(Editor’s note: This is part 1 in a series on the Common Core State Standards Initiative.)
In 2007, a group of governors and state educating chiefs got together to try and remedy the declining and degraded U.S. public academic system. Their goal was to establish a new set of standards that better prepared kids for college, careers and their ever-changing, hyper-connected and globally competitive world.
In short, as a result, the Common Core State Standards Initiative, or CCSS, was born.
The CCSS website notes: “The standards clearly communicate what is expected of students at each grade level. This will allow our teachers to be better equipped to know exactly what they need to help students learn and establish individualized benchmarks for them,” with a particular emphasis on empowering students’ reading, writing, speaking, innovation, creativity, critical thinking and problem solving.
In 2010, standards were published and made available for mathematics and English language arts. Though standards for science and social studies are still in development, the goal is for states to implement the full spectrum of CCSS by 2015 with 85 percent of their state curricula based upon those standards.
CCSS advocates are particularly selling the initiative by pitching that it is a step in the right direction from the No Child Left Behind federal disaster system. Well, not everyone is catching the CCSS fever, particularly being concerned about federal overreach into their local academic arenas.
By 2009, 45 states had signed on to join, with the states of Virginia, Nebraska, Texas and Alaska declining CCSS adoption. Minnesota partially adopted the English language arts standards but rejected the math ones. And some other states have since jumped ship in other ways: In August, Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Oklahoma and Utah withdrew from the assessment groups designing tests for the CCSS. And Congress.org noted, “Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Utah are all currently considering full withdrawal with other fiscally conservative states sure to follow.” And in September, Gov. Rick Scott, R-Fla., issued an executive order restricting Florida’s involvement with the CCSS national assessments because of concerns over federal overreach of the program.
I commend the governors and state education chiefs who tried to improve the substandard and dilapidated state of U.S. public education, despite decades of attempts by federal and state governments to improve it. But there are good reasons that so many states have rejected or are questioning the ultimate value of the adoption of CCSS.
Let me give you what I consider my core problems with CCSS and why I believe it is not the solution for America’s broken educational system. (I’m going to unfold these problems in depth with solid evidence in successive weeks, concluding with what I believe is a far better option than CCSS.)
The first core problem I need to address is one that is hot on the blogosphere and in the news: the fact that the feds have already abandoned their commitment and restrictions to stay out of local academic affairs by using the CCSS to overreach into public schools and influence young American minds.
One of the biggest defenses by CCSS advocates is their belief that the federal government – and particularly the White House – is in no way behind its implementation or development.
PolitiFact examined the words of Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who said last July, CCSS is being “used by the Obama administration to turn the Department of Education into what is effectively a national school board.” PolitiFact categorically evaluated Rubio’s statement as false.
But more current facts show that Sen. Rubio is right, Politifact is wrong, and the feds have already started invading academic arenas via CCSS in three ways: funding, influencing classroom curricula and siphoning student information from schools. Let me explain each in turn.
First, if the feds are so far removed from CCSS, why is it the U.S. Department of Education has funded it with $350 million and motivated states to adopt it by rewarding “Race to the Top” grants and waivers from No Child Left Behind, or NCLB? (Please read that question again.)
For example, according to Politico, in August, the U.S. Dept. of Education granted NCLB waivers to eight school districts in California that agreed to the White House’s pro-Common Core preferences.
Politico further reported that the Council of Chief State School Officers, which represents state superintendents, has shared that it regards the district waiver “as an example of federal overreach – and a direct threat to their authority over schools.”
Politico also noted, “California teachers unions also oppose the plan, warning in a June letter that the waiver sets up a ‘privatized shadow system of education in California’ that leaves children ‘susceptible to market exploitation and profiteering.’”
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen the federal government fund anything that it didn’t eventually have its hands into or strings attached. Have you?
The Foundry explained that, “The waivers are set to expire for 34 states and the District of Columbia at the end of the 2013-2014 school year. The Department is offering renewal but is requiring states to reaffirm commitments to its policies. [Notice: "its policies"!] This includes increased emphasis on ‘college and career-ready standards,’ which most states have interpreted to mean Common Core national standards and tests.”
I know Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education Arne Duncan, who is also a former CEO of the Chicago Public Schools (interesting, Obama’s former turf), is desperately working to distance the federal government’s connection to and influence over CCSS. But if Duncan is going to be successful in maintaining that separation, for starters, he needs to drop the funding (monetary coercion) and refrain from using the first-person plural pronouns when discussing who is responsible for the Common Core Standards, like when he told the group of journalists in June: “We’ve set a high bar for states … ” (italics mine).
I am personally challenging state and federal representatives to get on board to stop this Common Core insanity. I will be researching each politician to see who is and who is not supporting CCSS and, before this column series is complete, I will be publishing their names in my articles, and they reach millions. I’m sure my readers will find my list of names helpful the next time they walk into the voting booths!
Stop Common Core right now!
(In Part 2 next week, I will give you the second and third evidences for the feds’ collaborations and entanglements within CCSS: namely, that the feds are in fact influencing curricula already and – the most astounding piece of proof – that the feds are creating a national database to store your kids’ private information obtained through a technological project within CCSS.)