"School Board Should Reject Common Core"

Dr. Effrem's article appeared in the Charlotte Sun on July 6, 2013

I would like to thank the Charlotte County School Board on behalf of the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition for inviting the public to the Thursday, June 20th board workshop.   However, our district is in year three of a four year implementation plan and the public, teachers, and the school board have received very little information about how the Common Core Standards will affect our district.  Here is what our coalition has discovered:

The Common Core standards are national standards that, despite being portrayed as rigorous, will likely not improve academic performance. The Thomas B. Fordham Institute, commonly cited by Common Core proponents as an authority on the quality of state standards, rated Florida's current math and English standards roughly the same as the Common Core.  If the current Florida standards resulting in such high remediation rates are basically equivalent to Common Core, how will these new standards help? Why spend another projected $1 billion of scarce funds for standards that will probably not improve anything?

This is especially true when Charlotte County has to cut important programs like physical education to pay for expensive technology to double the testing time for these high stakes tests based on standards of questionable value. Superintendent Whitaker asked the important question, "How do we get the state to move away from the obsession on tests and test design (and) the incredible amount of money that has been spent on that?"

The district will likely have little choice in curriculum. The federally funded and supervised national tests and model curriculum accompanying the Common Core standards will drive curriculum, because stakes are so high for test results, including graduation, teacher pay, and district funding. Districts will choose curriculum closest to the federal model to obtain the highest tests results possible in order to maintain funding.  The national tests are aligned to Common Core, NOT the 15% standards the states were "allowed" to add after being required to adopt 100% of Common Core verbatim. Arguments about flexibility or that "teaching to the test" occurring under the FCATs will go away are not logical. 

Despite the recently passed education law requiring Common Core test implementation to be based on "funding, sufficient field and baseline data, access to assessments, instructional alignment, and school district readiness to administer the common core assessments online," there is no flexibility.  We appreciate the candor of Superintendent Whitaker and Board Chairman Swift who both stated that despite raising concerns the very issues listed in the statute, appointed Commissioner Bennett and his appointed State Board of Education were ignoring concerns of elected school boards across the state, telling them to fully implement Common Core no matter what.

This is shocking.  Our elected school board is being forced to implement a program about which they have received little information and inadequate time and funds to put in place.   Either the legislature needs to require that the SBOE and commissioner be elected and accountable to the people or they need to admit that county school boards have absolutely no role in educational policy, dissolve them, and save the taxpayers the money spent on salaries and benefits.  This of course, would be admitting the truth - Common Core allows for no local control or input.
Finally, Board Member Rendell's assertion that concerns about invasive data collection being "false" requires response.  The state longitudinal data system that links to the federal and state government databases, and will be available to corporations and outside researchers, was required as part of the Race to the Top grant that Florida received.  This data system will link test results for Common Core to 300-400 points of other very private data, like iris scanning that occurred in Polk County without parental consent.  This womb to tomb dossier will make the NSA's data collection look tame.

There is nothing rigorous, voluntary, or locally controlled about the Common Core system and it should be rejected.

 Karen R. Effrem, MD, is president of Education Liberty Watch. Contact her at dockaren@ed libertywatch.org.


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