Common Core's Lack of Transparency

With all the Sturm und Drang surrounding the widespread and ongoing implementation of the Common Core State Standards initiative (CCSS), it may be surprising to learn that a new Gallup poll indicates over a third of parents haven't even heard of Common Core. Despite the press surrounding Indiana's withdrawal from the standards on substantive and budgetary grounds and the latest high-profile news that CCSS supporting organization the National Educators Association has criticized Common Core's roll-out, the recent poll supports the notion that the standards were created without sufficient input from parents and educators, and took the public by surprise. According to Gallup, "fewer than four in 10 parents (38 percent) appear to be knowledgeable about the standards, saying they have heard either a great deal or a fair amount about them. Nearly as many – 31 percent – have heard nothing, while another 30 percent have heard only a little."

The Standards Initiative itself required a conception outside the purview of bipartisan debate in order to be shoehorned into local school districts desperate for an infusion of much-needed federal Race to the Top funding. The official standards website claims the process was transparent and state-led. Neither claim is accurate.

Instead, the standards were created by private trade associations, the National Governor's Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), neither of which has policy-making authority from any legislative body, and both of which are privately incorporated and funded. It is not surprising then, that Dr. Sandra Stotsky, creator of the now-defunct Massachusetts K-12 state standards, professor of education reform at the University of Arkansas, and a member of Common Core's Validation Committee, has written that "a gigantic fraud has been perpetrated on this country, in particular on parents in this country, by those developing, promoting, or endorsing Common Core's standards."

Dr. James Milgram, professor emeritus of mathematics at Stanford University and the only mathematician on the validation committee, has stated likewise. Of the 29 drafters in the "Standards Development Work Group," those whose names were released only after pressure from parents concerned with the utter lack of transparency in the CCSS, it was revealed that only one was a teacher of English. David Coleman and Susan Pimental, the leading English Language Arts (ELA) drafters, were virtually unknown in the ELA field.

Dr. Stotsky and Dr. Milgram refused to endorse the Standards. As they have publicly stated, they were sworn to secrecy about the process of the standards' development and the content. The NGA and the CCSO themselves have stated their work in development of the standards was confidential. Notably, and in response to rising criticism of the CCSS, the official standards website has changed dramatically since its launch, and now reiterates the teacher and citizen input that went into the development of the standards. The CCSS powers that be seem to be scrambling to convince America that it knew what it was getting into.

Why was there so much secrecy surrounding the development of Common Core Standards? Why the rabid commitment to confidentiality in the creation of transformational educational standards, those that are guiding and instructing students in 44 states? Why no minutes of Work Group meetings? Why no state legislative debates?

Perhaps it's because the standards themselves are sub-par, putting our students years behind those of international competitors who are already outperforming us in the fields of science, math, and technology. Perhaps it's because of the private interests that have invested millions of dollars into the development and promotion of the standards, such as the Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Foundation, paving the way for the corporatization of education. Perhaps it's because the CCSS drafters have stated that the standards will not actually prepare students for four-year selective colleges, but only trade vocations and two-year colleges. Or perhaps it's the fact that the CCSS divests states and citizens of their opportunity to develop and guide educational policies, free of federal manhandling.

It appears the CCSS drafters had something to hide. If they didn't, they've certainly given us reason to believe otherwise.

Sarah Perry is Family Research Council's Common Core coalition manager.

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