Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Common Core ballot questions coming this spring

I'm told that in Massachusetts, a group of people opposing the Common Core are organizing to put a non-binding resolution on local (town) ballots this spring. I'm quoting below the notification I received. FYI:

Good afternoon folks. I just want to say how excited I am to launch our ballot question! Our hope is to have it placed on the ballots of as many towns across Western MA as possible for spring elections. The outcome of this nonbinding question could really have a significant impact on public education in Massachusetts. Our plan is to present the gathered results (sure to be in our favor) to Gov. elect Charlie Baker, Commissioner Mitchell Chester and every single elected official that represents We The People.

We worked, meticulously, on this question [below] and would like it to be used, verbatim across the towns for consistency and no confusion as we drum up media coverage. The next step is finding volunteers to present it to your selectman. Spring election dates vary from town to town and we still need to gather that information. We do know Ludlow's election is in March, so we need to get this going quickly as there are time restrictions to the process. We will then proceed in Wilbraham and Longmeadow.   

What we need, right now, are volunteers to request time from your selectman to present this nonbinding ballot question (signed by at least 10 registered voters in your town) for approval. There should be no refusals since this is just a public opinion poll. Selectmen meetings are posted on your local town government web site.

MGL ch 53, sec 18A is the general law on nonbinding public opinion advisory questions on local ballots.

Without further ado . . .  

Interpretation of Question:  The Common Core State Standards Initiative, a federally designed, one-size-fits-all set of national education standards is being vigorously opposed by the parents of school-aged children all across the country. Common Core uses unproven “educational” theories such as “Constructivism” – a method of instruction where children are taught to “construct” their own way of figuring out answers to simple math problems, and “New Criticism Literary Analysis” - which removes the joy of reading and learning by emphasizing informational text reading while greatly reducing the classics.

One of the most egregious aspects of Common Core standards is tied to the gathering and storing of in-depth personal data about every child which could be shared with the federal government and even sold to third parties. This includes over 400 data points, including health history, disciplinary history, family income range, voting status, religious affiliation, etc. The files are called longitudinal - which means they include information on the student from birth through the student’s entire school and college experience.

Question:  Do you OPPOSE COMMON CORE and agree that decisions regarding education, including standard and curriculum development, should be decided at the LOCAL level with the input of a child’s main instructional influence, their parents and teachers? Do you OPPOSE the federal government’s National Common Core educational standards and the associated testing known as PARCC being imposed on the *INSERT YOUR SCHOOL DISTRICT*? And do you also OPPOSE the invasion of a child’s personal right to privacy through forced federal government data mining?

“YES” vote is a vote to OPPOSE COMMON CORE, the government’s federal enforcement of educational standards into public education. A "YES" states that you would like more local control, by taxpayers who fund public education at the local level, through property tax dollars.

“NO” vote is a vote to SUPPORT the federal government’s one-size-fits-all educational standards called COMMON CORE, which will continue to increase the cost of education while lowering, Massachusetts's (previously #1 in the country) educational standards.
Whatever your opinion on the Common Core--which I will point out, again, was adopted by the Mass Board of Ed back in 2011 and thus is THREE YEARS into being implemented across the state--there are several issues with this question.
The first is that the personal data aspect is, simply, incorrect. There is no such data set, and this is simply fearmongering. The massive data collection of this sort was why there was opposition to In Bloom, which, as readers know, not only is not being used in Massachusetts; it's gone out of business.
The second is that both Constructivism and New Criticism are not what is stated here. Constructivism isn't making up your own way of doing math; it's relating what you know and have experienced to new information. New Criticism (which was big, incidentally, in the 1940's and 50's) looks as literature on its own, as an aethetic object (without, for example, relationships to historical background and the like). So, first, these two theories, if they were being forwarded, are in conflict, and second, this isn't much like what is happening in either case (in math or in ELA). This does sound a lot like the criticism that was level against these theories at the time that they were popular, that somehow they were going to weaken the educational system (and sometimes related them to Communism).
As I've said before, there are entirely legitimate reasons to watch carefully and weigh in on the Common Core. I think many of them are developmental ones. Making stuff up, throwing around terms that many people don't know, and pushing essentially to make parents very afraid is not legitimate.
Knock it off.

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