Washington Post blogger Valerie Strauss reported last week on the recently formed alliance of three dozen opt-out groups, describing them as “…an alliance to expand efforts to bring sanity to education policy.” Here’s her description of the group’s intentions, with emphasis added to one phrase:
The alliance, which is called Testing Resistance and Reform Spring, will support a range of public education and mobilizing tactics — including boycotts, opt-out campaigns, rallies and legislation — in its effort to stop the high-stakes use of standardized tests, to reduce the number of standardized exams, and to replace multiple-choice tests with performance-based assessments and school work. The alliance will help activists in different parts of the country connect through a new Web site that offers resources for activists, including fact sheets and guides on how to hold events to get out their message.
The notion of replacing multiple choice tests with performance based assessments and school work would have been impossible a decade ago because there would be no way to ensure that the basis for evaluating such assessments would be consistent from state-to-state and no way of knowing whether the school work was completed on worthwhile goals. Ironically, the combination of the Common Core standards and “big data”, both of which underpin the standardized testing movement, could serve as a means of implementing a uniform basis for assessing individual student performance and school work… and absent SOME degree of uniformity in curriculum there is no assurance that students in TX would learn about evolution…. and absent some degree of uniformity in expectations there is no assurance that students in MS would be expected to achieve the same outcomes to earn a diploma as students in MA. I fear the opt out movement’s reflexive opposition to the CCSS and “big data” will work against it’s ultimate goal because absent a viable replacement to standardized achievement tests the opt out groups will be painted as “anti-accountability” reactionaries who are echoing the “union line”.
At this juncture, the length of the list of members of the opt out movement is long, but the money underwriting the movement is a pittance compared to the money behind the testing movement… to win this battle against these wealthy behemoths the grassroots groups need to come up with some kind of viable alternative to testing… and IF that alternative used the CCSS and the available technological tools to its advantage it would use the tools of the behemoths to provide a viable option to their straightjacket standardized tests.
Common Dreams posted an essay by Sam Pizzigati titled “The Mess on our Information Superhighway” contrasting the development of the internet access with access to interstate highways. The essay notes that while Americans have generally unfettered access to the publicly controlled interstate highway system,
Americans currently pay much more for Internet than just about everybody else in the developed world. Other countries have established fast, cheap Internet access as a given of modern life. In the United States, we surf the Net at Model-T speeds — and tens of millions of Americans still have no broadband access at all.
The pending merger between Comcast and Time Warner will do nothing to change this and may well make it even worse… and while he didn’t mention it there is more and more buzz about the idea of privatizing highways as a means of avoiding the tax increases that will inevitably be needed to keep the interstate highway system in good repair.
In the comment section, I added this observation:
The battle for public control of a public good is underway in education as well… the USDOE, who should be advocating for public education, has required the administration of standardized tests that “prove” public schools are “failing”and encouraged private for-profit schools operated by wealthy “reformers” take their place… this corporate takeover of public education is cheered on by the mainstream media and politicians of both parties, both of whom are underwritten or controlled by the plutocratic “reformers”…
As noted frequently in this blog, the erosion of trust in the government and the accompanying desire to limit taxes and regulations, first articulated an a national stage by Ronald Reagan, needs to be reversed in order to restore public control of services like roads and to provide public funding for baseline services like internet access. Sadly neither political party has expressed support for public control of services and neither has been honest about the need for tax revenues to fund these services… and this is true at all levels of government. At the same time, faith in the private sector to provide these same services at a lower cost is undiminished despite the lack of evidence that this is true.