Left to Right: Rep. Tom Morrison, Jim Lakely, Kristin Lombard, Jeb Hopkins, and Steve Slater
By Nancy Thorner –
As part of the Heartland Author Series, The Heartland Institute sponsored an event on Sunday afternoon, March 8, at the Palatine Public Library, which featured “Building the Machine” (also billed as the Common Core movie), a 40-minute movie which introduces the pubic to the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) and its effects on our children’s education. Common Core guest critics who participated were Jeb Hopkins, Kirsten Lombard, and Steve Slater.
An excellent and comprehensive review by Cathy Duffy of “Building the Machine” can be read here. Duffy’s review is a must read to understand the dangers of nationalized educational standards. As Ms. Duffy points out, Common Core standards were adopted quickly with hardly any awareness among the general public. There was no public debate and minimal public comment.
More about “Building the Machine”
Following are some notable observations by Cathy Duffy:
- The Common Core standards are supposed to be rigorous standards, comparable to international standards—standards that prepare students for the jobs of the 21st century. But there’s huge debate about whether or not that’s true.
- The U.S. Department of Education used $4.35 billion in grants from their Race to the Top program as a very strong incentive for states to sign on to the Common Core. States had only a few months to apply for these grants at a time when state budgets were stressed, so most states signed on with only a vague idea of what would be required of them.
- Dr. Milgram and Dr. Stotsky were the only mathematics and English language arts content specialists on the entire 30-person validation committee. Five of the committee members, including Stotsky and Milgram, did not support that finding and would not sign off on the final standards. Stotsky reveals that all of their committee work was very secretive throughout the process. At the end, there was no acknowledgement of any dissent and no minority report. The names of dissenters were simply removed from the record.
- Common Core prepares students for community college and vocational training, but not for selective colleges or higher level math and science study.
- Most homeschoolers are not yet feeling the brunt of the Common Core, but the plan is that eventually curriculum and tests aligned to the Common Core will control education for most students, even if indirectly.
- It’s difficult to envision government schools backing away from the standards movement altogether since a tremendous amount of money and power stands behind them. Anyone who is concerned about educational freedom and parental rights needs to be aware of what is happening and do all within their power to resist this encroachment on our freedom.
The full movie can be viewed here. The trailer can be accessed here. The original documentary is now part of an extended three-DVD set that includes parent interviews and six supplementary episodes. Together the three segments expose Common Core using the words of leading educational experts, along with parents, teachers and a social worker. See more here to purchase the 3-segment set.
Presentation by Steve Slater, a reading specialist for 16 years
Following the movie there was less than 20 minutes remaining for the three invited guests to offer their comments and concerns about Common Core. An “all out” warning was heard over a loud speaker that the library would be closing at 5:00 p.m. before Steve Slater was even able to address the attendees
Steve Slater was first up as a reading specialist for 16 years in a school system in the western suburbs. Steve’s comments, as they related to his slide presentation, featured Illinois and the PARCC test. Conveyed was the following information:
Illinois and PARCC
- Fully replaces ISAT.
- Elementary and Middle School: all students in grades 3-8 will take the PARCC assessment.
- High School: students in English III and Algebra II or Math III will take the PARCC assessment.
- Governing stats agree to use assessment results for state accountability system.
School Accountability: The state is currently “revising” its accountability plans to include the new PARCC. Schools/Districts that don’t show adequate progress will “receive support to improve outcomes for students.
Educator Accountability: Student growth incorporation into educator ratings beginning in 2016
Review this Language Arts passage from a test for 4th graders. By all measures the passage seems inappropriate for assessment in grade 4. See here the Grade 4 Passage from: “Just Like Home” by Mathangi Subramanian which calls for abstract thinking.
PARCC technical skills
- Skills to take the test involve click and drag, maneuvering between screens, and typing responses included.
- Many districts piloting Chrome Books with smaller screens.
- The unknown of thousands of students accessing the testing site simultaneously.
PARCC test Concerns
- PARCC is driving what is being taught in the classrooms.
- The amount of time spent in test-related activities has increased. SAT = Approximately 7 hours. PARCC = Approximately 13 – 15 hours (two sessions March & May).
- The results will not be broken down in a way that useful for informing classroom instruction.
- Computerized version is tricky.
Illinois and PAARC
Student test scores will serve as part of teacher evaluations. Steve Slater, although a reading specialist, expressed concern over PAARC Math assessments, but time didn’t allow him to pursue the topic. Here is a recent post that covers PARCC math test readability. This article published at “Illinois Review” on Monday, March 9th shows how a “Teacher takes almost a minute to explain simple math problem using Common Core”.
Steve Slater raised the question as to why parents have no right to opt their own children out of the PARCC testing? Parental rights are absent as children must convey their own opt out messages to their teachers. This presents a dichotomy. Children are told to follow directions, yet they must refuse the PARCC test on their own. Slater also related how teachers in his district are very discouraged. They must teach in a new way, not knowing if their students are understanding the material being taught.
Kristin Lombard and Jeb Hopkins stand together in abolishing Common Core
It was unfortunate that guests Kirsten Lombard and Jeb Hopkins had so little time to talk, let alone to address questions. Both Kirsten and Jeb are from Madison, IL. Jeb Hopkins is a professor at Edgewood College. Kristin Lombard is editor and author of Common Ground on Common Core.
Jeb Hopkins entertained a question about the merits of a centralist system that puts schools in position of having to do so much testing of children. His response: “Parents expect their children to be nurtured when sent off to school. Teachers can’t create a nurturing environment when Common Core intrusively undermines the work of the teacher in how they are to teach and what they are to teach.”
Jeb Hopkins together with Kristin Lombard — both of the same mind set to abolish Common Core — responded to a inquiry about ridding this nation of Common Core standards. Interesting thoughts were shared by Jeb and Kristin:
1. The only reason Common Core standards exist is so children can be tested. Teachers will be graded on how well their students perform.
2. Common Core functions as a system of indoctrination.
3. The PARCC test is to ensure that teaching is in compliance to Common Core standards.
4. There must be a 95% participation of student participation in PARCC testing to validate the test’s own threshold. If 6% of students opt out in a classroom, the PARCC test is not considered viable.
A brief appearance was made by Illinois Representative Tom Morrison, a sponsor of HB 306. Representative Morrison asked those in attendance to urge their representative to vote for HB 306: “Amends the School Code. With respect to the administration of State assessments, provides that a student is not required to take a particular State assessment if that student’s parent or guardian requests, in writing, that the student be excused from taking the State assessment. . . ”
Central planning, the essence of Common Core, appeals to those who like power. With 22% of 9th graders presently not finishing high school, in the future more adults will be walking around without high school diplomas. Consider Texas, having opted out of Common Core, the state offers a regular high school diploma geared to attend college and a general diploma. Students, accordingly, decide which course they will pursue. Such a procedure is not compatible with federal policy.
Common Core sounds good as the opening wedge. And what’s wrong with all students having the same education standards? If this is so, why then aren’t all students scoring top grades? Then too, does the government have the right to teach children what it thinks they should know? The Pierson/Gates partnership regards students as a collective productive line. Whatever happened to state initiative that can serve as laboratories of education?
With Common Core education it’s more about the system than the child. Common Core supposedly trains students for college and careers, when, realistically, not all children should be or are college bound. As earlier stated, the PARCC test is to ensure there is compliance to teaching the Common Core Curriculum.
The federal government should not be involved in creating national education standards to be implemented at the state level. Instead, parents, teachers, school districts and local communities should be making these important decisions for our children. The American public must be involved in this national decision regardless of their political persuasion. This involves contacting your legislators and attending local school board meeting for public comment.
Educational literature available by subscription or for purchasing
Jim Lakely moderated the event as Communications Director at The Heartland Institute. Heartland Institute has been working for 31 years to put parents back in charge of education. Lakely displayed literature that was available to be picked up as reference material and/or to be shared with others. The literature included: Heartland’s “School Reform News”; Joy Pullman’s booklet, as research fellow on education policy for The Heartland Institute and managing editor of The Federalist, “Common Core: A Bad Choice For America”; and a palm card, “You Can STOP Common Core,” which briefly informs What is Common Core? and how You can fight back!