The federal government is attempting to re-shape public and private school education. It is doing this through several intertwined initiatives that include nationwide standards (named the “Common Core State Standards”), uniform testing, and expanded student data-mining. Special interest groups developed these initiatives and successfully had them embedded in the 2009 stimulus package and adopted as the centerpiece of the Obama Administration’s education policy. Together, these initiatives amount to a federal schooling effort that rivals the healthcare takeover in its expansive effect.
Presently, religious, private, and home schools in the United States have strong accountability to parents while also meeting state regulations and requirements for private schools. The autonomous nature of these schools enables them to pursue their individual missions and to accord parents their status as the primary party-in-interest in the education and upbringing of their children. As a result of adhering to their missions and their accountability to the parents, such schools have had great success in educating their students.
Particularly, the national standards movement raises grave concerns for private, religious, and home-school families. These concerns include the following:
- Leads to a National Curriculum and National Test: The national standards effort reflects a specific education philosophy as to what children should be taught and when it should be taught to them. It is not a stand-alone initiative but is intertwined with a national standardized testing regimen as well as other initiatives. The purpose is to have textbooks, standardized tests, teacher training and teacher evaluation aligned with the standards. In this manner, curriculum content is dictated.
- Establishes an Uneven Playing Field. The national effort will have a pervasive effect on college admissions and scholarship opportunities. Private and home school children will have to study for the standardized tests, or else be disadvantaged vis-à-vis other students. It also creates challenges for students seeking to transfer credits between private and public schools, and home school and public schools.
- Normalizes Controversial Societal Issues: Controversial societal norms will substantially influence a national curriculum, which would in turn influence the values and beliefs undergirding the teaching-learning process. This was clearly seen in the politicization of the Texas Board of Education curriculum debate in May 2010 as the TX State Board of Education determined the standards for the social studies curriculum.
- Threatens Autonomy of Private, Religious, and Home Schools: A national standard would jeopardize the freedoms of private, religious, and home schools to teach their students in a way which best reflects their core educational and cultural beliefs. A “standardized” method of teaching based on secular formatted standards could impose on the right to teach a child from a religious worldview, ultimately impeding on a school or parent’s mission.
- Alters the Accreditation Process: A national standard could fundamentally alter the accreditation process. By establishing a national standard with a national curriculum, schools would be forced to give up their autonomy in order to meet the criteria needed for accreditation. Students could also be discriminated against by a higher education entity if they did not graduate from a school that did not adhere to the common or national standard.
- Restricts Parental Involvement in Children’s Education: Perhaps the greatest concern with the establishment of a national standard is the lack of parental choice, control, and involvement in their child’s education. With greater federal control of education, parents lose control and the ability to hold their child’s educators accountable. National standards will contribute to the federal trend of diminishing parenthood in favor of greater control by centralized federal and state bureaucracies.