Group discusses Common Core Standards

Tom Considine warned the audience about data breaches that could expose their children to identify theft from information that is collected from the schools.

Tom Considine warned the audience about data breaches that could expose their children to identify theft from information that is collected from the schools.

The Nevadans for Local Control of Education attracted more than 50 people to their open meeting Monday night at the Fallon Convention Center to discuss the opposition for Common Core, a federal education program that sets standards in two subject areas.

John Eppolito, a retired math teacher from Incline Village, presented attendees with facts he uncovered over the last nine months of research on Common Core.

“Common Core, it’s a ‘one size fits all’ attempt on education,” Eppolito said. “But really it’s a ‘one size fits none.’”

Eppolito said Common Core is defined as standards verse curriculum. He said standards are what students must know by the end of certain grades and the curriculum is how they get there.

The proponents are said to be just standards and the way teachers reach the standards depend on them, Eppolito said. He said those statements aren’t entirely true and the federal government has paid at least $360 million to two companies to write the Common Core assessments. Pearson Education wrote the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test and McGraw-Hill wrote the Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test, which Nevada uses.

Eppolito said it is believed that Microsoft founder Bill Gates has given more than $2 billion to the program in direct support.

“Here’s what Bill Gates said about Common Core in September,” Eppolito said. “‘It would be great if our education stuff worked but that we won’t know for probably a decade’ … my third graders can’t wait a decade and neither can your kids and grandkids.”

Eppolito said the Public Broadcasting System concluded that Common Core is the biggest experiment ever in public education in the United States. He said Common Core is being rolled out to 50 million students in 44 states without the program being tested.

“Common Core was developed and pushed out within a year,” Eppolito said.

Eppolito said the writers for Common Core were not K-12 teachers, early childhood educators or mental health professionals. He said the testing companies mostly wrote the standards such as ACT, College Board and Achieve Ink.

“These standards were not written by teachers but the teachers will be the ones who are blamed when it fails,” Eppolito said.

He said tfive members on the validation committee refused to sign off on the standards.

One of the validation committee members said she was required to sign confidentiality agreement, Eppolito said. He also said the standards were written behind closed doors with no minutes ever released.

Eppolito said when states adopt the standards they must follow them 100 percent verbatim.

Another validation committee member said the federal government rushed the committee to get Common Core into the schools.

“The fact the federal government was involved in rushing these standards is problematic,” Eppolito said. “Because there are three federal laws that prohibit the federal government from directing, supervising, controlling elementary and secondary school curriculum, program of instructions and instructional materials.”

Eppolito said mental health professionals insist the standards are not appropriate for children and that students are being diagnosed with Common Core Syndrome.

“Mothers in New York are calling Common Core child abuse,” Eppolito said. “This month thousands of students in New York opted out of the testing.”

Unfortunately, Nevada doesn’t have the choice to opt out of testing, Eppolito said. He said Superintendent of Public Instruction Dale Erquiaga took that choice away from parents.

One of scariest things associated with Common Core, Eppolito said, is data collecting. He said children are asked personal questions without parents’ consent, and the information that is collected stays with them well into their careers.

Eppolito gave attendees the opportunity to share their experiences, concerns or ask questions about Common Core.

One mother shared her story about her 6-year-old son she withdrew from Lahontan Elementary School. She said her son is stressed by Common Core.

“He would come home and be emotionally fried,” she said. “I sat in his class for a week because he was coming home with behavior reports, and the classroom is completely chaotic.”

The mother said she is concerned about the material that is being shoved down the student’s throat and some of the material the students are allowed to read.

“The students can go online and choose a story to read and answer questions to,” she said. “One of the stories is about a transgender boy in high school who wanted to participate in a beauty pageant … what does a third grader have any business reading this story?”

Another mother told her experience with the data collecting that was sent home with her child from one of the elementary schools.

“My child came home with a questionnaire asking very personal questions about himself and his home life,” she said. “Why does the school need to know what my child’s sexual orientation is, or their religious belief, our what our household dynamic is, or if I’m married or single … that’s none of the school’s business, and my children shouldn’t be asked those kinds of questions.”

Tom Considine, a security expert, informed residents of the risk of the data collection.

“Since the start of the year, 39 reports of data breaches have taken place at schools around the country,” Considine said.

Considine said 15 percent of victims are 5 years old or younger and 26 percent of victims are 6-10 years old.

“Data collecting has no business being in our children’s schools,” Considine said.

He said schools don’t need to know students’ social security numbers, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, or if their parents have guns in the house. He said that information is irrelevant.

Considine said Churchill County School District’s website is weak when it comes to security.

“If a new hire teacher goes to create a user name and password, it gives the information right there,” Considine said. “On the website, it tells you what your user name will be and tells you a temporary password … all on the website. As long as someone gets there before the new teacher, they’ll have complete control of that person’s account.”

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