideological considerations or “party lines”. Parents are not using their opposition against the Core to push some other political agenda. They are uniting against what they see as a generally destructive trend lead by an increasingly exposed elite whose interests stand in contradiction to their own. While the teachers unions are playing a big role in all this, the momentum is driven by a more general public conviction and activation; and while the union leadership continues to support the Core, popular and professional will is increasingly against it. Thus, recent efforts by Education Week to present the opposition to the Core as partisan in nature aims to block unified non-partisan and decidedly public agency. Vigilance on the non-partisan nature of these developments is key.


  1. I recommend the video linked to the left of the print article. With respect to school closings in Chicago, see this for inspiration.
  2. See here, here, here and here
  3. See Susan Ohanian’s work on the Data Command Force.
  4. Larry Cuban, for example, has the tendency to raise doubt about the resistance to the wrecking of public education. See here and here.

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