Can the Left and Right Find Common Ground on Common Core and High-Stakes Testing?

Slekar now works with United Opt Out to advocate for reform: “This means advocating for the ultimate freedoms; the freedom to think, the freedom to imagine, the freedom to create, and the freedom to dream.”

As an advocate for homeschooling, school choice, and liberty, I could not have said it better myself.

Gerald J. Conti, a social studies teacher at Westhill High School in Syracuse, N.Y., recently made news when his resignation letter was published in the Washington Post. He wrote that his profession no longer exists and lamenting the loss of freedom he and his fellow teachers have experienced in recent years:

I have truly attempted to live John Dewey’s famous quotation (now likely cliché with me, I’ve used it so very often) that  “Education is not preparation for life, education is life itself.”...I now find that this approach to my profession is not only devalued, but denigrated and perhaps, in some quarters despised. STEM rules the day and “data driven” education seeks only conformity, standardization, testing and a zombie-like adherence to the shallow and generic Common Core, along with a lockstep of oversimplified so-called Essential Learnings. ... This approach not only strangles creativity, it smothers the development of critical thinking in our students and assumes a one-size-fits-all mentality more appropriate to the assembly line than to the classroom.

I think we would probably all agree that we don’t want “zombie-like adherence” to anything and we certainly don’t want our children to settle for a “shallow and generic” curriculum.

Most parents whose kids have taken one form or another of the state-mandated achievement tests know this testing drill. No Child Left Behind promised to improve the quality of education in the country, in part by requiring states to impose tests proving that students achieved federal benchmarks. A few years ago I wrote a piece about how low the standards really are on these tests. For example, the Ohio “Graduation” Test is really a 10th grade proficiency test and students need to answer fewer than half of the questions correctly to pass the test. Schools across the state proudly display "EXCELLENT" banners bragging that their graduates passed a 10th grade proficiency test. Everyone just averts their eyes when 39% of Ohio graduates sign up for remedial classes their first year of college.

So at a basic level, parents and educators are on the same page in their desire to reform the current way we do testing and mandate curriculum in our schools. Unfortunately, the Common Core train is rolling across the country, promising more of the same high-stakes testing.