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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

As she heads out the door, Gist fires another propaganda shot in favor of high-stakes testing

By Sheila Resseger in Rhode Island’s Future
gist test cartoon
by Wendy Holmes

In her recent field memo of April 3, 2015 Commissioner Gist took the unusual step of quoting an entire blog post.

“I’m a mom,” it begins. “And the happiness of my children, now and in the future as they go on to start careers and families of their own, is on my mind all the time.”

The post was written by a mother from Florida who is in support of the Common Core State Standards and the accompanying testing. She is also an attorney and president & CEO of the Multicultural Education Alliance.

The blog on which it appeared is put out by the Foundation for Excellence in Education, a Jeb Bush creation, which states on its website: “The 21st century economy is the most competitive in world history. It is an economy that requires a growing number of educated and skilled workers. 

Yet, on international assessments, American students rank 21st in science and 26th in math, behind their peers in countries like Singapore, Japan and Canada. We need to reverse this trend if America is to continue its dominant role.”

In other words, the goal of education is to provide a workforce with the skills to meet the needs of the global corporate economy and maintain America in a dominant world position. Does this goal resonate with most parents of preK-12 students?

The website for the EdFly blog has as its web address According to the 2014 donor page for ExcelinEd, those at the top of the donor list include (no surprises here):

Greater than $1,000,000:
  • Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust
  • Walton Family Foundation
  • Between $500,001 and $1,000,000:
  • Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • GE Foundation
  • News Corporation
  • Charles & Helen Schwab Foundation
  • Between $250,0001 and $500,000:
  • Laura and John Arnold Foundation
  • Bloomberg Philanthropies
  • Between $100,001 and $250,000:
  • Eli & Edythe Broad Foundatio
  • Jeb Bush & Associates

It is no coincidence that Commissioner Gist herself as a Chief for Change, a group also created by Jeb Bush, would choose this particular blog post to send to all RI superintendents. 

That she has used her position of authority to single out this one blog post, which can reasonably be assumed to be propaganda for the position she has espoused since assuming the role of commissioner, is very unfortunate and does a disservice to the hundreds of RI parents and other concerned citizens who have researched the Common Core and PARCC testing in depth and decided they are not in the best interests of our children.

While it is true that many prominent civil rights groups, including the National Council of La Raza, do support the allegedly “rigorous” Common Core Standards and testing for accountability of students, teachers, and schools, one can only wonder whether the members of these groups have confronted the reality of the harm this agenda is actually having on traditionally under-served children and youth. 

It is understandable that those concerned about children of color, children from diverse ethnic and linguistic backgrounds, children with special learning needs, and children living in poverty, should be alarmed by the very real lack of advancement of many of these children in the public schools.

This is a complex issue and needs to be addressed comprehensively. The starving of financial resources to the schools that serve these children is one culprit. The steady diet of reading and math test prep for the past dozen years of NCLB is another. 

For an excellent and thorough explanation of why civil rights advocates should reject market-based (i.e. corporate pushed) reforms, please read “Why People of Color Must Reject Market- oriented Education Reforms: A Compilation of the Evidence” by United Opt Out National.

Commissioner Gist continues to defend her stance on the Common Core Standards and PARCC testing, and chooses not to truly listen to the voluminous concerns that have been raised by parents, teachers, and administrators both here in RI and across the country.

Even so, the Opt Out movement is growing. Parents who have become aware of the big picture of the ramifications of the full corporate agenda for public education in America will continue to stand up for their children and their children’s future by rejecting the scripted learning of the Common Core and the meaningless accountability of the PARCC testing that drain public funds and jeopardize children’s full flowering as unique members of a diverse society.

America does not need cohorts of test-takers to march into corporate slots for the sake of global competitiveness. America needs self-actualized adults with civic-mindedness and the knowledge and ingenuity to tackle the very real challenges we all face. 

The Common Core rhetoric of fostering critical thinking and problem-solving is Orwellian double-speak, not reality.

Hopefully the general public will wake up to this before it is too late. Will the Commissioner take the time from her double duties in RI and in Tulsa to respond?

Sheila Resseger is a retired teacher, RI School for the Deaf