- Associated Press - Friday, April 11, 2014

LAS VEGAS (AP) - Nevada’s efforts to adopt new education standards are being roundly applauded by educators and business leaders but drawing the scorn of some parents who say the initiative is too radical.

The new standards, called Common Core and developed by a panel of educators convened by governors and state school superintendents, have been criticized for, among other things, favoring nonfiction passages over classic literature, for de-emphasizing cursive and for introducing new strategies in teaching addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

The state Board of Education in 2010 adopted the standards, which represent one of the most significant changes in American education, transforming textbooks, teacher training and standardized testing.

Proponents argue that Common Core replaces a hodgepodge of state benchmarks with a more rigorous national standard that develops critical thinkers and raises expectations for American students. Advocates also point to the benefits of having a national standard in a highly transient state like Nevada, where many students transfer in with mismatched credits and significant knowledge gaps.

Critics call Common Core a veiled attempt at a federal takeover of local education.

They say Common Core - which they dubbed “Obama-core” - is a “one-size-fits-all” standard developed in secrecy by “big business” and “big government” and without much input from K-12 teachers. Others decry states’ efforts to track student information (mostly test scores) from kindergarten through high school, college and possibly beyond as an intrusive and unnecessary data mining operation.

“This is the worst thing that’s ever happened to education in Nevada,” said John Eppolito, the president of Stop Common Core Nevada. “This is not going to improve anything. It’s going to make things worse. This has to be stopped.”

Nevada Superintendent of Public Instruction Dale Erquiaga views this growing chorus of complaints as a “small but vocal” group. He said the group is spreading misinformation about Common Core, and it’s threatening to derail its complicated implementation in Nevada.

“Most of this is fear of the unknown,” Erquiaga said of the opposition. “No one has any evidence of these claims. They’re using Common Core as a political platform to criticize this president.”

Fierce opposition to Common Core is growing across the country.

Lawmakers in several states are proposing bills to defund or halt the implementation of the new standards. Last month, Indiana became the first state to abandon the standards it once embraced.

In Nevada, a few hundred parents and citizens have begun to take a stand. They are in talks with lawmakers, trying to get a bill introduced during the 2015 legislative session to stop Common Core.

Dozens of protesters have spoken out against Common Core at state school board and interim legislative meetings, calling on board members, lawmakers and Gov. Brian Sandoval to reject the standards.

Eppolito, a parent of four children in Incline Village in Northern Nevada, is leading the movement. For the past several months, he has traveled across the state, sharing his opinions with more than 200 parents, teachers and citizens.

Opponents in Clark County are mobilizing against Common Core, as well. Amy Bauck and Christina Leventis are two local parents who have held several small-group meetings to air their concerns.

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