Common Core stirs controversy |

Common Core stirs controversy

Christine Kuklica
Professors Sandra Stotsky and James Milgram spoke with attendees at Wednesday nights Common Core State Standards symposium held at the Fallon Convention Center. Here, Stotsky and Tim Fasano discuss the standards after the meeting.

The Common Core symposium didn’t go as planned Wednesday night at the Fallon Convention Center because the events from the forum the night before in Carson City were at the forefront of the discussion.

The drama created at the symposium, led to one person to press charges, and soured the participation from the Nevada Department of Education that pulled out from the meeting in Fallon.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Dale Erquiaga issued a statement saying department staff would not participate in the forum in Fallon or any other events held by the Citizens for Sound Academic Standards and professor Sandra Stotsky and James Milgram.

Stotsky, a professor emeritus of English at the University of Arkansas and Milgram, is a professor emeritus of math at Stanford University.

Erquiaga said he pulled his staff out of the forum because of the disrespectful and aggressive response to silence teachers the Department of Education brought in to speak in Carson City on behalf of Common Core.

Even though the State Department of Education refused to attend the Fallon symposium, Milgram and Stotsky upheld their promise to be there. Though the room wasn’t as packed as expected, perhaps due to the events from the night before, about 50 individuals attended to only find out it wouldn’t be a true debate.

Mediator Bus Scharmann said he was disappointed in Erquiaga and read an email he sent to Public Information Officer Judy Osgood to pass on to Erquiaga about missing the symposium.

“Please convey to Superintendent Dale Erquiaga my disappointment in his decision on not to have participation in the symposium tonight,” Scharmann said.

He added that although he was not present at the Carson City symposium, a repeat of the events the night before would not have happened in Fallon. He said each speaker would be given the same amount of time, and teachers would be able to give their opinion during question and answer and public comments.

Both Stotsky and Milgram commented on the events of Tuesday before diving into the flaws they have found in Common Core.

“It’s surprising to me, having been a member of the Department of Education in Massachusetts for almost five years, that your public servants do not seem to think they are public servants,” Stotsky said.

Stotsky continued by saying the conditions to which both groups, Department of Education and the two professors, agreed were broken when the Department of Education tried to bring in not only the two policy makers, Judy Osgood and Steve Canavero, but several staff members from the department and teachers. Stotsky said it wasn’t clear on how many individuals she and Milgram would be facing on the panel. Stotsky and Milgram refused to engage in a dialogue with a changing cast of characters.

“I don’t think they realized what a silly scheme they had, and it really was a silly scheme,” Stotsky said. “I would have been embarrassed if I had been a member of that department and if that is what my department had come up with.”

Milgram didn’t add much, but he said he and Stotsky faced rude, arrogant and aggressive behavior on the part of “public servants.”

“I have seldom been treated with such content … I agree with Sandy, we are owed an apology,” Milgram said.

There was a lack of participation from CCSD employees and school board trustees. Carmen Schank and Matt Hyde, both school board trustees, were the only ones to attend the Mmeeting. Churchill County School District Superintendent Dr. Sandra Sheldon said the district did not sponsor the symposium and that it was a community forum so there was no obligation from district employees, teachers or trustees to attend.

“I personally didn’t attend because of what had happened the night before in Carson City,” Sheldon said. “I didn’t agree with how the teachers were treated and how the people behaved … I didn’t want to lend credence to the Fallon forum.”

The professors offered their opinions on the flaws in Common Core.

Stotsky said Common Core State Standards were developed by three organizations funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In the absence of official information, Stotsky said. Achieve, Inc. and the Gates Foundation selected most of the key personnel to write the high school-level college-readiness standards.

“None of the meetings the groups had were open meetings and have never provided access to any public comment or critiques received,” Stotsky said.

The “lead” writers for the grade-level ELA standards, David Coleman and Susan Pimentel, have never taught reading or English in K-12 or at the college level, she said. The majority of the individuals assigned to write the standards do not have the proper qualifications to do so, and there is no record of why they were chosen.

Both professors agreed that Common Core standards lack in several areas. The standards are not internationally benchmarked, research-based and rigorous.

Stotsky said regardless of the actions states take, parents do have the right to remove their students out of Common Core standards, although it’s up to local school boards to set policies on how to deal with each situations.

“The local school board has the statutory authority over curriculum and instruction, as they’ve always had; they don’t have to use Common Core standards,” Stotsky said. “As far as I know, there is no requirement in your state law to use Common Core standards in a local school district.”

She said the standards are probably set up by saying districts must administer Common Core based tests, but local school boardd can vote in a different set of standards.

“They can administer the test, but students aren’t required to take the test,” Stotsky said.

Milgram said one of the writers of the Common Core standards was also one of the writers of the 1992 California standards, which led California to fall to 49th place in the nation, leading educators in the state to say, “Thank God for Mississippi.” He said the Common Core math standards are the equivalent of those 1992 standards.

“Students learning math under the 1992 standards for four years couldn’t recover and could never meet adequate math levels,” Milgram said. “Only a third of students could graduate from college under those standards and only two percent could earn a math, science, engineering or technology degree.”