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

Guest Opinion//February 27, 2014

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

Guest Opinion//February 27, 2014

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.