Written by J. Cynthia McDermott, EdD
Professor and Education Department Chair
Around the country, a new kind of revolution is taking place. Known now as the Opt Out movement, parents, students and teachers are voicing their concerns about the increasing numbers of standardized tests that Kindergarten through high school students are taking every year. What are the concerns from a social justice perspective? Perhaps a quote from Diane Ravitch, once a member of President Bush’s cabinet and now a reformed critic of many of those policies, has said that “the crisis in US education is not general or national. It is concentrated where there is poverty and segregation. Testing does not address either.”
The concerns addressed in this movement are several. The cost takes away millions of dollars from needed services, particularly the arts. Testing preparation and testing take valuable time away from teaching. In Jesse Hagopian’s book, More than a Score, he states that many children spend more than 50 hours a year doing activities related to testing. Little or no validity has been established for the tests particularly the newest ones designed to test the new National Standards, the Common Core. The tests disadvantage students from lower socioeconomic communities. As a social justice university staying informed about this effort is critical.
The Education Department will be launching a series of speakers to help us become familiar with this movement. The first speaker will be Wayne Au who is an Associate Professor in the Education Program at the University of Washington, Bothell, and an editor for the social justice magazine, Rethinking Schools. Mr. Hagopian will also be a speaker in the Fall.