Friday, April 8, 2016

The Opt Out Irony

Currently it's Spring of 2016 and we are in the thick of Opt Out.  

Opt out is still surrounded by intense bullying and harassment by school district employees (I anticipate that this will grow unfortunately). But, the good news is that the Opt Out Movement continues to increase in numbers. Opt Out, the People's Movement, grows by the day - and thank god for that because the work ahead of us is daunting.  

Here’s why.  Opt out has been completely co-opted. However, also understand that co-optation is typical when people are attempting to create a revolution. The .01% will co-opt in any way they can in order to gain leverage.  They will use pawns to help create co-optation and compromise.  These pawns who receive corporate funding will continue to push corporate ideology - which right now means singing the praises of ESSA. 

And the passage of ESSA means that the end of year test eventually could become passé.  ESSA is pushing for online, daily testing - testing that is embedded inside online curriculum.  Children will now be subjected to online modules in which they must master something before moving on to the next online module.  It might be called personalized learning, mastery learning, proficiency-based testing, competency-based education, innovative assessments, and more. ESSA is pushing for these online assessment systems, as is ALEC, and the many foundations and organizations that are hoping to cash in.

As Stephen Krashen states: Competency-based education is not just a testing program.  It is a radical and expensive innovation that replaces regular instruction with computer "modules" that students work through on their own. It is limited to what can be easily taught and tested by computer, and is being pushed by computer and publishing companies that will make substantial profits from it.  

Not only are they pushing for daily online testing and curriculum, they are pushing for people to DROP the end of the year test. Who knew! They support Opt Out!

Imagine the headline for this amazing shift in testing.

Opt Out Movement Wins!!! End of Year Test. Poof. Gone.


Everyone , and their mother, will quietly guide the states and districts to assist them in implementing ESSA state policies - which of course will include daily online testing - via lots of federal cash. 

The ESSA policy guides (and every corporate foundation/nonprofit/group, etc. has one) are all incredibly similar - full of ALEC messaging.  One group that is leading the way, iNACOL (International Association for K12 Online Learning), has the former chair of the ALEC Education Task Force on their board.  When I read iNACOL's guide for states it aligns with much of what my district (Aurora Public Schools) is doing;  the language is identical, as are many of the directives coming from the district office.

Knowledge Works (another monster) states in their guide:

Break summative annual assessments into smaller, more frequent assessments administered throughout the year. This will enable students to demonstrate mastery when ready and provide stakeholders with more timely feedback to make necessary improvements to maximize performance.

Request their guide (Recommendations for Advancing Personalized Learning Under the Every Student Succeeds Act) to find out more.

Also, be sure to read how the Rockefeller Foundation plans to solve the "youth employment crisis" via competency-based hiring.  Never forget that the goal is to gather data from cradle to adulthood. As daily online testing infiltrates the schools there will be more data than ever before - the data will be used to control, manage and direct our children into employment - or prison -  in order to benefit the .01%.  Competency based hiring will be made possible due to the data that will morph into micro-credentials or digital badges online.  This is already happening - it was planned patiently, methodically, and over years.  For more information on this read Morna McDermott and Emily Talmage.

ESSA is literally the sell-off of our public schools (online daily curriculum and testing being just ONE issue).  And the states - with their new found power via ESSA -  will move forward to make it all a reality using model ALEC legislation.  Everything is in place to make this happen: the statewide longitudinal databases, the technology and necessary infrastructure, the common data tags via common core standards (sorry CC is not going away no matter how they rename them or tweak them), the strategically placed reform leaders, the starving public schools, and then of course the federal bill, ESSA. Meanwhile, all the players are in place - the teachers, the children - we are all here for the taking - if we allow it to happen.

So, while it’s incredibly important to continue to push and build the Opt Out Movement - it’s also absolutely paramount that Opt Out is not singular. 

Here’s the sick irony. By pushing Opt Out – as a singular event – we are in essence doing exactly what the corporate regime wants us to do. We are playing right into their PR campaign. Ultimately, those who love to cash in on our public schools and our children have absolutely NO problem with getting rid of the end of the year test - they are more than happy to bring us a new form of testing. Truly. It's co-optation at its finest. They will solve all our problems with the nasty end of year test by giving us better tests - tests that go unnoticed in a child's daily - now required - online learning.

No-Excuse-Charter-Chain King (aka Sec. of Ed. John King) told the states to move rapidly on ESSA "opportunity" in his speech just this week. Think about this - they passed this bill in TEN DAYS this December 2015. And now, they are rushing rushing rushing to get it implemented quickly.  They must cash in before people know what's happening. I read the entire ESSA - and I am positively sick over the support it has been offered by our unions and many educational leaders and activists.

And let's make one thing crystal clear. One CANNOT support Opt Out and support the ESSA - that, my friend, is a clear indicator of co-optation in the works. 

So.....those who have rigged this game are - right now - applauding the singular focus on Opt Out – because it does TWO things.

#1 It distracts the masses from paying attention to the quiet, quick, and strategic implementation of ESSA. As long as ESSA messaging continues to be positive - as evidenced in mainstream media, social media, via our unions and other leaders and educational organizations who hold PR power - the masses will simply NOT KNOW what's happening. Remember when Common Core passed through the state legislatures while everyone was sleeping?  Imagine that nightmare expanded ten-fold with ESSA.  

#2 Opt Out messaging which focuses ONLY on the end of year test ultimately serves their end goal. They can say - WE AGREE - dump that ridiculous archaic end of year test and let's find something better!!!! This will increase profit and  increase privilege for the  .01%  as they bring in shiny new daily online assessments, online curriculum and technology.

We, of course, MUST continue to Opt Out of the end of year test - BUT -  let them know that's JUST THE BEGINNING of the civil disobedience headed their way. Districts are already in line to embrace daily online competency based education - your district could be next. Let them know you will be refusing THAT too. 

Opt Out was never about one big bad ugly test. At UOO we made that clear, once again, at our conference this year.  Funny, how our conference (full of information to take down components of ESSA) didn't make it into much education news this year, huh? Wouldn't want to let THAT cat out of the bag in the midst of an ESSA propaganda extravaganza, now would they? Everything is intentional. And our sold out conference made it clear that the Opt Out Movement - the people - can indeed win this, if we choose to do so. 

ESSA includes a menu of opportunities to take everything from our children, while still demanding they be ranked, sorted, and ordered.

Our greatest hope at this point is that the Opt Out Movement – the People’s Movement – becomes more  educated and more strategic than ever before.  For starters, we must demand curriculum reviews and we must refuse online curriculum and other online programs that are being used to cash in on our starving public schools and our children. We must educate our school boards, our parents, our local unions and our communities.  We must not be distracted by compromises - make no mistake, every single compromise used as a way to appease the masses has led us Right. Here.  

Let Opt Out take on a bigger message than opposing the end of the year test; currently that is how mainstream media wants to frame it. We have to shift that - if we don't - they will dismantle our schools, our colleges of education, our teaching profession -  and they will use our children to do it.  The number of attacks occurring right now are immense - and the ESSA is rolling out the red carpet for it to happen.

At UOO we state:  United Opt Out National serves as a focused point of unyielding resistance to corporate ed. reform. We demand an equitably funded, democratically based, anti-racist, desegregated public school system for all Americans that prepares students to exercise compassionate and critical decision making with civic virtue. 

Watch the 2016 UOO conference in Philly to learn more.  Pay attention to the continued co-optation of Opt Out and educate your community.  See UOO's next steps here (more information to follow soon).

We demand an end to all corporate education reform.  No negotiations. 

All for all children.