This blog was first posted at Bustedpencils.com on 9/15/2016. My blogging will now encompass my additional activist work outside of education, so you can read my work here and at BustedPencils.
In its current form.
Did I get your attention? Good. Because right now I feel like I back peddled five years ago to the time when several of us started an FB page to create opt out guides/resources for each state. At that time, we/opt outers were mocked, ignored, and ostracized. Lots of big wig activists and educational groups treated us like the plague. Opt out was not cool.
We have entered a new phase of activism - and it feels a bit like starting over. It's now September of 2016 where everyone and their mother loves opt out - even New York Regent Roger Tilles!!! Opt out has gone mainstream!!!!
When opt out started going mainstream, it felt okay at first, but then, suddenly - it didn't. Why was everybody sharing the opt out love??? Did humanity suddenly return? Um, no. I don't trust easily and something felt amiss. And I always listen to my gut feelings and research to confirm these feelings.
Backtrack to March of 2015.
We at UOO discovered the ECS "opt out" guide and I pointed to it on my blog. ECS is partially funded by Pearson, among other folks. Of course we asked ourselves, why was ECS creating a state by state opt out guide? Since when did Pearson and the other corporate cronies want to help citizens figure out how to opt out?
Many of us started fishing. We discovered more. Opt out was a big fish in a little pond. We'd been had. Hook. Line. Sinker.
In October 2015 I wrote this - it was clear that opt out was on the way out as competency-based education (daily online curriculum and testing) entered.
Opting out of the end of year test now served the needs of the .01%. The opt out movement had been co-opted. The end goal - all along - was daily online testing - via online modules that break down learning into discrete skills that must be mastered - all under the guise of personalizing learning to better meet the needs of individual learners. Not only did they plan to personalize the academic skills per child, they also planned to tap into a child's emotions and behaviors to further tailor the learning to the child's needs (look up SEL/social-emotional learning) - all with the end goal to create more profit for the .01%.
Opt Out, in its current form, was dead.
But - let me make something very clear. We needed the opt out movement to generate a pool of aware citizens - we needed it to build relationships. We, the people, helped fuel a movement of questioning, civil disobedience, and strategic problem solving - all absolutely necessary for this next phase of strategic actions . Opt out was necessary to save not only our public schools, but this planet. The opt out movement is and was important. But, we must also recognize that in its current shape and form it is not enough - and could actually harm us if we do not sound the alarm and regroup. Right now I worry about how opt out is being portrayed by many groups and organizations. For example, at NYSAPE, they state that the opt out movement wants a variety of things, including the use of standards, lexile benchmarks, state-wide evidence-based digital learning platforms, and state-wide assessments with time limits.
What crazy planet did I land on? I don't want any of that. And I didn't know that the opt out movement wanted that either. Shoot, I've worked the last six years to stop all this - lost my job over it - and now the New York opt out leaders are saying opt out WANTS these things that ultimately destroy authentic learning and teaching? Sounds like a brief from Clinton or AFT. Just my take. And it's important to question things, even when it pisses people off.
And yeah, I'm a little cranky, and sadly just getting started here.....
Revolution comes in steps. This singular focus on opting out of the end of year test has seen its day.
Back in April 2016 I wrote The Opt Out Irony - it received little fanfare. Not a surprise because pointing out the irony - that opt out in its current form is helping the corporate regime privatize public schools - really bites and frustrates a lot of people who were riding the wave of "end of year test opt out" to advance their careers, ego, and cash flow. Supporting end of year opt out became comfortable - so comfortable that some state and federal legislative statutes were included to make note of it in some shape or form. It was comfortable because it was a GREAT distraction from the bigger plan to institute online daily learning via online gaming, online curriculum, digital badging, social-emotional data gathering, etc. that was really needed to Take. It. All.
Imagine a world where your child's future is planned and directed by the desires of the corporations - the demands of the market - that will be the new reality - if they get their way.
So of COURSE the corporate regime wants us to dump the clunky big end of year test!!!! Meanwhile the reformers - via politicians, foundations, think tanks, nonprofits are moving forward with competency based education, online curriculum with daily online testing, and online gaming that drives and ultimately manipulates and controls student behavior and emotion. They are building data banks on every student as we speak. Imagine serfs working for the .01%.
desk-pedalsSeriously - just add a sewing machine on top of that desk with bike pedals. You can't make this shit up. And it has been in the works for a long time.
Funny how this information was and IS so quietly floating under the radar. Might really mess things up right before the election huh? If this cat indeed got out of the bag? Like, perhaps, certain folks might lose union job opportunities, secretary of ed. opportunities? Man would that suck for some people. There's a reason the unions keep spouting "ESSA opportunity."
As Orwell stated, "The further a society drifts from truth, the more it will hate those that speak it."
There are a lot of haters out there right now. Damn glad I have my chickens to keep me company.
Meanwhile, the reformers continue to "sympathize" with our plight over the end of year test. Don't believe me? Here it is straight from Jobs for the Future. They are drooling all over this ESSA opportunity. Don't know what ESSA is? See here , here, and here. ESSA is rolling out the red carpet for the corporations to privatize our public schools and destroy the teaching profession.
The corporate regime does have some concerns though.
At JFF they state, "In the short term, though, the 'opt-out' movement could pose a serious obstacle. The problem isn't that opt-out advocates are wrong, necessarily - in fact, many participants at Turning the Corner voiced sympathy for their criticisms of high-stakes standardized testing. The problem, rather, is that so much energy and attention continues to be directed toward undoing the old system, rather than to what a new system could look like. Moreover, if the opt-out movement morphs into a crusade against testing in any form, it could seriously damage efforts to create the sorts of high-quality performance-based assessments needed to support deeper teaching and learning."
Gosh, how sweet of you JFF. You understand. Just like the unions and everyone else. Thanks bunches. I feel better. I feel just about as good as I did when our state union let Relay gracefully glide right into Colorado. And this is the deal - we must halt the harm first - children are being harmed under this abusive testing regime - they are required to work as slaves to corporations and a government that refuses to protect our neediest children from poverty.
But JFF says they are a little worried? Just a little? About that idea of morphing into a crusade against testing in any form? Yeah, that would be a harsh reality for you, huh?
I read all of ESSA - and after perusing the 1,061 pages I did ponder these thoughts.
ESSA supports destroying the teaching profession (think Relay Fake Graduate School, TFA , and more) by intentionally giving MONEY to implement one stop shop teacher academies (no "real" teachers, no pensions, no union, hell - no buildings needed).
ESSA supports and funds "innovative" assessment which is actually referred to in ESSA as "competency based" education.
ESSA supports and funds charters - and specifically discusses replicating "high quality charter school models" - think KIPP, Uncommon Schools - you know, those racist charters where they implement control and compliance techniques for teachers and children. Often these teachers are trained by Relay Fake Graduate School. And I know all about Relay because I got to be a part of a Relay Leadership School - good times - see here.
Anyways, so I got to thinking, if ESSA plans to destroy the teaching profession and get abusive behavior-mod teachers who are good at data punching. And...if ESSA supports innovative daily online assessments - meaning massive data gathering via set-in-stone data tags via common core standards. And...if ESSA is saying that one more factor of data needs to be included - an additional indicator of student or school success - such as student engagement, social-emotional learning (Do you want Google to know how your child feels about things? How fast your child works? How slow? What your child likes? Dislikes? Do you want companies to gather information on your child's good behavior? Bad behavior? So that they can use what they know to PUSH your child where they need your child to be? In order to meet the demands of the market?)
And.......yeah this is long winded I know......finally.......if ESSA supports and funds charters galore - specifically the charters who push forward online learning via gritty behavior compliance methods that reek of racism and fake Relay teachers - well then.....
If all of that is true. Then, where does that leave us?
It's a triple ESSA whammy - and I only covered a quick snapshot of three components of ESSA. There is much more to be concerned about.
But again, where does that leave us?
Well, it leaves us back where I started. Opt Out is DEAD, as it currently stands.
Yet - you might say - but everyone LOVES it? So what gives? Why the adoring love for end of year opt out?
Hmmm...again.....with elections looming, it might not be good to shake the ESSA applecart. Might be better to be quiet and let the privileged keep their privilege so that they can hopefully gain more privilege after the elections. Might be better to quietly appease the masses with end of year opt out - it will keep them distracted - maybe even throw them a bone from time to time by chatting with them about their concerns (lots of opportunity for this - THINK ESSA regulations and ESSA committees). Heck, with everyone hush hush about CBE and ESSA it might just help a lot of people in high places advance to even higher places. I mean - the ESSA opportunities abound for those who are willing to sellout our children, our teaching profession and our public schools. Lily and Randi are happy to help.
Meanwhile, these so-called nonprofits and .01% folks are ever so patient. Just as Michael Kirst, prez of CA State Board of Ed states at the end of this particular JFF brief that this will "take a long time" and "We need to have a lot of staying power to bring this about."
Yes, they will nod, they will sympathize, and they will continue to twist the knife in just a little bit further. And they will do everything to keep revolution at bay. Compromise will be the name of the game, as it is now.
Let me tell you one thing I know. Teamcompromise (aka Hillary/AFT/NEA and others) will be running right alongside the corporate regime - all of them selling out our children every step of the way.
And you might think - we are so F%$&ed!!!!!!!! What do we do???
I have one idea, and more to come soon, but for now, this simple one that I shared last spring on my blog and at the UOO conference........
Parents and citizens must ask for curriculum reviews at their school districts. Find out what your board policy looks like regarding curriculum reviews - but don't feel the need to abide by the policy - do what you need to do to get the reviews. Try to get parents to do these reviews in mass. Educate parents. The key is refusing the online testing and curriculum IN MASS. One person trying to do this alone has a hard road and a slim chance of succeeding - ultimately this online curriculum will be tied to grades (and already is in many cities), therefore making it more challenging to refuse. Parents and citizens, in mass, who speak to the school board, who publicize their desire to refuse this online curriculum, can win. Expose it. Gather support. And REFUSE IT. Demand authentic learning by authentic teachers in democratic classroom settings.
I also recommend reading Alison McDowell's latest blog on this subject - she has additional actions to take.
And of course continue to refuse the end of year test. That's a given.
Meanwhile I'll keep blogging. And I'll have more to share soon - but honestly, until this election is over and all the cards are played, it's difficult to determine exactly the best strategies needed to take down components of ESSA such as CBE, charters, and teacher one stop shops. Timing can be everything.
The good (and bad) news is that I no longer work for Aurora Public Schools. I no longer volunteer for United Opt Out National. I can say pretty much whatever I want. Not that that held me back before ;)