If you wanted to assemble a hit squad to put down the Common Core educational standards, you might start with the four panelists invited to discuss the topic last week at the Pleasant Hill Community Center.
Bill Evers, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, co-authored the opinion piece "Stop the Rush to Common Core." Anthony Cody, who blogs for Education Week Magazine, wrote "Common Core Standards: 10 Colossal Errors." Author Orlean Koehle wrote "Common Core -- A Trojan Horse for Education Reform." Ze'ev Wurman, a Hoover Institution visiting scholar, co-authored "Common Core's Standards Still Don't Make the Grade."
The event hosted by Concerned Parents and Educators of the East Bay -- described as a Common Core Forum -- more nearly resembled Common Core Target Practice for four practiced snipers.
To be fair -- that's why I'm here -- organizers said they invited proponents to speak, from Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla (her office said she was presenting legislation in the Capitol that evening), to State Superintendent Tom Torlakson (a spokesperson said "the press of business" left him tied up in Sacramento), to the Contra Costa County Office of Education, which declined for a different reason.
"It's not our job to debate Common Core," said Pam Tyson, director of educational services. "Common Core is the law."
From where I sat, it hardly mattered. The overriding mood among the 150 or so attendees was fairly clear. They didn't like Common Core when they arrived, and they welcomed reasons to dislike it more. The panelists obliged.
They said Common Core dumbed down California standards to lower-performing states; it foolishly postponed Algebra I from eighth to ninth grade; it was forced on states by federal officials; it's worse than No Child Left Behind, with different tests.
Special disdain was saved for Common Core's mandated collection of "400 points of data" -- information about each student -- that tramples personal privacy rights. One speaker who expounded on the subject was Koehle, who referenced the commentary of Glenn Beck. Apparently, he's her go-to source for reliable information.
Brace yourself for a shock. According to www.politifact.com, a fact-checking arm of the Tampa Bay Times, the "400 points of data" is a myth: "Our research found that Common Core does not include a data collection component." Student records are compiled, as always, at the discretion of individual states.
Curiously -- or, perhaps not, in light of the times -- the Common Core debate has taken on a starkly partisan tone. Panelists heaped blame on the Obama administration, with references to totalitarianism and central planning. If your political posture leans right, you apparently are required to dislike it.
I'm not wise enough to know if Common Core will perform as advertised -- help students process ideas, grasp core concepts and develop cogent thoughts instead of memorizing facts -- but some well-regarded people have staked their credibility on it.
It's endorsed by the county office of education, whose administrators I respect, and by Bonilla and Torlakson, who were teachers before they climbed up the political ranks. Gov. Jerry Brown, an education champion, liked it enough to allocate $1.25 billion to fund its implementation.
Parents who trust those people likely will give Common Core a chance. Those who trust Beck probably quit reading several paragraphs back.
Contact Tom Barnidge at firstname.lastname@example.org.