Monday, May 11, 2015

Just whose rights do these civil rights groups think they are protecting? -- What the UFT should be asking instead of excusing their support for testing

...when I see these civil rights groups come out in favor of  testing
and in opposition to the opt-out movement, not only do I have to think that they are ignoring the research around high-stakes testing and inequality, but I also have to question just whose rights they are protecting. ... Wayne Au
The UFT leadership has used the so-called civil rights leaders support for high stakes testing and their opposition to opt out as an excuse for their own inaction. WAPO's Valerie Strauss published Wayne Au's exposure of these groups, groups that are funded by ed deform champions Bill Gates and the Walton Foundation.

Not this point by Au:
Knowing that along with the Gates Foundation, both the Broad Foundation and the Walton Foundation constitute the “big three” in major philanthropic funding for the corporate education reform effort, I decided to dig just a little more. While I couldn’t find any connection between the Broad Foundation and the 12 civil rights organizations opposing the opt-out movement, I did find two that are also funded by the Walton Foundation:
  There is a deep irony here, considering the Walton Family’s track record with regards to civil rights. For instance, in 2012 civil rights leaders called on Walmart and the Walton Family to withdraw from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC is famous for promoting hyper-conservative policies and laws, including the “stand your ground” gun laws associated with the murder of Trayvon Martin. Walmart and the Walton family have spent millions fighting against universal preschool in California, supporting public school voucher programs in various cities, and other conservative initiatives.
And there’s this: According to Making Change At Walmart, Walmart is the largest single employer of African Americans in the country (20 percent of the 1.3 million total employees), pays employees an average of $8.81 an hour, and under Walmart’s definition of full-time work, an employee would only earn 65 percent of the 2014 federal poverty rate for a family of four.
Interesting that the UFT is lining up with the anti-labor Walton Foundation, one step removed. Strauss introduces the Au piece:
A dozen civil rights groups this week issued a statement contending that parents opting their children out of high-stakes standardized tests are harming at-risk students. That sparked a response from the Network for Public Education, saying that high-stakes standardized tests are hurting these young people, not the opt-out movement. You can read both statements here.

Here’s a different look at all of this, by Wayne Au, an associate professor in the School of Educational Studies at the University of Washington Bothell, and an editor for the social justice teaching magazine Rethinking Schools. Most recently, with Joseph J. Ferarre, he co-edited the book, Mapping Corporate Education Reform: Power and Policy Networks in the Neoliberal State. His research interests include critical analyses of high-stakes testing, critical educational theory and practice, curriculum studies, and multicultural education.

Just whose rights do these civil rights groups think they are protecting?

The civil rights organizations who made their statement against opting out see high-stakes, standardized testing as a solution to educational inequality, while others, like myself, see ample evidence that high-stakes, standardized testing is exasperating educational inequality and therefore needs to be rejected as an inherently damaging measure.
There is a very strong critique of the civil rights organizations’ anti-opt-out statement, written mainly by my good friend, colleague, and noted test-resister, Jesse Hagopian, with the endorsement of the Network for Public Education, so I’m not going to take up a close reading and critique of the civil rights organizations’ anti-opt-out statement. However, anytime I see “grassroots” groups promoting the agenda of the corporate education reformers, like what happened here in Washington State with charter school reform in 2012, I’m always compelled to follow the money.
 And Au certainly does follow the money:


  1. The UFT hasn't aligned themselves with this group. If a parent wishes to opt their child out thats their decision not the UFT's to make. And we have to becareful with the opt out movement cause if the number of students in a school falls below a certain percentage if students taking the test that school will lose its title 1,2and 3 funding. So if your going to attempt a movement that will potentially costthe schools of NY something like 900million dollars I am extremely happy that someone didnt just go along with it.

  2. Yes the UFT has aligned itself with this group - the leadership has said that they are cautious on opt out so as not to offend "civil Rights" leaders who support testing. Of course the UFT and these groups have something in common -- money from Bill Gates.
    It is clear that you are pushing the UFT and DOE line that money can be lost -- so far empty threats -- and just watch what happens politically if they try to take money away - the left and right uprising.
    UFT is playing footsie with the issue. Opt out right now is the only defense teachers and parents have against oppressive ed deform policies.

  3. I don't know where the commenter above got his information, but at the last UFT Delegate Assembly President Mulgrew made it abundantly clear that the UFT does not support high stakes standardized testing. Why would we? The tests are poorly made and do not suport instruction, but are being used as a cudgel to beat up teachers. However, the issue is more complicated than the article suggests. NYSUT is on record as advocating that parents opt their children out across the board. Were New York City have more than 10% of its students opt out we would stand to lose $9,000,000 in federal aide. This is not chump change. Smaller NYS school districts might be able to make up the shortfall. We could not. The loss of money would harm our city's school children. This does not mean that we have given up on getting the full measure of CFE money we have already won from the state, or that we do not want to change the rules on standardized testing and on teacher evaluation. These are separate and ongoing fights. That is why we are in favor of informing parents and letting them make their own decisions about whether or not to opt their children out.

  4. Oh Paula - here you go again with the Unity line. Does Mulgrew oppose high stakes testing or just not support it? In fact he does support it by his actions. I heard the line and you did too -- that we don't want to offend the civil rights leaders -- I don't know why you hear stuff selectively. And that 59 million threat -- 85% opted out in some schools - show me the money that they lost -- show me any money lost so far. And first figure out what that 59 mill goes for -- even if they took it away - which they won't if faced with a massive revolt on testing.

  5. Apparently no one here is a math teacher. A simple question for those of us who lament the loss of 9,000,000 dollars. Nine million dollars is what percent of the NYC DOE Budget?

    Please do not tell us about the loss of money until you know how much it actually is. If you do know the percentage and chose not to tell, you and the rest of the party apparatus are being intellectually dishonest. This is a terrible thing, especially for someone who claims to be a teacher. If you do not know, you are intellectually lazy. Either way, a terrible trait for a teacher and union member, but a fine trait for a party apparatchik.

    Norm is correct, “Does Mulgrew oppose high stakes testing or just not support it?” Insert Michael Bloomberg or Andrew Cuomo or any other issue there and you will find your answer.

    I am tired of siding with politicians who do not side with us and against our natural allies; actual parents and grass roots organizations.

    Honestly, we need to dare politicians to pull money out of school budgets because of students opting out.

    Jeff A

  6. Also, please correct me if I am wrong, Race To The Top money was in addition to the budget and was not supposed to be used in lieu of regular funding. Feel free to provide documentation to refute.

  7. Paula
    Without knowing you (unless you are the Paula Washington who was in one of my 6th grade classes) I like you. You seem like a dedicated unionist. But to see how you parrot the exact positions pushed down from the top is disappointing. It reminds me of how Bush sold the Iraq war -- selected intel and distorted facts. (The UFT I believe was mum on this too).
    What bothers me is if Mulgrew/Randi reverse themselves on any issue, you will too. Yes, be active, but not as a rubber stamp.

  8. Sorry 900,000,000 or 9 hundred million, but my point still stands and has not been refuted by Paula or John. I would think they would easily be able to answer if they know the total budget for the DOE or if RTTT money is in addition to the regular budget NOT in lieu of the regular budget.

    I guess this passes for debate among the party faithful.

  9. Paula & John your absence from this discourse is evidence that you cannot discuss facts. You just repeat the company line and move on. I challenged you to produce something, anything to refute me, alas you have not.

    A sad but predictable result of people who willingly do not think.


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