A blog called NYC Public School Parents published the results of a survey about testing and opt out a couple of days ago. The findings were a bit bizarre in my opinion. The fact that it came from Achieve Inc. is very troubling. For the past couple years, maybe longer, parents have been opting their children out of the state assessment. That’s a good thing. But the fact that Achieve Inc. would publish findings that show parents are presumably getting sick of testing and more suburban moms know about opt out is a bit of a farce in my opinion. At this point, Achieve wants you to opt out. They want you to complain about too much testing. They want you, the parents of America, to make such a loud noise that the feds and the states will be forced to change testing environments. Yes, one of the biggest corporate education reform companies in America is finally in agreement with what we’ve been saying all along! Finally! But guess what… this was the plan all along.
If you are royally confused, follow me. Achieve Inc. helped to set up the Common Core, way back when. There are some who say they took the work of the Common Core steering committees, ditched it, and came up with their own set of standards. You know how so many people say “Common Core sucks” and “It’s federal intrustion” and all that stuff? They are right. I believe it was intentionally designed to be messed up. And the tests based off it, like the Smarter Balanced Assessment and PARCC? They were designed to be bad tests. No one will say this officially. But they wanted enough parents to opt out to make some noise. Not a full-blown, everyone opts out noise. But enough to draw attention to the subject of assessments. And they responded. Florida, Delaware, and many other states conducted Assessment Inventories. In Delaware, ours was initiated by, who else, Achieve Inc. These inventories served a double purpose. It kept the subject of “too many assessments” in the minds of those who followed this type of thing. It also helped to stop some states from moving forward with opt out legislation. I’ve seen a Delaware Department of Education email stating our Senate Joint Resolution #2 was a solution against opt out.
You’re still confused. I understand. It’s hard to explain this in any way that makes sense. The Common Core-High Stakes Testing era of corporate education reform is coming to an end. Very soon. But that was just a phase. It allowed the states to get all their data systems in place. It allowed career & technical education initiatives to get their start. But the biggest thing Common Core and the state assessments did was open the door to something else. We are now entering the next phase and the groundwork was laid a long time ago.
Welcome to the Competency-Based Education era! Instead of your child advancing through grade levels, they will now advance once they master the material. Don’t get me wrong. The state assessments will still be there. But parents most likely won’t even know when their child is taking it. Because it won’t be the same test. It won’t be students cooped up taking the same test over a period of weeks in the Spring. It will be all year. The same tests, that we have loved to hate, they will still be here. They may tweak them up a bit, but they aren’t going anywhere. They laid the trap, and we all fell in it.
How is this even possible? Through modern technology. Through personalized learning. Don’t be fooled by the term personalized learning. There are actually two kinds. The concept has been around for decades. More one-on-one instruction from teachers, personalized on that student’s strengths and weaknesses. A very humanistic approach which I don’t have an issue with. But what the corporate education pirates want is the same thing, but take out the teacher. Substitute it with technology. With computers, and the internet, and cloud-based systems, and blended learning. The teachers will still be there, but they won’t be the in front of the classroom teachers anymore. They will facilitate, and guide the students through what the computer is teaching them. Some states may push back a bit on this, and compromise with a blended learning system, which is a mix of both. But make no mistake, the eventual destination is the demise of teacher unions and public education as we know it.
So if public education is gone, will we all have to pay for private school? We kind of already are. They are called charter schools. The first one opened up in the early 1990s. It has been a slow invasion ever since. Even though charters represent less than a quarter of the schools in America, they have gained such a foothold in America that their supporters have overshadowed those who oppose them. Charter schools, no matter what anyone tells you, are not public schools. They don’t operate the same, and they aren’t held accountable in the same ways. In charter heavy states, the laws have been written so they get a little bit more of this, a little bit less of that. They are corporations. With bylaws and boards that aren’t elected by the people, but among themselves. Many of them are non-profit organizations, while some of the chains are very much for profit. But they are not held to the same standards as regular schools. Those that are horrible wind up shutting down. These usually surround incapable buffoons who decide to steal from the kitty and get rich quick. These idiots usually get caught, at one point or another. They are non-union, and teachers don’t have the same protections as public school teachers. But we pay for charter schools.
When you pay a local school district with your school taxes, they have to send part of those funds to the charter schools. Any student from that district who attends a charter school? You are paying for them to go there. It comes out of a district’s local funds. You send that proportion of the students costs to the charter. There are different buckets of money where your school taxes go. Some go towards buildings and repairs. But a lot of them go to the actual student’s share of the pie. And if they go to a charter, those funds follow them. As a result, some school districts are left with much less funds over they years. And since some charters like to pick and choose who they get, even though getting them to admit it is a lesson in futility, they take the better kids from the school districts. Leaving the school districts with the harder to reach kids. The ones who the charters don’t want. If you think lotteries are really random, think again. Some have very carefully worded interviews, some do kindergarten screenings, and some even have actual pre-acceptance tests. They don’t want regular school districts anymore, and they are openly at war with public education. They like to throw out that their enemies are the oppressors and they are the victims. I hear this rhetoric a lot. But it’s the whole chicken and the egg scenario. But in this case, one did come first and the other has been like locusts swarming on public education as we know it. They have the backing of billionaires. Those billionaires set up the funds for them, through shell companies all over the country. Even the feds are in on it. So what does any of that have to do with testing?
The way things are now, the full-scale privatization of American schools can’t possibly move forward with the blessing of the teacher unions. But they can infiltrate those unions, and slowly but surely get them to move over to their side of thinking. We see it all the time. The National Education Association just finished up their annual representative assembly down in D.C. One of the biggest topics was charter schools. Hillary Clinton gave a speech to the NEA members and when she mentioned charters, she got booed. But behind the scenes, there were several new business items different members of the NEA introduced. Controversial business items. Ones that called out the leadership for cavorting with the enemy. Ones that called for less testing and less labeling and punishing. The ones leadership wanted, they passed. The ones they didn’t were either defeated or bundled up and sent to a committee. Where they will most likely never be heard from again. Not in their current form at least. Far too many in the teacher unions are well aware they are under attack but their defensive posture is “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!” That Kumbaya seat at the table is a red herring. It will be a feast. A feast of crows and vultures picking at the bones of public education.
Every time the unions give in, every time they give up just that one little piece of what used to be theirs, they are dying a slow death. They incorporate the education reformers ideas and then you start hearing talk about “the whole child” and “community centers”. And how there is too much testing, and we need to support that idea. As our school districts try to become community centers, they won’t realize it is a losing proposition. It is an unsustainable effort, unless they get help. That help will come from outside organizations. Like the United Way, and foundations, and those who are dedicated to helping the plight of low-income and minority children. The civil rights organizations will say Yes, Yes, Yes! Money will flow all over the place. The districts will think they have it made. Add more pre-school! Bring them in as early as possible. We have grant money flowing. We won’t have to pay for it. Who cares about the charters, we have tons of money. Until they don’t. And that’s when they pull the plug. Who is this “they” I speak of? All those outside companies, the states, the feds and their grant money. It will run out. The districts won’t even see the man behind the curtain until it is too late.
Districts who promised parents they would take care of their children will all of a sudden, in a blink of an eye, go bankrupt. The states will take them over. They already did it in some cities with testing and accountability schemes crafted by random luck or things like Race To The Top. Those schools became, you guessed it, charter schools. But this will be much more epic in scope. It will be called the end of public education. Schools that over-borrowed to become what the education reformers wanted them to be, all under the guise of the Every Student Succeeds Act. So what happens to the teachers? The ones that are still in the profession by that point? The ones who haven’t jumped ship because of the stringent regulations and accountability schemes? And the evaluations based on the high-stakes tests that companies like Achieve Inc. now want parents to opt out of? By this time, the personalized digital learning empire will be in full swing. The state assessment will be broken up into chunks at the end of each learning chapter. For students taking the online Social Studies class, for example, they will take the state assessment portion of the Civil War chapter one week, and a month later they will get the one on The Reconstruction. Or maybe two months later depending on how not proficient some of those students are. How quickly they can grasp the concepts. By this time, most of those who fought the reformers will either give in and settle into their facilitator role or will have left the profession.
With the testing, don’t be shocked at all if you hear one name coming up a lot. That would be Questar. They are NOT their own company. They are owned by American Institutes for Research (AIR), the un-credited creator of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. Yeah, I know, the states made it! And I have a bridge in Brooklyn I’m willing to sell to you as well. They have their hooks in quite a few states, the most recent being New York and Tennessee. The PARCC test got the most bad press and AIR took advantage of that. So your kid will take the smaller high-stakes test which will also be an end-of-unit test. Which will also determine students’ class grades. Will parents be able to opt out of that? It was one thing when the tests didn’t mean anything. Now they will mean everything! But it doesn’t stop there. Because everything will be online and through cloud services, that means all your kid’s data is being meticulously tracked. All the way down to how long it takes them to type something. The “researchers” will use this data to determine what the best career your child will “do best” at when they are older. Career pathways, beginning at the very youngest of ages. Probably in pre-school with the latest screams to get more of that going. It all looks great on paper, and they want you to think it’s great. It’s how they will own your child. The future corporate America. Education won’t be education anymore. It will be a high-tech recruiting facilitator-led community-centered we own your kid once we get our hooks into them. And if all of this isn’t enough, they will bet on the results through social impact bonds. And get paid for their perceived success margins. Companies. Your child is a profit center, but your kid won’t see any of the results except the ultimate Big Brother.
Any parent, teacher, or student needs to speak up NOW.