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A Local Solution to Common Core?

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Recently, we saw a drastic drop in the test scores of North Carolina public school students. It has been stated by NC education officials that the drop is due to more rigorous standards, and that we should expect an increase in test scores over the next couple of years; however, states that have had the Common Core standards and attached curriculum in place for several years now tell a different story. Some districts have even been caught manipulating their test results when the promised improvements and benefits from Common Core were not delivered.

While we are told to simply give the work-in-progress curriculum more time, let us remember that it is the children of North Carolina being used as guinea pigs for this experiment, and they are suffering the loss of years of their education in the meantime.

A review of the background of Common Core paints a picture of the rushed, deceptive manner of development and implementation of the Common Core standards, and the developmentally-inappropriate Common Core-approved curriculum, but there are also serious privacy concerns related to the administration of tests by inBloom and data storage through the Pearson Powerschool program.

The Pearson program has not been shown to be of great enough benefit to our schools to be worth the exposure of North Carolina children’s sensitive public and private information, which includes some or all of the following: address, family-structure, bus route, test scores, psychological profile, behavioral record, attendance record, social security number, seating chart with student photo, and more.

Turning this information over to a national organization is of no benefit to the residents of North Carolina, and presents a level of temptation for information-sharing, data systems integration, and a conflict of interest that we should avoid at all costs, especially considering that Pearson has now admitted to engaging in illegal actions related to their for-profit education venture conflicts.

See the following links for more information on how North Carolina has contracted to use inBloom (a Gates Corporation Organization) and Pearson Power Schools to share the information of every child who attends public school in North Carolina:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/03/us-education-database-idUSBRE92204W20130303

http://news.heartland.org/newspaper-article/2013/09/05/north-carolina-centralizes-expands-student-data-collection

Perhaps even more disheartening than all of this is the fact that the North Carolina General Assembly solidified the State Board of Education’s continued use of Common Core into the North Carolina General Statutes, with only one vote in opposition, yet most of the legislators who voted in favor of the Common Core legislation say today that they actually had no idea what it was was at the time!

So, what do we do about it?

In addition to state-level action items, such as the one listed earlier in this email, we must also work on the local level to protect our children’s education in the meantime. The problems in education are coming from the top-down; we must assert our authority & take back our children’s education with a bottom-up approach.

You may be aware of the fact that North Carolina is a “local control” state, meaning that our local school boards have the legal authority to determine which standards & curriculum will be used within the district, and may reject the standards & curriculum handed down from the state board – all without danger of losing their funding!

This means that our local boards of education may decide to accept the funding that is given to them, even that which originates from the race to the top funds, and use that money to instead adopt a different set of standards and purchase their own curriculum – a fact that has been confirmed by many officials, including North Carolina’s Race to the Top director, Adam Levinson.

House Majority Leader Edgar Starnes has also acknowledged that he is unaware of any provision within North Carolina general statutes which mandates that local boards of education adopt the standards and curriculum suggested by the State Board of Education.

To clarify: the North Carolina General Statutes do place mandates upon the State Board of Education to continue the Common Core Standards in order to uphold the agreement made when the State Board accepted federal funds, but the statutes do not place mandates upon the local (county) education boards to adopt & implement the State Board of Education-suggested standards & curriculum, and in fact the statutes actually leave the local boards open to the option to reject the state board’s suggestions.

A big part of the problem is that many local school board members are either unaware of this fact, or they are simply being deceptive to their constituents in order to avoid accountability. I recently contacted my local Caldwell County, NC Board of Education members, County Superintendent Steve Stone, and County Associate Superintendent (heading curriculum planning) Caryl Burns, with some of these issues.

It has been acknowledged by Stone and Burns that while they could opt-out of the State Board of Ed-suggested Common Core-associated curriculum, the fear of losing funding makes them reluctant to do so. When it was pointed out to them that they would not be in danger of losing Race to the Top funds, Burns stated that the funds the county is scared to lose are those provided by the state for teachers’ salaries!

It defies logic to think that the State of North Carolina would stop funding for teachers’ salaries because a county takes an administrative action that is afforded to them by the State of North Carolina!

Do not let your local boards get by with such deception, when the stakes are so high. Though it is a false premise, let’s presume for a moment that a local board were to miss out on some funding if they rejected the Common Core curriculum, I wonder – is there really any amount of money that is worth sacrificing the education and livelihood of the children of your county? Here are a couple of links related to my recent plight before the Caldwell County Board of Education (whose email addresses can be found here):

http://www.newstopic.net/news/local/x1388438046/Common-Core-opposition-comes-before-Caldwell-County-school-board

The first step in defeating Common Core in your district is to arm yourself with facts and inform your local board of education that they should reject all federally-shaped standards, curriculum, and testing tools, and that they should reallocate any funds given for common core implementation to a preferable set of all three.

Residents should also reject the use of Pearson Powerschool system in their area, the hub of data collection on our students, as well as reject the inBloom testing administration. If we do not reject this system as well as the inBloom testing, then we are still participating in the information-sharing aspect and the Common Core standard-compliant testing.

Thank you!

Nicole Revels

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