High school teacher Darcy Bedortha has researched the standards and presented findings that trouble her

by: JASON CHANEY - Darcy Bedortha presents some of her research on Common Core Standards at Monday night's forum

The Common Core Standards adopted by the Crook County School District has seen its share of controversy thus far.

Citizens have raised concerns about it during local school board meetings and the Prineville-based Central Oregon Patriots held a forum amid concerns about the new education standards.

Now, the Human Dignity Advocates, another locally-based group, has held a forum based on their concerns about Common Core. Their stated mission is “to promote equal rights for all people and work within our community for social, economic, and environmental justice.”

The meeting, held on Monday evening at the Bowman Museum, attracted about 30 visitors, about half of which were HDA members. Local high school teacher Darcy Bedortha, who has spent extensive time researching standards, led the forum.

“I am not an expert,” she admitted up front. “I am just really passionate about what I do.”

Bedortha launched the session with a Power Point presentation in which she highlighted expert opinions about Common Core Standards. She acknowledged that she used to support the standards, but her research has since changed her mind.

“I started to learn, number one, where it came from and what’s behind,” she said, “and, number two, at some levels, especially early childhood and early elementary, it’s developmentally inappropriate.”

Bedortha first said that Common Core was developed with the help of corporations which stood to make money on the educational standards. She pointed out that Achieve, Inc., which was one of the architects of Common Core, had a board in 2001 that included six CEOs from six separate corporations. All six companies belonged to the American Legislative Exchange Council, a group Bedortha said was “known for model legislation in favor of the privatization of public education.”

“Those who profit from policy should not set policy,” she said.

Along with corporate ties to Common Core, Bedortha is troubled by the limitations the standards place on education as well as the stress that it puts on students. She cited Anthony Cody, a New York educator, who learned that in his home state, officials implemented the standards knowing that only 30 percent of the students who took the tests would pass.

“To me, that sounds like you are setting them (students) up for failure,” Bedortha said. She went on to note that the tests are the sole pathway to passing a certain grade or graduating, which she feels puts excessive pressure on children.

“High stakes testing is really dangerous,” she said.

Bedortha further referenced research that suggests Common Core Standards can limit innovation and creativity.

“We want to be developing a bright future for our young people,” she said. “When we concentrate on passing those tests and meeting those standards, we’re missing the whole point, which is qualities of mind and qualities of character.”

She said that the world is constantly evolving with new technological advances and the creation of new jobs, and that education needs to open up possibilities rather than narrow the focus to pass standardized tests.

“Once they find a passion, our job is to guide them and throw the doors open and point them in the right direction,” Bedortha said.

After presenting her concerns and the research behind them, Bedortha encouraged the audience, seated at several round tables, to engage in their own discussions on Common Core. Following that session, the forum resumed with each group encouraged to highlight what they discussed.

HDA member Margret Langer said their group was “struck by the lack of passion” in students that Common Core creates. Larry Ferguson, who represented another discussion group, said he felt the lack of passion was the result of the chaos that students encounter.

“Things are changing so rapidly, it’s hard to grab hold of something and say, ‘Hey, I really want to do this,’” he said.

As the forum concluded, the prevailing sentiment among attendees was that school board members and state officials need to hear more from citizens about why they oppose Common Core Standards. The audience was urged to keep talking, listening, and paying attention, and further implored to do their research, know their sources, and follow the money.

“Education is of urgent importance,” said HDA president Kathy Paterno. “Right now, understanding Common Core Standards and standardized testing I something we should be paying attention to.”

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