On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal published a piece by Jason Riley on “The Soccer Mom Revolt Against Common Core.” In it, I was quoted offering the analysis that upper-middle class moms were accustomed to having significant control over their kids’ schools. NCLB may have annoyed these moms with tests that had little meaning for their kids, but by remaining largely agnostic on standards, academic content, and the method of testing, NCLB didn’t interfere with the operational control of suburban moms.
The over-reach of Common Core and federally-sponsored aligned tests is that they impinge to a much greater extent on the operations of schools. When soccer moms come to school to complain about Rome and Juliet being cut to make way for informational texts, they are being told that the school had no choice in the matter. Common Core made them do it. And if they want to do well on the PARCC or Smarter Balanced tests, they have to make these changes. It doesn’t matter whether CC really requires this change or not. The issue is that large numbers of upper-middle class parents are being told that they no longer have the same kind of influence over their schools that they are used to having. And they are pissed. So, they are starting to boycott the tests.
Not so fast, says Mike Petrilli. In a post today he argues:
Here’s where Jason’s argument falls apart: Common Core is almost everywhere. Soccer moms are found almost everywhere. Yet the rebellion he describes is limited to one specific area.
As for Jay, maybe the loss of parental control is a real issue, but why do parents in Montclair, for example, feel that their power is being usurped much more so than parents in other states? Again, it can’t be Common Core, or testing, or school accountability policies, because those are almost universal.
Common Core couldn’t explain the opt-outs because they are concentrated in NY and NJ while CC is spread across the country. The culprit must be the unions, he argues, since they are strong in NY and NJ and managed to enroll these parents in their general fight against accountability.
Let’s try Petrilli’s argument on another situation to see how well it stands up. The Baltimore riots couldn’t be caused by police abuse, he would have to argue, because the riots are concentrated in Baltimore while police abuse is widespread. Convinced?
Let’s try another one. The unions can’t be responsible for the opt-outs because their opposition to accountability is longstanding while the opt-outs are a new phenomenon. Common Core sophistry is fun!
Of course, mass protests, like opting out or rioting, have to start somewhere even if the source of complaint is widespread. In addition, agitators typically play a role in motivating and organizing mass protests, but the underlying injury needs to be present or the agitation fails to gain traction. The unions couldn’t get the soccer moms to opt-out unless they were upset about something. Before Common Core, the unions tried but failed to elicit upper-middle class action against accountability tests. Now they are finding a receptive audience.
No amount of sophistry is going to change the political challenge Common Core faces by interfering with soccer moms’ control over local schools. And no amount of blaming those soccer moms for failing to care about poor and minority students is going to guilt them into surrendering that control.