Recently, we saw a drastic drop in the test scores of Caldwell County public school students. It has been stated by education officials that the drop is due to more rigorous standards, and that we should expect an increase in test scores over the next couple of years; however, states that have had the Common Core standards and attached curriculum in place for several years now tell a different story. Some districts have even been caught manipulating their test results when the promised improvements and benefits from Common Core were not delivered. While we are told to simply give the work-in-progress curriculum more time, let us remember that it is the children of Caldwell County who are being used as guinea pigs to this experiment, and they are suffering the loss of years of their education in the meantime.
In an attempt to bring about a discussion regarding Common Core concerns, I recently contacted the Caldwell County Board of Education members, County Superintendent Steve Stone, and County Associate Superintendent (heading curriculum planning) Caryl Burns. You may be aware of the fact that North Carolina is a “local control” state, meaning that our local school boards have the legal authority to determine which standards & curriculum will be used within the district, and may reject the standards & curriculum handed down from the state board – without danger of losing their funding! This is a fact that has been confirmed by many officials, including North Carolina’s Race to the Top director, Adam Levinson.
It has been acknowledged in my conversations with Stone and Burns that while they could opt-out of the State Board of Ed-suggested Common Core-associated curriculum, the fear of losing funding makes them reluctant to do so. When it was pointed out to them that they would not be in danger of losing Race to the Top funds, Burns stated that the funds the county is scared to lose are those provided by the state for teachers’ salaries! It defies logic to think that the State of North Carolina would stop funding for teachers’ salaries if a county takes an administrative action that is afforded to them by the State of North Carolina!
The stakes are too high to let such deception go unchecked. Though it is a false premise, let’s presume for a moment that Caldwell County were to miss out on some funding if they rejected the Common Core standards & attached curriculum, I wonder – is there really any amount of money that is worth selling out the education and livelihood of the children of Caldwell County?
After receiving very little response from board members to emails that I sent them, I decided to present some of these issues to them directly at last week’s public meeting. My public address to board members was covered by the Lenoir News-Topic. Considering that all of the reluctance from Superintendent Steve Stone prior to that point centered around funding concerns, I was rather surprised to read in the paper the statement that his reluctance to review the Common Core related to potential damage to the children of Caldwell County if the board were to do so:
Stone said there would not be a vote on the curriculum policy and that rejecting the Common Core, which he described as a program with “rigor and relevance,” would fail Caldwell County students.
“I believe in the Common Core,” he said. “I understand there’s some organizational resistance from some groups … but it will generate results from kids.”
Interesting that Stone has such faith in the Common Core-approved curriculum, when there is no evidence anywhere to indicate that positive results will indeed be shown.
Perhaps even more surprising, though, is what was later learned to have happened just before the public comments portion of the Board of Education meeting. A review of the video appears to have caught Steve Stone on the hot mic laughing over the idea that a constituent would like for the board to consider the county curriculum policy. Why should curriculum review be a laughing matter?
After seeing the video of the incident, Hibriten High PTA President, Maleah Haas, sent an email to board members requesting an apology. Haas said of the matter, “To think that our county’s education leadership is laughing at parents behind their back is unconscionable. Dr. Stone owes this parent an apology. He doesn’t have to agree with her but he doesn’t have to ridicule her to school board members. They hadn’t even heard what she had said. His comments may have prejudiced school board members against her before they even heard her speak.”
Below is the video referenced, and here are the email addresses of the Caldwell County Board of Education members.
More on Common Core…
A review of the background of Common Core paints a picture of the rushed, deceptive manner of development and implementation of the Common Core standards, and the developmentally-inappropriate Common Core-approved curriculum, but there are also serious privacy concerns related to the administration of the tests by inBloom and data storage through the Pearson Powerschool program. The Pearson program has not been shown to be of great enough benefit to our schools to be worth the exposure of North Carolina children’s sensitive public and private information, which includes some or all of the following: address, family-structure, bus route, test scores, psychological profile, behavioral record, attendance record, social security number, seating chart with student photo, and more. Turning this information over to a national organization is of no benefit to the residents of North Carolina, and presents a level of temptation for information-sharing, data systems integration, and a conflict of interest that we should avoid at all costs, especially considering that Pearson has now admitted to engaging in illegal actions related to their for-profit education venture conflicts. See the following links for more information on how North Carolina has contracted to use inBloom (a Gates Corporation Organization) and Pearson Power Schools to share the information of every child who attends public school in North Carolina:
Perhaps even more disheartening than all of this is the fact that the North Carolina General Assembly solidified the State Board of Education’s continued use of Common Core into the North Carolina General Statutes, with only one vote in opposition, yet most of the legislators who voted in favor of the Common Core legislation say today that they actually had no idea what it was was at the time!
The problems in education are coming from the top-down; we must assert our authority & take back our children’s education with a bottom-up approach. The first step in defeating Common Core in your district is to arm yourself with facts and inform your local board of education that they should reject all federally-shaped standards, curriculum, and testing tools, and that they should reallocate any funds given for common core implementation to a preferable set of all three. Residents should also reject the use of Pearson Powerschool system in their area, the hub of data collection on our students, as well as reject the inBloom testing administration. If we do not reject this system as well as the inBloom testing, then we are still participating in the information-sharing aspect and the Common Core standard-compliant testing.