A Threat to Our Education System - Tampa Tribune Publishes Dr. Effrem's Response

June, 2013

The following is a response to the very pro-Common Core editorial titled,"Common Core is no threat" (Our View) that appeared in the Tampa Tribune on June 16th.  Although we are grateful that the Tribune published Dr. Effrem's response in the June 23rd print edition, because it is not available online, we are making it available here:

A Threat to Our Education System

The Florida Stop Common Core Coalition respectfully but firmly disagrees with the Tribune's June 16th editorial "Common Core is no threat".  The Common Core system of national standards, tests, model curriculum, and data collection is very much a threat on a number of fronts.

This system is a threat to academic quality.  While the editorial board is correct to point out the crisis of 78% of Florida high school graduates not being ready for college, there is absolutely no evidence that switching to the Common Core standards will help improve the situation.  In fact, 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 that are resulting in 78% of students needing remediation are basically equivalent to Common Core, how will adopting these new standards help? Why spend another projected $1 billion the state does not have for standards that will probably not improve anything? 

Common Core is a threat to local control. Claims that states and districts can control implementation and curriculum choices are true only in theory. The federally funded and supervised national tests and model curriculum will determine curriculum because stakes are very high for test results, including graduation, teacher pay, and district funding. These tests are aligned to the national Common Core standards, NOT the 15% of so-called extra material that the states were "allowed" to add as their own after being required to adopt 100% of Common Core verbatim.   

Districts will choose the curriculum that they think will help them pass the tests.  Those choices are much more likely to be close to the model curriculum and the text examples in the English standards that include such controversial texts as the Julie Alvarez novel In the Time of the Butterflies.  That novel is recommended for 9th and 10th graders even though some college professors are embarrassed to teach it due to its sexually explicit nature and its glorification of tyrants like Fidel Castro. 

Finally, the state longitudinal data systems that states were required to adopt along with the standards in order to receive Race to the Top and other stimulus funding during a severe recession, is an enormous threat to students' and families' data privacy.   This data system will link the test results for the new standards to the 300-400 points of other very private data, like the iris scans that occurred in Polk County without parental consent.  This womb to tomb dossier will make the NSA's data collection look tame.

Do not believe for one moment that it is just the freedom-minded Tea Party groups that oppose Common Core.  It is parents, teachers, professors, small business owners, and many highly respected policy organizations from different points on the political and philosophical spectra.  Our coalition is growing and politicians of any party that continue to push this boondoggle will likely regret it.

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