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A change of direction for FairTest?



Hi, everyone--

I was very pleased to see the preferred course of action against the
standards movement which Monty recommended recently on the ARN list, that

"People see through [the corporate push for tests], organize and mobilize,
connect it to other powerful issues... "

I hope that Monty's words here suggest a change of direction for FairTest and
CARE, which have long been working in the opposite direction:
--FairTest and CARE vigorously promote "high standards," the conceptual
underpinning for high stakes testing, through the "Alliance for High
Standards NOT High Stakes" which they organized and to which they provide
ideological leadership.
--FairTest and CARE refuse to expose the corporate backers of high stakes
testing. People need to know who is behind the tests and standards and why,
but one would search in vain for any mention in the voluminous CARE and
FairTest literature for any suggestion that these tests are promoted by the
most powerful corporate forces in the land, or that the intentions of these
forces might be to lower educational attainment rather than to raise it as
they claim. The business organizations which are the principal backers of
MCAS in Massachusetts--MassInsight, the Massachusetts Business Roundtable,
the Mass Business Alliance--seem not to exist as far as FairTest and CARE are
concerned. When CARE leaders talk publically about why these tests are being
imposed, they attribute them to the right-wing Pioneer Insititute or to
ex-BoE chair John Silber, never to the corporate forces behind them.
--FairTest and CARE assiduously avoid examining the relationship between
education reform and corporate attacks on people in other areas of their
lives. Rather than "connect it to other powerful issues," as Monty now
suggests, instead they limit discussion of education reform to high stakes
testing, and then limit opposition to high stakes testing merely to high
stakes testing as a graduation requirement, rather than to MCAS (the HST in
Massachusetts) at all levels. Indeed they speak as if MCAS were merely a flaw
in an otherwise positive 1993 Education Reform Act, rather than the
centerpiece of an act which promotes charter schools and school choice,
attacks the seniority and tenure rights of teacher and leaves principals
unprotected, promotes School to Work and Gifted and Talented programs,
provides for tiered diplomas, pits schools and school staffs against each
other in a struggle for survival in the face of threats of state takeover,
and in other ways intensifies competition and inequality in the schools.

New Democracy has long argued that, if we wish to oppose high stakes testing
effectively, we must understand it in its context in the standards movement
and the broader corporate-led education reform movement. Our problem is not
only high stakes testing but a panoply of reforms all of which serve to
intensify competition and inequality in the public education system.

To limit discussion and analysis on their web sites and public announcements
to testing alone and then to endorse the standards movement, as FairTest and
CARE do, undermines the movement against testing or standards. To refuse to
expose and analyze the role played by the Business Roundtable and other
corporate forces in promoting testing and education reform allows the
corporate enemies of public education to pretend to occupy the moral high
ground, as if their critique of the schools is true and it is they who have
the welfare of the community at heart while we--teachers and parents--are
mere "special interests." Not to examine the relationship between the
corporate attack on public education and the corporate attack on other
aspects of our society is both to waste an important means for building our
movement and to leave people in the dark about some of the most troubling
developments in the history of American society.

Monty and FairTest have made significant contributions to the anti-testing
movement by maintaining these listservs and providing useful technical
information about testing. But much more is required for us to succeed. The
change of direction which Monty's words here imply is much needed and can
have very positive effects on our movement.

Dave Stratman
Editor, New Democracy
<A HREF="newdemocracyworld.org">www.newdemocracyworld.org</A>
5 Burr Street
Boston, MA 02130
617-524-4073