By Sheila Resseger, M.A.
Instead of seeing these children for the blessings that they are, we are measuring them only by the standard of whether they will be future deficits or assets for our nation’s competitive needs.
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 the arena of education is the Common Core State (sic) (Stealth) Standards and their accompanying high-stakes standardized testing—PARCC or SBAC. This incessant 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 Democratic left (e.g. Democrats for Education Reform and the White House), the business community (e.g. the Chamber of Commerce), and the ed tech entrepreneurs/corporatists (e.g. Bill Gates/Microsoft), with the willing collusion of the federal Department of Education. Critics of this “innovative” strategy are accused of wallowing in the status quo. It is true that the status quo is unacceptable, 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, and those bent on the gentrification of trodden down neighborhoods.
Consider the stealthy way the drafters of the Common Core State (sic) Standards were selected. Why were primarily representatives from the college testing industry included (SAT and ACT), 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 NCLB 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 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 to the parents of the children in their classrooms. This is unacceptable and must be challenged.
Sheila Resseger, M.A., is a retired teacher, RI School for the Deaf Member, Coalition to Defend Public Education (Providence), and Collapse the Core fb groups, Stop Common Core in RI on fb.