Monday, July 13, 2015

Problems with Common Core: A Rant

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Common Core is an issue of great importance to parents, even if they do not send their children to state schools. It is so enormous in its reach that it will crowd out much of the innovation now happening in the private education sector.  Common Core is so extensive and complex that, as with the “Affordable Care Act,” it will be years before most citizens understand the many constitutional and pedagogical problems this Washington, D.C. initiative has caused and will cause.  Let’s look at the most important issues.

Why Do Many Citizens Oppose Common Core?

First, Common Core originated not in the states, but in Washington, D.C., where two organizations, the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief School Officers, collaborated with the Gates Foundation and other private groups.  This major overhaul of K-12 education was created without input from the elected legislatures of the fifty states.  Governors were bribed by the federal government with threats to deny funds to states not cooperating with Common Core.  This is not a process in which local teachers and parents had any input, nor was their input desired.  This is a top-down initiative from businessmen and education bureaucrats, not teachers.

Given the Constitution of the United States leaves education to the states (see tenth amendment) Common Core is yet another federal encroachment into local issues.  Parents also have concerns about the massive amount of data to be collected under Common Core.  Not only will student information be available to schools, but to private researchers and companies.  The amount and scope of data on America’s children is unprecedented and alarming to parents concerned with privacy and civil liberties.

Parents also have reason to doubt that Common Core standards are indeed preparing students for college.  The fact that Common Core homework is often confusing to parents (one might think deliberately confusing) makes parents justifiably suspicious.  These parents are also concerned about the toll so much high-stakes testing takes on young children—and the instructional time children miss as test preparation and administration become the focus of schools.

Why Do Many Real Teachers and Professors Oppose Common Core?

Despite assurances that Common Core is not a national curriculum, states are required by the federal bureaucracy to assure that 85% of reading and math standards are Common Core compliant.. Thus, only 15% flexibility is allowed.  According to Eagle Forum, retaining cursive writing instruction would of itself take up that entire flexibility for a school.   Excellent teachers will be restricted in their ability to use creative and innovative lesson plans, as they will be chained to the curriculum provided by Pearson (a major textbook publisher and great beneficiary of Common Core.)

Professor R. James Milgram was the only professional mathematician on the Common Core Validation Committee.  He refused to sign off on the math standards.  He has testified that the standards are not rigorous—in fact they are two or more years behind international standards by grade eight and only get worse from there.  Common Core neglects/delays teaching of standard algorithms (i.e. how to calculate the right answer) in favor of group projects and “reform math.”  Engineers and other STEM professionals typically entered college having already taken calculus.  The Common Core generation will be lucky to squeeze in a precalculus course before college.

Who Benefits from Common Core?

Politicians are able, through Common Core, to claim they “did something” about education.  It matters not whether they did the right thing, only something.  Bill Gates made his fortune off computers and, surprisingly, Common Core requires schools to invest heavily in new technology instead of human capital (students and teachers.)  Michael Barber’s Pearson PLC, a British firm, also profits; already holding a large share of the textbook and testing  market, Pearson can all but destroy rivals in with the blessing of America’s federal government.

Be Aware

Read about Common Core.  Get involved with state organizations to monitor student privacy concerns and oppose excessive testing and federal curriculum.  Most of all, do what is best for your own family and community.  One size does not fit all!

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