I received a message yesterday from a long-time friend, the mother of school-age children in a state where tests developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, began today. She was considering opting out her children from the tests and wanted to know what I thought.
(Girl Ray via Flickr)
I’ve gone on the record (here, here) to oppose the opt-out movement in general, since I think that although parents have a right not to send their children to public schools, they don’t have the right to pick and choose which mandatory programs in the public schools their children take part in. I wouldn’t, for example, tell her that her child only needs one year of English to graduate high school if the state requires more than one year.
That’s also the position of the attorneys general and legal experts in at least a few states, including Maryland, and several superintendents, including James Crisfield, a former superintendent of the school district in Millburn, N.J.
“What you have is a right to a free public education, and here’s the package we have for you,” the New York Times quoted him as saying. “You can’t choose to have PE on Tuesday and every other Thursday. You can’t choose not to take the calculus test. … I just worry about opting out as a conceit, that if it extends beyond PARCC, it will start eating away at the strength of public education.”
However, strong backlash from both sides of the political aisle seems to be throwing a wrench in those legal opinions and encouraging civil disobedience. Movements to derail the tests developed by both PARCC and the Smarter Balanced consortium are gaining traction. It’s not possible to gauge the true size of the opt-out movement, but several different prongs are being tried in the assault on the Common Core and standardized testing.
In Maryland, for example, Common Core and PARCC opponents plan to launch a lobbying campaign that hinges on a close reading of the memorandum of understanding that tied the state to PARCC, Politico reported. If the MOU is read strictly, it would be possible to pocket-veto Maryland’s involvement in the multi-state consortium.
Former Gov Martin O’Malley was one of the three signatories to the MOU, but Mr O’Malley was replaced by Larry Hogan, who opposes the Common Core.
The MOU states that he must “affirm in writing” within five months of taking office the state’s continued involvement in PARCC. So Common Core and PARCC opponents, including most prominently, Delegate David Vogt III, are asking, What if the governor doesn’t affirm the state’s ongoing participation in writing by May? Would Maryland, which is PARCC’s fiscal agent, then be out of PARCC?
If that works, someone in Illinois will soon figure out that new Gov Bruce Rauner is in exactly the same position, and other states may find loopholes like this as well. In this way, the battle against the tests takes a political direction.
Other groups have plotted an attack on the tests through the courts, including one parent in Frederick County, Md., suing multi-state testing consortia and receiving favorable rulings from judges, rulings that may or may not hold up on appeal but enter the fray all the same.
In Missouri, Judge Daniel Green ruled in a lawsuit brought by the Missouri Coalition Against Common Core and a former GOP gubernatorial candidate that the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, or SBAC, was:
an unlawful interstate compact to which the U.S. Congress has never consented, whose existence and operation violate the Compact Clause of the U.S. Constitution, Article I, § 10, cl. 3, as well as numerous federal statutes; and that Missouri’s participation in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium as a member is unlawful under state and federal law.