Introduced in draft form in 2009, the Common Core Standards are on their way to schools across the country, ready or not. This large scale education reform was initiated by the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), along with input from teachers, school administrators, and various experts. And they sold it well, with full implementation on track for the 2014-15 school year.
To date, the standards are a go in English/language arts and math; those in science are in the offing, with more to follow eventually. Meanwhile, 45 states and the District of Columbia have signed on and many would say with good reason. After all, just give a listen to the mission statement: “The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.”
Who could argue with that, right? Well, actually, five states never bought into the Common Core in the first place: Alaska, Texas, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Virginia. And now several states are on the fence, including Alabama, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. Some would say they have good reason, too.
Back to the pro view first, though. As set forth, along with content and the required application of knowledge based on higher-order learning skills, the Common Core Standards are said to be:
- Aligned with expectations for college and career success:
- Clearly and understandably written;
- Internationally benchmarked;
- Consistent across all states;
- Reality-based for effective use in the classroom; and
- Evidence- and research- based.
Moreover, some flexibility has been built in, as states are allowed to supplement the standards with up to 15% of their own.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan continues to tout Common Core’s merits, saying they “will help teachers, students, and parents know what is needed for students to succeed in college and careers, and will enable states, school districts, and teachers to more effectively collaborate to accelerate learning and close achievement gaps nationwide.”
And yet there is opposition—and it seems to be growing. Indeed, critics say that these standards are:
- Being crammed into classrooms by the federal government in a power grab of questionable legality;
- A national curriculum in disguise;
- Not as rigorous as advertised.
There are also questions about how much federal assistance should be provided in terms of guidance, training, funding, etc. Transitioning from state standards to the new ones is at issue, too, and who knows how the Common Core will fare as Congress battles over the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, aka No Child Left Behind.
Another worry: how English language learners and special education students will manage, along with all kids whose ability levels vary so widely. Plus, have teachers had enough time to prepare for these changes and, in turn, get all their students ready to succeed on the accompanying online assessments, which are estimated to take between 8 to 10 hours?
Then there’s the matter of data collection. Schools have already amassed enormous amounts of information on our children, with more to follow. Indeed, many say we’re crossing a dangerous line. That’s not stopping the Gates Foundation, though, as it proceeds with its inBloom initiative. The goal: to “bridge the compatibility gaps between databases used to store student data,” and that apparently includes:
- Sensitive personal information
- Test scores
- Health records
- Disciplinary records
And up to the cloud it will all go, ready for monitoring and assessing students, their teachers, and schools, while making for easy pickings for hackers of all stripes, or so some have suggested.
Maybe, then, it’s not so surprising that opposition is on the rise. Indeed, here in Pennsylvania, Governor Corbett put Common Core on hold back in May in light of such issues as:
- The cost of implementation
- The possibility of using the two national assessments based on the Core
- Whether the standards are rigorous enough
- Whether the standards meet the needs of Pennsylvania students
- The accompanying scope of data collection
Plus, even more recently, the House introduced five bills designed to . . .
- Prevent the standards from being adopted;
- Exempt private, religious, and home schools from the Common Core;
- Bar the imposition of the national standardized assessments; and
- Prevent the transfer of student data to the federal government.
If that fails, an advisory committee would be created to further study the standards before implementation.
Bottom line: Stay tuned. Stay informed, too, and then take it one step further by telling the politicians in Harrisburg your views on the Common Core, be it for or against. Do it for all the kids out there, their teachers, too. After all, it’s your tax dollars that are going to foot the bill.