What is the Common Core?
Rather than simply tell you what I think it is, I will show two schools of thought and have you make your own determination about what Common Core is.
If you read the definition set out by the Utah State Office of Education or your local school district, you’ll think Common Core is an educational improvement that raises educational standards; that increases students’ college entrance preparation; that Common Core in no way adds to taxpayer burdens, and that it in no way damages state sovereignty. If you read the criticisms of Common Core, you will wonder why the Utah State Office of Education is lying to teachers, parents and citizens about all of the above.
For those just starting to research Common Core for themselves, here are 10 things you could begin to analyze:
1. Which version of Arne Duncan’s truth about control over Utah’s education should be believed? Duncan says one thing in the “Cooperative Agreement,” which is an agreement between himself (as U.S. Secretary of Education) and the SBAC (Utah’s educational testing consortium). He says something completely opposite that, in his public letter which he sent to Utah’s Superintendent Shumway, which asserts that Utah maintains full control of her own educational decisions.
Compare for yourself. Here’s the “Cooperative Agreement.” http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-assessment/sbac-cooperative-agreement.pdf This document shows the federal government’s micromanagement plans for the SBAC Common Core tests and the data collection that it will triangulate and synchronize. Tests and data from the other testing consortium (PARCC) will match that of the SBAC, and all data will be served up on an ongoing basis to the Federal Department of Education. Compare this to the public letters between Arne Duncan and Utah’s Governor and School Superintendent. http://utahpubliceducation.org/2012/03/06/letters-to-utah-lawmakers-secretary-duncan-on-utahs-core-standards/ and http://utahpubliceducation.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Secretary-Arne-Duncan-March-7-2012-Letter_edited-1.jpg These letters say that Utah education is free from federal controls.
2. Who is to be believed, the 15-member State School Board and the State Superintendent, or Utah teachers and parents who oppose Common Core? Compare the USOE’s flier about Common Core (fact v. fiction) which unfortunately has no references to back up its claims: http://www.schools.utah.gov/core/DOCS/coreStandardsPamphlet.aspx with a Utah teacher’s referenced rebuttal of that flier: http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/correcting-the-usoes-facts-education-without-representation/ .
3. Which is to be believed: members of the Common Core Validation Committee who refused to sign off on the standards as being authentic preparation for college work, or Common Core proponents who claim common standards are high, “rigorous,” “internationally benchmarked” and make kids “globally competititive”?
Many educators have spoken out about the inadequacy of these supposedly “rigorous” standards: Dr. Sandra Stotsky, validation committee member: http://parentsacrossamerica.org/2011/04/sandra-stotsky-on-the-mediocrity-of-the-common-core-ela-standards/ and http://www.pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/common_core_standards.pdf
Dr. James Milgram, validation committee member and the only math professor on the committee, also refused to sign off on the standards’ adequacy: http://parentsacrossamerica.org/2011/04/james-milgram-on-the-new-core-curriculum-standards-in-math/
Also, Stanford Professor Michael Kirst voiced concerns about the validity of using the term “College readiness” as Common Core advocates do: http://collegepuzzle.stanford.edu/?p=466 In essence, Common Core redefines college readiness to mean “ready for a nonselective two year school” rather than having students aim for four year universities.
Mathematician Ze’Ev Wurman, a Senior Advisor (2007-2009) in the Department of Education, has also been outspoken about the low math standards: http://pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/120216_Testimony_Stergios_SC.pdf
4. Compare GEPA law (General Educational Provisions Act) and our Constitution, to the “Cooperative Agreement” (above).
No provision of any applicable program shall be construed to authorize any department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system – G.E.P.A. law
5. Ask your school board to show you a cost analysis on Common Core implementation. There isn’t one for Utah. Common Core’s been signed up for without taxpayers or legislators having input. But here’s one think-tank’s cost analysis that includes cost-related reasons Texas and Virginia refused to join Common Core: http://www.pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/120222_CCSSICost.pdf
6. Compare how we used to be able to change educational standards and could try new innovations prior to 2009, to how much we can innovate now, under Common Core. Try to find any proof that Utah has a voice in amending Utah’s future educational standards. The USOE claims we can change our Utah Core Standards, which is true, but only to add 15% beyond the CCSS national standards. We can delete nothing. The CCSS standards cannot be altered in any way by Utah. They’re copyrighted by trade associations, not owned by any political or educational authority. http://www.corestandards.org/public-license These can change later and will be handed to us like a law from outside Utah. Any principle might be called a standard and we’d have to teach it. And the common test is based, 100%, on the CCSS standards, not on Utah’s unique extra 15%. This is verified to me in writing by the test creator, WestEd. http://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2012/04/06/what-is-wested-and-why-should-you-care/
This reminds me of getting chained to a refrigerator we didn’t stock themselves, and being told we’re free to eat anything that’s here, and we can order 15% more of whatever we like, but we can’t get away from this fridge, nor eat anywhere else— ever again. Nice.
7. Compare parental consent laws under FERPA last year, to what they are today. FERPA federal regulations were altered in January, without congressional approval. FERPA laws are being altered in Utah school districts now, possibly to make way for Common Core’s rule that we must “address barriers in state law” that stand in the way of the federal data collection push. The federal government doesn’t want to have to ask. Yes, really. Ask your local school board. Here’s Wasatch County’s recent ruling: http://www.wasatch.edu/cms/lib/UT01000315/Centricity/Domain/5/FERPA%2004.19.12.pdf
8. Study why a $9.6 million grant was given to Utah from the ARRA stimulus money to build a huge longitudinal database. This will collect data, both academic and non-academic data, about students and about families, via standardized tests taken in schools. Data will be read by “all stakeholders” including the federal government. http://www.prweb.com/releases/2012/2/prweb9201404.htm
http://nces.ed.gov/forum/datamodel/information/aboutThe.aspx This link shows the massive intrusion via the types of information the “educational” database may collect and share with “all stakeholders”: nicknames, bus stop times, family income, mother’s maiden name, parental educational level, health questions, and more– mostly information that has absolutely nothing to do with math and reading scores. And preschoolers are included, now. The USOE voted for that last week. Data collection for the federal government now goes from preschool through adulthood and beyond.
9. Study the timeline. The way Utah adopted Common Core and SBAC looked like marrying without dating. Did you know that Utah signed up for Common Core before the standards had even been written? So much for rigor. Did you know we signed up without doing a cost analysis, and educational analysis or a legal analysis? http://www.corestandards.org/frequently-asked-questions Standards were released in 2010. We signed up in 2009. http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop/phase1-applications/utah.pdf
10. Study the U.S. Constitution and compare it to the following quotes from State School Board Members and the USOE’s lawyer: http://www.usconstitution.net/const.html Do you see any references in the Constitution to equality being more important than liberty, or references to educational control by the federal government being legal?
Our state school board and the top lawyer at the Utah State Office of Education believe equality in education is more important than freedom over education.
Carol Lear, USOE top lawyer, was asked, “Why is there no amendment process for the CCSS standards?” She did not claim that there was any amendment process. Instead, she replied: “Why would there need to be? The whole point is to be common.” (Email received April 2012 by C. Swasey from C. Lear)
Quote from Leslie Castle, top USSB member: “I have always understood that it is the principle of “equality” not “freedom” that was the guiding principle of our constitution… I have always understood the theme to be equality…not freedom but equality. This is something I have never understood in your writings because you continue to reference freedom over equality…”