Common Core is “Conservative” to the Core?

There is an orchestrated push on the part of Common Core advocates to publish nonsense in local papers and other publication.  We can’t respond to each and every piece here, but this particular post should cause a collective eye roll.

Chester Finn and Michael Pretrilli of the Fordham Institute wrote a piece published in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that must be addressed.

They say the Common Core State Standards should make conservatives happy, and they give six reasons.

1. Fiscal responsibility.

Yes I am not joking, that was their opening pitch to Wisconsinites.  They write:

The Common Core protects taxpayer dollars by setting world-class academic standards for student achievement — and taxpayers and families deserve real results for their money. Wisconsin has already invested time and money to implement the new standards, and many districts have already spent scarce dollars training teachers for Common Core’s increased rigor. Calling for a do-over at this point would waste time and money already expended.

First off, these are not world class.  Secondly I agree that taxpayers and families deserve real results for their money which why I’m against the Common Core.  Perhaps the Wisconsin Legislature should have approved the standards before money was spent.  But to appeal to fiscal responsibility when both the implementation of and assessments for the Common Core State Standards have lead to an increase in state education spending is laughable.

2. Accountability

Common Core demands accountability, high standards and testing — not the low expectations and excuses that many politicians and the establishment have permitted. The Common Core standards are pegged at a high level, which will bring a healthy dose of reality to the education-reform conversation.

I’m not against teachers and school districts being held accountable what I’m against is linking it to assessment scores which will do nothing, but continue to promote teaching to the test.  That is something that began with No Child Left Behind with what results?  Governor Scott Walker and the Wisconsin Legislature have made great strides in reigning in the hold that teacher’s unions have had on public education that made it virtually impossible to get rid of bad teachers.  That will do more to promote accountability than a test culture will.

3. School Choice:

As strong supporters of parental choice, we are often asked how to reconcile our enthusiasm for the Common Core. Doesn’t it force a “one-size-fits-all” approach onto schools? The short answer: No. Standards describe what students are expected to know and be able to do. Written correctly, they do not dictate any particular curriculum or pedagogy. Plus, the information that comes from standards-based testing gives parents a common yardstick with which to judge schools and make informed choices. In the end, Common Core is not a national curriculum—the standards were written by governors and local education officials, and they were adopted by each state independently.

First, standards when linked to assessments drives curriculum and pedagogy.  Secondly they diminish school choice when private schools who receive vouchers are forced to align their curriculum with the Common Core because they have to participate in the same assessments.  Third when college-entrance exams align to the Common Core that impacts homeschoolers.  It takes a lot of spin to say this bolsters school choice.

Their claim that these standards were written by governors is plainly false.  They were written by three committees, of which there were only a handful of classroom teachers chosen by special interest groups.  States didn’t adopt these standards – state boards of education did without approval of the legislative branch.

4. Competitiveness.

If we don’t want to cede the 21st century to our economic and political rivals — China especially — we need to ensure that many more young Americans emerge from high school truly ready for college and a career that allows them to compete in the global marketplace. This is why the Business Roundtable and the Chamber of Commerce support the standards — because they will help ensure that students are ready to succeed on the job.

First education is for more than workforce production.  Secondly, we still haven’t seen what these standards are benchmarked to.  Third, there’s no data that suggests centralized standards raises student achievement.  The Chamber of Commerce’s endorsement is meaningless since they endorsed these standards sight unseen.

5.  Innovation.

Common Core standards are encouraging a huge amount of investment from states, philanthropic groups and private firms — which is producing Common Core–aligned textbooks, e-books, professional development, online learning and more. Online learning especially is going to open up a world of new choices for students and families to seek a high-quality, individualized education.

So basically we see a creation of a monopoly surrounding curriculum and textbooks and this is supposed to excite us?  How is it innovative for companies that back the standards to also profit from them as well?  Online learning can’t exist without the Common Core?

6. Tradition education values.

The Common Core standards are worth supporting because they’re educationally solid. They are rigorous, they are traditional — one might even say they are “conservative.” They expect students to know their math facts, to read the nation’s founding documents and to evaluate evidence and come to independent judgments. In all of these ways, they are miles better than three-quarters of the state standards they replaced — standards that hardly deserve the name and that often pushed the left-wing drivel that Common Core critics say they abhor.

The Common Core is not educationally solid.  They were created in a virtual echo-chamber with a just a handful of people ultimately deciding how feedback was implemented.  Here are some of the concerns with the Common Core as addressed by content experts such as Sandra Stotsky, Ze’ev Wurman and James Milgram:

The CCSS Mathematics Standards:

  • Delay development of some key concepts and skills.
  • Include significant mathematical sophistication written at a level beyond understanding of most parents, students, administrators, decision maker
    s and many teachers.

  • Lack coherence and clarity to be consistently interpreted by students, parents, teachers, administrators, curriculum developers, textbook developers/publishers, and assessment developers.  Will this lead to consistent expectations and equity?
  • Have standards inappropriately placed, including delayed requirement for standard algorithms, which will hinder student success and waste valuable instructional time.
  • Treat important topics unevenly.  This will result in inefficient use of instructional and practice time.
  • Are not well organized at the high school level.  Some important topics are insufficiently covered. The standards are not divided into defined courses.
  • Place emphasis on Standards for Mathematical Practice which supports a constructivist approach. This approach is typical of “reform” math programs to which many parents across the country object.
  • Publishers of reform programs are aligning them with the CCSS Standards for Mathematical Practice.  The CCSS will not necessarily improve the math programs being used in many schools.
  • Unusual and unproven approach to geometry.

The Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects (ELA):

  • Use confusing language in some standards.
  • Are not always clear or measureable on expected student outcomes.
  • Are not always organized in a logical way and are difficult to follow.
  • Treat literary elements inconsistently.
  • Have some writing standards that are general and do not specify what a student should be able to know or do.
  • Focus on skills over content in reading.
  • Do not address or require cursive writing.

So the Common Core is conservative?  Only if being conservative now means to erode local and parental control, ignoring federalism, ignoring that we a Constitutional Republic through bypassing our elected representatives, fiscal mismanagement through increasing spending on dataless reform, eroding school choice and promoting subpar standards.