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October 24, 2013 7:20 am

EDITORIAL: Common Core critics have not made their case

Written by Tom Lawrence

There is no doubt that students in American schools should share a common goal: To be as well-educated as possible.

 

 

Kids from Maine to California, from Alaska to Florida, should all graduate with a similar understanding of math, science, English and other core fields of study.

Note two of the words that were just used: Common Core. It’s the title of an effort to set education standards to promote critical thinking and deeper learning among our students. This national program has been adopted by 45 states, including Wyoming, and the vast majority of educators have endorsed it. Here in the Powell school district, not a single educator has expressed opposition, according to Park County School District No. 1 Superintendent Kevin Mitchell.

But as with seemingly everything today, Common Core has become politicized. Many conservatives, and several members of both the Republican Party and the Tea Party movement have increasingly argued against its implementation.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a potential 2016 candidate for president, said Common Core is being “used by the Obama administration to turn the Department of Education into what is effectively a national school board.”

Some gun rights supporters have seen a link between Common Core and gun control, a tie that frankly we can neither find nor understand.

Senate candidate Liz Cheney, who is running hard to the right in her effort to unseat Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., is also openly critical of Common Core. Enzi recently said he wants to see it “returned to the states,” although he offered no details.

Other opponents fear unnamed intrusions upon their freedom. Park County Republican Central Committee Chairman Larry French has warned of “hidden consequences” to Common Core State Standards.

The Wyoming Republican State Central Committee and the Park County Republican Central Committee have passed resolutions against Common Core.

“I feel we’re perfectly capable of educating our kids in Wyoming,” French said. “We don’t need government interference from Washington, D.C.”

While that makes for a dandy political slogan, the fact remains that there is already a great deal of the American educational process that is shared among the federal government and the states.

No one has called for the end of ACT testing for 11th-grade students. The SAT and National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) are still employed as well to gauge students’ abilities and knowledge. The U.S. Education Department is not acting like a national school board, nor is it mandating what textbooks are to be used.

Superintendent Mitchell said he feels the fussing over Common Core has a lot more to do with the fractured state of American politics than it does with true concerns about classrooms, curriculum and the skills of our graduates.

“Some people call them Tea Party, others Libertarians,” he said. “I don’t know that they belong to any particular group — I’m just saying there’s a group of people who are really anti-federal government in a lot of ways. And why they attack this one little part, I still have not been able to figure out.”

State Sen. Hank Coe, a Cody Republican, is hardly a big government liberal. Coe said concerns that the Obama administration or any other government entity is seeking to impose its wishes on American students are unfounded.

“There’s no national curriculum here,” Coe said.

We concur with Coe about Common Core. As an in-depth report on the program that we published on reported Oct. 17 pointed out, Common Core states that students should be able to do math and use English, among other skills.

It does not tell schools how to arrive at that educational destination. It does not set a national curriculum, nor does it impose the wishes of President Obama or any other politician.

In fact, we wish politics were dropped from this discussion. Not everything is politics, folks. There used to be — and should be again — areas where all Americans can agree.

Let’s focus on improving education, and producing better-trained, more informed graduates who can thrive in the workplace and in life. That’s a common goal that should have core support from everyone.

We welcome a healthy, informed debate over this. A letter with a view greatly differing from this editorial appears at right. We encourage others to write to us and point out exactly what they fear and oppose.

Opponents concerned about Common Core will gather at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in Room 70 of the Fagerberg Building at Northwest College. Such public forums are healthy signs of American democracy; we only hope that such discussions are fact-based.

14 comments

  • Comment Link October 24, 2013 9:38 am posted by Kelly Simone

    I have to respond to this editorial for multiple reasons. First, this is not an issue strictly isolated to Tea Party or Libertarians. To make it such is not only dismissive, but lacking in fact.

    Perhaps the editor has not taken adequate time to research the reasons for the opposition for himself. The opposition has many fact based arguments to opposing the common core.

    First, this was not a state led process. The CCSS were authored by Achieve, Inc and then pushed through the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). Thus far, no one at the state level has been able to indicate WHO from Wyoming participated in this process. The NGA & CCSSO are private trade organizations, and the common core state standards (CCSS)are owned & copyrighted by them.

    Second, the adoption of the CCSS began in 2009 following the ARRA (stimulus bill). Wyoming received $67 million in exchange for a committment to adopting enhanced standards & enhanced assessments, among other things. Then, in 2009, Governor Freudenthal and former Superintendent McBride signed the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) committing Wyoming to the common core state standards initiative. The statutory authority for standards adoption belongs to the State Board of Education, not the governor or the superintendent. Furthermore,Gov. Freudenthal and McBride signed this document BEFORE the common core state standards were even written. So, were we really after high standards, or was money the driving factor? Moreover, Wyoming took a No Child Left Behind Waiver in exchange for a commitment to the common core. I don't think that Wyoming can just "opt out" of common core at any time due to these agreements. Its not that simple.

    Next, the common core aligned assessment (Smarter Balanced) that Wyoming has now become a governing state in is a federally funded test. This is different than NAEP or ACT. Smarter Balanced received $15.9 million dollars in supplemental grant money from the federal government in 2011. There supplemental fund summary says that they are using the extra federal funds to develop curriculum. You can read this for yourself here: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-assessment/sbac-supplemental-funds-summary.pdf
    The Memorandum of Understanding that Wyoming signed with Smarter Balanced as a governing state requires Wyoming to change its state laws, policies and/or rules in order to implement this test. Furthermore, exiting this consortium is a five step process, and includes seeking approval for exit from the United States Department of Education. Read the Memorandum for yourself....and that begs the question, how does this demonstrate local control?

    The recent memorandum put out by the Wyoming Department of Education on their common core adoption timeline lacks transparency and omits key dates in the process Wyoming took to bring common core to our state. I would encourage every parent and citizen to read both sides in order to form an educated opinion.

    This debate must go on, and people should not be satisfied with being dismissed as Tea Party or Libertarian. There are many people that don't identify with either of these groups who are concerned. There are plenty of valid reasons to oppose the common core, and this response only touches the surface. I agree that public forums are healthy signs of American democracy. I too, hope that discussion on the proponents side are fact based.

  • Comment Link October 24, 2013 10:05 am posted by Amy

    What a clever ending to your piece, eluding that anyone who lays out inconvenient facts about the development and selling of the Common Core is somehow untruthful. Facts are funny things, though. No matter how much you hope they go away, they don't. Here are some facts to ponder: the Common Core was written by a small group of people, none from Wyoming. Wyoming had zero involvement in the creation of these standards. Wyoming was allowed to "submit comments" about the standards but to date, there is no way to obtain a list of what was said by whom in Wyoming, as the comments went to a national website. We have no way of knowing if anything that was potentially submitted by - say - a Wyoming teacher, was actually influential in changing the standards. All of this is lost to history. The Common Core, a conveniently available set of national "college and career ready" standards fit the bill for several federal financial programs including the ARRA (Wyoming took over $60M) and Race to the Top. While states like Wyoming certainly could have gone out and created their own "college and career ready" standards, they would have most certainly missed every deadline for potentially winning these huge federal dollars - a powerful incentive for simply adopting the standards, no questions asked. To say there was no federal involvement or federal incentive is simply not true. The facts can not be denied, no matter how cleverly you try. Facts are indeed tricky things. Let's hope proponents of the Common Core will spend less time vilifying the opposition and more time learning the facts.

  • Comment Link October 24, 2013 10:25 am posted by Checked The Facts

    If it were as simple as "just standards" I think we would all be able to agree with what was written in this article. However, this isn't just about standards. The processes by which these standards came about, were adopted, and will be assessed pose many fact-based concerns. Standards drive assessments, and assessments drive curriculum and the federal government is funding this push. Need some fact-based sources? Read the law that prohibits the federal government's activity in curriculum here: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/20/1232a
    And the documentation that they are funding curriculum development here: http://www.ped.state.nm.us/AssessmentAccountability/AssessmentEvaluation/dl11/SBAC%20Supplemental%20Funds%20release%202011-01-10.pdf

    As for the teachers, even if they did disagree do you think they dare tell their supervisors who are mandated to make this happen? I would like to see how many teachers would express concern if given a safe avenue to do so.

  • Comment Link October 24, 2013 10:31 am posted by Andrea Nordberg

    This is not a Tea Party or Republican issue. It is parent concern, and it should be a concern to our entire society as a whole.The Common Core standards were never tested, or written for that matter when Wyoming adopted them. I do not appreciate my children being used as guinea pigs in the schools. It's as bad as passing Obama Care without reading it, in it's entirety. How can we be this irresponsible with our children and their education?

  • Comment Link October 24, 2013 1:10 pm posted by Patrick Ritthaler

    Pretty sad when a news source is pushing only one side. That's just as bad as main stream media. There are so many things wrong with common core. If you can't find them, then you are blind!

  • Comment Link October 24, 2013 1:28 pm posted by position

    Parents, do not let this editor (Mr. Lawrence) or anyone else belittle or bully you into staying silent.

    Stand up for your children, do what is in their best interest always.

    My position: do not surrender local control of your school district.

  • Comment Link October 24, 2013 1:34 pm posted by Jeff

    An ad hominem (Latin for "to the man" or "to the person"), short for argumentum ad hominem, is a general category of fallacies in which a claim or argument is rejected on the basis of some irrelevant fact about the author of or the person presenting the claim or argument.

    It is true that too many important issues of the day are politicized. But, it is highly ironic that the editor is claiming that facts must be identified and politics should be left out when the entirety of his article is void of facts and focuses solely on politics. The arguments against common core are clear and established. Attacking the people who present those facts instead of dealing with the facts themselves is a classic example of ad hominen attacks - the very essence of avoiding facts and politicizing issues. I, for one, am happy that this attack was made so that the facts can be aired and readers can come to their own conclusions - based on facts, not ad hominen attacks.

  • Comment Link October 24, 2013 3:20 pm posted by Melissa

    I don't have statistics to quote or fancy words to share about Common Core, but I am a well-educated mother of school aged children and I know there is something wrong with it and I flat out oppose it. I have checked the FACTS and do not like what I see one bit. None of my children will step foot in a public school becasue of CC. It is not tested and there is a reason why many states and counties have opted out of it. Several states are finding it is not working and trying to get out of it, only to be met with opposition. And I am so glad that the fine Powell Tribune is a glowing example of unbiased journalism. (And yes, I am being sarcastic.)

  • Comment Link October 24, 2013 4:11 pm posted by Kristy

    With the adoption of SF104 in 2013, the Superintendent of Public Instruction was
    stripped of many of her duties as Superintendent of public schools, and was assigned a handful of minor duties, an educational report and other miniscule legislative duties. With the bulk of her duties taken away as an elected official by We The People! An elected position supposedly protected by our Wyoming State Constitution.

    One week after signing SF104, Governor Mead flew to Washington, D.C. to apply for more federal controls over education through the No Child Left Behind waiver. Responding to public pressure, Governor Mead placed Wyoming’s waiver application on hold until after the 2014 primary election. How Convenient!

    The Governor appointed a director of education who had no degree, no training,
    and no experience in education, and was
    not from Wyoming. He
    was a state senator from Arizona!

    Our Governor is a supposed Republican! This is not an issue of party, it's an issue of principals and parental rights!

    We as parents deserve the right to protect our children's educational legacy! Teachers deserve the right to appeal a system or a method on a local level that is not working. When Common Core is fully implemented you will have to go to D.C. to get things changed! Hows that working for our economy? We have one of the highest disapproval ratings of so called leadership in D.C. in history!

    Some in the school districts are under the assumption they will not lose local control. What happens when the federal government threatens to withhold federal funds for not complying with something? What if the school board, the teachers, or even the parents object?

    We are selling our voices down the the river and mark my words will lead to less local control and less input from teachers and parents, our hinds will be virtually tied! This should outrage everyone of any faith or any political affiliation...

  • Comment Link October 24, 2013 4:40 pm posted by Linda

    These standards are developmentally inappropriate for students from Kindergarten through second grade. When I studied them last Winter I was astounded at the complete disregard for scientific, tested and time-proven theories that took years for experts such as Piaget and Gesell to develop. My research into these standards proved that there was no input from experts of child development, and, the two experts in the field of English Language Arts and Mathematics refused to validate these standards. Furthermore, the Common Core standards had not even been written when Wyoming signed on to them, so these standards have not been tested, and our children are serving as guinea pigs for standards set by non-educators! Parents, I strongly urge you to do your research into these damaging standards! Many very liberal educators are against the Common Core, such as the Badass Teachers Association, and Diane Ravitch, there are more. This is not a Conservative/Liberal issue, it is an issue about education of our children and federal manipulation of our educational system-please, do your research and don't blindly believe the lies you are being told about the Common Core "State" Standards!

  • Comment Link October 24, 2013 5:39 pm posted by TN

    Common core is another United Nations Agenda 21 tool to dumb down the population.Believe it people,or go the way of the Romans.

  • Comment Link October 25, 2013 9:13 am posted by Michelle

    The opposition to Common Core grows daily... As more and more parents find disturbing and inappropriate assignments coming home, and are unable to even help their children with their homework (mainly because "traditional" methods are not allowed to be taught by parents in their own home), the anti-Common Core movement and subsequently number of homeschooling families grows...

    Federal "gifts" aren't free, in fact they cost entirely too much. In order to even qualify for the Race to The Top grant, a state had to agree to implement to unwritten "College and Career readiness Standards", these standards were later re-named the "Common Core State Standards". WY committed to this in 2009, when we applied for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act's [Read: Stimulus Package's] RttT grant and No Child Left Behind Waivers, though WY did not "formally" adopt Common Core until 2012... after a dog and pony "review" process. This entire process happened in WY under both Democrat and Republican Governors.

    After a state implemented the Common Core Standards, they had to agree to join one of two testing consortium, WY joined Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and is now a governing body, but just like Common Core, the Wyoming Department of Education is telling us that we haven't signed on or joined yet... Well, why would WY be a governing body of something we aren't apart of?

    The issue is, the media continues to choose to listen to elected officials, rather than really look into a subject for themselves. Real, old fashioned, research based journalism no longer exists. Real Journalism has been replaced with parroting what those in charge tell them to.


    Come to the presentation on Saturday, ask questions, and you will find the truth.

  • Comment Link October 29, 2013 8:12 pm posted by Michelle

    The Powell Tribune was noticeably absent from the presentation on Saturday. One would assume that with the closing statement on an article like: "Opponents concerned about Common Core will gather at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in Room 70 of the Fagerberg Building at Northwest College. Such public forums are healthy signs of American democracy; we only hope that such discussions are fact-based." that Tom Lawrence intended on showing up to prove the opposition wrong... Instead Tom, and the Powell Tribune showed that they truly lack journalistic integrity and the ability to give a balanced, non biased report on a controversial issue.

  • Comment Link November 15, 2013 8:24 pm posted by Leslie

    It doesn't matter whether or not common core is better. The point is the federal government has no authority whatsoever in the education of our children. Check out the Constitution. It's all about control. Looking at the main contributors to this project, one will find the usual suspects ie. Bill Gates and friends. More information has been forthcoming since the publication of this editorial. We now know the complete rewriting of history that is going on in the common core. Look up Eagle Forum for some information.

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