Common Core backer: For public schools, it’s great. For my private school, not so much.

(freepik.com)
(freepik.com)

One of the big disconnects in Common Core advocacy is that a lot of the people who think the standards are vital to the future of America and want to see them implemented in public schools everywhere send their children to private schools that have not adopted the Core.

President Obama comes to mind: His daughters attend Sidwell Friends School, a private school in Washington that not only doesn’t have the Common Core but doesn’t subscribe to other Obama education reforms (like linking teacher pay with student test scores). Bill and Melinda Gates, whose foundation funded the creation of the Common Core, send their children to an elite private school in Seattle that doesn’t teach by the Core (and doesn’t seem to care a whit about some of the other education reform policies Gates supports).

Apparently they don’t follow what education historian and advocate Diane Ravitch wrote  is the most famous line ever written by John Dewey:

 “What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community want for all its children. Any other ideal for our schools is narrow and unlovely; acted upon, it destroys our democracy.”

This all brings us to Candice McQueen, who until recently was dean of Lipscomb University’s College of Education. It was announced in January that she had been promoted to a senior vice president at the university, overseeing the College of Education and Lipscomb Academy, a pre-K-12 private school affiliated with the university. As the Lipscomb education dean, McQueen became a booster of the Common Core and often testified in its support — at the request of the Tennessee Education Department, according to this Nashville Public Radio story.

But shortly after taking her new job, she sent a letter to Lipscomb Academy’s parents who were worried that she would implement the Common Core standards at the private school. According to the Nashville Public Radio story, the letter said she has asked faculty to familiarize themselves with the Core standards but that this did not mean in any way that the school would adopt them. It quotes from the letter:

“I will continue to be part of the ongoing CCSS conversation. However, this should not be extrapolated to indicate or predict the adoption of CCSS at Lipscomb Academy.”

More from the story:

Asked by WPLN why Common Core wouldn’t be used at her school, McQueen referred back to her letter.

“We make decisions about what’s going to be best within the context of our community,” she said. “I would say that’s absolutely what we’re going to do now and for the future.”

The story also notes that most of Nashville’s private schools don’t follow the testing regime or the standards that are used in public schools, although this is not singular to Nashville. It is also true in the greater Washington area and everywhere else around the country. I recently published an open letter to Obama from Bertis Downs, a parent in Athens, Ga., who wrote in part:

The policies currently promoted by your Department of Education are actually hurting– not helping– schools like ours. It is clear we will reduce schools’ efficacy if public education remains fixated on tests that only measure limited concepts – tests that regularly relegate less advantaged children into the “bottom half” and limit their access to broader education.

Why does the law distill the interactions of our teachers and students over the course of a year into a high-stakes multiple choice test?  Is this really a valid system of accountability for teachers, based so heavily on their students’ test scores?   If so, why are so many public school parents, teachers and students pushing back against it?  And why aren’t the private schools insisting on it?

Good questions.

 

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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Valerie Strauss · March 29, 2014