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Common Core town hall draws packed house

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BARTLESVILLE — Parents, grandparents, teachers and students gathered this week in a standing-room-only town hall meeting in Bartlesville to discuss concerns over the Common Core curriculum and their hope of convincing state lawmakers to overturn what they see as vastly flawed academic standards.

A grassroots movement objecting to the nationalized standards now being implemented in public schools, the forum organized by Bartians for Academic Freedom focused on how the curriculum — now known in the Sooner state as Oklahoma Academic Standards — affects education with what protestors say involves too little classical learning methods, too much collecting of private data and a seemingly endless stream of testing.

“I am against Common Core because I believe in intellectual integrity — the integration of head and heart and fact and faith that is directed by the student’s thirst for truth and not the state’s hunger for control,” Everett Piper, Oklahoma Wesleyan University president, said.

“I am against Common Core because I believe in the liberal arts — in liberty and liberation — a free mind and free man rather than one held in bondage by politics and power and what is popular or common.”

Oklahoma Wesleyan served as the host facility for the town hall meeting, which filled an auditorium with 250 seats, along with an audience that stood and sat on the stairwell floor for two and a half hours riveted by a presentation that included Jenni White, Restore Oklahoma Public Education president; Piper, educator Linda Murphy and parent Kristal Picolet. Many in the audience indicated they had traveled more than 30 miles to attend.

The National Governors Association, along with the Council of Chief State School Officers, coordinated the creation of the Common Core standards that now are in place in 49 states. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin is the chair of the national association this year.

The state’s academic standards, according to Oklahoma Department of Education, serve to measure what students should know and be able to do by the end of each school year. The curriculum for math and English began being incorporated into Oklahoma schools in 2010, while the standards for social studies, physical education, the arts and languages, started being incorporated in 2012.

In a world weary of testing brought on by the No Child Left Behind Act, the testing standards of Common Core will bring even more stress, according to opponents.

“It’s testing, testing and more testing,” said Murphy, who served as education adviser to former Gov. Frank Keating. “With common Core there are tests every four to five to six weeks.”

There are seven bills that have been filed for the upcoming legislative session to shut down Common Core provisions. The group urged concerned residents to write and call their representatives at the Capital to show support for the measures.

Opponents say many teachers are afraid to publicly express their displeasure over the curriculum for fear of losing their jobs. Nonetheless, there were teachers at the meeting, some of whom participated in a presentation.

State Rep. Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville, who was in audience at the meeting, said he has not had teachers come to him about Common Core concerns specifically, though he has seen educators becoming increasingly upset in recent years.

“Our teachers are frustrated with the numerous demands on teaching and with the testing,” Sears said. “There is no question the teachers are frustrated in Oklahoma and probably are looking at other careers.”

One parent participating in the presentation held up a sign showing how in mathematics under Common Core completing the sum of 25 plus 25 equals 50 can become a 53-step problem through the new curriculum. Speakers repeatedly expressed concern over the standards for kindergarteners, which expect 5-year-olds to write full sentences with punctuation.

Parent Kristal Picolet said she moved her children from Colorado, where Common Core was implemented earlier, to Oklahoma in an effort to escape a curriculum method that caused her children to hate school and feel like failures. Her kids grew by three academic years in one school year here, but now Common Core has come to the Sooner State and she sees teachers and students under growing stress.

“This is a slow progressive tumor growing in our schools,” Picolet said. “I refuse to sit back and watch every child’s joy for learning and every teacher’s joy for teaching be taken away.”

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