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For many reasons, it’s time to get rid of Common Core

EArizonans must reclaim sovereignty over our children’s education. SB1310, which would prohibit the implementation of the Common Core standards and test in Arizona, is a good start. Governor Brewer willingly handed over control of our state’s education to the Common Core group for 30 pieces of silver offered by the Obama Administration in exchange for changing our state’s education policies in 2010.

Brewer agreed to set up a data gathering system, the Statewide Longitudinal Data System (SLDS), which allows all manner of information about our children to be suctioned into the Common Core machine. Then the Common Core Standards were adopted by the Arizona State Board of Education, an unelected, Brewer-appointed group, without a single vote before the state Legislature. The Common Core standards were officially implemented this 2013/2014 school year.

Arizona previously owned and controlled 100 percent of its teacher-authored education standards. Under the Common Core group, Arizona has control of only 15 percent of its standards; the remaining 85 percent are copyrighted by the National Governors Association and cannot be changed. Since when is 15 percent control of our standards better than 100 percent control?

Arizona previously owned and controlled 100 percent of its teacher-created state test. Arizona is a “governing board member” of the Common Core test group, PARCC, and has committed to pilot and implement its still-to-be created test. Arizona is one of 18 states having input on this unproven Common Core test. Since when is being one voice out of 18 better than being the only voice in creating Arizona’s test?

For the past five years I worked on every facet of Arizona’s AIMS test, from item creation, to writing passages, to analyzing the results. The AIMS testing group at our Department of Education was responsive to the needs of the students. Teachers could eliminate items, change items, or eliminate reading passages if there were any biases or if it just made sense in assessing Arizonan students.

Working on the PARCC/Common Core test was quite different and had the weight of 50 more shades of bureaucracy. I found myself at one committee defending my use of the term “Indians” when referring to Arizona’s various native populations to a Rhode Island administrator who thought the term was highly offensive.

Another time several other teachers and I suggested a formatting change to a test item to make a vocabulary question make more sense to test takers. Our Common Core handlers told us that vocabulary test item formatting had already been decided by another acronymed committee. Common Core people really like speaking in acronyms.

There were several times where other teachers and I disagreed with how certain test items were worded, because some Common Core test items and standards used terms that were confusing and did not reflect what we were teaching in the classroom. Our Common Core handlers told us that the standards were set by another acronymed committee and that teachers would have to “start using the Common Core terms in their classrooms to reflect the reality of the new standards” — a phrase that they often used. We were told that we were at the committee to provide feedback on the items, not to criticize the standards or make suggestions on formatting, as that was not our specialty. I got the message loud and clear — we were window dressing and the box marked “teachers were involved” was being checked.

The Common Core standards were not a “state led” effort any more than a child agreeing to clean his room in exchange for an allowance is a “child led” effort. Cash strapped states were coerced by the federal government to agree to adopt the standards and set up student data suction systems as part of their application for a cut of $4.35 billion in federal stimulus money earmarked for education reform back in 2009.

Private, charter, and home school students cannot escape the Common Core leviathan either. One of the Common Core’s chief architects, David Coleman, now the head of the College Board, is already pulling college admission tests and requirements into the cult of the Common Core.

Bipartisan opposition to the Common Core group is growing.  Texas, Alaska, Virginia, and Nebraska have steadfastly refused to give control of their education to the Common Core group. Minnesota dropped the math standards. Ten states’ legislatures have joined in dropping the Common Core test, with four other states considering following suit. In liberal New York, legislators and the state’s public teachers union are now both in opposition to the Common Core. Nationally recognized standards guru Dr. Sandra Stotsky and internationally known mathematician Dr. James Milgram refused to validate the Common Core standards and have been crisscrossing the country in opposition to them.

Some of the strongest opposition is coming from parents whose children are experiencing Common Core’s implementation. Rather than listening to parent concerns, the Common Core group belittles them as “ill informed” and “white suburban moms” who are discovering that their kids are not as brilliant as they thought they were.  Governor Brewer, in an attempt to blunt opposition to the Common Core standards, rebranded them “Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards.”

Many teachers oppose the Common Core group, yet those who speak out against it, and the position of their state secretary of education and governor, fear possible retribution. Stand up for Arizona’s children, be a voice for our teachers, and demand that your legislators stand with you.

— Brad McQueen is a Tucson elementary school teacher.

8 comments

  1. I forgot to list my contact information in the article. Brad McQueen can be reached on Twitter @cosmowisdom

  2. I applaud your courage to state why you oppose the implementation of the Common Core or “Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards.” As a high school principal and School Board President, I too will concur with your opinion piece. My stance is one that is based on the fact that only 6 to 10% of the workforce use the higher math skills found in Geometry and Algebra 2, yet we want all of our students to pass this exam. Here is a sample Math question: 1. The function f is defined as f(x)= √x-3. Its domain is x ≥ 3, and its range is f(x) ≥ 0. Which of the following is true of f?

    a. If x ≥ 3, then f(x) ≥ 0.
    b. It assigns exactly one value to every positive value of x.
    c. The range of the function is f(3).
    d. The value of f(3) is undefined.

    The academic English found on the exam is not found in our homes our in a majority of businesses, in fact when is last time any of us discussed or read something to this sample test item:
    “So I do not think that it is altogether fanciful or incredible to suppose that even the floods in London may be accepted and enjoyed poetically. Nothing beyond inconvenience seems really to have been caused by them; and inconvenience, as I have said, is only one aspect, and that the most unimaginative and accidental aspect of a really romantic situation. An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered. The water that girdled the houses and shops of London must, if anything, have only increased their previous witchery and wonder.”

    a. hyperbole
    b. paradox
    c. euphemism
    d. synecdoche

    How about we start training our students to have ISTE’s Educational Technology Standards:
    Creativity and Innovation, Communication and Collaboration, Research and Information Fluency, Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making, Digital Citizenship, and Technology Operations and Concepts. These are workplace skills that would make the productive employees. We should spend more time looking at improving and funding our CTE programs that will give students industry certificates once they graduate high school, such as the C.N.A. programs. Follow the Swiss and Germans on how they incorporate industry training for 60% of their students.

    We should be reasonable, yet practical with our education, so let us bring in the business world to our high schools, not the college professors, to determine what is needed for the majority of our students to be successful. Joel Kramer

  3. Teachers and parents all across the country are discovering that the Common Core advertisements have almost no connection to reality. Thank you for alerting people in Arizona, Mr. McQueen.

  4. I don’t know if this is the right place to voice my opinion, but, has anyone looked at what’s now expected in the way of written grammar for second graders? They have to be able to correctly spell possessive nouns, including where the apostrophes go, often including all kinds of irregular nouns, etc. It used to be that second graders weren’t really expected to even master the names of the parts of speech. And, about 10 years ago, I was teaching possessives to fifth graders. They were often confused; but, at least they had a good handle on what a noun was to start with. Maybe it’s not connected, but the writing I see from young people isn’t the quality it was when writing was simpler. I think we are confusing and scaring young people into just throwing in the towel on good writing. It’s a shame. So, where’s the benefit in having these ridiculous expectations?
    Thank you for listening!! I hope you care about writing. Unfortunately, I see a lot of teachers who don’t give it the focus it deserves. Linda Messali

  5. The gist of this op ed is that if those participating in Common Core development had only listened to Mr. McQueen, everything would have been perfect. His 10 years ‘classroom experience’ has made him THE expert in the field of education, and everyone else’s knowledge, and intelligence, pales next to his, and as he illustrates through-out the op-ed, he is superior to them all.
    Under Pres. Johnson, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 was enacted. It’s intent was to raise achievement and close achievement gaps. The same goal was applied to Bush’s No Child Left Behind. However, by the time of the Bush administration, student performance had seriously declined, particularly in the areas of science and mathematics. The NEA’s assessment of NCLB’s goal was ” Educators know that NCLB as currently written can’t get us there.” Common Core is the evolution of ESEA and NCLB.
    McQueen points out that the feds are divvying up 4.35 billion among the states for Common Core. Hmmm, seems like the feds can’t win: either there are complaints about ‘unfunded mandates’ – or the states take the $ and don’t want to comply!
    “…teachers would have to ….start using terms in their classrooms to reflect…the new standards.” Hmmm, that makes sense to me – if the curriculum is adjusted it’s conceivable that there would be a need to alter teaching. Again, Mr. McQueen seems to believe that he should have been THE decision maker on everything. His remark about being part of the feedback committee, while there was another committee responsible for content. He concluded that since his advice wasn’t taken, the participation of teachers was ‘window dressing.”
    IMHO it is perfectly logical that Common Core would apply to private, charter and home schooled students, especially since it is so easy for students to attend one of those alternatives to public school. IF the intent is to create standards in education, why would those standards not apply to all education institutions??
    Assertions that there were no experts, no teachers and no standards is contradicted in easily found websites. (NEA has a good website.)
    Also at issue is the difference between ‘standards’ and ‘curriculum’.
    Tim Walker: “The standards don’t dictate how teachers should teach.” Colorado educator Jessica Keigan: ” What I remind myself of is that teachers are making the standards work in the classroom. We’re taking the lead.”
    IF, in his 10 years classroom experience Mr. McQueen is the expert he holds himself out as, one has to wonder – how, and why, is Arizona’s education system in the mess it’s in?? Why didn’t he ‘fix’ the problems (since he has all the answers!) so there would be no need to participate in these federal programs?
    He has, at least, had his 10 minutes in the sun….and boosted his income (by around $88,000+) by self-publishing his anti-Common Core book. Please do yourself a favor and get all sides of this issue before jumping on this bandwagon.

    In closing, I’d like to point out that the Program for International Student Assessment (2009) stated “U.S. students must improve to compete in a global economy.” “Asian countries and regions, including South Korea, Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong all outpaced the U.S., as did Finland.” As Common Core was being launched, I have a recollection of the opinion that it was anticipated that at first, test scores / performance c/would go down.
    I would hope that in those instances, that the parents of those students, rather than scream and demand that Common Core be scrapped, would realize this is occurring because students are no longer just being automatically advanced (or graduated).

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