COMMON CORE: Open Letter to Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh

OPEN LETTER TO SENATE PRESIDENT PRO TEM DEL MARSH
By Elois Zeanah, President, Alabama Federation of Republican Women
April 24, 2013
====================================

Reasons to Repeal Common Core are Simple:  Retain Liberty and Sovereignty.  Adopt Strong not Mediocre Standards.  Protect Privacy of Student’s Non-Academic Information.  Don’t Waste Tax Dollars

Honorable Sir:

You are quoted in the Montgomery Advertiser article that you and other Senators do not have the information you need” to vote on SB403 to repeal Common Core and you see “no need to rush to make a decision” in this session.   Actually, the issue is not complex and there are many reasons for urgency to act in this session.  Since you could not stay to hear Heritage Foundation’s education policy expert Lindsey Burke speak at last Thursday Senate Caucus and had to leave when she was introduced, I’m listing the link to an article that is most informative and is about the best summary you can find:     http://blog.heritage.org/2013/04/23/alabama-should-lead-on-rejecting-national-standards/

Why Repealing Common Core in 2013 is Urgent

  • The Legislature should not “stand by and do nothing while a State Board of Education effectively surrendered control over Alabama’s school children to federal agencies.”[i]
  • Schools can begin to collect personal, non-academic data on our children and share this information with the federal government and third parties without parental knowledge or consent.  This was illegal under the 1974 Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).  But the Obama Administration weakened student privacy protections by rewriting FERPA, which became effective January 3, 2012.[ii] 
  • Common Core English Language Arts (ELA) and Math standards dumb down standards overall, and put our children at least two years behind their international peers, and will not prepare students for four-year universities.[iii]  
  • Common Core will be fully implemented by next legislative session if the Legislature does not act now.
  • The Legislature should not waste hundreds of millions of tax dollars[iv] to implement Common Core when it may be undone – especially when the State is so short of funding for other priorities.

Whom Should You Trust?

Ronald Reagan’s dictum of “trust but verify” seems especially relevant here.  To my knowledge there are two sides:  conservative organizations and grassroots groups on one side and funded interests of education/business on the other. 

Business:   BCA and chambers of commerce state incorrectly that Alabama needs Common Core to recruit business.  This rings hollow since Texas and Virginia, both NON-Common Core states, have the most effective business recruitment in the nation.  The vested interest of the business community is that they want schools to train their future workers.  Their motive is profit.  They even refer to our children as “human capital”.[v]  Business and education can partner without forcing all our students in a one-size-fits-all model and ceding local control.

Education:   What the State Superintendent of Education wants is, I believe, quite different from what conservative legislators want.   He comes from an NEA/AEA viewpoint.  In addition:

  • Dr. Tommy Bice is a member of CCSSO, which received millions of dollars to advocate for Common Core, is a co-owner with NGA Center for Best Practices of the copyright Common Core standards, and gets half of its funding from state and federal taxpayers?[vi]  Fordham Institute President Chester Finn described CCSSO as a major and long-term member of the liberal movement on federal education policy which has an “ancient and cozy relationship with the U.S. Education Department and can be counted on to do its bidding.” [vii] 

Dr. Bice seems to believe teachers should be trained to accept a “mind shift” to be facilitators, not teachers.  The goal of Common Core and Dr. Bice’s Plan 2020 is far different from traditional education.  Examples:  (1) The goal of curriculum should not be the coverage of content, but rather the discovery of content.”  (2) It should be the students’ voices, not the teachers’, that are heard in our classrooms.[viii]

Lastly, I want to show how Dr. Bice is being disingenuous when he states that Alabama retains full control over its standards, assessments, and curriculum.

  • Alabama MUST implement 100% of CC and cannot change, delete, or substitute any element.[ix] 
  • Alabama MUST align textbooks, testing, etc. with Common Core.
  • Alabama MUST retrain teachers.  I hear reports of monitors roaming the hallways and checking on teachers in classrooms to make sure they are teaching strictly as trained.
  • Alabama MUST replace its assessments to align with Common Core.
  • Alabama can add a token amount of additional material to Common Core (up to 15%), but this will not be assessed. (AL has added only 2.5% to ELA and 14.5% to Math.  Yet Dr. Bice calls 2.5%/14.5% of Alabama-specific standards added to 100% of Common Core as “Alabama standards”?
  • Standards determine assessments and curriculum must follow.
  • Alabama MUST follow specific percentages on what curriculum is taught in ELA – such as 70% information texts and 30% in literature in high school.  This is like putting a “strait-jacket on curriculum planning.”[x]

In conclusion, Alabama cannot “control” what it did not write, cannot change, and does not own!

Almost every national and state conservative organization opposes Common Core.  If you don’t feel you can trust conservative think-tanks, Republican-base organizations, acknowledged educational experts and members of the Common Core Validation Committee over funded interests such as the education establishment and the business lobbies, then I suggest you request that those two special-interests document HOW Common Core IS rigorous, research-based, internationally benchmarked and does not set back students two years over international peers.  So far, they’ve name-called those who bring documentation but offer no proof to counter and back-up their claims.



NOTE:  I’ve only selected a few sources as documentation but they are numerous and I could fill pages.  In fact, if you’ll check the resource guide on Common Core that Senators were provided, you’ll find some of these.  If you want more, let me know.

[i] Letter to AL Legislature dated 22 April 2013 from John Eidsmoe, a constitutional lawyer with the Foundation for Moral Law

[ii] Federal Register, Vol. 76, No. 232, 12-2-11, 34 CFR Part 99, Page 75604.  There are over 400 data points that can be collected including disciplinary records, health history, family income range, parents’ political affiliation, students’ attitudes toward a large and unlimited range of subjects including sex, and biometric personal identifiers.  Children’s personal and intimate non-academic information will be “data-mined” and shared with the federal government and sometimes sold to private interests without parental consent.  Students will be tracked from Pre-K to retirement.  Attorney Jane Robbins with the American Principles Project stated:  “Parents need to know how the massive student tracking system under Common Core will contribute to the loss of student and family privacy.”

[iii] ENGLISH:  (1) The Heritage Foundation, Issue Brief No. 3800, December 11, 2012:  “Common Core Standards’ Devastating Impact on Literary Study and Analytical Thinking” by Dr. Sandra Stotsky, Professor of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, former Senior Associate Commissioner at the Massachusetts Dept. of Education and in charge of the development of the state’s widely praised English Language Arts standards, and member of the Common Core Validation Committee (2) Pioneer Institute:  “How Common Core’s ELA Standards Place College Readiness at Risk,” by Mark Bauerlein and Sandra Stotsky  (3)  Video of Sandra Stotsky discussing Common Core and explaining why U.S. students will be two years behind top countries by 8th grade.  http://pioneerinstitute.org/videos/sandra-stotsky-discusses-common-core/  

MATH:  CC standards are not rigorous, research-based or internationally benchmarked.  Will increase remedial work and will not adequately prepare students for four-year universities.  (1) Video with Ze’ev Wurman on faults on Common Core standards.   Wurman discusses how the CC definition of “college readiness” does not include full geometry and Algebra II; and therefore, the percentage of students needing remedial work will increase unless colleges lower their entrance expectations.  A high-tech engineer from Palo Alto, Wurman helped develop CA’s math curriculum curriculum standards and assessments.  He served as a U.S. Department of Education official under George W. Bush, is currently an executive with MonolithIC 3D Inc.  In 2010 Wurman served on the California Academic Content Standards Commission that evaluated the suitability of Common Core’s standards for California, and is coauthor of “Common Core’s Standards Still Don’t Make the Grade” (Pioneer Institute, 2010) (2) Education Next, Summer 2012:  http://educationnext.org/the-common-core-math-standards/  Wurman gives examples of how CC is not internationally benchmarked and fall behind international peers:  “Common Core defers fluency in division to grade 6. Fractions are touted as the Common Core’s greatest strength, yet the Common Core pushes teaching division of fractions to grade 6 without ever expecting students to master working with a mix of fractions and decimals. Students in Singapore, Japan, Korea, and Hong Kong achieve fluency in fractions and decimals in grade 5.” Wurman states that even with 15% additional state-specific materials on top of CC will not bring students to where they need to be in 8th grade. (3) Dr. James Milgram’s Testimony to the Indiana Senate Education Committee on December 6, 2012,  http://hoosiersagainstcommoncore.com/james-milgram-testimony-to-the-indiana-senate-committee/

[iv] Pioneer Institute and American Principles Project White Paper:  Projects initial costs to implement Common Core will be $16 billion nationwide, and $281.7 million for Alabama.

[v] http://www.edpa.org/docs/AccelerateAlabamaStrategicPlan.pdf

[vi] The Heartland Institute: “’State-Led’ Common Core Pushed by Federally Funded Nonprofit”, by Joy Pullmann, April 24, 2013, http://news.heartland.org/print/136809

[vii] Emmett McGroarty and Jane Robbins, “Controlling from the Top:  Why Common Core is Bad for America,” a Pioneer Institute and American Principles Project White Paper dated May 2012

[ix] “On the Road to Implementation” by Achieve, Inc. August 2010 http://www.achieve.org/files/FINAL-CCSSImplementationGuide.pdf, pp 20, 22, 23 and 29-30.

[x] Chasidy White, an Alabama 8th Grade World History teacher – post on Yellowhammer, April 24th.

Leave a Reply