Otherwise known as, It Was Supposed To Be Testimony on ESSA, But Really Was Testimony To The Influence of Gates Money. How's that for a title? Perhaps it's a bit wordy. However, it is how it felt walking into that conference room at USDOE on January 11th. If you missed watching the testimony on their livestream, I've posted a link to the day's testimony at the bottom of this post.
The synopsis of most of the testimony was, not surprisingly, test so there is equity, test so students with disabilities and English language learners have their civil rights upheld, test because we need accountability and without testing we won't have accountability, test so we have more data, test so we know which teachers suck, and when all else fails, what the heck, just test some more.
That's your plan? Testing, pseudo-accountability, and test some more? Could anything possibly be lazier?
I'm going to piss off a few people by what I say next, but here's the deal, standardized tests are not going close educational gaps. It's not a civil right to be tested. If anything, it is a violation of your child's rights to be subjected to these tests especially if they are a student with a disability or/and English language learner. Tests that have not be validated, that are developmentally inappropriate, that serve no purpose other than to rank and sort them, their teachers, and their schools, are certainly not an example of a civil right. It’s more like a violation of FAPE.
It was appalling to listen to the policy directors from The Leadership Conference, La Raza, and MALDEF talk about testing, data, more testing, accountability by using the data collected from the tests. That's the best you can do for your constituents? It is LAZY.
It makes no sense until you look at who contributes money to them. We’re talking about tens of millions of dollars donated to them from The Gates Foundation to specifically push Common Core State Standards and the accompanying tests. I understand they need the money for all the really good work they do for the communities they serve. To say the least, it’s a shame their education policy flies in the face of all that other work.
When it comes to the National Urban League and Business Roundtable, I expect to see the business push. I expect them to be inappropriately forceful about testing and accountability because they very wrongly think they should have a say in P-12 education. Unsurprisingly, National Urban League has taken about $6.5 million from Gates to push their education policy agenda.
Are you seeing the pattern here? Lots and lots of money in exchange for influencing education policy at the highest level. They could have swapped their testimony it was that close in language and nature.
The majority of testimony ignored the very people these educational policies will influence – the children. It was shocking to listen a policy maker from the National Association of Charter Authorizers glibly tell all of us that if a charter school is failing to just close it. That’s it. Don’t have the charter participate in whatever the state’s version of a turnaround program is. Just close the school. I have no particular love of charters, but that statement lacked any recognition of the harm it would bring to the children in that school. This was about a business transaction, not about education, and certainly not about the negative impact of “just close the school”.
So where were the representative voices for the students? The parents? The teachers in the classrooms? Three teacher and two parents are certainly not enough. However, as far as I could tell, we were the only ones not being paid to be there.
When asked what I’d like to see in education policy, I say this, I want policy that is not LAZY. What we have had for 15 years is lazy. Shaping 13 years of a child’s education around standardized tests is lazy. I want to see joy in learning. I want students to be the center of education policy. I want teachers leading the way – they are after all, the people who are the experts. I want to see programs that look like the NY Performance Standards Consortium. I want students to be engaged, love to learn, love to share and demonstrate what they’ve learned. I want existing laws pertaining to special education to be enforced. I want school environments to be inclusive, to the largest extent possible, for all students. I don't think I'm asking for too much.
See the full day's testimony here.Me at 55:00, Jamy Brice Hyde 1:16:23, Marla Kilfoyle 3:20:18, Melissa Tomlinson 4:55:32