When Penn Valley resident Jan Collins first heard of the new Common Core State Standards, she says she thought the initiative would help local school districts and teachers improve education for students in the county.
But after doing a substantial amount of her own research on the state-led educational initiative, Collins said she became skeptical of the standards — where they came from, and what they entail for local school districts and students.
“It’s changing the whole curriculum,” Collins said. “What they did is they decided what you need to know when you got out of college and they just pushed it down. They pushed it down into kindergarten and they’re trying to get it in universal pre-K. What happens is when you take all of these standards and you shove them all down, you get 5-year-olds working on computers, expected to know words and spell things that they’ve never even seen before.”
To build a local dialogue and disperse information she has learned about Common Core, Collins formed Common Core Concerns, a local group of parents, grandparents, educators and Nevada County residents who have banded together to inform the public about their perceived problems with the Common Core State Standards and testing, which, this fall, will be implemented in its first full school year in California.
“The way they’ve set up the curriculum, it leads kids on a path that they want them to be on without raising any protest from the kids or the parents because it’s so subtle,” group member Judi Caler said.
“So it’s like a gentle nudge into a certain direction … These young kids that are going into school, they can nudge them so that their values can change, and they’re teaching a certain kind of morality as the curriculum.”
Last year, the Daily Caller reported that parents at a Dupo, Ill., school protested that a biography of President Barack Obama was required Common Core reading for fourth-graders, saying the book casts white Americans, who disagree with Obama’s politics, as racist. But school board members would later confirm that the book was donated to the school’s library and not required reading for any students at the school.
“Some of these Common Core-approved books are teaching that white people are racist,” Collins said. “That we’re privileged, and I’m not saying that those things may not be true to some degree or the other, but the way that it’s being taught is not good. They teach more on Muslim history and religious beliefs then they do on Christian, or other religions for that matter.”
Collins’ group is not the only local organization opposing the new standards. In May, the Nevada County Republican Party sent out a press release officially stating their opposition to the Common Core State Standards, saying they are not initiatives led by the state, but by the federal government.
“The Nevada County Republican Party feels very strongly that it is the local school districts that should have the greatest control over how we go about mediating any alternate standards,” local party chairman Deborah Wilder said.
“And punishing us and our teachers because our kids, in a certain grade, don’t meet those standards is wrong. There are different challenges here, than a school district in Houston, Texas.”
According to Collins, in order to implement Common Core standards, schools must also give their students a survey that asks inappropriate questions.
“They collect information on your families, too,” Collins said. “Our kids take the test, it gets loaded to CalPad, and they upload that information into a company called InBloom, funded by Bill Gates, and InBloom compiles all this data.”
In April,The Wall Street Journal reported that student data project, InBloom Inc., ceased its operations after receiving complaints from parent groups, like Collins’, around the nation claiming that the company, which was funded by the Gates Foundation to the tune of $100 million, was invading the privacy of students and their families.
The initial InBloom project was to store student information in a data cloud that would hold detailed data points on millions of school children, with the purpose of allowing educators to use the information to target educational support and reform.
Though the company has folded, Collins says data can still be collected and used.
“Maybe you have things that are in your past that would have kept you from going to the college of your choice because you did something stupid when you were 15,” Collins said. “And now you can’t go forward because that information is there for employers to look at, for colleges to look at, anyone that InBloom deemed a stakeholder, and parents are not considered a stakeholder.”
The Nevada County Parents for Student Success, a local group of concerned Penn Valley parents, also opposes Common Core State Standards, and issued a statement Wednesday encouraging “parents to withdraw (opt out) their children from Common Core testing until they have fully investigated, understand its content, and agree to its principles, context, central data collection and purpose … It is imperative that we see to it that the voice of parents in their children’s education remains free and unabridged by government usurping, if liberty is to prosper.”
Nevada County Parents for Student Success member Deanna Johnson says she likes the concept of Common Core, but sees the standards as a federal mandate.
“I believe as an involved parent, I do not need to be dictated to by the schools, or government, on what is best for my children,” Johnson said. “I am, and also have been, on top of my child’s education and moral values — this is my job, not the government’s. I did opt my children out last school year of Common Core testing, and plan to do so again this year.”
Collins encourages more parents in the county to opt out of the Common Core testing, which she says is their right as parents.
“They use the data from these tests and determine whether the students are failing or not, or if the teachers are failing,” Collins said.
“It links the individual students to the teachers and thus to the school, so if the students don’t perform well, that teacher is not performing well, and if enough of them aren’t performing well, then the school is put on what they call a program improvement, which means any funding they get has to go for bringing those scores up.”
Collins added, “If teachers don’t bring scores up, they can be fired, and schools can be closed and turned into charter schools which would basically be run by the government. We can’t give them the chance to do that.”
To contact Staff Writer Ivan Natividad, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4236.