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Christine Korenthal: Feds influence standards for student testing

Posted: August 4, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 4, 2013 2:00 a.m.

The gift of knowledge is, without a doubt, one of the most precious things that we can offer to a child. Not only does it help to insure that they become a productive member of society, but education and, more importantly, a love of learning and creativity make a person’s potential for success at whatever venture they seek much greater.

There’s a great deal of debate as to what children should learn and what skills they should focus on in schools across America. Common Core "State" Standards are the most recent attempt by the federal government to influence what our children learn and how they learn it.

We’ve been told that these standards were state led, but that isn’t exactly the truth.

These standards were not created by educators, parents, and school board members, nor voted on by legislators after open debate and discussion. States didn’t lead in creating the standards.

Instead, they were offered Race to the Top grants and No Child Left Behind waivers in exchange for accepting standards that were largely created after the fact by consultants at Achieve Inc., funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

They remove much of the autonomy and decision making from the local level of classrooms and school districts and hand it over to a much more distant and less accountable federal bureaucracy.

Sure, it isn’t technically a national curriculum, but when schools know that they have to meet certain testing standards, they change curriculum to heavily favor whatever will be tested on throughout the year.

They are teaching to the test. What precious little time is left over can be focused on other areas of study.

Now about that testing: According to the first round of CC testing in New York, testing will be considerably longer and the content more complicated at every grade level.

Did I mention that much of the material in language arts will be based on reading informational texts and manuals rather than classical literature and poetry?

Many teachers have already complained that much of it isn’t age appropriate, particularly for younger children who lack sufficient mental development to complete the tests.

Talk to a number of teachers and kids, and they will tell you that standardized tests are the bane of their existence.

They cause considerable stress and anxiety in students and teachers, who will both be judged on their abilities based upon test scores. They disrupt the natural learning environment in the classroom and ultimately demoralize educator and scholar alike.

These test scores will follow your child throughout his or her entire school career and if you would like to opt out, your child will receive the rating of "non-proficient", which will ultimately reflect poorly on them, their teachers, and their schools.

Now we come to the aspect of Common Core that, as a private citizen, I find the most unsettling: Data collection.

Data gathering on students will include everything from disciplinary issues and attendance to health care and vaccination history to their family voting status, race, religious affiliation, income, and much more.

Where will that data go? To the state, initially, but that data will then go to federal agencies also. All of this is being done in order to measure the differences in performance nationally among children of varying socioeconomic, religious, and cultural backgrounds.

It seems harmless enough, but what about our student’s right to privacy? What about our privacy? What if we don’t want to share this information? Can we opt out?

For now, it doesn’t appear that we can. I don’t believe that the federal government has any malevolent intent in collecting this data, but it makes me uncomfortable nonetheless.

It concerns me when I think about who may be able to gain access to such personal information for their personal, political, or financial gain.

I believe that the people supporting Common Core standards do mean well.

However, as a parent and lover of learning, I believe that this takes education in the wrong direction. Instead of creating the passionate, creative, out of the box leaders that will lead us into the future, I fear that this will cause a lot of educators who are already tired of teaching to the test to do whatever it takes to pass kids through to graduation day.

I fear that they will hand out diplomas, without ever having kindled the smallest flame to ignite a passion for knowledge that I believe every child needs to achieve true greatness.

Christine Korenthal is a resident of Canyon Country. "Right Here, Right Now!" appears Fridays and rotates among Santa Clarita Valley Republicans.


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