Karen R. Effrem, MD
The Common Core Standards and related assessments being implemented in Florida have many problems including lack of rigor and transparency; loss of state, local, family, and teacher autonomy, as well as loss of data privacy; and high costs that will be borne by the state and counties analogously to the proposed Medicaid expansion. The citizens of Florida and their elected representatives on county school boards and in the legislature should consider carefully before spending hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars more and irreversibly changing the state’s education system with enormous impact on our children’s future, freedom, the economic health of the state, parental and teacher autonomy and data privacy.
Lack of Academic Rigor
Although the Thomas Fordham Institute is a strong Common Core proponent, their grading scale found that Florida’s current standards were near or above the level of the Common Core. Why should so much be spent to change them?
Common Core Grade
|English Language Arts||
The standards define college readiness as being the same for 4-year, 2-year, and vocational colleges[i]
Despite claims by Commissioner Tony Bennett and proponents that the standards are “internationally benchmarked,”[ii] repeated data requests by members of the Common Core validation committees were ignored[iii]
English (Much more detail available on request)
High school level, “college ready” standards actually at 6th to 8th grade level[iv]
Chief architects, David Coleman (now head of College Board) and Susan Pimentel, have had no experience teaching English or reading at any grade level from K-12[v]According to experts the standards are described as empty skill sets; significant reduction in literary study leading “to fewer opportunities for students to acquire the general academic vocabulary needed for college work;” and the division of reading standards leading to completely incoherent literature curriculum in grades 6-12[vi]
Texts being taught without historical context – e.g. Animal Farm[vii] and the Gettysburg Address[viii]
Mathematics (Much more detail available on request)
Chief architects, Professors William McCallum and Jason Zimba, have never taught mathematics at any grade level from K-12[ix]
According to experts, Common Core removes the mathematical concepts that are critical for four year college readiness, STEM careers, international competitiveness, and are major delays and steps backwards from the most highly rated state standards and those of other countries.[x]
Florida Not Ready for Implementation – Florida, the state leader of PARCC, the 22 state testing consortium, admits that the state is not ready to implement Common Core. Education Commissioner Tony Bennett said within the next few months his staff will devise a “Plan B” in case implementation cannot proceed as planned by 2015.[xi]
Testing and Costs
Because computer adapted testing will change the difficulty of questions for each student depending on the answer to the previous question, there will be no uniform testing standard so that there cannot be uniform comparison between students, much less between states.[xii]
Florida $1,024,163,000 (projected cost for testing, technology, textbooks, and professional development)[xiii] – $905,838,000 (grants received) = $118,325,000 (costs to FL taxpayers)
Given that Tony Bennett and the SBOE are asking for $400 million in one year[xiv] to implement assessments equivalent to what the Florida has already spent on the FCAT between 1996[xv] and 2008, that $118 million amount might well be low and will serve as a huge unfunded mandate to already strapped county districts.
South Carolina Senator Mike Fair cites data that testing cost will increase from $12/student to $100/student[xvi] in that state which is a member of the other testing consortium called SBAC. Both PARCC & SBAC require multiple computerized assessments during one school year. Florida’s testing cost for the FCAT in 2008, the most recent year available, was $19.44 per student[xvii]
All states in each of the large testing consortia (PARCC, of which Florida is a part, and SBAC) must agree on cut scores and the test item banks despite wide disparities in education philosophy, attainment, and funding[xviii]
Without enough computer equipment and IT staff to allow every student to take multiple tests every year, students will have to rotate through computer labs creating less than uniform administration for students as well as major test security problems[xix]
Student Data Collection
The Electronic Information Privacy Center is suing the U.S. Department of Education over the weakening via regulation of FERPA (Family Education Rights and Privacy Act) passed by Congress to prevent the use of student level data without consent in the state longitudinal data systems required for Race to the Top.[xx]
“A new database tracks learning disabilities, test scores, attendance, as well as student hobbies, career goals, attitudes toward school, even homework completion. Federal Department of Education officials say that the “database project complies with privacy laws. Schools do not need parental consent to share student records with any “school official” who has a “legitimate educational interest,” according to the Department of Education. The department defines “school official” to include private companies hired by the school, so long as they use the data only for the purposes spelled out in their contracts.”[xxi]
Information from the U. S. Department of Education leads one to conclude that our children will be used as psychological guinea pigs:[xxii]
Conclusion 10: There are important opportunities to leverage new and emerging advances in technology (e.g., educational data mining, affective computing, online resources, tools for teachers) to develop unprecedented approaches for a wide range of students.
Recommendation 10: Researchers should work closely with technology developers to continue to explore how to integrate best practices into new and emerging digital learning environments that are well positioned to promote grit, tenacity, and perseverance, and key psychological resources (mindsets, learning strategies, and effortful control) for a range of purposes.
Loss of State Sovereignty & Local Control – Despite claims by proponents[xxiii] very little about Common Core is voluntary or state led. The U.S. Constitution is silent on the matter of education. Education is not an enumerated power of the federal government, therefore according to the tenth amendment; education is to be controlled by the state and the people. The implementation of Common Core and the No Child Left Behind waivers is making state legislators irrelevant, except to write the checks.
Not “State Led” – States were required to adopt the standards verbatim. Many states did so before they were even finished. They could have added up to 15% of their own material, but not deleted anything or made any amendments. This additional 15% will not be included on national tests developed by PARCC and SBAC. Standards are copyrighted by Achieve, The National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, who deny any responsibility or liability for their accuracy, and demand that the standards must be used for “for purposes that support the Common Core State Standards Initiative.”
Not “Voluntary” – States with large deficits and desperate for funding during the recession had to adopt these standards in order to qualify for Race to the Top finds. Standards were also required to gain flexibility from No Child Left Behind.
Not “Locally Controlled” – The appointed State Board of Education in Florida made the final decision to adopt Common Core without explanation to the public or the public’s elected representatives on county school boards or in the state legislature despite major academic concerns, high costs and unfunded mandates.
Legality – Three federal laws prohibit federal interference in matters of curriculum, standards, or instruction-The Department of Education Organization Act, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, and the General Education Provisions Act.[xxiv]
Effect on Private and Home Schooled Students
Governor Scott said on 12/12/12 that he believes that students attending private schools using tax-credit scholarships should meet the same standards as students in traditional public schools and, “Ultimately, everybody is going to Common Core.“[xxv]
Since David Coleman, one of the chief authors of the Common Core Standards in English is now president of the College Board, one of two major college entrance exams, and says he plans to align the SAT with the Common Core, private and homeschooled students will have to be concerned about how Common Core affects them.
The Home School Legal Defense Association is concerned that these “voluntary” state standards are “too close to a national curriculum.[xxvi]
Effect on Teachers
Data Collection – The Data Quality Campaign for teacher data is currently tracking whether a state has a teacher of record definition; whether the state’s teacher-student data link can connect more than one educator to a particular student in a given course, the state has in place a process for teacher roster verification; and whether the state collects data linking teachers and students multiple times per year. Florida said “yes” to all four questions.[xxvii] This means that teachers are being held accountable for the tests results on standards for individual students they had little or no involvement in developing and must teach them regardless of their professional opinion on whether they are helpful for children and how they should be taught.
“The left fears “one size fits all” instruction that will turn teachers into widget makers whose primary purpose is to prepare students for testing, not learning….People’s World, a media outlet of organized labor, has raised concerns about the role played in Common Core adoption by Stand for Children. Although the group began with children’s rights advocacy as its focus, it now pushes a corporate education agenda focused on union-busting, People’s World reports. Stand for Children’s donors include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, New Profit Inc. and the Walton Family Foundation.”[xxviii]
More than 500 early childhood professionals opposed the Common Core by signing The Joint Statement of Early Childhood Health and Education Professionals on the Common Core Standards Initiative[xxix]
“Common Core’s ELA standards will entail drastic costs in order to change academic coursework, professional preparation programs, and professional development for prospective or current English teachers”.[xxx]
Significant Grassroots Opposition to Common Core
2013 – Legislative efforts already in Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, and South Carolina to scale back or withdraw from Common Core. Alabama and Utah have withdrawn from the testing consortia, meaning that even if they keep the Common Core on paper, if they don’t do the tests, they can’t really be forcing schools and teachers to comply
2012 – 26/46.5 states + DC showed some sort of hesitancy, resistance, or rebellion to the Common Core = 56%[xxxi]
[i] Dr. Michael Kirst of Stanford University, President of California State School Board admits that PARCC sees college and career readiness as equivalent in a presentation to the California Senate Education Committee 3/13/13 http://collegepuzzle.stanford.edu/?p=2938 at 10:40
[ii] Presentation by Commissioner Tony Bennett to Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee 2/13/13 http://www.flsenate.gov/media/videoplayer.cfm?EventID=2443575804_2013021175
[iii] Professor Sandra Stotsky – Invited Testimony on the Low Quality of the Common Core Standards to the Colorado State Board of Education 12/6/12 http://www.uaedreform.org/wp-content/uploads/2000/01/Stotsky_Testimony_for_Colorado.pdf
[iv] Sandra Stotsky – Exiting the National Standards Bandwagon – Heritage Foundation 4/17/12 http://www.heritage.org/events/2012/04/national-standards at 32:00
[v] Stotsky, Colorado testimony, op cit.
[vii]Mary Grabar – Common Core: Orwellian Lessons in Florida – 1/19/13
[ix] Stotsky, Colorado testimony, op cit.
[xi] Bennett presentation, op cit
[xii] Fair, op cit.
[xiii] Pioneer Institute – National Cost of Aligning States and Localities to the Common Core Standards – February, 2012, http://pioneerinstitute.org/?wpdmdl=7& and Henry Burke – States’ Taxpayers Cannot Afford Common Core Standards – 10/12/2012 http://educationviews.org/states-taxpayers-cannot-afford-common-core-standards/
[xiv] Orlando Sentinel – Education leaders worry schools won’t be ready for new standards – 2/18/13 http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2013-02-18/features/os-schools-common-core-technology-20130218_1_new-standards-new-tests-florida-schools
[xvi] South Carolina Senator Mike Fair – BIG PROBLEMS WITH COMMON CORE STUDENT TESTING SCHEME – Education Week 9/29/12 http://educationviews.org/big-problems-with-common-core-student-testing-scheme/
[xvii] Florida FCAT costs, op. cit
[xviii] Bennett and Orlando Sentinel, op cit.
[xx] Valerie Strauss – Lawsuit charges Ed Department with violating student privacy rights – Washington Post 3/13/13 http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/03/13/lawsuit-charges-ed-department-with-violating-student-privacy-rights/
[xxi]K-12 student database jazzes tech startups, spooks parents Reuters 3/3/13
[xxii] U.S. Department of Education, Office of Technology – DRAFT: Promoting Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance—Critical Factors for Success in the 21st Century – p. xv http://www.ed.gov/edblogs/technology/files/2013/02/OET-Draft-Grit-Report-2-17-13.pdf
[xxiii] Bennett presentation, op cit
[xxiv] The General Education Provisions Act (20 U.S.C. § 1232a) says, “No provision of any applicable program shall be construed to authorize any department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system, or over the selection of library resources, textbooks, or other printed or published instructional materials by any educational institution or school system, or to require the assignment or transportation of students or teachers in order to overcome racial imbalance.” 20 U.S.C. § 3403(b) (the Department of Education Organization Act limitation); 20 U.S.C. § 7907(a) (the Elementary and Secondary Education Act limitation)
[xxv] Tia Mitchell – Governor Rick Scott Advocates Testing Voucher Students at Private Schools – Tampa Bay Tribune, 12/13/12 http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/the-buzz-florida-politics/content/gov-rick-scott-advocates-testing-voucher-students-private-schools/2101331
[xxvii] Analysis of State Promising Practices in Defining Teacher of Record and Linking Teachers and Students based on 2011 data http://dataqualitycampaign.org/files/ckfinder/files/Analysis%20of%20State%20Promising%20Practices%20in%20TOR%20and%20TSDL.pdf
[xxviii] Andrea Neal – Left, right unite against Common Core – Indianapolis Star 3/19/13 http://www.indystar.com/article/20130319/OPINION/303190058/Left-right-unite-against-Common-Core
[xxx] Stotsky, op cit.
[xxxi] Karen R. Effrem, MD – States Starting to Rebel Against Common Core – Education Liberty Watch 2/29/12 http://edlibertywatch.org/2012/09/states-starting-to-rebel-against-common-core/
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