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LETTER: Stop Common Core In Tewksbury, Support Town Meeting Article 17

Oct 01, 2014 12:08PM ● By Bill Gilman

On October 7th, Tewksbury will hold a special town meeting beginning at 7pm at the Tewksbury Memorial High School (TMHS). Warrant article 17 provides for the discontinued use of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the associated assessment test known as PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) and provides for the return use of the 2009 Massachusetts standards and MCAS.

As one of the petitioners of article 17, I would like to share with you my motivations. Two major factors are,

1- The 10th amendment of the U.S. Constitution; "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

2- I believe...
As a parent I am the first and most important teacher for my child,
As a parent I know best how my child learns,
As a parent I possess a fundamental competence to guide my child toward a career path or higher education,
Not all children learn the same way or at the same rate,
A K-12 education should teach the fundamentals,
A K-12 education should teach a child how to think; not what to think,
A K-12 education should reflect my morals and ethical values,
A K-12 education should not focus on career or college readiness, but focus on teaching a child how to learn, so they can confidently meet any challenge that life presents,
A K-12 public education is best accomplished under the local control of parents and local representatives, in collaboration with teachers,
Teachers who inspire and innovate are the key to education reform,
And I believe in the individual.

Also, I believe that the federal government's Race To The Top (RTTT) grant program and the Common Core State Standard Initiative (CCSSI) are in opposition to what I believe as stated above, and are in violation of the U.S. Constitution. They are also in violation of three federal laws that prohibit the federal government from guiding the educational curriculum of the states, as highlighted in article 17. Education has and should always be reserved to the people, i.e. local control.

The Common Core Initiative is designed to transform our educational system from one of local and state control, to one of federal control in cooperation with big business. Your child will no longer be treated as an individual, but as a commodity to be sold to corporations for the benefit of the global economy.

As the common core initiative continues to be implemented, teachers will be made nothing more than facilitators, teaching to the test. Many local teachers unions, including the Tewksbury Teachers Association, opposed common core because it makes teachers responsible for student performance and gives them no authority to implement changes in their classrooms. While at the same time, it absolves those responsible for the standards and assessments from being held accountable for students' failures.

Massachusetts has spent $100 billion of tax payer dollars over a 20 year period to develop Massachusetts' state standards and the MCAS test that propelled Massachusetts' education to number one in the nation. Massachusetts owns and controls these standards. And yet, in 2010 the Massachusetts Board of Education, along with our Governor, and without legislative approval or public hearings, decided to implement the Common Core standards before they were even released. As a result of signing onto the CCSSI, Massachusetts was granted $250 million RTTT funds for implementation. It has been estimated that it will cost Massachusetts at total of $350 million to fully implement CCSSI, not to mention the additional cost to local school districts for the unfunded mandates associated with Common Core; such as professional development, new textbooks and instructional materials, testing and data-tracking systems. Who is going to pay for the huge expense? You and I.

States cannot make any changes to the Common Core standards because they are jointly owned and copy righted by the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). Because of this, states must relinquish control of educational standards to these organizations. The NGA and CCSSO license the standards to the states with the condition that the states implement 100% of the standards.

Now that the Common Core standards and PARCC tests have been made available, there is no evidence that the Common Core standards and PARCC are close to being as good as the Massachusetts standards and MCAS respectively. The money required to implement these standards and assessments could have been better used to improve upon what Massachusetts already had while keeping local control of our educational system.

The PARCC assessments are computer based, placing more financial burdens on school districts already struggling financially, as well as those that do not have the infrastructure to administer the tests. Although provisions have been made for school districts that lack

the infrastructure to administer the computerized test, by providing a paper and pencil version, it still comes with additional cost financially to the schools and students are left unable to take advantage of the so called benefits of the computerized version of the test. Massachusetts is in the final year of a 2-year test drive for PARCC. As a result, school districts have been asked to choose between using MCAS or PARCC for this school year. Tewksbury is one of 180 school districts that have chosen PARCC; where as 130 others have opted to continue with MCAS.

Warrant article 17 gives the residents of Tewksbury a voice to air their concerns and their desire to maintain local control over their child's education. If Article 17 is adopted, it will send a message to other communities in Massachusetts that they are not alone in their opposition to Common Core and the federalization of education; and it will give them the courage to take a similar public stand to keep education local. Also, adoption of article 17 will show that town meeting can be used to provide “we the people” a platform to inform our local school committee members and those on Beacon Hill of “the will of the people” when all other avenues seem to produce no results.

There have been many informational forums held across Massachusetts where people on both sides of this issue were asked to present facts to support their position on common core. Most of the time proponents of common core declined to participate, and those that did, presented weak arguments to support their position. Many of these forums were video taped and can be found on You Tube.

The opponents of common core have presented factual evidence to support their claims: That common core is a one-size-fits-all approach to learning;
It is a fundamentally flawed experiment;
It represents a loss of local control of education;

Common core standards are not internationally benchmarked;
Common core standards are age and developmentally inappropriate;
Common Core standards do not support STEM;
Common core will be costly to states and taxpayers to implement;
The benefits cited by pro Common Core people are unproven and mostly untested, and are being tested right now on our kids.

More detailed information can be found at the following links:

Common Core Forum
Pioneer Institute
Cato Institute
The Heritage Foundation
American Principles Project Truth in American Education Race to the Top Application for Initial Funding Massachusetts

Race to the Top Phase 2 Application for Initial Funding Massachusetts

Race to the Top in Massachusetts:
Revised guidelines for responses to the Years 2–4 Request for Proposals Updated June 2013 Updated January 2013

Would you please join me in attending the October 7th Tewksbury special town meeting and vote to adopt article 17?

Ruth Chou

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