I'm Opposed to Common Core Because...
Ok, I have to admit the title of this post may be a bit misleading, probably because my opinion of the Common Core State Standards is pretty neutral. Forgive me. I wanted to get your attention. Now that I have sucked you in, I would like to know why YOU are opposed to Common Core. Which one of these is you?
1. I am opposed to Common Core because controversial topics, leftist agenda, "fuzzy math," and Bill-Gates-funded, globalist views are being pushed on kids as young as kindergarten.
Based on news stories like this one, this one, this one and many others, this objection is misplaced. These are actually issues with curriculum. Standards don't equal curriculum. Really. The standards only state what skill should be mastered and when, but the curriculum is what determines how that skill is taught, and what content is used. This article explains. Standards do have influence on curriculum, naturally, but that has always been the case so long as we have had standards in public schools. Some people will concede this point, but then claim it doesn't matter if the core is just standards because now that all the states will have the same standards, there will be limited curriculum options because "standards drive curriculum." Well, consider what has already happened in the recent past. Even before common core, curriculum writers catered to the standards of larger states because they provided a larger market. So if you were worried about that, it has long since already happened. Even so, there are plentiful options out there for schools to choose from. I believe there will continue to be options so long as schools desire them.
So if this is you, you should first read the standards to find out if what you object to is actually in there. Keep in mind that there are literature suggestions and sample excerpts in the appendices to the ELA standards. These are not mandatory reading lists. If you cannot find anything in the standards objectionable, consider that curriculum/materials may be your actual concern. The good news is that curriculum is chosen, at least in Utah, at the school or school district level. Your concerns can be addressed there and do not need to be directed to the state under the heading of "Common Core."
2. I am Opposed to Common Core because of the high-stakes testing. The test is unduly stressful for students, contains behavior analysis, collects an unacceptable level of personal data, parents aren't allowed to see it, and teachers are unfairly assessed, based on the results.
While not totally unrelated to Common Core Standards, the new SAGE tests are not actually part of the core. The connection is that both the standards and the test were on a short list of four main items required for consideration for Federal Race to the Top grant money, part of the stimulus package. More on that later. You may not mind the standards but hate the new tests. Many public school teachers fall into this camp.
If this is you, you should realize that the test is separate from the Common Core, (although it is necessarily aligned to the standards). Read the standards to determine whether your issue is with the standards or the test itself. If it is the test, there are things you can do. First, you can consider opting your child out of the testing. SB 122, passed this year, allows for parents to opt out and prevents negative impact to teachers and schools. Click here to read the bill. The testing is required at the state level, so if there are test-related issues that are unable to be resolved at school, address your concerns to the State under the topic of SAGE testing, not Common Core. Also, consider that high-stakes testing has been required directly or indirectly by the Federal Department of Education, under Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind. You may want to consider voting for politicians who will go to Washington and repeal oppressive laws, (or better yet, abolish the Federal Department of Education altogether).
3. I am opposed to Common Core because I don't want my child's data collected and distributed to the Feds and to big business.
Great! Not many parents do. You will hear various claims about exactly what data is being collected about children, and to be honest, I am not an expert on this one. You be the judge. But do realize that, once again, this is related to but not included in the Common Core standards. There is absolutely nothing in the Common Core standards about data collection. It is another one of the big four qualifications for Race to the Top money from the federal government. If you are concerned about data collection, do not give your permission for your child to take any unnecessary surveys, tests, etc. and remain vigilant. In addition, the previous suggestion applies here: elect representatives that will go to Washington and repeal oppressive educational measures.
4. I am opposed to Common Core because my straight-A student is suddenly failing, or my child is not transitioning well.
First, read the standards. Did you find something you object to? If so, then you do have an actual Common Core issue, which can be directed to the State Board of Education. If not, consider that your concern may be related either to a particular curriculum that is not working for your child (address at the school district or school level, see number 1 above), or it may be an issue with how the standards have been implemented. I personally do not think the timeline for implementation has been ideal.
5. I am opposed to Common Core because it is a one-size-fits-all approach that does not meet the needs of individual children and ability levels.
Well, I have news for you. While wonderful teachers and schools have and will continue to do their best to meet individual needs, this is inherently an issue with the very concept of having standards. Utah, and most other states, have had standards, or grade-level expectations, for many years. I do not believe that the Common Core standards are any less conducive than the previous standards to individualization within the classroom. Class size may have a greater effect on teachers' ability to meet needs than which set of standards they are using.
Getting rid of Common Core will not help you here. But there are things you can do. As before, you can work with your child's teacher and school to try to better meet the needs of your gifted or special needs child. If this is not effective, consider charter school, private school, online school, or (gasp) even home school. I believe that ultimately parents are responsible for the education their children receive, though they may delegate that task to the local school as they deem acceptable.
6. I am opposed to Common Core because the standards are developmentally inappropriate/dumbed-down, mandate that high-school students spend their time poring over technical manuals rather than great literature, and prevent students from reaching calculus in high school.
First of all, read the standards, especially the ones for your child's grade. How do they seem to you? Is there anything specific that is over your child's head or ridiculously basic? If so, you do have an issue with Common Core and should direct your concerns to the State Board of Education. If not, read on. Also, pay attention to the part on page 4 of the Language Arts standards, particularly the footnotes, which explain that although high-school students are expected to read 70% informational text/30% literary text, this reading is spread out over all their classes, not just their English classes, which will continue to be based around literature and literary non-fiction. As far as reaching calculus, advanced students will have that opportunity just as they have had in the past. See this little flow chart for clarification on this topic. There are changes to how that will be accomplished as the high school math courses are now "integrated," meaning that parts of algebra, geometry and trigonometry are taught in each of the classes, rather than there being separate classes for each topic. In fact, algebra concepts are taught as early as 5th grade in the Common Core.
7. I am opposed to Common Core because it represents a federal takeover of education.
This one was really the biggest issue for me. I'll start out by explaining briefly how and why the standards came about. Governors and superintendents of several states came together to create presumably high standards that could be adopted in multiple states. Some reasons for this were to eliminate the trouble students had when moving from state to state and to raise the level of education in states with low standards. Also, states were required to prove they were making progress in the goals of No Child Left Behind, but it was difficult to determine if progress was actually being made when standards and tests for all states were different. I have even heard rumors that some states lowered their standards or their proficiency cutoff scores so that it would appear they were improving in compliance with No Child Left Behind. I don't know if that's true, but you can see how the incentive would be there. So here we have a new set of "common" standards, brought into existence not by the federal government, but by state representatives. The sticky part is what happened next. As part of the stimulus package, quite a bit of money was made available from the federal government for "improving" education. President Obama thought it would be great if states could compete for that money based on their willingness to comply with some key measures in education reform. Did the federal government force any of the states to comply? Technically, no. But there were strong incentives to do four things: Adopt a set of college and career ready standards, create new tests, based on those standards, create a state longitudinal data-tracking system (so that they could verify that these measures were having an effect in better preparing our students for college and career), and connecting teacher evaluation to results. Most states, Utah included, expressed willingness to do those things or prove that they were already in compliance. In the end, though, Utah did not win any Race to the Top money. Utah adopted the Common Core officially four days past the August 2, 2010 deadline and after we knew Race to the Top money was not headed our way.
More about RTTT here http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop/index.html
If you would like to read Utah's application for Race to the Top money, click here. http://www.schools.utah.gov/arra/Uses/Utah-Race-to-the-Top-Application.aspx
Utah's memorandum of understanding relating to the adoption of Common Core is here https://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop/phase1-applications/appendixes/utah.pdf
So it would seem that Utah is off the hook and free to keep or reject the standards, along with other elements of education reform incentivized by the federal government. Not so fast. Back up to No Child Left Behind for a minute. Way back in 2001, the Bush administration created this amazing plan by which no child would ever fail again (hear the sarcasm). This plan, in a nutshell, tied federal funding to "accountability." Sounds great, right? So schools that received federal funding were obligated to test their students, and test scores were required to go up every year, comparing each year's students to the next year's students in the same grade. So in other words, this year's third grade class had to have higher scores than last year's third graders. Still sounds doable. But here's the part that blows my mind. ALL students were supposed to be proficient at reading and math by 2014! Obviously, that is just not going to happen. And there were penalties attached if the requirements weren't met, basically dictating that the federal government would decide for the "failing" schools how their funding was to be spent - mandatory tutoring and remedial programs, options for students to transfer to a "non-failing" school (as if there would be any by the NCLB definition), etc. As time went on and schools were falling short of the impossible, it became necessary for the federal government to offer relief from this oppressive program, so waivers became available. But, you guessed it, waivers are dependent upon states' willingness to comply with the same big four ideas, upon which Race to the Top competition depended, including the adoption of "college and career ready" standards. So at this point, states have 3 options - comply with the feds by qualifying for a NCLB waiver (including keeping Common Core or something like it), comply with the feds by allowing them to tell us what to do in our "failing" schools as part of NCLB, or give up all federal education dollars. Checkmate! And to think that before 1965, with the passing of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, schools got along without any federal money or meddling. Then again, there was no Department of Education at the federal level either. Sounds kinda nice.
So to conclude my long-winded rant, here are the takeaways:
1. Read the actual standards to find out how you really feel about them. You may like the standards while still having a problem with some of the related issues like testing, implementation, data collection, federal intrusion, etc.
2. Realize that all of the issues you thought were "common core" problems may not be, and that they need to be addressed separately and at the appropriate level - classroom, school, school district, state, or federal.
3. In my opinion, the real problem is that the federal government thinks it should be involved in education. Common Core did not originate there, as I've established, and rejecting Common Core does nothing to stop federal intrusion. Instead, we need to focus on doing whatever is necessary to repeal things like Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind.
Here is a link to the standards:
Here is another link with quite a few bits of useful information:
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