As a General Assembly committee considers today a bill that would suspend high stakes test graduation requirements and reevaluate Rhode Island’s commitment to Common Core, there is a debate raging both here and across the nation about whether such accountability measures account for more harm than good.
“The Common Core State Standards were hailed as the next game changer in education,” wrote NEA President Larry Purtill on this blog recently. “Unfortunately, the way it is going, they may ruin the game, not just change it.”
Time was perspectives like Purtill’s were easily dismissed as a special interest. But other special interests in Rhode Island – parents, students, taxpayers and civil libertarians – have also organized to fight these corporate-backed “reforms” to public education.
The ACLU of RI and underfunded urban school districts in Rhode Island have long fought these measures first implemented by George Bush and heavily backed by both corporate and Wall Street interests. But then something new happened here.
The Providence Student Union made national news when they made adults take the test teenagers face as a graduation requirement. And following their inspiration, a parent group from East Greenwich is fighting against these kinds of education “reforms.” That group is led by a former Moderate Party candidate for lt. governor who was an enemy of organized labor as a member of the East Greenwich School Committee.
Opposition to high stakes testing in Rhode Island has brought together the formerly disparate interests of tax-obsessed suburban parents, underfunded inner city students, social justice activists and educators.
“The current misuse of and over reliance on standardized testing in education is nothing short of unethical and immoral,” according to Parents Across Rhode Island’s website. “Standardized tests like the NECAP are simply not able to accurately measure the knowledge and skills of all students, yet they are being used for major decisions such as graduation, promotion and teacher evaluation.”
And it’s not just happening here in Rhode Island. All across the country (please read: “Education Uprising: the Myth Behind Public School Failure“) education activists are preparing to step up the fight from peaceful street theater and strongly worded blog posts to direct action and what might be considered civil disobedience.
“The emergence of the alliance represents a maturing of the grassroots testing resistance that has been building for several years locally in states , including Texas, Florida, New York and Illinois,” wrote Washington Post education blogger Valarie Strauss. “Though many supporters of Barack Obama expected him to end the standardized testing obsession of George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind when Obama was first elected president, many now say that the Obama administration has gone beyond the excesses of NCLB to inappropriately make high-stakes standardized tests the key measure of achievement by students, teachers, principals and schools.”
According to the group’s website, it supports “a range of public education and mobilizing tactics, including community meetings, boycotts, opt-out campaigns, rallies, petition drives and legislation. TRRS will help activists link up, communicate and learn from one another. This will build a stronger national movement to overhaul assessment policies.”
The new umbrella group has affiliates all across the nation, including Rhode Island. The RI affiliate offers a detailed blueprint for opting out of the NECAP test and graduation requirement for parents and students.
“The RIDE policy does not allow exemptions based on a refusal to test,” according to a pdf on the site. “Therefore no exemption’ will be granted on these terms. Parents/student will have to state that they are REFUSING the test rather than requesting an exemption.”
It says so far, no Rhode Islanders have opted out of the NECAP test. But there was this comment on the site from a student: “Hi, I am an 11th grader in RI and I need to take the NECAP’s to graduate even though I and my parents are HIGHLY against high stakes testing. With the opt out, would I be able to not take the test and still graduate?”