Friday, January 31, 2014

State Senator explores Common Core Standards

By Sheryl Nuxoll, Idaho State Senator District 7

The family is the basic unit of society, the most local unit of government. Parents are the primary educators of their children. Parents may delegate this responsibility to whomever they trust. From the founding of our nation, parents have chosen the type of schooling that best fitted their children’s needs, based on personalities, family lifestyles and beliefs. The schools in our country were varied, having different aspects of education. No school was exactly the same. Choices of education ranged from public, private, parochial, homeschooling, to tutoring.

Let’s look at the Common Core structure to see if it allows the parent to responsibly educate according to each child’s needs.

SBAC is the acronym for the testing system of Idaho Core, made from using federal and private funds to create a multi-state test. SBAC is a form of extreme testing requiring up to 8 hours (7 hours for 3rd grade). The Idaho Department of Education says Idaho needs a nationwide test to compare Idaho students with students across the nation. Is it necessary our children be the “same” throughout the state and nation? Do we want robots: held back if they want to learn more or disinterested due to lack of motivation if they get lost or discouraged? Students need individual attention to reach their full potential.

The SBAC does not provide immediate feedback needed to help the classroom teacher formulate instruction. The main purpose of the test is to give data to statisticians, rather than help teachers and parents. Our nation’s schools and teachers have always taught according to the tests. The SBAC seems to be a tool for policy makers to monitor, control, and manipulate teachers, students and parents. Who is in control—the curriculum companies or the federal administration?

Since school districts cannot opt out of Common Core, what avenue do parents have to change the system? The only curriculum that parents can choose is one that the state provides. SBAC has no process to lodge a complaint or modify the test. Where is the local control in our schools? In fact one of the books on the reading list for high school is a horrible pornographic book “Bluest Eyes”. The state cannot delete it from the list.

Grammar and literature of Idaho Core are eliminating many or large sections of our founding documents and classical literature to substitute informational manuals “to enter the workforce career ready”. In math a student may get more credit for working the problem using an approved process but getting the wrong answer rather than a student using a non-approved process with the correct answer.

SBAC does not take into consideration stages of child development. Since young children learn mostly from memorization, forcing abstract concepts can cause discouragement and lack of motivation. Middle school ages are ready to discuss. SBAC uses a technique where no outside information can be used to write their essays. This could be potentially harmful or discriminatory to young and vulnerable students. They may be required to defend a belief with which they do not morally or politically agree. Will high school students, who like to think and write critically, have the opportunity to make their own judgments? Does it bother you that tests are formatted, not to promote, but to discourage critical thinking when there can be only closed answers to essay tests?

This top-down approach is a utilitarian “readiness for work” mentality. Contact the State Dept of Education if you believe that these inflexible standards treat everyone like a cog in a machine. Testing today determines our country tomorrow.

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