Public education advocates and Tea Partiers express displeasure with Common Core
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10/16/13 Janelle Irwin
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Tags: Common Core, education, tea party, Terry Kemple, HCC

Groups on opposite ends of the political spectrum are coming together to oppose Common Core State Standards being implemented in Florida public schools. Tea Party supporters and progressive-leaning liberal groups both rallied separately in front of the Hillsborough Community College Dale Mabry Campus Tuesday night before a public forum about implementation of the new testing standards.

Michael Weston is a retired math teacher. He said Common Core is another shove to teachers to teach to the test.

“We’ll be buying countless millions of dollars-worth of canned curriculum that turn teachers into, basically, script readers.”

It’s a common critique among liberal-leaning Common Core critics. But other politically conservative groups like the Tea Party tend to focus their contempt for the state standards on government overreach. Hillsborough County School Board candidate Terry Kemple rejects claims by state board of education officials that curriculum is still left under the purview of school districts and the state.

“People say these were done by the states. They were not done by the states … these big money enterprises want to see this move forward because there’s a lot of money in it for them.”

And that’s when the two groups start to blend their opposition.

“The standards drive the curriculum. So, you’ve got big companies like Pearson, the biggest book vendor in the world – they’re in bed with this whole effort.”

That sounds a little like Pasco County teacher Kenny Blackenship who doesn’t agree with Kemple on much.

“Knowing who has written those tests – Pearson, who is tied to the Bush family, Neil Bush and what other test companies. There’s billions of dollars in this to be had at the expense of the public purse and there’s billions of dollars to be had in public education and that’s why we’re seeing this push. All of the standardized testing that’s been taking place over the last 15 years is really a move to privatize education and get these education companies into the public till.”

And Weston, the former math teacher who is now running for Hillsborough County School Board is worried about how much money it will cost the state to continue implementation of Common Core which is already being used in Kindergarten through third grade classrooms. There will also be a hefty price tag on creating the assessments. And the kicker, Weston said, is that the state already has a set of testing standards he thinks would work if the state invested that money into teachers and classrooms.

“If we can educate our kids to that level, we would be turning out a great crop of graduates. The problem is, we are not educating to the level of the standards we already have.”

The state has responded to criticism. Governor Rick Scott issued an executive order removing the state’s fiduciary responsibility of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness of College and Careers, or PARCC. And the Florida Board of Education has rejected certain ancillary components of Common Core. Even Education Commissioner Pam Stewart avoided using the words Common Core in the same sentence during a meeting Tuesday. But conservative Common Core critic Kemple said those moves are all shadow games.

“I think the governor may have had the best of intentions, but his pronouncements didn’t do anything to have any impact on the implementation on Common Core and that’s the whole Common Core initiative.”

But even with all of the criticism of the teaching standards, Blackenship, the Pasco County teacher, said there are some benefits that could come from implementing components of Common Core.

“I think the good points are that they’re less broad than the previous standards. In other words, like in World History, you don’t necessarily have to go from dirt to today in a year, but they’re deeper standards and lead our students to help our students to think more critically and deeper about the subject that they’re learning.”

Anti-Common Core activists claim there haven’t been any real cost projections associated with implementation and creating new tests to replace the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test that is currently used. But according to a Fox News report out of Tennessee, one district in that state spent more than $5 million dollars implementing the standards and upgrading technology to meet needs. PARCC estimates it would cost $30 per student to implement their tests.

Two more public meetings are being held this week – Wednesday night in Broward County and Thursday evening in Tallahassee.

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