BY: Rita Anderson ms3rs

Yesterday I participated in a conference call along with Rob Chambers and Dr. Jimmy Porter of the Christian Action Commission, Dr. Jameson Taylor of the Mississippi Center for Public Policy, and Sen. Angela Hill in which we were able to question David Coleman, College Board president and chief architect of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

David addressed our concerns and questions related to Common Core, i.e. viability of math standards, aligning SAT and ACT tests to the Common Core Standards, with what seemed to be a scripted and rehearsed monologue. His articulate and passionate defense was no surprise and he has undoubtedly been called upon to deliver that same defense numerous times. He spoke glowingly of Professor William Schmidt’s (University of Michigan) study supporting Common Core math standards.

Of course, there was no voice from the professor who participated in the Standards process along with David and who is equally passionate and articulate in his criticism of the math Standards. And, as we all know, whatever position one adopts on an issue, one can find ample research to support that position.

In the final analysis, the proof is in the pudding, as the saying goes. Because Common Core State Standards were never tested before they were foisted upon the States, there is no empirical evidence that the teaching methods are superior or that the students will receive a superior math education.

In the brief discussion of English Language Arts Standards, David’s comments clearly reflected the move from a focus on literature to more informational text. In juxtaposition to that view are those educators and lovers of literature who point out that its reading exercises our capacity for imagination, love, sympathy, justice, honor, and identification. It is nourishing and redemptive and fosters our sense of community. Reading about circuit boards, insulation, and Federal executive orders does not. In fact, this shift of focus is a good way to make kids who love to read begin to hate it. That’s one way to close the reading gap.

One recently retired veteran English teacher from the Clinton Public Schools told me that, with the onset of Common Core, she had “had enough.” Not only was she being told what to teach, she was being told how to teach it and given no leeway to draw upon her own teaching experience or personal giftedness.

What about the issues with curriculum, illegal federal intrusion into education, student privacy, conflicts of interest among stakeholders who have helped fund the CCSS initiative and are now profiting from the market for instructional materials, training and assessment tools? While acknowledging our concerns, David retreated from taking a position so as not appear to judge the motives of others. His answers were limited to what we already knew: State lawmakers and governing boards will just have to deal with those issues.

Having spoken to Mr. Common Core himself, I am no closer to understanding whether the entire Common Core initiative is a gigantic conspiracy to federalize education and further indoctrinate our children with socialistic, one-world-government views or whether David Coleman and his otherwise well-intended efforts have simply been caught up in that cataclysm.  But, it does bring to mind a blog last year by Diane Ravitch, an education historian and NYU professor, who met and talked to David on more than one occasion. Ms. Ravitch is quite more liberal than I but I do agree when she says,

“Now I am certain that I do not know who he [David Coleman] is or what he believes.” and “. . I have come to the conclusion that I can’t wait five or ten years to find out whether test scores go up or down, whether or not schools improve, and whether the kids now far behind are worse off than they are today. . . the Common Core standards effort is fundamentally flawed by the process with which they have been foisted upon the nation.”

So. It’s left up to our Legislature. We cannot ignore the Constitutional issues, the student privacy issues, the on-going costs of testing and other resources, and we certainly cannot ignore the clear concerns of parents, teachers, and taxpayers over the lack of debate before committing to such an enormous reform movement. The course should be clear by now.

1. Pause the implementation of Common Core in Mississippi and begin the review process.

2. Withdraw from the PARCC testing consortium.

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