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Your Tewksbury Today

Opponents Of Common Core Win Symbolic Vote At Special Town Meeting

Oct 08, 2014 11:11AM ● By Bill Gilman

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Though the vote was purely symbolic, Tewksbury voters last night voiced their opposition to the Common Core education curriculum and standards and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) testing.

By a vote of 82-51, voters at a Special Town Meeting passed Article17, calling on the Tewksbury School Department to opt of of the provisions of the Common Core initiative. The final article was approved with an amendment that modified some of the language.

However, the vote was non-binding, as state law does not allow town meeting voters to make decisions regarding the curriculum or the assessment systems used by the school department. Despite this, supporters of the article said they were pleased by the vote and hope that enough town’s follow Tewksbury’s lead, the state might be convinced to abandon Common Core.

"We concede that it's non-binding," said Ruth Chou, author of the article. "It's symbolic. But if enough communities do the same, we could see a chance (of stopping Common Core), possibly."

While Chou's two children are grown, she said she cares deeply about the education of the next generation. In her speech at the Special Town Meeting in defense of Article 17, she argued that Common Core and the PARCC testing program would be a step backwards for Massachusetts education and would take decision making power away from local school districts.

"Common Core standards were developed by two private organizations in Washington DC, as stated in Article 17, without state legislative authority. States cannot change these standards because they are jointly owned and copy righted by NGA and CCSSO," said Chou. "Because of this, states relinquish control of educational standards to these organizations. 

"As the federal government’s intervention in education continues to grow, it is time to empower every family with the freedom to choose the education that meets their child’s unique learning needs. It is time to restore state and local and parental control of education."

Several parents with children presently in the Tewksbury Public Schools also spoke in favor of the article and against Common Core. Common themes included the confusing nature of the math curriculum in the younger grades and a belief that the Federal Government is trying to ram a "one size fits all" approach to education down the throats of parents and schools.

Resident Keith Rauseo said there is no reason to change a system that is working in Massachusetts and that more resources need to be devoted to actual classroom education.

"We have too many people studying education and not enough people educating," he said.

Over the summer, the Tewksbury School Committee voted, 3-2, to participate in a pilot program for PARCC testing. No school committee members spoke for or against Article 17 at the Special Town Meeting. However, Assistant Superintendent of Schools Brenda Theriault-Regan made an impassioned plea in opposition to the article and in support of Common Core and PARCC.

Regan pointed out that Common Core had originally been adopted nationally in 2010 and that Tewksbury's curriculum had been gradually modified to fall in line with the new standards. She also disputed the notion that Massachusetts and the local school districts were losing authority under Common Core.

"The standards our students and educators are held accountable to are actually called 'the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks incorporating the Common Core State Standards.' That is because Massachusetts did not throw out our own standards," said Redgan. "In fact, our standards, and MCAS, helped to  set a pace and  blueprint for the Common Core and its subsequent next generation assessment. These are very focused and rigorous standards. They stress skill, communication, thinking, and real understanding.

"The Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks incorporating the Common Core State Standards also has 15 percent additional standards individual to Massachusetts only," she added.

Regan also countered that argument that Massachusetts and other states had no input into the development of Common Core, stating that 48 Massachusetts K-12 educators and 21 Massachusetts higher education educators participated in the development of the standards.
Massachusetts Educators were instrumental in the CCSS.

Among those pleased with outcome of the Special Town Meeting vote were members of the Tewksbury Republican Town Committee. The committee, of which Chou is also a member, have been vocal opponents of Common Core as a "Big Government" intrusion and had sponsored a "Stop Common Core" rally in Boston last month.

Of note, at its peak there were 214 residents participating in Tuesday's Special Town Meeting. Roughly one-third of them left just prior to the start of the debate on Article 17.



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