Written by Rich Forestano Wednesday, 20 November 2013 00:00
For Herricks parent and PTA member Genara DiGirolomo, the new common core standards are a product of corporate interests in “collecting data on our children.” At the Nov. 13 common core forum at Mineola High School moderated by Senator Jack Martins, DiGirolomo lambasted State Education Commissioner John King. She feels the new standards serve as a means to an end for companies with deep pockets.
“This new curriculum and evaluation, created by corporate interests, pushed to state education departments, is not educating future citizens of our country, but rather future consumers of the corporate entities involved,” she said.
DiGirolomo’s primary concern is student privacy and companies monopolizing school curriculum. Pointing to groups like the Gates Foundation, who invested in the creation of inBloom Inc., a nonprofit organization that mines student
testing data and personal information, and NewsCorp, whose wireless generation division has been involved in creating the database, she asked, “how is this education and not marketing?”
“The Gates Foundation has granted over $174.5 million to push it’s college readiness program, common core,” DiGirolomo said. “My major concern with this curriculum is the private corporate interests involved in creating and selling Common Core. These are the same corporate interests that are collecting data on our children and possibly sharing their personal information with other parties.”
King affirmed his stance that the standards were developed by like-minded individuals and not Corporate America.
“The common core was developed by K-12 educators, business leaders, coming together from across the country to try to identify the knowledge and skills needed for college and career success,” he said. “It’s not about corporate interest. It’s about getting students access.”
King also defended inBloom. “The data stored is encrypted when stored and when transferred. The data security are as high or higher than many third-party groups holding data for schools throughout the country.”
Third-grade teacher Janine Bonura of the New Hyde Park-Garden City Park School District wants a plan to modify the current system. To her, King has not heard the calls for change and the curriculum is alienating students.
“After watching a number of these public forums it is obvious that you are hearing the same concerns at ever age and every grade level across this state,” Bonura said. “I can only now add my voice of concern to that of every parent and teacher across this state. My question is when will you show parents and teachers that you hear our concerns?”
King said it’s a dual issue on state and local levels. “Part of the challenge in trying to make sure these forums are productive is that there are decisions that rest with the state and decisions that are made locally. Some of the things that come up, we care about immensely and we have to work together with parents and educators.”
Parents and teachers angrily questioned the one-size-fits-all approach that seems to underlie the standards—the “common” in common core. Cheers and jeers were the norm, and especially rose when Westbury Teachers Association
Christine Corbett stepped up to discuss students losing interest in school because of rigid testing regime.
Corbett was curious as to when it became “sound to ignore the whole child in an effort for students to be college and career ready in elementary school?”
“At what expense are our state leaders willing to gamble the childhood of students, as young as 8 years old, who have already being turned off to school?”
King was adamant that it’s not the goal of the standard to lose student interest.
“When we talk about college and career readiness, we’re not just talking about the skills in math and English,” said King. “In all the work we do, our emphasis is to address the needs of the whole child.”
Corbett argued that the common core roll-out should have been started from the beginning, not in third grade, and that it was rushed.
Martins interjected, asking King if he’d reevaluate the progress of the common core in full. The commissioner said he didn’t think Corbett’s claim that students are losing interest is “true everywhere,” igniting parents to stand up, heckle and point fingers.
“The problem, is [King] is living in the world of theory,” Corbett said. “The way this whole process was rolled out and shoved down these kids throats...they weren’t ready for this. Step back, and halt or people will opt out.”
The final topic of the forum focused on student privacy, specifically inBloom, a nonprofit organization the state is using to mine student testing data and personal information. Manhasset Data Coordinator Colleen Leon questioned why student data would still be provided to inBloom even if a district did not participate in Race To The Top, a federal grant program to spur innovation and reforms in schools.
“The only use of data that is allowed is data that is being used to provide a service,” King said. “Now, aggregate data will be available through the portal. A district will be able to see the performance of other students in other districts, but not students’ names.”
Outside the forum, Jeanette Deutermann, founder of the Facebook group “Long Island Opt Out,” now more than 12,000 members strong, was among the protesters. According to Deutermann, data collected through inBloom catalogs an individual’s information from birth to age 20 and includes not just names, but address, birthplace, economic status, race, ethnicity, disabilities, and other information that some parents may wish to keep private.
“Data mining is across the board all kinds of wrong,” Deutermann said. “They want the data and that’s what is driving the entire system.”
The challenge for school districts is to keep families from opting out, which impacts state and federal funding. With groups like Deutermann’s gaining steam, that challenge is growing.