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Manchester school debate draws a crowd

New Hampshire Union Leader

September 17. 2013 9:52PM

GOFFSTOWN — Common Core national education standards would be a disastrous and expensive intrusion in states’ rights that would deteriorate education, a packed audience at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics was told during a forum Tuesday night.

“Standards and testing and curriculum are under the legal control of the states,” Jamie Gass of the Pioneer Institute told the audience.

The event, sponsored by Cornerstone Policy Research, was presented as an “informational forum” on the Common Core standards.

Ashley Pratte, executive director of Cornerstone, said the organization, which opposes Common Core, wanted to provide experts on the standards who echo Cornerstone’s opinion, but could also give insight as to what the standards mean. She said no proponents approached Cornerstone about participating.

The panel Tuesday night included University of Arkansas professor Sandra Stotsky, who served on the validation committee for Common Core, but refused to sign off on the standards and has since acted as a vocal opponent.

The other panelists were Gass, Jane Robbins of the American Principles Project and Bill Evers of the Hoover Institution.

Proponents of the standards say they arose from a state effort by the National Governors Association and that they are intended to give children a better chance to compete internationally.

More than 200 people attended the forum, with every seat taken and dozens standing along walls. Pratte said she believed that Monday night’s Manchester Board of School Curriculum and Instruction Committee hearing, at which the approval of adopting Common Core standards was tabled, played a role.

“I think it definitely spurred a lot of people to come out,” she said.

The standards have been adopted by 45 states, including New Hampshire. They are opposed by conservatives — who consider them a federal intrusion on local control of education — and members of the political left, who have expressed concern over the standardized tests that come with Common Core.

Stotsky said Common Core has no research to show it will provide a better education, especially for reading.

“You have to understand that Common Core standards are not rigorous,” Stotsky said. “Common Core standards are not internationally benchmarked and do not meet international standards.”

Robbins said Common Core’s intention is to extend the standards beyond public schools to private schools and home schooling by requiring private schools to obtain accreditation that mirrors Common Core. She said organizers of the Scholastic Aptitude Test, used by most colleges for admission, have hinted that the test will incorporate Common Core standards.

“It does creep into the curriculum of private schools and home schooling,” she said.

Stotsky said the standards fall short in English and language arts, as well as mathematics, the two areas of focus for Common Core.

“They are not preparing students for college,” she said. She said she and validation committee member and expert in mathematics, Stanford professor James Milgram, refused to sign off on the standards because it was “clear we were being asked to be a rubber stamp.”

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