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'Alternative' Common Core Session Lambasts State Standards

Barrington School Committee member Scott Fuller speaks at the 'alternative' session on the Common Core Tuesday night. Credit: W.Rupp
Barrington School Committee member Scott Fuller speaks at the 'alternative' session on the Common Core Tuesday night. Credit: W.Rupp

Approximately 40 Barrington residents got an “alternative view” of the Common Core State Standards in the high school Tuesday night, Jan. 28.

They also were briefed on legislation in the State House that is attempting to halt the implementation of the Common Core and the PARCC assessment test in RI for about a year by setting up a special task force to study the new standards.

“I’m trying to cut the head off the snake,” said Rep. Gregg Amore of East Providence, a high school history teacher, who introduced the bill. “If we delay the PARCC, it will die.” 

Amore’s bill was part of a presentation in the high school cafeteria that followed the Common Core Outreach session in the auditorium, which gave the Rhode Island Education Department’s take on the controversial Common Core standards. The cafeteria session, dubbed “The Rest of the Story,” was sponsored by the Barrington-based citizens group, Stop Common Core RI.

“Help is on the way,” said Barrington School Committee member Scott Fuller, a member of the citizens group.

Fuller relayed the news that the Tiverton School Committee voted this week to support Amore's bill. Now if he could only talk his colleagues on the School Committee into doing the same thing, he said. 

“Do you want your kids to be part of a national experiment?” he said. “You need to be very concerned, especially if your children are in elementary school.” 

Tad Segal, a principal organizer of the anti-Common Core group and a Barrington parent, said he has two principal concerns. 

“It’s not developmentally appropriate for younger children,” Segal said. “There were no early childhood educators involved in this."

"And it’s never been field-tested," Segal said of Common Core.

Susan Giordano, another Barrington parent, described Common Core as “untried, untested and unproven. And it’s a one-size-fits-all approach … that was written by people tied to testing companies. If you follow the money, it all makes sense.”

She also said one of the primary supporters of Common Core, computer magnate Bill Gates, said that “we won’t know for a decade if it will work.” 

Amy Segal, the wife of Tad Segal, said: “The standards are the curriculum in Barrington. They are exactly what the Common Core State Standards are.”

She pointed to a copy of the Common Core standards for third-grade math that was projected on a cafeteria wall. It mimics exactly the Common Core, she said.

Fuller added that Mary Ann Snider, a RIDE representative at the “outreach” session, said: “The Common Core standards aren’t that much different than what the state has now. So, why are we spending the money and time and effort to change them?” 

Fuller, a math teacher in Cumberland, also said that the mathematics standards in kindergarten through fourth grade “are the hot-button issue” for many parents. 

Amore said his legislation, which will be given a hearing the week after the February break, is an attempt “to shine light on this.” He said a similar bill has been introduced in the State Senate.

“Urban districts are going to be killed by this,” Amore said. “It is already causing great chaos. We’re trying to bring the state Board of Education to its senses.”

“The (PARCC) test will drive the instruction,” he said. “This is the best sales job I’ve ever seen except at war time. This education policy is so misguided. But we have to get this bill to the floor first." 

Tad Segal ended the alternative Common Core session by urging people to attend the hearing on Amore’s bill.

“If we don’t show up, we’re dead,” he said. “We’re dead.”

C. Anderson January 29, 2014 at 11:54 AM
January 28, 2014...................................................................... Boycotting Tests Is Helping Stop the Common Core......................................................................................... by Katie Tipton HSLDA Legislative Assistant.................................................................................. Across the country, parents and public school students are slowing the Common Core’s progress by refusing to take Common Core-aligned assessments. These efforts have caused some school administrators to cancel standardized testing........................................................................................................................................................................................ Examples of the trend are plentiful in Washington, New York, Illinois, Oregon, Colorado, and Rhode Island. In one Washington school district, more than 80% of the parents refused to let their 4-year-olds take a “bubble style” test that is required by state law for teacher evaluations. The principal canceled the tests, because it would have been impossible to collect meaningful data.1........................................................................................ Parents in New York City and across New York have withheld their children from testing to the degree that one principal remarked, “The amount of disruption this is creating is actually a threat to the quality of education.”2 Dozens of students in Portland refused to take new standardized assessments, forcing the state to accept alternative testing methods.3................................................................................................................................................................................. As it becomes clear that stopping the Common Core depends on the efforts of concerned parents and students, the opt-out movement is proving to be an effective way to work toward this goal. HSLDA encourages parents and legislators to continue using creative and positive approaches to turn back the Common Core.
C. Anderson January 29, 2014 at 11:55 AM
Notes........................................................................................................................................................................................ 1. Rachel Monahan, “Forget Teaching to the Test—at This Washington Heights Elementary School, Parents Canceled It!,” http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/uptown/parents-opt-city-test-article-1.1492127 New York Daily News, October 21, 2013, accessed December 17, 2013,....................................................................................................................................................................................... 2. Javier C. Hernandez, “A Tough New Test Spurs Protest and Tears,” New York Times, April 19, 2013, accessed December 17, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/19/education/common-core-testing-spurs-outrage-and-protest-among-parents.html?_r=1&....................................................................................... 3. Nicole Dungca, “Portland Public Schools students kick off campaign against state standardized tests,” Oregonian, February 6, 2013, accessed December 17, 2013, http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2013/02/portland_public_schools_studen_2.html............................................................................................................................................http://www.hslda.org/docs/news/2014/201401280.asp?elq=817907611fb94c1ca7584d009455a871&elqCampaignId=322
Seth Milman January 30, 2014 at 07:13 AM
I would like to understand this issue more. I don't necessarily agree with the argument that we shouldn't implement the program because it's untested. Common core is new, but I don't think that alone is a good reason to set it aside. The present education system in America has put us behind compared to other countries - so keeping the status quo does not seem to be in our best interest either. The test should be about the curriculum. Can anyone point to reliable and objective information about whether the substance of common core's curriculum is better or worse than the current, status quo curriculum?
Cyndee Fuller January 30, 2014 at 08:55 AM
I am also confused about this issue. While my child will have graduated from college in June, I have been trying to understand what all of the concern is about. Arguments seem to be more about the testing and less about the content of the teaching. I'm beginning to think this is more about standards to which teachers are being held rather than the education of our children. I'd like to read an objective article about what the real issues are and less silly one-line quotes from local leaders.
Just the Facts January 30, 2014 at 09:49 AM
Until YOU have a child tangled in this web of CC crap you won't be able to understand. When a child feels like a failure because he/she can't complete their homework, we have failed as parents/educators.
JD January 30, 2014 at 12:10 PM
Boycotting the tests may end up hurting a child's college application, unless his or her essay is about the boycott, and very convincing. I am concerned that we would not do sample testing based on the new curriculum, over at least one one year, to see how it's working. I don't think nixing it all together is a good idea though. The idea behind this is to up the standards for educators, as much as it is for students. Make it easier to help bad teachers improve, and force the ones who can't, out. Sadly, I think we'll find out that based on the new standards, RI is severely lacking on both the student and educator side. Still, we should start this with testing at a low grade level first, and then that test group and each thereafter, will take tests, until the initial group (if they start in 3rd grade now) with be taking the CC test for high school seniors in 9 years. To test all kids in all classes, across the board, especially teens, creates unnecessary anxiety for all involved.
Sheila Resseger January 30, 2014 at 01:08 PM
There are many issues of serious concern about the standards themselves, even apart from changes to the curriculum and the testing and data collection. If you google Dr. Sandra Stotsky and Prof. James Milgram, you will find numerous articles they have written about the inadequacies of the standards and the misguided approach they take to teaching and learning. Both of these well-respected long-time educators were on the validation committee for the CC (Dr. Stotsky for ELA and Dr. Milgram for math). They each declined to sign off on the standards. They had many criticisms that went totally unheeded. The other inexcusable situation regarding the small group who actually drafted the standards is that most of them came from Achieve, Inc. and the SAT/ACT organizations. These people were not and never claimed to be educators. They were primarily concerned with what could be tested. Also, there were NO early childhood professionals involved with writing the standards. The standards were back-mapped from what a graduating senior will supposedly need to know and do to attend a post-secondary program without remediation. While this seems reasonable, it's not reasonable to back-map these goals down to pre-K, which is what has happened. The youngest students are suffering inexcusable stress. The learning needs of ELL students, students with special needs with IEPs, and students living in extreme poverty were not taken into consideration. ALL children must meet the same high standards at the same pace, year by year. This is as impossible as that NCLB was going to ensure that all students would be proficient in ELA and math by 2014. As many have said before, children are not widgets. Each child is unique and needs to be respected. Individual strengths, weaknesses, talents, and interests cannot be met by a one-size-fits-all curriculum. The comparisons to the scores of students in other countries is also misleading. American public schools welcome all children, and provide a free education through high school. The countries that America has been compared to do not necessarily test ALL of their students as we do. The other vital factor is the poverty rate. Finland, one of the highest achieving countries, has a child poverty rate of about 4%. In American we have an obscene rate of about 24%, and many of the most impoverished families live in segregated areas. We need to improve education for all children, but the Common Core and PARCC testing is diametrically opposed to doing that.
Amy Segal January 30, 2014 at 01:21 PM
When talking about how the US compares with educational testing to other countries, one must understand that in other countries not everyone is tested. I have a slide from a presentation given to the Barrington Schools By Dr. Eric Milou in 2012 states that in Singapore (a country often cited as doing better than the US) the student population doesn't even include the children of parents who work in low-wage jobs. By the 6th grade they take a test to determine what kind of schooling they will get in the future. So, the schooling there is very differentiated and when you hear that the US doesn't stack up to other countries it is because we test every single child and other countries do not. If we tested only our best and brightest I bet we'd probably come out on top. Also, countries like Finland (another country often cited as doing better) have a very homogenous population and offer things like government-funded day care that really make a difference in how prepared all of their children are for schooling when they start.
Amy Segal January 30, 2014 at 01:34 PM
Asking questions about the substance of our current curriculum is excellent and I encourage you to ask these things of your school committee members. It is almost impossible to find the curriculum that is being used on the Barrington Public Schools website (before CC was adopted this was very easy to find and browse by going to the curriculum section of the website). We had to ask Paula Dillon, curriculum dir., to point us to the right spot and I can tell you that the curriculum is almost word for word the standards. Here is an example from the 3rd grade math curriculum on the BPS website curriculum maps: "Find the areas of rectilinear figures by decomposing them into non-overlapping rectangles and adding the areas of the non-overlapping parts, applying this technique to solve real world problems." Is that better than before? Not in my opinion. When we talk about improving the schools in the US I don't think we are talking about such high-performing districts as Barrington. Of course there is always room for improvement, but to scrap an entire curriculum that has been working for so long and implement the new one across all grades in one year is ludicrous. Absolutely ridiculous. And our high-performing district and students are the guinea pigs in this expedient. Education should be about local control. What works and is needed in lower-performing districts (and I think CC is even worse for those districts) is probably not what works and is needed in Barrington.

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