Common Core Assessments Questioned, Board Advised to Regain Local Control

By Sue Curry Jones

The Ava R-I School Board held a special meeting Tuesday, Feb. 9, at 6:30 p.m.  Board members attending were Bart Ellison, Vernon Johnson, Jeff Davis, Dan Watson, Marsha Aborn and Randy Spurlock.  Ron Wallace was absent.

The open session segment focused on a presentation by Dr. Mary Byrne, a well-known educator and opponent of the Common Core curriculum.  Dr. Byrne, co-founder of the Missouri Coalition Against Common Core, gave a persuasive argument against the Common Core standards, and made a case that the Missouri Board of Education and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education violated the law when they mandated Common Core for all local schools.

Byrne advised it was the moral obligation of the board to consider both sides of the argument. She recommended taking steps to restore integrity and truth in the teaching environment.  She noted nearly 70% stand against Common Core, and the initiative poses grave concerns in ethics, morality, the quality of education, testing methods, and the standards now in use.  She advised Common Core is a joint venture between the federal government and private corporate entities, and the data collected from students is used to formulate a workforce caste system.  In other words, a student’s future is earmarked according to documented school test results and whether or not the youth excelled or failed accordingly.  These standards will eventually eliminate an open market wherein students can achieve and strive for their personal goals –– instead a student’s future will be formulated according to scores and info in the database.

As an example, Byrne cited the accomplishments of neurosurgeon Ben Carson.  Under the Common Core program of recordkeeping, Carson would have been earmarked with a stereotypical label that would have prevented him from pursuing medicine, and attaining his personal goals.

Byrne also cited several points of data and documentation that raises questions and highlights issues, noted as the following:

  • As a local school, do we want to meet standards that compare our students to national cities, and out-of-state levels?
  • The creation of a longitudinal database on all students, under the guise of workforce training efforts, is unnecessary. There is no evidence to support this as an asset for global competitiveness and the future of our economy.
  • Private businesses tap into the database and look at the social and emotional profiles of students. Data is also being collected from student emails.
  • Common Core changes 75% of the present standards for teaching in the classroom.
  • Common Core teaches math tricks, not mathematics.
  • Common Core eliminates course studies where students must work at a higher level of critical thinking.
  • The State of Kentucky, one of the first to embrace Common Core, has used the standards for five years, and student testing scores remain flat, without growth.
  • The United States performance average on student test scores appears lower because as a nation we test everyone.
  • Citing trends of the Common Core testing curriculum, comparison charts showed math scores as flat, reading tests down, and writing test scores down. Overall, nationwide, trends show downward movement in testing.

Byrne said the U.S. Department of Education cannot withhold funds, and 45% of Title I Funds are lost to administrative and bureaucracy costs. She commented that the crisis in education is in the leadership, at all levels, and the board needs to regain control of their local district.

Byrne suggested Ava administer only legally defensible tests.  The board should ask DESE as to whether or not they comply with HB 2 and directives on the proper use of funds.  She also recommended the board ask DESE for the Reliability and Validity of 2015 Assessments, and the information points.

Dr. Byrne spoke to the school board on behalf of the Republican committee, and as representative of the group, Ross McElvain gave an initial introduction to the topic.  For those interested in reading more about Common Core and arguments against the standards, please go to truthinamericaneducation.com

During closed session, the board discussed a litigation issue, and according to Dr. Nancy Lawler, no action was taken.

From the prior closed session, several items were not reported to the Herald, and those changes were: in the fall, high school teacher Wes Davis will move from Ag to 6th-grade science; Melissa Payne, Ava’s Title I Interventionist, is moving to a 5th-grade teaching position; the vote for extending Superintendent Dr. Nancy Lawler’s contract was 7-0; and the vote extending the contract for Asst. Superintendent Mike Henry was 6-1, with board member Jeff Davis voting against the option.  Lawler noted the following job positions remain open: high school ag, biology, chemistry, and special education director.

The school board will convene for the regular meeting on Thursday, Feb. 18, at 6:30 p.m. Meetings are open to the public.