Common Core Battle Heats Up

This is vitally important! Please take a moment to read this article and to act. If we don’t influence the Florida Legislature to slow down or opt out of the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) this coming Session, it will likely be too late to do anything.

You’ve probably seen a lot of information about CCSSI. There have been articles in recent issues of the Christian Citizenship in Action newsletter and no shortage of opinion, some disguised as “reporting”, printed in the local papers.

We’re at the watershed moment regarding CCSSI. The following paragraphs will be a summary of the major concerns expressed in prior articles, a look at the changes made by the Governor and the State Board of Education, and a “call to action” with several to-dos for you.

Please note that the thing that has created the most pushback against CCSSI is the lack of or inaccurate disclosure (in simple terms “the lies”) on the part of proponents. As the story unfolds it will become apparent that the stated agenda at the outset and the motivations being discovered as opponents dig into this are distinctly different.

The initial marketing of CCSSI promoted two major concepts as the reasons for jumping into it. The promotional material said:

  1. The CCSSI would provide higher standards and better educational outcomes.
  2. It would “level the playing field” so that states could compare themselves with one another and see where improvements were needed.

The quality of the standards continues to be debated. There are definite problems with the focus on trying to force 6 & 7 year olds into “critical thinking”. What they need is fundamentals that enable them to support critical thinking with foundational knowledge.

Of significance is the result of a study done by the Fordham Institute, a pro-CCSSI think tank. Their assessment stated that the CCSSI Math and English Language Arts standards are about equal to those Florida currently uses. For Florida that means we’re going through a massive, costly upheaval to our education system that brings no gain.

Florida is in the middle of the pack in terms of our students’ ability to do work at grade level in the two subject matter areas. If we’re basically trading evenly, then what does it mean for states whose students achieve higher than ours, states like Massachusetts that has the best results of the 50?

 

The second of their points is equally as flawed. Proponents said that having a common set of standards to drive the development of curriculum and a common test to evaluate students’ levels of achievement would provide the ability for states to compare themselves to one another. This ability would then enable individual states to spot areas of weakness and take corrective measures.

Then they started with two different testing methods. This immediately invalidated the claim that the CCSSI would produce a common platform for evaluation in all the states. Now, as we approach the implementation dates in many states, Florida has already opted out of the established testing groups and is developing its own. Other states, 26 at last count, are considering doing the same. That totally wipes out any chance for one of the big selling points used by advocates to become reality!

Although there are many more, this article will only explore a few of the more significant reasons to oppose CCSSI. Those pushing CCSSI, lacking convincing arguments to support their advocacy, have stooped to personal attacks on opponents, trying to marginalize our concerns. Here are some facts.

  1. Pro-CCSSI people say this isn’t a federal takeover of education. The subterfuge used to mask the federal involvement makes it impossible to lay out the details needed to show the federal connection in one edition of the CCIA. You can find them at flstopcccoalition.org.
  2. This clearly infringes on local and parental control. Involvement in the CCSSI requires states to use the whole of their copyrighted material. States can add up to 15% of their own material but the CCSSI testing won’t include any of that 15%.
  3. This is a totally untested experiment. Florida and 44 other states and the District of Columbia are completely changing their educational programs in order to experiment with an unproven new system. Even proponents have said it could take up to 10 years to determine whether there is any improvement in students’ performance.
  4. There has been no detailed analysis of the cost to implement or to maintain CCSSI. The standards are copyrighted by groups in DC so when they decide to make changes we’ll have to make whatever modifications they require. Since this is an untested, experimental “work in progress” you can rest assured that the changes are going to be more than mere “tweaks”.
  5. to use a federal data model that includes like Microsoft that are involved in the implementation or evaluation of CCSSI. Think through the implications of that!
  6. This re undergoing this gigantic change at the whim of 7 unelected State School Board members.
  7. There is a lot of money involved. Among those advocating the strongest for the implementation of CCSSI are companies like Microsoft and Pierson Publishers and individuals like Jeb’s brother Neil who stand to make huge sums of money from it.

Governor Scott did make an effort to address our concerns with an Executive Order calling for three town hall meetings around the state and directing the State Board of Education to be mindful of our concerns about federal involvement in Florida’s education system. While his move appeared at first to be a step in the right direction, it didn’t actually do anything to address our concerns.

The State Board of Education made 90-some tweaks to the standards. With the exception of putting cursive writing into them and adding some calculus standards in high school, in a list of thousands of standards their efforts made no substantive difference.

Now there is legislation being considered in the upcoming Session that will make it illegal for “individual” student data to be sent to Washington. The quotation marks are because that doesn’t mean student data won’t be sent, it will just be voluminous amounts of “meta-data” which CCSSI proponents say can’t be used to identify individual students. However, statisticians are saying that with the amount of data involved and the time-frame over which it will be collected, there’s an 86% chance that it can be used to identify individuals.

This and other legislation is designed to protect Florida from the possible negative aspects of CCSSI. But the only certain way to protect our state is to opt out!

What We Can Do Now

Send emails and make phone calls.

Kim McDougal is Governor Scott’s Education Policy Coordinator. Office: 850-717-9365. Cell: 850-445-6054. Email: kim.mcdougal@laspbs.state.fl.us. Tell her that the Governor campaigned as an outsider who wouldn’t be beholden to “the establishment”. He relied on grassroots conservatives to win the Primary. This will probably be a very close election. This issue will be high on the list of a lot of Floridians who vote and if we don’t opt out of Common it could cost him the extra votes he’ll need to beat Charlie Crist.

Contact your State Senator and Representative. If you don’t know who they are you can find the information at myfloridahouse.gov and flsenate.gov. Tell them that their efforts to protect Florida from the possible harms of Common Core can’t guarantee those harms won’t come to pass. The fact that they’re considering the legislation is evidence that they recognize the potential for problems. The only way to insure that there are no negative Common Core consequences is to opt out. We can go back to our tested Sunshine State Standards and create a new test that eliminates the onerous aspects of the FCAT.

Contact the State School Board by sending an email to: Commissioner@fldoe.org. Use the fact that legislators are sponsoring legislation to protect against Common Core as evidence that the State School Board needs to vote to opt out of it.

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And don’t be fooled by the name change. In an effort to deflect opposition to “Common Core” the State Board of Education has quietly renamed it CPalms. It’s exactly this kind of sneaky effort that makes it impossible to believe anything proponents say.

 

President & Founder of Community Issues Council. I'm a conservative Christian activist. For 18 years I've advocated locally from a Christian Worldview for the Sanctity of Life, Religious Liberty, Traditional Family, parents' rights, and children's education. My opinion is regularly sought out by people in the community and by local media.