New standards for math and English called Common Core are poised to hit public schools across the nation. Some schools will begin implementing them as early as this fall, before parents have any inkling what has happened to their children’s classroom instruction.
Parents will not know how or why the nationally prescribed curriculum came about or how to change it if they don’t like it.
That undoubtedly sounds similar to the famous assertion of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that Congress would have to pass the Affordable Care Act for people to know what’s in it. The nationalized Common Core for education is like Obamacare in ripping control over critical, life-altering decisions from those most affected.
Achieve, a band of like-minded corporate moguls that formed in 1996 to push national education standards, had to report rather sheepishly last month that its own poll showed Americans are almost totally in the dark about the Common Core juggernaut.
A remarkable 79 percent of registered voters know “nothing” or “not much” about what Achieve calls the Common Core State Standards. Another 14 percent said they knew “some,” and just 7 percent claimed to know “a lot.”
None of that is surprising: Those standards for teaching English and mathematics were put together behind closed doors starting in 2009 by “experts” assembled by resident bureaucrats of the Washington-based Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association.
In 2010, even before a final draft had been made public, the Obama administration began pressuring states to commit to the Common Core in order to be eligible for a slice of the $4.5 billion Race to the Top fund carved out of the federal stimulus.
More recently, the U.S. Department of Education made adoption of such “college- and career-ready standards” one of its many conditions for granting states No Child Left Behind waivers.
Thus, any pretense of these being voluntary “state standards” went out the window long ago — all the more so because the Common Core now is linked to mandatory national tests that are being paid for by another $350 million in Obama stimulus bucks.
Achieve had a headache remedy handy for the embarrassing lack of public knowledge revealed by its own pollsters: Write a glowing description of the Common Core and then ask folks again what they thought. After reading it, 77 percent of respondents said they supported implementation of the Common Core, a finding Achieve then touted. This was the description the pollster spoon-fed them: “These new standards have been set to internationally competitive levels in English and math. This means that students may be more challenged by the material they study, and the tests they take will measure more advanced concepts and require students to show their work.”
That’s a classic example of a pollster manipulating questions to obtain a result desired by an advocacy group. Remember, the description was for folks who confessed to knowing basically nothing about the Common Core.
Suppose respondents had before them instead the following description:
“Your local schools are about to start implementing standards and assessments developed by Washington-based interest groups and pushed by the federal government. These standards, known as the Common Core, have never been field-tested, and your local school board has been unable to put them to a public hearing or vote.
“The national standards provide no process for states or localities to amend them. They will require students to take four federally subsidized tests a year, all of them via computer, and the results will be a factor in evaluating local teachers.”
Given that factual statement, it is doubtful the desire to push forward with immediate implementation would have reached 25 percent.
Would parents really trust behind-the-scenes forces to have total sway over their children’s education if they knew they would be powerless to monitor the content of lessons or the online testing?
Forty-six states are on board with the Common Core. Only Alaska, Nebraska, Texas and Virginia have chosen to stick completely to their own standards and thereby safeguard the rights of their citizens. In the compliant 46, local school systems are dutifully beginning the process of retraining their teachers to conform to the centralized system.
When 90 percent of parents, taxpayers and voters learn what is going on, perhaps the “repeal and replace” battle cry won’t refer only to Obamacare.
Robert Holland (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a senior fellow for education policy with the Heartland Institute.