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California Is Right; Duncan Is Wrong

Our Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has been duly warned by many that his testing policies and the simultaneous implementation of Common Core State Standards were headed for a proverbial train wreck. The requests for a moratorium on the tests and the high stakes attached to them have been ignored despite the fact that the existing tests have not been aligned to these new standards. This full-steam-ahead, testing-at-all-costs approach has been the mantra of this administration. It is not surprising that a state like California would push back.

California has a very rational approach to the challenges they face with full implementation of the new standards. They understand that teachers need time to learn these standards, align curriculum and lesson plans, and prepare their students for the more complex tests that are being developed to measure these standards. Given their financial challenges, they have taken the pragmatic stance of refusing to waste taxpayer money to administer tests that are not aligned with the new standards they have embraced. Why would Secretary Duncan force states to give tests that will not provide useful data and will confuse parents and the general public?

It must be very frustrating for State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson to have to do battle with federal bureaucrats. Superintendent Torlakson has championed the Common Core State Standards. He has been instrumental in the development of tests being designed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. These new tests will be field tested in the spring. Secretary Duncan should be supporting California instead of going to war with the state.

I predict that Secretary Duncan will fuel the flames of anger among parents who want to opt out of this testing madness. New York did it his way, and look what they are experiencing: disgust and confusion and more cries to opt out altogether, another blow to what should be widespread support for Common Core. Parents want honest and accurate information. They will not get that if California is forced to give tests that are no longer useful. This entire scenario makes no sense.

You have to admire Superintendent Torlakson, the California Assembly, and Governor Brown for being the voices of reason in the midst of the testing battle. They are trying to be prudent, fair, and reasonable. Secretary Duncan could learn from those who live in the real world of educating America's children.

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