Common Core Fight Coming to Arkansas Legislature

arkansas flagThe Arkansas News Bureau reports that a fight is brewing in Little Rock over the Common Core State Standards.  Last year there was a resolution introduced State Representative Randy Alexander (R-Fayettevile) in the Arkansas House – HR 1007 along with a companion piece of legislation introduced in the Arkansas Senate State Senator Gary Stubblefield (R-Branch) –  SR 4.

The legislation was meant to authorize the introduction of a nonapropriation bill (needed according to House and Senate rules at that point of the legislative session) concerning delaying the implementation of the Common Core; and to declare an emergency.  Basically it was attempt to defund Common Core, and both bills died in committee.

John Lyon for the Arkansas News Bureau writes that Common Core opponents, unfazed, are retooling for the 2015 legislative session.

Sen. Gary Stubblefield, R-Branch, told the Arkansas News Bureau he is considering filing a bill to repeal Common Core.

“This one size fits all, I just don’t buy that, because there’s just too much difference in different school districts in different states,” Stubblefield said. “I just think there’s a better way to do it.”

Stubblefield said some teachers in his district think Common Core is all right, but “some of them hate it.”

“They think it’s a waste of time. They spend more time trying to learn how to give a test than they actually do teaching,” he said…

…Likely supporting repeal would be the group Arkansas Against Common Core. The group did not respond to requests Thursday and Friday for an interview, but its website states that Common Core has “effectively eliminated the ability of parents and local school boards to influence content standards to suit local needs.”

The Arkansas Department of Education continues with the same, old, tired propaganda.

That claim is “absolutely false,” said Debbie Jones, assistant commissioner of learning services with the state Department of Education.

“They’re standards only,” Jones said. “They do not tell a teacher how to teach. They do not tell teachers which books to teach.”

Eye roll, that argument would be more convincing if Arkansas was implementing PARCC (one of the few states that hasn’t bailed) an assessment aligned to the Common Core.  Also textbook publishers are aligning to Common Core.  So saying that a school can still choose its own curriculum rings hollow when you have mandated standards and an assessment that drives curriculum and classroom instruction.

My colleague, Jane Robbins, also testified in Little Rock last week.

Another common complaint is that PARCC will collect and share extensive personal information about students and their families. Jane Robbins, senior fellow with the Washington, D.C.-based American Principles Project, made that argument in a presentation to the state House and Senate education committees on Wednesday.

“PARCC has a cooperative agreement with the federal government that allows the federal government to have access to any student-level data that it collects from the testing,” Robbins told the Arkansas News Bureau.

“We don’t know yet what data PARCC is going to require,” she said. “They’ll probably start out with something very unobjectionable, but as time goes on they’ll say, ‘You should also collect this, and you should collect this.’”

Robbins said the ultimate goal is more power for the federal government.

“It fits in with the progressive theory of education and the economy,” she said. “If you’re going to run a managed economy that is planned by experts at the top, very smart people in Washington who will tell the rest of us what to do, they have to have data.”

Then there was this response from Jones of the Arkansas Department of Education.

Jones said the state Department of Education collects “minimal” information on students and never shares with the federal government or anyone else information that could identify individual students.

“Many of the statements that (Robbins) made that could be possible in her opinion, collecting private information on kids, is not what Arkansas does,” Jones said. “For example, she mentioned collecting students’ baptismal certificates. We don’t do that, nor would we ever do that. That would serve no purpose whatsoever.”

The state of Arkansas may not (yet), but that doesn’t mean PARCC won’t. We also don’t know what kind of data PARCC will require because they haven’t released that information.  The agreements that PARCC has with states and then with the U.S. Department of Education are tangible, concrete pieces of evidence.  My question to education officials and legislators is why is there agreement to share student-level data with the U.S. Department of Education if student-level data is not going to be collected?  You then have the data-sharing agreements between the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Education – why?

One Democratic, pro-Common Core, legislator – State Senator Joyce Elliot (D-Little Rock) tried to say that Jane was putting forth a conspiracy theory.  She’s not.  She’s just pointing out warning signs that legislators need to be wary of.

We may not know what data will be collected, but we can however see the tone of the debate and the talking points that are used.  There is an assessment and data collection that accompany the Common Core State Standards.  Concerned citizens and parents in Arkansas should expect that there will be a reasonable, respectful debate among their elected officials and that their concerns will be heard.

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