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School Committee Rebuffs Critics, Reaffirms Support for Common Core

The Barrington School Committee votes 4-1 to continue its implementation of the Common Core, despite growing criticism of the standards in the state and across the country.

School Committee member Scott Fuller and Vice Chair Paula Dominguez. Credit: W.Rupp
School Committee member Scott Fuller and Vice Chair Paula Dominguez. Credit: W.Rupp

The Barrington School Committee gave divided support to the continuing  implementation of the suddenly controversial Common Core State Standards Thursday night, Jan. 16. 

The vote was 4-1 in favor of a resolution reaffirming its support of continued implementation, which began several years ago. 

The negative vote came from critic Scott Fuller, a Cumberland teacher and former administrator, who is actively involved in Stop Common Core RI, the small Barrington-based citizens group that is attempting to spark a statewide revolt against the standards already adopted by Rhode Island. 

"This is going on around the country, not just Rhode Island," Fuller said.

Fuller favors the implementation of higher standards for student achievement, just not Common Core. He asked the School Committee to pause and take a much harder look at the standards and how they have come about without field testing before continuing their implementation.

“After extensive research, much thought and passion for education and this town, a crystal clear picture of how the CCSS was implemented and what the effects will be on our students, teachers and taxpayers,” said Fuller in a prepared statement, “I have come to the conclusion that the CCSS is bad for Barrington, bad for Rhode Island and bad for America.” 

Fuller got support from about half a dozen other Barrington residents, including three who have launched the citizens group, Tad Segal, Amy Segal and Emily Connor.

Fuller’s and Stop Common Core RI’s message fell on deaf ears. They swayed no one else on the school board to step back and reject the resolution reaffirming Barrington’s support for the CCSS.

The most vigorous proponent on the School Committee of Common Core has always been Patrick Guida, a member of the RI Board of Education and a strong supporter of Debra Gist, RI’s commissioner of education, who pushed the standards in RI. Guida made the motion to adopt the resolution. 

“We have been talking about this for a long time,” Guida said. “I’ve been following this process for about 10 years. I’m not saying they are the best they can be. But there will be a chance to revise them.” 

“We’re certainly not dumbing down the community,” he said.

Paula Dominguez, who seconded the motion, said: “This is exactly what Barrington needs. Rhode IslandI is far from fine as we speak here. State standards are far from where they need to be. We need to be supporting implementation.” 

Fuller’s and Stop Common Core’s primary opposition to the new standards revolves primarily around the lack of local control or participation in the process of creating and adopting the CCSS, and the fact that they have never been field tested.

“Are you willing to gamble the success Barrington has had on unproven, untested standards,” said Tad Segal.

Segal also said that the standards lack a sign-off by early childhood development experts who were not part of the educational and corporate experts who developed the standards to compete with other countries. 

“They are seen as developmentally inappropriate for our youngest learners,” he said, because they are built around standardized tests. 

“Before you take this vote, know that you have no control,” Segal added. “Your hands are tied.” 

Laura Larrivee, who has a daughter at Primrose Hill School, said: “Why are you so eager to support the resolution. The standards have not been proven anywhere. I don’t understand what’s going on? We were fine.” 

Susan Giordano, another parent, said: “We should be the leaders, not the followers. About 20 states are considering stopping or pausing. Many states are saying stop and think. Don’t rush to judgment. If we become like every other school system, why would people come here?”

Joel Hellman, a member of the Barrington Committee on Appropriations, said: “We will need a significant capital increase in computers to implement this. Combined with other new costs, such as all-day kindergarten, taxpayers can expect a budget increase of 5 percent."

Another parent said: “Why is the whole country acting like sheep. We also came here because of the schools.  Why aren’t we letting Barrington continue the way it has been?” 

Fuller said also that he was shocked when he noticed that the resolution was on the agenda two days ago.

“Why no discussion at the previous meeting? Who authorized it? I am disappointed that this was done in a rather sneaky way,” Fuller said.

School Committee Chair Kate Brody said she put the resolution, which she wrote, on the agenda “as an opportunity to affirm our commitment and support of Common Core," which was adopted in 2010 in Barrington and which has been the subject of several briefs and overview since that time by administrators. 

“We’ve been having this conversation for some time,” she said. “This is a three-year-old  decision to be part of CCSS.  The focus of this resolution is to clarify any sense of confusion about where we stand.”

JD January 17, 2014 at 10:58 AM
Barrington schools are good relative to other schools in Rhode Island. That's a low hurdle benchmark if I ever saw one. The state needs an overhaul. This is the way to do it. We don't have the funds to do our own special research and curriculum. And are they still kicking the can on all day kindergarten? You can't test kids on common core and only have half day instruction. This should have been resolved last year.
Chase Fuller January 17, 2014 at 12:27 PM
JD: your comment completely misses the point. Your evaluation of the status of Rhode Island's public education may or may not be correct, but that's not what CCSS critics are addressing. The CCSS itself does nothing to ameliorate the underlying issues that contribute to achievement gaps, low test scores, and graduation rates, among other things. For example, the evidence overwhelmingly supports the claim that SES is strongly correlated with student achievement, and, therefore, test scores. This is an issue about families not having sufficient resources for their children's success. The CCSS carefully elides this point. Your suggestion that we ought to continue with the CCSS anyway because we lack the resources to independently test their efficacy is absurd on its face. First of all, even if we lacked the resources there are those (think tanks, other states, and so on) that don't, and it would be prudent to see what conclusions they reach. In fact, several think tanks and policy experts have already weighed in on the validity of the CCSS and, once again, the evidence strongly supports the notion that the CCSS will not achieve what it is designed to do. Hence, it is invalid. And think about it: what kind of policies do we want to see enacted? Should we simply tell the FDA to cease testing the safety of various health and nutrition products? Should we tell Toyota and Ford that they no longer need to pass rigorous safety tests to ensure they won't kill unwitting drivers? No, clearly we like our cars, food, drugs, airplanes, etc. safe. Because education plays such a formative role in a child's life, it seems entirely reasonable to suggest that we treat her education with the same care and attention as we do other, clearly less-valuable, things. Kids are certainly more cherished than material goods. It's one thing to believe the state needs an overhaul, and perhaps we have that in common; however, in suggesting a remedy we ought to approach the matter carefully, transparently, and with the utmost attention to detail. To do otherwise would be reckless and irresponsible.
Sheila Resseger January 18, 2014 at 10:50 AM
Please investigate the writings and public testimony of Dr. Sandra Stotsky and Prof. Milgram, who were on the CC validation committee and refused to sign to validate the ELA and math standards, respectively. (By the way, they were required to sign a confidentiality agreement not to discuss anything about their committee work, ever!) These highly regarded professionals in their fields were two of the only qualified people on the validation committee, which was essentially a rubber stamp for standards written primarily by people employed by Achieve and the College Board. These people are not educators and have no K-12 experience. Further, there were NO early childhood professionals involved in the writing of the K-2 standards. These standards have been deemed developmentally inappropriate by experienced teachers of young children and other professionals who work with young children, such as psychologists and social workers. I watched the Barrington School Committee meeting via livestreaming. I applaud all of the parents who spoke so articulately, knowledgeably, and passionately. The stories about how this is affecting their own children were very moving, although they don't seem to have moved the school committee members one iota. Scott Fuller was the only school committee member to vote against the endorsement of the CC. He was magnificent. Having all of those materials literally at his fingertips demonstrated how much thought, time, and effort he had put into investigating what's really been going on with the CC, in stark contrast to the other committee members who just mouthed the PR and probably never bothered to look at anything closely. The Common Core State (sic) Standards were not developed by states and are not what is necessary to prepare our young people for the 21st Century. When you investigate fully you will realize that these standards were developed by an elite group who had no business promulgating standards for our entire country of diverse learners. Students with special needs, English language learners, and students from high poverty neighborhoods will be particularly ill-served by these standards and the PARCC testing. Yet the ill effects are not exclusively to these traditionally under-served groups. That kindergarten children in Barrington are coming home crying and saying they hate school should give everyone pause. What are we doing to our children in the name of "rigor?"
Tad Segal January 18, 2014 at 01:05 PM
This is a great article and accurate summary of the meeting. Thank you, Bill for following this important story and giving your readers access to more information about the Common Core. One of my biggest concerns with the Common Core State Standards is that they have been documented by early childhood education experts as being developmentally inappropriate for our youngest learners (grades K-3). The Common Core imposes rigidity on our awesome Barrington teachers. They have to teach to incredibly specific and convoluted national standards that are now written verbatim into our Barrington curriculum maps. For example, this is a math standard for Kindergarten from the national Common Core standards and appears verbatim in our Barrington Curriculum Maps (as all the national Common Core standards do): "When counting objects, say the number names in the standard order, pairing each object with one and only one number name and each number name with one and only one object. Understand the last number name said tells the number of objects counted. The number of objects is the same regardless of their arrangement or the order in which they were counted." Did you get that? Remember, this is Kindergarten we're talking about. Our teachers are many things to our students - coach, friend, counselor, motivator, etc. - but now they must also apparently be magicians to be able to understand and teach to something as horribly confusing as that. If you think that we'll simply revise these standards in Barrington, think again. The Common Core doesn't allow for that to any meaningful or substantive degree. It's like it or lump it. I urge Barrington parents to do your own research and to look into the Common Core. Look at what's happened in New York State (which is one year ahead of us in terms of implementation). There is a lot of emotion (and unfortunately political partisanship) surrounding the Common Core - but please don't let that deter you from your own critical examination. Look at the facts, the research (or lack thereof) and what the education experts are saying. In other words, I would urge you to do your homework because your children's future literally depends on it.

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