As both a public school teacher and a public school parent I am well versed with the arguments against the experimental Common Core State Standards and all that comes with it. I know of the Manhattan-Project-like secrecy in which the standards were created and how it was funded almost entirely by the Gates Foundation. I know of the mad rush in which it was implemented, the coercive methods employed by the Obama administration to insure its “adoption” by almost the entire nation, the developmentally inappropriate demands it makes on children, and above all the unprecedented amounts of super high stakes testing with which it is inexorably bound. I am aware too that the test scores from Common Core aligned tests form the largest component for evaluating teachers, schools, and entire districts. In short, I know that in a remarkably short period of time and with almost no parental or teacher input, the Common Core and the standardized tests that have been aligned to it have become nothing less than the central nervous system of the American public school system.
For these reasons and more I am an unapologetic advocate for parents allowing their children to opt out of such tests, as they did in ever increasing numbers last week and as did my own child.
That said, there are times, I feel, when matters of education, solidarity and self respect need be sublimated by people of good faith and integrity to larger and more pressing concerns of the commonwealth. That is to say, there are times when we need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
I speak specifically of the potentially negative effects that opting out might have on the value of real estate and property in Scarsdale and other sections of Westchester.
Part of the danger in involvement with movements such as the battle to save public education is that a certain myopia can creep in so insidiously that one may not even begin to notice it. Accordingly, I will admit that in several years of arguing and advocating against corporate education reform in all its forms, not once did it dawn on me to consider how opting out might lower real estate values in Scarsdale. Shamefully, perhaps due to the same movement- created myopia, I cannot recall a single colleague mentioning it either. Nor has the problem appeared in any of the mainstream media, possibly due to pressure from teacher unions.
Honestly, I might well have remained oblivious to the Scarsdale property factor were it not brought to my attention by Nicole Brisbane, director of the New York State branch of Democrats For Education Reform in an article in USA Today reporting on the Opt Out phenomenon.
“Yet collecting educational data is important for the future of education and can help define the character of a town, said Nicole Brisbane, state director at Democrats For Education Reform.
“Schools are one of the biggest differentiators of value in the suburbs,” she said. “How valuable will a house be in Scarsdale when it isn’t clear that Scarsdale schools are doing any better than the rest of Westchester or even the state? Opting out of tests only robs parents of that crucial data.”
Insight into this “robbery” may not be enough for me to insist my child sit for the remainder of the tests that will be administered this Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, but when I ponder how my actions may affect property values and homeowners of Scarsdale and even the rest of Westchester County, it does give a certain illuminating pause. And for that, I can only give thanks to the good people at Democrats For Education Reform who remind me that, in the end, we’re all Americans and we’re all in this together.