Education is taking a radical turn from where it has been over the last century. In the name of better standards and increased rigor, the relationship parents have to their child's education will forever be obstructed and second-guessed. This was all done without your knowledge and your consent. It was done, in most cases, by well-intentioned people who believe they have the best interests of your child at heart. You need to know how Common Core changes your ability to influence your child's education, the overall educational establishment, and where you stand. If this change is, in your opinion, the best option at this point in time, then, having made an informed decision, I'd recommend sending thank you letters to those who decided on this course of action for you (the governor, the State Superintendent, the state board of education, Bill Gates, Arne Duncan, the NEA, etc.). If you disagree with what is happening, like me, then you need to take action. But either way, we, the people, need to be informed as to how Common Core came to be, the pros and cons, and what, if anything, should be done about it. We are at a crossroads in American education. Will posterity praise us for our foresight or curse us for our slumber?
Once upon a time, parents were in charge of their own child's education. They were involved in selecting the teacher and the curriculum. Even when public education first came on the scene in the mid-1800's, parents were still highly involved in what would be taught to their child. Thomas Jefferson, who advocated a very basic education (reading and some math) for all, said the schools should be managed by "the parents in each ward [district]", not a government entity. The reason for this management, said Jefferson, was "to have good and safe government...[by] not trust[ing] it all to one." The school board is supposed to be the 'local control', but how much input have you had on Common Core? How much input has your local school board had in deciding to adopt Common Core? The answer is none. It was handed down from the State Office, and we will be implementing it. The School Community Councils (SCC) will be selecting the math curriculum from a set of curricula designated by the district and the state. There is no current process for parents to influence the Language Arts component. You are not managing your child's education. Your community is not. Your teachers are not. Your local school board is not. And, now, having made this decision, the State School Board is not.
As a parent, the responsibility for educating your child, lies with you. How much control should you be willing to give away? And at what price?
Parental control of education is a principle that dates back to the first American colonists. In Utah County, we have a culture that values education but places parental responsibility for that education first and foremost. Common Core changes the fundamental relationship between the parent and their child's education. Under the Common Core standards, should you wish to change an aspect of the core, you must get the parents, not just of your school, your district, or even your state to band together to lobby for a change. You must get a majority of parents in 44+ states to put pressure on unelected individuals in a private organization to change those standards. You must also get the Federal Government to go along with it, since they are funding and legislating based on that core.
"The Common Core train is already on the track," you say. I have been asked if it is possible to change it. There are options from the local implementation all the way up to the state legislature. (Oklahoma adopted Common Core and there is a push in their state legislature to rescind it. Utah could do the same thing.) The most common question people ask is, "Isn't it too late to change it?" Is it ever too late to do the right thing?
I will publish a blog on each of the following items every day this week. However, here are the claims about Common Core and my rebuttal.
It's NOT a Federal Program...technically speaking!
Here is what Common Core (now renamed in our state "Utah State Core" due to "concerns" about the word "common") is and is not, according to proponents.
1. It is not a Federal program. I say, it is a national program. More than forty-four states is national. The tests are funded by the US Department of Education. The Federal Government can 'incentivize' adoption of the standards and assessments.
2. It was developed by the governors of the fifty states; it's really a grassroots, state initiative. The National Governor's Association provides the appearance of a state-led initiative. However, those fifty governors didn't create the standards. Big names and big money in the education establishment have been pushing for some type of national, not federal, standards for nearly twenty years. The governors' signing on just gave legitimacy to their efforts.
3. It does not determine assessment testing. The US Department of Ed is funding the assessments and "encouraging" states to adopt those assessments. One of the advantages promoted by Common Core advocates is the standardized testing that will result. We will be able to compare Utah against nearly every other state in the union.
4. It does not determine curriculum. I say it will. Assessments drive curriculum. Teachers will only be able to choose their curricula and other materials from among those things that have been shown to improve test scores, and hence, are approved for Common Core.
5. It is voluntary. If I make you an offer you can't refuse, is it voluntary?
6. The standards are more rigorous. It depends on what state you're in. In Utah, the math standards are rated the same (A-minus for both). Also, who or what defines rigorous?
7. It will not take away local control. If the control over the standards, the assessments, the funding, and (if we implement more merit pay) the teachers isn't removing local control, I don't know what is. We need to understand that every expansion of centralized education is done at the expense of local and parental control. How can it be otherwise?
So, you see a discrepancy. You may wonder how can I make the claims I do when the really smart people, with all the letters after their names pushing Common Core, claim the exact opposite. I'm glad you asked.
Stay tuned for a new blog on each of these subjects every day this week. If you read nothing else on my blog for the next three years, please read and understand this information on Common Core. Share it with everyone in your neighborhood, your church, your family, and pretty much anywhere else in the nation. Become informed and then take action, either in support of it, or against it. This is too important an issue for you to passively accept what others have decided on your behalf is in the best interests of YOUR child.