What is Common Core?
Common Core is the conclusion of many years of the expansion of nationwide controls over educational issues, which should for all intent, should remain at the local level. Twenty years ago, the proponents of these standards presented a proposal that was so progressive and politically correct that the US Senate voted 99 -1 for a bill (SR 66) that prevented its enactment. The supporters learned quickly that for them to get any new criteria enacted, they would need to impose these standards swiftly and silently and to start with less controversial subjects. The current Common Core standards are limited to English and Math, but will expand to include all subjects in coming years.
The beginnings of Common Core can be traced to the 2009 Stimulus bill which gave $4.35 billion to the federal Department of Education which then created the “Race to the Top” competition between states. In order to qualify for funding, the states needed to adopt Common Core sight unseen. An added incentive to adoption of CCS was that participating states would be exempted from many of the more onerous provisions of George Bush’s “No child left behind” program.
These Common Core standards have been very quietly accepted by 45 states, but exposure of the consequences of this intrusion into local and state control of education has caused a groundswell of opposition to adoption of the bill. The opposition has created an unusual alliance of school boards, school choice proponents, teachers’ unions and grass roots freedom groups. Opposition to Common Core is developing in many of the states already planning to implement CCS including Utah, California, Indiana, and Missouri to name a few.
A rising number of teachers, parents and taxpayers are expressing concerns about New York’s adoption of the Common Core Initiative (CCI), its accompanying federal standards for states (CCSS) Why?
New York did not seek out CCI; the initiative was presented as an eligibility enhancement (1) by the U.S. Department of Education in it’s The Race to the Top Grant. New York agreed to join the CCI in 2009, the standards had not yet been written. New York was rewarded 700 Million from the 2009 Stimulus for RTTT
There has been no cost analysis, legal analysis, legislative input or public input regarding CCI. Implementation of CCI has already begun in New York schools; full implementation of the initiative and its tests will be completed in the 2014-2015 school year. An independent think tank in Massachusetts states that the cost over the first 7 years to states will be 16 billion dollars (2), or over 200 million per state, on top of regular educational needs. The Congressional Budget Office was not asked to do a cost analysis because asking would have pointed out that this was not a state-led initiative, contrary to the claims of its proponents. States’ commitments to CCI require billions of dollars in implementation and maintenance spending, money that competes with already-stretched educational budgets.
The U.S. Department of Education (through the America COMPETES Act, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and the Race to the Top competition) has required the states to develop massive databases about school children.
The Common Core initiative represents an overreach of federal power into personal privacy as well as into state educational autonomy. There will be personal student information collected via the centralized testing-data collection, accessible to the Executive Branch.
Both of the CCI’s testing arms (SBAC and PARCC) must coordinate tests and share information “across consortia” as well as giving the U.S. Department of Education phone responses, written status updates and access to information “on an ongoing basis.” Data will be triangulated with control, oversight and centralization by the Executive Branch (U.S. Dept. of Education). “Cooperative Agreement between the U.S. DOE and the SBAC (3)”
The Department of Education has eviscerated the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) by issuing new regulations that allows non-consensual tracking and sharing of this personal data with other federal agencies, with government agencies in other states, and with private entities.
New York has ceded her voice and educational sovereignty because New York’s top educational leaders are persuaded that having standards and testing in common with other states matters more than holding onto the state’s right to raise standards sky-high. To New York education leaders, the right to soar seems a freedom not worth fighting for, and maintaining state educational sovereignty is not a priority.
The effort to nationalize and centralize education results in severe loss of state control of education and pushes states into a minimalist, common set of standards. Dr. Sandra Stotsky, an official member of the CCSS Validation Committee, refused to sign off on the adequacy of the standards and testified that “Common Core has yet to provide a solid evidentiary base for its minimalist conceptualization of college readiness–and for equating college readiness with career readiness. Moreover…it had no evidence on both issues.”
The Common Core standards are experimental, expensive, controversial, and have not been piloted (4).
Common Core standards are not considered among the best standards in the nation, and there are clearly superior standards (5). Additionally, the CCI robs states of the sovereign right to raise state standards in the future. There’s no provision for amending the CCSS federal standards, were we to choose to still remain bound by them.
The Common Core English standards reduce the study of literature in favor of informational texts designed to train children in a school-to-work agenda. The unsophisticated composition of those selected to write the Common Core Standards and the lack of transparency about the standards-writing process also raises concerns.
CCSS states a goal to promote “career and college ready standards,” a euphemism for “school-to-work” programs, diluting individual choice by directing children where to go and what to learn. They make no distinction between 2-year, 4-year or vocational standards.
Common Core has not proven to be state-led nor strictly voluntary (6); the U.S. Department of Education Secretary rages against states that reject the Common Core Initiative. When South Carolina Governor Haley backed away from the “voluntary” CCSS, she drew a sharp response from Arne Duncan (7), the federal Secretary of Education. Duncan also publicly insulted all Texas students on television, saying “I feel very badly for Texas school children,” following Texas Governor Perry’s refusal to join the CC initiative. (Yet Texas math standards are higher than Common Core standards.) Messages in public letters from Duncan to New York leaders conflict with multiple, legally binding documents signed by his team at the U.S. Department of Education.
The Common Core Initiative, far from being state-designed, is the product of the U.S. Department of Education funding and directing special interest groups (NGA, CCSSO, NCEE, Achieve, Inc., WestEd, and others) via federal grants.
The Common Core Initiative violates fundamental laws that protect states’ independence. The Federal Government’s creation of national curricular materials, through contractors, and its control and oversight of testing and data collection, and its tests written to federal, nationalized standards, are in violation of three existing laws (8): NCLB, the Department of Education Organization Act, and the General Education Provisions Act; States have a responsibility to protect the balance of powers granted in the Constitution.
Transparency and public debate about Common Core are lacking. New York educational leaders have a responsibility to encourage public discussion and lively debate about Common Core, because the initiative will impact children, taxpayers and teachers for a long time to come.