Education Secretary Arne Duncan issues threat if Common Core test-dodgers don't comply

The public backlash against end-of-year tests specifically aligned with Common Core standards has Education Secretary Arne Duncan doubling down. The Secretary is threatening federal intervention if testing boycotts continue. Duncan told reporters at the Education Writers Association seminar in Chicago this past week, if students and parents continue to opt out of government-mandated tests there will be consequences.

As for opt-outs, Duncan said, “states are supposed to work with districts” on meeting a requirement in the NCLB law that 95 percent of students participate in tests. “But if states don’t do whatever then we have an obligation to step in… this is really about not just an assessment…it’s about a civil rights issue.”

Duncan doesn’t indicate what measures his department will use to enforce those rights in order to prevent schools from opting out. Already, an education advocacy group says over 180,000 New York State students refused to take the Common Core English Language Arts Exam in April.

At Nathan Hale High School in Seattle, Washington not a single 11th grade student showed up to take the federally mandated Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium exam (SBAC). Earlier this year, teachers at Nathan Hale passed a resolution against the Common Core Standards test, but Seattle Superintendent Larry Nyland threatened them with the loss of their teaching licenses if they didn’t administer the test.

Washington’s State Superintendent Randy Dorn warned without a 95% statewide participation rate, the federal government could cut funding and label Washington Schools “high risk.”

Withholding federal monies may not be the only way the feds quell the opt-out movement.

In 2010 the Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss asked DOE officials about their recent purchase of 27 Remington Brand Model 870 police 12-gauge shotguns.  She specifically wanted them to give examples of when the shotguns might be used. A DOE spokespersons referred her to the following from the Office of Inspector General website:

The Office of Inspector General is the law enforcement arm of the U.S. Department of Education and is responsible for the detection of waste, fraud, abuse, and other criminal activity involving Federal education funds, programs, and operations. As such, OIG operates with full statutory law enforcement authority, which includes conducting search warrants, making arrests, and carrying firearms.

At the time of Strauss’s article, Dave Workman of the Washington Examiner pointed out that in the Department of Education’s solicitation notice to purchase the weapons, the 27 shotguns bought in 2010 were “compatible with ED existing shotgun inventory, certified armor and combat training and protocol, maintenance, and parts." 

The Department’s most recent purchase was from July 2013 with the acquisition of 30 Glock 27 pistols. Shotguns, Glocks, and combat training for Education Department personnel.

Will Duncan send in SWAT teams with Glocks to force opt-out parents and their kids, including his favorite target, “white suburban moms,” to take the test or else? Duncan has already put the onus on the little test-dodgers’ moms and dads. In the same discussion, he told reporters his kids go to public school and they get tested. It’s “not a traumatic event,” It’s just part of most kids education growing up…Sometimes the adults make a big deal and that creates some trauma for the kids.”

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