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Politics

Voices Against Common Core Growing Louder

September 4, 2013 - 6:00pm

While the Florida Department of Education and Floridas teachers gear up to implement Common Core State Standards by the 2014-2015 school year, another battle is raging on through the Legislature, schools, and the public: the battle against Common Core.

Several anti-Common Core groups across the state have been making their voices heard, calling either for a pause or a complete stop of the national education standards, which some say invade student privacy through extensive data mining.

Their voices have become louder over the last few months as opposition to Common Core has reached fever pitch. Even Florida legislators are pumping the brakes on the standards -- Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford have already made it clear theyre not on board with the assessment portion of Common Core.

Florida Stop Common Core Coalition is one group making its voice heard, and Dr. Karen Effrem is just one person leading the crusade against the national education standards in Florida. A former pediatrician, Effrem is a co-founder of FSCCC and is well-versed in education. She currently serves on the board for two national organizations: Education Liberty Watch and the Alliance for Human Research Protection.

Effrem says members of the public are angry about whats going on with Common Core.

When they see the type of things that are happening in their own schools, theyre appalled, and they are angry, she told Sunshine State News. This whole idea from the education summit that everything is going to be fixed by another slick marketing campaign and communications strategy from the state is just absurd.

Just last week, a group of legislators, teachers, and education officials from around the state met in Clearwater to discuss accountability in Floridas education system. Common Core was a hot topic at the summit, with Interim Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart discussing at length the best practices of segueing into the standards over the current academic year.

Those against Common Core dont just have one gripe against the standards. They see multiple flaws, according to Effrem.

Data mining is a major one raised by those opposing Common Core.

We are told that the Common Core standards have nothing to do with data collection and that the data that is used for educational purposes is protected by federal law and that its only given to the federal government in aggregate, said Effrem.

The federal government claims that only authorized representatives can peek into student data, but opponents of Common Core point out that the definition of an authorized representative" is so broad that virtually anyone -- a contractor, consultant, volunteer, or any other party to whom an agency or institution has outsourced institutional services or functions -- can be considered an authorized representative and can see student data.

Opponents also worry about the assessments coupled with Common Core, and theyre not alone. The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) has also drawn fierce criticism from some members of the public and legislators alike. Don Gaetz and Will Weatherford have already voiced their opposition against the test, which they say will ultimately be costly in terms both of money and time, two things Florida cant afford to lose.

They also raised questions about the security of student data.

We remain concerned about ... the misuse of that data, wrote Gaetz and Weatherford. Even PARCC reports final test security policies will not be released for another calendar year.

Instead, Gaetz and Weatherford are pushing for a unique assessment for the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards.

When it comes to what should happen next for Common Core, those against the standards say Florida should raise the bar at the state level instead of opting for a national set of standards. What theyre saying is reaching the ears of legislators across the state who are beginning to show apprehension about CCSS. Rep. Debbie Mayfield, R-Vero Beach, has already filed legislation to prevent the implementation of CCSS in any areas other than math and English.

But while Effrem thinks Mayfields legislation is a step in the right direction, she said there are still many other problems with CCSS that would remain -- too many to go forward with the standards at all.

We think there are so many problems with the whole system of national standards, national tests that are federally funded and federally supervised, said Effrem. We think that the best way to go [forward] is a full withdrawal.

Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen at allison@sunshinestatenews.com or follow her on Twitter at @AllisonNielsen.

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