Conservatives are in an uproar over Common Core, an educational curriculum being forced upon the states by the Obama administration, which is scheduled to be mostly implemented this year in the 46 states that have adopted it. Common Core eliminates local control over K-12 curriculum in math and English, instead imposing a one-size-fits-all, top-down curriculum that will also apply to private schools and homeschoolers.
Superficially, it sounds good. It creates universal standards that supposedly educate all children for college. But along with the universal standards come a myriad of problems, which the administrators of Common Core are disingenuously denying. The American Principles Project released an analysis last year of Common Core, exposing the duplicitous language. Common Core describes itself as "internationally benchmarked," "robust," "aligned with college and work expectations," "rigorous," and "evidence-based." None of this is true.
Common Core proponents claim that it is not a federal mandate, instead using language like "state-led" and "voluntary." The Common Core website asserts, "The federal government was NOT involved in the development of the standards." It states that Common Core is not a national curriculum, but "a clear set of shared goals and expectations for what knowledge and skills will help our students succeed."
Diane Ravitch, a former assistant U.S. secretary of education who was appointed to office by both Clinton and George H.W. Bush, recently changed her mind about Common Cause. Ravitch now refutes claims by Obama and Common Core that the standards were created by the states and voluntarily adopted by them. She writes in The Washington Post, "They were developed by an organization called Achieve and the National Governors Association, both of which were generously funded by the Gates Foundation. There was minimal public engagement in the development of the Common Core. Their creation was neither grassroots nor did it emanate from the states." Instead, Common Core is being driven by policymakers in D.C.
Common Core is set up in such a way that it can hardly be called voluntary. The Obama administration's grant program offers "Race to the Top" federal educational grants – which come from stimulus funds - to states if their school systems adopt preferred Obama policies like Common Core. States that adopt Common Core receive higher "scoring" from the Obama administration in their grant applications. As a result of this coercion, only Nebraska, Alaska, Texas, Virginia and Minnesota have not adopted Common Core. Minnesota adopted the language arts standards but kept its own math standards.
There is no evidence that the curriculum works, and it will destroy innovation amongst the states. Ravitch writes, "We are a nation of guinea pigs, almost all trying an unknown new program at the same time...Would the Federal Drug Administration approve the use of a drug with no trials, no concern for possible harm or unintended consequences?" Jane Robbins, a senior fellow for the American Principles Project, writes, "Common Core has never been piloted. How can anyone say it is good for kids when it's not in place anywhere?" In fact, the results are coming in and they are the opposite. A principal in the Midwest told Ravitch that "his school piloted the Common Core assessments and the failure rate rocketed upwards, especially among the students with the highest needs."
Stephanie Bell, a member of the Alabama State Board of Education, has been speaking up against the standards. She said the standards were founded on a flawed idea - which every child across America will "be on the same page at the same time." She explains, "Every child is created, and I thank the Lord for this, we're all created different," she said. Sadly, schools superintendents and administrators are only being given one-sided information from the promoters of Common Core.
The curriculum replaces the classics with government propaganda. According to the American Principles Project, "They de-emphasize the study of classic literature in favor of reading so-called 'informational texts,' such as government documents, court opinions, and technical manuals." Over half the reading materials in grades 6-12 are to consist of informational texts rather than classical literature. Historical texts like the Gettysburg Address are to be presented to students without context or explanation.
The math standards are equally dismal. Mathematics Professor R. James Milgram of Stanford University, the only mathematician on the Validation Committee, refused to sign off on the math standards, because they would put many students two years behind those of many high-achieving countries. For example, Algebra 1 would be taught in 9th grade, not 8th grade for many students, making calculus inaccessible to them in high school. The quality of the standards is low and not internationally benchmarked. Common Core denies this on its website as a "myth," but Professor Milgram's opposition contradicts this.
The Common Core website uses Orwellian language to deny that the curriculum tells teachers what to teach. The site claims that is a myth: "These standards will establish what students need to learn, but they will not dictate how teachers should teach." This is like saying, teachers will be required to teach sex education and evolution, but they can choose whether to teach it using assignments, movies, class discussion or reading.
The bloated program is underfunded. Local school administrators have already started complaining that the grants aren't enough to cover the requirements behind them. "We were spending a disproportionate amount of time following all the requirements," said Mike Johnson, the superintendent of Bexley schools in Ohio, which turned down the last half of a $100,000, four-year grant this school year. "It was costing us far more than that to implement all of the mandates."
Educators have expressed similar concerns for years about the costs of No Child Left Behind, a similar federal educational program that became law in 2002. In response, the Obama administration began offering waivers for states that could not afford to comply, moving them into the Elementary and Secondary Education Act instead. 44 states have requested waivers or been approved for one. It will be repeating an expensive history lesson to force another underfunded educational program on the states.
Common Core amasses large amounts of personal information about students. Michelle Malkin cites research by Joy Pullmann of the Heartland Institute, who discovered a report by the Department of Education revealing that Common Core's data mining includes "using cameras to judge facial expressions, an electronic seat that judges posture, a pressure-sensitive computer mouse and a biometric wrap on kids' wrists."
Schoolteacher Chasidy Miroff notes the corrupt part about Common Core, "The creators of the Common Core standards have now taken jobs with testing companies which stand to make millions of dollars developing tests based on the standards they created."
The only good news is Common Core will not have as much of an effect on the top, over-performing schools, which far exceed Common Core's standards. If those children are already performing well in math, they will be supposedly allowed to take Algebra 1 in 8th grade instead of 9th grade. But this begs the question; if a state or local school district is making great advances lately in English and math, why change a good thing?
States and localities should be allowed to innovate and figure out what works best for their students. When Florida adopted the most favorable climate for charter schools in the country, allowing for innovation from school to school, student test scores increased dramatically. Education policy expert Matthew Ladner, who studied the effects of the legislation in Florida for the Goldwater Institute, concluded, "In 1999, when these reforms were enacted, nearly half of Florida fourth-graders scored 'below basic' on the NAEP reading test, meaning that they could not read at a basic level. But by 2007, less than a decade after the education reforms took effect, 70 percent of Florida's fourth-graders scored basic or above. Florida's Hispanic students now have the second-highest statewide reading scores in the nation, and African-Americans score fourth-highest, when compared with their peers."
Six states have dropped out or are considering dropping out of Common Core. Nebraska has dropped out, and is conducting a study to compare its own educational standards to Common Core's. The Kansas House Committee is currently considering a bill to withdraw. Last week, the Oklahoma House passed House Bill 1989, which would prohibit the sharing of minors' school records without parental consent. Michelle Malkin notes that you can download a Common Core opt-out form to submit to your school district, courtesy of the group Truth in American Education.
Federal education mandates – whether disguised or not – don't work because everyone is unique. When proponents resort to Orwellian language to hide the truth about them, you know they must be bad for America.