July 10, 2020

Painting education the whitest shade of pale

At a time when students of color are becoming the new majority in public schools you would think education leaders would listen to their parents.

This tweet from Diane Ravitch tells me we have a long way to go:

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsRavitch blogged: “Thank you, Randi, for personally endorsing opt out! Encourage your members across the nation to join those who are defending their students and their profession. It is hard to stand up alone; in unity there is strength.”

The “unity” and “strength” of Ravitch and Weingarten is settled law. No one in the paleoliberal anti-reform movement is more influential than Ravitch. No one in that movement has greater ability to obstruct education policy than Weingarten.

Here is my rapid unpack of this breathless Tweet: Ravitch, a private school parent, publicly thanks Weingarten for encouraging a mostly white teaching force to defend their “profession” against calls for public school accountability that addresses long standing racial and economic disparities in public schools.

Weingarten added to the discussion by saying if she were a parent she would have her students opt-out of testing:

A national leader of educators publicly calling for the purposeful corrupting of data gathering our institutions do to understand if children are on track in school. Call it what it is. Backwards.

Renewed resistance to accountability is now a middle-class project to “reclaim” schools for a select slice of the American population who no longer want teachers and schools to be on the hook for results or equity. Sure, they will tell you their mission is to defend democracy and education against the super evil neoliberal plot by right-wing beelzebubs who want to relocate every public school into the gun section of Walmart. Hogwash.

That’s the type of thing crafty liberals say when they want other liberals to turn off their brains and go into cognitive autopilot.

That said, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Weingarten is seizing a political moment. She’s a political beast with a unionist agenda. Why waste an opportunity to exploit the energy of white moms and the teachers that serve them who now see the obsession with closing racial disparities in schools as stealing joy from children of relative privilege?

The difference of color

If Weingarten was a leader truly concerned with struggling children she would stand up for them. She would fight for a system that is accountable to producing results. She would be an evangelist for teacher quality. She would denounce the way states game the system with a wild west of variations in their standards of proficiency and testing schemes.

She would listen to people of color, and not just the ones she pays to convince us her unionist agenda is best for us. She would hear what we say about testing, standards, accountability, teachers, and our unmet aspirations for our kids.

Recent polling by Pearson found that 50 percent of parents support Common Core. When breaking down responses by race there were differences. While nearly half of white parents oppose the state standards, 73 percent of Latino parents and 56 percent of black parents are supporters.

In a Hechinger story about the findings Leticia de la Vara from the National Council of La Raza said Latino families see state standards as “leveling the playing field” in education.

Andre Perry, dean of urban education at Davenport University agrees. He says “In poll after poll, we have seen that blacks and Latinos have always desired a higher education more than whites. But they haven’t received the quality of education that would give them the access to higher education. So when things like the Common Core are proposed there is hope.”

The National Urban League found similar results when they surveyed black parents last year. In that polling 60 percent of black parents favored Common Core. 68 percent believed the standards would improve student achievement and 66 percent said the standards would better prepare students for college and work.

Last year Education Post spoke with parents in suburbs and urban areas to ask about the issues that dominate education reform. Overall parents were tired of politics getting in the way of sound policy. Black parents worried that schools were not innovative enough to get kids skilled and make them competitive in the world of work. They feared America’s growing inequality requires we improve schools so that all students could reach their potential regardless of where they live.

88 percent supported raising academic standards, including more challenging curriculum. 93 percent wanted more accountability for teachers and principals. 84 percent supported teacher evaluations that included student assessment results, classroom observations, and parent and student surveys. They didn’t see these positions as punitive, instead, they realized no matter how good teachers and schools are, they can get better.

Most said that a one-size-fits all approach to education cannot support the different ways students learn, and parents need options to personalize education for each of their children.

I’d challenge Ravitch and Weingarten to champion these parents for once. Instead, it seems they intend to paint all of education a whiter shade of pale.

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