Shine light on Common Core
By Donna Colorio
As I see it, our country is going through a major educational transformation and I ask myself, “Where are the parents?”
In 2010, a D.C.-based nonprofit called Achieve, under the guidance of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, created what is now known as the “Common Core” standards. It appears that the goal is to create standardized learning throughout our country.
I hope this makes you ask yourself, “What is the Common Core?”
In my opinion, the lack of transparency is disturbing. In May 2008, The Gates Foundation started funding the promotion of the Common Core standards. In December 2008, the National Governors Association, Council of Chief State School Officers, and Achieve released their report “Benchmarking for Success.”
The first draft of the Common Core grade level standards was released to states in November 2009. The first public draft followed, on March 10, 2010. By that time, 40 states had already applied for Race to the Top phase-one grant funding.
If the new and largely untested Common Core standards were not adopted by a state by Aug. 1, 2010, the state would lose crucial points in Round 2.
Massachusetts applied for Race to the Top funds by the Jan. 19, 2010, round one deadline. Our Department of Elementary and Secondary Education adopted the Common Core state standards that July, with a goal to be fully implemented in 2013-14.
Just like that, essentially brand new curricular standards had re-oriented 17 years of curricular development and MCAS alignment, which had evolved in Massachusetts since passage of the Education Reform Act of 1993.
Now is it clear: Parents, elected representatives, school committee members and teachers appear to have been largely bypassed in the initial process of adopting the Common Core state standards.
Educational policy is too important to be decided this way. It ignores the very heart of the democratic process, and the value of thoughtful, deliberative, inclusive planning. As parents, we should be very concerned.
As a parent and School Committee member, I believe many questions still need to be answered:
How much local control of education do we lose to a nationalized-educational curriculum? Have the Common Core standards been piloted to show they work? Are the present Massachusetts educational standards (using the MCAS as a benchmark) better or at least equal to the Common Core? How much will this new standard cost the Massachusetts taxpayers (estimates are over $15 billion)? What kind of tests will be required as a result of the implementation of the Common Core? How are our disadvantaged or higher achieving students affected by this change in standards? What will the impact be on our teachers?
There is a secondary impact of the Race to the Top money. In 2012, there was a change in federal educational privacy law. According to the Massachusetts Department of Education website ( http://www.doe.mass.edu) a significant share of the Race to the Top money awarded to Massachusetts mandate enhanced data collection activities about our students. As parents, we should ask ourselves, “What type of questions are our students being asked? How much of this student data will be shared with the federal or state government? Do we want this data collected or shared?”
I have long believed that education is a state and local responsibility. As a member of the Worcester School Committee, I believe it is my job to ensure that our students are being taught to the highest academic standards and that curriculum is developed or chosen by our state and/or local authority.
Parents have the right to know what is happening with their child’s education. It seems that Common Core is yet another reform being pushed through too quickly with too many potential costs and lifelong learning consequences (remember Whole Language?).
Neither parents nor educators had a truly effective opportunity to study the standards, to enable them to exercise an informed and persuasive voice in the process or decision, prior to their adoption. Some Catholic and other private schools are also implementing the Common Core. As parents, we need to understand what we gain or lose with this decision.
A forum titled “Can Common Core Standards Make Massachusetts Students Competitive?” will take place at the Worcester Public Library, 3 Salem St., in Worcester from 6:30 to 9 p.m. next Tuesday, May 28. It is free and open to the public. The forum features English Language Arts curriculum author Sandra Stotsky and cost and accountability expert Ted Rebarber.
I encourage Massachusetts’ parents, members of school committees, state representatives and teachers to attend this one-time forum. Don’t be left in the dark.
Donna Colorio is an educator at Quinsigamond Community College and serves on the Worcester School Committee. She can be reached at email@example.com.
This op ed was published at Telegram.com and is republished with permission from Donna Colorio. http://www.telegram.com/article/20130522/NEWS/105229940/0/SEARCH&Template=printart
The forum mentioned in the article was filmed and viewable online.