Half The Story Isn’t Good Enough


Critics claim the standardized tests “waste instructional time and encourage educators to emphasize rote memorization — teaching to the test — in lieu of meaningful learning.” Meanwhile, celebrities are getting into the act, taking sides either “tweeting about … children’s stress” or participating in supportive ad campaigns, notes an article in USA TODAY.

While the author correctly notes that the Common Core was a bipartisan initiative that states voluntarily adoption, she veers seriously off-track by claiming “Congress reauthorized NCLB” through its adoption of ESSA.

A memo from Karen Nussle, former executive director of the Collaborative for Student Success, clearly explained that ESSA “dramatically re-envisions national education law” by returning “decision-making power to states and school districts” for the first time in three decades. Designed specifically to “repeal and replace” NCLB, ESSA is a rare unicorn of federal legislation that has earned support from both political parties as well as “teachers unions, education reformers and civil rights organizations.”

The article also discusses the opt-out movement – focusing on just the numbers of students who skipped statewide assessments last year, instead of noting that the movement appears to have fizzled out in many areas. New York state did indeed see  “20 percent of eligible students opt out” but an interactive map from High Achievement New York (HANY) points to a clear “regional divide” with students in western and northern parts of the state opting back in while their peers in Long Island staying out. “Children from Buffalo to Plattsburgh are taking advantage of the higher standards and their aligned assessments to prepare for 21st Century careers while pockets of children risk being left behind,” the group said in a statement.

A focus on the number of students opting out last year also obscures the responses from state officials who have reacted to concerns raised by parents and educators. Kimberly Namkoong, co-president of Parents for Excellence-Bethelem and a member of the HANY coalition, wrote in the Buffalo News that state officials made “real improvements” based on a “top-to-bottom review of each assessment question,” shortening test length, and eliminating redundant questions.