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Education ‘Reform’ Is Wrecking Our Schools

Developmentally inappropriate tests, aimed at students as young as Kindergarten, are undercutting any gains the Common Core might help us make.

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Award-winning Long Island principal Carol Burris, writing at Valerie Strauss’ blog at The Washington Post, described the frustration: “By the last half hour of the evening, the audience was both boisterous and impassioned, angered because there was limited opportunity to speak. What little time remained for the audience was twice interrupted by Commissioner John King, who had held the floor for an hour and a half.”

“‘My will be done’ has been the tone and the tenor of chaotic reform in New York,” Burris continued. “In its rush to implement teacher evaluations, the Common Core and new testing, the state leadership has likened it to building a plane in the air. Cut scores anchored to ridiculously high performance on the SAT caused proficiency scores to plummet. Students, often in tears, rushed to finish tests that were too difficult and too long. The Common Core Algebra modules are still not finished, even though teachers must teach the course to students now.”

King’s response to the outpouring from parents and teachers was to cancel the rest of the series of hearings. His rationale, quoted in a local news article, “The disruptions caused by the ‘special interests’ have deprived parents of the opportunity to listen, ask questions, and offer comments.”

Marginalizing Dissent Is Not The Answer

Regarding teachers and parents, and their students and children, as “special interests” to be marginalized or ignored seems less than a workable plan for the Common Core’s success.

The real “special interests” who appear to be running the Common Core show are, in fact, not at all invisible to teachers and parents witnessing the battle over the Core’s roll out. Writing for Politico, Stephanie Simon and Nirvi Shah recently revealed, “Tens of millions of dollars are pouring into the battle over the Common Core.”

“Think tanks and advocacy groups” cited in the article, not teachers and parents, are using their money to engineer the debate, while all us little people need to figure out how we can “earn our place at the table,” at least according to a prominent operative from one of the very think tanks pushing the reform agenda.

If you’re a fan of the Common Core, these are not the people you want to see running the show: public officials and policy makers who refuse to embrace input from teachers and parents, pundits and philanthropists who continue to treat education as their pet cause, and businesses and entrepreneurs who are only in it for the money.

They had their shot running previous versions of “reform,” and they blew it.

We don’t need that kind of “reform” again. Instead, heed the voices from classrooms and communities – critics and all. Then, and only then, does any sort of positive way forward have a chance to succeed.

 

Jeff Bryant is an Associate Fellow at Campaign for America's Future and the editor of the Education Opportunity Network website. Prior to joining OurFuture.org he was one of the principal writers for Open Left. He owns a marketing and communications consultancy in Chapel Hill, N.C. He has written extensively about public education policy.