Osceola News Gazette
Letters to the editor for August 31, 2013
Examining Common Core standards
An article titled "Introducing Common Core" recently ran in the Osceola Gazette.
While I'm grateful to see an "introduction" to the issue, I do think that we'd all be well served to learn a lot more about Common Core and how it will impact each of us whether we have a student in public school or not.
If you're like me, this whole Common Core thing seemed to come from out of nowhere. Most of us, including your state legislators and school board members, had never heard of Common Core State Standards until they had already been agreed to by the Florida Department of Education. I've attended one of the School District information meetings and can testify that many are just hearing about it now.
Education of the young is first and foremost a parent responsibility. In the state of Florida, taxpayers have chosen to establish and fund a system of public education and it exists as one option, which parents may use to accomplish their responsibility of academically educating their child. Parents may also delegate that responsibility to a private school or may assume it themselves through a program of home education. All of this requires local control of the educational process and is established in three federal laws that explicitly prohibit the federal government from being involved in local standards, curriculum and testing.
But here's what happened:
As part of the 2009 stimulus bill, a pool of money was created to provide education grants to the states. Part of the federal requirement to compete for that money was adoption of the Common Core standards (which had been developed by Washington D.C. trade groups funded by the federal government and private foundations). Cash-strapped Florida agreed to abandon our highly rated Next Generation Sunshine State Standards and adopt the yet incomplete Common Core. (Reminiscent of "You have to pass it before you'll know what's in it.) We were awarded $700 million over four years.
We all agree that our children truly are our most precious resource. Yet, we tend to spend more time researching the specifications of our next car than the specifications of our children's education. Below is just a brief overview of the massive problems associated with Common Core. For more detailed and completely documented information, you'd be well served to download a Policy Analysis of Florida's Common Core Standards at www.flstopcccoalition.org
Problem: local and parent control/ choice lost
• Florida is obligated to adopt the federal standards verbatim and cannot amend the existing standards except to add to them, but children will not be tested on those additions.
• Local governments and parents have no control or influence on standards or testing.
• Local governments and parents have only token control of curriculum which must align to CC standards, methods and tests.
• Parent oversight of child development is further eroded as government takes that role.
• Private schools which accept vouchers will be required to implement Common Core.
• Common Core-aligned assessments will become the only option, as states abandon their own tests. The Common Core-aligned PARCC and SAT will force private and home-schooled students to adopt Common Core standards and methods in order to score well.
Problem: academic "train wreck"
• According to The Fordham Institute, Florida's standards were already on par with or better than Common Core.
• Five highly respected experts who helped develop the standards refused to sign off on them, citing the fact that they actually lowered student achievement.
• Common Core State Standards are not designed to prepare students for traditional university education. Rather, according to standards developer Dr. Jason Zimba, Common Core defines "college-readiness" as "ready for a nonselective community college."
• Common Core Standards have never been beta-tested anywhere. The children of Florida will be "guinea pigs" for the new standards.
• The Common Core aligned curriculum and teaching methods go beyond academics and are designed to instill psychosocial attitudes, values and beliefs.
• Teachers, already stretched to balance government requirements and the needs of children in their classroom, will be burdened with even more assessments and more restrictive instructional directives.
• Two federally developed standardized tests will be the only options for assessment. We've tossed the FCAT (and all the taxpayer money spent to develop it) for the PARCC and will have to "teach to" the new test if we hope to perform well enough to earn more federal dollars.
Problem: privacy violated
• Common Core implementation requires states to engage in an unprecedented data-collection operation from which parents (and teachers) are not allowed to opt-out.
• A child's personal information (up to 400 data points) will be shared with the U.S. Department of Education without parental consent.
• Florida lawmakers are required to pass legislation to "support the effective exchange of data within and across states."
• Due to significant weakening of FERPA protections in 2011, access to that information may be granted to educational consultants, contractors, volunteers all without parental consent.
• Reality check: Given the recent revelations of NSA cell phone monitoring and IRS targeting of particular groups, do you really trust the federal government to protect your child's information?
• Florida can't afford the massive cost of implementation, teacher training & infrastructure improvements that will be legally required after that federal grant money runs out.
• School districts and legislators are being forced into compliance without the funds to do so.
• As shortfalls increase, Florida taxpayers will be compelled to make up the difference.
If you're asking why we're in this mess, it seems always to come back to money and control. The federal government took advantage of a state in distress back in 2009. It offered a thirsty man in the desert a drink of water in exchange for his shirt. And we took the glass of water. Now, the sun begins to beat hotter and hotter on our bare backs, having given our protection away.
It's not too late. The Florida Legislature has the power to pause implementation and take a careful look at Common Core before we move forward. They could also choose to defund it entirely. Parents and concerned citizens around the state are "doing their homework" and taking their case to legislators, many of whom are beginning to take bold stands to protect Florida's children.
You have an opportunity next Wednesday, Sept. 4 at St. Cloud High School at 6 p.m. to ask questions and have open discussion about Common Core with members of the Department of Education and School Board member Tom Long. Please, do your homework too and then let your legislator, your friends, your school board member, and your "social network" know how you feel.