Newspaper article Providence Journal (Providence, RI)

Education | Standards Drawing Criticism [Corrected 03/15/14]

Newspaper article Providence Journal (Providence, RI)

Education | Standards Drawing Criticism [Corrected 03/15/14]

Article excerpt

PROVIDENCE - Across the country, elected leaders and educators have begun pushing back against a set of educational standards that have been adopted by 45 states, including Rhode Island.

Now, a burgeoning opposition movement is developing in Rhode Island, with teachers, parents and at least one school committee questioning whether the Common Core standards are worth all of the money and effort put into them.

Although opposition to the Common Core in Rhode Island hasn't coalesced, it has cropped up in communities as diverse as Barrington, Tiverton and Cumberland.

And state Rep. Gregg Amore, D-East Providence, has submitted a bill calling for a delay in the implementation of a new test in math and English tied to the Common Core, which will be implemented statewide next year. The Tiverton School Committee voted last week to support the bill.

Both conservative and progressive critics say the Common Core is an attempt to impose a national curriculum that undermines local control and narrows the curriculum with its relentless focus on math and literacy.

Advocates point out that the standards were developed by the nation's governors and state education commissioners, not the federal government. They deny that it is a national curriculum. Rather, they say, it is a set of expectations that define what skills should be mastered at various grade levels from kindergarten through high school.

The Common Core grew out of a widespread fear that the United States was falling behind the industrialized world in math and science as measured by international tests.

The move to establish a shared set of standards was also a reaction to the growing achievement gaps between racial groups and low-income students and higher-income students.

In 2009, the National Governors Association assembled a group of educators who ultimately developed standards in math and science. The Obama administration encouraged states to adopt them through its Race to the Top grants program.

"States were saying, 'We're not getting the work force we need,' " said Chad Colby, a spokesman for Achieve Inc., of Washington, D.C., a nonpartisan education reform organization that helped develop the Common Core standards. "Governors and chief state officers were saying it doesn't make sense that we have different standards in different states."

In Rhode Island, the Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education discussed the standards at several open meetings beginning in 2009 before approving them, upon the recommendation of Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist, in 2010.

As the state moves toward implementing a new test based on the new standards for the 2014-2015 school year, calls for delaying or halting the program are increasing.

In Barrington, critics such as parent Tad Segal and School Committee member Scott Fuller say the standards were developed without any input from local school committees, teachers and superintendents, a complaint echoed by others.

"Who developed the Common Core?" said Dan Snowman, a Smithfield parent and physics professor at Rhode Island College who is part of a Facebook group called Collapse the Core. "There was a staggering lack of early childhood experts and classroom teachers."

But the responsibility for setting state standards lies at the state level, not the local one, said Department of Education spokesman Elliot Krieger.

As the standards were being developed, RIDE shared the information with Rhode Island math and English educators, Krieger said.

Moreover, three Rhode Island educators and a professor from Brown University participated on the national committees that reviewed the standards.

Gist said "there absolutely were teachers involved" in the development of the Common Core. More importantly, Rhode Island teachers are deeply involved in developing curriculum based on the new standards.

Another common criticism is that the standards are unrealistic for younger students because they call for abstract reasoning skills that are developmentally inappropriate for children in kindergarten through third grade. …

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