By Rita Robinson | LB Indy
Annette Gibson gets fiery when she talks about changes in education policy, a subject she thinks is slipping into classrooms without close scrutiny.
Gibson, 47, a first-time candidate for the Laguna Beach Unified School District’s Board of Education, passionately opposes any dictums from the state or federal government about how and what to teach in public schools, especially when it comes to the new state-mandated teaching standards called the Common Core.
“I don’t have a problem with standards at all. I think everybody should have standards,” she said. “What I don’t like is they’re not being honest about the standards. None of these standards have been vetted, they’ve never been tested, so all of our children are going to be little guinea pigs.”
Gibson lives in Crystal Cove in Newport Beach, which is within the Laguna school district boundary. Her three children with husband Tim, an orthopedic surgeon, attend private schools, two at Carden Hall nondenominational Christian school in Newport Beach, where tuition is $12,000 a year, and one at JSerra Catholic High School in San Juan Capistrano, at $16,000 a year in tuition.
With those expenses, Gibson, a nurse who is now a full-time mom, said she doesn’t have the money for a splashy campaign. “I don’t have people funding me. I’m running because I want to,” she said. “I’m going to do the best I can.” By walking the district and meeting people, Gibson hopes to make an impression. “I’m going to get to know people and if they get to know me they’ll like me,” she said. “I want the best for the community. I want the best for Laguna Beach schools.”
Gibson has followed the development of Common Core for the last four years, reading several books that examine its premise. Friends who teach tell her they fear job loss if they challenge the new standards. “I don’t want to live in a country like that. I don’t think anybody does,” she said. Even parents risk having their children alienated by teachers if they oppose the new standards, she said,
Gibson’s stance about Common Core standards is in tune with two former members of the Common Core national validation committee, who have been speaking out against the new standards.
Sandra Stotksy, professor emerita of education at the University of Arkansas, is credited with developing one of the country’s strongest K-12 academic standards and is well-known for her critical scrutiny of Common Core.
The Common Core base tests, “will not be made available for anyone to vet,” said Stotsky, in testimony before Georgia’s House of Representatives’ Study Committee this past Wednesday, Sept. 24, heard over her telephone. “You’ve got to think about why there is such secrecy that you cannot even have your own higher ed experts in a secure room examine what is called college-readiness and tell you whether those are, indeed, the kinds of test items that assess college-readiness.”
Stotsky expressed surprised no attention is being paid “to what is happening under the name of either security or privacy.”
Another Common Core critic, James Milgram, professor emeritus of mathematics at Stanford University, also testified Wednesday. He and Stotsky will be speaking in Orange County on Nov. 13; the location has yet to be announced.
The new state standards are attempting to make every child the same with a nationally standardized approach, Gibson claims. “I believe individuality is being taken and stripped away,” she said. “That is my biggest beef.”
Gibson’s gripe is that the state-mandated standards, expected to be fully implemented by fall of 2015, will direct kids into a work-force mentality instead of encouraging individualized talents and skills. “That’s exactly what’s happening,” she claimed. She said students excel in different areas, some sooner, some later. “We should embrace that. We’re not.”
Gibson acknowledges that schooling involves some rote learning as well as creative individual expression. “Certain things are rote. Certain things you have to learn that way,” she said, mentioning multiplication and the alphabet.
Complaints about Common Core often refer to reduced emphasis on arts and music while stressing high-tech tools and online text-reading and writing rather than paper books. “They’re going to change all the literature so students are not really reading literature,” said Gibson, “they’re reading government manuals and texts. They’re going to pull out the literature. Kids are going to be bored. Despite what you hear, there’s no creativity in Common Core.”
Money, she maintains, is what’s driving the change to Common Core standards.
Eventually, all education materials will be geared for Common Core testing requirements and the publishers of that material will profit from national sales, she said. “If it was a good change, people would be for change. If it was about education, I’d be all over it. It’s all about money and it’s always that.”
Gibson’s answer is to keep education close to home. “I’m for small, local control. That’s what it was meant to be. Our little town was supposed to control our education, not the state, not the federal government. Local control by the people, not by big government that doesn’t even know what’s going on in our town.”
Candidate Annette Gibson, center, with husband Tim and children, from left, Lauren, Brendan and Aubrey.