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The Battle Against Common Core Standards

Quietly and almost without notice, an initiative which significantly erodes local and state control of school curriculum has passed in 46 states. The Common Core Standards Initiative sets Math and English curriculum in every participating state at the same level. In adopting this “common core” states are relinquishing their right to compose their own education requirements.

Only Alaska, Nebraska, Virginia, and the great state of Texas have refused adoption of the Common Core Standards. State legislators in Indiana, Georgia, Alabama, and South Dakota have introduced repeal measures, but it is so far unclear how successful these measures will be.

One state however has a very real chance to throw off the “one size fits all” standard and preserve a measure of independence in their curriculum. Which state would have the nerve, foresight, intelligence, and independent spirit required for such an effort? Michigan.

That’s right; the state responsible for the tragic disaster that is Detroit, we now find taking a stand in favor of responsible self-governance. The one-time bastion of progressive ideology has seemingly begun a slow policy shift. Tired of being embarrassed, its legislators may finally make true progress possible in the state beginning with reversal of the Common Core Standards Initiative.

Largely a product of the 2009 stimulus plan Democrats passed in congress, the Initiative is a bureaucratic, top-down program heavily influenced by special interests. The Obama administration encouraged the states’ adoption of this initiative by providing incentives through his Race to the Top program. The program was $4.35 billion dollars of carrots swinging in front of fifty hungry rabbits.

The new standards are indeed tougher than many currently in place, but there is also the danger of states being disincentivized from ever raising standards beyond the initiative.

More dangerous still is the misplaced emphasis on common mass learning. Children do not fully “learn” through memorization. Drilling children until they memorize the curriculum may help them pass a test but rarely results in true understanding. Furthermore each child is different, and strictly teaching the “common core” will only impede exceptional students from reaching beyond the mediocre.

In his article “Do We Need a Common Core?” Nicholas Tampio states the problem quite succinctly. “The class… has gone from one where teachers, aides, parents, and students work hard to create a rewarding educational experience, to one where the teachers and students use materials designed by a major publishing house.”

In short, responsibility has shifted from the classroom to educational bureaucrats. Incentives to be creative in the classroom have disappeared.

Putting a stop to implementation of the Common Core would preserve a measure of sovereignty for states to dictate their own, individualized requirements. The Michigan lawmaker introducing the bill, Republican Tom McMillin, put it best when he said, “We don’t want our kids to be common. We want our kids in Michigan to be exceptional.”

The Initiative narrowly focuses on the difficulties high school graduates were facing in college and the job market. Unaddressed is the fact that much of what is currently taught at universities was once considered standard teaching in high school. Instead of simply making high schools better at preparing students for college/careers (something these standards in no way guarantee) more attention should perhaps be given to why even college graduates are learning far less than they did even fifty years ago.

In its essence the Common Core cheapens our children’s education and further erodes the nation’s tradition of Federalism. The argument here is not against educational standards being raised at public schools. The problem is loss of state control in making those standards. Keeping standards under state control puts more power into the hands of parents as opposed to bureaucrats.

Lawmakers should keep in mind that simply changing standards is no guarantee students will actually learn any more than they do now. It may be time to think about a more fundamental shift in the way we educate our children.

K.C. Martin

Common Core will fail - here is why and it's very simple:

PARCC's technology standards are so far beyond what schools have now it would take millions of dollars per district to upgrade all of the technology to be able to test students in the volume they are requesting. They also have to figure out how to keep it secure. Most districts don't even have enough internet bandwidth to be able to test hundreds of kids at one time. And guess what - they haven't even finalized the PARCC technology minimum requirements and it's May or 2013 - online testing goes full blown August of 2014.
Good luck PARCC -

Michelle Festa

Here in the northern suburbs of Pittsburgh PA, the local school districts initially restisted NCLB and the standardized testing (PSSAs), back in the 2001 timeframe. Then one by one administrators decided to focus their efforts on mastering the tests. Now we buy curricula that brags about matching the tests and even being paced to the state schedule (e.g. enVisionMATH by Pearson, a company which is rapidly taking over our education system between textbooks and standardized testing). Look over the school calendar and you will see weeks spend not just on the standardized tests but weeks spend practicing for the tests and weeks spend on OTHER tests to see which kids will not do well on the real tests (e.g. AIMSWEB, also by Pearson). Now in PA we have graduation exams in 7 subjects which were originally supposed to count for 1/3 of the grade for the year, as well as PSSAs (it may have been relaxed - after all we have Republicans in charge of legislature, senate and governor...funny how no real change has happened here yet). All this while the number of kids entering college needing remedial coursework in Math and English is increasing. People used to protest "teaching to the test" but now everything about public school is focused solely on the standardized tests.

Common Core is another way for the federal government to take away all control from local communities and mandate what our kids learn. The reviews I have seen of math in particular are critical of the content, but I have to wonder why there have been so few reviews and complaints of Common Core.

Conservatives cannot seem to coordinate and manage a timely review of these government initiatives, from Obamacare to Common Core. If individuals volunteered to take a section, read, review and report on it, we could launch opposition before our politicians ignorantly sign on, rather than having endless reporting on the woes of these new laws in non-election times when its too late to fix. I am very afraid for our future.

Lisa Jones

Common Core will do nothing to improve education outcomes and will do everything to undermine state sovereignty and locally elected school boards. If you are in the ed field and believe the consistent messaging that has uphelp the Common Core Initiative, even before the standards were out, please do your own research. Read the documents and make an individual and informed decision. Search ParentalRights.Org and inBloom - many are rightly concerned about invasive datamining on children.

kathy johnson

Common core is very dangerous. The Blaze just exposed some awful info that the gov. has recently released (conveniently after nov election) which better explains the vague plans insidiously passed with the initial stimulus bill.
It exposes plans of mining data re students as they sit in class. See the Glenn Beck program from Wednesday night, March 27th.
I hope Freedomworks can put together some short, simple materials to help us spread the educate the uninformed parents.

Hayden K. Smith

I too am not overly worried about data mining. Worse things happen through Facebook and Google. What I wanted to accomplish most with this article was emphasize that 1) changing "standards" not automatically make the quality of education better, and 2) to convey my deep skepticism about any movement that seems to nationalize education. The more local something is kept the more influence individual communities have over it. Thank you for taking time to comment.

Michael James

As a teacher, I am as skeptical as they come about education reforms and initiatives. In twenty years I have seen them all come and go, so Common Core is nothing new to us. However, I wonder if any of the commenters on CC have actually taken the time to read the standards. There is NOTHING controversial here. As the original article stated, the standards here are much more challenging than any state's current standards. The exceptional students will rise above even these standards because they will be taking Advanced Placement courses in the high school, which meet and exceed the Common Core Standards. The challenge is how to bring everyone else up to meet the new rigors. If you take the time, the standards are NOT curriculum or lessons. They are goals, markers, of what skills students should be able to master by a certain grade level.

As the original article stated, all students are different. Teachers have always known this, and we modify every lesson to help all of our students to meet our goals. In my classes, my expectations of learning do not change because some students are more capable than others. My teaching changes to help those who struggle and to challenge those who quickly master the concept. This will not change with Common Core or with any standard.

As for the worries about government mining information, that has been happening for decades. How do you think we get those rankings of state performance? Where did that information come from? Ever since President Bush's No Child Left Behind policy, teachers and schools have been mining data. Personally, I find it a waste of my time, but it is not insidious but rather insipid and fatuous.

It is no surprise that Texas did not sign on to the Common Core because they and California drive all textbooks for the country. Since they are the two largest purchasers of textbooks, corporations tailor their books to meet what Texas and California are teaching. That has been a truth in education for a long, long time. Therefore, Texas might be opposing the Common Core because they stand to lose their control over what textbook companies include in the books most American children use.

Finally, if you oppose Common Core because of the PARCC standardized tests that come with the standards, that is an entirely different matter. There is much debate in the educational community about the usefulness of high-stakes testing, especially as an indicator of teacher and school performance and student learning. Again, this is not new with Common Core. States have been doing this since No Child Left Behind. Of course, it might be interesting to see how states do when all students take the same test; although, it still would not be a good judgement on how or whether students are learning.