WND Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of stories about Common Core, the controversial new educational agenda aimed at imposing federal government standards on every aspect of public and private education in America, which some are even calling “ObamaCore.”
It’s a federal takeover of education that’s so flawed, more teachers, states, parents and students want nothing to do with it.
It’s the Common Core State Standards Initiative, or CCSSI – more often referred to simply as “Common Core.”
In one case, an Arkansas mother of three shared a simple fourth-grade division problem: Mr. Yamada’s class has 18 students. If the class counts around by a number and ends with 90, what number did they count by?
The simple answer is five, because 90 divided by 18 equals five.
But according to Common Core, that logic would be incorrect.
Rather than employing the simple division step, children are expected to draw 18 circles with 90 hash-marks and use 108 steps to solve the problem.
In yet another case of bad math, a teacher posted this Common Core question on Twitter: Juanita wants to give bags of stickers to her friends. She wants to give the same number of stickers to each friend. She’s not sure if she needs 4 bags or 6 bags of stickers. How many stickers could she buy so there are no stickers left over?
(Hint: Students aren’t given enough information to actually solve this one.)
And in New York, this question was on a test given to a small child in first grade:
The U.S. Department of Education funded Common Core with $350 million, and 45 states adopted the standards, motivated by “Race to the Top” grants and waivers from No Child Left Behind. But now, even the president of the National Education Association is warning in an open letter that the implementation of Common Core has been “completely botched.”
And although President Obama devoted almost a tenth of his State of the Union speech to education, touting his administration’s takeover of the student loan business and the restoration of last year’s cuts to education, he didn’t breathe a word about Common Core.
As former Gov. Mike Huckabee says, the very phrase has become “toxic.”
Instead, Obama talked about his ongoing push for early childhood education.
“Just as we worked with states to reform our schools, this year, we’ll invest in new partnerships with states and communities across the country in a Race to the Top for our youngest children,” Obama said.
Outside of professional education circles, however, there is little enthusiasm for “partnerships” in early childhood education with the federal government. Many see it as yet another effort to expand federal control over education, which is greater than ever due to Obama’s Race to the Top federal grant program.
Competing for big government bucks
To qualify for a Race to the Top grant (funded from $100 billion the stimulus bill designated for education), 40 competing states presented plans for 1) student data tracking from pre-K through college; 2) reviving low-performing schools; and 3) linking teacher evaluations to student achievement. The more closely these plans hued to federal Education Department criteria, the more “points” they were awarded in the competition for federal largesse.
Significantly, competing states got big points if they also adopted Common Core standards and assessments.
The standards were developed by a group called Student Achievement Partners under the aegis of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Student Achievement Partners (or SAP, an unfortunate acronym), founded by David Coleman, a former Rhodes Scholar turned educational consultant and entrepreneur, received funds for the project from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Charles Steward Mott Foundation.
The deadline for adoption of the new standards in English language arts and mathematics was Aug. 1, 2010 – just two months after the final version had been released to the public. State legislatures were not in session and, in most cases, the state superintendents and boards of education made the decisions to accept the standards.
When the Race to the Top competition ended in December 2011, 19 states had been awarded $4.35 billion, with Florida and New York receiving the largest grants of $700 million each.
But the payoff for federal education bureaucrats was bigger. Forty-five states had adopted Common Core, including some that had not entered the Race to the Top competition. Progressive education central-planners were exultant. Their goal to get states to adopt a set of national standards was on its way to being accomplished.
But there was little evidence to show that Common Core standards were even achievable, much less desirable for American schools.
Furthermore, the very notion of having a set of national standards violates the intention of the Constitution’s framers, who carefully reserved to the states decisions about education. In giving the Department of Education cabinet status in 1979, Congress stipulated that the federal department would not get involved with developing or controlling educational curriculum. Both the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act stated this principle.
Nevertheless, No Child Left Behind was based on a favorite premise of school reformers: Standards-based assessments will improve student learning.
Stacking deck against disadvantaged students
That premise, according to the left-leaning Brookings Institution’s 2012 Brown Center Report on American Education, is faulty. Looking at results of previous standards implementations, the report concluded that national standards will shrink between-state variations in test scores, but they will do nothing to improve within-state variations among school districts. And that is where the most serious student achievement gaps between demographic groups exist.
In testimony to the Florida Board of Education on Oct. 15, 2013, Ze’ev Wurman, who served on the California Academic Content Standards Commission, which evaluated the Common Core in 2010, said Common Core “actually stacks the deck against disadvantaged students.”
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