Valley Voices

Sandy Torosian: Know your rights when it comes to Common Core

An editorial titled “The real test of Common Core is about to begin” was published in the Opinion section of the Fresno Bee on Jan. 18. Three paragraphs from the bottom it stated, “And teachers who can’t or won’t rise to the new standards must be managed out; students have to come before adults.”

On page 249 of “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich,” the second paragraph says, “The German schools, from first grade through the universities, were quickly Nazified. Textbooks were hastily rewritten, curricula were changed . . . and teachers who failed to see the new light were cast out.”

The similarity is unsettling.

As the commencement date for the Smarter Balanced testing quickly approaches, it is important to consider the facts about the Common Core State Standards. Allow me to share what I’ve learned.

The standards were written by three private organizations in Washington, D.C., with funds primarily supplied from the Gates Foundation. To date, the Gates Foundation has donated over $2.3 billion for the development and implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Proponents say the standards are rigorous and internationally competitive, but opponents insist they are mediocre, cover less and will lead to academic atrophy.

The lead architect of the English Language Arts Standards (ELA), David Coleman, does not have an education degree. In fact, he has zero classroom experience.

Additionally, not one K-12 educator or child development expert was on the design committee. I do not believe that an education degree makes a good teacher, but a degree should be mandatory for writing the standards that will be the driving force for curriculum across the United States.

According to Sandra Stotsky, professor of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, the standards were written behind closed doors, have never been tested and have no verified studies to support them.

Stotsky, is one of five members (out of 29) on the Common Core validation committee who refused to sign off on the standards because they are “flawed.”

On Sept. 21, 2013, during an hour-long interview at Harvard University, Bill Gates said, “It would be great if our ‘education stuff’ worked, but that we won’t know for probably a decade.”

Gates repeated the “we don’t know if it will work” refrain, about his reform efforts, a few days later during a panel discussion at the Clinton Global Initiative. It is clear this is an educational experiment, and we do not experiment with children. Nor should we put each child into one mold, as the CCSS does. Every child is unique.

The 10th Amendment and three federal laws forbid the federal government from having anything to do with education. That includes “direction, supervision or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, the selection of library resources, textbooks or other printed or published instructional materials.”

Yet the federal government offered governors a share of $4.35 billion to adopt the standards sight unseen.

Most importantly, this untested academic and political experiment increases the already high stakes of standardized testing.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, CCSS will authorize the use of testing instruments that will measure the “attributes, dispositions, social skills, attitudes and intra personal resources” of public school students under CCSS (U.S. Department of Education, Feb. 2013 report). CCSS simply states that it will develop highly effective assessments that measure . . .well . . . almost ”everything.”

Buried in all of the fine print of the CCSS is a provision that allows participating school districts to ignore HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) protections.

The newly revised FERPA (Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act) law grants school districts and states HIPAA privacy waivers. CCSS further states that this information may be distributed to “organizations conducting studies for, or on behalf of, educational agencies or institutions to develop, validate, or administer predictive testing.”

Parents and guardians, I urge you to exercise your fundamental right to direct the education of your children. Show your disapproval of this government experiment by opting out of the assessments and data gathering that are built into the Common Core State Standards.

Opt out, refuse the tests, find support and know your rights!