Common Core controversy

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 26, 2013

This is the first part of a series looking into the state’s newly implemented Common Core Standards in its public school classrooms.
By Kimberly Hopson
LAPLACE – Louisiana, along with all but five other states in the union, has made the decision to implement Common Core Standards, but Mary Kass, an activist and founder of the Stop Common Core Coalition, questions whether it is a good idea to put education in the hands of the federal government.
“It’s really not just about the standards so much as the national testing. Along with that national testing is the data mining where they’re going to collect data on our children,” she said.
Mary Kass, an activist and founder of the Stop Common Core Coalition, said she has been working to educate the public about the alleged problems with the standards since approximately 2010. Kass said that it’s not the standards themselves she is wary of — taking the focus off of local education is the main issue.
“If you really believe in how our country was founded, we should not advocate any decision-making with a higher level of bureaucracy. We should keep education local and within our state. It’s not about the standards because we can raise high standards within our state. We don’t have to sign on to a national top-down structure to increase answers,” she said.
“I think people just want a fix for problems in this country, and instead of looking for local and state control, they keep looking further and further away to the ‘experts,’” she continued.
The State Department of Education said it would maintain its plan to begin administering the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers tests to children in grades three through eight beginning in spring 2015. The department will gradually raise the definition of “proficient” over the next couple of years so students and educators have time to meet the higher expectations. As a precautionary measure, the department will also propose a rule to prevent school letter grades from dropping more than one letter during the first year of PARCC implementation
By shifting to PARCC testing, the department hopes to put students in the state on a “level playing field” with their peers across the country, allow for more accurate performance comparisons and ensure college readiness.
Kass, who is also active with the Tea Party, said that in the current political climate, distrust of the government is rampant among all groups of people. She alleges that once the shift begins, Louisiana citizens can do nothing to change it.
“It’s been copyrighted by a nonprofit organization funded by Bill Gates and the federal government. That’s my biggest gripe. It’s not that we have standards, it’s who’s in control of them. A lot of people are missing that point,” she said. “Yes we do (need standards). But we don’t need common standards, and we definitely don’t need to tie our hands to a non-profit group.”
Kass organized a rally against the standards last month in Baton Rouge. The activist said the rally was “successful,” with at least 300 people attending. The organizers also collected contact attendee’s contact information with a sign-up sheet.
“All were energized and asked what they can do to get the information out to others,” she said. “Over 279 people signed, and spanned 14 parishes. The fallacy is that because we don’t want common standards, we want to dumb down our kids. On the contrary, we want to be in control as citizens of Louisiana.”