Here’s a sampling of some things people have posted on my FB [Facebook] page lately: “I hear you support Common Core education standards; I’ll never watch your show again;” another: “If you support Common Core, you’ve lost my trust.” Or this, “You need to learn the truth about Common Core.” I guess the person who said he’d never watch my show again won’t hear this and that’s too bad.
Let me cut right to the chase: I don’t support what Common Core has become in many states or school districts. I’m dead set against the federal government creating a uniform curriculum for any subject; I oppose the collection of personal data on students that would identify them and track them and any effort to give that personal information to the federal government.
I am steadfast in my belief that parents should ultimately decide the best venue for their children’s education, whether public schools, private schools, religious schools or home-schools. I believe education is a local or state function — not a federal one. Sadly, the very label Common Core has come to be associated with things I detest, like agenda driven curriculum that indoctrinates instead of educates. I’m convinced that the term Common Core needs to disappear from the lexicon of education policy. It’s a toxic term because it’s come to mean things that most of us can’t stomach, like top-down federal intrusion into the local schools where you live.
But Common Core as it was designed had nothing to do with the federal government. It was conceived and controlled by elected governors and state school chiefs to keep the federal hands from interfering. It only dealt with 2 subjects, math and English, and in those 2 subjects, established only state-initiated standards in those subjects, and intentionally did not write or even suggest curriculum. It set voluntary goals — VOLUNTARY goals — controlled by local school boards.
Unfortunately, the locally controlled and very simple creation of standards in math and English, created so that students would be measured by comparable regardless of geography has been hijacked by those who took the label Common Core and applied it to curriculum, subjects other than math and English, and even unrelated things as personal data collection.
As a result, Common Core as a brand is dead and hopefully the perversions of it will die as well. What I hope does not die is setting higher standards for students, keeping score to see how well they are doing, and having accountability for results. Educational bureaucrats have long fought honest assessments and accountability and have been satisfied with under performing students who were far behind their peers in other states or other countries.
The Wall Street Journal reported this week that schools in the US were performing below those in Vietnam, Lithuania, Russia, and Hungary; that our 15 year olds haven’t seen improvement in over a decade compared to other nations. For those who think I embrace Common Core, I don’t embrace or even want to tolerate what it’s come to mean in too many locations. Yes, it’s been hijacked, and I don’t support the hijackers or the destination, but I don’t blame the airplane for getting hijacked. I just hope we aren’t willing to accept mediocrity as a standard.
Let’s kill the name Common Core and all the nonsense that’s been tacked on to it. But let’s insist that if we continue to spend the most money in education we demand that the end result is achievement. Every Governor should take the wheel and steer his or her state to adopting strict and rigorous standards. Keep it simple; name it what you will. Don’t let anyone corrupt the goals by adding things not part of the goals. Common Core is dead. But common sense shouldn’t be.