Ivan Natividad

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April 30, 2014
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Common Core opponents pack town hall meeting in Grass Valley

More than 200 people packed Grass Valley’s Elk’s Lodge Tuesday night for a town hall meeting hosted by Common Core Concerns, a local group opposing the new state-initiated educational standards.

“We believe it’s your right as a parent, a teacher and a community member to know both sides of the issue,” event organizer Jan Collins told the audience. “That’s what we’re here for.”

The event featured guest speakers who publicly spoke out against Common Core, airing all of their concerns and negative experiences with the new standards for community members to hear.

Guest speaker Dr. Sandra Stotsky said she served on the initial Common Core Validation Committee as an English and language arts specialist and refused to sign off on the new standards.

Stotsky said Tuesday that Common Core was never a state-led process but a federal one, and that the standards were not created by educators but by nationally appointed experts with no experience in teaching.

“If you were developing high school curriculum for students to be college ready, wouldn’t you get feedback from teachers and educators that are actually teaching these students?” Stotsky said.

“No teachers, from high school or college, were used in the process of developing Common Core.”

Stotsky also claimed that the new standards being implemented in schools stress skills-based curriculum over content-based learning, adding that “They want to stress writing over reading. We know from over 100 years of research that good writers have been good readers. Reading creates good writers and should take priority over writing.”

Also speaking at the event was California educator Lydia Gutierrez, who has more than 20 years of experience as a teacher in schools across the state. Gutierrez, who is currently running for State Superintendent of Public Instruction, told the crowd that Common Core has been labeled as a standard but it is actually an untested theory.

“At 7 years old, my student was told to write a three-paragraph opinion paper,” Gutierrez said. “They don’t know what they are doing. A child that age can’t be told to do something like that.”

Gutierrez also claimed that Common Core was rushed through the evaluation process on a national level, and that the validation committee only took six months to approve the new standards.

“Theory has to be tested before you implement it as a standard,” Gutierrez said.

“They want our students to rely on a computer, to create that as a communicational skill. If a child is using this as their only form of communication, they do not learn the importance of discussion, they do not learn the tonation of vocabulary.”

Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute, also spoke at the event and stressed to the group that Common Core is a breach of parental trust that asks students about personal information, and that parents can opt their children out of the standards and testing.

“That’s your right as a parent to opt out,” Dacus said.

“You have a reasonable expectation of privacy that your child’s personal information does not end up going to the federal government.”

The meeting also included an appearance from a Sacramento parent, Katherine Duran, who made national news recently after being suspended from her son’s school after he passed pamphlets out telling parents to opt their kids out of Common Core standards.

“They told me it was inappropriate behavior. My child’s rights were violated.” Duran said Tuesday. “If you’re in favor of Common Core, you either stand to gain financially from it or you don’t have enough information. It’s a terrible, terrible thing.”

As the event’s final speaker, Duran also led a Q&A that allowed community members to ask the panel of guests questions about Common Core and how it will affect their children’s education.

Celeste Blackmon’s son is in kindergarten, and she plans to opt him out of the Common Core standards at his school.

“I’m really concerned what they are implementing in our schools, it is very scary,” Blackmon said.

“It wasn’t really talked about a whole lot, it just started happening at his school with a lot of implementation, without a lot of explanation. So I plan to opt him out of it.”

Shannon Briggs is a parent of three and said that she had done research on Common Core, but she wanted to get more information at the town hall on Tuesday.

“I have a lot invested in education and the direction that education is taking, and I need to be informed about what is happening, and why it’s happening, and how it can impact my children’s future,” Briggs said.

Briggs said her children are home-schooled, but she still plans to opt them out of the Common Core testing standards, saying that “I think Common Core is detrimental to our nation and our children’s future.”

Associate Superintendent for Educational Services at the Nevada County Superintendent of Schools office Shar Johns, though, claimed that there is misinformation circulating around about Common Core that is not true.

“I do believe there is some misinformation out there,” Johns said.

“Common Core is a set of standards, so that is a set of expectations that students at all levels are expected to know when they finish and complete a specific grade level. And so it gives us some benchmarks and framework of where students should be in their educational career so they can be career and college ready.”

Johns says that the Common Core standards are not curriculum that teachers have to use but goals they should meet.

“I think there is some confusion about the difference between what standards are and what curriculum is,” Johns said.

“Curriculum is the material and instructional strategies — the way teachers teach and the materials that they use in order to get information out to students to help them learn. The standards are what they need to be learning.”

Johns added, “By third grade, a student should know how to multiply, but how a teacher gets to that point is definitely up to the teacher, and the curriculum and materials that they use is completely locally controlled by our district.”

But Stotsky said Tuesday that Common Core standards force teachers to use specific curriculum that is required to be used for a school to be funded. Stotsky, though, added that Common Core’s future is in the hands of the parents, and they can be the ultimate decider of whether or not it will continue to be used.

“If enough students opt out in the next three years, it kills the validity,” Stotsky said.

“So these next few years are very important.”

For more information, go to www.commoncoreconcerns,com

To contact Staff Writer Ivan Natividad, email inatividad@theunion.com or call 530-477-4236.

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The Union Updated Jun 4, 2014 01:49PM Published May 1, 2014 03:33PM Copyright 2014 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.