VINELAND — As public schools statewide begin using the new Common Core standards in math and language arts, about 140 area people held a daylong symposium Saturday to raise awareness of reasons to oppose the standards.
The event at the Ramada Inn was sponsored by Concerned Citizens of Southern New Jersey, or CCSNJ, which Janice Lenox, of North Wildwood, said was founded about 18 months ago as opposition grew in other states amid concern that the standards are leading to a federal takeover of education.
“I am not an expert on Common Core,” moderator Peter Boyce, of Millville, said. “But there is no authorization for the federal government to be involved in education.”
The standards, adopted by the New Jersey state Board of Education in 2010, replace the state standards with Common Core State Standards. More than 40 other states also adopted the standards. The standards were not directly developed by the federal government but are linked to federal funding through Race to the Top funds.
CCSNJ backed a bill by state Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic, to slow the implementation of the standards and related tests. That bill was put on hold after Gov. Chris Christie issued an executive order in July creating a task force to review the standards and their implementation in New Jersey.
Speakers at the event touched on various issues, some strictly educational and others more political. Educators who spoke are concerned the standards are not rigorous or research-based. Some political opponents believe they are creating a socialist government.
Deneen Borelli, Outreach Director with FreedomWorks and author of “Blacklash: How Obama and the Left are Driving Americans to the Government Plantation,” warned that individual liberties are at risk and that the Common Core is about control.
“Common Core is conformity,” she said. “It is an attempt to create compliance.”
Christopher Tienken, an assistant professor of education administration at Seton Hall University and author of “The School Reform Landscape: Fraud, Myth and Lies,” used comparative data to show American students are not falling behind other countries. He said standardized test results say more about the economic status of families, and don’t evaluate creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship, values prized in America.
“We don’t need a nanny state,” he said. “We need multiple curriculum paths and multiple measures. We need to customize education. Colleges want students who are different.”
Tienken deflected questions that raised political issues, saying he looks at data, not politics. He is working on a study that compares the former New Jersey standards with Common Core and said the state high school math standards were more complex.
He and other speakers said politics can make it difficult to get consensus on education questions in the Common Core.
“It is a problem that is has become politicized,” Sandra Stotsky said.
Stotsky, a former senior associate commissioner in the Massachusetts Department of Education and a member of the National Validation Committee for the Common Core State Systemic Initiative, said the process of developing the Common Core standards had no transparency or public discussion. She refused to sign off on the final standards.
She said the Massachusetts state standards were superior to Common Core, but the state felt pressured to accept the Common Core to be eligible for about $250 million in state aid.
She approves of the K-5 standards for reading but believes the high school standards are poorly written. She said the math standards are weak and will not prepare students for college-level work.
Vern Williams, a math teacher in Fairfax County, Virginia, said during a lunch break that what is needed is a third pathway for students at a higher level.
Panel educators said the effort to create a common set of standards to apply to every child in the nation has resulted in standards that are just mediocre, and while many schools will go beyond them on their own, the pressure to perform on the state tests could prevent other schools from doing more than is required.
Stotsky worries that calculus courses could be eliminated in some high schools.
Other concerns include the role of big business, from textbook companies to computer manufacturers, and how Common Core could integrate into other subject areas.
Duke Pesta, academic director of Freedom Project Education and a professor of English at the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, said Common Core will be infused into other subject areas, and states won’t have much choice but to comply.
Other sponsors of the event Saturday were Let’s Do Linens Inc. and Liberty and Prosperity.
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