Friday, May 31, 2013

Tea party groups mobilizing against Common Core education overhaul

Why does the Tea Party dislike the bipartisan Common Core standards? Common Core is a wonderful plan, focusing on understanding rather than memorization. It's not so surprising, however, that the teachers union is against something new.

Bruce Ackerman / Ocala Star-Banner /Landov
Tea Party members like Beverly LaCross, right, hold signs to protest the Common Core in Florida.

Ohio Teachers Union Worried About Common Core Tests
May 1, 2013
By Ida Lieszkovszky

From the East Coast to the Midwest and beyond a backlash is developing to the Common Core – a new set of national education standards that schools in many states are already in the process of implementing.

Opposition began with Tea Party groups.

But now teachers unions in Ohio say they have their own concerns, mostly about the tests that will accompany the new curriculum.

Ohio Teachers Union Worried About Common Core Tests Many on the right have criticized the Common Core. Now teachers unions are expressing their own concerns.Download

“People have no idea” what the new Common Core standards mean, says Glenn Newman. He’s the founder of the Marietta 9-12 project, an anti-tax and pro-small-government group, and he says Ohio should back off from the Common Core.

The ABC’s of the Common Core in Ohio

Newman is concerned about tracking student data as part of the Common Core, and that students won’t read books like Tom Sawyer anymore and will instead read manuals.

(By the way, as far as we know, the Common Core does encourage schools to give greater emphasis to non-fiction texts in English classes, including manuals, but teachers will still be allowed to teach books like Tom Sawyer too.)

In fact, some on the right, fearing a loss of local control of schools, refer to the new standards as “ObamaCore,” and they want to stop its implementation.

Now some on the left are worried about the Common Core.

Teacher unions don’t want to get rid of it, in fact they say it’s a good idea. But they do want to slow down parts of its implementation.

“Our ask is that there be a moratorium on the high stakes decisions attached to the testing that goes along with Common Core,” says Ohio Federation of Teachers President Melissa Cropper.

Those tests will replace the existing tests starting in 2014-2015, and will be used to assess schools and teachers on their performance. Cropper is worried about decisions tied to those scores – like teacher evaluations and state voucher programs.

“It seems like we’re putting the testing out there before we’ve worked on some authenticity in implementing the Common Core,” she says. Instead, Cropper suggests implementing the tests but just as “field tests” for the first few years.

Other states are moving ahead with hitting the pause button – like our neighbor Indiana.

The Obama Administration, which encouraged states to move towards the Common Core through its Race to the Top competitive grant, is none too happy about the newfound resistance.

Here’s how Secretary of Education Arne Duncan framed the choice: “If any state wants to lower their standards, dummy down their standards they have the right to do that. They can do that tomorrow. I don’t see how that educates children or helps to bring good jobs to a state.”

The Education Committee in the Ohio House will hold hearings later this month on the Common Core, but Republicans who agreed to those hearings indicated it’s mainly to dispel some misinformation about the new curriculum – not to reverse course.

“It’s not going to happen with my assistance, I can tell you that,”says House Education Committee Chair Gerald Stebelton. ”We’ve worked too hard to get to this point, we’re not going to back up.”

Tea party groups mobilizing against Common Core education overhaul
By Peter Wallsten and Lyndsey Layton
Washington Post
May 30, 2013

Tea party groups over the past few weeks have suddenly and successfully pressured Republican governors to reassess their support for a rare bipartisan initiative backed by President Obama to overhaul the nation’s public schools.

Activists have donned matching T-shirts and packed buses bound for state legislative hearing rooms in Harrisburg, Pa., grilled Georgia education officials at a local Republican Party breakfast and deluged Michigan lawmakers with phone calls urging opposition to the Common Core State Standards.

The burst of activity marks the newest front for the tea party movement, which has lacked a cohesive goal since it coalesced in 2010 in opposition to Obama’s health-care initiative.

The movement has a renewed sense of purpose and energy following revelations that many of its groups were improperly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service, and members consider dismantling what some deride as “Obamacore” their newest cause. Unlike the health-care fight, though, organizers say the Common Core battle is winnable and could be a potential watershed moment.

“This is the issue that could change things for the tea party movement,” said Lee Ann Burkholder, founder of the 9/12 Patriots in York, Pa., which drew 400 people — more than twice the usual turnout — to a recent meeting to discuss agitating against Common Core.

Lawmakers have responded by introducing legislation that would at least temporarily block the standards in at least nine states, including two that have put the program on hold. The Republican governors of Indiana and Pennsylvania quickly agreed to pause Common Core, and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R), a vocal supporter of the plan, is nevertheless expected to accept a budget agreement struck by GOP legislators that would withhold funding for the program pending further debate.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) — who, like the other targeted governors, is facing reelection next year — said, “We didn’t see it coming with the intensity that it is, apparently all across the country.” Deal has responded by signing an executive order “reaffirming state sovereignty” over education matters, but that hasn’t stopped conservatives from trying to undo the standards.

The White House has promoted Common Core, written by governors and state education officials in both parties and largely funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to create consistent math and reading standards from kindergarten through 12th grade. Academic standards vary widely among states, and that patchwork nature has been partly blamed for mediocre rankings of U.S. students in international comparisons.

The standards do not dictate curriculum. Rather, states decide what to teach and how to prepare children for standardized tests based on Common Core.

The standards have been fully adopted by 45 states and the District and are scheduled to be in place by 2014. Supporters fear that an eleventh-hour drop in state participation could dilute some of the potential benefits, such as the ability to compare student test scores across many states, while also creating logistical hurdles for school districts that are developing curriculum and training teachers.

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