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Re: [care] A change of direction for FairTest?

I have been fighting and organizing on and off since the late 1960s for
higher standards and expectations in public schools. Specifically, I want
to give my low-income Latin and African American students the chance to
develop intellectual power and the chance to go to college, if they
choose. I remember the struggles to create more culturally relevant
curricula to help us engage our students, and to discover more effective
models of pedagogy and classroom organization in order to encourage
student-centered inquiry and intellectual curiousity and higher order
thinking and investigation. These were the driving motives of the early
"higher standards" movements in the US, although I don't remember much use
of the word "standards" But since the Reagan Revolution's cynical
appropriation of populism as a rhetorical smokescreen to rebuild the forces
of the corporatist police state (thankfully, we're not there yet), the
right-wing in Education has used this strategy to bring us back to where we
were 60 years ago, with the upper classes thriving in well-funded schools
and the lower classes sliding backward in hellholes. They did this by
seizing the "Standards" rhetoric and turning it on its head. They're for
equity and higher standards for poor kids. Look at the minstrel show they
put on TV at the Republican National Convention last year. Look at how
Dubyah and his wife sought out Black schoolkids to pose with during the
presidential election campaign.

I f you look at our "standards" and content area frameworks in California
(what every kid should know in each grade, like a laundry list) you will
see a list so broad that it's impossible to teach. And with the demands of
the tests, the teaching becomes shallow in order to cover the
curriculum. This defeats the original goals of the higher standards
movements (which is still reflected in the NCTM docs) of teaching fewer
things in much greater depth to create profound understanding of important

Unfortunately, at present the terms of battle have been set by the enemy,
the corporate standardistas, as well as the testocrats; so you can't have
it both ways by saying "We're for standards, too!" When you do this, you
are portrayed as supporting the bad "standards" documents, as supporting
the enemy. Since they control the media, you can't slip around on
this. Better to educate the public on who the bad guys are, and to show in
simple terms the DIFFERENCE between good teaching and what they are
advocating. We may know of what we speak, but the broader public still
doesn't, and we must be clever in how we reach out to them.

Pete Farruggio

At 02:07 PM 2/14/02, Christina Perez wrote:

I would like to respond very briefly to Dave's e-mail, speaking more on my
own behalf than as a representative of FairTest. Before I began working
here at FairTest, I was employed as a Research Associate for TERC, a
non-profit math and science reform organization. In this capacity I spent
a lot of time thinking, writing, and working on the issue of
"standards." My work focused in particular on equity and math education,
and on how "standards-based" curriculum impacts the way students from
different backgrounds interact with mathematics in the classroom. One of
the things we talked about over and over is the importance of having high
expectations - high standards, if you will - for ALL students. That is
why the TERC elementary mathematics curriculum, "Investigations," draws
from the "standards" set by the National Council of Teachers of
Mathematics (NCTM). These benchmarks provide guideposts for teachers,
students, administrators, and parents, and are intended to help more - not
fewer - students have access to high-quality mathematics.

Unfortunately, a lot of the rhetoric surrounding standards, high-stakes
testing, standards-based reform, accountability, ed reform and the like
all gets jumbled together. Supporting "high standards", in the way that
FairTest and TERC do, does not mean supporting accountability mechanisms
(e.g. MCAS) that rely on bad standardized tests which hinder rather than
help educational equity. Supporting "high standards" means believing all
students can engage in higher order, in-depth thinking and learning, and
all schools can become active, rigorous, and equitable places of
learning. This is the vision, at least, that I use to guide my work.

As for the other parts of Dave's message about what FairTest and CARE
chooses to include in print materials and on the website, I would simply
offer that each organization and individual has their own way of
approaching this work. Rather than critique each other, it might be more
helpful to find the places our work overlaps and concentrate on those instead.

Christina Perez, University Testing Reform Advocate
-----Original Message-----
From: Newdem@aol.com [mailto:Newdem@aol.com]
Sent: Thursday, February 14, 2002 4:12 PM
To: five-point-plan@egroups.com; ARN-L@listsrva.cua.edu; care@yahoogroups.com
Subject: [care] 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

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
5 Burr Street
Boston, MA 02130
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