The United States of America do not have a national curriculum, but they do have Common Core State Standards in English language and Math, which were adopted in 2010 by all but six states. Several of the states that originally accepted the standards, including Indiana, Missouri, North and South Carolina and Oklahoma, have since repealed or replaced them.
There has been a huge response in terms of families opting out from the testing system. In New York, for example, it has been estimated that there were over 200,000 opt-outs from the English language tests this year, and in tests in some parts of the country more than 40% of the children have been withdrawn from the tests by their parents.
The American Common Core curriculum only covers Math and English. The school curriculum in England covers every subject that is taught in a school, and the UK government has been fierce in enforcing annual tests for literacy and numeracy in England. Schools there have been known to improve their apparent results by excluding the less able pupils on the days when the tests take place, but parents, on the other hand, can be fined for withdrawing their children without an officially approved reason.
The idea underlying both the national curriculum in England and the American Common Core seems to be that all children should be drilled to progress at the same rate, regardless of background, individual interest or academic ability. Whether as a deliberate consequence or simply by mistake, this means that anyone who falls behind is both shamed and discouraged, and even the most able may suffer from extreme anxiety because they learn to regard anything but the highest grade as a failure.
Parents in England, on the whole, seem to accept this situation. American parents, in increasing numbers, are protesting. As Carol Burris, a former head teacher, said in a recent article in the Washington Post, 'Opt-out is far bigger than a test refusal event. It is a repudiation of a host of corporate reforms that include the Common Core, high-stakes testing, school closings and the evaluation of teachers by test scores. These reforms are being soundly rejected by parents and teachers.'
Wales began to introduce an individualised programme for young children in 2008, and introduced its own Learning Pathways for the later years in 2013. Since 2014 Scotland has also had its own 'curriculum for excellence' which aims to achieve a transformation in education by providing a coherent, more flexible and enriched curriculum from 3 to 18. Why can't education in England be coherent, flexible and enriched as well?
The campaign against SATs in England and, in particular, baseline testing, set to be introduced in 2016, is not yet well developed. Up-to-date information may be gleaned by searching #boycottbaseline and #stuffsats on Twitter.