What your children are taught in school is no longer controlled by your local school district or state. What your children will be taught in every subject at every grade level will be controlled by a national federally backed consortium. In June of 2010 the CCSSI, a division of the CCSSO and the National Governor’s Association, released the national academic standards for Math and English, known as the Common Core. National standards for Science are currently being developed and national History and Foreign Language standards will follow sometime thereafter. Almost every state has agreed to replace their state academic standards with the Common Core standards.
As we all know, it’s not the standards that control content as much as what’s tested. Bearing that in mind, the CCSSO, with the backing of the US Department of Education, has sponsored several initiatives to develop national assessments to accompany the national standards. Virtually every state has joined one of these initiatives and agreed to replace their state tests with the as yet to be developed national assessment.
Why would states be willing to abdicate responsibility over what students in their schools are taught to some national consortium? Money. Specifically, federal money for education from the stimulus (ARRA) and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
The current version of the ESEA, also known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB), prohibits the federal government from making the receipt of federal education funds dependent on states’ adopting national standards or curricula. When the stimulus was authorized it allocated billions to the US Department of Education. Some of those funds were dedicated to a program called Race to the Top, which rewarded states for innovation in education with grants and other funds. Because those funds were allocated under the stimulus and not ESEA, the restrictions in ESEA didn’t apply. To be eligible to receive Race to the Top funds states had to agree to adopt the Common Core standards word for word (states were allowed to augment the Common Core by 15%). It’s worth noting that states were asked to make this commitment before a draft of the Common Core had been issued, so states were being asked to agree to adopt the Common Core word for word, sight unseen. Lo and behold, every state and US territory, except Alaska and Texas, agreed.
Money is a powerful motivator.
Which bring us back to ESEA / NCLB. NCLB expired on September 30, 2007, but the bill is automatically extended every year until a new bill is approved. On March 15 the President released his Blueprint for Reform: The Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The blueprint says the following:
Beginning in 2015, formula funds will be available only to states that are implementing assessments based on college- and career-ready standards that are common to a significant number of states.
As virtually every state and US territory has adopted the Common Core and the as yet developed national assessments, this implies that federal education funds will only be given to states which adopt the Common Core. Unless your state is willing forgo federal education funds, what your children will be taught in school will be under the control of the CCSSO, or some other as yet unnamed organization, and the US Department of Education. Thus far the CCSSO has demonstrated itself to be less than enthusiastic about or responsive to questions, concerns, or criticisms of the standards it’d released.
Ignoring Constitutional implications, while we are not philosophically opposed to some sort of national standards that students must be taught at a minimum, we are concerned that requiring states to adopt the Common Core word for word will result in the national standards becoming the final standard – not the minimum, but both the minimum and the maximum. Putting aside political double-speak and spin, we also believe that requiring states to adopt common standards and assessments in order to receive federal education funds is tantamount to mandating national standards and establishing a national curriculum.
Having said that, if you care at all about what your children are taught, it’s probably a good idea to know what’s going on with the Common Core. The articles and sites linked below provide information about the Common Core and the ESEA reauthorization.
The Common Core
- Here is the link to the Common Core State Standards Initiative. From this site you can find the Common Core Standards for Math and English / Language Arts and information about the initiative.
- Here is a link to the Fordham Foundation’s report on the Draft Common Core Math and English Language Arts standards: Review of the Draft K-12 Common Core Standards.
- Here is a link to the Fordham Foundation’s report comparing the Common Core Standards to state standards: The State of State Standards–and the Common Core – in 2010.
- Here is a link to the National Academy of Sciences Board on Science Education’s Conceptual Framework for New Science Education Standards
Opinions on the Common Core
- Sandra Stotsky and Ze’ev Wurman : Why Race to the Middle?
- Sandra Stotsky and Ze’ev Wurman : Common Core’s Standards Still Don’t Make the Grade
- Neal McCluskey of the CATO Institute: Here Come the Federal Education Standards
- Tamar Lewin of the NYTimes: Many States Adopt National Standards for Their Schools
- NYTimes Debate: Will National Standards Improve Education?
- Ze’ev Wurman : Why California Should Not Have Adopted the Common Core
- William J. Mathis, Ph.D., The University of Colorado at Boulder, The Education Policy and Research Unit :Common Core School Standards Roll On Without Supporting Evidence
- Sandra Strotsky on Jay Greene’s Blog : The Ascent of America’s Choice and and Continuing Descent of America’s High Schools
Opinions on the Common Core Mathematics Standards
- James Milgram : Review of Common Core Math Standards
- Barry Garelick of Education News: The Common Core Math Standards: When Understanding is Overrated
- Jonathan Goodman of Education News: A comparison of proposed US Common Core math standard to standards of selected Asian countries.
- Bill Evers and Ze’ev Wurman of The Sacramento Bee: Proposed math standards unteachable
- US Coalition for World Class Math : Comments on the Common Core Math Standards
Opinions on the Common Core Science Standards
- Lindsey Burke in The Heritage Foundation’s The Foundry: The Slippery Slope Toward National Science Standards
The Money In National Standards
- Catherine Gwertz of Education Week : Big Bucks in the World of Common Standards, Tests
- Here is a Link to the ESEA Blueprint for Reform
- Leonie Haimson & Julie Woestehoff of Education Week: Shutting Out Parents – Obama’s Disappointing Blueprint for Reform