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Local opinion columnists

Common Core an untested program

By From page A8 | September 07, 2013

What are Common Core State Standards? If you are familiar with the term at all, you are maybe one out of 10 Americans who is.

I have made it a point in recent speaking engagements and in person-to-person conversations to see just how many folks are aware of what is happening. It’s hard to believe that Common Core is in its fourth year and so few people have a clue about it.

Common Core is a new set of national educational standards that are being implemented right now. It is being implemented without any field testing or any indication of whether it will work or not. It was created without input from parents, teachers, school districts or legislators. It is a huge nationwide experiment.

Early results are showing that the whole unproven concept will not work. Assessments (tests) in New York state, which began implementation early, are very discouraging. One district, where students had scored 90 percent proficient in National Assessment of Educational Progress testing, showed only 30 percent of students with a passing grade. For New York state as a whole, results for students from third to eighth grade showed only 26 percent passed the English assessment and 70 percent failed the math test.

Those numbers are a condemnation of both the curriculum and the assessment process.

The history of Common Core State Standards carries with it some of the aroma of the federal health care law, the Affordable Care Act in that you have to do it before you can find what it’s about.

Governors of 46 states and leaders in Washington, D.C. bought into the program in 2009 before there were any standards written at all. It was a money thing – “stimulus money” was to be had in a competition called Race to the Top. Governors bought into it. No one had any real say. It was a done deal.

Now school districts are faced with two choices: implement and do the best you can or implement and do the best you can. They have no options. They must use curriculum that is aligned to the Common Core Standards. The people who created the assessments have told us that the assessments (tests) will create the curriculum model.

Here in California, the implementation costs are something like $1.5 billion, partially subsidized by the federal government (still your money), but there are no funds available for maintaining the program. If you are a parent or grandparent who has family going into this mess, you need to learn more about it and determine what your options are.

You have an opportunity to do just that. A town hall meeting on Common Core will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. Sept. 25 at the Ulatis Community Center in Vacaville. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

I freely admit that I am strongly opposed to Common Core for many reasons. But the town hall panel discussion will have presentations by experts representing both views of whether Common Core is good or bad. I suggest you come and make up your own mind after you hear the facts on both sides. Glen Faison, managing editor of the Daily Republic, will serve as moderator.

I plan to be there with information fliers, some with facts about Common Core that you can take home with you. More important, I will be handing out information on how you can keep your child or grandchild out of objectionable sex education classes. There will also be information on how to prevent the school district from collecting private information about your child and your family. In addition, I will give out links to how to teach your child at home, including contacts at local homeschooling support groups.

Finally, I will provide some information on how you, your child or other family member can get a degree from a regionally accredited college home-school program.

Come to the town hall panel discussion Sept. 25 and find out what is true and what is possible. Make an evening of it. Bring your friends and neighbors. I’ll see you there.

Murray Bass can be reached at 427-0744 or [email protected]

Murray Bass


Discussion | 25 comments

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  • Jason KnowlesSeptember 07, 2013 - 12:55 pm

    CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.8 Evaluate an author’s premises, claims, and evidence by corroborating or challenging them with other information. This is one of the Common Core standards, folks. I encourage you to take whatever claptrap Mr. Bass and his fellow ignorami hand you and do your own thinking and research. "Objectionable sex education classes?" Are they teaching kids technique or positions now? What exactly is "objectionable?" Murray, who is publishing the information you plan on handing out? The Eagle Forum? The Solano County Tea Party? You? The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the largest lobbying group in the U.S. and politically, very far to the right, wholeheartedly supports the CCSS. That should tell you something. So do numerous GOP governors, who listened to university and business leaders who said the previous curriculum being taught was insufficient for preparing American children for college and the 21st Century workforce. The Common Core standards, their implementation, costs, etc are not without their problems, and deserve the process of debate. However, honest debate can only happen when FACTS, not dishonest Tea Party hyperbole, are presented and discussed. What Bass and his ilk really fear is that, armed with CCSS skills, students will be able to think for themselves, differentiate between objective facts and BS, and question everything they read or hear critically. As I've started implementing teaching strategies in my classroom that align the CCSS, I've noticed a marked improvement in my students' writing and analysis of different texts from precious years. They are even starting to question what I'm teaching them (which, as a teacher, is invigorating). Murray, you're a good guy, and I think your heart is in the right place. Your brain, however, is another matter.

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  • Rich GiddensSeptember 07, 2013 - 1:16 pm

    Jason you have no credibility and your claims are not believable in light of the fact that with each Federally orchestrated program, the United States falls further behind other nations in math and science. But your cucumber on a condom class is a real success.

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  • CassandraSeptember 07, 2013 - 1:54 pm

    Rich, it is easy to understand why pedants like Jason love Common Core: they are bribed to support it, bribed with wealth stolen from taxpayers. Just today it was reported that Fairfield/Suisun City shool districts received a $4.3 million bribe. Easy to get support when you've got the power to tax and redistribute wealth. One must question how valid the mathematics standards are when the only, repeat ONLY trained mathematician on the committee setting math standards refused to sign off on the final product, stating the final standards were substandard.

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  • Jason KnowlesSeptember 07, 2013 - 2:46 pm

    Rich, where is your data to support your claim? The falling behind is precisely why CC is being implemented. And, how precisely does one put "a cucumber on a condom?" Seems like a tough fit.

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  • Jason KnowlesSeptember 07, 2013 - 3:04 pm

    Cassandra (or Marci or Mrs. Crutchfield), may I ask what financial windfall I'll get via CC? My paycheck does not change because of what standards I'm told to adhere to. Also, James Milgram is a mathematician and he was on the panel, but he was certainly not the only mathematician! Professor Milgram is entitled to his own opinions, but he was hardly the only “academic mathematician” involved in the standards’ creation. Jason Zimba, the lead author of the mathematics standards, is a professor of physics and mathematics, with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics (and a PhD in physics). The “work and feedback” committees included more than a dozen mathematicians from elite institutions including Harvard, Johns Hopkins, and the University of California–Berkeley. This talking point is a half-truth at best. Do some research before you spout off, please.

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  • Jason KnowlesSeptember 07, 2013 - 3:24 pm

    One other point: as I said, I am not a Common Core apologist/absolutist. I have objections to some of it was well. I just don't believe in throwing the baby out with the bath water. There are meritorious objections being raised by critics. I also think many people do not understand the distinction between standards, which are skills, and curriculum, which is content.

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  • Murray BassSeptember 07, 2013 - 7:18 pm

    For Jason Jason, you shouold know by now I don't puull things out of mid air. I spend a couple of hours a day on Common core. It doesn't improve with age. Yousould get off the sidelies, stop being an observor and critic of others. Youcan start by googling Cristel Swazey Commn core. Her latest posting is of ten noted profssors telling what's wrong with cmmon core. do your homework Hope all is well with you.

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  • Rich GiddensSeptember 07, 2013 - 9:31 pm

    The Federal Governmet insists they they, not the States ''must control education.'' Since the Federal government has been doing this by doling out money with strings attached, education in the USA has floundered with the US falling further behind most modern developed nations. Look at the history of this swindle----first it was ''no child left behind'' and then ''race to the top.'' Now its ''common core''. Why do we need a Federal Department of Education if it's counterproductive, wastes money and violates States 10th Amendment rights? The States created the Federal Government and not the other way around. Another recent event is the end of California's annual STAR testing as it was revealed last week that test scores in California dropped this year--This after the dummy voters approved Prop 30! Back to the drawing board! Its as if the State has been horribly embarressed and now must come up with a new metric to falsely gauge progress for deceitful and surreptitious political purposes. Jason is frustrated because he sees tons of money appropriated but his pay hasn't increased in years. Yet he still supports ''more of the failed same''!

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  • really, murray? This is your source?September 07, 2013 - 10:45 pm

    Christel Lane Swasey's Overview : Current Grant writer at Freedom Academy Past Correspondent/writer at Daily Herald Third Grade Teacher at Renaissance Academy English and Drama teacher at Colton High School

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  • Murray BassSeptember 08, 2013 - 2:03 am

    Remaining ignorant isn't easy.Findiing ways to avoid becoming informed is hard work. The benefits are great, however. Yo can be an expert on everything without knowing anything.

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  • CD BrooksSeptember 08, 2013 - 4:01 am

    We need to raise the standards returning the quality to education. Is Common Core perfect? Perhaps not, but a little tweaking will make it far better than nothing which is what we have now. I'm afraid that the majority of those opposed have reasons that might ne politically motivated, are obviously misinformed and absolutely not in the students best interest. The assignment is critical thinking. Any questions?

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  • Murray BassSeptember 08, 2013 - 1:14 pm

    CD, The problem in Californina hasn't been the standards. We have superior, second only to those i Massachussetts. the problem has been performance. The state has piled so much junk on the districts and teachers that it has been almost impossible t perform. So we are dumbing down the standards . I gave evryone a link to the opinions of the 10 reknowned professors but no one bothered to see what they had to say. One size fits all. Commn core defeats dreativity. There is no roome for the bright or the dim. Do some research. This can't be tweaked. Do youplan to go to the Town Hall meeting on the 25th. listen to facts? I;ll see you there if you are. Everyone is invited.

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  • Rick WoodSeptember 08, 2013 - 6:07 pm

    Isn't it basically true that "Common Core" is untested? We won't know how well it "works" for a while. And I say "works" because most people will say it works if standardized test scores improve on some sort of international scale. But that's only an output. What a country should be concerned about are OUTCOMES--how successful our citizens are in building a society that serves its needs and a culture that leads to rich, useful lives. How is the USA failing there with the "broken" system we have? Is Common Core likely to improve us in those outcomes? I think we are getting panicked by international standardized text scores into fixing a system that isn't really broken, with uncertain outcomes.

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  • mike kirchubelSeptember 08, 2013 - 6:14 pm

    Good point, Rick. I see the same thing happening with Obamacare. It's been bad mouthed for years now, and it's not even fully implemented. I wonder what they said about Medicare or Social Security when they were first proposed.

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  • CassandraSeptember 08, 2013 - 6:33 pm

    Simple quetion: If Obamacare is so wonderful, why is the President and all his staff exempt from participation? Why is the Congress and its staff exempt from participation? Why are so many unions exempt from participation? And on and on. If it is so good, why don't we all participate?

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  • mike kirchubelSeptember 08, 2013 - 8:07 pm

    They all have healthcare plans. I was tempted to say "Duh" but thought better.

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  • rlw895September 08, 2013 - 9:16 pm

    Cassandra: I'm with Mike. What does it mean to be "exempt from participation?" I suppose everyone who already has employer-provided health insurance is exempt from participation as long as they are employed and insured. Did you think to question your source? If all it means is lawmakers don't have to police themselves, is that a surprise? There also may be a separation of powers question if congress were subject to a law the executive is charged with enforcing. That's an issue also for subjects like employment laws. When we are told to get all huffy over this "exemption" issue, we should question whether we're being played by an ObamaCare opponent. And if we are being played, we should question why. Aren't there better arguments?

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  • CassandraSeptember 09, 2013 - 8:56 am

    rlw895 and Mikey are evading the point. If Obamacare is good for anyone, why isn't it good for everyone? And if all it takes is having a better plan, why are so many people who are happy with their plan being forced in Obamacare? If all it takes to gain exemption is a political clout, isn't that a problem? If the White House and the Congress gave themselves better plans, why don't we all get a better plan? Spin all you want gents, Obamacare is an ugly, inefficient, terribly costly mistake.

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  • Mike KirchubelSeptember 09, 2013 - 9:24 am

    Nobody's evading anything. I can't help that you want to pretend you don't understand this: If you have a healthcare plan, you don't need to purchase another healthcare plan. Simple enough for you? By the way, where did you get your 2014 "statistics?"

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  • CassandraSeptember 09, 2013 - 11:30 am

    You two can spin, spin, spin, dodge, weave, stretch the truth, and whatever and you will never, ever make the Obamacare sow's ear into a silk purse. 'Taint gonna happen. And wee Mikey: you play one of your tricks when you ask about my "statistics." Do you know what day of the week it is, much less what you are talking about when you bring up "statistics"? Blow some more smoke.

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  • Mike KirchubelSeptember 09, 2013 - 11:51 am

    it's unclear what you don't wish to understand, Crutchfield.

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  • rlw895September 09, 2013 - 11:55 am

    C: No spin here; just an effort to understand. And to do that, it's entirely appropriate to ask for your sources. It's you who are spinning with your rants and insults, refusing to answer legitimate questions. I might be wrong about some things, but not everything. If you want to participate in the learning process, then point out the specific things that are wrong about my perception.

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  • rlw895September 09, 2013 - 10:11 am

    C: Again, I'm with Mike(y). You need to go back and get your facts right. If you already have a qualified plan, you don't have to give it up and buy some ObamaCare plan. There are no ObamaCare plans anyway; ObamaCare relies on the private sector insurance companies to provide plans for people who are not on Medicaid. The government will subsidize those plans for low-income people, and the government will also force pricing competition that didn't exist before. So if you DON'T have a plan now, you have a better chance of getting one if you want it. If you don't, you pay the penalty/tax and take your chances going bare. I don't know all the facts behind the exemptions, but I'll wager neither do you. Maybe Mike(y) can enlighten us;-).

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  • Murray BassSeptember 08, 2013 - 6:36 pm

    You are right Rick. Outcomes are the important thing. We should be success oriented. Do what has found to be sucessful. Massachssetts has a superior system. Even tops internationally ( they were bought out by Race to the top)Only 8% of their kids are reading below basic (compared to 44% in CA) Among other things they d not pass because of age. (which rewards failure) They insist on achievenment. I don't know what else. But we can look arroud at who is doing well and ask 'Why"?American education has been preoccupied with the Process rather than outcomes. Everyfour years a new "research based" program comes along, fails and is replaced by still another.More new textbooks . We simply have not attempted to solve our problems.

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  • Rick WoodSeptember 08, 2013 - 9:32 pm

    Murray: I simply observe that despite our supposedly lousy education system, our culture dominates the world. We should work backwards from that. How do we do it? I maintain one of the ways we do it is by not having a regimented education system. Another way is having the best post-secondary education system in the world. A third way we give people the freedom to find their own way in life. We are working for NEGATIVE outcomes if we try to become more regimented just because that is what works to improve standardized test scores. Standards like Common Core have their place, but they should be guidelines, not requirements, for states and local school districts. And the whole maddening standardized test-mania must stop. States and local school districts are more interested in success that they are given credit for. The nation should have a goal of empowering them and making them responsible. Coaching and mentoring may be in order from the Department of Education, but tying federal funding to performance on standardized tests should be prohibited as not just counterproductive, but actually destructive of the outcomes we have achieved in the past.

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