Mark your calendars. September 9 was the date that Checker Finn and the Fordham Institute began to turn against the national standards movement they so enthusiastically championed. We’ve been predicting this reversal on JPGB, but who knew it would happen so soon?
Last week Checker noticed that the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), which directs the current national standards push fueled by Gates Foundation money and financial rewards and threats from the U.S. Department of Education, is merging with P-21, the 21st century skills nonsense organization. Checker noted that the incorporation of P-21 into CCSSO could provide “additional traction for the organization’s current agenda [which] would be bad for the country, bad for the new ‘Common Core’ standards and the assessments being developed around them, and possibly bad for CCSSO as well.”
Checker also suddenly became aware that even good standards may well be undermined by bad assessments:
Indeed, P-21 isn’t the only risk here. At least one of the two new assessment-development consortia could—probably in the name of “performance assessment” and “career readiness”—easily drown in the soft stuff, in which case the tests it is building may not do justice to the academic standards with which they are meant to be aligned. Which would also mean that implementation of the Common Core by states and districts could be distorted in the direction of the soft stuff that will be on the tests and for which schools and educators will be held to account.
And Checker has finally focused on the fact that the federal government might make mischief with the national standards machinery for which he and Fordham provided right-wing cover:
One hopes that Secretary Duncan is mindful of this risk, but his big assessment speech last week wandered all over the 21st century terrain. And those straying off the cognitive reservation can also invoke Duncan’s boss, whose March 2009 denunciation of “bubble tests” called for a new generation of assessments that would address not only “problem-solving and critical thinking” but also “entrepreneurship and creativity.” Yes, there is reason to believe that President Obama has drained more than a few steins of P-21 propaganda. Maybe his education secretary has, too.
Of course, Checker still holds out hope that vigilance could keep these negative forces at bay. But he is clearly laying the groundwork for his complete reversal, which will come as these negative forces gain control over the national standards infrastructure that Checker and Fordham helped create by down-playing these very dangers.