Why Parents Object to Common Core Standards
Reasons to object to the implementation of Common Core (CC) standards are numerous. Critics object to the manner in which they were created, adopted and funded, and say they are unconstitutional and illegal. The standards themselves are complicated and some worry that CC is inferior to some current state standards and intends to indoctrinate rather than teach students. The creation of an invasive student and family online database is troubling, as is the massive cost of implementing Common Core, which will strain states and communities.
How Were Common Core Standards Created?
Common Core standards were not developed by and did not emanate from states. They were funded and developed at the behest of two Washington, D.C.-based trade organizations, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association (NGA), through their contractor Achieve, Inc., with generous funding from the Gates Foundation and other private philanthropies. Some Common Core developers have questionable motives and backgrounds. Common Core standardized test creator Linda Darling-Hammond was President Obama’s top choice for education secretary but was never nominated because of her controversial leftist leanings; she is a close associate of domestic terrorist turned educator Bill Ayers. (See book review in this Education Reporter) Common Core was developed in closed meetings, without public debate, by committees.
How Was Common Core Adopted by States?
State Governors or State Boards of Education signed on to Common Core standards before even seeing the standards, after being cajoled to do so and “bribed” by promises of federal Race to the Top (RTTT) grants by the Obama administration. Only some states received money from the competitive RTTT grants. States were also threatened with the loss of No Child Left Behind waivers if they did not align, which would have meant significant loss of federal financial support. State legislatures, which represent the public, were not involved in the decision to adopt Common Core standards. Neither was the U.S. Congress.
Illegal and Unconstitutional Federal Overreach
Nationalized education standards should be considered unconstitutional under the 10th Amendment. The General Educational Provisions Act also prohibits federal overreach by prohibiting “any department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States [from exercising] any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system, or over the selection of library resources, textbooks, or other printed or published instructional materials by any educational institution or school system. . . .”
Common Core severely limits local control of education. The standards are copyrighted by the CCSSO and NGA and licensed only to states. Federal dictates assure that 85% of academic standards in reading and math will strictly adhere to CC standards, leaving only 15% flexibility. With only 15% of the standards eligible to be altered by the local district, a state choosing to teach cursive writing instead of just the keyboarding mandated by CC would likely use up the entire 15% on this one change. Nationalized tests are more federal interference. These standardized tests will drive curriculum and textbooks.
Education standards could have been improved without federal intervention. According to Lindsey M. Burke of the Heritage Foundation:
States and local school districts can have success improving their standards and assessments without surrendering control to Washington. Increasing transparency of outcomes in a way that is meaningful to parents and taxpayers, providing flexibility for local school leaders, and advancing systemic reforms that include school choice options for families will go a long way in improving academic outcomes while at the same time preserving local control of education.
Invasion of Student and Family Privacy
Common Core calls for unprecedented monitoring, collection, and sharing of private student and family information. The Obama administration made changes to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), changing and reinterpreting laws to allow personally identifiable information such as name, address, Social Security number, attendance, test scores, learning disabilities, and family information to be recorded and shared with other agencies. This information will be available not only to the government, but also to researchers and private companies. The Gates Foundation, the Car-negie Corporation, and Rupert Murdoch of News Corporation funded and developed the CC database system and recently turned it over to a nonprofit corporation called inBloom, established for the purpose of controlling the information. There are security risks involved in the collection and storage of students’ data.
Parents and legislators were neither informed nor did they give permission for Common Core to allow private data about children to be collected and shared.
It is expected that Common Core will affect private schools and homeschoolers, not just in the materials available but that laws will be stretched to include them in the standards and the collection of personal data.
Higher Standards or Standards of Mediocrity?
Proponents of Common Core standards claim they will graduate students to be career- and college-ready. However, one of CC’s creators, Dr. Jason Zimba, admitted in March 2010 at a meeting of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education that “college ready” means ready for a non-selective two-year community college, not a selective four-year institution. The minutes of that Massachusetts meeting read: “Mr. Zimba said the concept of college readiness is minimal and focuses on non-selective colleges.”
The Common Core standards claim to provide “evidence-based rigorous content.” In reality the mediocrity and deficiencies of Common Core standards, which are not based on empirical evidence, are many and have been exposed by education experts.
Dr. Sandra Stotsky, the architect of Massachusetts’ excellent education standards, sat on the English Language Arts committee for Common Core and refused to sign off on the CC standards, saying “they were not internationally benchmarked or research-based.” She described them as empty skill sets that won’t prepare students for authentic college course work, and said, “there is absolutely no empirical research to suggest that college readiness is promoted by informational or nonfiction reading in high school English classes or in mathematics and science classes.” (See Education Reporter Focus, March 2013)
Professor R. James Milgram of Stanford University, the only professional mathematician on the Common Core Validation Committee, also declined to sign off on the CC standards. He has spoken against the standards in several states and testified in Indiana:
The Common Core [math] standards claim to be “benchmarked against international standards” but this phrase is meaningless. They are actually two or more years behind international expectations by 8th grade, and only fall further behind as they talk about grades 8 – 12. Indeed, they don’t even fully cover the material in a solid geometry course, or in a second-year algebra course.
Since Common Core delays the teaching of algebra from 8th to 9th grade, it will be nearly impossible for graduating seniors to complete calculus, a required course for admission to many four-year universities.
How Much Will Common Core Cost?
At a time when many states and school districts are struggling to stay afloat financially, Common Core demands that current textbooks be replaced with those aligned with the new standards, that teachers be retrained to teach in alignment with CC standards and CC standardized tests, and that schools fund technological updates necessary for every student to complete computerized testing, including purchasing additional computers and increasing broadband capacity.
Estimates to implement the standards and testing range from $12 to $16 billion. The fact that states cannot even figure out how much Common Core alignment will cost them is further evidence that they had no hand in developing the standards.
The Pioneer Institute report on “National Cost of Aligning States and Localities to the Common Core Standards” estimates that, for just the testing mandated by the federal government, the “annual cost of assessment for states participating in the consortia will increase by a total of $177.2 million each year. These are not one-time costs . . ., but ongoing operational costs that will be faced each year.” This estimate is an increase over previous standardized testing costs, not the full cost of the testing.
The Pioneer Institute estimates that California’s textbook and materials costs will be $374 million. California’s previous standards were judged to be as good as, if not better than, Common Core standards, so this is money that did not need to be spent. Many California taxpayers are left wondering why they will be paying for this.
It doesn’t go unnoticed by Common Core critics that Bill Gates, who makes computers, Sir Michael Barber’s Pearson PLC, the multinational publishing and education conglomerate, and other education industry giants who are champions of Common Core will profit handsomely from its implementation.
CC Predictions and Predicaments
Dr. Ze’ev Wurman, a mathematics standards and assessment expert and former U.S. Department of Education official, states:
I believe Common Core marks the cessation of educational standards improvement in the United States. No state has any reason left to aspire for first-rate standards, as all states will be judged by the same mediocre national benchmark enforced by the federal government.
Moreover, there are organizations that have reasons to work for lower and less-demanding standards, specifically teachers unions and professional teacher organizations. While they may not admit it, they have a vested interest in lowering the accountability bar for their members. With Common Core, they have a single target to aim for, rather than 50 distributed ones. So give it some time and, as sunset follows sunrise, we will see even those mediocre standards being made less demanding. This will be done in the name of “critical thinking” and “21st-century” skills in faraway Washington, D.C., well beyond the reach of parents and most states and employers.
Christopher Tienken, Ed.D, the editor of the Journal of Scholarship & Practice in his article “An Example of Data-less Decision Making” (Winter 2011) offers another reason all Americans should worry about the potentially devastating impact of Common Core:
Children do not have a seat at the policy-making table. Policy is thrust upon them, not created with them. They are helpless to defend themselves against poor decision-making. They do not have a voice. They have only the voices of the adults who are supposed to know better.