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

When discussing the issue of high-stakes testing and the Common Core, parents and teachers — left and right, conservative and liberal —can often find common ground because almost everyone has some objections to these intrusions into local classrooms. But it’s important to understand that the common ground may only extend so far. The agenda at the Occupy the DOE event and the United Opt Out movement extends far beyond objecting to standardized tests, and parents who join this movement may also be inadvertently signing up to fight against other education reforms that they support:

  • Teach for America
  • Charter schools
  • Merit/performance pay for teachers
  • Right-to-work and other public sector union reforms

In addition, one of this group’s biggest objections to the Common Core is that corporate (read: capitalist) interests provide funding for the effort. Many in the traditional public education monopoly believe that education should be all public, all democratic, all the time. Any variation must be defeated and destroyed. There is a broad thread of Occupy/1% mentality running through this movement. Diane Ravitch regularly rants about the influence of the "Billionaire Boys Club" on education, and Phil Cantor, a teacher and union organizer in the Chicago Public Schools, said at the Occupy the DOE event that they must “counter the obscene money and power of the corporate reformers."

As you work in your community and state to reform the current testing culture in your schools and as you battle to stop Common Core and other federal interference in local education (it seems like everyone hates the Common Core), consider to what extent you want to remove accountability from classrooms. In a country where as many as a third of high school graduates who attend college must take remedial classes, hearing teachers say, “We do not need these tests; we are professionals; tell the people that teachers already know how to assess their learners” may not be good enough. Parents — and taxpayers — need some reasonable assurance that good teachers are teaching well and that students are learning. And they also need to know that there is a quick, efficient way to get rid of the bad teachers. Students First has an excellent plan for a balanced approach to evaluating student achievement and teacher success (check out the video below to see how it works in the D.C. schools).

Also consider whether the movement you are joining is opposed to school choice. A majority of parents support charter schools and want educational choices for their children. And does the movement you're joining hate corporations and profit and blame capitalism for the evils in society? Are you on board with that?

When this issue comes up in your community and your school district, be an informed information consumer. Ask a lot of questions and demand answers. Make sure you know what you’re signing up for when you join a movement so that you’re not unintentionally drafted onto a team that supports causes you ideologically oppose.