BARRINGTON, R.I. – The current school year marks Scott Fuller’s 26th year as an education professional, but only his first as a Common Core opponent.
At various times over the last quarter century, Fuller has served as high school math teacher, an assistant principal and as a school board member. If he ever chooses to start driving a school bus, Fuller will have achieved the K-12 version of “hitting for the cycle.”
Despite that nearly exhaustive resumé, Fuller knew very little about the new Common Core learning standards until recently. Like most people in the education field, he trusted that authorities in charge of his state’s education system had carefully evaluated the new, nationalized math and English standards before adopting them in 2010.
Besides that, his own kids were no longer in school, and he was nearing the end of his education career. Fuller figured Common Core was just the latest in a never-ending series of initiatives to “fix” public education. In a sense, he’d already been there and done that.
But those views started to change several months ago when, in his role as a Barrington school board member, Fuller began hearing from community members that young kids – kindergartners through second-graders – were coming home in tears and loaded down with 45 minutes of nightly homework.
About the same time, Fuller made the decision to return to the classroom (after spending several years as a school administrator) and started experiencing the confusion and frustration surrounding Common Core first-hand.
“I’m running around like a nut, trying to figure the new curriculum out with my math colleagues,” Fuller tells EAGnews. “We’re being rushed, everybody’s being rushed. We’re teaching to a (Common Core-aligned) test that hasn’t been built.”
Inspired by all of these experiences, Fuller started looking into Common Core for himself. He read everything he could on the subject: blogs, research papers, and news stories – especially ones about angry New York parents who are demanding state officials extricate them and their children from this education experiment. (Since New York is a year ahead of most other states in implementing the Common Core standards, the Empire State is a kind of crystal ball that other state leaders can study to see the controversies and problems that are in their near future.)
Bit by bit, Fuller realized that – contrary to what the so-called experts were saying – Common Core standards aren’t necessarily better than Rhode Island’s previous standards, nor was there any documented evidence that they’d been “internationally benchmarked” against those of top-performing countries.
Instead, Fuller discovered that Common Core is an untested educational theory with an unknown financial cost that’s been rushed into place – without input from the public – by a self-appointed “education oligarchy.”
He came across a group of well-regarded educational experts who’ve studied Common Core and concluded the standards represent a decline in overall quality and will leave students less-prepared for careers in the all-important fields of science, technology, engineering and math.
He also determined that Common Core’s quest for educational uniformity among the states threatens the time-honored American principle of locally controlled schools.
“I have a 26-year perspective on education. I tell my wife ‘I’ve got a thimble-full of wisdom on this stuff,’” Fuller explains to EAGnews. “And all this is bad stuff, bad on so many levels.”
Protest will last until lawmakers listen
Fuller is doing his best to wake others up to the threat Common Core poses to America’s education system. He shared his concerns with his fellow Barrington school board members during a recent meeting.
“Think of the precedent that this will set if all of this is allowed to pass. Are you willing to allow an elite few to make decisions around what our children are taught, how they are assessed and how our teachers are evaluated? I’m not,” Fuller said in a prepared statement.
“Do you support a computer test, which hasn’t even been created, that teachers are attempting to teach to, and that they may eventually be evaluated by, that will determine how your child is progressing? Do you support a system where the implementation and long-term costs are unknown? Do you favor local control of your schools?
“We can and must use the beautiful American processes of debate, of real representation, and of constitutional balances of powers that are supposed to defend freedom and local autonomy.”
Fuller has joined forces with several other Barrington parents to establish StopCommonCoreRI.org, a website dedicated to getting information and research into the hands of other parents, teachers and taxpayers. The site also offers a petition Rhode Islanders can sign to let their state lawmakers know they “won’t sit still while special interests in Washington control our educational future.”
Fuller notes both liberals and conservatives are working together “to overturn this mess.”
“I’m currently working with other (school board) members in the state to increase the awareness of the impact of (Common Core),” Fuller tells The Barrington Patch. “We’re beginning to get a head of steam.”
Core opponents do appear to be making inroads in the Ocean State. They’ve arranged for Dr. Sandra Stotsky – an early member of Common Core’s Validation Committee – and Jamie Gass of the Pioneer Institute of Public Policy Research to speak at a forum late next month. The event is being organized by Rhode Island College physics professor Daniel Snowman, who also manages the Facebook group, Collapse the Core.
And in mid-January, state Rep. Gregg Amore – whose “other” job is teaching high school history – introduced legislation that would form a 20-member task force to study the Common Core standards and recommend possible changes to state lawmakers.
Considering that Rhode Island is four-and-a-half years into the Common Core experiment, it’ll be nearly impossible to remove the new learning standards from the state’s schools. An outright repeal will only be possible if the state gets a strong, anti-Core governor who’s willing to endure the political headaches and bear the financial burdens of developing a new set of uniquely Rhode Island standards.
Fuller understands that, which is why he’s simply calling for a “thoughtful timeout” on further implementation of the standards until parents, teachers and taxpayers can review them.
He’s also hoping the state will toss the new Common Core-aligned standardized test – known as the PARCC exam – in favor of one that’s been developed in a transparent manner with Rhode Island education professionals.
Fuller likens Common Core opponents’ dedication to their cause to the biblical parable of the persistent widow from Luke 18. In that story, a widow petitions an “evil judge” for help until he relents and grants her request.
Fuller explains: “Listen to what the judge says, ‘I will grant your petition, because you weary me.’ … This conversation around the imposition of the Common Core in Rhode Island has just begun. The stakes are too high; we will never go away. Yes, we plan to ‘weary the judge’ until our petition is granted.”