Idaho will lose control with standards

Recently I’ve started to familiarize myself with the latest propaganda on education and the effect it will have on the youth of Idaho.  I’m speaking of the U.S. Department of Education, and the private entities promoting the Common Core State Standards in the states – using the lure of Race to the Top money to do so.

For those of you who may not be familiar with Common Core, I’m speaking of a set of national common K-12 content standards in English language arts (ELA) and math. Common Core is designed to standardize education in all 50 states, resulting in a population of students supposedly being better able to compete in a global economy.

What Common Core supporters (including Idaho Superintendent Tom Luna) don’t tell us is that the individual states aren’t in control of these standards; instead, the standards were created and are controlled by the same people who have been advocating a national curriculum for decades.  These advocates were behind the campaign in the early 1990s to overhaul the history curriculum throughout the United States – an effort that ended in 1995, when the U.S. Senate rejected the “politically correct” and anti-American history standards 99-1.

Common Core, along with the aligned “SMARTER Balanced” computerized national test, will eventually allow the federal government to influence if not control school curriculum in ELA and math.  This violates three federal statutes: the act that created the U.S. Department of Education (USDE), the General Education Provisions Act, and No Child Left Behind. All of these statutes explicitly prohibit USDE from supervising, directing, or controlling curriculum.  But with Common Core and SMARTER Balanced, these prohibitions are ignored.  But equally disturbing is the fact that the standards are owned and copyrighted by two private trade associations in Washington, and financed by private entities such as the Gates Foundation. We have thus turned over control of our children’s education to truly anonymous people in Washington.

The adoption of Common Core will strip states of their constitutional authority over education as stated in the 10th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.  When Common Core is fully implemented, parents will no longer be able to control or even influence what their children are being taught.  By adopting Common Core, Idaho has relinquished any control over its ELA and math standards.  It can neither change nor delete anything in the standards, but can add a mere 15 percent content (which won’t be included on the SMARTER Balanced test).

It is unlikely that Common Core will in fact bridge the perceived gap between American students and their international competitors. Rather, it will narrow and “dumb down” the curriculum based on the government’s desire to create “cogs” for the economic machine.

The only mathematician on the Common Core Validation Committee, Dr. James Milgrim, Stanford University, refused to sign off on the standards, stating that by grade 8, our students would be about two years behind those of high-performing countries, and that it is “almost a joke” to think that a student educated under Common Core would be prepared for math at a university.  A Virginia Tech Mathematics Professor investigated the crown jewel of Common Core, which is the fraction, and his summary is very succinct “the Common Core Standard of fraction not only doesn’t support skill development they encourage practices that result in dysfunctional skills”.  Another member of the Validation Committee, who is the nation’s leading expert on  English Language Arts (ELA) standards, Dr. Sandra Stotsky, who sat on the Common Core Validation Committee for a year, gives the Common Core ELA standards a grade of “D” and warns that they will not prepare students for authentic college coursework.  During her testimony before the Michigan House of Representatives on 3-20-2013 concerning HB4276 a bill to repeal the Common Core Standards in Michigan, Dr. Stotsky, stated “the people chosen to write the Common Core Standards were chosen by the Gates Foundation, the Common Core Validation Committee knew that the standards were not developed by the states as what was being touted by some. They chose one for English and one for Math, neither of them had ever taught in K-12 and neither of them ever published anything in curriculum instruction.  They knew very little about K-12, and they were not content experts in K-12”.  Dr. Stotsky, went on to say “that the nature of Common Cores English Language Arts Standards are not content standards they are skills standards, but they are empty skills standards that’s why they have no rigor”.

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Dr. Stotsky continued her testimony by saying “that five people on the Common Core Validation Committee didn’t sign off on the Common Core due to the fact they were not internationally benchmarked, they were not researched based, and they were not going to make us competitive and they were of mediocre quality”.

It appears that further investigation into the Common Core State Standards is warranted, that is, if the goal is to provide the best state standards for curriculums for ELA and Math in our schools.  If the goal is to support the Common Core Standards then it would appear that educational standards aren’t important in Idaho Schools, however, Race to the Top Monies and the No Child Left Behind Waiver are.

Simply put, Common Core isn’t about education – it’s about control.  It’s about giving up school curriculum and testing rights to the federal government and to anonymous private entities, and it was about control from some education reform groups who candidly admit the goal is to create a national market place for educational products and services.  All of which are committed to dumbing down our Idaho Students.

The Common Core scheme is also about gathering and tracking personal information on our children. Under the Stimulus bill and the Race to the Top application, states agreed to build massive databases on their students. What’s the connection to Common Core?  The SMARTER Balanced testing consortium will have access to some of this personal data through the tests – and because of a contract that SMARTER Balanced has with USDE; it must turn over that “student-level data” to the federal government.  USDE has also gutted federal student-privacy law, so that any of this student-level data it gets can be shared with literally anyone in the world, governmental or private, as long as USDE uses the right language to justify the sharing. Parents will have no right to object; they will never know the sharing has occurred.

This data-tracking system will include disciplinary records, health history, family income range, religious affiliation, etc.  When we send our children to school, we do so under the Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).  Nowhere in the guidelines of FAPE, or of individual schools, districts, or even the State Department of Education handbooks does it say that by sending our children to school we are signing away our civil liberties.  Families of Idaho, this is not record-keeping – it is the legalized stalking of our children.

Common Core, and especially the new online tests, will also impose an enormous unfunded mandate on our state and on our local districts.  One testing expert predicts that because of the requirements for new technology, testing costs may skyrocket to $100 per student per year – well over twice what Idaho currently spends.  And this doesn’t include the cost of retraining teachers and purchasing new textbooks and materials.

In light of all these problems, some states – Texas, Alaska, and Nebraska – refused to sign on to Common Core (Minnesota adopted the ELA standards but rejected the math). Virginia has since withdrawn, with its Board of Education declaring that it “opposes the use of federal rulemaking and the peer review process as leverage to compel word-for-word adoption of the Common Core State Standards.” Many other states – Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, South Carolina – have active legislation to withdraw from Common Core, and still others are seeing grassroots efforts to head In that direction.  Momentum is on the side of the people who want to reclaim their local control over education.

Idaho ranks 48th in the nation in education despite investing approximately $9,026, billion dollars in general fund monies over the past 7 years or an average of approximately 48.9 percent of the general fund in education.  I’m wondering why we continue to fund a system with this ranking and no change in sight.  It appears that more money hasn’t corrected this problem, and neither will implementing the untested, unpiloted, and very expensive Common Core Standards.

Where do we go from here?  I suggest calling the governor’s office and the state superintendent of schools’ office and ask why they would support any education program which strips a states authority over education as stated in the 10th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and guts the federal student privacy law?  Finally, contact your legislator and letting them know the Common Core State Standards do not have a place in Idaho.  COMMON CORE NEEDS TO BE STOPPED…

To eliminate the Common Core State Standards of the future, I suggest we Idahoans, who are interested in providing the necessary K-12 curriculum on an ongoing basis to our children, consider establishing by state law an Idaho State Board of Education.  The SBOE would be in charge of curriculum standards in Idaho Schools.  The SBOE board members would be elected by those located in their educational districts/regions in the state.  The chairman of the board would be elected by SBOE board members, and not appointed by any governor.

The SBOE would work in conjunction with committees also established by state law whose members would apply to their local SBOE board member for nomination to a committee.  Committee members would consist of Teachers, Parents/Public, and Businesses assigned to review curriculum changes/standards being considered by the SBOE for Idaho Schools.  The committees’ review and recommendations when complete would go back to the state board for final passage or not.  An Idaho State Board of Education and its committees would provide a badly needed checks and balances in Idaho Education working to eliminate any agenda driven passage of curriculum(s) now, or in the future.