Wednesday, April 29

Dear NYSED, Grow Up.

One of the marks of an adult, particularly those who seek to hold positions of authority (let alone anyone who wants to be a genuine leader) is the ability to acknowledge when one has made a mistake or done something poorly, and a willingness to act responsibly, maturely and humbly in collaborating with others to fix it. 

The New York State Department of Education (NYSED) clearly never got that memo.

It pretended to listen when there was a huge outcry against Common Core and the associated testing when it they first launched. It tried to soothe ruffled feathers (without actually doing anything about the cause) when people didn't sit down and shut up about the accumulating mess that unfolded as roll-out continued. 

Now it is pouting and petulantly threatening to withhold money and (it implies) make children and school districts suffer if parents don't get over their obnoxious misconception that they have rights or a say in this whole situation and quit refusing to have their children participate in the tests. 

Real mature, guys. Seriously. 

In Capital Region school districts alone, "anywhere from 2 percent to 53 percent of students did not take the tests."  These numbers aren't unique - similar percentages are showing up across the state. When over half of the families in some districts are opting out, it seems like it is long past time for NYSED to quit acting like an overtired toddler and start approaching the situation like adults. 

When this is how your constituents see your program,
you may have a problem...
Is it that hard for all of us (that means you too, NYSED) acknowledge that Common Core, however good and well intentioned its premise, it being badly implemented and everybody knows it? Is it that horrifically unreasonable to take the list of legitimate reasons people are throwing fits and rethink/revise Common Core the implementation plan? 

Maybe it is. Maybe NYSED can't muster that kind of maturity. But if that's the case, I'd like to offer them a small reminder - you're not the only ones who can make threats and control purse strings. Homeschooling, unschooling, and all kinds of permutations thereof are easier, more accessible, and more cost effective now that ever before. With some big employers stating flat out that they give hiring preference to home-schooled kids, these alternatives also have more clout and leverage than ever before. You think it's rough now, with 53% of parents refusing to have their kids test - think how screwed you'd be if even a fraction of those parents pulled their kids out of your system entirely.

So please, NYSED, open your eyes and get your act together. It's not too late to clean this up and do right by parents, teachers, students, and school districts. (In fact, research shows that when you step up to fix a mistake, you actually earn far more loyal adherents than if you'd never made a mistake at all.) But don't compound your existing mistakes by trying to ram compliance down everyone's throat here - you may just bite off more than you can chew. 

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