Though she resigned as chair late last year, last week’s Tweet from Students First was pure Michelle Rhee:
#optout movement realize it’s fighting a losing cause?
In its Tweet, Students First links to an opinion piece from one of its Gates-funded allies, Teach Plus CEO Celine Coggins which appeared in Real Clear Education. Coggins naturally had a study commissioned by her group handy:
It is ironic that the opt-out movement has focused on the new assessments, designed to be more rigorous and of higher quality than prior tests, and to align with higher standards taught across the nation. Earlier this school year, we invited over 1,000 teachers from across five cities to an intensive day of studying the PARCC assessment.
A report we published earlier this month on their feedback reveals that overall, the teachers found PARCC to be a better assessment than their prior state tests, with 79 percent of teachers finding it to be a higher-quality assessment. Teachers also found clear alignment between PARCC and the standards they teach. The majority of teachers, 69 percent, believed that PARCC measures the critical thinking skills students need to be college and career ready.
If the end game is to end “toxic” tests in favor of better quality ones, the opt-out folks may have set their sites on the wrong target.
Coggins’ study was limited to the controversial PARCC exam and it was extremely easy for a professional educator to find it “better than their older assessment” and a “higher-quality assessment” which “measures the critical thinking skills students need to be college and career ready.” Such limited scope hardly represents those same educators’ position on the wisdom and utility of high-stakes tests.
The later “skills” needed to be “college and career ready” are boilerplate industry common core talking points advanced by the Chamber of Commerce and testing corporations.
Coggins mischaracterizes the point-of view of opt-out parents as wanting to “end ‘toxic” tests in favor of better quality ones” and falsely asserts that opt-out parents “reject the notion that schools should have any accountability for student learning to grade level standards.” Opt-out parents know that PARCC and all other current high-stakes exam are far more than “standardized assessments that provide data on student knowledge and learning to teachers, students, parents and the public at large.” They disempower them while permanently empower those who control the tests.
Coggins understands opt-out parents position and her professed “puzzlement” is disingenuous at best. Her piece is part of a larger effort to discredit and even intimidate opt-out parents. From Jacksonville Times-Union reporter Denise Smith Amos:
“Since the campaign of intimidation from the (Florida Department of Education) and from certain districts, we have seen our numbers explode,” (Opt-Out Orlando co-founder Sandy) Stenoff said. “We have grown from 1,700 to almost 3,000 in the last two weeks alone. That’s just the Opt Out Orlando group. The other groups are growing steadily by the day as well”
Recent letters from state officials to school districts and parents said opting out was not an option spelled out in state law. But instead of discouraging parents, the letters enticed some parents to join opt out groups, Stenoff said.
“It’s the law, to take the test,” said Claudia Claussen, an education department spokeswoman
The war over high-stakes testing has moved to another, larger stage. It was easy for dollars from billionaires to demean and demonize public school teachers as self-interested union hacks, but now they are having discredit and marginalize parents. It remains to be seen if the combination of characterizing opt-out parents as misguided – as did Coggins, along with telling parents that they’ll do as their told – as does the FDOE – is a winner. But it is indeed puzzling when the same folks say “parents know best” and want “parental choice” don’t mean it all the time.