Common Core: Our new national curriculum
According to the Montana Common Core Standards Document, issued by the Office of Public Instruction, the standards were written to “fulfill the charge issued by the states.” Where did this “charge” come from? The work was “led by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association (NGA).” My question is this: When did Montana begin to be represented by associations and councils rather than our elected representatives in the legislature? Denise Juneau, our state superintendent, went to the Montana Board of Public Education, an appointed body of seven, to gain approval to mandate Common Core in all our schools. The Pioneer Institute published an in-depth financial analysis of Common Core and determined that it would cost the state of Montana about $40 million to implement. Where will that money come from, and why wasn’t the legislature the body to decide if this was the right path for Montana schools?
Common Core is a federal action hiding under cover of the CCSSO and the NGA. President Obama offered waivers to states from No Child Left Behind to join a national curriculum (Common Core was the only one) and then offered grants from his Race to the Top Program to states that joined Common Core. Federal Race to the Top money is being used to fund the tests for Common Core, which are extensive.
David Coleman, known as the architect of Common Core, has never even been a teacher. He professes to know how teachers should teach in the entire country and what they should teach, and yet, he is not a teacher. Coleman worked for McGraw-Hill (textbook publishing company) before leaving to create GROW a curriculum testing company which was later bought by McGraw-Hill. Bill Gates (who funded the creation of Common Core) and McGraw-Hill stand to make huge profits from Common Core. According to NextUp Research, the research arm of Global Silicon Valley Corp., the e-learning market in the United States is expected to grow $6.8 billion by 2015, up from $2.9 billion in 2010. According to Sanjeev Ahuja, the vice president of K-12 marketing for the company Blackboard, Common Core is a clear bonus for e-learning companies because “We don’t have to go and do 50 updates.” So this is a win-win for computer companies, more business and less cost, but what about our students and teachers?
According to the Montana Common Core Standards, kindergartners will “Participate in shared research and writing projects,” first-graders will “write opinion pieces,” and second-graders will “participate in shared research and writing projects.” The school day is short and the amount of foundational learning, just math and reading basics alone, is vast. Do our students have time to do research and spend time discussing their opinions? Young children need to know something before they are ready to do research. Let’s let kids learn something before they begin questioning their parents and telling them that their opinions are based on their “research.”
The sample testing items for Common Core Curriculum that have come out are very revealing. Smarter Balanced (the consortia Montana has been signed up for) asks sixth-graders to figure out what they need to build a community garden to a given set of specifications. Sixth graders will also research and present reports on community service. They must research and present a five-minute speech on a “young wonder” of their choice. Eleventh-graders will read excerpts from a speech by women’s rights activist Susan B. Anthony. I didn’t see anything in the samples that indicated they would be teaching the free enterprise system and the wonders of our founding fathers and the United States Constitution.
Other countries that have federally mandated curriculums, like China and France, have found that a national curriculum did not put them at the top academically. China has never had a Nobel Prize winner. Many countries that perform worse than the United States on International assessments have national standards.
The outreach to the public from our Montana Board of Public Education was held almost exclusively for selected educators. Common Core was developed behind closed doors without public input and without research and trials. Montana needs to step back from Common Core and do financial and technological readiness analyses, as well as bring the public up to speed on this extensive and intrusive program that will take control away from teachers and local school boards.
Barbara Rush is a retired teacher from the Helena Public Schools.
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