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Are our children turning into data mines?

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Editor’s Note: Tipton County has not been immune to concerns that are spreading throughout Tennessee about Common Core Standards, a set of new guidelines set to take place that focus on specific student skills at certain levels across all subjects in public schools throughout the nation. Adoption of this format is optional, though 44 states, including Tennessee, have gotten on board. This is the second part of a series that The Leader will publish seeking to inform its readers about Common Core Standards. Last week, the series opened with general information about the program.

Since the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, which were adopted by the National Governors Association, many parents have voiced concerns about using children for data collection, curriculum that does not factor in students’ individual needs and the added pressures for students and teachers.

Teresa Cantrell, a mother of two, is one of the many Tipton County parents who has publicly expressed her concerns.

Among these is her allegation that the new program uses data mining. She believes the government is collecting personal data from children and tracking them through the school system by using cameras to judge facial expressions, using an electronic seat to judge posture, a pressure sensitive computer mouse and biometric wraps on children’s wrists. She also said that she is concerned about the personal questions that may be asked.

Dr. John Combs, director of instruction for Tipton County Schools, said no additional data points have been added since the adoption of CCSS.

“The state has collected student information through the TCAP assessments in accordance with state and federal law, and will continue these practices under the new assessments. The (changes Ms. Cantrell’s suggested) are not changes we are aware of for either CCSS implementation or (the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers assessment).”

Paige Kowalski, director of state policy initiatives for the Data Quality Campaign said there is actually no data collection associated with Common Core.

“There are assessments required for proficiency and achievement, but, in terms of data, nothing has changed since before Common Core,” she said. “I would ask for clarification on who is considered ‘the government.’ The federal government doesn’t collect any individual data. The State of Tennessee collects data, but not the type mentioned. Nobody collects camera tracking. Data collection as it is very, very expensive. It would require a tremendous amount of technology and no one has those types of resources available. Even if they wanted to, there is no means to do so. There are laws that prevent collecting that type of information.“

One size fits all?
Cantrell is also concerned that the CCSS is a “one size fits all” curriculum.

She said,  “You cannot justify that these standards will, in fact, benefit our children, each and every individual one of them. This will be setting our children up for failure. There are many children in our local schools who have some form of disability or learning disability.”

She said she’s notice a difference in her child’s academic performance this school year.

“I am seeing a child whose grades are dropping, test scores dropping and confidence and self-esteem dwindling away.Absolutely, (we) parents can jump in and help. That’s exactly what I have done. When your child comes home with homework that (neither I), (with) a four-year college degree, nor my senior from high school can figure out, what am I supposed to say to my child?”

Dr. Combs said just as the standards in the past, the CCSS are the expectations of content and skill mastery.

“The planning, resources and delivery of content are left up to local schools and teachers to decide what best meets the needs of each child, including those who may have special needs.”

In addition to having an open-door policy for parents at all schools, the board offers additional resources in the elementary and middle schools such as parent meetings, family nights, after school programs and webpage information, Combs said.

“Teachers will use a variety of strategies, resources and text to help students move forward with the rigor of the Common Core State Standards. The new standards will be more rigorous,” said Combs.  “I'm seeing this in my own children's homework as well. Remember that the ultimate goal is to help our children become more college and career ready.”

Added stress in the classroom
According to Cantrell, the higher expectations will create a stressful environment for all because teachers are more stressed trying to make their children understand the material.

“The stress of the teachers trying to help our children, but then faced with the fact that these children’s’ scores are tied to their evaluations, their license, and their jobs. When you have stressed teachers, the children will feed off of this, creating a hostile and toxic environment,” said Cantrell. “Not to leave out the stressed parents, blaming the teachers for their child’s failing grades, when in fact, the teachers hands are tied.”

Dr. Combs said merit pay was implemented with the Race to the Top standards, years before CCSS was implemented.

And despite Cantrell’s concerns, some teachers don’t believe Common Core standards have negatively affected their classrooms or their students.

“In my personal opinion, children are as stressed as the teacher is, but I am excited about the Common Core,” said Donna King, an eighth grade teacher at Crestview Middle. “Whenever there is a change, there is a certain amount of anxiety, but I believe it’s the best thing to happen in education. This is a better assessment of what a child knows, as opposed to just test taking. I’m really looking forward to this. I think parents will be pleased as well.”

Next week, the series will continue with instructional materials and the CCSS: what is mandated and what is suggested?

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