Common Core Opposition Creates Strange Bedfellows

Outspoken Common Core and PSSA opponent Joanne Yurchak of West Chester sent the below email with a request for broadcasting it expressing her concerns regarding United Opt Out which will be hosting its Fifth Annual conference in Philadelphia, Feb. 26-28. Common Core Opposition Creates Strange Bedfellows

If you click on the link for it, one will understand her concerns.

When one finds oneself allied with Bill Ayers, one does start to question one’s precepts.

Anyway here is Joanne’s email:

At the outset I will tell you that some of you receiving this E-Mail might disagree with my statements.  If ANYONE wishes to be off my distribution list, please let me know.

As you know, I and many others have been active in encouraging students to opt out of the PSSA’s and Keystones for a variety of reasons.  I am attaching a Letter to the Editor that was published in three local newspapers that encourages parents to opt out of these tests, which could, if enacted in large numbers, prompt Harrisburg to “devise a less disruptive and more appropriate assessment system in which students are the prime beneficiaries, in contrast to the current system which exploits students and uses them as unwilling “operatives” for rating educators and schools.”

So…that’s where I’m coming from.  There are different groups with very diverse political viewpoints working on this worthwhile opt out movement.  Political agendas should NOT be involved in an educational effort of this sort which is why I thought it would be no problem for all of us to work together.  Something that came to my attention yesterday changed my mind.  I will explain below.

I was sent an E-Mail yesterday by an activist in the Philadelphia opt out movement that stated: “UOO (United Opt Out) will be hosting its fifth annual meeting here in Philadelphia in February. We’re coming to the issue from a pretty radical left position, which might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you are interested, here’s the link to the event:

There will be keynote speakers, panels, and working groups on a variety of topics and it will draw education activists from across the country.”

The phrase “radical left position” got my attention and after accessing the web site for United Opt Out I found that the description of UOO was an understatement.  I urge you to read information on the web site so you can decide for yourself.  The event has the inflammatory title “Transcending Resistance, Igniting Revolution,” and on the fundraising page ( has such seditious comments as: “It is time for revolution,” and “It is time for non-negotiable demands.”  Although I realize that Bill Ayers has had his hands on educational “reform” for years, eschewing individualism and promoting collectivism, the fact that this domestic terrorist was selected as a Keynote speaker is simply beyond my comprehension.

I will say that I agree with many of the contentions of UOO such as the inappropriateness of the massive testing and their well-founded assertions and concerns that educational (and other) corporations are making huge profits on the backs of our children.  That said, after reviewing the biographies of the speakers, the titles of the breakout sessions and the terminology on the web page, it is apparent to me that United Opt Out is just one of a variety of radical-Left groups that have political agendas that extend beyond education and that are collaborating to break down our current political system as we know it.  Believe me, I’m NOT saying there aren’t problems and deficiencies in our system that need to be addressed, but these groups, in my opinion, are out to demolish it and remake it to fit their far-Left agenda.  I believe that continuing to work together with revolutionary groups such as this, even for an issue on which we agree, could facilitate their efforts in other areas which is why I have determined not to do so.

Thanks for listening.  I have provided the resources and web sites for you in this E-mail and urge you to read them and make your own decision about this group — United Opt Out.   It is truly a shame that individuals in Philadelphia and elsewhere, in conjunction with UOO, have interjected such far-Left partisan agendas into the legitimate opt out effort.

Joanne Yurchak
West Chester, PA

Here is the attached letter.

It is crucial that our state legislators and the PA Department of Education (PDE) immediately address the numerous problems created by the excessive testing that is currently inflicted on our public school students – the PSSA’s for grades 3-8, and the three Keystones for the higher grades (Algebra I, Literature and Biology, which students in classes of 2017 and beyond must pass to graduate from high school).  The deleterious educational and fiscal impacts of the Keystone graduation requirement leave no doubt that it must be removed ASAP, but that is a discussion for another day.  The purpose of this current letter is to clarify issues related to the PSSA’s – the testing procedures, the makeup of the tests, and how they are used.
The primary function of these Common Core-aligned, time-consuming assessments is to satisfy the federal government’s mandate for evaluation of teachers, principals and schools;  providing educational feedback regarding students’ strengths and weaknesses is secondary and minimal.  There is no transparency or “audit” of the PSSA test questions and scoring.  Teachers and school administrators can NEVER see these tests, even after they’ve been administered and graded.  Also, the individual Student PSSA Report provided to parents months after the test presents only a negligible educational analysis of their child’s academic progression and skill sets which precludes them from recognizing specific areas in which their child needs help.
The inordinate amount of lost instructional time and the extra personnel required for administering the tests are extremely disruptive to the learning process and to school districts.  Most school calendars have four testing weeks blocked out for Grades 3-8 PSSA’s.  Moreover, a large amount of class time is often necessary to prepare students for the tests.  The stressful effects of the PSSA’s are illustrated on the website [] which presents pictures and descriptions of the toxic atmosphere that permeates PA’s schools during this lengthy testing period.
The fact that the English Language Arts (ELA) and math PSSA’s have been aligned to the Common Core for the first time this year has made them far more ambiguous, complex and developmentally inappropriate, according to math and English specialists.  A Sampler posted on the PDE’s web site reveals many questions that are likely to cause frustrations and distress to young test-takers.  One reading passage in the third grade ELA PSSA is THREE PAGES LONG and contains different types of multiple choice questions, some of which have more than one correct answer and depend upon answering a previous question correctly.  Try explaining THAT to a third grader!  Many of the sample third grade math problems are extremely wordy, and some require written explanations which could cause a child with language arts deficiencies to be inaccurately assessed in math.  One subjective (non-multiple choice) four-part math question contains over 150 words!  In addition, some of the problems require abstract algebraic-type thinking that is well beyond a third grader’s developmental age.
Who grades the subjective portions of these tests that are used to evaluate teachers and schools?  Astoundingly, it is not teachers, but college-degreed, temporary employees who are reported to earn $11-$14/hour.
It is puzzling that although the adverse effects of this excessive testing on our students, teachers and educational system are irrefutable, objections from the PSEA (teachers’ union) have been noticeably absent.  Why???  Their silence is both deafening and disturbing!
PA must devise a less disruptive and more appropriate assessment system in which students are the prime beneficiaries, in contrast to the current system which exploits students and uses them as unwilling “operatives” for rating educators and schools.  To put a stop to this fiasco, parents should opt their children out of these tests.  For information on PA’s opt-out procedure, contact
Joanne Yurchak, West Chester, PA
Common Core Opposition Creates Strange Bedfellows

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