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Analysis: 6 Things You Need To Know About Duncan's "Suburban Moms" Remarks

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What to think or care about Duncan's remarks to the CCSSO a few days ago? 

It was an obvious gaffe, and those inclined to make hay out of it (the Strauss-Politico-Ravitch triumvirate) will do so.  

The mainstream press will (I hope) write the stories they need to write without making CCSS protests look larger or broader than they really are.

But I think there's also an opportunity here for Duncan to relieve the pressure and even take the lead. 

*Correction: A link below is for Education Next, not the Fordham Institute.

6 - Duncan mis-fired.  Needless to say, going after suburban white moms is not a good thing to do -- even if the observation that school reform critics are mostly white and middle- class or affluent has some truth to it. They're probably not the biggest or most worrisome CCSS opponents. (Chuck Norris is.)

5 - There's no need for Duncan to panic. The blogosphere is full of CCSS opposition but in the real world CCSS is still doing ok. There haven't been any more state defections from CCSS in the past few weeks. John King, the African-American head of the NY State department of education, has held on. Last year's anti-testing opt-out parents were less than 1 percent, according to The Nation.

4 - Civil rights and national parent groups (and the NEA) remain supportive of CCSS over all.  UNCF Michael Dixon proclaimed the importance of rigorous standards and tests in my Atlantic piece last week.  National PTA head Eric Hargis recently wrote a plea to CCSS opponents not to block the effort. NEA head DVR said “The new standards are a potential game-changer for our nation’s public school system." You get the drift.

3 - Suburban moms may have something to worry about when it comes to how their kids are doing.  While Politico's Stephanie Simon makes the case that nonpoor American schools are already internationally competitive, the Fordham Foundation Education Next points out that this may not be the case.  College remediation and dropout rates are another indicator. CCSS may not solve all these problems -- it's just new standards and tests, after all -- but the problems may be real.

2 - Minorities (I hate that descriptor) still believe strongly in the economic power of getting an education (and in many places aren't unnecessarily shocked by the news that their kids aren't doing as well as they need to be doing).  They're also much more comfortable with testing and standards regimes, according to a recent AP poll. So again, Chuck Norris.

1 - Test proliferation may be the issue more than CCSS itself.  More than 40 states now require objective measures as part of teacher evaluation, says NCTQ, and 20 or so of them require student achievement to be the main source. Nobody knows how much additional testing has resulted, other than in a few states and districts. It might not be that much more, or it might be a lot more.

What could Duncan do? Find out how much testing is being done nationwide. Get states and districts to relieve some of the pre-and post-testing that's been laid on top of the standard spring tests (as Chicago, Seattle, and Texas have done) and you'll relieve some of the pressure.


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Education Next is part of a whatever-is-far-greater-than-a-triumvirate (cabal?) that derives vast funding from hammering in the notion that all our schools, including suburban schools, are failing, so its credibility is completely compromised in that area. It's also forever fascinating that Scholastic is willing to fund one of those voices, since constantly telling its own market that it's a failure would seem to be an ineffective messaging strategy for Scholastic.

Also, I don't get how the "reform" sector can claim constantly that the only Common Core opponents are tinfoil-hat wackos on the far left and the far right, and also claim that there's truth to the notion that "mostly white and middle-class or affluent" people oppose Common Core. Are those white and middle-class or affluent people supposed to be the tinfoil-hat wackos of the far left or of the far right? Or is the "reform" sector telling two conflicting stories?

the post points out that duncan goofed in several regards, and points out that national education and parent groups support CCSS -- you focus on just one or two elements rather than the whole.

The problems in suburban education are real, even if the "failing" rhetoric is both excessive and overused; the OECD's Programme in International Assessment of Adult Competencies has shown that young American adults are the least competent of any among the 22 developed countries measured, and the OECD is clearly not part of any self-interested cabal. But the measurement obsession of the exetasecracy (an intentionally ugly word I coined -- it means, "rule by examination") has played a large role in the stagnation in the competences of our young people, while numerous other education systems have been making real progress, in some cases (e.g. Singapore) by moving in precisely the opposite direction from that advocated by our business-school-trained, bottom-line oriented education reductionists who are now finding their version of reform being routed out of New York City, a trend likely to spread elsewhere in this country.

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