Parents group takes issue with Common Core standards

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Last fall Canton friends Ellen Donovan and Annmarie Silvasy began to talk about the math and English Language curriculum changes they have seen in recent years.

“Ellen and I and a couple of parents were concerned about the wacky math,” Silvasy said. “We made a couple of jokes about it. Then we just started to educate ourselves.”

When Donovan and Silvasy learned out about a three-hour forum on the Common Core State Standards Initiative and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), they decided to attend, thinking that the discussion would not last that long and they would then go out for dinner. But that didn’t happen. The forum lasted for the three and a half hours and Donovan and Silvasy left the meeting with a new perspective.

“We were riveted,” Silvasy said. “It’s just so much more than bad math.”

They collected information from a variety of sources, including newspapers, the Massachusetts Department of Education website, research articles from the Pioneer Institute, and conversations with parents in other states. They and other Canton parents went on to create Canton Parents Concerned with Common Core, which has a Facebook page with the same name and 288 followers. “There’s lots of great articles and information shared with everybody,” Silvasy said.

The Common Core State Standards were created by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and other organizations. Most Massachusetts public schools use the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) as a graduation requirement. The state Department of Education will take a vote in November of this year to decide if PARCC, which is based on the Common Core, will replace MCAS.

The members of Canton Parents Concerned with Common Core take issue with the curricular changes.

“The children are caught in a system where they are treated identically,” Donovan said. “No two children are identical.”

“We (Massachusetts) had a curriculum that was the gold standard,” Silvasy said. “We were number one. No other state was even remotely close to us. We’re dropping at a fast rate.”

She said that the only positive aspect the group has seen is that a student who moves from an East Coast school on a Friday and begins classes at a West Coast school on a Monday will be studying the same curriculum.

Donovan explained that MCAS is based on the curriculum that was being taught in schools prior to the introduction of the Common Core; however, changes have been made to the assessment since. “There is no empirical evidence to support that the new standards work,” she said.

“We have to stick with MCAS,” Silvasy said. “We don’t want to switch to PARCC.”

The two women said that Canton Parents Concerned with Common Core have learned three defining points about the standards: they are not international benchmarks, they are not research based, and they are not rigorous.

“One of our big concerns is that by the time the kids are in high school and college, it’ll be too late,” Donovan said, “if we don’t reach out and educate ourselves and the community.”

A public forum and discussion on the Common Core and PARCC will be held at Bridgewater Sate University on Wednesday, June 10, from 4 to 7 p.m. Canton parents are invited to share their concerns about the Common Core and PARCC at the Canton School Committee meeting on Thursday, June 11, at 7 p.m. at Canton High School.

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