My name is Sheila Resseger. I retired from a career as an English Language Arts teacher at the RI School for the Deaf in the fall of 2011. Since that time I have been researching the Common Core so-called State Standards and the accompanying PARCC testing. I find them fatally flawed. I have been speaking out against them in forums, in the House and Senate education committees at the General Assembly, and in print. Recently I have had Op-Ed letters published in the Providence Journal and in RI Future online. I have spent countless hours day in and day out for several years now—researching, posting, commenting, and connecting with others. What possible motive could I have other than a deep-seated desire to ensure that every student has the opportunity to thrive in an education system that honors and respects their individuality, their heritage, their talents, and their struggles.
Some people say that the Common Core standards are fine, but that the implementation has been botched. Or they advocate decoupling the standards from the testing. Those who believe this do not understand the nature of the standards or the motives of those who developed and promoted them. The most obvious indictment of the standards themselves is the lack of transparency in the choice of drafters, and in the make-up of the small cadre of people who actually crafted the standards. Where were those who had years of experience actually teaching k-12 students? Where were those with expertise in early childhood education, first and second language learning, literacy development, or the struggles of students living in high poverty neighborhoods? They were not there. Who was there? Those representing the college testing agencies—the College Board and ACT. The Common Core standards were developed with the testing uppermost in mind. Is it any wonder that the lifeless curricula developed by Pear$on to prepare students for the tests that they also publish are in reality all-prep, all the time? If you take the time to examine the practice tests for the PARCC, you will see that the critical thinking so touted by the promoters of Common Core and PARCC have become a caricature of critical thinking. The 21st century technology skills demanded by the computerized testing are the low-level skills of pointing and clicking, dragging and dropping, and typing in a small box.
The tragic truth is that the American public has been duped by the mantras of failing schools, international competitiveness, and the need for higher, more rigorous standards. Children have become a commodity, processed through a pipeline of readiness or not for employment in multi-national corporations whose rationale is profit and not respect for the individual as a worker or a member of an inter-dependent society.
Parents in RI and across the country have informed themselves and are speaking out in the hundreds of thousands by Refusing to have their children participate in a testing scheme that has no validity and serves to rank and sort children, teachers, and schools, and wastes enormous amounts of precious resources to boot. What is their motive, other than a deep concern for the well-being of their children, other people’s children, and our very democracy. With all of the challenges facing us in the 21st century, we need to go beyond the 3 R’s, beyond “grit, tenacity, and perseverance,” and open up education to art, drama, music, dance, history, languages, and philosophy. These cannot and should not ever be measured by standardized tests. Our children deserve an education that promotes engagement, empowerment, and empathy. The Common Core and PARCC are taking us in the opposite direction, with dire consequences for our society. They must be challenged and dismantled.