"A child's learning is the funtion more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Opt Out: Stop the Education Genocide

by Ira Shor
Opt-Out: The REAL Parent Revolution

We parents can stop the destruction of our public schools. We can stop the looting of school budgets by private charters and testing vendors. We can stop the abuse of our children by the relentless hours of testing. We can stop the closings, the co-locations, the mass firings, the replacement of veteran teachers with short-term Teach for America newbies, the shameful indignity of public schools told they have 24 hours to clear out so a charter can seize their classrooms. To do this, we have to opt-out our kids from the new testing regimes—refuse to let the schools test our kids with PARCC or Smarter Balanced, boycott the pointless and punitive tests which make the best years of our kids’ lives into a digital hell.

I opted-out my 10-year-old son from all state tests this year and will continue to do so when the useless and costly PARCC tests arrive next year. I will encourage other parents to join me in boycotting such standardized tests, which Diane Ravitch has rightly called “junk science” because they cannot accurately report a student’s achievement, learning process, or academic needs, or a teacher’s competence. For commercial and political reasons, it pleases Duncan, Gates and Co. to spread such tools from coast to coast, but they offer no evidence that such tools can do the job they claim, despite the constant promotion financed by Gates’s millions to the two teacher unions, to the national PTA, to “Education Week” magazine, and other key players working on his side.

Neither CCSS nor PARCC can make our kids “college and career ready.” This is impossible from the rigidly-defined, narrow Common Core State Standards(CCSS) skill-sets or from the hours of standardized testing, which over-produce metrics that don’t amount to teaching or learning. First, of course, I ask, Who can predict what the job market will be like when my 10-year-old enters it? Also, school curricula which narrowly focus on skills under-develop the critical habits of mind and communication which children need to make sense of the world as they find it. Employers, in fact, report that narrow subject matter is not what they look for in candidates, preferring instead future employees who have learned how to learn, how to ask questions and to make sense of situations, how to ask for help, how to work in groups, how to learn from others by example, and how to communicate. Hours of standardized testing cannot lead to these outcomes.

The national CCSS-machine also ignores the most important factor in a child’s test scores: family income(widely-discussed since 1966 and the famous Coleman Report, reiterated again and again by social research.) SAT/ACT/high-school and college graduation rates have always correlated closely with family income. Because our society has the highest rate of child poverty of any developed nation(about 35% of Black and Hispanic kids, about 11% of white kids), our national averages on standardized tests are pulled down. The strongest policy, then for raising average scores would be an anti-poverty program, what Christopher Jencks 40 years ago called “an incomes policy,” that is, equalizing family incomes. When he proposed equal izing incomes, policy in the U.S. tilted towards the bottom 80%, especially the bottom 20% of families, as research by Saez and Piketty and by Robert Reich have shown; in that era, Black kids closed about 20% of the “achievement gap” with their white peers(see Jencks’s “The Black-White Achievement Gap.”) CCSS and its PARCC testing will fail just like NCLB and RTTT failed before them, fail to close the achievement gap, fail to produce deep learning for the vast majority of children, fail to close the huge income gap.

Because our children are in this together, so are we. Because our kids cannot defend themselves, we have to defend them. We parents must step in to stop it. We should put our foot down and say, “Do it to your own kids first before you experiment on ours!” Tell that to Bill Gates, to Arne Duncan, to Eli Broad, to David Coleman, to Michelle Rhee, to Wendy Kopp, to Eva Moskowitz, to Govs. Cuomo and Christie, to the hedge-funders in Democrats for Education Reform, who send their own kids to test-exempt private schools with small classes, well-paid veteran teachers, handsome campuses, and field trips so that their kids “feel at home in the world,” as the elite prep of certain kids is sometimes called.

If we parents opt-out, we remove our kids from the commercial machine invading and destroying public schools. We refuse to let our kids become mass subjects tested to distraction. We insist that inspired teaching and complex learning and rich arts should be at the center of every school.

Authorities count on our quiet compliance to cement their plans into place. We need defiance instead, for the sake of the kids and for the sake of the public sector without which democracy cannot survive. When we opt-out we rescue our kids, our public schools, and our society at the same time. Our opposition will force authorities to retreat, if we stick together, get tough on behalf of our kids, and insist that public schools belong to us for the public good, not to the private sector or to the commercial parasites stealing our children’s futures.

Go to United Opt Out and learn more about how to join the cause.

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