You know how the television station always post those emergency broadcast system alerts saying “this is only a test?” Well, for our democratic rights and the future our public education and all children—this is not a test. Or, more aptly-it’s ALL a test. This is going down, and it’s going down …now.

A new report has gone viral-and like all things viral (such as the bird flu), it reminds us whether we need reminding or not of the “threats to our national security and personal safety.”  It’s called Schools Report: Failing to Prepare Students Hurts National Security, Prosperity

In clever language, this report deems poor educational performance of our schools as a national threat to security. The magic bullet? Why reform of course! Somehow this study deduces that corporate-model charter schools, a national Common Core, high stakes testing, school vouchers, and choice, merit pay, and elimination of collective bargaining rights of public educators (among the largest themes) as the solutions to our security woes. Do any of these themes sound familiar to you? Seems convenient to me. Naturally the central players in this scheme include: 

Joel Klein, Chancellor of NYC schools, former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, ACT, Common Core author David Coleman and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Teach For America’s Wendy Kopp, the American Enterprise Institute’s Rick Hess and Stand for Children’s Jonah Edelman, and Pearson (the last one should surprise no one). Bill Gates must have been home sick with a case of the bird flu when this one was developed.

And why Joel Klein? Klein bragged that New York City Mayor Bloomberg has opened 100 new charter schools. Klein, in the Fox News report stated “You need to bring in entrepreneurial people” as he cites KIPP, Teach For America, adding that “education is a very homogenous field.”  By the way, Joel Klein is also on the Educational Division of News Corp.

Additionally, according to Susan Ohanian  who covers this topic extensively:

“He closed schools, pushed the expansion of charter schools and launched other initiatives before resigning in 2010 after it was revealed that the standardized test scores that he kept pointing to as proof of the success of his reforms were based on exams that got increasingly easy for students to take. Now he works for Rupert Murdoch.”

The report offers three basic solutions: expanding the Common Core, a uniform set of curricular standards, to include science, foreign languages and technology; an expansion of school choice that allows more students to enroll in voucher programs and charter schools; and a “national security readiness audit” that governors assemble as a uniform school performance benchmark.

The report’s recommendations are already in play: The Common Core standards are being implemented in most states, charter schools are proliferating and the federal audit expands on the data collected under No Child Left Behind. This audit is prepared by the states, in conjunction with the federal government, of what the report calls a “national security readiness audit.” This would measure how schools are doing at teaching “the skills and knowledge necessary to safeguard America’s future security and prosperity.”

According to the Huffington Post report, “There are good reasons to improve K-12 education,” Mr. Walt writes in his dissent, “but an imminent threat to our national security is not high among them.” I applaud the dissenting opinions on the report (which can be read in their entirety on the actual report) by Linda Darling-Hammond and Randi Weingarten among others. For a full listing of who was on the panel see Susan Ohanian’s coverage of the story.

Condi Rice, under George Bush praised NCLB during his administration. She shared in the Fox News interview how national standards, “real” choices, and a national audit of “what schools are doing well” are central to this reform. “It certainly is a national security issue” said the Fox interviewer.  Noting that the “dominant power of the 21st century will depend on human capital,” the report concludes that “the failure to produce that capital will undermine American security.”

The report cites a series of indicators of America’s educational weaknesses – from US students’ disappointing placement on international rankings of math and science competencies, to recent reports out of the Defense Department that three-fourths of young Americans are not qualified to join the armed forces (although physical conditions such as obesity, and not just educational shortcomings, play a role in that number).  The lack of preparedness poses threats on five national security fronts: economic growth and competitiveness, physical safety, intellectual property, U.S. global awareness, and U.S. unity and cohesion, says the report. Too many young people are not employable in an increasingly high-skilled and global economy, and too many are not qualified to join the military because they are physically unfit, have criminal records, or have an inadequate level of education. Oh, and by the way apparently the US is not producing enough foreign-language speakers to fill key positions in the Foreign Service, in intelligence agencies, and in America’s increasingly global companies.

I’m going to shift gears here for a moment to cover a parallel story. CNN on March 22nd ran coverage of the GradNation Summit, an effort sponsored by the America’s Promise Alliance. This movement goes back several years but is now conveniently resurfacing with a zeal right on the heels of the announcement that education is now a matter of “national security.” Perfect timing is it not? And who are The key players? President Barack Obama, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Gen. Colin Powell (yes that’s right-the former Secretary of Defense…are you with me on this boys and girls?) and America’s Promise Alliance Chair Alma Powell– who gathered together at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce with hundreds of partners from every sector including John Bridgeland, President & CEO of Civic Enterprises and the first Director of the USA Freedom Corp.

From their own website GradNation states:

In consultation with the U.S. Department of Education, we will track ten measures that research has proven predict student success. We also encourage communities to measure other factors. For instance, tracking school attendance, behavior indicators and course grades in math and English at the local level serve as a valuable early warning signal, even though reliable sources of data do not yet exist on the national level.

Presenting sponsors for GradNation include: State FarmInsurance Company. Other major sponsors include the Simon Foundation for Education and Housing, ING Foundation, Walmart Foundation, AT&T, The Boeing Company, the Pearson Foundation, Jim and Donna Barksdale, DeVry, The Packard Foundation, Target Corporation, Philip Morris USA, an Altria Company, Fidelity Investments, Ritz-Carlton, Annie E. Casey Foundation, and Rockefeller Foundation, and Wellspring.

Anyone familiar with the American Legislative Exchange Commission or ALEC Exposed will recognize many of these names listed above.

Speakers during this session included John Bridgeland, CEO, Civic Enterprises (moderator); Jim Balfanz, President, City Year; Robert Balfanz, Co-Director, The Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University; Peter Beard, Senior Vice President of Community Impact, United Way Worldwide; Dan Cardinali, President, Communities In Schools; Claire Lyons, Architecture & Management of Global Grant Portfolios, CSR, PepsiCo; and Governor Bob Wise, President, Alliance for Excellent Education

Bob Wise is president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. He currently co-chairs the Digital Learning Council with Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida. Governor Wise also chairs the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. According to ALEC Exposed:

“From 1983 to 2001, Wise was a U.S. Representative for the 2nd District of West Virginia. He was a member of the Democratic Party Leadership team as a regional whip and as a whip-at-large. Committee assignments included Transportation and Infrastructure, Government Reform and Organization, and Budget. On August 4th, 2011, Wise spoke at a plenary session of the 38th Annual Meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in New Orleans, Louisiana.”

GradNation wishes to roll out the following plan: The Civic Marshall Plan which involves government, non-profit and community agencies to promote quality education in their communities. According to Jean Grossman (2011)” …  In Texas, the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation and the SEA funded development of Early Warning Signs (EWS) tools using data ‘they are already entering in their local student information systems,’ said Kathleen Barfield, executive vice president and chief information officer at Edvance Research, which serves as ED’s Regional Education Laboratory Southwest.”

Sounds good to the mainstream ear, does it not? They’ve left out mention of military and defense involvement. But they’ve got Colin Powell, right?

Looking over GradNation brings us back to the national security report. While there are scores of it being (re) reported in summary fashion across almost every news media outlet in the last 12 hours, most reports leave out some of the most telling information in the report itself.

 Here are a few selected statements I have chosen to include:

But I recommend everyone check out full report: (note-since this article was first published in The Examiner, I noticed that much of the language that refers to the involvement of the Dept of Defense has been carefully deleted from their summary available on their webpage-I cannot find the original document online anymore-but I have it saved….)

It states (these are all exact quotes below) among other things (I have highlighted words I think are worth our deepest consideration):

The Task Force believes that though revamping expectations for students should be a state-led

effort, a broader coalition—including the defense community, businesses leaders, the U.S. Department of Education, and others—also has a meaningful role to play in monitoring and supporting implementation and creating incentives to motivate states to adopt high expectations.

The Defense Policy Board, which advises the secretary of defense, and other leaders from the public and private sectors should evaluate the learning standards of education in America and periodically assess whether what and how students are learning is sufficiently rigorous to protect the country’s national security interests.

For the audit, states would collect school-level information on factors important to national security, including (subgroup disaggregated) answers to the following questions:

–– How many students are passing their (expanded) Common Core courses?

–– How well are students performing on end-of-year summative assessments?

–– How many students are mastering important “national security”

skills, such as learning foreign languages and computer programming?

–– Are students graduating from high school within four years (or within five or more years)?

–– What percentage of students are “college-ready”? Career-ready?

–– What are the characteristics of each school? For example, what is a school’s budget and average per pupil allocation? How many teachers are there? What is a school’s attendance rate?

The Task Force believes the annual audit should be aggressively publicized to help all members of society understand educational challenges and opportunities facing the country. This public awareness campaign should be managed by a coalition of government, business, and military leaders. It should aim to keep everyone in the country focused on the national goal of improving education to safeguard America’s security today and in the future.

Astute use of media and communications have a proven ability to effect changes in mindsets and actions, and the group believes that a targeted, annual campaign, led by the Department of Education in collaboration with the U.S. states, the Departments of Defense and State and the intelligence agencies, could have this impact.

Now … one more item for your consideration here. Above and beyond the military’s interest in tracking children for “security” purposes (whatever is beneath that agenda is anyone’s guess).  Beyond the consideration that the State and Federal intelligence agencies are intending to have a direct influence on shaping public opinion. Beyond the concerns you may have that testing and the Common Core will have for every child now under the advisory “gaze” of Homeland Security, examine the recent pieces of legislation that have quietly gone unnoticed by the mainstream media:

1) Georgia state legislators are getting ready this week to attempt to criminalize our constitutional right to protest via the passage of Senate Bill 469. If approved by the Georgia House and signed by the Governor, SB 469 would criminalize peaceful acts of protest, including public picketing related to labor disputes outside of any privately owned buildings. Individuals or union members or any individual employees who participate in such protests could be fined up to $1,000 a day, and organizations, which support such actions, could face penalties of up to $10,000 a day. Moreover, the bill adds a category of “conspiracy to commit criminal trespass,” which would make it a high and aggravated misdemeanor to plan acts of peaceful civil protest. This bill is part of a national strategy; similar legislation could be coming to your state soon.

2) U.S. Congress swiftly and almost unanimously passed legislation that essentially tramples on Americans’ First Amendment right to assemble. However, while HR 347, officially known as the Federal Restricted Building and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011, U.S. Congress swiftly and almost unanimously passed legislation that essentially tramples on Americans’ First Amendment right to assemble.

3) The U.S. Senate voted Tuesday to maintain provisions in a bill that would allow the military to apprehend U.S. citizens, including those on U.S. soil, without charge, and hold them indefinitely if they are labeled as terrorists. He goes on to note “the administration has broad authority to decide who is covered by this provision and how and when such a decision is made.” allows the US military to imprison civilians with no formal charges and hold them with no trial. As Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said:”The enemy is all over the world. Here at home… They should not be read their Miranda Rights. They should not be given a lawyer…”

So my questions are these –ones which I hope all my readers will give their most thorough consideration.

  1. If implementing educational expectations and assessments in subjects is vital to protecting “national security” then someone opting their child out of high stakes testing in public schools could be deemed a threat to national security?  Is being a threat to national security mean that a parent who fights back with their 14th Amendment Right to opt their child out of these tests could be “disappeared” to some detainee center without a trace?  Sounds crazy-and probably unlikely-but if read to the letter of the law-it’s apparently a theoretical possibility just hanging out there.
  1. Launch a “national security readiness audit” to hold schools and policy makers accountable for results and to raise public awareness. Public awareness and public scrutiny, for all teachers and for us.  The recent legislation HR 347 tells us that in our right to assemble, we are subject to arrest if deemed a threat to national security. So what does that mean in terms of our right to protest current educational reform efforts now that they’ve been given the official stamp of protection under the guise of national security?
  1. What, if any, connections might become apparent between tracking student data/test scores, especially in low income, minority-majority districts and the heightened interest lately with illegal immigrants, as well as a possible resurgence of a national military draft?

All of these are just hypothetical of course, but I think at this juncture, what appears most absurd in the landscape of our rapidly eroding democratic society are quickly becoming the newest realities.  So nothing, in my opinion, should be beyond our capacity to question and consider.

Other references (but not limited to) on this topic:–national-security-143549616.html…

Published by educationalchemy

Morna McDermott has been an educator for over twenty years in both k-12 and post secondary classrooms. She received her doctorate in education, with a dissertation focus on arts-based educational research, from The University of Virginia in 2001. Morna's teaching, scholarship, and activism center around the ways in which creativity, art, social justice, and democracy can transform education and empower communities. She is currently a Professor of Education at Towson University.

10 thoughts on “THIS IS NOT A TEST

  1. So do you think we are going to end up getting a label of “educational terrorists?” I can just see it now, you, Peggy and me, walking around the jail yard and plotting our escape.

  2. As a NYC public school teacher for 51 years, I was hoping to retire and play with my grandchildren and read all day and listen to music,etc. But the problems in education won’t go away unless we all take a stand and fight back. Reading this blog only “fires me up!” So many huge problems to tackle,,but they must be tackled. Since my professional life as a teacher always led to fighting for my urban students’ rights and needs, I will continue to do so until every student receives the best education we can provide! Retirement has to wait! We who know what is really going on, we who see all the fraud and deceit that is being perpetrated, need to speak out and up. And so I will continue to do so!
    Janet Mayer, teacher, blogger and author :AS BAD AS THEY SAY? THree Decades of Teaching in the Bronx.

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