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Take another look at Common Core

By From page A8 | June 30, 2014

This is the latest in a series of articles titled The Right Stuff to promote thought and ensure accuracy within political campaigns and issues. Our objective is to promote interest among voters to separate fact from opinion or fiction.

In his article titled “Common Core Opposition is No Joke,” Jason Stanford, a Democratic consultant and writer for the Austin American Statesman wrote,  “. . . (B)ecause high-pressure standardized testing is still the stick we use to measure schools, Common Core could make your children hate learning. And that’s no joke.” This is an issue where Democrats, Republicans, parents and teachers can find common ground for our kids’ sake. We want our children to succeed in school and  to love learning.

New York should serve California as the “canary in the coal mine.” They began implementing Common Core’s new testing regimen in 2012. Following are excerpts from a 2013 letter to parents about testing in grades three through eight. It was written and signed by more than 1,500 school principals. Promoters won’t tell, so check www.newyorkprincipals.org.

“This year, many of your children experienced the first administration of the newly revised New York State Assessments. You may have heard that teachers, administrators and parents are questioning the validity of these tests. As dedicated administrators, we have carefully observed the testing process and have learned a great deal about these tests and their impact. . . Here is what we know:”

  • New York state testing has increased dramatically: Since 2010, time spent taking the third- through eighth-grade English-language arts and math tests has increased by 128 percent. Third-graders increased 163 percent.
  • Tests were too long: Many students were unable to complete them in the allotted time, a significant problem for special education students.
  • Ambiguous questions appeared throughout the exams: Many teachers and principals could not agree on the correct answers to questions.
  • Many children reacted viscerally to the tests: Some were crying during and after testing. Others vomited. Others simply gave up.
  • When scores were released in August 2013, the statewide proficiency rate was 31 percent.
  • State measures are contradictory: Many children are receiving scores that are not commensurate with the abilities they demonstrate on other measures. Accelerated eighth-graders scored below proficiency on the eighth-grade test only to go on and excel on the Regents examination one month later.
  • Students labeled as failures because of their test scores are being forced out of enrichment classes and into intervention classes.
  • The achievement gap is widening: The tests have caused the scores of economically disadvantaged students to plummet, and parents are reporting that low-scoring children feel like failures.
  • Tests are straining to schools’ budgets and instructional time. Precious dollars on test prep materials and instructional time formerly dedicated to field trips, special projects, arts, enrichment, has been reallocated to testing and intervention services. Know that parents have the legal right to opt-out of standardized testing and data collection (www.pacificjustice.org/opt-out-forms.html).

This unprecedented emphasis on high-stakes standardized testing is but one facet of Common Core worthy of more examination.

Local control of education, including curriculum and standards, goes to “one size fits all” bureaucratic-corporate partnerships, districts are hostage to state and federal mandates, unprecedented new costs will be borne by local taxpayers, and students’ personal data is shared by unknown corporate and bureaucratic entities.

Consider where the money goes. The most aggressive advocates will often benefit financially from its implementation (textbook publishers, computer manufacturers, etc.). One Solano County school board recently authorized $250,000 for Common Core books that the public never saw.

Pay attention. Ask questions of your school board, administrators and teachers.

Colleen Britton is a Vacaville resident and member of The Right Stuff Committee, a committee of the Solano County Republican Party. Reach her by email at [email protected]

Colleen Britton


Discussion | 1 comment

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  • Rick WoodJune 30, 2014 - 10:04 pm

    I say keep Common Core and get rid of the testing. A common core should not be treated as some sort of Holy Grail. It's not a common core that makes our education system fit our country, it's all the OTHER stuff.

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