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Civil Disobedience: iRefuse! The Great American Opt Out from Common Core

Civil Disobedience: iRefuse! The Great American Opt Out from Common Core

Parents in New York State and across the nation are saying “I Refuse” to Common Core centralized standards, testing, and student data collection, and are putting their words into action through civil disobedience.

On Saturday, March 29th at 12:15 p.m. EDT, a crowd of about 2,000 is expected as parents, teachers, and other concerned citizens gather at Comsewogue Senior High School in Port Jefferson Station, New York, to inform parents that they can refuse the high stakes testing associated with the Common Core for their children. These parents are urging others throughout the nation to join them by holding similar Common Core Opt-Out rallies in their own states.

Yvonne Gasperino, one of the iRefuse rally’s organizers, told Breitbart News that the event has three main goals.

“The most important goal of the iRefuse Rally is to create awareness for parents on how they can refuse the testing for their children that takes place the following week starting April 1st through April 3rd for English Language Arts, and April 30th through May 2nd for math,” she explained.

Gasperino said parents are receiving misinformation, including from the schools, about what the impact of opting out will be to the children.

“It’s causing some nervousness among parents,” she continued. “We want to ensure all parents are equipped to refuse by providing them with web sites where they can get letter templates they can use and where good, solid, factual information on refusing can be found.” 

Gasperino added that her organization has been answering questions from parents who need information or who want to know how to refuse the tests associated with Common Core. 

“Second, we want to continue making parents and teachers aware of the Common Core standards and all its tentacles, e.g., the assessments we want parents to refuse,” she said. “And third, we want to highlight the existing bills that have been released in New York to halt Common Core testing, the Common Core curriculum, and all Race to the Top initiatives.”

Gasperino said that Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino is planning to attend and speak at the rally as well. Astorino is thus far the only declared Republican candidate for governor in New York.

Describing the Common Core curriculum as “upside down and backwards,” Gasperino said:

You have children in New York, first graders, who are asked to locate the area known as Mesopotamia on a world map or globe, and identify part of Asia, and know the importance and significance of the “hanging gardens” and the “Code of Hammurabi.” This is first grade! How many average adults today even know that themselves?

“Then, in the upper grades where the Common Core math has pushed everything up a year, so pre-calculus, which had been offered in 12th grade, is not even offered at all,” she continued. “How will a student get into a select-college or university without having pre-calculus?” 

Marie Little, another organizer of iRefuse, told Breitbart News that, last year at this time, she noticed schoolwork became very test-focused.

“Instead of taking class time to cement the basics, as you’d expect in 3rd grade, the work became test prep,” Little said. “The math work came home in packets with complicated word problems that were not a logical progression from what the children had been doing. It was as if the teacher had shifted ahead a grade or two, to ‘cover’ certain types of problems.”

Little said she realized that what was happening “was not only bad design but wrong and potentially harmful.”

“I didn’t understand why it was happening, though. We had a fantastic teacher, and I knew the decision to go this route was not hers,” she continued. “That was when I started investigating Common Core, which I’d only heard of casually. We were told of the shift to more non-fiction reading. I did not know the extent of the changes we’d be seeing due to the standards.”

“My husband and I made the decision that our son would not take the state tests, given the prep materials we’d seen,” Little said. “We’d learned that the test scores would not affect his report card, and that the test results would be used to grade schools and teachers. We learned that in New York, by “refusing,” the teacher and school would not be affected negatively.”

“Parents are used to trusting teachers and schools, but these changes are noticeable to many parents,” Little asserted. “Parents are seeing changes in their children and in the school work. They need to trust their instincts and get informed about what is happening.”

In Connecticut, Denise Bard has also decided to opt her daughter out of the Smarter Balanced Common Core assessments.

In an email to Breitbart News, Bard said that her state and school district initially told her that she could not opt her child out of the testing.

“But after doing some research, reading articles, and contacting the State Department of Education, I found this not to be true,” Bard said. “When it comes down to it, the school district and the state can’t really do anything if a parent insists on opting their child out.”

Bard said she is opposed to the Common Core standards.

“The standards are developmentally inappropriate and not at all what they claim to be,” she said. “I will not allow my child to be tested on something that I don’t believe is in her best interest.”

Lisa Huesers from Kansas first opted her children out of the Common Core testing in the spring of 2013.

“When I first opted-out my kids, one principal said something about it, but nothing has been said since,” she noted. “I have asked the principals to ‘properly communicate’ to parents that the tests are optional, but they won’t.”

Huesers said parents receive frequent emails reminding parents to ensure that children are at school for the testing.

One of Huesers’ main concerns about Common Core is the collection of student data.

“I have taken actions to eliminate, or at least significantly reduce, my kids having personally identifiable usernames and passwords for all the daily work they do,” she explained. “There’s even more data being collected through this avenue. Parents should know what is being collected, who will have access to it, how it will be used.”

“Ultimately, parents should have the ability to determine whether they want their child to participate,” Huesers asserted. “Parents should be required to opt in their child.”

Huesers said the emphasis on testing with the onset of Common Core has negated many other aspects of teaching and learning.

“How can a couple of test scores negate all the other things a child does in over eight months of schooling?” she asked.

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