National Opposition to Common Core Visits North Carolina
“We’ve all heard of the NSA. Now, your school districts at the local level are collecting data on your kids every single day,” Whitney Neal told members of the Lake Norman Conservatives, a Cornelius-based civic action group. Neal is the Director of Grassroots Outreach for FreedomWorks and a former 8th grade school teacher; she visited North Carolina from D.C. last week to host a presentation on Common Core education standards and associated programs. “By law they are required, thanks to Race to the Top … to collect data on your kids, all the way from kindergarten to post secondary education and into the workplace,” says Neal.
Common Core standards were adopted by the North Carolina State Board of Education as a condition of the Race to the Top phase II federal grant. The funding application was signed by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, June Atkinson, in May of 2010. Whitney Neal points out that Superintendent Atkinson could not have known what the standards were at the time because the final draft of Common Core was not released to the states until June of 2010. The standards were subsequently written into NC statutes by the North Carolina General Assembly in 2011, but after loud opposition from constituents, the NCGA formed a legislative study committee in order to review the Common Core standards’ adoption.
When asked if North Carolina contracted to adopt the standards prior to reviewing them, Superintendent Atkinson says, “The RttT grant application required us to adopt career and college ready standards, but we were not required to adopt the Common Core. The State Board did adopt the Common Core standards in math and English/Language Arts.” Whitney Neal calls the explanation provided by Atkinson “semantics,” and counters that the Common Core Standards were the only set of standards that met the federal classification of College and Career Ready at the time. “(Also,) the requirement was a common system shared by a majority of the states; the only one was Common Core,” says Neal.
Whitney Neal told the group that the Race to the Top agreement entered into by North Carolina entails much more than just the adoption of education standards, describing a system of federal directives on teachers and administrators, special interest-crafted curriculum and testing, and an intrusive data collection program accessible to private corporations – all of this attached to the threat of rescinded federal funding as retribution for non-compliance.
North Carolina public schools implemented the Pearson PowerSchool student data storage hub after the state’s previous data system was purchased by the Pearson corporation in 2010. When asked whether PowerSchool was implemented as a condition of the Race to the Top agreement, Philip Price of the NC Department of Public Instruction said the following, “PowerSchool is not funded from or mandated by Race to the Top. It does enable the collection of, and sharing of, the necessary data to power the Race to the Top programs we have implemented for our classroom teachers and students.”
North Carolina resident A.P. Dillon thinks that the standards were not properly vetted prior to their implementation. As a mother and Common Core-opposition blogger for StopCommonCoreNC.org, she says that she has been trying to learn from State Superintendent Atkinson whether parents were offered the opportunity for input before North Carolina signed onto the standards. “I know of no public hearings held in 2010 about the standards,” says Dillon. “I’ve asked for (proof that NC residents had input) and was directed to a DPI website press release.”
When asked whether parents had input in the adoption process, Atkinson responded, “Before the State Board of Education adopted the Common Core standards in 2010, we developed a structure to get feedback from each region and school district in the state. … We have a notebook with at least 500 pages of feedback, and there was an extended period for people to give us feedback through our webpage.” In one of her articles, Dillon states, “Even a public notice would have been something, but no such animal exists. … It’s up to the parents to dig and not for the officials we put in place to inform us of sweeping events and changes that directly impact our lives and the lives of our children. Well, now we’re digging and we don’t like what we see.”
Whitney Neal warned the group, also, about the potential of North Carolina entering into phase III of the Race to the Top grant agreement, outlining further egregious aspects such as a data-sharing partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services and a home visits program. “The teacher, the administrator, the school nurse, the counselor, if they tag your child as at risk you are now part of the home visit program.” Neal says that under the program there is also criteria that automatically deems a child “at-risk” and could subject the family to home visits, such as living in a single-parent household. “It doesn’t matter how good of a parent (one is), as a label, they can actually call you and say, ‘we need to come check out your house,’ or ‘your kid brought peanut butter and jelly four out of five days this week. We really need to go into your house and examine your ability to provide your child with adequate nutrition.’”
The North Carolina Common Core Study Committee has the ability to submit education policy legislation for the NCGA short session, and many Common Core opposition activists have asked that they propose repealing the standards from the General Statutes. Neal says that it is crucial for North Carolina residents to mobilize in opposition to Common Core now because it will be difficult to reverse the standards once the program is fully implemented next year.
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