LEWISTON — On July 27, the Maine Sunday Telegram printed an op-ed by State Board of Education Chairman Peter Geiger discussing education reform (“Maine Voices: Nothing sinister in school standards”). However, Mr. Geiger’s piece made broad, unsubstantiated statements.

In 1996, thousands of Mainers collaborated on the state’s education standards, known as the Maine Learning Results. People assume that all the state education commissioners gathered to find commonality among their state education standards, thus resulting in the Common Core State Standards. This scenario sounds logical, but it is not how the Common Core State Standards were developed.

Instead, the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, two D.C. lobbyist groups, drafted the Common Core State Standards. The members were not primarily educators or Mainers. Businesses providing input included College Board, ACT and Achieve – not Maine businesses.

The Maine Department of Education website states that in 2011, the Common Core State Standards replaced the math and English Maine Learning Results. In other words, the work completed by Mainers was deleted, and the finished Common Core document was inserted in its place.

Recently, the Maine Education Association reported major concerns regarding the Common Core State Standards. According to a wire service story published in the Telegram on Sept. 8, 2013, Gov. LePage “disavows” the standards, even though he signed into law a measure to adopt them. When the state’s teachers and governor no longer back education reform, we should pause for further investigation.

The Common Core State Standards are copyrighted and adopted verbatim. Neither a venue for any citizen, including educators or parents, to raise concerns nor a system to remedy faults exists.

Perhaps the creation and previous revisions of the original Maine Learning Results were transparent, but not the drafting and adoption of the Common Core State Standards. Ed Week reported in August 2013 that 62 percent of Americans had not heard of Common Core, including 55 percent of parents of school-age children.

Three years prior to Ed Week’s survey, the Portland Press Herald reported Aug. 31, 2010, that no citizens commented on or attended the hearing regarding the Common Core State Standards. It is ridiculous to tout a public comment period that is merely regulation. While the information was not confidential, it most certainly was not public knowledge. If Mainers were informed on this controversial issue, citizens would have commented. Zero comments represents ignorance, not acceptance.

An April 12, 2010, emergency order allowed then-Maine Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen to adopt the Common Core State Standards, stating it was necessary for the state’s Race to the Top application. Why replace the locally created standards with the Common Core standards instead of investing time for Mainers to improve them – unless we allowed the grant application timetable to dictate practice?

And is it coincidence that the law preventing teacher evaluations based on student test scores changed when the Race to the Top application required it? Maine also began rating schools with testing data and created longitudinal databases concurrent with submitting the Race to the Top application. It sure looks like we made a lot of big policy changes based on one grant application.

Maine parents have the legal right to opt their children out of standardized testing. While the new Smarter Balanced test is currently receiving a lot of attention, it will not be the only test our children take.

My child entering kindergarten this fall is expected to sit for three standardized assessments right away. Even though the practice is highly criticized, standardized test scores are used to evaluate teachers, yet these scores reflect little more than the socioeconomic status of the test takers.

Furthermore, high-stakes testing narrows curriculum both in the time available to teach and the individuality teachers and students may express. Covering the issue of high-stakes standardized tests is too large to do here, but visit the website FairTest.org for a wealth of information.

Race to the Top reforms are a state matter. Maine received no Race to the Top funds, so overturning the changes made to submit the grant application results in no penalties.

Mainers who oppose or question the recent reforms – including the Common Core State Standards and associated testing – must speak loud and clear to their local school committees and state elected officials, as well as directly to State Board of Education Chairman Peter Geiger, Education Commissioner Jim Rier and Gov. LePage.

— Special to the Telegram