It is a concern that lawmakers across the states are continuing to hear from families and teachers: their youngest constituents are over-tested, forced into focusing heavily on high-stakes test scores at the expense of gaining high-order thinking skills, building complex reasoning abilities, and enjoying a well-rounded education. Rhode Island is no stranger to the concerns. In fact, with a new testing graduation requirement implemented by the Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education this year, the stakes have soared for the state's students. Specifically, the new policy ties receiving a high school diploma to performance on the controversial New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) exam, which was never intended to be a graduation requirement. As a result of the new requirement, approximately 4000 students are at risk of not graduating next year.
If you've never heard of the Common Core State Standards, count yourself among 2 in 3 Americans, including the majority of parents with children in public schools. That's one of the results of a recent poll on Americans' attitude toward public education, which also found that the majority of those who've heard of the Common Core felt they were only "somewhat knowledgeable" about the standards.
Fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, inspiring the nation with a soaring call for equality and unity as Americans that still resonates today. But achieving equality in the form of jobs and freedom depends on a strong public educational system available to all -- a truth reflected in the "Public Education is A Civil Right March and Rally" held recently in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Representative Mandela Barnes and Senator Chris Larson were among the hundreds of Wisconsin students, parents, educators, faith leaders, and representatives of more than 50 organizations sponsoring the event who marched together on September 21.
In Michigan, we are seeing a troubling phenomenon that we are seeing across the country today: public schools so starved of funding that students are returning to increasingly crowded classes taught by fewer and fewer teachers, with fewer textbooks and less of everything they need. But rather than investing in our public schools, misguided polices in Michigan and across the states are instead pushing struggling schools further into financial crisis, making them vulnerable to the loss of local control through state takeovers or potential moneymaking opportunities for private investors via for-profit charter schools.
As students headed back to school this fall, state legislators across the country took part in the National Week of Action on Public Education, sponsored by Progressive States. Pennsylvania's lawmakers were among the state leaders who used the National Week of Action to highlight education funding inequities harming Pennsylvania's students and to call for solutions.