WASHINGTON, November 19, 2013 — The only thing “common” about Common Core these days is the opposition to it. Parents wanting to know what Common Core is perform an internet search and quickly learn that communists sat in a secret room creating standards, curriculum is being shoved down the throats of our students while they’re being indoctrinated with progressivism, and the federal government is taking over education.
Or is it?
Common Core was voluntarily adopted by states, although states accepted it through promises of Race to the Top grants. Each state is different, but in many cases state house and senate education committees heard testimony about common core and reviewed the standards prior to implementation.
The Common Core State Standards Initiative’s mission, according to its website, is as follows:
“The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.”
Decline in Our Education System
Over the last century, the standards in public schools have changed. A test from 1895 has been circulating in the online communities of those against Common Core, demonstrating that the eighth grade was quite difficult to pass then. If you’ve ever watched “Jay-Walking,” you’re aware that most adults could not answer the questions on that test. While the debunker site Snopes.com has attempted to explain away the differences between the 1895 exam and what we find on tests today, it is evident that our education system has been dumbed down over the past century.
In addition, the progressivism we see in some of today’s lessons, textbooks and reading materials are not because of Common Core. The progressive agenda has been seeping into education for decades. The leftist ideology we see in homework assignments and books being read by today’s students pre-dates Common Core by at least 30 years.
The indoctrination has been expedited in recent years as unions, liberal organizations and progressives control the education system, including school boards and classrooms. Religion was removed from the schools, and nothing happened to fight back and include it again. The morality of the books in the library was questioned by some parents, but where persistence waned the left found victory. All of this is due to parental apathy, not Common Core.
In an era of global competition, it is necessary for students to be able to compete not just with another person in Indiana, but also in India. Given the decline and the variance in educational standards across the country, and even their outright absence, setting a minimum floor for standards is a valid and much needed effort. A student in Appalachia should not have lower standards for the eighth grade than a student attending the best high school in the nation. Otherwise we set them up for failure both nationally and globally. Students graduating from high school must be prepared to enter college or the work force with a certain base of knowledge, and Common Core seeks to create that baseline.
Development of Common Core Standards
In the Pearson index, the United States is not even in the top ten in education globally. We have visas set aside to attract people from other countries to fill our science and engineering jobs because we are not educating our own population.
While some like the idea of state-specific standards, that path has been a complete and utter failure. The standards of the last century have led to the incredible decline in education, a decline which has left our students without the skills they need to fill existing jobs. We must bring in better-educated international employees to take jobs while Americans are unemployed. This is the gap that Bill Gates saw that caused him to want to get involved in improving education.
Many people were invovled in the creation of the standards, including teachers, administrations, members of the business community, and even people with the ACT exam. You may see the entire list of people who took part in framing the standards on the National Governors Association website. The claim that teachers were not involved in framing these standards is blatantly false.
Standards vs. Curriculum
Some are concerned that Common Core is really a set of curricula that must be used by students, teachers, parents, schools, administrators, and states nationwide. It is important to distinguish between “standards” and “curriculum,” and to understand the vital difference. Think of it as recognizing that your architect designs the framework of your home, and your interior decorator fills in all the nooks and corners once it is built. Common Core provides the framework, and the teachers, schools and parents fill in the methods and details.
The Math Standards specifically state, “These Standards do not dictate curriculum or teaching methods.” The English and Language Arts Standards are frequently mentioned for their controversial reading lists which those against Common Core reference as “required reading material.” However, the Standards themselves say, “They expressly do not represent a partial or complete reading list.”
The F.A.Q. section of the Common Core website specifically reiterates that standards are not curricula. “The standards establish what students need to learn, but they do not dictate how teachers should teach. Teachers will continue to devise lesson plans and tailor instruction to the individual needs of the students in their classrooms.”
The Common Core F.A.Q. section also explains:
“The Common Core State Standards were written by building on the best and highest state standards in existence in the U.S., examining the expectations of other high performing countries around the world, and careful study of the research and literature available on what students need to know and be able to do to be successful in college and careers. … The standards are evidence-based, aligned with college and work expectations, include rigorous content and skills, and are informed by other top performing countries. They were developed in consultation with teachers and parents from across the country so they are also realistic and practical for the classroom.”
Often the argument is made that the Standards were never tested. Through utilizing models from states and what has worked elsewhere, the development teams selected the Standards that would encompass Common Core. One of the assumptions is that Common Core is also curriculum, and that this should not be because it takes away local control over curriculum in the classroom.
Since Standards do not include curriculum, they cannot be tested in the classroom. The curricula, methods and details of teaching the Standards would have to have been included in Common Core in order for the Standards to be specifically tested in the classroom. This is the same curricula that parents who support local control do not want to have included in Common Core. It is not possible to test the Standards that the opponents want to have tested without creating a national curriculum which opponents also do not want so that local control of curriculum is retained.
Local and Parental Control of Common Core
The introduction to the Common Core standards says:
“While the Standards focus on what is most essential, they do not describe all that can or should be taught. A great deal is left to the discretion of teachers and curriculum developers. The aim of the Standards is to articulate the fundamentals, not to set out an exhaustive list or a set of restrictions that limits what can be taught beyond what is specified herein.”
There are also claims that the federal government created common core. If you review the list of those involved on the development teams, you will find this to be false. In fact, it is unconstitutional for the federal government to create and codify education standards.
However, Diane Ravitch explains in a blog on The Huffington Post exactly how this worked. “Gates pays to create the CCSS [Common Core State Standards], and Arne Duncan uses the power of the federal purse to push states and districts to adopt them…” Government utilized the private sector and is being criticized for it, when we frequently otherwise want government to allow the private sector to be innovative. Let us not forget that every state voluntarily accepted this “bribe,” however. There are always strings attached to federal dollars, and if the states wanted to keep control of the standards, they simply had to say ‘no’ when the fiscal incentive was offered.
Depending on your state, either your local school district selects the curriculum, known as local control, or your state makes that determination, referred to as a top-down state. Since Common Core does not require any particular curriculum, a parent dissatisfied with exactly how something is taught should seek a conversation with the teacher, administrator and, if necessary, state officials.
If you have Common Core in your state and it remains implemented, a parent armed with knowledge will not permit the teacher or government bureaucrat to blame the curriculum issue on Common Core. Someone who does so is brushing off their responsibility to an inanimate object rather than accepting responsibility for the selection of curriculum and teaching methods.
Hold your school board members, your administrators and your teachers accountable for what is taught in the classroom, as the Common Core documentation specifically provides for flexibility for each teacher.
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