Common Core, Another School Reform to Bypass Parents

vintage math money doll truck wagon

how do you feel about these prices?

Two Indiana moms independently noticed that the homework their children brought home from their schools had been ‘dumbed down.’ They were not impressed by the lower standards and they set out to find out what had happened. It was Common Core, and how this came about was fascinating:

When experts or politicians said that Common Core would not lead to a surrender of local control over curriculum, Heather and Erin knew better. (Ironically, the leverage in Indiana was Tony Bennett’s school-choice program, which made state vouchers available to religious schools, but only if they adopted state tests — which were later quietly switched from ISTEP to the untried Common Core assessments.)

At first Heather thought maybe her ignorance of Common Core was her fault. Maybe, with her kids (as she imagined) safely ensconced in good Catholic schools, she hadn’t paid attention.

That’s when she and Erin started contacting people — “and we found out something more shocking: Nobody had any idea,” Heather told me.

A friend of Heather’s who is a former reporter for a state newspaper and now a teacher didn’t know. Nor did her state senator, Scott Schneider, even though he sat on the state senate’s Education Committee. (In Indiana, as in most states, Common Core was adopted by the Board of Education without consulting the legislature.) Nor, evidently, did the state’s education reporters — Heather could find literally no press coverage of the key moment when Indiana’s Board of Education abandoned its fine state standards and well-regarded state tests in favor of Common Core.

“They brought in David Coleman, the architect of the standards, to give a presentation, they asked a few questions, there was no debate, no cost analysis, just a sales job, and everybody rubber-stamped it,” Heather said.

So this massive change occurred without even a pretense of parental involvement.
Consider other trends, such as the ninth circuit ruling that the right of a parent “does not extend beyond the threshold of the school door,” and that a public school has the right to provide its students with “whatever information it wishes to provide, sexual or otherwise.” That court also ruled that “parents have no due process or privacy right to override the determinations of public schools as to the information to which their children will be exposed,” and the judges declared that once the kids are in the public school, the parent’s “fundamental right to control the education of their children is, at the least, substantially diminished.”  Responsibility cannot exist without authority, so it’s easy to see why some parents might think that they have ceded over all educational responsibilities to the schools.

It’s also far from the first time that government schools have meddled in what goes on in church schools.

We say that public schools are failing, but that’s because we have failed to understand their purpose, which hasn’t been academic excellence for a very long time.
If you doubt that, consider the basic issue that first caught the attention of the two moms mentioned in the first link above:

“Instead of many arithmetic problems, the homework would contain only three or four questions, and two of those would be ‘explain your answer,’” Heather told me. “Like, ‘One bridge is 412 feet long and the other bridge is 206 feet long. Which bridge is longer? How do you know?’”

She found she could not help her daughter answer the latter question: The “right” answer involved heavy quotation from Common Core language. A program designed to encourage thought had ended up encouraging rote memorization not of math but of scripts about math.

Heather was noticing on the ground some of the same things that caused Stanford mathematics professor R. James Milgram to withhold his approval from the Common Core math standards.

Professor Milgram was the only math content expert on the Validation Committee reviewing the standards, and he concluded that the Common Core standards are, as he told the Texas state legislature, “in large measure a political document that . . . is written at a very low level and does not adequately reflect our current understanding of why the math programs in the high-achieving countries give dramatically better results.”

The Common Core math standards deemphasize performing procedures (solving many similar problems) in favor of attempting to push a deeper cognitive understanding — e.g., asking questions like “How do you know?”

In fact, according to a scholarly 2011 content analysis published in Education Researcher by Andrew Porter and colleagues, the Common Core math standards bear little resemblance to the national curriculum standards in countries with high-achieving math students…

Our public schools are not truly failing. They are failing children, but they themselves are not failing to do what they are designed to do. What are they designed to do? We’ve seen that they are designed for social engineering. They are also designed for self-perpetuation.

The goal of those in the upper echelons of institutions is ultimately perpetuation of the institution itself. Our institution of public education is extremely successful:

Furthermore, any institution that still stands must, by that very fact, be successful. When we say, as we seem to more and more these days, that education in America is “failing,” it is because we don’t understand the institution. It is, in fact, succeeding enormously. It grows daily, hourly, in power and wealth, and that precisely because of our accusations of failure. The more we complain against it, the more it can lay claim to our power and wealth, in the name of curing those ills of which we complain. And, in our special case, in a land ostensibly committed to individual freedom and rights, it can and does make the ultimate claim–to be, that is, the free, universal system of public education that alone can raise up to a free land citizens who will understand and love and defend individual freedom and rights. Like any politician, the institution of education claims direct descent in apostolic succession from the Founding Fathers.

~Richard Mitchell, Graves of Academe, Propositions Three and Seven

Much of so-called ‘school reform’ is about doing what is best for the institution of government schooling rather than what is best for the children. Isn’t it odd that no matter what the complaint, the solution is always to strengthen and centralize control of the institution?

More about that here.

Note, too, that changing to Common Core resulted in changing the statewide testing and the statewide curricula.  That’s not the only chilling change. In conjunction with implementing Common Core:

…the Education Department had already made regulatory changes — without consulting Congress — that appear to circumvent the 1974 law that limits the disclosure to third parties of any data collected on students.

 I have asked before who writes the tests that control the nation’s classrooms.  With Common Core:

The whole operation is a federal power grab over their children’s education. Once a state adopts Common Core, its curriculum goals and assessments are effectively nationalized. And the national standards are effectively privatized, because they are written, owned, and copyrighted by two private trade organizations.

“Legislators are incredulous when they learn the standards and assessments are written by two private trade organizations — the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers. This creates concern why public education is now controlled by two private organizations,” says Gretchen Logue, a Missouri education activist and one of the co-founders of Truth in American Education, a network of activists and organizations opposing Common Core. “They also don’t like that the standards and assessments are copyrighted and cannot be changed or modified by the states.”

This lack of accountability for those who write the tests is just one of many reasons we chose long ago to totally opt out of having our kids involved in any formal testing by the state until they take the ACT or SAT. Since I do not follow the government school’s curricula, that evaluation would be of little use to me anyway.

I wonder how much longer we’re going to have that freedom?

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  1. Rebekah
    Posted May 13, 2013 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    This information is incredible. As I read it, I keep thinking about the Christian parents I know who do not understand that they have given away the right to make decisions about their children’ education. I wish I could make them believe these horror stories, but they mostly just think I’m over-paranoid!

  2. Posted May 13, 2013 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    You put into words the thoughts that have begun to form in my mind!

  3. Kirsten
    Posted May 17, 2013 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    I’ve enjoyed your phonics-whole language commentary before, and I’d love to hear your take on this piece that was in another blog I read

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