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Opinion

Commentary: If your kids don’t know their neighbors, blame standardized testing

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In this 2015 photo, Marquez Allen, then age 12, reads test questions on a laptop computer during a trial run of the Common Core standards test in Maryland.
(Photo by Patrick Semansky / Associated Pres)

In this country, standardized tests are the gold standard for states, districts and schools. Young couples’ choices of where to live revolve around how well schools stand up to scrutiny, and the deciding factor is how well the students in that school do on the standardized tests.

Often people even choose to live in certain neighborhoods, based on the perceived excellence of the schools in the area. The excellence of the schools is again determined by how high the test scores are.

In the past, neighborhood schools were the center of every parent’s universe. Not only was there a plethora of friends for the kids, but it was a community for the parents as well. They knew each other and participated in school activities when they could.

The communities understood the way the school worked, the way the teachers worked and had a pretty good idea how their kids were doing academically and socially. Because the neighborhood schools were such a community hub, parents bonded and watched out for each other’s children.

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It actually does take a village.

In the age of standardized tests all that has changed. Now kids barely know the child next door who goes to a Magnet school across town, or the girl down the street who goes to a private school, or the kid in the neighborhood who goes to a charter school, or the former friend whose parents moved him to a school in another district. This occurs because the test scores were supposedly better.

What do we know about this phenomenon? What we know for sure is that it is all about money. Suddenly, the corporate world has taken a deep dive into public education, and there is a pot of gold at the end of that rainbow.

It didn’t start that way. It started with the best intentions.

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In 1965 President Lyndon Johnson signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which was meant to provide additional resources for the neediest children.

Not content with simply helping poor and needy children, then-President George Bush, with the help of a non-partisan group of legislators, including the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, upped the education game by creating No Child Left Behind (NCLB), which was supposed to promote and create accountability and transparency in public education.

However, the side effect — whether intentional or unintentional — was that it was punitive and asked for unrealistic goals which punished those schools that were perceived as substandard by withholding money.

Under President Obama the public schools received something called Race to the Top. Some $400 million in federal grants were tied to adopting these new standards. States were threatened with losing much-needed funding if they didn’t adopt the disputed Common Core curriculum.

One might begin to suspect something, and he would be right: Follow the money. Money is made mostly by corporations that administer the tests. The rest is constantly coming up with “new standards” that they will tell you will improve the tests. What it improves is their income.

The kicker is that these tests not only are unfair to millions of kids for plenty of reasons, but these tests are riddled with mistakes.

It’s a hot mess. Kids are stressed. Parents are stressed. Teachers are ostensibly unable to teach their way, and we taxpayers are footing the bill.

Retired teacher Sandy Asper lives in Newport Beach.

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