On September 21, the Muskegon Chronicle published a guest column by Muskegon ISD Superintendent Dave Sipka in support of the Common Core State Standards. My rebuttal was sent to Paula Holmes-Greeley on September 23. Based on past experience, I'll post it here rather than wait on the Chronicle.
Here is my rebuttal, in its entirety:
Muskegon ISD Superintendent Dave Sipka's article in support of the Common Core State Standards made several statements that bear closer examination.
According to Mr. Sipka, the Common Core State Standards "...do not dictate curriculum or prescribe a particular method of instruction." We hear this claim made in just about every article in support of the standards. Technically, this is correct, but in practice the reality is much different. As Mr. Sipka stated in his column, the tests our children are/will be taking are/will be based on the Common Core. Increasingly teachers, administrators, and school districts are evaluated based on these test scores. If they are going to be evaluated based on test scores, and the test is based on the Common Core, guess what gets taught. It is this combination of the standards and their assessments that creates a de facto curriculum, put into place via a conniving end run around both state and federal laws against such efforts.
This was no accident. Much of the corporate reform effort has been an attempt to transfer the tenets of Total Quality Management from the production line to the classroom, as if children were "parts" and their education simply a process of assembly. Teachers were reminded often that "what gets tested gets taught." Can it be any more obvious that the purpose of all this testing is to cotrol what is taught in the classroom? The Common Core and its attendent assessments form an inescapable one-size-fits-none curriculum for our students. Anyone who claims otherwise is either very naive, or, to put it as politely as possible, being disingenuous. If anyone believe this conbination of standards and testing doesn't dominate instruction, they haven't spent much time in a classroom during the weeks prior to MEAP testing.
The claim that the Common Core Standards "were developed by states, for states..." is patently false. The Common Core was the work of basically four organizations - the National Governors Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the Student Achievement Partners (the company formed by David Coleman, the "architect" of the Common Core Standards), and Achieve, Inc. (a partnership between the NGA and the Nationa Business Roundtable). All these organizations were heavily financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Teacher/blogger Mercedes Schneider has "followed the money" and published a detailed examination of Gates Foundation spending to support implementation of the Common Core that is well worth reading.
"We firmly believe that Common Core (Standards) promote equity by ensuring all students are well prepared with the skills and knowledge necessary to compete with their peers in the U.S. and abroad." Mr. Sipka and the board members believe firmly, but they don't know with certainty, because the Common Core has not been he subject of extended study. It has not been piloted in any meaningful way. No surgeon would ever cast aside years of education and experience to replace them with a new set of guidelines and procedures for his work without first being absolutely certain that the new methodology was an improvement over the old. Years of research and experimentation must take place prior too implementation because lives are at stake and the cost of failure is too great. The stakes are just as high in education, yet the Common Core is being implemented across the country without due caution. The experimental phase is coming after implementation, and our children are being used as guinea pigs. (Since this letter was first written, Bill Gates has stated that the effects of the Common Core wouldn't be known for a decade.)
I think most parents believe Mr. Sipka and the Muskegon ISD Board of Education should be working on behalf of the parents and students of the Muskegon area school districts. Why then are they supporting the efforts of those who would destroy public education and turn our schools and our children over to charlatans and profiteers? I choose to believe his stance, and that of the Muskegon ISD Board of Education, is the result of prolonged overexposure to the marketing efforts of the rich and powerful forces behind the Common Core Standards. Fortunately, there is an antidote. Education historian Diane Ravitch has just published Reign of Error - The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools.
Here is a snippet:
"If the American public understood that reformers want to privatize their public schools and divert their taxes to pay profits to investors, it would be hard to sell the corportate idea of reform. If parents understood that the reformers want to close down their community schools and require them to go shopping for schools, some far from home, that may or may not accept their children, it would be hard to sell the corporate idea of reform. If the American public understood that the very concept of education was being disfigured into a mechanism to apply standardized testing and sort their children into data points on a normal curve, it would be hard to sell the corporate idea of reform. If the American public understood that their children's teachers will be judged by the same test scores that label their children as worthy or unworthy, it wold be hard to sell the corporate idea of reform. If the American public knew how inaccurate and unreliable these methods are, both for children and teachers, it would be hard to sell the corporate idea of reform."
In the remainder of her book, Ms. Ravitch examines and refutes may of the inaccurate assumptions, and much of the misinformation about public education. I have a copy to lend to Mr. Sipka, if he will read it with an open mind. He may, in turn, provide me with information supporting his arguments.
The fact that we're having this debate is evidence enough we need to halt implementation of the Common Core immediately. This is just a small part of the discussion that should have taken place long before a single dime of public money was spent on putting these standards into practice. It's still not to late, and this decision is far too important to rush.