What Is This World Coming To?

January 20, 2014

By:  Rob Jones

Back on December 5, 2013, I published a column entitled, “Common As A Failure” (If you haven’t read this particular column, please do). That column touched upon this education fiasco, known as “common core”. In that column, I started to tell you about some of the problems associated with common core and that as I found out more, I would cover more. I’m back today to cover more of what I’m finding. I have to be honest with you; the more I find out, the more concerned I’m getting. What I’ve discovered tells me, more than anything, that common core is plain out socialist indoctrination of our children.

Let’s start with the “state-led” and “voluntary” claims. Common Core was not developed by any state, but rather by a (DC-based) nonprofit called Achieve, Inc., under the auspices of the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). Neither NGA nor CCSSO (which are merely trade associations with private membership lists) had a grant of legislative authority from the states to develop national standards. In fact, Common Core was written by the same progressive education reformers who have been trying to impose a national curriculum for decades. This time, they were savvy enough to invoke the “cover” of NGA so they could paint Common Core as a “state-led” effort. To the extent states had any input, it was limited to offering suggestions that may or may not have been accepted by the people in control. The U.S. Department of Education (USED) did not create the Standards, but it was deeply involved in the effort to gather together the various trade associations and private foundations to do the work that USED wanted done. Once Common Core was created, USED “persuaded” the states to adopt it by tying adoption to the opportunity to obtain Race to the Top (RTTT) funding. No Common Core, no RTTT money. (Since then, USED has also attempted to lure states into the Common Core by dangling No Child Left Behind waivers as a reward for adopting the national Standards and national tests. USED is funding the national tests that are being created by two testing consortia (called SMARTER Balanced and PARCC). Obviously, what’s on these tests will dictate what is taught in classrooms. In effect, dictating curriculum. So by funding the tests, USED will eventually control the curriculum, in violation of three federal statutes.

Common core is seriously deficient, with questionable education philosophies. Common Core is touted as getting our children “college ready.” What does that mean? According to Jason Zimba, one of the drafters of the Common Core math standards, it means ready for a nonselective community college, not a four-year university. It doesn’t mean the University of Georgia or Georgia Tech. Common Core used to claim to be “internationally benchmarked,” in line with the standards of the highest-performing nations. That claim has been dropped. Now the website says Common Core is “informed by” the standards of other nations. Experts such as Dr. James Milgram of Stanford University, Dr. Jonathan Goodman of New York University, and Dr. Andrew Porter of the University of Pennsylvania have criticized the Standards as being below those of other nations. As stated by Dr. Sandra Stotsky of the University of Arkansas, who served on the Common Core Validation Committee but refused to sign off on the English language arts standards because of their poor quality, “‘Benchmarking’ means you use a set of agreed-upon criteria for judging something. To be ‘informed by’ other countries’ standards means simply that they were read. Some other countries are light years ahead of what the common standards require for college readiness.”

Let’s take a look at some myths vs. facts, as stated on “stopcommoncore.com”:

Myth: Common Core (CC) was a state-led initiative.

FACT: The CC standards were initiated by private interests in Washington, DC, without any representation from the states. Eventually the creators realized the need to present a façade of state involvement and therefore enlisted the National Governors Association (NGA) (a trade association that doesn’t include all governors) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), another DC-based trade association. Neither of these groups had a grant of authority from any particular state or states to write the standards. The bulk of the creative work was done by Achieve, Inc., a DC-based nonprofit that includes many progressive education reformers who have been advocating national standards and curriculum for decades. Massive funding for all this came from private interests such as the Gates Foundation.

MYTH: The federal government is not involved in the Common Core scheme.

FACT: The US Department of Education (USED) was deeply involved in the meetings that led to creation of Common Core. Moreover, it has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the two consortia that are creating the national tests that will align with CC.  USED is acting as the enforcer to herd states into the scheme (see next myth).

MYTH: States that adopted CC did so voluntarily, without federal coercion.

FACT: Most states that adopted CC did so to be eligible to compete for federal Race to the Top funding. To have a chance at that money, recession-racked states agreed to adopt the CC standards and the aligned national tests sight unseen. In addition, the Obama Administration tied No Child Left Behind waivers to CC adoption, making it very difficult for a state to obtain a waiver without agreeing to accept CC.

MYTH: Under Common Core, the states will still control their standards.

FACT: A state that adopts CC must accept the standards word for word. It may not change or delete anything, and may allow only a small amount of additional content (which won’t be covered on the national tests).

MYTH: Common Core is only a set of standards, not curriculum; states will still control their curriculum.

FACT: The point of standards is to drive curriculum. Ultimately, all the CC states will be teaching pretty much the same curriculum. In fact, the testing consortia being funded by USED admitted in their grant applications that they would use the money to develop curriculum models.

MYTH: The Common Core standards are rigorous and will make our children “college-ready.”

FACT: Even the Fordham Institute, a proponent of CC, admits that several states had standards superior to CC and that many states had standards at least as good. CC has been described as a “race to the middle.”  And as admitted by one drafter of the CC math standards, CC is designed to prepare students for a nonselective two-year community college, not a four-year university. The only mathematician on the CC Validation Committee said that the CC math standards will place our students about two years behind their counterparts in high-performing countries. An expert in English education said that CC’s English language arts standards consist of “empty skill sets . . . [that] weaken the basis of literary and cultural knowledge needed for authentic college coursework.” She also suspects from her analysis of work done so far on the standards that the reading level deemed sufficient for high-school graduation will be at about the 7th-grade level. And CC revamps the American model of classical education to resemble a European model, which de-emphasizes the study of creative literature and places students on “tracks” (college vs. vocational) at an early age.

MYTH: The Common Core standards are “internationally benchmarked.”

FACT: No information was presented to the Validation Committee to show how CC stacked up against standards of other high-achieving countries. In fact, the CC establishment no longer claims that the standards are “internationally benchmarked” – the website now states that they are “informed by” the standards of other countries. There is no definition of “informed by.”

MYTH: We need common standards to be able to compare our students’ performance to that of students in other states.

FACT: If we want to do that, we already can. In the elementary/middle school years we have the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test; in high school we have the SAT and ACT.

MYTH: We need common standards to help students who move from state to state.

FACT: The percentage of students who fit that description is vanishingly small (much less than 2%); most families move, if at all, within states, not to other states. It is nonsensical to bind our entire education system in a straightjacket to benefit such a small number of students.

Student Privacy is also affected. As part of Race to the Top, among other places in the 2009 Stimulus bill, the states that wanted federal money had to commit to build massive student databases. These databases are designed to track children from preschool, through college, and into the workforce. The National Education Data Model recommends collecting over 400 data points – academic performance, disciplinary history, family income range, religious affiliation, health history, etc. In January 2012, USED changed federal educational-privacy law to allow sharing of students’ personally identifiable data with any other government, or even private, entity, as long as the sharing is done to “audit or evaluate” an education program. USED is open about wanting to share students’ education data with the Department of Labor, so the federal government can track our children and see how their lives were affected by the particular education programs they went through. This will help the federal government build a workforce for a managed economy. If states participate in Common Core, students’ personally identifiable data could be subject to sharing with any researcher anywhere in the country, or the world, who is evaluating a Common Core program. USED says there’s nothing to worry about, because the federal government receives only aggregate data rather than personally identifiable data on students. But PARCC, the testing consortium, signed a contract with USED agreeing to turn over “student-level data” resulting from the testing. And because there are so many hundreds of data points in the government’s possession (for example, the Social Security number of any child who participates in Head Start is on file at the Department of Health and Human Services), determining identity through data-matching would simply be a pain in the butt, not an impossibility. States have already noticed an increased aggressiveness on the part of USED to obtain personally identifiable student data. One top  education official says there’s “no doubt in [his] mind” that the Obama Administration is building a national student database, in violation of a federal statute expressly prohibiting this. The data-collection and sharing is part of a broader effort to achieve Progressive Utopia, a managed economy with trained workers, not educated citizens.

I’ve said this before and will say it again… The more I find out, the more concerned I’m getting. What I’ve discovered tells me, more than anything, that common core is plain out socialist indoctrination of our children. It is said that “our children are our future”. I can’t see leaving our future up to half educated, fully indoctrinated children. Once upon a time, there were public schools that wanted children to think for themselves, have original ideas, be creative, have opinions, and want to learn more. What common core is designed to do, is to take children that do not learn at the same rate or level, and force them all into a “one size fits all” education mold. Common core is not designed to educate. West Virginian’s are a simple people. No, I’m not saying dumb. But we are not all about fancy cars, fancy homes, and fancy clothes. We are not into that “NY minute” type of lifestyle. West Virginian’s tend to be laid back, friendly, hard working, family oriented people. We produce some very smart, very outgoing, very driven young men and women. West Virginia can’t afford to have that ruined by common core, but they are poised to do that very thing. If West Virginian’s don’t stand up and demand that our great state refuse to partake in common core, we’re going to be doomed, just like the other states that have signed on. Is a little money worth sacrificing our children’s education? God Bless You! God Bless West Virginia! God Bless America!

 


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