Common Core Watch

The testing “opt-out” movement is testing education reform’s humility.

The number of students not participating in state assessments is large and growing. In one New York district, 70 percent of students opted out; in one New Jersey district, it was 40 percent.

Some reporting makes the case that this phenomenon is part of a larger anti-accountability, anti-Common Core story. Some reformers, it seems to me, believe opting out is the result of ignorance or worse.

Participants are routinely cast as uninformed or irrational. Amanda Ripley implied that opting out of testing is like opting out of vaccines and lice checks. New York Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch argued, “We don’t refuse to go to the doctor for an annual check-up…we should not refuse to take the test.” A column in the Orlando Sentinel argued we’d “lost our minds” and that the “opt-out movement has officially jumped the shark.”

Such condescension is eerily similar to the most regrettable things said about Common Core opponents: Their resistance was a “circus,” just “political,” and “not about education;” opponents must be “comfortable with mediocrity,” “paranoid,” and/or “resistant to change.”

I’m not defending every charge ever made against testing or Common Core. For sure, some of the oppositional rhetoric was overheated or...

Parents should use the threat of test refusal to demand a well-rounded education for their kids.

An internecine argument exposes a fault line in charter school rhetoric.
Robert Pondiscio

My U.S. News column this week is sure to raise hackles. But that’s only because anytime you put the words “Eva” and “Moskowitz” adjacent to each other, you’re sure to upset either fans or haters of the polarizing founder of New York’s Success Academies. 

Much has been written by me and others at Fordham about the stellar results achieved by Moskowitz’s Success Academy charter schools and the controversial tactics used to achieve them. This isn’t an attempt to re-litigate any of those arguments. How Moskowitz runs her schools is of enormous importance to education policy advocates and activists, but most parents simply don’t care. Indeed, I’m tempted to suggest the secret of Moskowitz’s success is that she may have a better grasp of what parents want than just about anyone in education today. From the piece:

For inner-city moms and dads who have been disappointed by unsafe schools, chronic failure, and limited educational opportunities, questions about schools come down to three: Is my child safe? Is my child behaving? Is my child learning? Moskowitz can answer affirmatively—and accurately--for all three.

Having taught in a troubled South Bronx elementary school for several years, it is not a mystery to me why there are ten families on the waiting list for every Success Academy seat. Even in the worst urban schools, most parents resent the hell out of the chaos and disruption inflicted upon them by the minority of kids who act out. Eva Moskowitz gets this.

In the end, Success Academy is yet another argument for school choice. “By no means should her brand of education be imposed on every child, no matter how good the results. But by no means should the thousands of families she serves—and the...

Arne Duncan was half right about those “white suburban moms.”
Robert Pondiscio

Misunderstanding Common Core’s aspirational nature.
Michael J. Petrilli

An open letter to the candidates.
Tim Shanahan

A great resource fact-checks textbooks’ “Common Core-aligned” claims.
Victoria Sears

A new video series shows what it looks like when your kid meets Common Core benchmarks.
Robert Pondiscio

Just when you thought we’d run out of things to blame on the standards.
Kathleen Porter-Magee