common core

Opting Out of Standardized Testing Now Has a Name and a Face.

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Opt-Out Isn’t Black and/or Brown

I’ve provided insight on the data found in a recent Columbia University survey on the National Opt-Out Movement.

The goal of analyzing this report is as follows:

  1.  To discuss quite frankly how the opt-out movement has a color to it, and the color isn’t black or brown, it’s white.
  2. The significance of the Opt-Out Movement. Why is this movement so important to everyone, including Black and Latino families?  It’s a movement centered around the traditional public school system, and their need to protect middle class jobs by ensuring teachers have little to no accountability for the learning of students, especially poor, minority students who have been inherently disenfranchised.
  3. Lastly, this opt-out movement has little to no effect on people with the financial means to provide supplemental education to their children. The leaders of this movement can afford tutors, such as learning centers, SAT/ACT prep classes, etc.  All to leave minority students holding the bag, taking remedial classes for the first couple years of their college careers.

It should be noted “the vast majority of the participants in the opt-out National survey (92.9 percent) indicated that their children attended public schools” (Pizmony‐Levy, Saraisky, 2016).  The majority of these children are not from charter schools.  The reason being, is because the sole viability of the worthiness of a charter school, (at least in NY state) is a point by point comparison of how the charter school performs in comparison to the district school.  In most cases, if a charter school does not consistently outperform the district in which it is located, the question becomes why is there a need, when the district performs at the same rate or better?

Additionally, “nine out of ten (92.1 percent) respondents who are parents or guardians of school‐aged children said they are likely to opt out in the future” (Pizmony‐Levy, Saraisky, 2016).  NY State responded accordingly to the feedback it sought out to change the tests for those that exhibited concerns.  Initial concerns were, test were punitive to teachers because they were tied to evaluations, the tests were poorly written, and the tests should be untimed.  All feedback lawmakers took into account and changed.  So, if many of the changes they requested were made, and they’re still opting out of testing at higher than 90%, what is this really about?

Income levels effect opt out choice

The study notes that “the typical opt out activist is a highly educated, white, married, politically liberal parent whose children attend public school and whose household median income is well above the national average” (Pizmony‐Levy, Saraisky, 2016).  According to the research, we have highly educated white people, making decisions that could ultimately effect students of color, without any of the parents of the students of color even being able to voice their outrage.  So, if you look at the statistics, how is this different from the 1% wealth argument?  It really isn’t.  The people with the money are now driving Ed policy for the poor.  And they’ve went so far as to say, not only do we drive policy, but we don’t want charter schools, blacks and Latinos should not have choice in where they send their kids.  They should send them to the schools where they have traditionally gone.  The schools that for decades have failed these students.  This kind of thinking is the thinking that perpetuates generational poverty.  The “haves” continue to have, while the “have nots” continue to not have.

Consequently, “they also are protesting the narrowing of the curriculum, corporatization/privatization of education, and the implementation of the Common Core State Standards” (Pizmony‐Levy, Saraisky, 2016).  For those that oppose common core, is the thought process on its opposition the fear of raising standards?  Every profession does quality review, in hopes of having continual improvement.  There’s a high percentage of students that get to college unprepared, and are relegated to taking remedial classes their first year of college.  Usually by the end of year one, you have anywhere between 24-42 credits.  So, by the end of year one, if you’ve only received between 6-12 credits, you’ve lost a year of education, and a year of funding.  Thus leading to many minority students never finishing college, because it circles back to money, which many first generation college students of color just don’t have.

Moreover, “teachers (45.0 percent) say that they are opposed to tying teacher evaluation to student performance on standardized tests while non‐teachers were more likely to mention opposition to ‘teaching to the test’ and to the Common Core” (Pizmony‐Levy, Saraisky, 2016). There are of course many different ways to analyze teacher effectiveness.  One such way is student performance on summative assessments.  Who wouldn’t want to know how much their students have grown?  I’ll tell you who, those people that don’t believe in kids.  Research supports that it’s harder to move black and Latino subgroups.  Black and Latino parents aren’t the parents in opposition of these policies.  Is/will education ever be about the needs of “all students”?  Or will we continue to use words like all, when we know good and damn well we mean the select few with money and resources.

Lastly, “opt out activists’ view increasing school funds as an important idea for improving schools” (Pizmony‐Levy, Saraisky, 2016).  The irony with this assertion is that in the epicenter of the opt-out movement, Long Island, NY, schools receive per pupil funding, but are also able to raise additional capital for school budgets by raising the real estate cap.  Charter schools on the Island receive about 90% of per pupil funding, with no ability to raise additional capital to compete with the finances raised by tradition school districts.  There is little to no collaboration between districts and charters on the Island, with some districts being quite adversarial to their charter neighbors.  All of this to say, every charter school on Long Island outperforms its district, and they do it with less funding.  So this isn’t necessarily an issue about money, but I can totally see how those that have money in abundance would like to invest in their children.

Reference:

Pizmony‐Levy, O. and Green Saraisky, N. (2016). Who opts out and why? Results from a national survey on opting out of standardized tests. Research Report. New York: Teachers College, Columbia University.

 

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Why I support Common Core Curriculum by Raymond J. Ankrum, Sr.

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Let’s face it: If you pay any attention at all to education and education-related issues, you have heard the words COMMON CORE. The common core standards for math and language arts are a set of common curriculum guidelines developed by the National Governors Association and the Obama administration. The goal of this initiative is to provide a clear understanding of what students at each grade level are expected to learn, so they can stay on track for college and successful careers. In addition, it provides parents and educators with the tools they need to help students.

As the Common Core debate continues to heat up, politicians and TV talk show hosts spend a great deal of time talking about the benefits and challenges posed by the new program and its effect on the learning.
It comes as no surprise that with all the chatter, some people have a hard time figuring out whether Common Core is ultimately good for students and the educational process in general.

In my professional opinion, this new initiative can yield important benefits for children. Here are a few simple reasons why:

Common Core stimulates creativity.  Sadly, some teachers put fun and creative activities on the back-burner and fully focus on the curriculum and the tests. Due to a busy schedule, they don’t always have the time to engage in creative pursuits. That’s why Common Core is important. Not being a prescribed curriculum, the program tells educators exactly what students should be able to do and what they should be able to accomplish by the end of the term. It is totally up to educators to determine how to get their and how to deliver instructions.

Common Core enhances critical thinking.  The new learning standards encourage students to take an active part in their learning and think more critically about content, as opposed to restating and repeating what their teachers say in class. Or if students are working on narrative writing, they can read a story, evaluate the writer and try to write a narrative using the author’s style. This seems like a better and more viable alternative to simply writing a story; the activity requires more critical thinking. That’s what will make students more competitive and employable.

Common Core is collaborative.  The Common Core enables teachers to develop their own curriculum, using their skills, resources and experience. Typically, educators are better equipped to decide what is best for their students and how to present information to children. Also, teachers will have an opportunity to share their thoughts and ideas with each other and use their voices collectively. They will discuss what works and what doesn’t and create common resources. 

Common Core promotes equity.  From my perspective, one of the reasons to be excited about this initiative is because it will be a challenge for ALL students, not just a small group of high achievers. It is a good way to close opportunity gaps for poor and minority children. As long as all kids, from different socio-economic backgrounds are being held to the same rigorous standards, it promotes equity and leads to higher achievement.

In a nutshell, despite some of the drawbacks and ongoing criticism, I do believe that Common Core will do more good than harm and prepare a lot of students for a highly-competitive global economy. ###