Yesterday across the nation there were calls by parents and their advocates to pull their kids from school as a protest against the Common Core State Standards. This was a case of parents who have had enough, were mad as hell, and refused to take it anymore.
Despite the fact of reports saying that the protest “fell flat” – according to New York State school superintendents – there were indications of places across the country where students were pulled from classrooms as a protest. The salient element here is not how many kids didn’t attend school, but rather that parents are starting to think of their children’s rights as students and their rights as parents. It’s about time!
In a reaction to what was happening (or not happening) around the country, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was quoted giving an explanation that is rather astounding. He said, “All of a sudden, their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought . . . and that’s pretty scary.” His words can be taken in many different ways, but mostly as an affirmation of President Obama’s Race to the Top which rewards schools for not only the implementation of the CCSS, but also for plans that connect teacher evaluations to the standardized tests based on these standards.
So is Mr. Duncan saying that the standards are viable, that students doing poorly on assessments linked to these standards have not been taught properly, and that the teachers are responsible for this and should be held accountable? That is definitely the mantra here in New York City and State, where Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Michael Bloomberg have been salivating for the opportunity to use poor test scores as the basis to get rid of teachers – mostly experienced, tenured teachers who have high salaries and excellent benefits. This is cost savings at the most ridiculous and incredulous.
What is happening now is that parents who have been happy with their children’s schools, who like their children’s teachers, and believe that there is more to education than numbers from dubious testing instruments linked to poorly introduced standards, are starting to stand up for themselves. Woe to Mr. Duncan and all the rest if parents really start invoking their rights not only as legal guardians but as taxpayers.
The problem with the Common Core has never been the standards themselves but rather how they were introduced to the nation. In the worst case of force feeding ever, these new more rigorous and deep standards were rammed down the throats of students, parents, and teachers without the necessary preparation.
So the “phantom menace” that may just take down the evil empire of education departments, complicit superintendents, and other officials could just be those parents who have had enough. This “protest” may have fizzled, but that shouldn’t be mistaken as lack of interested parents. They are treading lightly now, but they are also concerned about the implications of the testing that has been increasingly demanding on class time.
As standardized testing increases quality time in the classroom decreases. As a former classroom teacher, I always hated test times. This was mostly because tests were a necessary evil and needed to procure grades in order to put marks on a report card. While many people (including teachers) think some testing is legitimate, the way standardized testing is being done now calls for an almost full-scale tilt toward the most dreaded words truly dedicated educators never want to hear – teaching to the test.
As the debacle of Race to the Top, CCSS, and standardized testing continues to metastasize into an out of control disease, many parents are becoming aware of the pernicious effects on their children’s school experience. You do not have to be an educator to know that teaching to the test has nothing to do with learning anything – except how to succeed on that assessment. All the high expectations and rigorous standards in the world mean nothing in this scenario, especially if the end result is numbers that can be played with and used to advance the nefarious plans of state and local officials.
I believe it is time for parents to invoke their rights and put commissioners, superintendents, and politicians on the hot seat. Here in New York, for example, there have been calls for state education commissioner John King to resign, even by people as venerable as Diane Ravitch, who cites that King has gone too far and is actually hurting our children with his policies. She is not alone in her anger and frustration with policies that rob our children of real education in order to partake in the actual undermining of the system.
So maybe people like Arne Duncan think this is over, but this is far from over. Parents must ask questions, seek real answers, and fight for justice for their children. Parents all across the United States must unite against this tyranny; they have nothing to lose but the chains of the CCSS wed to standardized testing, a marriage of inconvenience that is taking real education away for their children.
Photo credits: protest-jim self/the state.com; students in class-newsday