Obama administration continues pushing and shoveling the plutocratic 'bottom line' approach to children and public schools... National Resistance to High-Stakes Testing Growing

A movement that began in Chicago and a couple of other places more than a decade ago is now spreading like a prairie fire across the USA, as parents, teachers, and children grow in their resistance to the nonsense of high-stakes testing and even the most devout corporate media supporters of this version of the "bottom line" are obliged to report on it. In addition to the work that continues in Chicago (including two resolutions going to the American Federation of Teachers convention in July in Detroit opposing high-stakes testing and demanding both cost analyses and full transparency), national work centers in Texas, New York, and dozens of other states.

Long before Arne Duncan became U.S. Secretary of Education and Rahm Emanuel became corporate America's favorite teacher bashing and union busting big city mayor, the two teamed up to expand the corporate agenda, which included not only high-stakes testing but the massive militarization of the nation's remaining real public schools. Above on October 25, 2007, Rahm Emanuel (then a Chicago congressman) and Arne Duncan (then Chicago Public Schools "Chief Executive Officer") teamed up with then Mayor Richard M. Daley for the groundbreaking of the massive and expensive "Marine Military Academy" on Chicago's West Side. While the city's real public schools were subjected to brutal austerity programs during the early years of the 21st Century, the corporate agenda not only included a straight jacket "bottom line" defined by test scores, but also privatization, union busting, and charter schools. Emanuel and Duncan were a team long before they were in the White House together following the election of President Barack Obama in November 2008. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.As the movement against high-stakes testing grows and the risks of resistance decrease, in some areas people are coming forward as "heroes of the resistance" who were invisible during the dangerous days of the late 1990s and early 2000s, while others are taking the opportunity to present the public with a differentiated version of the actual history. As most of that history has been recorded in the pages of Substance (and since Substance went on line in 2002, both on line and in print), Substance will devote some time during the coming months to correcting some of the more self-serving and obvious revisionist versions of our history.

For now, though, it's a good thing to read so much going on across the USA.

One summary of recent events was published on May 30, 2012 in Valaerie Strauss's blog in The Washington Post:

HIGH-STAKES TESTING PROTESTS SPREADING Washington Post "The Answer Sheet" Column -- May 30, 2012, By Valerie Strauss

Opposition to high-stakes standardized testing is growing around the country, with more parents choosing to opt their children out of taking exams, more school boards expressing disapproval of testing accountability systems and even a group of superintendents joining the fight.

Just last month I wrote about the growing resistance, noting that it wasn’t yet full-fledged but that it seemed to be picking up steam. It has and still is.

A national resolution protesting high-stakes test that was released in April already has support from more than 300 organizations and more than 8,000 individuals.

In Georgia, a group of school district superintendents, led by PelhamCity Schools chief Jim Arnold have started a petition calling on the state legislature to rethink its test-based accountability system. (Other superintendens on board include Danny Hawkins of Whitfield County Schools and Bill McCown of Gordon County Schools.)

Arne Duncan, while serving as "Chief Executive Officer" of Chicago's Public Schools, not only supported the massive expansion of standardized testing, but also the massive expansion of military schools within the public schools. Above, Duncan is seen arriving at the dedication of the "Marine Military Academy" on Chicago's West Side on October 15, 2007 for the dedication. Although Duncan claimed to be a Quaker, his devotion to the expansion of militarism in the city's public schools was nearly as intense as his expansion of the scapegoating of teachers (via the "turnaround" of "underperforming" schools) and the privatization of the schools (through charter schools). All of the policies that are now part of the Obama administration's "Race to the Top" were pioneered by Duncan and Chicago Democrats during the years that Barack Obama served in the Illinois and then the U.S. Senate before his 2008 election as President of the United States. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.That petition is based on a resolution that has been passed now by about 520 local school boards in Texas — including Houston, the home of the so-called “Texas miracle” that launched the high-stakes testing era. Those school boards represent more than 40 percent of the state’s students. It was the Texas education commission, Robert Scott, who earlier this year made news by saying publicly that the mentality that standardized testing is the “end-all, be-all” is a “perversion” of what a quality education should be. He recently announced that he was resigning.

Arnold was influenced by a petition started in New York by school principals protesting the state’s new educator evaluation system that used in part standardized test scores of students. More than 1,400 New York principals have signed it.

Then professors in New York launched their own petition against the state’s educator evaluation system, while scores of professors and researchers from at least 16 universities throughout the Chicago metropolitan area signed an open letter to the city’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, and Chicago school officials warning against implementing a teacher evaluation system that is based on standardized test scores.

What’s the reason for the growing resistance? Actually, there are a number of them. Student scores on standardized tests have become the main accountability measure today for students, schools, teachers, principals, districts and even states. Assessment experts have warned that standardized tests are not designed for such purposes, but they are being used by reformers who either don’t believe the experts or are ignoring them.

Here’s more of what’s going on, from Monty Neill, executive director of the non-profit National Center for Fair & Open Testing, known ass FairTest:

*Testing errors, such as the notorious “Pineapple story” in New York and the “I have a secret” writing prompt in New Jersey have further roiled the waters. “Pineapple” was just one of more than 20 mistakes on the New York exams. The impact was intensified because New York’s tests are now kept secret. Until recently the state made its questions and answers public after administering them. Under its new contact with test-maker Pearson, however, they are secret, as they are in most states. Teachers face severe sanctions for revealing scores, but students and their parents have been revealing the flaws.

*In New York, parents are organizing to boycott the June administration of a “try out” test. Students will answer experimental questions so Pearson can select items for future tests, perhaps to be used in multiple states for more profits, as was “Pineapple.” The company already had included experimental questions on the May state tests.

Some parents opted their children out of the regular New York tests. In some cases, principals allowed the students to do schoolwork when exams were being administered, but in other schools principals threatened parents with truancy and child-endangerment laws. (Given that the tests have been known to increase fights in school, create emotional distress, and even induce vomiting, the real “child endangerment” is the testing.) Now, more and more parents, urban and suburban, are rising up to say, “Enough,” “No Mas.”

Opting out is not new. Boycotts grew in states such as Massachusetts when increased testing began under No Child Left Behind. Attaching high stakes to them, such as graduation and school sanctions, quieted the revolt. Students needed to pass to graduate and schools that did not test enough students would automatically fail. Still, in states such as Colorado, steady work by groups such as the Coalition for Better Schools has produced growing numbers of opting out parents. And in Snohomish, Washington, 550 parents held their children out, and they are working to spread the refusal to other communities.

*The national resolution has been endorsed by a variety of mjor national organizations have also endorsed the resolution. This includes education groups such as the National Education Association and National Association for Bilingual Education; civil rights organizations such as the NAACP-Legal Defense and Educational Fund and its Asian American counterpart, AALDEF; National Opportunity to Learn Campaign; religious denominations including Presbyterians; and more. The National PTA sent to its members a letter saying the resolution is congruent with PTA policy and urging locals to sign it.

You can see the list of signers – and add your endorsement - at the resolution home page

* In Florida, two county school boards voted to support the national resolution: Palm Beach (the nation’s 11th largest) and Saint Lucie.

* More media attention is being paid to the emerging testing revolt. In Florida, for example, stories have proliferated in newspapers and on television. Editorials and columnists have denounced the state’s testing policy. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal, CNN and MSNBC are among the major outlets providing coverage (as well, of course, as this blog). Nat Hentoff headlined his column for Southern Standard, “Parents rebel against standardized tests.”

If this keeps up, even President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan are going to have to notice.


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