By DEANN NELSON
"STTPP Beacon," publication of Southern Tier TEA Party Patriots, keeps members informed of critical issues, such as, currently: New York's Race To The Top, Common Core State Standards and curriculum (referred to as "Obamacore"). Beacon copies were sent to all state legislators, each regent, commissioner of education and all Chautauqua County legislators and boards of education. Here are excerpts from the latest issue.
Race To The Top - touted as education excellence for New York students - has become instead a Race to Nowhere - dumbed-down education, mediocrity. The carrot was MONEY, the stick, the Common Core State Standards and curriculum. Implement the standards, said President Obama and Secretary Arne Duncan, or no money. As we have come to learn, both the standards and curriculum are fraught with huge constitutional, legal, ethical and philosophical issues.
OBSERVER File Photo
Reading scores in area schools
The crucial question: Why is the federal government meddling in classrooms when it is prohibited by law from federalizing the curriculum? Moreover, the 10th amendment to the U.S. Constitution states: "... any powers not specifically delegated to the federal government by the Constitution are reserved for the states and the people respectively." Education is a state responsibility. Period!
More key questions: Where was the New York legislature when this travesty came down the pike? How was implementing the Common Core State Standards, and now its associated curriculum, possible without any vote by representatives of the people? Our state Constitution (Article XI, Section 1) says: "The legislature shall provide for the maintenance and support of a system of free common schools, wherein all the children of this state may be educated." Additionally, Section 2 states: "It (Board of Regents) shall be governed and its corporate powers, which may be increased, modified or diminished by the Legislature..."
Hard to believe but true, the Board of Regents sold out our state education system for 30 pieces of silver. Where was chancellor leadership? Where was the code of ethics that should have guided the state Commissioner of Education and the Board of Regents when they made their decision? In the tank, apparently.
To the credit of some state legislators and governors, they are responding to this unconstitutional federal takeover of education by withdrawing from, or not funding, Common Core. Unfortunately, New York is not one of them - yet. Let's hope some concerned state legislators pick up the gauntlet - and quickly. Common Core must be repealed in New York!
Curriculum is a huge issue. The Washington Post reported that reading scores of 17-year-olds have not improved significantly since 1980. The federal government's solution to 30 years of stagnation? Make students read more nonfiction - 70 percent by grade 12! And the data that support this pronouncement? Nowhere! None! We are reminded that since 1960 much of what students read fictionally was tinsel, dumbed-down pabulum. If you want to see rigorous education, check student reading requirements from about 1900, the beginning of uniform college entrance requirements, to 1960.
If we want students to read more critically, shouldn't schools ensure that all children are taught letter-sound associations in kindergarten and grade one, be able to read competently by grade three, and start reading classic literature by grade four? In high school, analyzing and writing about challenging literature is the kind of pre-college training students need for developing both reading and writing skills.
Math standards are no better. You won't believe the plan to teach your child to add a column of two-digit numbers. Forgot the efficiency of algorithms. Proficiency in all math skills will be delayed: addition and subtraction, to grade four; multiplication, grade five; division, grade six; calculus, needed for entry requirements into some college majors, won't be available. Even now, USA math standards are weak in comparison to those of other nations, especially algebra and geometry. Common Core would place our students two years behind their peers in other high-achieving countries. Ze'ev Wurman, math advisory expert on the standards, said: "I believe the Common Core marks the cessation of educational standards in the USA."
To the weak, unpiloted English Language Arts and math standards - no one knows if they work - we can add the following scary issues: multiculturalism; extreme leftist ideology; social engineering; collecting 400 to 450 data points on each child preschool to career entry; contrary to federal law, sharing child/family data across multiple organizations; charter schools, homeschoolers, and private schools required to follow the same Common Core standards. Where will you turn if you want a quality education for your child that is consistent with your values? Nowhere! Can you think of anything more frightening?
Take action; this is not a time for passivity: (1) Parents, submit opt out forms so that data about your child and family are not divulged and shared; (2) Congressman Tom Reed, 23rd Congressional District: call (708-6369) or write (2 E. 2nd Street, Suite 300, Jamestown, NY 14701). Let him know that Common Core is a federal violation of states' rights in education. (3) Everyone, call our representatives: NY Senator Cathy Young ( Jamestown, 664-4603, or Olean, 372-4901) and NY Assemblyman Andy Goodell (664-7773). Tell them to work and garner support in the legislature for revoking Common Core State Standards and Curriculum; (4) Sign the internet petition: STOP COMMON CORE IN NEW YORK STATE; (5) Employers, community members, teachers, parents: tell your local school board to withdraw from this massive federal overreach into public schools, one which is undermining local control. If allowed to remain, parents will be removed further from the decision-making process regarding their children.
If you have a problem with your child's curriculum, will Secretary Arne Duncan be open to hearing from you? Ya think?!
Deann Nelson, a member of the Southern Tier TEA Party Patriots, is a Jamestown resident.