The next generation of top-down central planning for a federal K-12 education curriculum, Common Core, is now in full swing in Iowa and Illinois public and private school systems. Despite the rhetoric that claims otherwise, the Common Core standards are not (1) internationally benchmarked, (2) based upon scientific research that is documented and peer-reviewed, (3) created by the nation's governors, state school officials, and legislatures with full transparency, or (4) owned by American taxpayers.
The Common Core curriculum is entirely experimental, with no evidence or history of efficacy whatsoever. Nearly all the supporting data for Common Core comes from reports written by its sponsors - the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officials (CCSSO) - and lacks any true objectivity. This is of particular note considering that all the K-12 education models previously used in American education not only adhered to best practices supported by decades of proven scientific research but also underwent continual refinement based upon the latest scientific revelations in learning processes. In other words, it evolved under great scrutiny.
The three primary authors are David Coleman, Susan Pimental, and Jason Zimba, founders of Student Achievement Partners. None of these authors has a background in any of the academic disciplines they wrote standards for. In a speech before the Learning Institute in 2011, Coleman admitted: "We were a collection of unqualified people who were involved in developing the common standards" (RCReader.com/y/core1). He likened their collaboration to a group at a bar with a napkin.
The result is that Common Core is turning nearly every classroom in America into one gigantic experiment. The teachers themselves are unprepared to teach the new Common Core curriculum and must undergo extensive retraining at enormous taxpayer expense. Because Common Core is being implemented in 45 states, an entire generation is in jeopardy if the system proves the failure many predict it will be. For a well-rounded critique based on scholastic studies (versus pure rhetoric claiming rigorous standards) that informs the debate about the deficiencies abundant in Common Core, read Common Core State Standards: An Example of Data-Less Decision Making by Christopher H. Tienken (RCReader.com/y/core2).
Common Core was not created by our nation's governors. Nor was its creation a public process that included the input of school districts and/or legislatures. Any proponent who claims otherwise is untruthful. Neither of the two central non-governmental organizations (NGOs) overseeing Common Core's development - the NGA and the CCSSO - is an elected body, and both are lobbying organizations. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation provided more than $1 billion for Common Core's development and promotion. Funding recipients include the Thomas Fordham Institute, Achieve Inc., the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. Department of Education, the Foundation for Excellence in Education (Jeb Bush), the American Federation of Teachers, and smaller organizations that promote Common Core. The exhaustive list of recipients demonstrates a highly bipartisan, albeit progressive, participation.
The entire Common Core curriculum is copyrighted under private ownership that engages in public/private partnerships with governments (both United States and United Nations) in an extremely close for-profit alliance of big business and big government to control all textbooks, materials, and testing/assessments for K-12. According to Sandra Stotsky, the only academic for language arts on the 30-member validation committee for Common Core, members were required to sign confidentiality agreements for the Common Core standards review so that anything they learned, discussed, or decided could not be disclosed - discrediting any claim of an open and transparent process. (See Building the Machine: A Movie About the Common Core at CommonCoreMovie.com.) Stotsky will speak about Common Core on October 18 at 6 p.m. at Five Points Washington (360 North Wilmer Road, Washington, Illinois). This presentation is sponsored by the Heartland Against Common Core and is free and open to the public.
Once again, follow the money, because this rewrite of all textbooks, training materials, and testing assessments in America is amounting to billions in profits, all controlled by a handful of private owners and special interests who developed this boondoggle. And because Common Core is privately owned, it provides cover against the opposition's claims that it is a federal curriculum, which is specifically prohibited by law (RCReader.com/y/core3).
The good news is that the law does forbid the federal government from making compulsory or unduly influencing a national curriculum. This purview belongs to the states alone. Which begs the question: How did this national curriculum get implemented?
The Obama administration allocated $4.35 billion to the Department of Education to be portioned out to states in Race to the Top grants. The grants mandated that states agree to advance Obama's education reforms, which included re-evaluations of teachers, increasing the number of charter schools, and adopting the Common Core standards once they were written. Also included was the requirement that each state sign on to one of two assessment consortia, Partnership for Assessing Readiness for College & Careers or Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortia, which are now fully tied to Common Core standards - making it even more critical for those states so inclined to pull out of Common Core because the window is closing.
Another incentive to accept the Race to the Top grant money was a waiver for states in complying with George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind. Not complying with No Child Left Behind meant a loss of federal funds. States' education departments, in desperate need of the funding, agreed to the Race to the Top grant terms without having any idea what the Common Core standards would eventually dictate.
Meanwhile, the NGA and the CCSSO, instead of approaching legislatures with Common Core, reached out to appointed state-school-board officials to implement it behind the scenes. When the standards were finished and ready for deployment, the state school boards went directly to local districts with the curriculum, leaving legislators out of the loop. Once the roll-out occurred, many parents began to object. The states, instead of facing the objections as representation requires, simply renamed Common Core - as Governor Branstad did in branding it Iowa Core. Illinois kept the increasingly toxic title Illinois Common Core Standards.
Opposing nationalized one-size-fits-all standards that dictate curricula is one thing. But when those standards are woefully inadequate, and put our children at a significant competitive disadvantage, it's quite another matter. There is too little space here to provide the proper insight into the many serious problems with Common Core standards and assessments. It is well-documented that the Common Core curriculum strictly teaches to its standards, and there is already an enormous for-profit motivation to align the standards with assessments utilized by American colleges and universities, as well as associate-degree facilities and vocational schools, in placing high-school graduates.
It is a closed-loop system that uses learning techniques and modern technologies to identify competencies early on. Exhaustive information is gathered into lifelong longitudinal databases for the purpose of systematically modifying students' behavior and eventually pushing most children toward pre-determined vocations. A smaller percentage will be considered prepared enough for selective-college admittance. Common Core author Zimba admitted to an audience during a presentation to the Massachusetts Board of Education that the standards were not even high enough for most to achieve readiness for a selective college, meaning an accredited university or college (RCReader.com/y/core4).
This is hardly an endorsement of a new standard in education. Basically, the endgame for Common Core is to provide students with a minimum level of employment skills by dumbing down the curriculum enough that students, upon graduation, can be placed in some workplace of the government's choosing.
Common Core lessons are designed to equalize the classroom, disallowing higher achievement and eliminating competition. Common Core is a new education system, the content of which advocates "systems" or group thinking as a replacement for individual thinking. Collaboration and learning "processes" are encouraged even if it means the processes produce incorrect answers. How a student arrives at an incorrect answer is valued above a correct answer, especially if the correct answer was not derived using the lesson's prescribed process. By focusing on process rather than correct answers, the classroom is leveled so that no student achieves more than another. Truth becomes relative.
The longitudinal databases will include all manner of information on each student, including intrusive medical and lifestyle data that is none of a school's business. Furthermore, the information can be collected and shared with third parties, including the federal government, without the consent of parents.
There is a vast amount of information on Common Core, both for and against, to investigate and decide for yourself if it is worthy of our children. Because Common Core is still voluntary, at least 26 states are enacting legislation to ban Common Core from being implemented. This movement has legs because concerned parents and teachers are civically engaged, with more joining everyday. The Associated Press has published a succinct overview of Common Core in each state (RCReader.com/y/core5).
A leading expert on and critic of Common Core, Duke Pesta of Freedom Project Education (FPEUSA.org), will give a free presentation on Saturday, September 20, at 1 p.m. at Peoria, Illinois' Gateway Building (200 Northeast Water Street). The presentation is sponsored by Illinois Citizens for a Better Education and will be live-streamed at http://ustre.am/1gBby.