Mother of two in Miami-Dade schools tells the truth about Common Core

There is growing concern that the Florida Department of Education and Board of Education are turning a deaf ear when it comes to critics of Common Core State Standards. The interim Commissioner of Education was forced by Governor Scott to hold hearings on Common Core. Many have pointed out that opponents who are parents, teachers and concerned citizens are each only given three minutes to speak.

Suzette Lopez, the mother of two children in the Miami-Dade public schools, attended one of the meetings to speak about her concerns. According to  Mrs. Lopez, “I gave a portion of the speech last night at the Florida Hearing.  Due to time constraints, i had to delete the entire timeline portion, but I think its important to call this out.”

She could not in three minutes mandated by Commissioner Stewart, present her thoughts. WDW – FL received her remarks and they are provided here, with permission, so that her voice may be heard. The following is the full text of her prepared remarks:

October 15, 2013

I’m a parent of 2 children in Miami Dade Public school system. One of my kids is a special needs gifted child … out of necessity, I have learned how to aggressively advocate for his rights and have taken a very serious role in understanding our educational system.

I have been an active member of my schools PTA, have served on the board, and I can honestly tell you, it was not till Jan of this year that Common Core came onto my radar.  I wanted to learn more about Common Core and began researching, vigorously. I spent months just researching because I felt that I needed to do my due diligence and understand all before I formed my opinion.

I am extreme scared of what is coming for my child and for all children that don’t fit the mold.  I am saddened when my child tells me that math is his favorite subject… But it feels like it is the longest hour of the school day.  He tells me that convoluted word math problems make him second guess himself when he knows the real hard cold facts. It bothers me that my child brings home F’s on tests when he get all the answers right because he was able to do all the problems in his head but he is forced to write out his work and won’t do so because he feels it’s a waste of his time.

If my child would have entered school today, he would have been lost in the system.  B/W Data would have told his teachers that he won’t amount to much.  Tests would have held him back.  He would have been pigeonholed in kindergarten.  I thank God every day for his remarkable teachers that did not follow data.  They went by their guts/intuition/experience. They wanted him succeed and gave him the time and room to succeed at his pace. Today my child is in a gifted mainstream inclusion classroom, thanks to those amazing teachers.

As a college educated parent, I find it hard some days to help my children with their homework. I do believe this will create a greater divide between those with means and those without.  Those with means will pay a tutor to step in and help… image the frustration of those parents that are not college educated and don’t have the means.

In researching Common Core, I was also focused on gifted education since both by boys are in a gifted program.  The National Association for gifted children stated on their website “The standards do not define the nature of advanced work for students who meet the standards prior to the end of high school.  Although CCSS are considered to be more rigorous than most current state standards, they fall short in meeting the specific needs of gifted learners, and if held strictly to the standard, could actually limit learning.”

These hearings are based on the premise that if you fix the standards, you fix the problems with Common Core.  Nothing can be further from the truth.  The problem with Common Core is complex.  The standards are just one component. You see, its not just about standards, its about what missing from the standards, its about how its being interpreted and implemented.  It’s about the highly intrusive data collection that is connected. It’s about strings attached by the Federal government that are holding our states accountable. It’s about high stakes testing that are pulling more and more funding away from already cash strapped schools and pulling away from much needed instructional classroom time.  Not to mention the emotional and psychological implications of developmentally inappropriate standards.

As part of my research, I decided to study the validation committee.  I was intrigued by that committee.  In my search, there were obviously 5 people that did not sign off on the standards.  I also came across 2 people that actually did sign off on the standards that were now not all that happy with how they are being implemented.

P. David Pearson was the first one I came across.  He was concerned with the lack of learning progressions between grade levels, Omission of creativity, motivation and social facets to learning. In 2012 David Coleman and Susan Pimentel developed the ” Revised Publishers’ Criteria for the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts and Literacy,GradesK–2″… Pearson was not all that happy about the new shift in the implementation of the standards. He hopes that we “stay closer to the standards then to the interpretation of the standards.”  He was not happy that informational documents were more about cold read and for understanding eng for eng language sake, verses bringing to the table background information that helps bring further context to a document that is read.   The other person was Arthur N. Applebee.  His concerns were 1) the separate emphasis on foundational skills, 2) the grade-by-grade standards, 3) the lack of a developmental model for writing and 4) issues with implementation.

We don’t even have a clear picture of how CC will affect our children since students in grade 3 and up are looking at a blended model of standards this year.  We are implementing standards and realigning curriculum mid stream during their most critical years.  You are asking older children to completely rethink the way they have learned.

Assessments are tied to teacher pay, school funding, and student progression. Since Common Core is more about the process of learning verses the content, that begs the question… are we holding our teachers accountable for how the kids learn verses what they are learning?

This is not like when we got FCAT, this is a fundamental shift in our educational system, in how our teachers are teaching, how parents help their children.  I am not opposed to change… but I do when there is a fundamental shift that is profoundly affecting so many kids lives…  and when the process from which we got the standards are so profoundly questionable.

I was listening to the hearing last night I keep on hearing how the Common Core was not a requirement for Race to the Top funds. So I think it’s time for a quick recap of how Florida got these standards… and how they are clearly intertwined.

July 24, 2009 – RTTT Announced

Nov 18, 2009 – RTTT Rules and Regs – Race to the Top Fund Document

The statement reads..  Several commenters recommend that the Department clarify in the final notice whether the reference to common standards refers specifically to the common core standards currently being developed jointly by members of the national Governors Association and the Council of School Officers.

Dec 9, 2009  Florida submits The RTTT Memorandum of Understanding.

In this document they refer to Common Core as the “common core of rigorous standards”.  They also refer to them as the “new common core standards”.

In 2008 Benchmarking for Success Doc.  They clearly define the new standards.  It states,  “To upgrade state standards, leaders will be able to leverage the Common State Standards Initiative, an upcoming project of NGA, CCSSO and Achieve…”

The only standards option out there that was “Common” and was touting itself as rigorous and career and college ready for all states was the Common Core Standards.  So its clear to me that Race to the Top was ALWAYS clearly tied to Common Core State Standards.  It was an issue of semantics.

January 19, 2010 – Florida submits its Florida Race to the Top Application for Initial funding.  The doc reads “Currently, Florida is taking a lead in developing the Common Core State Standards and Common Core assessments.” Remember, the draft of the standards have not yet been released!!! We willfully accepted these standards without ever really seeing them!!!

March 2010 – The draft K-12 standards were released for public comment.  Florida is among 16 states named as a finalist.

March 16, 2010 – Race to the Top, Florida Technical review document,  clearly state “description of a plan for Florida’s adoption of Common Core standards consistent with the RTTT required time frame and the state’s legal process has been provided in Florida law.

April 2010 –  Phase 1 winners announced.  (Florida came in 4th and did not receive any funds)

April 21, 2010 –Florida already had already decided by this time that they were going to implement these standards… and that they wanted that money.  To help our chances in round 2,   Governor Crist calls a meeting to appoint the group to work on the Memorandum of Understanding for RTTT application.

Remember, this curriculum has NEVER been implemented and nobody knows if it will work!!  All this and yet the final draft had not yet been released.

June 2010 – Final draft of CC released

July 27, 2010 – Florida State board of Education approved the adoption of CCSS for Eng and Math

I guess they were ensuring our chances of winning the phase 2 of RTTT.

September 28, 2010 – Florida received a grant award in the amount of ~ 170 million dollars ($169, 990, 272) for the Race to the Top Assessment Program

Aug 24, 2010 – Phase 2 winners announced, Florida wins $700 million RRRT award with $140 million dedicated to implementation of CCSS and support tools.   There was only a 11.6 point spread between us and the last place winner.

By accepting CC standards you were awarded 20 points.  Accepting CC aligned testing awarded you another 20 points.  It’s clear that without any of these, Florida would NOT have won those funds.

We adopted Common Core before we truly understood the cost implications!  That is called an unfunded mandate!

Clearly, states were coerced into accepting CC as the new state standards before they ever vetted them, understood their cost implications or even really understanding the implications of the standards themselves on ALL learners!!!  It’s clear from all RTTT documentation that RTTT is clearly tied to Common Core Standards.  Our hands were being tied left and right.  Cash strapped districts/states found themselves in a situation where they found it was a must to accept these federally funded standards in order to get the much needed funding. We were willing to risk the future of our children, loss of control of our educational system, all in the name of funding.

To help the process along and to guarantee stated oblige, conditions were placed.  On Feb 2010, Obama stated “as a condition of receiving access to Title 1 funds, we will ask the states to put in place a plan to adopt and certify standards that are college and career ready.” Conditional waivers from NCLB were also granted. Unless we push back on this federal intrusion of our supposedly state led effort, we will see a decline in our ability to make the necessary changes for the future of Florida’s children.

In all of this, we have lost the child. Our classrooms are being micromanaged.  All children want a chance to succeed.  If you create a love of learning, you create life-long learners.  You promote individualism, you build self esteem.  You create great leaders, entrepreneurs. You stifle a child, a school, a teacher by over testing and by teaching to the test.


If kids do well on this test, will they will succeed?

Are teachers doing their job if a child does well on this test?

The answer is… not necessarily.

THE ANSWER SHOULD HAVE BEEN A RESOUNDING YES if all these educational reforms were truly proven to be valid.  They are not.

Higher standards are a must.  But I truly question if Common Core and its related testing is the answer. It does not bode well when the AP testing group admits that they will be lowering their standards, not including calculus in their testing, because under the Common Core track, students are not expected to reach this important benchmark.  The math experts tell us that, by the end of high schools, our children will be 2 years behind current standards. By treating all our children as common, at grade level, we have minimized the importance of truly educating and empowering our kids.  The individual child is losing his voice to rise above or to rise to the challenge.

We are blindly accepting these untested standards and assessments under the guise that they are rigorous and will produce career and college ready students.  None of which has been proven to be true.

So…. what is the true return on investment?  From all indications, this progressive education reform has little to do with our children and the true education that they will receive, and everything to do with the privatization of the educational system and growth of business using student data to build up their portfolios. The return on investment is that education is the new hot topic and there is a lot of money to be made.

Any good, honest and ethical business would have taken the time to truly understand the ramifications of such a large investment on the people they most affect.  I would venture to say that the exorbitant costs and loss of critical teaching time associated with Common Core and any related assessment would be better served in the classroom, impacting kids lives directly… and building a love of learning.

Problem is, my children’s education should never have been viewed as a business opportunity.  Doing what is right for each and every child should ALWAYS take precedence over any financial gains.

Suzette Lopez