It was quiet on the education front last week with the Thanksgiving holiday, so somehow I missed this comment by Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. When discussing who’s behind the concerns over Common Core implementation and testing, Secretary Duncan blamed “white, suburban moms” for the complaints against Common Core. When questioned on his choice of wording, he apologized for the wording, but not the sentiment. He claimed his wording was “clumsy.”
His wording was more than ‘clumsy.’ It strikes at the heart of what’s wrong with where the trends in public education seem headed. I’m admittedly a white, suburban mom. In my “spare” time (between two jobs), I’m locating and writing grants for my daughter’s school. I’m serving as the chair of the school’s governance council. I’m attending meetings at the district and local district levels, and bringing that information back to other parents. I regularly contact the school board members on a variety of issues. And I’m running two blogs to help parents get the information so that they can stay abreast of issues that affect their kids education.
Here’s my frustration: I’m hardly anti-Common Core. Speaking as an English major back in college, there’s absolutely nothing inherently wrong with asking students to be better writers or better able to explain their responses (and much to my daughter’s chagrin), even in Math. As a kid who moved cross country more than once, I’d like to know now as a parent that the curriculum in every district is comparable. And as a parent of school-age kids since 1995, I’ve seen tests come and go, curriculum come and go, and I’m sure this won’t be the last change before my daughter graduates in 2019. But in the rush to implement Common Core, LAUSD is in the midst of a $1 billion dollar technology program to purchase iPads and increase bandwidth on every campus. One billion dollars spent in a rush to take a test. Mr. Duncan, I question a $100 purchase in my household. As a taxpayer, it’s my right to question. As a parents, it’s my responsibility. Being called out in a slur is not acceptable.
I’ve taken much more of a wait-and-see approach on the test. I actually support standardized testing to make sure the kids are learning what they’re supposed to be learning. I do wish that schools wouldn’t focus solely on testing. I’ve respectfully voiced concerns over implementation (Computer based tests with paragraph answers? Hey, who’s teaching the kids the keyboard skills they’ll need to be able to take said test?) and over the lack of testing this year (So what happens to kids who would typically use test scores to get into new schools or get into special programs?), and I expect that the officials at the district and the federal level will be respectful when dealing with parents. Name calling isn’t going to make friends and it’s not going to make moms go away.
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