What a Difference a Dash of Facts Makes


Journalist John Merrow just published his analysis of the “refusal- versus- reform” battle for public education entitled What a Difference a Dash Makes. There are many amazing responses to his report well worth reading!

Here is my response:

Thank you, John for your coverage of this movement. Your report is indeed a vital starting point for a necessary conversation. I’d like to expand upon the report if I might.

You write, “As for the other side, the ‘Pro-Test’ camp has the appearance of substance.” Well, if by “substance” you mean MONEY, yes they do. Reform policy-makers have money to buy a multimedia campaign advertising their agenda…advertising. Selling. Fruit Loops might say “Part of a nutritious breakfast” on the front of the box but we all know to read the ingredients, and when we are being marketed claims rather than facts.

To that point, the media, placating their corporate sponsors offer little more than “repetitive stories and blogs that merely ask lame questions”–this is “hardly evidence of a full-blown” legitimate reform policy. Uttering the phrase “career and college ready” thousands of time in every media outlet money can buy does not make the claim any more true. Especially when there is no research or evidence to show that more or “better” tests can deliver on such an ambiguous promise. But never mind the facts. There’s volumes of research that demonstrates how these policies are failing. But keep calm and ignore the research seems to be their mantra I suppose. Any deep examination of policy “reform” in the name of research journalism cannot evade the profit motive of corporate “sponsorship” and lobbying efforts of testing and curriculum delivery systems that spent millions lobbying for the reforms from which they are profiting handsomely. It’s a shame that information was excluded from the report.  That’s kind of ignoring the giant elephant in the room isn’t it? Gates, Pearson and the “billionaire’s boys club” cannot be excluded from this conversation. I appreciate the nod you give the notion of money and power. But this warrants a more detailed examination to fully appreciate why our outrage exists.

Who is pro-test? Let’s take a look. It’s the politicians, non-profits and corporations who have political and monetary motives. Where are the pro-test teachers and parents? Crickets….

Well, except for the mention of Leadership Council on Civil and Human Rights, and the statement,  “If you don’t take the test, you won’t be counted–and you won’t matter”  which compels some such advocates representing marginalized groups, ie. special needs children, or children of color in underserved communities to buy the testing- our- way- into- mattering or proving ourselves narrative. What does it say about our democratic society and the promise of equitable education that we are basically telling these same groups and these same children (and their communities) that in order to “matter” or to receive programs and services on par with their White middle class peers they must subject themselves to costly and time-consuming tests (tests born of a testing history designed with the intention to sort and track people by their social class and race or ethnicity-yet we ask them to play the testing to prove yourself game when the rules of the game are rigged against them). We rob their schools of monies for greatly needed resources and meaningful curriculum in the name of “accountability” and avoid confronting the sad reality that without standardized tests these children will go underserved. Nice way to avoid dealing with the undercurrent of racism, classism, and bias all of which are reinforced by the same system which claims to be serving them: test driven policies. A must read on this by Ceresta Smith here.

Who are the protestors? The people (from across all political, geographical socioeconomic and racial spectrums) who live this stuff every day and see the implications of its effects of corporate driven test- based reforms. They don’t make a dime for their efforts either. No one gets paid. No one is making millions of dollars by refusing. I think that says a lot about the validity of the movement. There is no power or profit motive. A deeper investigation would reveal copious studies spanning decades that show how high stakes testing, and standardized testing in general has been harmful to children, teachers, and schools. You write “I haven’t found overwhelming evidence that hundreds of thousands of students are going to boycott the Common Core tests.”

We don’t receive millions of dollars to create a centralized data bank of opt outers across fifty states. You won’t find “evidence” by looking in any one place or event. Scores of parents refusing the tests and teachers supporting this movement go unknown (sometimes by choice to protect their jobs or their kids). Or, thanks to our corporate sponsored media, when protesters DO come out in large numbers, the public does not hear about it because well, then people might really know that push back and that real solutions/alternatives do exist. Are we as protestors marginalized because really we are so small in numbers? Or is it because the media manufactures the movement as such?  One thing is for sure about test driven reform: It certainly does an excellent job of blending and bending the lines between fact and fiction.

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.

3 thoughts on “What a Difference a Dash of Facts Makes

  1. Good morning, Mr. Bruce!

    My attempt to contact you via email b…hammonds…net…. has gone unanswered. I wonder if this email is one that you don’t check very often?

    My name is Laura. I am a stop-common-core-activist in Southern California.

    I am wondering if i may be be able to use a portion of your blog post titled, “Why Is This So Hard?”

    Here is the quote:

    “The fight to protect children against harmful policies should be a no brainer. It’s like a campaign to “ not kick puppies ” — I mean, who would want to promote policies on kicking puppies? No one.”

    I have attached the graphic that I am proposing to circulate nationally via social media (fb & twitter). I may change the font type for the red letters “OPT-OUT…”

    I would be glad to consider any feedback you might have to offer.

    Please let me know. Thanks! 🙂

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