Meg Norris

Writer, Educator, Advocate, Activist

I am a writer, passionate educator, parent and student advocate and activist for public education. I am a doctoral candidate in special education and brain-based teaching, learning and leadership. 

"Why should I refuse the test? My kids are doing fine."

People tell me all the time that their children are doing fine with Common Core. I tell them they are missing the point. They may be doing fine now, but what guarantee do they have that the math will be a strong foundation for high school? They may be doing fine now, but what about the kids who aren't? It still isn't enough sometimes. So here are five answers I use.  Here is why every single parent in the country should REFUSE THE TEST!

1. Standards narrow the curriculum. When standards are attached to high stakes tests, the standards become the ceiling. Teachers do not teach what is not on the test. When standards become "guidelines" they also become the minimum giving teachers the flexibility to teach upward and not drill to a test. I refuse because standards based teaching and testing fail our kids.

2. Tests are attached to teacher evaluations. These evaluations have been proven statistically invalid measurements by the American Statistical Association
This means great teachers are being lost either by leaving or by firing. There are very few new college freshman going into education because they see the abuse being heaped on educators. I refuse because I believe in our educators and I support them as the professionals than they are.

3. As education reform digs deeper into our schools and communities parents continue to lose their voice in education. When they lose their voice parents participate less. Common Core removes parent voices and further alienates them from the school. I refuse because I believe in the parent/school partnership that is being destroyed by education reform.

4. School reform is built on a business model. This makes the test score the equivalent to money in the business cycle. Test scores become the lifeblood of the reform movement. I refuse because my child is MORE than a score.

5. The education industry is a $782 billion dollar pile of untapped cash. Ed reform has turned education into a market, not for the betterment of our children, but the filling of their pockets. New math, New ELA, New books, New tests. It is all about money and NOT about children. I refuse because I demand the BEST for my children and my tax dollars belong to my school not the corporate ed reform pockets.

Disarming the Opposition

How do you make change in Georgia? Simple, you silence your opposition.  For over two years now, opposition to the Common Core and linked testing has been fighting tooth and nail to stop detrimental changes to education in Georgia.  They have been ignored by the press and called “crazy,” “hysterical” and lists of names not repeatable. They include teachers, parents, professors and mental health professionals. Opponents have been belittled, ignored and laughed at. They have been heckled, and even verbally attacked. Watch the Georgia HR550 hearings for several examples including one of the rudest treatments of an educational expert ever recorded ('sRoleInEducation.aspx). Teachers have been threatened to remain quiet even being denied permission to speak to parents. So rampant is the silencing of teachers it bears to question the reliability of ANY teacher surveys about Common Core done in the state. Many answer dishonestly, telling the GADOE what they want to hear, out of fear for their jobs and careers.

            As Common Core continues to rout education in Georgia, the issue of cost is now coming into focus.  Although warned early on, the state now finds itself once again passing outrageous costs for testing, books and technology on to every school district in the state. In four years, every child is mandated to test online. While simple to mandate, the cost associated with this is huge. Schools built before 2000 have had to retrofit technology infrastructure into existing buildings, often in an inexpensive, piecemeal pattern, as funds were available. Wifi signals are average at best in steel and concrete constructed buildings and the cost of a true Internet connected school system is daunting. Add to that the cost of devices for testing, ipads, laptops, desktops and Georgia schools are looking at spending billions of dollars to upgrade every school in the state. The taxpayers will of course foot the bill. The Georgia Budget & Policy Institute released its report this week showing a considerable deficit remaining in Georgia and predicted large class sizes and cuts to arts and music will remain. (

            It would make sense to begin to smooth the transition for significant tax increases, and this week Cobb County took that first step. On January 28, 2015 Cobb County Superintendent Chris Ragsdale joined representatives from three Pro-Common Core and testing organizations: the ECCC PTA, GPEE, and the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute. All of these organizations have received significant money from the Gates Foundation and the Chamber of Commerce “to educate parents and communities on the Common Core State Standards and provide support for district leaders.” (

“District leader” Ragsdale sat looking like a deer caught in headlights, the Common Core cheerleaders presented their PowerPoint push for more money. PTA moms clapped without fully understanding that Common Core alone will push the per- student spending from the current $9700 per student/year to an estimated $15,000 per student/year.  That $5000+ difference has to come from local tax increases and cuts in current spending. This means a cut in many of the “extras” that drive parents to buy homes in a specific school district.

            Question time at this meeting brought with it the standard silencing of opposition. Questions were written and deposited in a passed basket. The ECCC PTA ladies, led by President Anne Davidson and Legislative Committee Chair Chana Wade, read through the questions and reordered them. Several witnesses then observed, what those in this fight have seen all too often in Georgia, Ms. Wade deposited several question cards into her purse, preventing them from being read aloud.  Opposing questions were removed from the stack. Parents with legitimate concerns over testing and the tremendous costs associated with it and Common Core were once again silenced. Congratulations must go to the ECCC PTA.  As Stalin once said, “If the opposition disarms, well and good. If it refuses to disarm, we shall disarm it ourselves.” You successfully disarmed the opposition, this time. 

Data first, human second.

Jarvis Rouse was a creative soul, but data doesn't care about creativity. He loved reading “Of Mice and Men” in school. Poe’s “The Raven” awakened the artist in him that created a wall sized mural about the famous poem. His teachers called him “goofy,” “funny,” and “sweet.” Despite his dark complexion, there was one girl who could make him blush “down to the roots of his hair if she so much as spoke to him,” remembers his teacher, Ms. Adams.  He was just beginning to discover the great things in life as well as his own talents and gifts. He had great things ahead of him despite growing up in poverty.

But Jarvis struggled with reading. He was thrown into many computer based “remediation” programs but nothing really helped. The school got their required “data,” but no real steps were taken to help him with reading. Because his reading was low, he struggled with tests. The longer he was in school, the more he struggled. Jarvis slipped farther and farther down the cracks of the system. He was labeled a “poor test taker.” He was given “remediation” that only further made him feel like a failure. He needed a hand, just one hand, to reach out, but instead Jarvis was only seen as “data.” He wasn’t even “good” data. Jarvis never got what he really needed.

In the South, more than 50% of public school kids are below the poverty line. That means half of every classroom comes to school with bigger issues than whether or not their homework got finished the night before. At-risk children live in constant stress. Homelessness, divorce, prison, drugs, chaotic homes, parents who work 2 or 3 jobs just to survive, makes life more difficult for these kids. This stress physically affects the brain and memory.

Older children are often responsible for chores, cooking and the care of younger siblings. Homework is the last thing on their minds in the evenings. Add to this stress the new “test and punish” environment in public schools and school becomes less of a safe haven and more of an albatross for these kids.

In 2013 the Carnegie Corporation released a study concluding the dropout rate under Common Core and its high stakes testing would double the dropout rate.  For at-risk students, whose graduation rate had been slowly increasing, this is devastating. Standards based teaching and testing has never proven to increase academic achievement.

Teachers who teach at-risk students know that kids who grow up in poverty learn differently. They think differently. They understand differently. This is not a bad thing, but the public education system has never done anything to address it. Standards and curriculum continue to be written by white educators for white middle class children. Poverty is never addressed when educational leaders design “solutions.”

After failing over and over Jarvis gave up. He quit. He was tired of having no success and having a test score be his voice.  He was sick of the constant stress of being labeled a failure. His reading deficiency could have been overcome. Sticking a kid on a computer and calling it “remediation” is both ridiculous and insulting. It does, however, provide “data.” Remediation is no longer about helping students; it is about gathering “birth to grave” data.

Jarvis became one of those high school dropouts that the Carnegie Corporation predicted. We dehumanized Jarvis. Jarvis became an RTI-Tier 2. He became a "795" or a “bubble-kid,” which is what schools call kids who are at risk of not passing the test. Had Jarvis been seen as a human, who needed human help, we could have saved him. Jarvis did not understand that there was money in his failure. There was no money to be made if Jarvis became a great reader. Companies were making big money off his remediation and his data. Companies made big money off this tests and re-tests.

Jarvis died recently. He was shot in the head at a party. Would Jarvis still be alive had the education system not failed him? We will never know, but Jarvis should have been in college or technical school. He should have been using his gifts and talents. He should have been able to read. Even the groups who should be standing up for kids like Jarvis are failing them. The Urban League (Over $5 million from the Gates Foundation), 100 Black Men ($583,531 from the Gates Foundation), and the NAACP (Over $2 million from the Gates Foundation) all support what is happening in our schools…including Jarvis’ school.

One of Jarvis’ teachers posted “I am heartbroken and sad and angry tonight. My eyes are stinging with the tears I have cried in the past hour. Why do we continue to allow this to happen?” The answer is simple. Jarvis was never human to the testing companies, and curriculum companies, and legislators who now run our schools. Jarvis was simply data. While his teachers, friends and family mourn the loss of what should have been a brilliant life, companies will continue to make money off of Jarvis and his data.

It’s time for parents and teachers to take back our schools. It is time for us to stand up for Jarvis and the millions of kids like him who are more than data. Get involved. We are hurting our children.

A fund has been set up to help Jarvis’ family. Please give what you can.

"To My Students" Originally published in November 2013

To My Students,

            I did not return to the classroom this year and I want to apologize.  I am truly sorry for having left you.  It was the hardest decision I have ever made. I want you to understand why I left.  It had nothing to do with you.  I still love you and believe in you.  You are still amazing and you can do anything you want to do.  I did not give up on you.  I left to fight for you. 

            I saw you struggling with Common Core skills.  Even with the new curriculum from the district, no matter how I broke it down for you I could see you didn’t understand.  I saw the frustration on your faces.  And when time ran out and we had to take the county’s test (on the county’s schedule), I saw the tears roll from your eyes.  You failed.  I saw you missing school more days than normal.  I saw you with long sleeves covering up the cutting scars on your arms.  I saw how the sparkle in your eyes dimmed. I saw the small bald spot on your head where you had pulled out your hair.  And it wasn’t just in my class.  You hated going to math.  You came early everyday for homework help, but it didn’t make any difference.  You still could not understand.   

            I want you to know none of this is your fault.  It is not you.  I know the school, the county and the state call it “rigor.”  That is a horrible word.  Look it up in the dictionary for me.  Rigor is for dead people.  You are not failing because it is too hard.  You are not failing because you are not working hard enough.  You are not failing because of your teachers.  You are failing because Common Core was not written by teachers. Common Core was not written to help you.  Let me explain why this hurts you so much.

            Your brain, as it develops, can only learn certain things at certain times.  Common Core is trying to force you to learn things your brain is not ready to learn.  Researchers for decades have found that the things Common Core requires you to do are impossible until you reach high school, at the earliest.  No matter what your teachers do to get you to learn it, you aren’t going to be able to.  There is nothing wrong with you.  Your brain was designed perfectly.  Common Core standards were not.

            Common Core was written by businessmen trying to make money off of you.  You and your learning are a grand experiment in corporate profits.  If you fail at school, if your teachers fail to teach you, these corporations can sell more books, workbooks, tests, software and technology to schools and even to your parents to try at home.  None of it will work.  These same businessmen want to convince states to let them and their companies take over your schools.  Your parent’s tax dollars would then go to these companies.  Over $600 billion is spent on education every year in this country.  This money should go to your education, not to private companies.

            Common Core is the first time in the history of this country that a privately written and copyrighted plan has become public policy.  There is no research to back it and it has never been tested.  Politicians are pushing it because these corporations are giving them money to push it. 

            When I left I met with members of your Board of Education and told them what was happening.  They ignored me.  I went to the local newspaper and they ignored me too.  When I spoke to the state Senate education committee they dismissed me as a political nut job.  When I came back to chaperone your fall dance I was told I was “no longer one of you” and I could not come in because of my position on Common Core.  Ghandi once said, “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win.”  We will win.  We will win for you and every student after you.  This is not political.  This is for the future leaders of our country.  These corporations don’t want to teach you how to think.

            It is time for you to talk to your parents. Help them understand that opting you out of state testing will protect your personal information as well as stop the data that is being used to unfairly judge you and your teachers. Schools where more than 80% of kids have been opted out are cancelling these stressful tests that measure nothing.  There is a new test coming to replace the CRCT, which is why politicians like Governor Deal and Superintendent Barge want to keep Common Core.  Have your parents demand a portfolio of your work be kept and that your hard work be used to decide if you should go on to the next grade, not a random test.  Any test not written by and graded by your teachers should never be allowed in the classroom. 

            Please do not worry about me.  I am strong and people have called me worse names and banned me from much better places. Standing up for what is right is not always the easy thing.  I knew that when I left my classroom.  I have 32,000 other teachers from all over the country who are standing with me. I have education experts and child psychologists standing with me.  I have politicians standing with me.  I have famous authors standing with me.  And the group is growing. 

            Just this week I got an email from Judy Blume, author of famous children’s classics like Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Blubber, Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret, Forever, and Tiger Eyes. She shared with me that she was a horrible test-taker.  She is very grateful that she is not in school taking the kinds of tests you are taking.  Can you imagine how horrible it would be if our favorite authors gave up because they could not do well on standardized tests that meant nothing?  I don’t want to find out. 

            Talk to your parents and let them know what is happening in your classrooms.  Every time you take a test or a survey, tell your parents.  Be brave and keep making me proud.  You can be anything you want to be. I am always here for you.


Mrs. Meg Norris, Ed.S.

7th Grade (former) teacher



Meg Norris is a doctoral candidate in education and a certified teacher in Georgia.  After 18 months with Common Core in her classroom her observations compelled her to walk away from her dream job of teaching to fight against Common Core and high stakes testing.  She was banned from her former school because of her stance against Common Core.  Her open letter to her students recently went viral on the internet. She is the co-founder of Mom’s Against Duncan (MAD), Opt Out Georgia, and Common Core and the Brain and speaks on Common Core, the brain, poverty and stress.

Since its release on Nov. 1, 2013 this letter has gone viral. It has been picked up by several dozen blogs including Diane Ravitch (NYU) and Stephen Krashen (USC).  It has been published in uncountable newspapers and has been shared in dozens of countries.  Meg has spoken or is scheduled to speak in GA, SC, AL, TN, NY, CO, CA, AR, OH, and TX this year. Her dissertation on the affects of Common Core on special needs children has been accepted and she will graduate in December 2014.