It’s been a rough year for the Common Core standards. As parents, teachers, officials, and politicians learn more about the standards, more and more states are considering ways to get out of Common Core. The standards in math and reading were allegedly designed to make students career- and college-ready. Now that the public is able to see them, the standards have proven not to be what was promised. People are fighting back.
Parents in states across the country have organized grassroots organizations to stop Common Core, including in Illinois. Teachers such as Marsha Griffin of Jonesboro Elementary in Illinois are speaking out against the standards. Griffin broke down crying when asked why she opposes Common Core.
“I have spent more time crying, coming into the classroom this year, than I have ever before,” said Griffin. “I have been given a great responsibility to teach these students. It’s my job to teach these students how to be well-rounded individuals. I don’t feel like I am doing that with this Common Core.”
Griffin said she felt a moral responsibility to speak up for her students and notes Common Core requires teachers to force specific strategies on how students find correct answers. She said she thinks employers are more interested in accuracy and efficiency than the specific way of getting there. The fourth-grade teacher predicts a mass exodus of students from traditional public schools as parents and students grow increasingly frustrated with Common Core.
“The pure joy of learning is disappearing from the educational landscape in the United States. I fear it will be a landscape where individuality is no longer valued,” Griffin said.
Oklahoma and Indiana have repealed the standards. Missouri, North Carolina, and South Carolina have adopted legislation to review Common Core. A few weeks ago, a school district in Lee County, Fla., voted to opt out of Common Core testing — but it rescinded the decision after officials warned the district its students would not receive standard diplomas and therefore might be unable to earn college credit.
That exemplifies one of the many problems with Common Core. Its proponents continue to swear the standards are voluntary, arguing states freely chose to sign up for Common Core in hopes of winning federal Race to the Top money. But the process wasn’t voluntary at all. States were bribed to adopt the standards in hopes of winning money through the federal Race to the Top program.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is suing the federal government for this exact reason. The U.S. Department of Education and Education Secretary Arne Duncan are named in the suit for violating the 10th Amendment of the Constitution by essentially forcing states into Common Core through the Race to the Top program. The suit argues states had to “enter binding agreements to adopt and fully implement a single set of federally defined content standards and to utilize assessment products created by a federally-sponsored ‘consortia’.”
The feds will most certainly argue Race to the Top was voluntary, that states did not have to participate in Common Core or Race to the Top. That is true under the strictest interpretation, and a handful of states did opt not to participate.
The Obama administration did something very clever here. Tying billions of dollars in federal funding to the adoption of specific education policies — including Common Core — allowed the administration to get its way on the cheap while pretending it was all voluntary. It was like running a raffle with billions of dollars as the prize, and the entry ticket being a simple matter of selling your state’s soul to the feds.
Not many states managed to resist the temptation. Many state officials who signed up for Common Core did so without seeing a final version of the standards beforehand. Few eventually got any Race to the Top money. Now these standards are being shoved down the throats of parents, teachers and students. As the Lee County district in Florida discovered, getting away from the standards is not a decision you can easily make. The administration’s scheme was sneaky, underhanded and cunning.
Then there is the fact the SAT is being redesigned to align with Common Core. This means parents who put their children into private schools or homeschooling will not be able to avoid the standards unless their children do not go to college.
Under the law, education and curriculum are supposed to be state issues. According the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, education is to be handled on the state and local level. It is not enumerated as a federal power in the Constitution.
In addition to the legal restriction, there is a commonsense reason control of curriculum is left up to the states and not the federal government. What a parent would want their child to learn, what makes sense for the way a child is taught, is not going to be the same in urban Newark, N.J., as in the village of Sabina, Ohio. Local control of curriculum frees taxpayers and parents to ensure local schools meet their children’s needs.
Common Core supporters argue standards are not the same as curriculum, but that’s a flimsy claim and a trick of semantics. Standards very clearly and directly affect curriculum — defining what students need to know means defining what they will be taught.
The Common Core debate should be about what is best for students and taxpayers, not educrats and powerful multinational corporations. National standards like Common Core have been shown to have no ability to increase student achievement, and they inevitably take away local and state control of education policy. Experts from across the nation confirm the Common Core standards are academically mediocre at best.
Clearly, Common Core is not the best we can do for students or for taxpayers. Writing better standards at the state level is a far better solution to the problems plaguing the state’s education system.
Heather Kays ([email protected]) is a research fellow of The Heartland Institute and managing editor of School Reform News.
[Originally published at Illinois Business Journal]