'Common Core' tests for students concerns some parents

BEAVERTON, Ore. - Some parents in Beaverton are joining a growing number of parents across the country in saying "no" to new Common Core standardized testing.

The parents are worried the Common Core puts too much pressure on their kids, but the school district says the tests are made more difficult on purpose.

Jason Schmidt wants answers about how the new Common Core tests will affect his ninth-grade son.

"They're going to be teaching even more to the tests now," he said. "None of this stuff will be able to change until it goes back to the creators of Common Core."

Those creators are consultants for the National Governor's Association; although, the Common Core website says it also worked with teachers, researchers and experts.

Oregon and Washington are two of 45 states that volunteered to start using the Common Core standards in its schools.

Oregon is set to start using the new tests in 2015. Washington students will take them this spring. But many local school districts started making curriculum changes two years ago to help students prepare.

The program is different from other standardized tests because its goal is to teach students "real world skills to compete in college and future jobs no matter where they live."

But there's also a financial incentive. All districts that get federal funding under No Child Left Behind are required to evaluate students with standardized tests, and the incentive to use the Common Core is that districts can also apply for grants from a fund called Race to the Top.

Joanne Yatvin, a retired educator, has doubts and thinks the standards are too complicated.

"First of all, there are too many of them. They threw in the kitchen sink," she said.

For example, she says requiring a first-grader to master 41 standards of the English language is too much. Yatvin says students who don't have help at home will be also challenged in a different way.

"They're not going to get that help and those kids are going to flunk," she said.

But Schmidt is worried the tests won't challenge his son, who attends a charter school, enough.

"Are the standards going to lower? And is my son going to become bored again? And is he not going to get the education he deserves?" Schmidt said.

So what can parents do who don't want their kids to test to the Common Core?

"I have some pretty radical ideas - I say opt out," Yatvin said. "You write a letter to the school district and say, I do not wish my child to take this test."

Schmidt says that's what he's doing. He has also started a Facebook page for other concerned parents called, We the Parents Speak.

Beaverton schools are hosting its third parent meeting about Common Core next Thursday night.

Vancouver public schools are hosting a series of "curriculum" nights over the next few weeks where parents can ask questions.

KATU also reached out to Portland Public Schools but haven't heard back.