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Florida: Lee County Schools First to Opt-out of Common Core Standardized Tests (+ Video)

On Wednesday, August 27, 2014 the Lee County School Board voted no more State mandated testing. It was 3/2 and the most exciting evening our district has had, EVER. There were over 400 people, most with red shirts showing support, crowded into the board chambers. We had a tailgate party planned, but so much media came that we just talked with media. Groups came from left, right and center. This was not about party, it was about our kids. There were about 40 speakers, some in tears, some children, some made us laugh, and all made the logical request: NO MORE STATE MANDATED TESTING. Teachers are certified, schools are accredited and they know how to grade and test their students without State micromanagers meddling and adding costs and taking up to 60% of class time away from learning.

No one left for hours while the Board debated. The Chair, Thomas Scott made the motion. Don Armstrong made the second. Both said words we were longing to hear. Jeannie Dozier was on speaker phone and we expected her to support, but instead she offered an amendment kicking the decision down the road until we have a “plan.” We all knew what that meant and the crowd responded. Cathleen Morgan seconded her motion and our hearts sank. The amendment discussion opened the door for our Superintendent, Nancy Graham who talked seemingly forever about the boogie man of potential sanctions by the state. Children will be dying in the street! We have no plan and teachers will be lost and won’t know what to do without those tests that grade their performance!

They asked Nancy what date they could expect a plan. She suggested late October and crowd groaned audibly in spite of being reprimanded for noise several times already. Their children can’t wait. Every day in this testing torture puts the children further behind.

Mary Fisher was the wild card. We expected her to support us, but she cowered to the delay and fear tactics of our Superintendent. She droned on and on about how we must not have a knee jerk reaction and must be responsible. We saw her siding with the delay motion and felt like all was lost, when suddenly, she told a story about her own family and how they were negatively affected by test results. She was back.

They voted on the amendment and it died, 3/2. More talk by our star of the night, Don Armstrong, and the supporting actor, Thomas Scott, talking about our Constitution and the role of civil disobedience. Don quoted many of our emails filled support. Tom talked about the fact that the State is already in violation of the state Constitution on the issue of class size. He has send them a bill for over $120,000,000 for the costs they promised to pay. Don chided they need to send that to us in cash. Yes, they even talked about the founding of our nation and the Boston Tea Party. They obviously had not read our Common Core history books.

The vote was called and everyone was holding their breath. Tom, Don and Mary voted for the motion, while Superintendent Nancy Graham and Cathleen Morgan grew pale and distraught. The crowd jumped to its feet cheering and clapping in disbelief. Did we actually hear what we heard? YES! It has begun.

I am eternally grateful for the many groups and individuals who made this happen. We are hoping other school districts in Florida and across the nation will be part of a chain of dominos that will show we CAN stand up to the powerful machine standing against us and our children.

Public comments on standardized testing at the Lee County School Board:

EDITORS NOTE: The issues this vote raises include:

  1. What will Governor Rick Scott do? Governor Scott has called for an independent committee to look at the Florida (Common Core) tests and standards.
  2. What will the Florida Department of Education do given its commitment to implement Common Core statewide?
  3. What are the legal ramifications of this district opting out? Emily Atteberry from NewsPress.com reports, “Keith Martin, the [Lee County] board’s attorney, was not sure that there were any ‘immediate, clear’ consequences to the action. He said it was possible the Governor could remove the school board members from their positions of power.”
  4. What will the district use to replace the current tests? Atteberry reports, “While the news was met with jubilation, Superintendent Nancy Graham said she was deeply concerned about the board’s decision. “This will hurt children. There is no way around it,” Graham said while the audience booed. “I am gravely concerned about the decision that was made tonight, and I’ll try to make sense of this. It’s an interesting time to serve as the leader of this district.”

Education has become a defining issue for parents, concerned citizens, teachers and administrators. Governor Rick Scott and former Governors Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist have differing views on Common Core. How Governor Scott deals with this growing grass roots movement to chip away at Common Core in Florida can be a defining factor and determine the outcome of the election in November.

Common Core: Law Center Develops Opt-Out Form for Parents

Amidst growing concerns from parents and teachers surrounding the Common Core State Standards and the Federal government’s control of classroom curriculum, the Thomas More Law Center (TMLC) has prepared a Student Privacy Protection Request form for use by parents who wish to protect their children by opting-out of Common Core aligned curricula, data mining and the release of information concerning their children’s personal beliefs.

The Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, MI, designed the comprehensive opt-out form for parents concerned about Common Core and who want to protect their children’s privacy from educational data mining. The form allows parents to choose which Common Core State Standards and data driven practices they do not want their children to be a part of, including standardized testing.

Click here to download a copy of the Student Privacy Protection Request form

The form allows parents to opt-out of sharing their child’s information with the federal government, as well as outside agencies and private contractors. Information which parents can opt-out of sharing ranges from test scores and religious and political beliefs, to biographic, biometric, and psychometric data, such as fingerprints, DNA and information related to children’s personality and aptitude.

Richard Thompson, TMLC President and Chief Counsel, commented, “The opt-out form is based on the constitutionally recognized fundamental right of parents to direct the education of their children and on federal statutes which were designed to protect student privacy.  Our Founding Fathers recognized the dangers to our freedoms posed by centralized control over public education.  However, today, all but a handful of state governments, enticed by millions of dollars in federal grants, are voluntarily inviting the federal government to take control of our public schools, imposing untested educational standards and obtaining personal information on children and their parents which would make any totalitarian government blush with envy.   We must ever keep in mind, ‘The philosophy of the classroom in one generation will become the philosophy of the government in the next.’ Clearly, Common Core is a threat to individual privacy and liberty, and to our Constitutional Republic.”

Religious and private school educators have also criticized Common Core. In a statement the Cardinal Newman Society, an organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of faithful Catholic education said, “This school reform effort is nothing short of a revolution in how education is provided, relying on a technocratic, top-down approach to setting national standards that, despite claims to the contrary, will drive curricula, teaching texts, and the content of standardized tests.  At its heart, the Common Core is a woefully inadequate set of standards in that it limits the understanding of education to a utilitarian ‘readiness for work’ mentality.”

Political Commentators Glenn Beck and Michelle Malkin have repeatedly reported on the dangers and horrors of Common Core, with Malkin saying, “It’s about control, control and more control.”

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were developed under the supervision of the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to ensure that education and educational outcomes were consistent across the United States. The CCSS provides a set of standards they claim are “essential, rigorous, clear and specific, coherent, and internationally benchmarked.”

However, the CCSS have come under heavy fire since the beginning for a variety of grievances including: incomprehensible, political and inappropriate assignments; costly ties to big corporations; in-test advertising; the elimination of locally appropriate standards; and the emphasis placed on standardized testing.

In addition, with the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, whose educational value has not been demonstrated, also comes an alarming explosion of data mining within the classroom.  Student data are stored in databases designed to follow students from their entry into schools in pre-Kindergarten up through their entry into the workforce. These databases, through a complicated network of contracts and agreements, can then be shared with the federal government, contractors, researchers and other outside agencies. Testing corporations can then analyze the test data, produce recommendations for how to “remediate” student weaknesses, and then sell that information back to states and school districts.

These state databases, often referred to as P-20 systems, like Common Core are tied to federal funding, through the 2009 Federal Stimulus package and Race to the Top waivers, and in some instances can contain over 400 individual data points per student including health-care histories, income information, religious affiliations, voting status, blood type, likes and dislikes and homework completion. The data is then available to numerous public agencies. Despite federal student privacy protections guaranteed by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, the administration is paving the way for private entities to buy the data while the U.S. Department of Education is encouraging the shift from aggregate data collection to individual student data collection.

As a result of concerns expressed by a Michigan member of the TMLC regarding Common Core in March 2014, the Law Center began its study of the issues regarding the Common Core Standards.  The Student Privacy Protection Opt-Out Request was designed by the Thomas More Law Center as a result of that study.  It is available as a general reference and guide for all concerned parents.  However, each state has different laws that may impact educational issues differently.  Therefore, if parents are dealing with schools outside of the state of Michigan, it is important that they consult with a licensed attorney in their state for additional review and modifications of the opt-out form to comport with the laws of their respective states.

RELATED VIDEO: How Education Savings Accounts Are Empowering Families:

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

The Common Core: A Poor Choice for States – The Heartland Institute
Common Core Issues – Home School Legal Defense Association
Common Core: What’s Behind the Language – Rachel Alexander
Common Core – The Eagle Forum
10 Facts Every Catholic Should Know About the Common Core – Cardinal Newman Society