Some of my fellow union presidents and I met with Regent Roger Tilles on Monday. The meeting offered further confirmation for what I have been saying for some time – there is a political groundswell developing to end New York’s preoccupation with high stakes testing and that parents are in the vanguard of this movement. Tilles, a Regent who clearly gets out to talk to the people he represents, has been meeting with parent groups on Long Island and is heartened by their growing determination to curtail the damaging effects of the state’s testing regime on their children. He even went so far as to praise the work of Jeanette Deutermann, the founder of the Long Island Opt-Out movement, although he was quick to point out that he wasn’t encouraging opting out. He pointed to her Facebook page which in a very short period of time has gotten almost 9000 people to join her group.
Though mindful that Governor is dug in on the Race to the Top reforms and is therefore a major barrier to testing reform, Tilles sees the need to pressure our state senators to end the testing obsession in our state. Long Island’s Senator John Flanagan, Chair of the Senate Education Committee, is a logical target for pressure. If Flanagan doesn’t see the need to change the state’s testing system, he can keep any bills that would improve things from coming to a vote.
There was only one point in Mr. Tilles’ presentation with which I take issue. Tilles counseled against attacking the Common Core initiative in the process of trying to fix New York’s testing problem, the Common Core being an approach that he believes has great promise if implemented correctly. Putting aside my problems with the age inappropriateness of much of the common core, what I believe Tilles fails to recognize is that building the political coalition necessary to end the testing nightmare will require the energy of the anti-Common Core folks, who for whatever reasons see testing and the Common Core as two aspects of an intrusive government trying to usurp local control of education. The question I didn’t get to ask Tilles is whether he hates what testing is doing to New York’s schools enough that he will risk losing the Common Core. I believe that is the direction of the political wind.