"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Net of Common Core Standards. New Hampshire is trying to stay out of it; Missouri needs to be freed from it.

I am reprinting testimony from a New Hampshire resident regarding her state's proposed legislation (HB39) which would require the Legislature to approve the adoption of common core standards. Much of what she says is valid for Missouri as well.

Ms. Banfield's statement "the State Department of Education in their quest to secure funding for schools are not making themselves accountable to parents and local communities, but instead another bureaucratic layer of government" is to the point. She succinctly states how these standards do NOT create more local or parental control; rather, schools become even more unanswerable to taxpayers and local communities due to consortium control.

She also brings up a common sense approach to standards problems in her state, which also applies to Missouri: "There is no good reason the New Hampshire Department of Education cannot focus their efforts on improving the current State Standards. By doing so, we maintain control over education and offer students the quality they deserve."

We ask our Missouri legislators to overturn the common core vote already taken and take the common sense approach to improving education in our state. WE can improve our standards in-state. We don't NEED nor CAN AFFORD a consortium of states to make decisions that constitutionally are Missouri's decisions. Educational decisions should not be under the purview of the federal government or other states.

I hope New Hampshire can dodge the net of mandates and unfunded costs Missouri also finds itself in. The New Hampshire Legislature is attempting to free itself from the vote of its State Board (just like Missouri's) to sign onto the common core standards. These standards have less to do with education reform and more to do with creating centralized governmental control. Thanks to Ms. Banfield for crafting the argument in common sense language:

Good Morning. MY name is Ann Marie Banfield and I am here representing Cornerstone Action. Cornerstone Action represents approximately 6,000 New Hampshire residents.

I am here in support of HB 164 in addition I would like to address the Common Core Standards and why I do not believe their adoption is a good decision for New Hampshire. I would first like to hand you documentation from two individuals who reviewed both the math and English/Language arts Common Core Standards.

The first is a letter from Professor Sandra Stotsky who is a former member of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. She is also a Professor of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas. Professor Stotsky was a fundamental force in bringing the highest quality academic standards to Massachusetts. Massachusetts not only received accolades as having some of the best standards in the country, their students score highest among the nation on National Exams. As you will see, Prof. Stotsky was unable to validate the Common Standards for various reasons.

The second letter is from Professor Jim Milgram who sat on the Math Validation Committee for the Common Core Math Standards. Prof. Milgram highlights the "serious flaws" he found in the Common Core Math Standards.

Both Prof. Stotsky and Milgram approved this information being distributed today at this Committee hearing.

The Common Core Standards were supposed to elevate the academic standards in this country. Unfortunately they fell short as you will read in their expert analysis.

States like Massachusetts and California worked hard over the past few years to improve the quality of their State Standards. These State Standards were well known as being the best in the country. Unfortunately New Hampshire cannot be counted among states that put forth that effort. According to the Fordham Foundation New Hampshire State Standards are "clearly inferior" to the Common Core Standards however they acknowledge other states as "clearly superior".

Education Secretary Arne Duncan in a Time Magazine article is quoted as saying, "many states have bumbled into a race to the bottom as they define their local standards downward in order to pretend to satisfy federal demands by showing that their students are proficient. "

In a Chicago Tribune article he says, " In too many places, including Illinois, we are lying to children now. When we tell a child they are meeting the state standards, the logical implication is that child's on track to be successful. In too many places, including Illinois, if you are meeting state standards you are barely qualified to graduate from high school and you are totally unqualified to go to a university and graduate.

This is highlighted when you look at the NECAP vs the NAEP. According to the National Assessment, (the NAEP) in 2009 43% of the 8th grade students in New Hampshire scored "proficient". However if you compare that to the State's assessment (the NECAP) 65% of the 8th grade students scored "proficient". Indicating far fewer children are proficient than what is being reported to schools and parents.

Something similar occurred in New York. The proficiency level dropped significantly on the national assessment. Diane Ravitch a Professor of Education and watchdog in New York is quoted in the New York Times as saying, "What this amounts to is a fraud."

The question you should be asking is: Who governs the Common Core Standards?

Control over education in this state is further eroded by the adoption of Common Core Standards. While it may be an easy "fix" when our own Department of Education fails to offer high quality academic standards, there are many consequences to consider. The New Hampshire Department of Education is currently answering to a National authority instead of the local community. While trying to secure funding from the Race to the Top grant, they are making decisions on Charter Schools, teacher evaluations and expanding data collection.

Some states are currently passing legislation that ties a teacher's evaluation to the state assessment to secure Race to the Top funding, but as you can see, many assessments report proficient yet we know that simply isn't the case. Has anyone reviewed the new assessments? How can we be assured the new assessments will be an authentic assessment of academic knowledge? As far as I know the assessments haven't been drafted yet.

To this day, I'm not aware of New Hampshire being awarded any money from Race to the Top. The State Department of Education in their quest to secure funding for schools are not making themselves accountable to parents and local communities, but instead another beauraucratic layer of government.

I'm sure we will hear from individuals who fully support the Common Standards. Their arguments should enlighten you on the poor standards that have been set for students in New Hampshire by the Department of Education. I encourage you to listen closely to their testimony. It is important to understand the importance of quality standards in all states. However this can and has been accomplished in other states by making it a priority.

By improving state standards to the highest level in the country, New Hampshire can elevate the quality of education to compete with the top students in states like Massachusetts. We can do this without giving up local control to a National beauracracy.

I ask you to support this legislation and ultimately reject Common Core Standards for New Hampshire. The next priority should be on improving the current state standards. There is no good reason the New Hampshire Department of Education cannot focus their efforts on improving the current State Standards. By doing so, we maintain control over education and offer students the quality they deserve.

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