Common Core Public Relations Campaigns
Public relations campaigns aimed at heading off problems that could appear when students take new Common Core-aligned tests are being launched in states including Illinois, New Jersey, Florida, Ohio, California, Hawaii, and South Dakota.
Some states are taking steps to prepare parents for the possibility that their children won’t score as well on Common Core tests as they did on previous state tests. Other states are trying to dissuade parents from opting students out of testing.
States wish to “eliminate or minimize public backlash when the scores — widely expected to be markedly lower than results from previous assessments — are released later this year.” (Education Week, 3-18-15) They are using various strategies, ranging from fliers for parents sent home in student backpacks to more sophisticated techniques.
An Illinois Board of Education spokesperson told Education Week that the state hosted 52 webinars to help teachers and administrators understand the PARCC tests that students will take. They produced a back-to-school webinar for parents, but only a few hundred parents participated. They’ve also created materials that districts can use to discuss PARCC tests with parents and community members.
The South Dakota Dept. of Education offers a website touting the “high quality standards, high quality instruction, and high quality assessments” that Common Core offers to the state. (This despite the fact that the standards are not high quality.) An info-graphic at that website equates the SBAC tests that students will take to a medical checkup, stating that both allow parents to know how their children are doing. It says: “If your child struggles in math or reading, the sooner you know, the faster they can get help. If your child excels, scores can challenge your child to do even better.” (CommonCore.SD.gov)
Ohio’s Heavy Handed DOE
Ohio wants all districts to stress to parents the importance of the tests, as well as the supposed dire consequences of opting out of test taking. In fact, the Ohio Dept. of Education sounds somewhat threatening when they write, “There is no law that allows a parent or student to opt out of state testing and there is no state test opt-out procedure or form. If a parent withdraws his or her child’s participation in certain state tests, there may be consequences for the child, the child’s teacher, and the school and district.”
Ohio’s instructions to schools states that opting out “can negatively impact a district’s state A-F report card ratings,” indicating that opting out will hurt teachers and other students. (Education.Ohio.gov, 2-4-15)
Despite the maneuvering and manipulation that the department of education may have engineered, the Ohio legislature took action and on March 16, Gov. John Kasich signed a bill that prohibits standardized test scores for the 2014-15 school year from being used to grant or prohibit retention or promotion of students. For at least one year, students whose parents choose to opt them out of the SBAC test should be safe from retaliation.
Who Do Parents Trust?
Whether or not parents believe that Common Core and its mandated tests are relevant, valid, or an improvement in education will likely depend less on public relations campaigns and more on personal experience with the standards and the experience of students taking the federally mandated tests.
Frederick Hess, the director of Education Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute says it may come down to who do parents “trust.” (Education Week, 3-18-15)
As National Association of Scholars president Peter Wood writes:
What is truly common and at the core of American life is our sense of freedom and self-governance. The Common Core is at war with those ideals.
It was a sneaky idea — and sneaky ideas in American public policy tend to have exactly the life spans that Common Core has had.
The core sneakiness of the Common Core is that it was (and still is) presented as a state-level project when it was from the get-go intended to be a national project. We won’t squeeze better education ‘performance’ from students by imposing a national regimen of standards and tests but will instead breed a deeper alienation and lassitude by taking away — or at least shrinking — the imaginative horizons of students, parents, teachers, and the communities in which they live. (New York Post, 4-11-15)