Frank Luntz is famous for his focus groups and language testing, and was behind phrases like the death tax (instead of the estate tax) and the GOP’s Contract with America. He is also behind the moniker
“It’s not what you say, it’s what they hear.”
Remember the “ Patriot Act”? Do you really think true patriots would have supported a law that violated our Constitutional Right to privacy?
While Luntz is not responsible for ‘ No Child left Behind” , “ The Common Core”, and “ Race To the Top”, each phrase can be described the same. The phrase has nothing to do with what we hear. It’s a purposeful misdirection, much like a magician’s sleight of hand. Say one thing, but mean another that will drive an agenda that cannot survive in the daylight of public opinion.
In 2012 President Obama charged the nation with the following in his State of the Union ,
“Teachers matter. So instead of bashing them, or defending the status quo, let’s offer schools a deal. Give them the resources to keep good teachers on the job, and reward the best ones. And in return, grant schools flexibility: to teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test; and to replace teachers who just aren’t helping kids learn. That’s a bargain worth making. “
Since then as we raced to the top, more teachers have lost their jobs, resources are being diverted towards test prep, good teachers are not able to really teach, schools and teachers are following test prep scripts, and high stakes testing is out of control.
Yesterday President Obama called for a 2% cap on testing! It sounds good and already the NEA and others are applauding this statement has a huge shift in policy. Well those of us in New York know it’s just another case of “It’s not what you say, it’s what they hear.”
We know Obama was given this talking point by new acting Secretary of Education John King. King was basically run out of New York when, as our Commissioner of Education , he doubled down on high stakes tests, then tried to blame local districts for over testing. He then declared his own 2% cap.
We now test for 9 hours in New York and if we actually went to 2% our test time would soar to approximately 25 hours! Is that what they are saying? Test for 25 hours?
We also have another devastating 2% cap in NY. A 2% tax cap that has resulted in an increased class size, many being programs cut, thousands of teachers to lose their jobs, school districts to be thrown into financial distress, and children to lose out on a full education. Perhaps John King forgot to mention to Obama that using a 2% threshold may not be a good talking point.
In New York, our new Commissioner of Education Elia has set up a new initiative called AIMHighNY. Remember, “It’s not what you say, it’s what they hear.”
After over 250,000 opt outs of state tests, Commissioner Elia, fresh off her listening tour (“It’s not what you say, it’s what they hear.” ) has created a website that contains a survey on the Common Core. She states,
“NYSED is conducting a survey in order to provide an opportunity for the public to comment on the standards.” That’s what we hear.. but this is what she goes on to say.. The survey’s intent is to Improve what already exists; don’t start over.
I spent 3 hours today attempting to go through the 5th grade standards on this survey. The survey is cumbersome, time consuming and designed to make us all fall in line. Elia tells us,
that this survey is not a referendum on the standards. Only comments tied to a specific standard will be considered.
I bet she will use it as her own referendum. Watch for her upcoming comments after the flawed results are in.
When Elia, Duncan. King, or Obama say.
…we want the best possible standards as we continue to move forward on the progress that has been made in academic achievement.
As we watch the political fiasco surrounding presidential candidates, ask yourself a simple question, does what I am hearing really jive with what they are saying?