The Common Core Steamroller
Schools around the nation continue to roll out Common Core, but many are experiencing complications. Some parents are surprised by the new national standards and many teachers are ill prepared. There is confusion surrounding curriculum. Funding hurdles abound. Parents’ questions are not being answered and opposition continues to grow. Common Core proponents are left trying to defend the implementation of untested, unproven standards that seek to make education a one-size-fits-all national reality. Michelle Malkin says, “When parents and educators in dozens of states started challenging the privacy intrusions posed by and the constitutionality, cost, quality, and validity of Common Core, its architects went on the attack.” (National Review, 10-17-13)
Opposition from the Left
Although the news media and Common Core proponents claim that opposition to the standards comes uniquely from Tea Party sources, across the nation parents with left, center, and right political leanings are joining together to oppose Common Core. They are bonding over concern for their children’s education. One left-leaning group with about 25,000 members, The Bad Ass Teachers Association (BAT), is against Common Core because they believe it overemphasizes standardized testing. BAT founder and Fordham University professor Mark Naison says, “The liberal critique of Common Core is that this is a huge profit-making enterprise that costs school districts a tremendous amount of money, and pushes out the things kids love about school, like art and music.” (Miami Herald, 8-24-13)
Common Core is dependent on standardized national testing. Whether the state chooses a test from SBAC, PARCC, or AIR, it will test the same standards.
Every issue of Education Week showcases a multitude of ads promoting “Common Core aligned” products, and the same is true of other education-related media. But school districts don’t have enough employees qualified to determine what “Common Core aligned” actually means, which products are Common Core aligned and which are not, let alone which are best. “A multibillion-dollar industry of competing vendors is promoting a dizzying array of new products — textbooks, curriculum, teacher-training workshops, software, laptops, iPads, nonfiction kid magazines, games, even Lego blocks,” and competing for education dollars. (Los Angeles Daily News, 10-15-13)
A kindergarten teacher and a man who graduated from Oxford University as an 18-year-old were among many adults stumped by a Common Core kindergarten vocabulary exercise in New York City. Kindergarten students were to “draw” vocabulary words, including “responsibility” and “distance,” in a workbook. The child is to interpret the word by making it into a drawing. Previously having listened to a reading of the classic children’s book Make Way for Ducklings was intended somehow to help with the process. One teacher, noting that the students were to put their drawings in a two-inch-by-four-inch box, said, “[Kindergarteners] can’t make anything in that small little space. That to me is a setup for failure.” Adults were given much more space, but still didn’t fare well. A New York Department of Education spokesman defended the Pearson-created curriculum, saying it is “100% optional.” 90% of schools have adopted the suggested workbooks. (New York Daily News, 10-18-13) Child development specialists have noted that much of Common Core is not developmentally appropriate.
Common Core is a Money Pit
Theodor Rebarber of Accountability Works estimates that national implementation of Common Core could cost as much as $15.8 billion. The Pioneer Institute estimates it will cost $16 billion over seven years. The cost is about four times the federal government’s “carrot” Race to the Top funds, which were awarded to only a handful of states. The Pioneer Institute Executive Director said, “With state and local taxpayers footing 90% of the bill for K-12 public education, the federal government’s push to get states to adopt national standards and tests amounts to one big unfunded mandate.” (2-22-12)
The director of Murfreesboro, TN City Schools told the city council that they should approve her request for iPads for kindergartners and 1st-graders and laptop computers for students in grades two through six. This meant $5.2 million in bonds to upgrade technology needed to “help prepare our children for future entry into the workforce and for future state online assessments,” according to the city education director. (Fox News, 9-18-13) Common Core tests that will be administered using a computer mean that every student needs either a computer or a tablet with a keyboard.
Wanted: Professional Development
Authors of a study of English language arts Common Core standards found that teachers will need “substantially more professional development around the Common Core, not just in understanding what the new standards include and how they differ from states’ old standards, but also to fill the gaps in instructional strategies that will be needed for students to write well.” (Education Week, 10-10-13) Researchers published their findings in School Psychology Review after analyzing Common Core writing standards, along with those of Texas and Virginia, two states that did not adopt the new standards.
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction claims that “theoretically” teachers over the past three years have had 60-80 hours of Common Core training, which a $400 million federal “Race to the Top” grant helped fund. But NC Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who is a member of the state Board of Education and a Common Core opponent, says teachers are struggling with Common Core. Forest says some teachers “say they are not prepared for this. The only information they are getting is from Twitter and Facebook chat rooms.” Forest continued, “I am unclear how education with a national one-size-fits-all standard will serve our students well and allow our parents the ability to be engaged in educational decisions.” (Fayetteville Observer, 10-20-13)
Baltimore County Schools Superintendent Dallas Dance has admitted that Common Core implementation is a dis-aster in his district. Dance, who was at the center of the controversial arrest of a parent at a Common Core meeting in September, stated in a letter to teachers and administrators that he accepts blame for the problems encountered in the first month of school. Teachers only received computer access to the rewritten curriculum that adheres to Common Core standards a few days before school started. Dance stated that he “[felt] the high levels of anxiety throughout [the] organization.” (Baltimore Sun, 9-20-13)
Opposition Temporarily Silenced
Common Core forums are back on the schedule for New York Education Commissioner John King. At the first New York state PTA-arranged forum, parents became outraged when, after listening to King for an hour and a half, he began to encroach on the parents’ comment time, which was limited to two minutes each. King canceled all future forums across in the state, stating that racial slurs were hurled at him and that the forum was coopted by “special interests.” Numerous attendees, including other people of color, stated that no such thing occurred. Parents and legislators called for King’s resignation. Democratic state Assemblyman Tom Abinanti accused King of having “closed off all meaningful conversation with parents, educators, administrators and elected officials.” The state Board of Regents became involved and admitted that King should have allowed more time for public comment. King will now hold 16 forums across New York, including 4 that will be aired on Public Broadcast TV. But apparently at least some of the meetings will be “invitation only” and not open to the public. (EAG News, 10-18-13 & 10-21-13)
Too Little Too Late
Several state legislatures are investigating Common Core implementation and taking citizen concerns seriously. But many worry that opposition to Common Core has come too late to stop the forward motion. Others fear that it can’t be stopped because states have already spent too much money on implementation.
Michelle Malkin commented about Common Core in the National Review:
We, [parents of school-age children], not the Obamas or the Bushes or the Gateses or educrats in Washington, D.C., are our children’s primary educational providers. Control over our children begins and ends with us. It is not easy to stand up and challenge sovereignty-undermining, curriculum-usurping, privacy-sabotaging education orthodoxy, especially when it is furthered by a toxic alliance of big-government and big-business interests. (10-17-13)