Friday, January 31, 2014

Arizona College & Career Ready Standards ( aka Common Core)

I had the opportunity to listen to on of the valley's District Superintendents speak about the Arizona College and Career Ready Standards this evening. It was enlightening, and yet very disheartening. I attended the meeting to gain better perspective on the pro's and con's of this change in standards, and instead, I got to see a Ph.D. act as a federal cheerleader. All I heard was an endorsement for what Common Core is supposed to accomplish, a plug for "all-day" pre-K and Kindergarten, and a video of Arizona educators praising standards that have never been tested.
This is a topic fraught with political and ethical overtones and those came across loud and clear from this Superintendent. I recognize that standards are essential. I also recognize that we must come up with methods to quantifiably asses learning, however, standards based education has ruined the way we teach and learn. This has been well demonstrated over the last 10 years. Just "raising the bar" on the standard will not solve the problem. This was implemented only for bureaucratic convenience. Measurement of a mind's creativity, inspiration, and appreciation cannot be measured. We teach to free minds, to inspire and to equip. These skills are often un-measurable.
I guess I was expecting more clarification, but instead came away with none of that and was left feeling only an endorsement of the Superintendent's views.
As the adviser to young men in my church, a family physician, a health policy expert with thousands of patients affected by these standards, the President-Elect of my medical association, and more importantly, as a father who must navigate the ever darkening, murky waters of education with my children, this topic is of profound importance. I am asked about these standards regularly and must asses our youth, as their physician, and gauge their physical and mental capabilities in handling these standards when illness arises. Therefore, "I have significant skin in the game."
I have the following significant concerns about these standards and their implementation which have yet to be allayed:

  1. Common Core is a big business, politically powerful advocacy collation that formed with an attempt to correct the last 10 years of failed 2002 "No Child Left Behind" legislation putting into place new federally mandated standards.
  2. These standards were created in 2009 by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers in partnership with Achieve, Inc (who received $160 million dollars from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation to create the standards). And, we know that when a private company funds standards with the government, that company will be involved in the monetary gain of testing of those standards. This is the epitome of "krony capitalism" at work.
  3. To quote the Washington Post "Because federal law prohibits the federal government from creating national standards and tests, the Common Core project was ostensibly designed as a state effort . . ." But it was, in reality, contrived by an insular group of academic testing executives with only two qualified educational assessment experts, both of which never signed off on the program. "In all, there were 135 people on the review panels for the Common Core. Not a single one of them was a K-3 classroom teacher or early childhood professional." Parents were entirely missing. K-12 educators were mostly brought in after the fact to tweak and endorse the standards--and lend legitimacy to the results."
  4. Dr. Sandra Stotsky, one of only two qualified education ESL specialists and member of the Common Core Validation Committee, recently testified against Common Core implementation before the Wisconsin Board of Education stating that it created an "empty skill set, lacking in literary knowledge"
  5. Common Core was not voted upon at the federal level by Congress, the Board of Education, or by State/Local Governments, and in the state of Arizona, its implementation could only occur through the force of Gubernatorial Executive order due to its controversy in the house and senate, after its name was changed.
  6. The measurement standards (PARCC Test) have not been fully implemented in Arizona and will require outside companies to formulate, read and grade our children's tests and thereby the teachers who are teaching those students. 

    Upon finishing the meeting, two people also in attendance approached me as I left the building, one of which currently serves as a School Principle and another who serves as a college professor. They informed me that my concerns were "unfounded ultra-conservative delusions that have no place in the argument of school standards.
    My perception of our meeting this evening is that a number of very uninformed people in our community will return home to their families with a flowery, lemming-like-acceptance of unproven, tax laden standards that, I believe, have significant potential to damage the educational and financial futures of our children.

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