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Common Core Standards influence national opt out

Educator Darciann Samples speaks at the United Opt Out National conference.
Educator Darciann Samples speaks at the United Opt Out National conference.
Holly Keating

Common Core Standards (CCS) backlash has been mounting across the United States for years from educators, parents and students who view high-stakes testings as an invalid system with many flaws. Reported yesterday, April 1, various school districts across America had parents in the thousands protesting, excluding their children from participating in the high-stakes tests. In New York alone, opponents in some districts had up to 70% of children opting out.

United Opt Out National conference
Holly Keating

Examiner spoke directly with a few educators and students who attended the United Opt Out National's conference held in Denver. Their purpose is to help students, parents, and teachers connect across America to create direct action to save public schools.

At UOON’s conference one of the biggest concerns with CCS is the idea of a nationalized education system, and for some teachers it's the amount of curricula.

"It created the illusion that it gives states autonomy, because the U.S. Constitution does not allow for a federally mandated curricula," said Morna McDermott, an educator at Towson University, and one of the founders of United Opt Out National. She said it's presented as optional, however when schools took Race to the Top (R2T) federal funding they must adhere to the guidelines, which includes prescribed tests, assessments, and evaluations that fall under CCS.

Other concerns arise over the pressures placed upon their children for passing these exams, therefore increasing the students anxieties. Some question the validity of these standardized tests, or wonder who is in charge of creating the test questions, and what happens if a child does fail? With so many questions surrounding the legitimacy of these tests, which stems from the initiative R2T, many are in opposition.

The main component of the CCS tests and curricula “is they are developmentally inappropriate,” said Darciann Sample, a middle school teacher from Pueblo, Colo.

The standards are at such a high level that teachers are having to cover a vast majority of content within a small amount of time, and teachers can not stop and help a child master anything, Samples said.

However, supporters of the new standards see these tests as new benchmarks for grades K-12 to move children beyond memorizing basic steps for answers. The new standards will require critical thinking, and sets streamlined standards across all states.

With the possibility that a child does fall behind, what happens then?

McDermott said Common Core Standards have left that part up to each district, and depending on the resources available, if none, a child could possibly fall behind.

The standards are just assessments to let teachers and parents know if a child is failing, and then a course of action to help a failing child is left to the districts, teachers and parents. Adding, there is “a challenge with resources,” Samples said.

Another part of these new standards do not just hold the students accountable to pass, but they also have a district determined percentage that is tied to holding teachers responsible. Nevertheless, this is “compelling teachers to teach to the tests. As a teacher you’re screwed if the test scores don’t demonstrate what the state requires, teachers could lose their job,” McDermott said.

Alex Kacsh, a high school senior, and founding member of the Denver Student Union said that Common Core Standards “confines and narrows our curriculum.” He worries that private sectors are becoming the linchpin to his future education.

He said, the tests are placed into schools with the idea of keeping them accountable for student education, but the real idea is just the opposite. The idea of holding teachers accountable, and raising the benchmarks is just a mask to the background of private corporations seeking to make profits.

“Too much power has been put into these tests, and the evaluations are ran through private corporations, this is where the private corporate reform is getting their hand in steering the education systems,” Kacsh said. “Eventually schools are shutting down only to have private and charter schools re-open with backing from corporations like Bill Gates.”

Unfortunately as of April 2, UOON’s website was “destroyed,” said Peggy Robertson, one of the founders. She further stated their website has been “hacked”, and if people want to stay involved they can use their Facebook page until their files and website are back up and running.

Do you think a national standardized testing should be implemented into public schools?

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