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Common Core and national student database subject of community forum

Becky Waugh, moderator, directed questions to panel members Barb Hulet and Katrina Yocum
Becky Waugh, moderator, directed questions to panel members Barb Hulet and Katrina Yocum
photo by Liz Ackerman

The Common Core State Standards Initiative and the national student database associated with it was the subject of a community forum held Thursday, April 27, in the Montrose High School cafeteria. Sponsored by area Republicans, it was the first in a series of fourth Thursday issues forums which are planned to continue throughout the year. Described as "a discussion, not a rally", public input was a major part of the evening. Becky Waugh moderated the program, which included a power point presentation and the video "Stop the Common Core". A panel composed of Katrina Yocum, a public school teacher and an educator with the Vision program, and Barb Hulet, a Vision parent, answered questions from the audience. Common Core research sites along with contact information for state legislators and the Colorado Department of Education were distributed. There was also an announcement of the upcoming visit by Jane Robbins of the American Principles Project on Saturday July 13. Ms. Robbins was instrumental in producing the "Stop the Common Core" video.

Though the moderator encouraged opinions of all kinds, most of the audience were concerned by Common Core and how it removes local control from school boards and school districts. Ms. Hulet stated that in her many discussions with Delta School Board members, they no longer felt independent, especially because of the federal monies the district used and felt it needed. Concern was expressed that teachers could no longer go to local administrators if they found that the newly-minted and untried Common Core standards and associated texts were not meeting their students' needs. Common Core comes from the federal level to the states, even though the Colorado Constitution expressly gives local school boards final authority in their various districts, and the tenth amendment of the U.S. Constitution reserves to the States all powers not expressly granted to the federal government. The enormous costs of implementing Common Core, which requires testing via the internet, was also discussed.

The audience viewed with distrust the data mining software programs created by a $100 million investment by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This program, titled inBloom, will ultimately collect 400 data points from each student, which will be held in central locations. Biometric measurements of each student will also be included. This data collection is part of the national Common Core standards program.

The overall opinion of the audience appeared to be negative regarding Common Core, although there was much debate over viable alternatives. All three presenters urged those listening to educate themselves and their friends. Colorado is one of the states that is strongly considering Common Core, but has not yet committed itself. Many states' legislators are re-considering their earlier acceptance of this federal program.