The RI House Health, Education, and Welfare Committee took testimony last night on legislation that would mandate the Department of Education to provide uniform guidance across the districts that would guarantee parents the right to opt their children out of the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) assessment.
Parents have always had that right, but the recent guidance from RIDE to superintendents has been misleading and resulted in confusion and turmoil for parents across the state. The bill also stipulates that no student shall face disciplinary action for not participating in the testing and that no student shall have his or her academic record adversely affected for not participating.
RIDE’s Mary Ann Snider, and others, tried to defend the necessity of this testing, though even Ms. Snider admitted that students are being over-tested. Parents, retired teachers, and concerned citizens rebutted the value of this particular test and its ramifications.
Sponsored by Representative Gregg Amore, along with reps Canario, Regunberg, Keable and O’Brien, the bill is one step in the right direction to bring to light a situation that is menacing our public schools in the name of the “civil rights issue of our time.”
Our children, our families, our neighborhoods, our public schools, and our democracy itself have become pawns in a vast and inter-connected scheme to undermine public institutions for private profit. The vehicle for this travesty in public education is the Common Core State (sic) [Stealth] Standards and their accompanying high-stakes standardized testing—PARCC. This incessant test prepping and testing, orchestrated to be taken on computers, intensifies the myth that 21st century teaching depends on the innovation of software programs that “personalize” education for each child. Nothing could be further from the truth. The entrenched belief that accounting/accountability, i.e. data collection, is the answer to lagging scores on standardized tests as compared to other nations is a travesty.
Human beings learn from other human beings. Human beings are inspired to learn in trusted relationships. The factory model of standardization and culling of the defective is antithetical to a diverse, democratic society. This is a travesty of the extreme right wing (e.g. ALEC, American Legislative Exchange Council), the Democrats for Education Reform and the White House, the Chamber of Commerce, ed tech entrepreneurs/corporatists like Bill Gates, and mega-corporations like Microsoft and Pearson, which have the willing collusion of the federal Department of Education. The critics of this so-called “innovative” strategy come from across the political spectrum – from libertarians to liberals, progressives, and socialists.
Critics of these reforms are accused of perpetuating the status quo. It is true that the status quo is unacceptable in important ways, but the remedies of the corporatists and their ilk are making the situation infinitely worse. And “cui bono” (for whose benefit)? For the benefit of edupreneurs, hedge fund managers, global corporations, and those bent on the gentrification of trodden down neighborhoods.
Consider the stealthy way the drafters of the Common Core standards were selected. Why were primarily representatives from the college testing industry, like the SAT and ACT, included when k-12 classroom teachers, specialists in early childhood education, teachers of special needs students, and authorities on students learning English as a second language were excluded? These standards and accompanying curricula have been developed with blinders on.
They reflect a narrow, technocratic vision of teaching and learning, which is at odds with decades of authentic research into children’s cognitive development, first and second language development, and literacy development. They ignore all aspects of education that promote healthy psychosocial development, and even physical health. They ignore or downplay the significance of the humanities—history, literature, drama, music, art, dance, philosophy—all of the attributes that contribute to a humane society.
Why has a monolithic curriculum in English Language Arts and Math been created to align with these ill-begotten standards, to then be aligned with the incessant testing that accompanies them? Why have state departments of education been essentially bribed by Race to the Top money and then waivers to the failed No Child Left Behind law to swallow these poorly constructed standards, curricula, and tests? Who will benefit from the massive amounts of personal student data being collected not only from the testing process, but from every keystroke of every student on every Chrome book stocked with every poor quality but snazzy program, adjusted by algorithm to the individual student’s responses?
These are questions that are serious in the extreme. They must be confronted by all segments of our society. Instead, school administrators and teachers are asked by PARCC to sign security agreements that hearken back to the McCarthy era under the guise of test security and “fairness.” Teachers, under pain of losing their jobs and even their teaching licenses, are being intimidated into not expressing their concerns about the inappropriateness of the Common Core and PARCC testing to the parents of the children in their classrooms. This is unacceptable and must be challenged.