By Tad Segal
If the Barrington School Board were a fast-food franchise, they’d give McDonald’s a run for its money given how many orders they have coming in on any given night. And this Thursday’s meeting focused on all-day kindergarten is sure to be no exception.
But of course they’re not a franchise and their decisions about education policy in Barrington shouldn’t be about just tallying up the number of orders shouted at them from a drive-thru window by demanding customers. “Ok, m’am, did you want fries with that order of all-day-K?”
The school board isn’t there to provide blind order fulfillment just because so many parents demand something. We elected the school board to do a job — and a big part of that job is to demonstrate leadership, independence and critical thinking skills (something we want for our kids too, as it turns out).
So in considering the question of whether or not to adopt all-day K in Barrington — I think the school board faces a much, much bigger test. My question for this particular exam is as follows: What do you know about the Common Core State Standards and when did you know it?
Because the answers to this question are critically important to understanding whether or not we should be moving ahead with all-day K.
Right now, certain proponents of all-day kindergarten and the Common Core standards make it sound as though it’s a done deal: They say the town fully agrees with the implementation of Common Core and since we supposedly need all-day K in order to live up to the standards, then heck, we’re just arguing over how to pay for it and when. Right?
Well, no, hold up just a sec. The whole town doesn’t agree with the implementation of Common Core nor that we need to have a full day of kindergarten for our kids. And frankly, it’s not even a done deal given that we don’t have to implement Common Core until 2014-2015 and that other states have smartened up and are pulling back from implementing it entirely.
What we do need is a common understanding of the Common Core and the curriculum it has led to (including the proclaimed need for a full day to deliver the new level of learning these standards supposedly require). Then there’s the testing about to hit us right in the gut like a supersized combo meal plus apple pie. “Hello, can I get a side of Rolaids with that order of all-day K, please?”
The fact is, Common Core was dreamed up and driven aggressively by some of the largest corporations in the nation alongside their trade associations and lobbying groups: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, The Business Roundtable, Eastman Chemical Company, BAE Systems, Accenture, ING, Microsoft, Bechtel, GlaxoSmithKline, Association of American Publishers… more here: http://www.corestandards.org/assets/k12_statements/Business_Endorsement_Letter_on_CCSS.pdf
None other than ExxonMobil, the second largest company in America by annual revenue ($449 billion) and the first by annual profit ($44.8 billion) is currently running ads telling Americans how great the Common Core standards are. Video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FM_G4Y7SX3g
Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking it’s awful sweet of all these defense contractors, Wall Street bankers, chemical moguls, pharmaceutical juggernauts, text book publishers, and the oil and gas industry to care so deeply and so selflessly about our children in Barrington, Rhode Island. I know, I’m also overwhelmed by their concern for my five-year-old daughter as she prepares to enter kindergarten this coming year. Thank you Rex Tillerson – I am touched.
But of course, as incredibly powerful and compassionate as these companies and lobbying associations are, they couldn’t have developed and delivered the Common Core alone. They needed help. And they got it in the form of the National Governors Association and the Association of Chief State Schools Officers. Our very own Gov. Chafee and Education Commissioner Deborah Gist are very much to thank for being such incredible advocates for the Common Core and bringing it to our shores. Some background: http://www.achieve.org/achieving-common-core
Here are some of the other answers to the exam question. The Common Core is untried and untested. It has never been piloted — not even in one school district in one town in one single state. It is also a huge unfunded mandate. We’re already being told that Barrington has to come up with $600,000-plus every year to pay for all-day K in order to comply with the new standards lest our children be left behind.
That is the very definition of an unfunded mandate. Will Ms. Gist lobby the legislature for funds to pay for this? Well no, considering that the RI Legislature had absolutely no idea this was even going on nor did they cast one vote on the Common Core standards themselves. Maybe she’d be good enough to ask Mr. Tillerson, the CEO of ExxonMobil, if he might rummage the couch cushions in Exxon’s boardroom to see if he can find a few hundred thousand dollars in spare change?
Also, the myth that Common Core is better than what we already have is just that — a myth. A recent study looking at the standards in place compared to the Common Core found lots of examples of where the new solution didn’t measure up. For example, in neighboring Massachusetts the study found that in many places, the Bay State’s standards are already higher. Analysis is here: http://edr.sagepub.com/content/40/3/103 (My personal theory is that any state named Massachusetts has to demand high educational standards, at least in spelling.)
And if you think we should be comparing ourselves to Singapore or Finland because those countries score the highest on standardized tests internationally, then consider these two items: Singaporean society still allows for corporal punishment of students in the schools by use of a rattan cane (males only). And the Finns don’t start school until age 7. So much for role models and getting a jump on things…
So here we find ourselves in a debate over whether to find an extra $6 million over the next 10 years for all-day K so that we can somehow comply with a set of standards that we had no input into, nor any say over, that represent a huge unfunded mandate, are untried, untested and in many cases worse than the ones we already have.
Hello, School Board, can you please make that two orders of Rolaids?
Tad Segal is a Barrington resident.