Local opponents of Common Core hosted a town hall on Tuesday to raise awareness of what many called dangerous and poorly designed state curriculum standards.
Most argued that Common Core does not adequately prepare students for higher education and careers. States hastily adopted the standards as a way to get federal funding with little thought about schools’ ability to implement them, the speakers said.
About 100 people attended the event sponsored by the Republican Club of Frederick County and the grass-roots Education Freedom Committee.
Panelists included Christopher Tienken, an assistant professor at Seton Hall University; education researcher Sheila Kaplan; Emmett McGroarty, of the American Principles Project; Sandra Stotsky, a Common Core validation committee member from 2009 to 2010; Frederick County Public Schools Superintendent Terry Alban; and Frederick County Teachers Association President Gary Brennan.
The speakers voiced concerns ranging from student privacy to local control over curriculum. Common Core was created by politicians rather than educators, and pushed into schools without a pilot program or data to show its success, Tienken said.
“Children don’t have a seat at the policymaking table,” Tienken said. “We should only implement policies that have been tested and proven effective.”
The English and math standards do not require subjects difficult enough to prepare students for college and “will not get anyone ready to read a college textbook,” Stotsky said. She added that Common Core does not include standards for pre-calculus or trigonometry.
Frederick County curriculum director George Seaton said interpreting the standards that way is a stretch.
“It doesn’t make sense from my experience,” Seaton said. “I’m not seeing obstacles for kids to get to calculus. ... There’s parts of trigonometry wrapped into Algebra II, parts wrapped into pre-calculus.”
Alban spoke in favor of Common Core’s impact on county schools. Students are “learning perseverance. They’re learning to work as a team. Learning that sometimes the quietest person in the group has the best idea so you’d better talk to that person,” she said.
Frederick County made the local choice to implement Common Core before it was required this school year. The district wanted to roll it out in phases to make it an easier transition for students and teachers, Alban said.
“We have all along maintained the ability to design the curriculum the way we wanted,” Alban said. “It’s taken a lot of time, a lot of energy, but it’s all been worth it.”
Flemming Paschal, of Frederick, called the standards an experiment controlled by Washington.
“Our kids are guinea pigs,” Paschal said. “In some regards, (Common Core) seems too broad, but in math, they’re narrowing it down. ... Bureaucrats shouldn’t be dictating what our kids are learning.”
Organizers and panelists urged those attending to speak up and create change.
“The way to address the problems we have with the Common Core ... it’s at the Maryland State Department of Education,” Brennan said. “I think we need to convince them to slow down, look at this carefully, what’s good about it, what isn’t good about it, and support our teachers.”
Follow Rachel S. Karas on Twitter: @rachelkaras.