Saturday, December 14, 2013

CCTA Public Service Announcement / Press Release

December 13, 2013

Raleigh Meeting of Taxpayers and Superintendent of Public Instruction

The Coastal Carolina Taxpayers Association's (CCTA's) Common Core Committee, chaired by Kim Fink, left New Bern at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, December 12 for a 1 p.m. meeting with June St. Clair Atkinson, North Carolina's Superintendent of Public Instruction, in her Raleigh conference room.

After introductions were made, Chairman Fink opened the meeting by giving an overview of the reason the committee had asked for Dr. Atkinson's time (concern about many major aspects of Common Core), and how we planned to proceed (an approximately 10 minute presentation by each of 6 other members of the committee, followed by feed-back from Dr. Atkinson). Dr. Atkinson nodded her assent as she had graciously committed a 2 hour block of time to the committee in advance. Chairman Fink then introduced her husband, Glenn Fink, to lead off the committee's presentation.  

Mr. Fink covered North Carolina's Race to the Top application which is the mechanism by which North Carolina initially became involved in Common Core. Mr. Fink noted the $400 million dollars of federal taxpayer money which was sent to North Carolina as a result of that application, the time line and what person, or entity, signed or passed what. His presentation made it abundantly clear that the application pledging North Carolina's participation in Common Core was made in advance of common core standards' being published; thus North Carolina "bought a pig in a poke;" we agreed to thembefore the standards were known.

At the conclusion of his presentation, Mr. Fink handed off to BG (Ret) Hal James for the next segment. BG James began by quoting a federal law that prohibits the federalization of curriculum and programs of instruction. He then laid out a case for Common Core's reaching beyond standards and going so far as to be de factocontrol of curriculum. He did this in part by quoting Craven County's Superintendent of Schools and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction's own website on which a pertinent page can be accessed at (emphasis added). Secondly, BG James suggested that we "follow the money" and pointed to several beneficiaries of taxpayer money via Common Core implementation. One of the obvious beneficiaries is Bill Gates' Microsoft. You will remember that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation contributed money to the 3 entities that developed the Common Core standards. Was that seed money provided by a skilled "crony capitalist?"

BG James' wife, Raynor James, covered the data mining aspects of Common Core next. Mrs. James pointed out that, in making application for Race to the Top funds, North Carolina agreed to do data mining for the U.S. Department of Education. Mrs. James then explained that the U.S. Department of Education has altered its regulations relative to the Family Educational Rights Privacy Act. It now says that personally identifiable information may be released to third parties without prior written parental consent. It also has changed the definition of "personally identifiable information" included in the regulations to include "fingerprints; retina and iris patterns; voiceprints; DNA sequence; facial characteristics; and handwriting." The U.S. Department of Education also encourages the use of facial expression cameras, posture analysis seats, wireless skin conductance sensors, and other devices to measure students' emotions and assess personality traits and beliefs. To support this, Mrs. James referred Dr. Atkinson to page 44 of the DOE pamphlet entitled, "Promoting Grit, Tenacity and Perseverance."

Terrie Winter's focus was on the Common Core testing. Ms. Winter noted that federal taxpayer money had gone to the two consortia (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) tasked with developing the tests for Common Core. Two years into the program when the testing was done at the end of the 2012-2013 school year, North Carolina students' scores were down by 37.3%. Ms. Winter wonders why this is, and what makes us think our money is being well spent. If you instituted a new program in your business, and two years into it your receipts were down by more than one-third, would you continue that program?  

Nancy Murdoch covered the age inappropriateness of the Common Core standards with special emphasis on the excessive inappropriateness for young children in kindergarten through third grade. While concerned about all children, Mrs. Murdoch confessed that her bright six year old grandson, Luke, who is a student in New Bern sharpened and deepened her concern. Mrs. Murdoch pointed out that a large number of credentialed young child development experts (there were none on the committee that developed that portion of the Common Core standards) have gone on record as stating that the standards require skills that a young child's brain is not yet capable of achieving. Mrs. Murdoch quoted from a letter signed by some five hundred such experts in New York State this fall listing a variety of ways the stress of being tested for things impossible for them to master was being exhibited by young children they were seeing. These included vomiting, losing control of bladder and bowels, and scratching themselves until they bled.

Coastal Carolina Taxpayers Association's Chairman, Rick Hopkins, made the last segment of the presentation by discussing the costs of implementing Common Core. The money that came with Race to the Top has been spent. Additional costs will have to be born by the taxpayers of North Carolina. How high will they be? Mr. Hopkins pointed out that, although there have been estimates (some of them astronomically high), the truth is no one knows how much implementation of Common Core, the associated computer-based testing, and so on will cost. He also pointed out that whatever the additional cost, it's too much. Our state is on a tight budget. Teachers want raises we've been unable to give them. Increasing other school related expenses on an untested and unproven experiment to be conducted on all the grade school and high school students in our state makes no sense.

CCTA Chairman, Rick Hopkins, closed by presenting Dr. Atkinson with a resolution from CCTA expressing opposition to the Common Core.

During the presentation, June Atkinson made no notes, but appeared to be listening attentively, and made strong eye contact with each presenter. Following the presentation, Dr. Atkinson discussed most of the key points and directed her remarks to the presenter who had raised that issue. Each time, she talked to the correct person about the topic he or she had covered previously. It was an amazing demonstration of engagement and retention. Dr. Atkinson exhibited great charm and brainpower. However, since the committee had (at the insistence of its chairman, Kim Fink) worked from original documents wherever possible, Dr. Atkinson's attempts to persuade us to view Common Core differently failed.

For example, Dr. Atkinson mentioned that New York State had had a program prior to Common Core that had given young child development specialists pause, and inquired of Nancy Murdoch when the letter from which she quoted was written. Both Mrs. Murdoch and Mrs. Fink were able to retrieve the date (November of this year) within seconds.

In another instance when attempting to refute the effects of stress caused by Common Core testing of young children, Dr. Atkinson made the point that North Carolina had done "end of grade" testing since the 1990s with no ill effects. When asked what was the youngest grade tested in the 1990s by Mrs. James, Dr. Atkinson admitted that it was not done before grade 3 and that pre-testing for reading at the end grade 3 had only been done recently. Similar testing for younger children was tied to Common Core.

When attempting to refute the need to change North Carolina law to relieve us of Common Core, Dr. Atkinson assured us that was not true and passed out copies of one paragraph of the law that had been mentioned. Chairman Fink did not directly contradict Dr. Atkinson, but after she had left to attend another meeting, Mrs. Fink pulled out her copy of the entire law and read from the next several paragraphs following the one provided by Dr. Atkinson. As she read, the reason for doing so became abundantly clear. The impression given by the first paragraph was altered by the subsequent paragraphs. The committee found it interesting that Dr. Atkinson had copies of the first paragraph alone instantly available for us. Perhaps others have raised the issue of changing the North Carolina law?

At her request, two people from other parts of North Carolina who had appointments with Dr. Atkinson that day to discuss Common Core sat in on CCTA's presentation and Dr. Atkinson's subsequent remarks. As we were telling the two good-bye just prior to leaving, they asked for and received the CCTA contact information they requested. They were kind enough to praise the work of our Common Core Committee and say they wanted our help to get something similar active in their part of the state.

Additionally, CCTA Chairman and Chairman of CCTA's Radio Program Committee, Rick Hopkins, announced that since Dr. Atkinson had given us permission to record the entire session and he had done so, excerpts will be played over time on our radio program (6:30 a.m. on each Friday on 94.1, WNBU). Immediately after each program is aired, it is posted at

Info provided by:
Raynor James, PR Chair, Coastal Caroling Taxpayers Association (CCTA)
252-288-6228 (home)
252-626-2804 (cell)

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