Domestic Education

Behind the Common Core: The California Education Code

Common Core’s predecessor under the Bush administration “No Child Left Behind” also mandated its own safe school planning (see “Development of the California School Climate and Safety Survey  (CSCSS) – Short Form” by Michael J. Furlong, Jennifer L. Greif, Michael P. Bates, Angela D. Whipple, and Terese C. Jimenez – University of California, Santa Barbara; and Richard Morrison Ventura (CA) Unified School District, March 25, 2004).  CSCSS read: “safe school planning is essential to creating safe schools and is required by the Federal No Child Left Behind legislation and implemented via district local education action plans.”

Implementation was carried out “venue by venue through continuous monitoring and perpetual evaluation and re-evaluation per campus per student.”  In fact, CSCSS was a self-administered questionnaire created to measure general school climate and personal safety experiences in an elementary, middle, and high school format that stated: “These most widely used school safety instruments were originally developed… to assist in the creation and monitoring of national trends of school violence using a public health model.  In this model, it is important to accurately estimate base rates of risk behaviors across the entire population in order to evaluate trends over time.  It is less critical that the instruments accurately assess each individual student’s experiences.”

Now, under the Common Core in California, administrators will continue to survey the students through self-assessment forms.  It has been explained that this method fulfills the need for school safety measures with student-specific information in a manner that is cheap and easy to administer.  Students must rate “statement based” concepts on a scale of 1-5, 1 being “not at all” and 5 being “very much.” One could question if these suppositions might well be “leading” our children up a creek without a paddle.

“I like everyone I meet.”

“I always think before I act.”

“You took 10 field trips, class excursions.”

“Someone made fun of you, put you down.”

“Someone tried to scare you by the way they looked at you.”

“You were voted student of the week four times.”

You like everyone you meet?  You always think before you act?  Your kid go on 10 field trips a year?  You know anyone voted student of the week four times?   The implications of how a student answers this classroom administered questionnaires is disconcerting, at best.

Then, there are multiple choice questions.  For example,

How many students at your school would you consider to be close friends?

How many teachers are you able to talk about problems you might have?

So, if your kid  has only one close friend is (s)/he teetering on the fringes of sociopathy?  And If your kid talks to you instead of the math teacher about personal issues is (s)/he isolating?  In a world where everything is left to feelings and perception, this kind of questioning leaves far too much wiggle room for “interpretation.”

Furthermore, in the “Identifiable Stabilizing Factors that have a reduction in violence potential,” attachment VII d., page 5 of the 2013 “Threat Assessment: Prevention of Targeted Violence in Schools” unveiled as the action plan one-step-beyond the California Education Code’s attorney styled jargon, there are a host of “stabilizing” categories: family, school and organizational, and individual: participates in extra-curricular activities, demonstrates adequate coping skills and productive anger control, positive social skills, extensive peer group support, and a positive attitude toward authority and intervention.  All on the surface make logical sense; however, it’s back to targeted questioning and perception, factors that allow lots of room for misinterpretation, especially since they can only be decoded by an appropriate school administrator (principal, school psychologist) who may or may not have your child’s best interests at heart.   Wait until the techno-savvy data mining really kicks in.

Administrators walked away with from this seminar with identifiable warning signs that were wildly left to interpretation and a disconcerting actionable plan – forms, questionnaires, and protocols – plenty of documentation templates. Is this really all about school safety?

Merrill Hope
Merrill Hope
Merrill Hope is a contributing writer who has also inked articles for The Hollywood Reporter and Backstage West; she also blogs for a number of sites and has penned or placed lifestyle and education articles over the years. She has been in the trenches of the Common Core since before it had a name. Most importantly, she is also a wife, a mom and a dachshund lover. You can reach her on Twitter at Merrill Hope @outoftheboxmom.

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