Wednesday, July 10, 2013

My Concerns about Common Core

Speech given to 9/12 group on May 17, 2013

I would like to share with you a favorite bit of the Utah Code:

 (Utah Code Title 62A Chapter 4a Section 201)

  (1) (a) Under both the United States Constitution and the constitution of this state, a parent possesses a fundamental liberty interest in the care, custody, and management of the parent's children.
(d) The state recognizes that:
(i) a parent has the right, obligation, responsibility, and authority to raise, manage, train, educate, provide for, and reasonably discipline the parent's children; and
(ii) the state's role is secondary and supportive to the primary role of a parent.
(e) It is the public policy of this state that parents retain the fundamental right and duty to exercise primary control over the care, supervision, upbringing, and education of their children.

As many of you know, I got involved with Common Core when I found that a popular and effective math program, developed especially for our students at Davis High was being displaced in favor of what I believe is a nationalized and substandard program against the wishes of parents and educators.

According to the 10th Amendment, education is one of those responsibilities left to the states. And yet while proponents of Common Core claim state leadership in the development of the CCSS, a little research shows that the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School officers are Washington based not-for-profit organizations which have provided parents with zero representation in these decisions. We find that states signed on to CCSS in the hopes of receiving RTTT funds which only materialized for a dozen states of which Utah is not one. 

I know that neither Common Core nor the Obama Administration are the beginning or the end of federal reaches into public education and I personally don't believe that the Department of Education should even exist. But, I do believe that Common Core is, even more than Obamacare a huge power grab. In 2010 at a UNESCO Conference, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said, "Traditionally, the federal government in the U.S. has had a limited role in education policy... The Obama Administration has sought to fundamentally shift the federal role." In his 2013 State of the Union, President Obama said, "The federal government must insist on aggressive plans and allocation of resources to level the playing field across states, districts and schools."

Not only is Social Justice the goal of the education reform package, but teaching social justice will be, I believe, part of the curriculum. 

Members of the Utah State Office of Education will tell you that Common Core isn't a curriculum, but just a set of standards. But, Bill Gates who has invested 5 Billion dollars since the year 2000 in an effort to influence public education policy said this: "

"... identifying common standards is not enough. We'll know we've succeeded when the curriculum and the tests are aligned to these standards.

Secretary Arne Duncan recently announced that $350 million of the stimulus package will be used to create just these kinds of tests—next-generation assessments aligned to the common core.

When the tests are aligned to the common standards, the curriculum will line up as well—and that will unleash powerful market forces in the service of better teaching. For the first time, there will be a large base of customers eager to buy products that can help every kid learn and every teacher get better."

It is now 2013 and the standards are in place. The testing will be in place in Utah in the spring of 2014 and the Common Core aligned curriculum is being written and sold to school districts in Utah. Common Core is not just a set of standards like we have always had in place. Common Core is an aggressive and radically progressive education movement affected by those who are willing to spend billions to influence public education and the beliefs of students as well as to create "a large base of customers eager to buy products". 

Education materials producer Zaner-Bloser  has created and the Utah State Office of Education has approved for Utah a literature and writing program called Voices. The informational texts have titles like, "Cesar Chavez: A Hero for Everyone" "Children and the United Nations" "Rights for Right Whales" and "We the Peoples: A Look at the United Nations". Writing themes cover Identity Awareness, Social Awareness and Democracy. Your child can still read Little House on the Prairie and Tom Sawyer, but they won't likely be exposed to those classics at school.

Utah hired American Institutes for Research as the testing arm of the new CCSS. American Institutes for Research defines itself as, " of the world's largest behavioral and social science research organizations." It is one of the largest gatherers of psychometric data in the world. If you are not familiar with the term, "Psychometrics is the field of study concerned with the theory and technique of psychological measurement, which includes the measurement of knowledge, abilities, attitudes, personality traits, and educational measurement. The field is primarily concerned with the construction and validation of measurement instruments such as questionnaires, tests, and personality assessments." The USOE has assured us that AIR will only be making academic assessments of the students, but when you look at the curriculum being developed, I find that very difficult to believe. 

We have also been assured that all gathered data will be safe and that it will not go beyond the State of Utah. But, according to the USOE presentation on the new testing system, information will be shared with "stakeholders". How is the federal government not a stake holder when the State Logitudinal Data System built to gather and store this information was paid for with federal stimulus funds to the tune of nearly 15 Million Dollars? Additionally, in Utah we have already suffered security breaches at the Utah Department of Health and Utah Futures. When I asked Judy Park the Associate Superintendent at the Utah State Office of Education how that office could be trusted with sensitive student information when we already know of breaches at Utah Futures she said, "When we knew there was a problem, we shut it down immediately." It seems silly to me to lock the doors at the bank AFTER all the cash is gone.

It's difficult to put together a short speech on Common Core. My husband can attest that I have practically held neighbors captive at the door while shouting an unwanted alarm. I am so passionate about this issue for many reasons. The most significant of those are that the standards are sub-par. There are no international benchmarks that favorably compare either the math or the English Language Arts Standards to those Utah has had since 2007.  

CCSS are NOT a product of republican government and parents have had no representation in these changes. I can tell you that I get both a robo call from my child's school and an e-mail invitation to a bike safety event or a school dance, but when the state is going to fundamentally change the standards, testing and curriculum in my child's school. .. Silence. I still meet parents every week who have never even heard of the Common Core.

Finally, I believe that the CCSS are an unconstitutional federal over-reach into an area that the founders purposefully left to the states. In a plea for local control of schools Thomas Jefferson wrote, "…if it is believed that these elementary schools will be better managed by the governor and council, the commissioners of the literary fund, or any other general authority of the government, than by the parents within each ward, it is a belief against all experience...No, my friend, the way to have good and safe government, is not to trust it all to one, but to divide it among the many, distributing to every one exactly the functions he is competent to." In Jefferson's time, like now, a ward was just a neighborhood. Jefferson was a proponent of very local control as am I.

I ask that you please become as informed as you can on this important topic and pester the leadership of our state until we can regain influence over the education of our own children once again. We have elected officials that we have trusted to act as watchmen on the tower, to keep our state independent and free of federal entanglements. They have failed us. It falls to us to stand and watch and insist on standards and curriculum that represent the best of what Utah can offer its own. Those standards will be very high indeed. 

Thank you.

1 comment:

Brooke said...

Keep up the good work spreading the word. You are not alone!