Did you know that there is a move among conservatives to suggest that public schools should not exist? There is and MSNBC has a good article about this issue. One place it came up is at FOX News in a discussion over Oklahoma wanting to get rid of AP History.
The Fox host said, “There really shouldn’t be public schools, should there? I mean we should really go to a system where parents of every stripe have a choice, have a say in the kind of education their kids get because, when we have centralized, bureaucratic education doctrines and dogmas like this, that’s exactly what happens.”
Apparently former Senator Rick Santorum agrees. Jeb Bush, who is likely to run for President, isn't quite there but loves the idea of vouchers. He "recently condemned public education as “government-run, unionized monopolies.” Senator Rand Paul also doesn't like public schools.
I fully expect public education to be a very talked about issue when the presidential election season really heats up and this may be a new theme. Well, not new as this article from Barbara Miner at Rethinking Schools in 2002 shows:
Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform and one of the most influential Republican strategists in Washington, has long recognized the partisan value of vouchers, sometimes euphemistically referred to as "choice." "School choice reaches right into the heart of the Democratic coalition and takes people out of it," he said in a 1998 interview with Insight , the magazine of the conservative Washington Times.
Lastly, a lengthy column from The Answer Sheet at the Washington Post from a mother, Sarah Blaine, to a the superintendent of her district in New Jersey about Common Core testing and opting out.
(To note, my Twitter feed is hugely about Common Core testing. Groups that like Common Core are almost frantic in finding ways to try to rebut any opt-out argument.)
The superintendent, James A. Crisfield, wrote a piece about why opting out is terrible. He seems to believe it is all about politics, not education. He calls it "hysteria" and then broadly states:
[W]hat’s to stop a parent of a high school student in 2015 from opting out of a bunch of other things that school does, too. What’s the difference? Why not opt out of having one’s child take that nasty calculus exam that she didn’t study for because she was out of town over the weekend? Why not opt out of her having to go outside for PE during first period because she doesn’t like the cold, and then opt her out of having first lunch, because she is way too cranky in the afternoon if she eats lunch at 10:30 a.m.
I do give him credit for saying this:
I do understand the concerns people have with the PARCC tests, and I in fact share some of them. I feel the PARCC tests as currently configured take too much time to administer, and I strongly object to how they are used to compare districts (or schools) to one another. And worse yet, very few educators, anywhere, will agree with the notion that standardized test results are either a valid or a reliable way to evaluate teachers.
Blaine's long and careful rebuttal is thoughtful and she gives ideas about how to work together on this issue but first:
Contrary to your mischaracterization of parents’ motivations, I did not join the opt-out movement because I am “looking out for what [I] feel is [my] child’s best interest.” You state:
I know the PARCC opt-out movement is popular, and I know the people who are part of it are only looking out for what they feel is their child’s best interest, so I do not blame them personally. But from the systemic perspective, opting out is a concept that cannot work. Even though it will be unpopular and will attract an aggressive reaction, somebody has to stand up and point out that the opt-out movement has to stop. It is just not a practical or viable approach to public education.Frankly, my kid (like most of her contemporaries in Millburn) will be fine whether she takes the PARCC test or not. I joined the test-refusal movement because the systemic pressure placed on public schools by high-stakes standardized testing must be stopped for the sakes of all of our children. We can and must do better by our kids, and if educational leaders like yourself are unwilling to step up to the plate, then we parents have no choice but to step in to preserve our vision of what public schools can and should be.
In point of fact, I have yet to meet a parent or teacher involved in the test-refusal movement who thinks that we shouldn’t assess kids.
Me, neither. I have never met a single person who says that.
Some of her ideas:
- What if, instead of fighting your parents over their legitimate concerns with the narrowing of world-class curriculum I benefited from in the Millburn Public Schools, you instead helped to lead the test-refusal movement, and in leading it, worked with your local parents to craft a test-refusal form that was limited to the specific issue at hand: high-stakes statewide standardized testing?
- What if you gave your students hands-on education in the democratic process by allowing them to participate — during school hours and of course on an elective basis — in the democratic processes aimed at reducing the annual high-stakes testing requirements by, for instance, lobbying their state and federal legislators in favor of bills like A-4165, A-4190, and A-3079 and a grade-span testing version of the ESEA reauthorization; attending and commenting at local and state school board meetings; and testifying before the NJ Assembly and NJ Senate’s Education Committees?
- What if you had led your parents through consensus building and educating them about the issues facing public schools today (e.g., that the proper target of their anger with Common Core is activism at the state and federal levels, rather than local refusals) instead of berating them with your own “hysterical” slippery slope arguments (e.g., your “opting out will destroy public education as we know it today” argument discussed herein) against the straw-man of parents’ inartfully crafted refusal letters that include opting-out of Common Core curriculum as well as PARCC?
- I think your community would have been better served if you’d met your parents halfway by responding to their concerns about, for instance, the Common Core ELA standards’ emphasis on reading texts without considering their broader literary and historical contexts.
- What if, instead of drafting a poison pen op-ed criticizing your students’ parents, you instead led them in effective protest against PARCC and other high-stakes tests, as, for instance, Principal Carol Burris has done over on Long Island? Then you’d be controlling the message and ensuring that the PARCC refusals were limited to PARCC (and perhaps NJ ASK), rather than seeking to refuse everything under the sun.