What is Driving Instruction of the Common Core? (Hint: It Ain’t Teachers, and Money is Involved)

I was greatly struck by a recent article from the Detroit News, Report Urges Michigan to Replace MEAP with Smarter Balance Test.

The beginning of the article states that, “The report provides summaries on the cost of each test, scoring and reporting methods, test security transparency and overall design.”  So factors included in determining the assessment were economic (the cost of the test to the state, not necessarily the profit margin of the supplier, but profit motive is always a concern when the market steps out of its bounds), how the results are communicated (reporting methods to the public, which will then undoubtedly be used to unfairly disparage public education ), security of the test itself (“security” is always connected to “accountability” and bureaucratic control- note recent NSA flaps [just saying]) and, finally, overall design of the test.

Without going into too much detail here, educators who are actually concerned with student learning might be most concerned with the “overall design of the test.”  Those educators might be relieved to know that the test design was at least a factor that was in consideration.

The article then goes on to say that, “Lawmakers asked in October for a study looking at all assessment tools in the marketplace.” (Emphasis added)

Hmm…

We know that assessment is important since we believe that assessment drives instruction.

 So now we know that the marketplace is driving instruction.  (What would Bill Gates say about this?)

At issue here is that the standards were developed, and then the testing tool was layered on top of these standards afterward as if the form of assessment has no effect on the implementation of the standards.  As if the standards and the assessment used are not entirely related.  As if the testing measure is a value free, neutral, non-intrusive, non-concern that the obviously value free guidance of the market is more than happy to support us with in accordance with its ethos of serving and generosity.   In fact, the high-stakes tests used to measure the common core standards and the instruction of common core standards themselves are inextricably linked.

And who is determining the form of this testing?  Not the people involved in instruction.  Not even the people who developed the standards.

Some company in “the market.”

Sometimes I wonder if I’m too sensitive, or even paranoid.

And then I consider the evidence.

And I read articles like this in Rethinking Schools an editorial connecting the zeitgeist of market fundamentalism to the continued dismantling of public education:

“The costs of the tests, which have multiple pieces throughout the year, plus the computer platforms needed to administer and score the test, will be enormous and will come at the expense of more important things.  The plunging scores will be used as an excuse to close more public schools and open more privatized charters and voucher schools, especially in poor communities of color…Common Core has become part of the corporate reform project now stalking our schools. Unless we dismantle and defeat this larger effort, Common Core implementation will become another stage in the demise of public education.”

Anyone else uncomfortable?

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