An unintended consequence of the Common Core standards-and-assessments scheme is dissension among liberal interests over the testing. The “opt out” movement comprises essentially two categories: parent activists seeking to protect their children from the useless or even harmful Common Core computerized testing, which is designed less to assess academic content knowledge than to collect psychological data on students; and the liberal, no-accountability, never-test crowd, who object to students’ taking any standardized tests, even validated academic tests not aligned to Common Core. But a powerful liberal cohort also resides in the Common Core education-establishment universe, which pushes more and more computerized assessments not only to collect psychological data on students, but also to enrich the testing companies and other hangers-on that profit from testing accoutrements, such as the required technology. (There is also a powerful, parallel GOP cohort that pushes the same agenda.)
The tangle of agendas illustrates that centralization schemes can create the strangest allies.
One arena for combat is the proposed regulations under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). John King — who was pretty much chased out of New York State when he doggedly pushed Common Core standards and testing there — continues to do the bidding of the Common Core establishment as Secretary of Education. His proposed ESSA regulations would penalize any school in which more than five percent of the students opt out of the testing. Such schools would be designated “in need of improvement” and subject to (so far undefined) punishment.
King’s proposal has not gone over well in, for example, Long Island, where last April more than half of eligible students opted out of the testing. His opponents argue that ESSA itself supports their position by requiring states to notify parents of state laws and policies allowing them to opt out (the Johnny Isakson amendment). But the Senate rejected a Mike Lee amendment that would have explicitly permitted penalty-free opt outs, thus allowing the progressive educrats who drafted ESSA, and their clueless or complicit Republican allies in Congress, to give King his opening for punitive overreach.
Jane Robbins is an attorney and a senior fellow with the American Principles Project. Emmett McGroarty is the American Principles Project’s Director of Education.