Here are excerpts (emphasis added) from a good report in the Laconia Daily Sun about a bad move by the Alton school board. In spite of strong support for the Common Core standards from Alton Superintendent William Lander, 6th grade teacher Richard Kirby and Alton parent and Gilmanton School principal Carol Locke, the school board seemed persuaded by the false charges of Common Core opponents.
Fortunately, as the article points out, the vote is unlikely to change the curriculum or the kids’ opportunity to be exposed to the higher standards their school district has already put in place. In addition, an anti-union, anti-Common Core web site called EAGnews points out in a pretty balanced analysis that actions like this are, in general, unlikely to have a practical effect.
ALTON — The School Board last night rejected the Common Core State Standards Initiative by a three-to-two vote, but apart from thumbing their noses at the federal government and state Department of Education and reaffirming their belief in local control of schools, the impact of their decision remains obscure.
Opening the discussion on the issue, Carol Locke, speaking as an Alton resident and principal of Gilmanton School, began by correcting claims that a third of the teachers in Gilmanton left the school rather than teach to the Common Core standards, which were made at a board meeting. In fact, she said only three teachers left, two for teaching positions closer to their homes and a librarian who retired.
Suggestions that teachers reacted against Common Core, Locke insisted “are simply not true,” adding “they really don’t have concerns.” The program is designed to raise standards, she continued. “It’s not a bad thing to bring our education up to a higher standard.”
Richard Kirby, who teaches sixth grade English and mathematics at Alton Central School, told the board that the Alton Teachers Association welcomes Common Core. “It offers new challenges to students to become problem solvers, critical thinker and technologically literate,” he said. “It raises the bar for grade levels and individuals.”
Denying the federal government has a legitimate role in elementary and secondary education, Cormier urged the board to “stay true to local education. Parents know best what is good for their children. Local committees know best,” she said. She warned against what she called the “propaganda” of expecting all students to perform to the same standards. “Nobody is the same,” she said. Likewise, she insisted “we don’t learn through assessments.”
“Common Core is a big mistake,” Cormier declared. “I hope we have some backbone here tonight.”
Locke countered that Cormier misrepresented the program. “Assessment is just a tool,” she said, explaining that it does not displace learning in the classroom. Moreover, she reminded the board that Common Core is “not that different from the state standards we have now.”
Voicing the state motto “live free or die,” a woman asked “why would we want to take federal money? Once you let the government in,” she continued, “you can’t get rid of it. It gets bigger and bigger.”
“There’s a lot more to it than just what happens in the classroom,” said Cormier, who said that the program includes “data mining,” which invades the privacy of “pre-schoolers to 20-year-olds. It’s a mammoth step towards federalizing the curriculum.”
Here Rep. Cormier repeats the hoary myth that “they” will collect data on each individual child. Superintendent Lander’s response is accurate: that’s against the law and not part of any plan.
Superintendent William Lander assured the board that “there is no mining of data” and the privacy of students is protected by both federal and state statutes. Expressing his support for Common Core, he said that much time and effort had been invested in designing the curriculum to fit the program, which he would not want to see undone.
After the meeting Kirby said that despite the vote of the board, beginning in 2015 his students will have to take the new test — the Smarter Balanced Assessment — which is formatted to measure their progress against the Common Core standards.