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Jim Clark: Is support slipping in Nevada for Common Core?

Jim Clark
Special to the Bonanza

If you wanted to see a bloodless (so far) but spirited battle over the merits and drawbacks of Common Core State Educational Standards, Nevada was the place to be this week.

Three community forums took place at Fallon, the Legislative Building in Carson City and South Reno to debate the merits and demerits of the program.

What is the battle about? Let’s start at the beginning.

Back in 2009 the National Governors’ Association (“NGA”) sat down with the Council for Chief State School Officers (“CCSSO”) at the invitation of a non-profit called Achieve, Inc., which is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to see if they could come up with a series of national educational standards against which K-12 students all over America could be measured.

Step one was to write uniform college readiness standards for curricula currently being taught.

A committee was selected the process of which is alleged to have been dominated by Gates-controlled Achieve, Inc.

Initial membership consisted of representatives from college testing organizations such as ACT and SAT, with no representation of English teachers, mathematics teachers, scientists, parents, state legislators, state or local school board members.

The next step was to form a committee to write English language and mathematics standards for each grade level.

This group included some non-teachers as well as college physics and mathematics professor named Dr. Jason Zimba and others with similar backgrounds.

Then the NGA and CCSSO formed a committee to validate the soundness, rigor and validity of the standards being developed.

This group included a Massachusetts Department of Education official named Dr. Sandra Stotsky and a Stanford University professor named Dr. James Milgram.

The Validation Committee came under some pressure to produce a result by May 2010 because Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was asking states to compete for “Race to the Top” funds and wanted state legislatures adoption of Common Core Standards to be one of the criteria to qualify.

Stotsky and Milgram declined to be rushed and in fact resigned from the endeavor claiming the standards were “not internationally benchmarked, research-based or rigorous.”

Meanwhile, the lure of federal dollars for cash- starved state education departments enticed a number of governors (including Nevada’s) to agree to adopt Common Core.

At the same time, Stotsky and Milgram went on the offensive against Common Core and have appeared in a number of states and communities to debate education leaders who are in the process of implementing Common Core.

This week they debated Steve Canavero and Judy Osgood, representing the Nevada Department of Education in the Legislative Building in Carson City.

Other weapons unleashed in this battle include written zingers. For example, Milgram and Stotsky authored “Can This Country Survive Common Core’s College Readiness Level?” criticizing Professor Zimba.

In response Zimba wrote: “Critics’ Math Doesn’t Add Up,” denouncing Milgram and Stotsky.

As you might guess, these publications make liberal use of educrat jargon and are really too voluminous to cast any light on the squabble that ordinary citizens (and governors) would understand.

And there may be significant differences in what politicians understand to be the facts and what the facts actually are.

Currently, support for Common Core is slipping among Republicans and teachers. Originally, 45 states conditionally adopted the standards, but with little examination.

So far, five states have withdrawn and more are considering scrapping the program. At last word, Governor Sandoval remains a supporter, so the GOP Nevada Senate will probably follow along.

However, the newly elected Assembly GOP majority has already put repeal on its 2015 legislative agenda.

The problem is given the controversy, it’s impossible to judge without implementing and measuring the standards over a protracted period of time.

Jim Clark is president of Republican Advocates. He has served on the Washoe County and Nevada State Republican Central Committees. He can be reached at tahoebsjc@aol.com.


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