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Coming Full Circle

This is a guest blog by Michael Moore, NCTE’s P12 Policy Analyst for Georgia. 

MIchael MooreIt’s funny how some things come full circle. In 2008, I was invited to attend a meeting of a Chatham County (Savannah, GA) parent group concerned with testing. From that meeting, I was asked to join some parents and meet with the superintendent of Chatham County Schools. We met to discuss testing, and that led me to write a letter to the editor of the Savannah Morning News about the extensive testing.

The editor contacted me and told me he would use the letter as an op-ed piece replete with picture. The piece appeared in the paper, and a day later the editor contacted me for more information since the paper planned on doing an editorial on testing. We talked and the paper published their editorial. Soon after, the editor contacted me and commented on the civic interest in education topics and invited me to contribute more op-ed pieces.

My last piece was published just a few weeks ago and on the same topic from eight years ago: testing. In fact, the pieces were remarkably similar since not much had changed in that period of time. We seem to be fighting the same battles with the same rhetoric.

In 2008 my op-ed pieces covered NCLB, an analysis of the presidential candidates’ stands on education, merit pay for teachers, and charter schools. My tone in these pieces was hopeful.

This past year and even recently my topics were merit pay for teachers, the new state testing contract, the state budget and education, implementing the Common Core standards (rebranded as Georgia’s Standards), and the reauthorization of ESEA.

My main goal in every op-ed piece is support for teachers. I try to give the public an idea as to how the demands on teachers have changed the educational landscape.

I have noticed a decidedly more negative tone to my pieces. This is from my most recent op-ed piece: “Still, the education market thrives on testing and the testing results that show low performances as interpreted by legislators are the fault of teachers, tenure, unions, poor administrators, and poor neighborhoods. The solution is a banking approach which includes privatization, vouchers, tax credits, for-profit charter schools, collaborations with businesses, common standards, more tests, purging teacher rolls, privatizing teacher education, scripting classroom lessons, and changing how teachers are rewarded.”

It is clearer that the agenda in many states is to privatize education at the expense of public schools. I am reminded of what Neil Postman wrote in The End of Education: “Public education does not serve a public. It creates a public.”

My op-ed pieces have led to a number of speaking engagements throughout the state. Most recently, I was asked to speak to the Bulloch County Rotary Club on the Common Core. The person who asked me to speak reminded me that there would be around 250 members in attendance and that I should refrain from any “lefty stuff” since this is a very conservative group. As with my courses, I try to evenly present all sides and let my listeners come to their own conclusions. If you’re a teacher, the conclusions are pretty clear: you are in a profession on the ropes.

Michael Moore is professor of literacy education at Georgia Southern University. He taught middle grades and high school English for twelve years in Western Pennsylvania.